The Ultimate Guide to Tip Ups in Ice Fishing: Features and Comparison of the Best Models

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Ice fishing is rough not only because of the weather itself. It is challenging because fish become lethargic at low temperatures. Thankfully, there is something called Tip-Up, an item that will help you during winter. But what is a Tip-Up?

A Tip-Up consists of a frame, a spool of line, a trigger system, and a flag. The trigger system and flag will alert you when a fish is biting. This way, you don’t need to hold a rod for countless minutes until you get something. 

Since things are getting colder, we will take some time to talk about ice fishing Tip Ups, how to use them, how to rig them, and many other odds and ends. Let’s start with a selection of the best models available. 

What Do Tip Ups Do?

In a nutshell, a Tip Up allows you to suspend the bait at the desired depth without needing to hold a rod. As a result, you can work several holes at the same time and hit different depths of the water column. 

The device will tip the flag up once a fish bites the bait, hence the name. From this point, all that’s needed is to reel the fish in by hand. We suggest wearing thick gloves. You can get some nasty cut otherwise. 

How to Use a Tip-Up?

Using a Tip-Up is easier than it looks. First, make sure the spool has enough lines. We recommend using a braid fishing line. You can add a monofilament leader using a barrel swivel for better concealment. 

The next step is to fix the hook to the main line. Then, we recommend adding a split shot above the hook. 12 to 18 inches will be sufficient. This will increase the weight of the rig, allowing the bait to sit at the desired depth. 

Once the flag is up, it is time to reel the line. First, set the Tip Up to the side, reel some lines, and set the hook once you feel resistance. 

Because we know that following written instructions is often confusing, we invite you to check this video.

How Do I Spool a Tip Up?

Spooling a tip-up is easier than spooling a fishing reel. The only problem that you need to sort out is being able to wrap the line without taking it out from the Tip Up, as most models don’t allow you to remove the spool.

One important bit of advice is to add some backing to the spool. You can use tape for that. This will keep the fishing line from slipping as you wrap it.

Keeping the line crossing from side to side is crucial to avoid it from getting tangled. 

Yeah, it sounds a little tricky. But here is a helpful video to get you through the day. 

How Deep Should I Fish With a Tip Up?

Determining the length might be tricky for beginners. But it is quite straightforward. For example, if you have a fish finder, you can instantly check the depth at which fish are. 

Sadly, not all of us have access to such a gadget. But don’t worry, we have a solution. Simply attach a heavy sinker to the hook. Release the line steadily until it reaches the bottom. You will know because there will be some noticeable slag on the line.

Reel between 2 to 3 feet of line once the hook touches the bottom. Fishing at this depth is usually the most effective for ice fishing. 

Using a bobber is a good way to mark the depth of the line. This way, you can make sure that you will always reach the same depth. 

If you have another Tip-Up, then you can set the second at a higher depth. You will be targeting two different depths at the same time without needing to hold a rod for a prolonged time. 

Do Tip Ups Set the Hook?

There might be some occasions when fish hook themselves by swallowing the whole bait at once. But this is not the general rule. As a result, you will need to learn how to set the hook right, as it is not the same process with a rod and line. 

First, wait for the flag to be up. Then, gently set the Tip Up aside. Take the line with your hands and reel until you feel resistance. It is crucial to reel slowly, or you risk losing the fish.

All that’s left is for you to jerk the line up fast, hooking the fish in the process. 

Some models might set the hook automatically. But this is not the general rule.  

Do You Need Live Bait for Tip Ups?

Although you can surely use dead or artificial bait, live minnows often prove more productive. The reason behind this is that the bait sits idle in a Tip Up device. Therefore, it will hardly draw the attention of lethargic fish. 

As a result, it is better to use live bait like minnows. Make sure to pierce them above the dorsal fin, or the fish may die instantly. 

How Much Fishing Line Should I Put on a Tip Up?

Typically a whole spool with 150 to 250 feet of fishing line will be more than enough for ice fishing. This will give you enough flexibility to target different depths and use different rigs. 

How Do You Pull Fish In Tip Up?

