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Winter is coming! It’s time to put the summer fishing gear away for a few months and get yourself ready for some hardcore ice fishing.
In this article I have compiled some of the best inline ice fishing reels currently available, so you can continue your fishing as soon as the thick ice comes. Here is the list:
- 13 Fishing Black Betty FreeFall XL Ice Reel – Top Rated
- Clam Gravity Inline Reel
- 13 Fishing Black Betty FreeFall Ghost Ice Reel
- 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061 Ice Reel
- Eagle Claw Inline Ice Reel – Budget option
I have also listed some of the benefits of using inline ice fishing reels at the bottom of the article, so if you have not used one before you can see why they are worth your while.
Table of Contents
- Let’s get into it, here are the best inline ice fishing reels
- Here are some other good inline fishing reel options
- What are the benefits of Inline reels?
- Q & As
Let’s get into it, here are the best inline ice fishing reels
13 Fishing Black Betty FreeFall XL Ice Reel – Top Rated
- More line capacity
- Larger max drag (9.9lbs)
- 3.0:1 gear ratio
- New and improved slide drag system
- Core Balanced Magnetic Braking system
- Available in LH and RH models
- Weighs 7.2oz
- 3+1 bearings
All of the inline ice fishing reels on this page are worthy of a mention in this ‘best of’ list, but for me the 13 Fishing Black Betty FreeFall XL tops my list of inline ice fishing reels.
The FreeFall XL is an enhanced version of the already very popular Black Betty FreeFall inline reel, and they have made this reel bigger to give it more capacity to catch larger fish, while still maintaining the finesse and feel you need in these reels.
The extra-large spool design on the FreeFall XL means that you get a very efficient retrieval speed, with each turn of the handle gaining back a huge 24 inches of line (compared to the 18 inches per turn on the Black Betty 6061 for example).
What is impressive about the Black Betty FreeFall XL inline reel is the excellent free-fall system that will smoothly drop even the lightest of jig heads down into the water, and the speed at which you can re-engage the connection to set the hook into a fish that takes the bait/lure on the drop.
The large trigger button is perfectly positioned so you can release the line with one hand and drop your jigs down to the exact depth where the fish are located.
To make this process work as efficiently as it does on the Black Betty FreeFall XL reel, the Core Balanced magnetic braking system can be finely tuned so that you can drop your jigs at speed and not have to worry about backlash on the line. This is an outstanding feature that adds a lot to the performance of this reel.
13 Fishing has clearly thought through the design of this reel and made it extremely easy to operate one-handed, even with a thick pair of gloves on.
The large handle with oversized knobs makes reeling the line in with gloves on very easy to do.
The large star drag is easy to adjust, and the micro drag adjustments give you much better control.
The larger spools on the FreeFall XL give you more line capacity, so they are ideal for any deep water anglers who need the extra line.
But they are great in shallower depths as well, and the finesse of the reel makes it ideal for targeting fish of all sizes too.
The carbon frame and aluminum spool on the FreeFall XL make this a very smooth reel to operate in cold water conditions. With the high drag load this reel has, it can be used for targeting heavier fish such as pike and walleye and still give you lots of control over the fight.
Nice design touches such as the comfortable palm pad that provides cushioning when using a pistol grip show that every aspect of the reel has been well considered, and clearly made by people who fish and understand the little nuances of design optimizations like this.
The Black Betty FreeFall XL reel is available in both left-handed and right-handed models.
Here are some other good inline fishing reel options
Clam Gravity Inline Reel
- Very lightweight weighs only 5.0 oz
- Made from graphite
- 3.6:1 gear ratio
- 3+1 bearings
- Adjustable drag
The Clam Gravity inline fishing reel is very light and comfortable to use. The user-friendly design allows for very efficient usage, with the large handle knob that makes it easy to wind in, even when you have thick gloves on.
The line release lever is easily accessible with the hand holding the rod and reel, so dropping the line down into the water is an easy one-handed operation.
It has an excellent adjustable drag system that is easy to adjust with the star drag lever. The drag is also very smooth and will enable you to tackle fish of different sizes, from all panfish to Walleye.
One thing to note is the spool on the Clam Gravity inline reel is smaller than on most other inline style fishing reels, it does lose some of the ability to free fall the smaller ultra-light micro jigs, so you need to strip the line manually.
So if you are planning to use the really small micro jigs for your ice fishing, then you would be better looking at one of the other models mentioned on this page (the Black Betty FreeFall Ghost is a better option if you want to fish with really small micro jigs)
13 Fishing Black Betty FreeFall Ghost Ice Reel
- FreeFall performance window
- New and improved slide drag system
- Integrated fender
- lightweight aluminum handle
- Large FreeFall trigger
- Sensitive drop speed control
- Instant anti-reverse
- Tangle-free spool cap
- 2.5:1 gear ratio
- 3+1 bearings
- 6.0oz weight
- 6lbs max drag
Another great inline reel from 13 Fishing. The Black Betty FreeFall Ghost has some upgraded features from previous models that enhance its usage even more.
It can easily be operated with one hand, the composite graphite frame construction making it very light and manageable.
The large line release lever is ideally positioned to allow the line release with the thumb of the hand holding the rod and reel.
What I really like about the Black Betty FreeFall Ghost is the excellent drop speed control.
It allows you to get it down to the depths that the fish are congregating at and stop the line the instant you need to.
It is ideal for shallow to mid-depth fishing, which would be down to around 50 feet.
Yes, some of the components on this reel are made from plastic, such as the star drag, the spool, and the trigger. This is why the reel is a lower price than the aluminum models.
