Ice Fishing Gear Essentials for Every Angler

Ice Fishing Gear List and Tips

Ice fishing can be as simple as a fishing rod, some live bait, and a device to drill a hole. However, those are the bare bones when it comes to ice fishing gear. Whether you are a beginner ice angler or a seasoned pro on the hardwater, there are ice fishing essentials every angler needs.


Essential Ice Fishing Gear List

Let’s make the assumption you already have ice fishing clothing, such as cold weather outerwear and insulated boots, and your necessary license. Our focus can then be on the ice fishing equipment required to put fish on the ice. There are 9 essential items that every angler needs on their ice fishing gear list: 


  1. Jigging ice fishing rod and reel 
  2. Live bait container stocked with live bait 
  3. Terminal tackle such as line clippers, fish grabbers, pliers, hooks, sinkers, etc. 
  4. Ice fishing tip ups 
  5. Ice fishing electronics 
  6. Ice augur and skimmer 
  7. Retractable ice pick (Just in case) 
  8. Sled to tote all your ice fishing equipment 
  9. Bucket, chair or ice shanty to set up shop 

Tips On the Most Important Ice Fishing Gear

As you can see from the ice fishing essentials above, ice fishing requires a few unique items and some items with a different twist. For success on the ice, here are a few tips on the most important ice fishing equipment! 

Ice Fishing Rods and Reels 

There are essentially two different styles of ice fishing rods. One is a jigging rod, which is a smaller version of the more traditional fishing rod and reel combo. An ice fishing jigging rod is at most 3-feet in length and has an ultralight action with a small spinning reel. One good jigging rod is enough for most anglers. However, an important tip is to pay attention to the type of fishing line you use. Use as light of line as you can for what you expect to catch. Also, specifically designed ice fishing line works better than normal fishing line because it withstands cold water better, is abrasion resistant, and is less visible under the ice. 

The other style of rods anglers should have in their ice fishing gear is the tip up. Ice fishing tip ups are unique to ice fishing. They are comprised of a spool of line set just below the hole under the water, with typically some type of live bait hanging below. When the fish grabs the bait, a flag, or type of indicator, pops up to alert you of the strike. Tip ups allow you to fish multiple holes, but remember not to overdo it. You are much more successful setting fewer tip ups than having more than you can get to when a fish pops the flag. 

Live Bait Containers and the Importance of Alive Bait 

Live bait is by far the most popular fishing bait for ice anglers. The problem is, live bait has a tough time staying alive in sub-freezing temperatures. You can catch more fish under the ice if you have fresh, live bait such as minnows. However, most live bait containers fall short when it comes to ice fishing. Traditional minnow buckets are cumbersome to tote along and make it difficult to keep minnows alive. Although not exclusively designed for ice fishing, one of the best new ice fishing gadgets is the live bait container from Bait Up™. It’s small, innovative design lets you freshen water from your ice hole as well as stow it out of the elements. Both features keep your live bait alive longer which equals more fish. 


Ice Fishing Electronics and Why They Are Worth It

Fish finders and other electronics for ice fishing are not all that new. They are, however, much more advanced and helpful for ice anglers than they use to be. 

Electronics can put a dent in your ice fishing gear budget, but they are worth it. No longer do you need to drill dozens of holes before you find the sweet spot. Ice fishing electronics allow you to find fish faster and mark hotspots for future trips. 

Having the right ice fishing gear makes for a much more successful time on the water. The 9 ice fishing gear essentials outlined above are critical no matter what level of ice angler you are. Pair those with safe ice on top of plentiful lakes and you have a winning ice fishing combination. 

Ice Fishing Bait for Winter Panfish

Are You Packing the Best Ice Fishing Bait?

If you’re not used to the cold and darkness that winter brings across the northern fringe of the country, you might think it’s a depressing time of year to be around. You’d be wrong, since the frigid conditions also mean it’s time for ice fishing season! But how do you know you’re using the right ice fishing bait for whatever fish species you’re targeting? First, start by reading this live bait guide, which is a great resource for several fish species (e.g., crappies, bass, trout, and walleye) throughout the year. And if you really want to key in on panfish this upcoming ice fishing seasonstart watching ice fishing videos and keep reading below for some ice fishing tips.

Types of Panfish Bait

These days, it’s easy to get confused about which bait you should use. Take a stroll through a sporting goods store and you’ll be overwhelmed by aisles of ice fishing supplies and specialty baits that all promise to help you catch fish. Plastic worms or grubs, artificial baits, and live baits are the three basic categories of ice fishing bait used by most anglers.  

