10 tips for tip-ups

by Tim Allard | January 20, 2015

Tip-up setting

Tip-ups are an important tool for ice fishing. Where multiple lines are permitted, they allow anglers to present bait in different spots to cover a larger area. Here are 10 tips that will help you catch more fish this winter.

1. Consider an upgrade
Many tip-ups last a lifetime but the latest models can offer innovative components and improved performance, such as better trip mechanisms. It’s worth having different models as some have unique advantages. For example, the HT Windlass Tip-Up provides a jigging motion to bait when there’s a breeze while the Frabill Pro-Thermal Tip-Up is an insulated round model that covers the hole. The cover prevents freeze up, stops snow and ice from blowing in, and will block daylight that can spook fish.

2. Keep things tidy
Organized tip-ups will set up easier than tangled ones and will get you fishing faster. I carry rectangular tip-ups in a long, soft case, but I stack round, thermal tip-ups in a six-gallon bucket. A hair elastic or section of nylon elastic wrapped over the spool prevents line from unravelling and tangling.

3. Use the right line
Vinyl-coated and waxed, braided Dacron or nylon lines are the best for spooling tip-ups. These inexpensive and durable lines shed water, which reduces line freeze-up on the ice or spool. 15- to 30-pound-test handles well with either gloved or bare fingers.

4. Outfit flags
Twilight is feeding time for many fish but it can be tough to see distant tip-ups in fading light. Invest in a motion-activated LED light that clips on the flag. It shines when the tip-up is tripped. Bells can also be attached and will ring when the flag springs up. Knowing you’ve got a bite on a tip-up has never been easier.

On the ice

5. Get rid of ice shards
Before setting a tip-up, set aside the ice shards created from drilling the hole. Leaving jagged ice chips can lead to tangles in windy conditions when your line is one the ice.

6. Be precise with bait placement
I set my tip-ups using portable sonar. It’s the fastest way to position bait at a precise depth. As an option, you can also use a clip-on depth finder. Sink it to the bottom, and then wind line back on the spool to raise the bait to the desired depth off the floor. Clip a line marker just past the tip-up spool to mark the depth for an easy way to reset the tip-up after catching a fish.

7. Add attractors
Extra attraction components can catch you more fish on tip-ups. Using a glow-painted hook or jig increases a bait’s visual appeal. Incorporating flash also works. One way to do this is by rigging a live minnow on a flutter jig such as a JB Lures Gem-n-Eye or Northland Fishing Tackle Eye-Dropper. As the minnow swims, the jig’s wide body wobbles and flashes.

8. Check tip-ups often
A set-it-and-forget-it attitude is the wrong one to have for tip-ups. Re-bait often for fresh scent and a lively offering. The lifting and lowering of bait can also call in fish. Keep an eye on the flag as you walk to the next hole after checking a tip-up.

9. Use tip-ups to complement jigging
I often use a tip-up as a secondary line when I’m jigging. If I’m searching for fish, I put a tip-up deep and jig shallow water, or vice versa. I then focus on the productive depth range based on which line does better. Jigging close to a tip-up is also a good tactic. If fussy fish are reluctant to hit a jigging lure, the nearby dangling minnow can seal the deal.

10. Walk, don’t run
It’s best to walk to a tripped tip-up flag. Running is noisy and can spook fish in shallow water. This may cause them to drop the bait before you get a chance to set the hook. Running also increases the risk of slipping or falling on the ice.

If you give even a few of these tips a try this winter, you will find you will be more efficient and catch more fish using your tip-ups.

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