Get Smart: Organize (& Protect) Ice Rods

Keep your ice rigs better organized for quicker deployment—and keep them from breaking!

There’s nothing more frustrating than arriving to your fishing spot, only to discover that your ice rods are knotted up into a net-like mess. Add frozen fingers or a hot bite to the mix and you’ll be plunking quarters into the swear jar!

Sure, five-gallon buckets will hold ice rods, but what’s inside can easily bang around during transit. And even if your rods stay tangle-free, the friction of gear rubbing together can compromise line strength. Resultant nicks in main line or leader material have sacrificed many a trophy fish.

Kind of funny that we’ll stay up into the wee hours rigging rods but then carelessly toss ‘em in a pail or throw ‘em on the heated dash of the truck. Think subjecting line to heat and cold extremes is a good idea? Nope.

Here are a few smart ways to organize and keep your ice rods and rigs in tip-top shape.

Rod Cases

There are a number of different rod cases on the market, including models from Frabill, Lakes & Rivers, Clam and Ice Fishing Innovations.

Lakes & Rivers makes an affordable ice fishing combo case but it lacks a foam insert. I know once competitive ice angler who simply purchased high-density foam inserts from a local craft store and with a serrated knife, he cut the foam inserts for custom configuration of his high-end St. Croix ice rod and reel combos.

Thing is, without a foam insert, rods can still slide around and tangle. The other alternative is to use Clam ice fishing rod slicks to cover rods and keep line from tangling or getting nicked. Even better, use both foam and slicks.

Clam’s Rod Locker is another option. A durable, 600D outer shell protects from the outside while hard, strategically placed inserts protect from the inside. An innovative lining keeps hooks from catching, and Velcro inserts hold up to six combos in place. Although the Velcro keeps rods in place, it’s also a good idea to use rod slicks to prevent any line abrasion.

Frabill’s new Heavy-Duty Ice Rod Case is basically a Plano break-down shotgun case repurposed for ice. Suffice to say, it’s nearly bullet-proof with dual stage latches, Dri-Loc Seal and industrial molded construction. Not sure if you could drive over it, but it’s definitely the toughest-looking on the market. Comes complete with two layers of high-density pluck foam for endless customization. Holds 8-10 combos.

The Deluxe Ice Advantage Rod Case holds six rod and reel combos with four tackle storage containers. Features a beaded polyethylene custom insert that provides water resistant, crush-resistant storage. Outer case constructed of blow-molded double wall plastic. A bit on the expensive side, but one hell of a case.

Uncased Option

I first saw this rod holder at the St. Paul Ice Show a couple years ago and was impressed with its simplicity. The Fishing Rod Retainer carries up to nine ice rods in an organized and tangle-free manner. Also features a built-in handle for easy transport and center hole for bait or tackle storage. Sits nicely in the back of passenger seat of the truck for “car-door” fishing.

DIY Smarts

Of course, part of the fun of ice fishing is coming up with our own “hardware hacks.” Recently, while fishing Wisconsin’s Lake Petenwell, I was impressed with pro ice angler Walt Matan’s DIY rod holders. As you can see from the photo, Walt’s recipe for ice rod organization involves a marine battery case, PVC, scrap lumber, various bolts and screws and some good ol’ fashioned elbow grease. The cases strap easily onto Walt’s ATV with bungee cords and stand up nicely in the back seat of his truck. Definitely smart … think I’ll attempt something similar on a stormy Sunday afternoon.

Here’s one last cool DIY rod organization tip—rig larger-schedule PVC and bungee’d cap to the rear rack of your ATV for storing long rods or Straight Line-style combos!

Hey, we’d like to see YOUR ice rod organization ideas! Visit North American Fisherman on Facebook and share your pics and comments!

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