One common mistake among rookies is that they pull the line with all their might as soon as the flag is up. This only makes the line more likely to snap. Besides, most hooks are sharp enough to pierce the flesh easily. In other words, pull the line firmly and gently.

Once the fish is hooked, follow the hand-over-hand method until the fish is above the ice. We recommend using gloves for this. First, it will help you with the cold. Plus, you are less likely to cut your hands while reeling the line. 

You can take advantage of the footage from your fish finder to tell when to pull the line. This way, you can avoid scaring the fish away. Nevertheless, there is no need to get a fish finder if you don’t have one.

What Shouldn’t Do While Tip-Up Ice Fishing?

There are several situations that you should avoid while Tip Up fishing. Taking these into account will greatly increase your chances of landing fish. Let’s check them.

  • Don’t Drill Several Holes Close To Each Other: It is wise to spread the holes if you are using several Tip Ups at the same time. This way, you can cover a larger area of the lake. 

The same principle applies if there are other angler fishing nearby. Besides, this will also avoid problems with other people. 

  • Don’t Leave the Hole Unattended: While there is no need to constantly check the Tip Up, you shouldn’t forget about it either. Make sure to clear the frozen water from the ice, as it can prevent the flag from getting up. 

Similarly, make sure to check the bait after some time. 

  • Don’t Pull the Line Hard: The cold temperature makes the fishing line more likely to snap. That’s why you have to gently pull the line one hand at a time. 

Also, try your best to keep the line clear from the border of the whole, as it might cut it. 

Can I Make My Own Tip Up?

Yes, you can make a DIY Tip-Up. There are several ways to do it. But we think that it is easier if you see how to make one. Here you have a useful video tutorial

If you find it difficult, don’t worry. Ice fishing Tip Ups are quite affordable. 

Tip Up Material of Construction

Wood, plastic, and metal (aluminum, iron, and steel), are the most common materials of construction used for Tip Ups. The quality, durability, and price mainly depend on this.

For instance, wooden and metallic frames are the most durable of all. Some anglers voucher for the first option, while some others prefer metal. In the end, it is all about personal preference. 

One thing to keep in mind is to avoid slim wooden frames at all times. We are referring to those Tip Ups that consist of three wood branches joined together. 

One thing with plastic is that it becomes brittle as temperature decreases. As a result, the gadget is more likely to break. That’s why you should avoid them unless they have some sort of anti-freezing protection.

Anti-Freezing Lubricant

Because ice fishing involves low temperatures, you should go for models with anti-freeze oil. The lubricant will keep the mobility of the tubes regardless of the external temperature, which is crucial to keep the device running smoothly. 

Conversely, you should keep away from Tip Ups without anti-freezing lubricants. 

Tip Ups Triggers

The trigger is arguably one of the most important parts of any Tip-Up. It is responsible for raising the flag. If it is too stiff, the flag won’t raise at all, preventing you from catching fish. In contrast, if the trigger is too soft, the flag will raise at the slightest tension.

Some models come with adjustable triggers that allow you to increase or decrease the tension on the flag pole according to the rig weight. 

If you can get your hands on a Tip Up before you buy it, try to play with the trigger to see how much tension it handles. 

Top 7 Best Tip-Up Reviews for Ice Fishing

In this review, we’ll be discussing the features and pros, and cons of each model to help you find the perfect Tip-Up for your ice fishing needs.

Frabill Pro Thermal Tip-Up

Frabill 1662 Tip-Up Pro Thermo Blk Rtf, Multi, One Size
  • Frabill | Trusted By Anglers Since 1938
  • The original insulated tip-up | Prevents hole from...
  • Easy to carry design | Fits in 5- to 6-gallon...

Features: 

  • Plastic built
  • Pre-spooled
  • Line Capacity (yards): 50
  • Depth finder
  • 20-inch-long flag
  • Adjustable trigger

Few Tip Ups offer so much for this little. This plastic model is suitable for holes up to 10 inches wide. Plus, it already comes with 50 yards of line in the spool. But that’s not all. It also has a depth finder and line markets. In short, it packs everything you need for ice fishing. 