The artificial fishing baits have some benefits over traditional live bait – namely, they are durable and can often be used for more than one bite. Plastic baits can be used dozens of times as long as they’re not damaged, but live minnows or worms don’t usually hold up well past a single strike. You can also keep a package of artificial ice fishing bait inside your coat pocket very easily to stay mobile.  

But there’s nothing more dependable on any body of water than ice fishing with live bait. Of the live bait for ice fishing (especially when targeting panfish), minnows are a perfect choice. On some occasions, wax worms also work well. But if you’re into mobile ice fishing, you probably hate being tethered to a big minnow bucket – it’s just too bulky to move things around efficiently. That’s where the Bait Up™ containers really shine.


Tips for Using a Live Bait Container

Depending on which fish species you’re after, the minnow choice should also change. For example, when you’re ice fishing for panfish, you should seek out shiners or fathead minnows. Generally speaking, minnows in the 1- to the 2-inch range is the right size for catching crappies or bluegills. Any bigger, and you’re getting into a minnow size that should be used for targeting walleye. 

Likewise, your bait container should also change depending on the size of the bait you use. The Bait Up 20 container holds 20 ounces of water and small bait options (or less of the larger sized baits). The Bait Up 35 container carries 35 ounces of water and can fit either more of the small ice fishing bait or a good amount of medium-sized live bait (usually 1 to 3 scoops of average crappie minnows). The floating basket raises the bait up out of the water so you don’t have to get your hands as wet and don’t need to carry a separate net/scoop. Then when the bait needs a change of water to re-oxygenate, simply invert the container and drain the water out the bottom without losing any bait. Then submerge it into the water of the ice fishing hole to refill it.  

As for ice fishing tips for crappie, simple is usually best. Sensitive ice poles and light 2- or 4- pound test line is the perfect combination. Use a small float with a bobber stop set to the approximate depth you’d like to fish. Bait ice fishing lures for crappie or a plain hook with a minnow (hooked right under the dorsal fin). Add a split shot or two about one foot above the bait, and let it sink. If you’re using fishing electronics, you can adjust the depth to wherever you see the fish. If not, try setting your bait about 1 to 2 feet off the bottom as a starting point. Aggressive (and hungry) crappies tend to be suspended in the water column versus right on the bottom, but it’s a start. 

Ice Fishing Challenges

Unlike fall fishing conditions where you might have the lake to yourself, ice fishing seems to really stack people up on some waterbodies. People always gravitate towards other anglers, especially if they’re fishing in the vicinity of a known piece of structure or honey hole. While many lakes can handle that fishing pressure, sometimes it can also really reduce the fish activity. In these cases, it’s better to strike off on your own and find a new honey hole. Slip your Bait Up container lanyard over your shoulder, grab your other ice fishing equipment, and use a lake contour map to find a new spot. Weed lines in shallower water are often overlooked by almost everyone who ice fishes, but they still hold good schools of crappies, especially earlier in the year when the vegetation is still healthy. So the next time you see a village of fish houses clustered over a deep hole in the lake, try fishing the perimeter of the lake instead. 


Another challenge with ice fishing is (spoiler alert): it’s cold outside. When you leave an uninsulated container of water on the ice, it usually doesn’t take long before ice starts to form inside it. While it doesn’t really affect the ice fishing bait in the short-term, it can affect how well the basket works. To solve that issue, simply keep your container within a backpack/cooler if you’re on the move or use a portable fish house. You can usually hang it from one of the metal supports along the ceiling of a fish shelter, which keeps it off the ice and up where the heat rises. It will never ice up in that location and you can keep an eye on when the bait needs a new dose of water. 

This winter, make sure you’re using the right ice fishing bait on the water. Artificial baits are usually made to mimic live baits. So why not go right to the source, the way nature intended them to look and smell? With the portable Bait Up containers, you can easily cover a larger area faster. And that usually results in more fish on the ice. 

Kayak Fishing 101 | Tips for Freshwater Kayak Fishing

Complete Kayak Fishing Guide for Anglers

Kayak fishing is fun, challenging, and most importantly… effective! More and more anglers are choosing kayaks as a low-cost alternative to powered boats. These vessels are advanced enough to target even the biggest game fish. Yet they are at their best when fishing for the most popular fish species like bass and panfish. We have compiled a complete guide for anglers getting started kayak fishing or for those needing a few extra kayak fishing tips!

