A fishing bucket is a staple on the ice for hard-water anglers, whether for carrying pop-ups, lunch, beverages, or fish home from the hole.
As long as you don’t need insulation or durability, a simple paint bucket with a strong lid will do. However, they tend to be too short to sit comfortably, which makes them unsuitable for this job.
There are anglers who don’t have the cash to buy the newest, hottest gear – and we know that. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of products we’d be happy to stand behind, all of which are capable of getting the job done, covering everything you need. Below, you will find a list of some of your favorites, and a buying guide to help you decide what’s best for you.
Best Fishing Buckets Reviews
1. Frabill Sit-N-Fish
This Sit-N-Fish is well-designed for hard-water anglers, and Frabill knows what hard-water anglers need. This 6-gallon bucket has a taller seat height and a cushioned lid, making it one of the most comfortable options for long trips on the ice.
One downside of this design is that larger anglers may have trouble prying off the lid without a screwdriver.
This bag features thick foam insulation to keep bait alive longer and prevent your beverages and lunch from freezing solid. You can remove the insulation if you would like to use it as extra space for gear like flashers or pop-ups.
You don’t have to worry about the handle breaking. Two additions would improve the Sit-N-Fish for me personally. It packs down to nothing and inflates easily. The inflatable seat cushion from Klymit is a great option for all-day comfort.
It is impossible to turn an ice bucket into a La-Z-Boy, so expect some compromises from every product. If you use this bucket for bait, you might consider drilling a hole that matches the size of your aerator to increase oxygen levels. This is an easy fix you can do yourself, and it’ll make a big difference in how long your bait stays active.
Anglers may balk at the idea of upgrading a bucket that’s already not cheap, but with these additions, this is one good ice accessory.
- Strong and durable – 300+ lbs. no problem
- Tall enough to be easy on the knees
- Padded seat
- Removable insulation
- Not set up for a bubbler
- The lid can be tough to open if subjected to heavy loads
2. Frabill 4822 Insulated Bait Bucket
The Frabill 4822 is a fixture on the ice, and it’s hard to beat it for keeping bait alive. This insulated bucket holds 1.3 gallons of water. It comes with an aerator and attachment points for your bubbler hose.
The lid might need to be cracked open a bit, as freezing water can ice it shut, making it difficult to open. Despite its incredible low price, this bucket is worth every penny as an active bait option.
- Really inexpensive
- Well insulated
- Light and small
- The lid can freeze shut with enough ice build-up
- Not a good stool
3. Frabill 4825 Insulated Bait Bucket with Built-In Aerator
We have selected the Frabill 4822 with an integrated aerator as the final Frabill product on our shortlist. The lid of this insulated bait bucket can be iced shut, but it also features a built-in bubbler that runs on 4 AA batteries.
Battery life can be directly impacted by ambient temperature, as ice anglers already know all too well. Expect running times between 4 and 12 hours based on how cold it is and bring spares.
The aerator tube has come loose in some models. You can fix that problem with tape or even silicone for a water-tight seal. The ice bucket works well for freshwater anglers, but it fails in brackish or saltwater.
- Really inexpensive for what you get
- Well insulated
- Built-in bubbler that works well in freshwater
- Light and small
- Good battery life
- The lid can freeze shut with enough ice buildup
- Not a good stool
- Aerator tube can come loose, but the fix is easy
4. YETI Loadout 5-Gallon Bucket
Everything you’ve heard about Yeti’s high-end coolers is true, including their astronomical price. This bucket shows that commitment to quality. Built tough, I’m not sure there’s a better alternative out there, and if you’re hard on your gear, this Loadout is definitely worth checking out.
There is little more to this bucket than it is. There is no lid, no insulation, no extras – everything you might want is aftermarket, and the price starts to add up fast, leading many ice anglers to wonder if the Loadout fishing bucket is worth it.
Yes, it’s sturdy.
- Tough and durable
- Food safe
- Comfortable handle
- No insulation
- No lid
- Ridiculously expensive for a bucket
- Extras increase the price even further
5. Custom Leathercraft Wild River
The Wild River cooler from Custom Leathercraft is a great idea: take a solid cooler and add a comfortable lid and gear pockets to the exterior.
As this bucket doesn’t have much insulation, freezing could be a problem if it’s not warmed by a heater, so I wouldn’t recommend taking it out on the exposed ice for fishing.
When a seat cushion is added, the lid is plenty comfortable, but taller anglers may find the height to be uncomfortable. A retractable lanyard, plier holders, LED light, a retractable lanyard, and a zippered pocket that can fit an aerator are all found on the exterior.
Oxygen will be pinched by the lid when it’s closed, so a drill or Dremel may be necessary to modify the tube. It’s certainly worth a second look for anglers who need extra storage.
- Reasonably comfortable seat
- Lots of external storage
- Not much (if any) insulation
- The lid will pinch the bubbler tube closed
What to Look for in a Good Fishing Bucket
In addition to holding bait, fishing buckets often do a lot more.
However, they’re often asked to carry pop-ups, flashers, batteries, cables, heaters, drinks, lunch, and thousands of other items.
It is for this reason that capacity is important, as well as good, solid handles.
A cold temperature can brittle even the toughest bucket, and it is murder on hard plastics.
Choose buckets from companies with a hard-won reputation for hard water. Frabill is a great choice for our money.
If you need a bucket that holds an aerator, keeps drinks above freezing, and doubles as a carry-all when the insulation is removed, this is one to buy.
Ice fishing buckets must perform – and perform well.
Insulation is not critical if you’re fishing in a heated shelter. But on the exposed ice, sitting over a hole with your rod in hand, watching your minnows and sandwiches cease to exist is not enjoyable.
It’s up to you to determine if insulation is important to you – only you can decide. But, be realistic about where and how you fish.
Frabill Sit-N-Fish and 4822 Insulated Bait Bucket are our two favorite ice fishing buckets, depending on your needs.
While you could outfit the Yeti for the same price, you could buy quite a few Sit-N-Fish buckets for the same price as the Yeti.
In our opinion, this isn’t worth it.
The Frabill 4822 takes second place in the bait bucket marketplace because aftermarket aerators are better than the ones Frabill comes with. As long as you’re careful about lid icing, you’ll get the most out of this bucket.
If you have learned anything from this article, we’d love to hear from you.