The best thing is that it is small enough to fit inside a bucket. Plus, it takes no time to set up! 

In addition, it comes with a 20-inch-long flag that is easily visible from afar. However, there is a catch. The trigger system is remarkably sensible. So, it might rise at the slightest touch. 

Pros:

  • Long and easily visible flag
  • Compatible with holes of different widths
  • Adjustable trigger
  • Highly portable

Cons: 

  • Sensible trigger

Beaver Dam Tip Up

Beaver Dam Ice Fishing Rail Tip-Up in Original Clear Wood...
  • 🐟 BEAVER DAM ORIGINAL RAIL TIP-UP - The...
  • 🐟 HAND MADE PREMIUM QUALITY ICE FISHING TIP-UP...
  • 🐟 FREEZE-PROOF AND WIND-TESTED IN EVEN THE...

Features: 

  • Wooden frame
  • Metallic trigger and flag pole
  • 17.5-inch flag
  • Line guide

If you are looking for something classic, then this long-lasting model from Beaver Dam is the one for you. It packs a wooden frame with aluminum and steel hardware. The tubes are filled with a freeze-proof lubricant that ensures a smooth operation. 

The metallic spool comes with no line. But you can quickly wrap your favorite line around. It also boasts a line ring guide that supports the line as it is hanging on the water column. 

The 17.5-inch-long flag is easily visible from afar. You can adjust the trigger depending on the rig weight and the fish you are targeting. 

In short, the Beaver Dam Tip-Up is one of the best models you can get. Sadly, the price might scare some people away. 

Pros: 

  • Durable built 
  • Adjustable trigger
  • Smooth and reliable trigger
  • Custom models 

Cons: 

  • Price
  • Small spool

Frabill 1674 BlackHawk Tip-Up

Sale
Frabill 1674 Blackhawk Assault Tip-Up
  • Frabill | Trusted By Anglers Since 1938
  • Extra durable molded base featuring convenient...
  • Pre-lubed with Sub-Zero low-temp lubricant |...

Features: 

  • Metallic frame
  • Anti-freeze lubricated spool
  • Adjustable trigger setting
  • 20-inch-long flag 

Another, slightly cheaper option from Frabill. The 1674 BlackHawk is a classic Tip-Up with a molded base and a clip that releases the flag as soon as there is pressure on the trigger. 

The flag is 20 inches long, which makes it easily visible. 

Furthermore, The spool comes pre-lubed with an anti-freeze lubricant that ensures a smooth line release. 

The trigger has two pressure settings: Light and heavy. Luckily this time, it is not as sensible.

The single metal frame is solid and sturdy enough to handle big fish. Sadly, it is prone to get rusted if you store it in a moist place. 

Another drawback is that the spool is rather small. So, make sure to bring some spare fishing lines, just in case. 

Pros: 

  • Sturdy frame
  • Anti-freeze lubricated spool
  • Two trigger settings

Cons: 

  • The metal frame is prone to get rusted 
  • Small spool

Multi 3-Pack Tip-Up

Sale
Multi 3 Pack Tip-Up with Tackle, One Size
  • Package length: 5.08 cm
  • Package width: 15.24 cm
  • Package height: 60.96 cm

Features:

  • Wooden frame
  • 3-Pack
  • Pre-spooled

These are viable options if you are looking for something cheap to get you started in the ice-fishing world. But beware. Quality is out of the question here. 

Each Tip-Up features a wooden frame, a small spool, and a red flag. The trigger system is prehistoric but reliable. Each one comes pre-spooled. However, we recommend changing the line as it is of poor quality. 

Beware of one thing. Since the frame is rather flimsy, these are not meant to be used to target large prey! In addition, the flag is so small that you might miss it if you are far away from the Tip Up. 

Pros: 

  • Cheap
  • Easy to use
  • 3-pack

Cons:

  • Poor quality built
  • Useless line

SF 2Pcs Ice Fishing Tip Up

Sale
SF Ice Fishing Tip-Up 2 Pack
  • Unfolded Size(LxH): approx. 17.3x15.6inch.
  • Foldable design, convenient to set up and carry,...
  • Flexible prompting metal parts with a red flag,...