Why You Should Be Kayak Fishing

Kayaks are more than just an alternative to a powered boat. Their biggest advantage is their mobility. Some of the best fishing spots are those that are hard to get to. Kayaks get you into those fishing spots most others can’t reach either from the shore or boat. The ability to access remote river stretches, small ponds, and shallow lake flats where big fish thrive are reasons enough to be fishing from a kayak.


Types of Kayaks for Fishing

Picking up any old kayak and launching it into the closest body of water usually will not get it done. There are kayaks and then there are kayaks built for fishing. Fishing kayaks are designed with features anglers need and expect to be productive on the water. For instance, most fishing kayaks have gear compartments and rod holders that are essential for successful days on the water.


Kayak Fishing Tip #1

There are no rules on what type of kayak you have to fish out of. Choose a kayak that is comfortable and meets your individual needs no matter the trend. Each type can be outfitted with kayak fishing accessories and be successful at helping you catch fish.

There are two types of kayaks, sit-in and sit-on models. 

Sit-in Kayaks

Just as it sounds, sit-in kayaks are those where your legs are partially or fully below the inside the kayak. These types of kayaks for fishing move swiftly in the water and have the following advantages and disadvantages. 


  •  Greater control during paddling, which is ideal for fishing rivers and streams or rough water on larger lakes.  
  •  More efficient to paddle means less fatigue on longer fishing trips. 
  •  Enclosed compartments for kayak fishing gear storage, which is great for all day and overnight trips as well as fishing for multiple species. 


  •  Can take on water in rough conditions and need to be drained. 
  •  Can be dangerous if you capsize and you need to know how to safely conduct a wet exit. 

Sit-on Kayaks 

Sit-on kayaks are best suited for fishing lakes and calm following rivers. The name says it all. Your body sits on top of the kayak, leaving you completely exposed as opposed to a sit-in kayak. Sit-on kayaks are the most popular type for fishing but have their own advantages and disadvantages. 


  • Easily to launch and get on for quickly getting in and out of fishing spots 
  • More comfortable and accessible for fishing than sit-in kayaks 
  • Self-draining


  • Little to no storage compartments for fishing tackle and other kayak fishing gear. 
  • Heavier than sit-in kayaks

How to Choose the Best Fishing Kayak?

If you are getting started kayak fishing or looking to upgrade, there are several questions to ask before you purchase a new kayak. 

First, the most important question is, where will you be fishing with your kayak? Most kayaks can be used in various types of water. However, some function better than others in rivers vs. lakes. For moving waters (streams and rivers), a shorter, durable sit-in or sit-on kayak will work best. A longer sit-on kayak functions best on calm waters like lakes and ponds. Here you can trade maneuverability for stability and comfort when fishing from a kayak in these waters.


Other considerations to keep in mind when selecting the best fishing kayak include: 


  • Comfort and style: Enclosed sit-in or the openness of a sit-on kayak? Both have advantages and disadvantages depending on your fishing style. In the end, it comes down to what you are most comfortable fishing from. 


  • Composition: The material used to make the kayak (plastics, composites, etc.), impacts how costly it is and its weight. Choose one that meets your cost, weight and durability requirements based on the type of kayak fishing you plan to do. 


  • Length: The longer the kayak the more stable it will be. Longer kayaks also typically have more storage space and are more comfortable. For freshwater kayak fishing, a medium length kayak usually fits the bill for most fishing situations. However, length should also be considered from the storage and travel perspective. Will it fit in my garage or in the bed of my truck? 


Kayak Fishing Accessories You Can’t Be Without 

There are certain fishing accessories you must add to whatever kayak you plan to fish out of. These five kayak fishing accessories will add to your comfort and help you catch more fish.

1.Seat: Fishing more than a few hours strains any angler’s butt and back. To stay on the water longer, upgrade your seat. Find a seat with adjustable back support and a high-quality foam or gel seat. Although not cheap, a good seat means more comfort while paddling and fishing.

2. Fishfinder: A must have to find schools of crappies or suspended bass. Choose a model that will mount easily and discreetly in your kayak. Spend the extra money for a fishfinder and GPS combo unit to mark fishing hotspots and to navigate larger rivers.

3. PFD: Personal flotation devices (PFD) can save your life if you capsize. Seek out a fishing PFD that is designed for kayak fishing, which allows for complete range of motion while paddling and fishing. Always check local laws on which types of PFDs are required when fishing from a kayak.

4. Paddle: Cheap paddles are like cheap seats; they can ruin your fishing trip. Paddles are the lifeblood of kayak fishing so a good one goes a long way. Opt for a lightweight, carbon fiber model with comfortable grips.

