What is a Tip Down Ice Fishing? [Easy Guide]

Tip Down Ice Fishing

Ice fishing brings many challenges, and it can be very demanding. That is the reason why anglers use various tools and techniques to make it easier and more efficient.

Tip downs are mostly used when fishing for smaller fish like panfish, or even small walleyes. But what exactly is that?

Tip down ice fishing is a technique where anglers use devices known as tip downs. These devices include a stand (often home-made) which is paired with a well-balanced rod. When the fish bites, it feels almost no resistance.

This technique has certain benefits, and it is quite easy to master. However, the device itself has to be well made in order to fulfil its purpose.

The only downside is that it is not very effective for large fish like pike, and it works much better for perch, crappies, and similar size species.

Here I will tell you a bit more about it, so if you are interested in tip downs, read the following chapters!



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What is a Tip Down Ice Fishing?

Tip down can be described as a rod stand which holds a rod in a certain position when the baited hook is lowered in the water.

You can either buy this stand (those come with a suitable rod and reel), or you can make it at home. I will mention the second option later on.

When the rod is mounted on a stand, and the fish bites, the rod will change the position in a way that the upper part (the tip) moves down, and the bottom part (where the reel sits) will move up. Although it sounds easy, finding a balance, especially with regular spinning reels attached, is not easy. The goal is to create a setup where fish won’t sense any resistance.

Many anglers have more than one, and set them up on different holes. Just make sure to check how many lines per person is allowed at a certain spot.

How do Ice Fishing Tip Down Work?

Tip down ice fishing works in a very simple way, and it is suitable even for complete beginners. You drill a hole, decide which bait you will use and at what depth, and you set up the rod on a stand. Depending on a stand type, the rod will be positioned at about 45-degree angle with the tip facing upwards, although some types exist where the rod is positioned horizontally.

When the fish bites, the tip will move down, and at that point, you have to get the rod, and set the hook. Observing the rods is very important, and tip downs require immediate attention from the angler when the tip goes down.

I keep repeating that “no resistance” is felt by the fish when it bites. This is actually the whole philosophy behind tip downs, and as soon as the fish feels any resistance, there is a chance it will spit out the bait. This is why anglers must get the rod before the fish pulls put the slack line and starts feeling it.

Tip Down Ice Fishing - How Work

Can You Make a Tip Down for Ice Fishing at Home?

Buying one is easier, and more efficient in some cases, although there is no reason why you shouldn’t try making one at home and use it with your ice rod.

But there is a problem you have to consider, and that is balancing a rod on a stand with a regular spinning reel. Due to weight of the reel and the shape of it, when the fish bites, the tip will go down and the opposite side will go up. Weight and balance will shift behind a pivot and resistance will occur when fish pulls the bait. It will still work though, but you have to get to the rod fast when it moves down.

You can find numerous step-by-step videos online, or even some plans published by anglers who made their own tip downs.

Some are wooden, some use PVC pipes 

The one you choose to make depends on your rod too. Keep in mind that some require modifications to your rod, so if you have an expensive one, maybe skip that.

I will not write the details here of every possibility you have, but whatever you choose to do, I would advise you to use a thin line to tie your rod to the base of the tip down, otherwise it may end up in the water if a large pike accidentally bites your bait.

In my opinion, buying one that includes the rod and a suitable reel is much easier and works better. Those reels are there just to accommodate the line, they are very light, and you can pull the line with your hands.

What Gear Do You Need for Tip Down Ice Fishing? [Rods, Line, etc.]

Tip downs work well for small fish, so I advise you to use very thin and almost invisible lines. Mono is an excellent option if you are a beginner.

If you can, use ice fishing lines that are better for this task, as they will not freeze as much and become very stiff. You also need to keep the holes clean and prevent ice formation, otherwise you are risking lie cutting and loosing a fish.

When it comes to hooks, 2-6 size range is suitable for smaller walleyes, perch, crappies and other small fish. Depending on your local fish size, choose something within this range.

Those who want to keep the fish can use treble hooks, but those have to be a smaller size. Size 14 will do the job well.

Ice fishing rods are very short, and they are the only ones that can be used with tip downs. As you already know, some tip downs are already paired with rods, so if you are buying one, you will get everything you need. Otherwise, you can use the one you have.

Pair the rod you have with a very small and very light reel to be able to balance it on the stand. You are using light lines and you do not need a very large line capacity, so go for as light as possible.

Attach a sinker about 8 inches above the hook, and that’s it! And don't forget for other essentials for ice fishing ...

Tip Down Ice Fishing - What Gear

What is the Best Bait for Tip Down Ice Fishing?

Most frequently used baits are baitfish like minnows, worms, or even cut bait. It all depends on local rules and regulations, as well as your personal preference, bait available in the area, and fish specie you are trying to catch.

Live minnows are excellent, and will attract many hungry fish with their irresistible motion. The same goes for worms, especially waxworms. But if that is not a viable option, you can use cut minnows too.

Artificial bait is not advisable, as it lacks motion, scent, and other features that attract hungry fish in winter.

Tip down ice fishing is a simple process, even when it comes to baits. So don’t overcomplicate it, and use these two mentioned here for the best result. Of course, the exact size of the baitfish or worm should be chosen with the targeted fish size.

Tip Down vs Tip Up Ice Fishing: What's the Difference?

Tip down ice fishing is not the only ice fishing technique that uses devices for help. Another option is a tip up. Tip ups are mostly used for larger fish, like pike and big walleyes.

Various designs of tip ups exist, and they all have a flag that will tip up when the fish bites.

It is basically a bite indicator. When the fish bites on a tip up, you do not have to grab the rod and set the hook as fast as you need to do with a tip down.

Both methods allow you to cover more ice holes and greater area at once, than it would be possible with jigging or practicing any other ice fishing technique.

Many tip ups come with adjustable triggers, so you can set it up to react at a certain pressure. This is used to eliminate false indications. The bigger the fish you are targeting, the less sensitive it need to be. But, be careful not to set it up too high, because fish will feel the resistance when it pulls the bait.

The reason why tip ups are more suitable for larger fish than tip downs is their construction and working principle. Tip downs can easily be pulled and knocked over by very large fish.

You can also use ice fishing fish finder or flasher to maximize your results ... ;)

Tip Down Ice Fishing - Tip Up


Tip down ice fishing is a great fishing method (it can be also dangerous in some situations), suitable for all experience levels. It is easy to use, it enables you to fish more than one hole at a time, and if you are capable, you can even make one at home.

Tip downs work excellent for smaller fish species, and it is best to use them with live bait like minnows or worms.

If you are using ice fishing equipment you already have, make sure that you are using very light lines and reels, to keep the setup balanced. Proper balance is a key to success.

About Me

Slo-fishing - About Us


I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind Slo-fishing.si and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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