Out of the box, ice fishing sleds are basically just big plastic tubs with a tow rope and some molded glides on the bottom. Not exactly user friendly!
The fun part is having a blank slate to customize and accessorize your sled into an efficient ice fishing machine. There are all kinds of upgrades you can make to a sled, limited only by your imagination and shop skills.
We spent hours researching to find 10 useful ice sled modifications that anyone can do. Now put on your engineering hat and start thinking about how you can implement these upgrades into your ice fishing platform.
The Benefits of Custom Ice Fishing Sleds
Ice sled customizations generally fall into a few categories, each with their own set of distinct benefits.
- Better Mobility – Certain mods can make your sled easier to pull over heavy snow or rough ice. When your sled starts weighing 50-60 lbs full of gear, you’ll begin to appreciate easier mobility.
- Enhanced Visibility for Safety – Reflectors and lights make it easier for other fishermen (not to mention snowmobiles, trucks, and UTVs) to see your sled out on the ice when visibility is limited by darkness, blowing snow, or even foggy conditions.
- Increased Storage Capacity – Out of the box ice sleds aren’t great for optimizing the available space to fit all that gear. It’s difficult to neatly store and transport an ice shelter, portable heater, electric ice auger, fishing poles, electronics, tackle, bait, tools, fuel, food, and drinks. A well thought out ice fishing sled mods can greatly increase carrying capacity!
- Gear Organization – The key to hauling all your gear and in a convenient location when you need it, is organization. Creating custom storage in your ice sled puts your important items right where you need them.
- Improved Fishability – All the above mods have one goal in mind, and that is making your personal ice sled more efficient on the ice. Whether you like to move around frequently, or set up shop in one location, customizing your sled to your specific fishing style enhances the experience.
Now that you understand the Why, it’s time to cover the How. To get your design juices flowing, we’ll cover 10 ice fishing sled mods you can accomplish over a weekend.
10 Ice Sled Modification Ideas
1. Tow Bars & Hitches
Getting your sled full of gear out to your fishing hot spots can be tiring on foot, pulling on the stock tow rope. That’s why one of the first mods anglers make is adding a tow bar and hitch. This enables you to hook up and pull your sled with a snowmobile or ATV. You can make your own or buy an ice sled tow kit that is ready to install. Here are some of the best ice sled tow bar kits at Amazon, perfect for starting Otter or Jet Sled mods:
|Frabill Universal Shelter Tow Bar | Universally...||Amazon|
|Shappell Heavy Duty Hitch||Amazon|
|Clam (CLAM0) Clam Hitch Kit, Multicolor, One Size||Amazon|
If you prefer the DIY route, it’s quite easy to build your own out of brackets and tubing for the crossbar and tow bars. Then all you need is a bolt with a clevis pin to hook up to the ATV or snowmobile. Here is how one fisherman made his sled tow bar.
2. Fishing Platforms
The idea behind a fishing platform is a moveable, or fold-out surface for using your gear when you get to your fishing spots. A platform can help hold bulky gear, like coolers for live bait, large bait buckets, electronics, tackle boxes, and rod holders are very handy for fishing.
All it takes is a sturdy sheet of plywood, cut to shape, with various holes cut out to accommodate your various gear. Hinges can be installed so it can be folded outboard of the sled for use. Two examples are shown below. The first has holes to hold propane tanks and buckets, plus rod holders. The second has built-in seats and fold-out compartments to hold a bait bucket, aerator, and heater.
This is one of the simple mods to make, but such an important one for ice safety. Getting on the ice at dawn and dusk is important in getting to the fish during their most active feeding periods. Unfortunately, the low light also makes you harder to see to people who might be out on snowmobiles, UTV’s, and cars.
|Peterson Manufacturing V480A Amber Reflector||Amazon|
Make yourself more visible in the dark and dusky hours with plastic screw-on reflectors like the Peterson Amber Reflectors. Another option is clip-on LED safety lights that turn on and off with the push of a button, similar to those runners and bikers use.