5. Rod Holders: Fishing kayaks typically come with some type of rod holder or holders. Types of rod holders include flush mounted, vertical and adjustable. Adjustable rod holders are the most diverse. They can be adjusted to carry rods while paddling then changed for fishing. If you add additional rod holders, make sure they are accessible while fishing and out of the way when paddling.


Kayak Fishing in Streams and Rivers

In smaller streams, you may be targeting trout or fishing for smallmouth bass in big rivers. Whatever the fish species you are after, kayaks allow you to cover large stretches of water. Simply launching your kayak and floating down the river is not going to put fish in the boat, however. You need to understand where to find fish in streams and rivers. 

 Kayak Fishing Tip #2 

Catching fish from a kayak is exciting, but think about what reeling in a fish will do to your positioning. A large bass can turn you sideways in a heartbeat, which can put you out of position or worse yet flip you over in a large river. A net to land fish adds a little extra reach and helps prevent tipping over when reaching for a played out fish.

Fish in moving water seek out areas that provide one of two environments. They are holding in areas that provide cover from predators or they are in areas that have ample forage. These are areas such as boulder outcrops or other large structures found in streams and rivers. Areas like these offer both protection from the current and forage opportunities. Paddle through long stretches of flat water and fish the structure.  

Moving water also inherently moves at different speeds as the stream or river changes direction or elevation. The differences are amplified in smaller moving water bodies but still, exists in larger rivers. Kayak fishing in these areas can be productive in addition to fishing structure. Fish, especially smallmouth bass, trout and even large river walleyes will take advantage of current changes like eddies to feed on collected baitfish.

Kayak Fishing Tip #3 

Know how to use the current to your advantage. Current in the main channel of streams and rivers can move you from spot to spot with little to no paddling. Also, use eddies to hold your kayak in place while you fish the adjacent areas.

Finally, once you have paddled to fishing hotspots in streams and rivers, you need to figure out what is the best bait to use. Live bait is the best all-around tactic for most fishing situations. Fishing with live bait is versatile and effective with many species found in these types of water. Minnows can be rigged on a simple jig or on a drop shot rig. Both techniques fish equally well around structure and in eddies. Go outside the box and fish a live crayfish in eddies for catching larger smallmouths and walleyes. The challenge with live bait while kayak fishing is how to easily carry and use it. Bait Up’s innovative live bait container, however, solves the problem. It easily allows you to select a minnow, fits conveniently in most kayak cup holders and comes in two sizes to match what size minnows you are fishing with.



Kayak Lake Fishing Tips

How to fish out of a kayak in a lake is different than fishing from one in streams and rivers. You can be less concerned about the current when fishing lakes. However, finding and catching fish is more difficult unless you follow some basic kayak fishing tips and techniques. 

Kayak Fishing Tip #4

Learn to cast and paddle with one hand. Unlike streams and rivers with current that moves you in usually one direction, winds on a lake can push you in circles. Learn how to fish out of a kayak with one hand. Use one hand to cast and one hand to paddle. Doing so allows you to reposition your kayak and keep on a spot while fishing.

The best fishing spots in lakes vary depending on the size of the lake, its composition and which fish species you are after. For panfish, paddle around in search of schools of fish on your fishfinder. Species like perch and crappies will be schooled up most times of the year and can easily be spotted on even the most basic fishfinders. Alternatively, panfish often can be caught on offshore points using simple jig tipped minnows and worms. Catching crappies from a kayak can also be successful with drop shot rigs and minnows fished in lake channels during the summer. 

Another Kayak lake fishing tip is to fish areas other boats can’t get too. In lakes with thick Lilly pads or dense grass flats, paddle your way deep into these otherwise unfished areas. Look for holes in the grass to flip a swim jig tipped with a live minnow trailer.


Kayak Fishing Tip #5

Although an anchor was not one of the top five kayak fishing accessories, one can help when kayak fishing lakes. If you find a school of panfish or it is a windy day, a small 2- to 4-lb kayak anchor can keep you on the fish. Always use a quick release system with a kayak anchor to prevent being pulled under. 

In addition, shorelines provide opportunities to catch fish in lakes. Kayak fishing along shores will target mostly bass. Bass will use shoreline vegetation for cover and to feed on baitfish. Often a simple weightless minnow rigged through the back is effective. The minnow swims freely around in the shallow water, a perfect representation of an actual injured baitfish to an unsuspected bass. 

In conclusion, kayak fishing can open up many more fishing opportunities. The experience fishing from a kayak provides a different perspective and challenge to angling. This guide supplements your kayak knowledge and adds several useful kayak fishing tips all in an effort to improve your next kayak fishing experience.