What Pound Test To Use For Ice Fishing (Info For All Species)

I’ve heard a lot of different opinions over the years on what pound test to use for ice fishing. Some people say to switch it up for every type of fish, but I like to keep things simple, and in this post, I’m going to be showing you what pound test line I use for ice fishing.

Here is the best line weight for different fish:

Type Of FishMonofilament/FluorocarbonBraid With Leader
Panfish3 LBS4 LB Braid
3 LB Leader
Kokanee4 LBS4 LB Braid
4 LB Leader
Trout4 LBS4 LB Braid
4 LB Leader
Walleye6 LBS8 LB Braid
6 LB Leader
Bass6 LBS8 LB Braid
6 LB Leader
Lake Trout15 LBS10 LB Braid
12 LB Leader
Pike20 LBS20 LB Braid
20-25 LB Leader

The big thing to keep in mind is that you want to use as small of a line as you can. The heavier the line, the thicker it is, and the easier it is to see.

If you’re fishing for small trout and using a 30 lb line then it’ll probably spook them off. But you do want to make sure you have a strong enough line to make sure it doesn’t break.

If you’re fishing for smaller fish such as panfish, kokanee, and trout, you can use braid, mono, or fluoro. When you get into the bigger fish, braid is often the best choice.

If you want to know what brands I like to use, you can see my favorite ice fishing gear here. If not, here’s a video that explains mono vs fluoro vs braided line:

What LB Test To Use For Ice Fishing

When it comes to what fishing line you toss on your reel, you really need to think about two things:

  1. What type of line am I using?
  2. What fish could I catch?

You have the choice between braid, fluorocarbon, and monofilament. Each of them can work fine, but they all have their pros and cons. If you use braid, you can normally go a bit heavier if you have a leader.

You also need to think about what’s in the water. Are you fishing for small bluegill? You could get away with using 1-2 lb line. What about if there’s also big bass? You might have to up it to 3-4 lbs.

Here’s the main thing to think about. What is the least amount of line I can get away with? That is more often than not the best way to go.

Best Fishing Line For Panfish

Best Time Of Day To Ice Fish For Perch

Panfish are pretty small and that’s why you can get away with using ultralight line. Examples of panfish are crappie, bluegill, and perch.

The best ice fishing line for panfish is 3 lb fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon is useful because it sinks in the water and will let you fish with micro jigs or get down to depth easier.

Fluoro is my go-to choice because it’s the least visible in the water, it’ll help light lures sink, and you’ll be able to feel the bite right away since it doesn’t stretch.

If you’re fishing in water less than 15 feet deep, you could go with 3 lb monofilament. Mono does float and that’s why it’s tough getting micro jigs down to depth (if you don’t use weight).

The benefit to mono is that it usually has less memory than fluoro and it doesn’t ice up quite as fast. It can still work though.

If you want to have one set up that covers a range of different fish, using a stronger braid with a fluoro/mono leader might be a good choice.

Best Fishing Line For Kokanee & Trout

These fish are usually bigger than panfish and that’s why you can use a slightly heavier line. You could use an ultralight line and have the drag set loose, but I like playing it safe.

The best ice fishing line for trout and kokanee is a 4 lb braid with a 4 lb monofilament or fluorocarbon leader. Fluorocarbon is what’s mainly used for trout while monofilament works well for kokanee.

The reason I like using braid instead of monofilament is that braid is thinner and will sink easier. I like braid over fluorocarbon because it’s more sensitive.

Normally, I’ll use a fluoro leader for trout because it’s the least visible to see, and is quite a bit more abrasion resistant than mono.

I like using a mono leader for kokanee because they have softer mouths, and since mono stretches, it acts as a shock absorber.

Best Fishing Line For Walleye & Bass

Bass and walleye are some of the more popular freshwater species to target. What’s important to know about ice fishing is that you don’t need to use as heavy of line as you would in open water.

The best ice fishing line for walleye and bass is 8 lb braid with a 6 lb fluorocarbon leader. Braided line is the best choice because it’s the most sensitive and fluorocarbon is the most abrasion-resistant.

The reason I like to use braid is that it’s thinner than mono/fluoro and is easier to jig your lure around. It also doesn’t stretch and that’s going to help you get a solid hookset.

Fluorocarbon is the leader I mainly use and the main reason is that it’s more abrasion-resistant compared to mono. It’s also a lot less visible compared to braid.

Best Fishing Line For Lake Trout

As we work our way up to the bigger fish, the line you decide to go with gets more and more important. These fish have bigger teeth, are a lot stronger, and need an aggressive hookset.

The best ice fishing line for lake trout is 10 lb braid with a 12 lb fluorocarbon leader. With the right rod, and your drag set loose, you’ll have no problem reeling in 20-30 lb lake trout.

Lake trout have super tough mouths, and that’s why you need a line that doesn’t stretch. You could use mono or fluoro, but the line will be much thicker, and you won’t be able to dance your lure around.

I’ve had plenty of times trolling for these guys and ending up with my lure at the bottom of the lake. It’s not a good feeling.

Some lakes do have fish bigger than this though, and if that’s the case, you could even go with a heavier line.

Best Fishing Line For Pike

If you’re fishing for these guys (or something similar) you’ll want to pull out all the stops and up your line rating. These fish have sharp teeth and can get quite large, and you don’t want to lose one.

The best ice fishing line for pike is a 20 lb braid with a 20-25 lb fluorocarbon leader. Braided line won’t stretch and will let you feel everything. A heavy fluorocarbon is needed to withstand sharp teeth.

I’ve heard countless stories about people losing a big fish, and a lot of the time they were using either monofilament or fluorocarbon. That’s why I wouldn’t recommend it.

If you want to play it safe, you can even use 30, 40, or 50 lb braid as your main fishing line. It wouldn’t be that effective with super thick mono or fluoro, and that’s a huge benefit of braid.

As long as you don’t have your reel cranked tight, and you take your time reeling in, 20 lb braid should be plenty.

I almost always use fluoro as my leader, and that’s still the case for pike fishing. Fluoro is the most abrasion-resistant line and won’t break as easily from rubbing against the ice.

It’s also the least visible line on the market, and that’s something that can always help you catch more fish. Pike doesn’t have the best eyesight, but anything you can do to increase your chances should be done.

Ice Braid vs Regular Braid

I’m sure you get a bit confused when you walk into a fishing store and see all the different types of line (I know I sure did). There’s regular fluoro, there’s leader specific fluoro, there’s regular braid, and there’s ice braid.

I’ve tested regular fluoro against leader fluoro in the past. The leader material was supposed to be harder and stand up better to abrasion. Guess what? It didn’t perform any better than standard fluoro.

Ice braid is supposed to shed water better than standard braid and not freeze up as much. It also costs a good bit more than a regular braid.

What I’ve noticed is that after a few hours of fishing, ice braid doesn’t work any better than regular braid. That’s why I don’t use ice braid.

I can literally take my open water reel that’s spooled with normal braid, slap it on my ice rod, and spend hours out in the cold. It doesn’t work perfectly, but there’s no way ice braid is worth the extra cost.

Jon Webber

I'm by no means an outdoors or fishing expert, but it's something I've been interested in for over 20 years. I created this site to test out different gear and techniques to see what actually works.

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