Features: 

  • Metallic frame 
  • Heavy duty spring
  • 2 pack

Quite similar to the Frabill 1674, this option from SF gives you two ice fishing Tip Ups for the price of one. In addition, it is of better quality than the multi-3-pack we talked about earlier. That’s why we can confidently recommend it to all of those looking for value. 

The iron frame is sturdy and packs a flag that raises 15.6 inches above the ice. In addition, the heavy-duty spring ensures durability and quick reaction as soon as the trigger is released. 

One drawback of this option is the plastic spool. It is quite delicate. It takes some practice to take it out without damaging it. On the other hand, the spool has a guide ring that keeps the line dangling away from the spool. 

 Pros: 

  • Durable frame and spring
  • You get two Tip Ups for the price of one
  • Line guide

Cons: 

  • Delicate spool
  • Spooling the Tip Up takes practice

Frabill Artic Fire Heavy Duty Tip-Up

Frabill Arctic Fire Tip Up Yellow, One Size
  • Frabill | Trusted By Anglers Since 1938
  • Extra molded durable poly base with dual trip...
  • 17.5" inch flag shaft with high visibility flag

Features: 

  • Metallic construction
  • 17.5-inch flag
  • Adjustable trigger
  • Line guide 

Lubed with anti-freeze oil, the Artic Fire is one of the most durable and sturdy ice fishing Tip Up you can get. You can get this model for around 20 bucks, giving you a lot of value for your money. 

The all-metallic construction ensures smooth operation even in sub-zero temperatures. The large spool comes with a line guide and is big enough to pack lots of yards. 

The flag pole is rather slim, and the spring loses some action after prolonged usage. But it is nothing to worry about. The trigger works well, and you can effortlessly adjust it to the desired tension. 

The flag itself loses its color with time. Plus, it is very fragile. You can always replace it if need be.

Pros:

  • Smooth sub-zero operation
  • Reliable
  • Adjustable trigger
  • Large spool

Cons: 

  • Fragile flag
  • Spring loses elasticity 

Celcius STBU-50 Plastic Tip Up

Sale
Celsius SBTU-50 Plastic Tip Up W/Line Black, One Size
  • Heavy Duty Abs Frame.
  • Variable Tension Release.
  • Lubricated Tube To Prevent Freezing.

Features:

  • Plastic frame and metallic hardware
  • High-vis flag
  • Plastic spool 

Light and easy to set up, the Celsius STBU-50. The plastic frame and metallic hardware hit the sweet spot between price and quality. 

The plastic spool already comes with a line. It comes with a metallic line guide that gets the job done. On the other hand, the flag pole has a strong spring. 

All tubes are lubricated with anti-freezing lubricant. This way, the moving parts won’t be affected by the cold. 

One flaw we detected was the plastic spool. It is brittle. Plus, it has limited capacity. Another thing to take care of is the trigger. The mechanism is easily damaged if you don’t take good care of your tool. 

Pros:

  • Light and portable 
  • Anti-freezing lubricated parts 
  • Highly visible flag

Cons: 

  • Delicate spool
  • Sensible trigger

Our Verdict

In conclusion, Tip Ups are an essential tool for ice fishing, as they allow you to catch fish without having to constantly hold a rod. There are many different models available, each with its own unique features and price range.

The Frabill Pro Thermal Tip-Up offers a range of advanced features and is suitable for holes up to 10 inches wide. The Beaver Dam Tip-Up is a classic option with a durable build and adjustable trigger, but it comes at a higher price point.

The Frabill 1674 BlackHawk Tip-Up is a more affordable option with a sturdy frame and two trigger settings, but it is prone to rust. For those on a budget, the Multi 3-Pack Tip-Up is a cheap option to get started in ice fishing, but the quality is not on par with the other models.

Ultimately, the best Tip-Up for you will depend on your personal preferences and budget.

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