4. Bungee Cords
Another easy upgrade to your ice sled is adding hooks and holes for attaching bungee cords. The stretchy cords keep your gear secure and prevent tipping, spilling, and falling out. You can buy a big pack of bungee cords for less than twenty bucks. The Cartman Bungee Cord works well for ice sleds.
|Cartman Bungee Cords Assortment Jar 24 Piece in...||Amazon|
5. Tackle Organizers
Having your tackle and gear organized and ready to grab is very useful. If you know where your ice jig box and soft plastics are you can quickly grab them without rummaging through your sled. This mod is all about efficiency!
|Plano 5 Gallon Bucket Topper and Organizer,OD...||Amazon|
|Plano Molding 974 StowAway Organizer Rack,Red||Amazon|
You can add a milk crate style storage, such as the Plano Tackle Tray Organizer, to store tackle trays or cut slots in your fishing platform. You can also buy something like the Plano Ice Bucket Topper with plastic trays, either on your buckets or built into the sled. These are perfect for placing hooks, weights, jigs, and soft plastics to be ready in a moment’s notice.
6. Rod Holders
Adding rod holders is one of the easiest and most useful upgrades you can add to your ice fishing sled. You can buy rod holders and mount them to the sled of course, but many anglers go the DIY route with short pieces of PVC pipe, U bolts, or other pieces of hardware. The rod holders can be used for storage and transport but are helpful for fishing multiple holes.
|Clam 9556 Rod Holder Multi Position 4 Rod Holder,...||Amazon|
|Driftmaster 255HR Duo Rod Holder with 1/2-Inch...||Amazon|
7. Tool Holders
Think of all the small tools that you use when ice fishing. Fishing pliers/scissors, ice scoops, hemostats, bottle opener, all get used frequently on the ice. You want them to be handy when you need them, and you don’t want to lose them, so make sure you add tool holders to your sled to keep them organized and at the ready.
There are lots of ways you can do this to keep them out of the way yet ready. You can buy a tool holder made to fit around 5-gallon buckets or attached to the side of your sled. You can also cut holes in your custom fishing platform and set out your tools when you start fishing.
|Wise 8WD1096-716 Boat Seat Caddy Gear Holder,...||Amazon|
|Rapala Magnetic Tool Holder - Three Place Black||Amazon|
8. LED Lights
LED lights are becoming more popular for ice fishing. They are great for safety reasons and for seeing what you are doing while night fishing. LED lights can be bought in an array of shapes and sizes. For ice sleds, LED strips, portables, and trailer lights work very well.
|Seaponer Pontoon Boat light, Marine Led Light...||Amazon|
|Nilight 18021F-B 2PC 4Inch Triple Row Lights 60W...||Amazon|
|Nilight 10 PCS 3/4 Inch Round Mini LED Clearance...||Amazon|
You will need to power these lights with a 12V battery, which shouldn’t be any trouble if you already use electronics. Consider installing toggle switches to turn the LEDs on and off. Here are some of our favorite LED lights for ice sleds:
9. Ice Sled Skis – “Smitty Sled”
Plastic tub ice sleds work well when it’s just bare ice or a light snow covering, but when the snow gets deeper, they can be a bear to pull when loaded. The basic idea is to take an old pair of snow skis and build a frame to attach to your sled, enhancing the mobility of your sled in snowy conditions.
You can design your sled skis to be fixed or movable if you like adapting to the conditions. This is a more challenging project to tackle, but we’ve found several videos and ideas you can use for inspiration.
- Slab City Outdoors walks you through his wood frame “Smitty Sled” build in his video.
- Endless Ice builds her Smitty Sled onto a Fish Trap ice fishing sled.
10. Electronics Rigging
Build custom mounts into your sled for holding your ice fishing electronics. Putting your flasher or fishfinder onto an elevated platform makes it much easier to see. Then you can rig your cabling through your sled into a battery box.
Having a dedicated battery rigged in your sled is a super clean way to rig your fish finder, bait bucket oxygenators, and lights. It is a slightly more complicated upgrade, but one you have a battery holder with power switches, you will love this setup.
Which Mods Should You Make?
That was a lot of ideas to cover, so to start you should add reflectors for safety. Then after you’ve had your sled out a few times, you will know much more about how you want to section off your sled and add things like platforms, rod holders, and tackle organizers. This is a fun way to spend the offseason, and when the ice is safe, you’ll be ready to roll!
Last updated 2023-06-02 at 17:57 / Affiliate Links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API