When picturing a sled, you might imagine the thrill of sliding down a steep, snowy hill. For ice fishing anglers, however, they double as workhorses to haul the equipment and tackle necessary for a quality catch. Some of the best ice fishing sleds can even be attached to the back of your ATV.
What You Should Consider Before Buying an Ice Fishing Sled
In many ways, an ice fishing sled differs from its recreational counterpart. Most manufacturers offer all-purpose sleds, but some have also designed a variety of models catering to the specific needs of anglers. When buying a sled, it’s crucial to think about your desired features, location, and fishing style. Below are some common considerations to help you further.
Manufacturers give a sled’s carrying capacity in length, width, and depth to help you determine how much you’ll be able to haul. A longer or wider sled will minimize hauling effort. But if you don’t mind making multiple trips, you can save your money and purchase a smaller sled.
Length and width may be significant, but don’t discount depth as an essential consideration. You can maximize your carrying capacity by stacking smaller items in vertical layers using a deeper sled. Additional depth will also protect lighter items from jostling around and spilling off the sled.
A sled’s weight can make or break its usefulness. Heavier sleds may be more robust, but if they add too much weight to the items you’re pulling, they may hinder you rather than help you. Lighter sleds may have weaker build quality or a smaller carrying capacity, but they will simplify your hauling tasks by not adding too much extra weight.
Today’s ice fishing anglers can choose from a variety of sled materials. Simple plastic sleds continue to please for their light weight and low cost. But if you want enhanced durability, you should purchase a polyethylene or composite sled.
Keep in mind that a sled’s durability is determined not just by what material it uses but by how that material is arranged. Reinforced plastic sleds use a specially-engineered pattern, so the sled does not bow or wear under heavy strain.
- Tow rope: When shopping for an ice fishing sled, you should consider the length of the rope and the material used (fiber or plastic). The rope should be just as durable, if not more, than the sled itself because a low-quality one can negate the benefits of using a fishing sled.
- Lip: Professional sleds will typically have a lip around their outer rim. The lip can serve as a barrier to block snow from entering the sled. It can also protect items from falling over the side if they overhang by a short distance.
- Ribbed floor: As you pull your sled, do you mind if the items inside get jostled around or shift? A rubber or plastic-ribbed floor adds extra reinforcement to stabilize the load.
What Are the Best Ice Fishing Sleds?
An ideal sled must be robustly built and have a large carrying capacity for most anglers. It should also have special features such as reinforced pull ropes and deep beds. The best ice fishing sleds below meet each criterion, and we can confidently say they are the best in their class.
1. Shappell Jet Ice Fishing Sled – Best Choice
The Shappell Jet is a no-frills, twelve-pound black sled with green accents. At first glance, it looks like an ordinary sled, but it has built-in molded runners for hauling convenience. Plus, it has a large 54″ x 25.5″ carrying bed that can easily accommodate a variety of fishing items like rods and ice augers.
Even when you fill it to the brim, this best ice fishing sled’s reinforced polyethylene ensures there is no cracking or buckling. As a matter of fact, it has 200-pound support, which you’ll find more than capable enough even if you’re carrying heavier fishing gear!
There are no holes for tie-down rope, but you may be able to drill them yourself. Some ice fishing anglers may be looking for a multipurpose sled that is just as useful for recreation as for fishing. The larger size and depth make the sled less maneuverable for sliding, but waterfowl hunters might appreciate its ability to float in water.
2. Pelican NOMAD 40 Multipurpose Utility Sled
Like the Shappell, the Pelican NOMAD 40 also uses high-density polyethylene for crack protection. The critical difference is in the design, which, unfortunately, affects its overall hauling efficiency and gear capacity.
The NOMAD 40 has an oblong shape that translates to a smaller carrying capacity of 41″ x 12″ and weaker 90-pound support versus the Shappell Jet. This is not precisely a bad thing if you are ice fishing gear only consists of one to two rods, a manual ice auger, and an ice fishing tip-up.
While more intense fishers may prefer a larger and more robust sled, they can’t beat the NOMAD on versatility. When you’re done fishing, it’s fantastic for sliding or tobogganing; the built-in runners, high walls, and simple ribbed floor will keep you steady and stable. The eight-inch walls have long elevated “handles” and pre-drilled holes, both of which may be useful for tying down bulky loads.
3. Flexible Flyer Winter Trek Large Pull Sled
The Flexible Flyer is marketed as a toboggan and ice fishing multipurpose sled. At 66″ x 20″, its total storage area competes directly with the Shappell Jet. However, the narrower, shallower bed slopes toward the sled’s front, and you may have to tie down larger loads. There are no tie-down holes, but the sidewall handgrips add depth to the sled’s lip. There is also an extra-long fiber pull rope so you can haul cargo behind an ATV or snowmobile. Plus, Flexible Flyer makes their sleds from a proprietary resin material to maintain durability without the need for reinforcement.
The caveat? The Flexible Flyer Winter Trek costs more than our best ice fishing sled choice, even when on sale.
4. Frabill Universal Shelter Tow Bar
The Universal Shelter Tow Bar is the perfect ice fishing sled accessory. Though it can help you pull tackle, its specialty is carrying portable shelters up to 38 inches. The 33″ metal bar contains a single pin clamp on one end, allowing you to directly attach your sled to trailer hitches on a snowmobile or four-wheeler.
While the Frabill maintains excellent build quality and capacity, you may need to make some modifications to your shelter’s mounting bracket to make the most of your purchase. A series of bolts connect the tow bar to the bracket, and holes may not always be pre-drilled for you.
5. Shappell JSX Jet Sled
“JSX” stands for “Jet Sled Extra-Large.” Indeed, this sled has the largest carrying capacity on our best ice fishing sleds list, both horizontally and vertically.
Shappell’s 66″ x 31″ bed may accommodate some portable shelters while still leaving ample space for your tackle. The JSX also has two extra inches of depth for more vertical capacity. The additional lip accommodates a heavier-duty fiber tow rope, though the extra space is also useful for drilling holes for tow bars.
This sled is built from the same reinforced polyethylene of the original Jet Sled with a utilitarian body and built-in traction rails. This sled’s only con is that the floor is not ribbed; items may shift if you don’t space out your load to fit the entire bed area.
This sled’s only con is that the floor is not ribbed; items may shift if you don’t space out your load to fit the entire bed area.
Online markets offer options and features that may seem trivial. However, when it comes to our top five ice fishing sled choices, they are simply the best in their class. They are tough and built for a more convenient ice fishing hauling.