But 13 Fishing makes excellent inline reels, and this FreeFall Ghost is no exception. It runs very smoothly and does everything it was designed to do very well.
13 Fishing Black Betty 6061 Ice Reel
- CNC machined aluminum construction
- Smooth carbon drag
- Integrated Fender
- Instant anti-reverse
- 18-inch line retrieve
- Bait clicker
- 2.7:1 gear ratio
- 4+1 bearings
- Weight 7.0oz
Yep, it’s another 13 Fishing inline reel. But the Black Betty range of inline reels is just that good, and each one mentioned here offers something slightly different from the others so they are all worthy of their place.
The 6061 is very well made, and the CNC machined aluminum body gives the reel and very sturdy and robust feel, while still being light and easy to handle. It also adds to the strength and durability of the reel.
The smooth drag system on the Black Betty 6061 is evident from the first time it is engaged, and the substantial 18-inch per turn line retrieve will quickly give you the confidence that you have control over any fish you hook onto.
The spool tension button is conveniently placed on the reel for easy access and will allow you to make minute adjustments so you have complete control over the speed of descent for your bait or lure.
This reel also has a total of 5 stainless steel ball bearings that enables smooth operation, and the quality materials used throughout make this a very good reel for ice fishing as it will stand up to the harsh weather conditions.
The Black Betty 6061 also has a bait clicker function, which is a popular functionality to have with many ice anglers.
How to use the Black Betty 6061
Using the Black Betty 6021 is very simple as the functional buttons and dials are very easy to access and operate. To release the line, you simply press the spool release button on the side of the reel which is very easy to activate and will allow you to drop the line at will, even with thick gloves on.
One thing I think could be improved with this reel is the handle, I find the knobs are a tiny bit too close together when compared with other reels, and I found it wasn’t as easy to control with thick gloves on as on other inline reel models. Not a deal-breaker as it was only slightly noticeable, but something to consider if you have larger hands.
Overall the Black Betty 6061 is a quality reel that is both sturdy and durable and provides good value for money. If you want a long-lasting reel that can stand up to the extreme cold conditions then the 6061 from Black Betty is an excellent choice for ice fishing.
Eagle Claw Inline Ice Reel – Budget option
- Nylon body and spool
- Free spool release button
- Star drag
- Line clicker
- 2.6:1 gear ratio
- 4+1 bearings
- 16.5-inch line retrieve
- Weighs 5.6oz
What are the benefits of Inline reels?
The main benefits of inline ice fishing reels are that they have been designed specifically for vertical fishing and are ideal for ice anglers due to the one-hand operation and the ability to be able to drop even the lightest of jigs down into the water. You do not have to have a high skill level to operate them, they are very intuitive to use.
Inline reels are very similar in design to a fly reel, with a larger centerpin spool and handle to make it easy to operate in extremely cold temperatures while wearing thick gloves.
These reels generally have an extended reel foot that allows you to use a pencil / pistol grip on the rod and reel, and this gives you much more control.
Some of the operations on an inline reel are similar to those on a baitcasting reel. Namely the free spool button, which will allow you to drop jigs or your bait down through the ice into the water.
Also the spool tension control, which allows you to micro-adjust so you don’t get any backlash in your line when you are dropping baits straight down.
The big spools on inline reels mean you get very little line memory as you would often see in conventional spinning reels.
The line also comes off the spool in a straight line which is important for this type of fishing as it reduces any twist in the line so the lures aren’t spinning around in an unnatural way when they are in the water.
Inline reels are designed to drop your bait or lures straight down through the ice into the water, and they do this extremely efficiently.
A simple click on the spool release button on the side of the reel and even the lightest of micro jigs will descend rapidly down through the water columns.
The retrieve on this type of reel is also very swift and will allow you to pull up a fish from deep water quickly and efficiently.
All of the inline reels mentioned on this page have been designed for the cold conditions and will ultimately enhance your ice fishing experience due to their excellent performance abilities.
Tip: Make sure you get an inline reel with a fender guard, it will save you so much time (and headaches) with tangles, as the overspill of line on reels that don’t have a fender is a regular pain in the butt!
Q & As
What is the best inline ice fishing reel for Walleye?
The best inline reel for Walleye is the 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061. This is because of the excellent drag system it has and the smooth retrieval that will allow you to play the fish effectively so you can bring it up through the ice.
Should you fill up the spool of an inline reel completely with line?
No. I would strongly advise that you only fill about two-thirds of the spool with line. This will prevent any potential overspill that can cause all kinds of tangle problems.
Should I use a left-handed or right-handed reel?
When a manufacturer states a reel is left-handed or right-handed, they are referring to the hand you will turn the reel handle with. So, for a left-handed reel, you would be holding the rod with your right hand and turning the reel handle with your left hand.
What is the best ice fishing reel for under $50?
The best ice fishing reel you can get for under $50 is the Eagle Claw inline reel. It is a very well-made reel and gives you everything you need in a reel to start fishing on the ice. It provides a great price to performance ratio.
Are inline reels only for ice fishing?
Inline reels are designed specifically for jig fishing, where you drop a bait straight down. This is what makes them ideal reels for ice fishing, but they are also a great reel for using off a kayak or a small boat as well.
Are inline reels best for deeper water or shallow water fishing?
This reel type is ideal for fishing in any depth of water, although you need to ensure if you want to fish in deep water you have a model with a larger spool so it will give you more line capacity. The Black Betty FreeFall XL is ideal for deeper water ice fishing.