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

Tip Up Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is fun, very easy and adventurous, but it also brings many challenges. Attending multiple ice holes ant once is hard, and that is why anglers use various tools to make it easier and more efficient.

Tip ups are one of those tools, and both beginners and experienced anglers can use them. So, what exactly is tip up ice fishing?

Tip up ice fishing is a fishing method where anglers use tip ups to fish numerous holes at the same time without being present in the vicinity. They can be observed as bite indicators and line holders in one item. Anglers can either buy them, or create their own versions at home.

Although sometimes perceived as a “lazy” fishing method, tip ups require attention, and fast intervention from the angler when bites occur.

Setting the hook and landing the fish is still the angler`s responsibility, so don’t expect tip ups will do everything instead of you.

This method is suitable for fish species of all sizes and has many benefits that I will mention in this article.

So, if you want to know more about it, read the following chapters!



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What is a Tip Up Ice Fishing and How to Use it?

So, how to use a tip up for ice fishing? Let’s define a tip up firstly ...

Tip Up it is a device that allows anglers to suspend baits under the ice, and it also serves as a bite indicator.

It is used to cover multiple holes at the same time, and to increase your fishing success. When you are fishing with an ice fishing rod, you can attend only one hole at the time, and you must switch holes to cover more area.

To overcome this problem, anglers use more than one tip up, and they set them on different ice holes. When everything is installed, you have to observe and attend when fish bites.

There is a flag indicator that serves as a bite signal. The flag will simply stand up when pressure is applied.

Just make sure to check the local laws about a number of lines allowed per person, before you set up more than one tip up.

Tip Up Ice Fishing - How To

How do Ice Fishing Tip Up Work?

I already mentioned a flag indicator, but here is how these devices work ...

There is a reel that accommodates the line, and it is connected to a flag. When pressure is applied, the flag is released and erected upwards.

This reel is not a standard reel like the one you use with the rod. It is basically just a line holder, and retrieval of the fish is done by pulling the line with your hands.

Tip ups also have trigger mechanisms that can be adjusted to react on certain pressure.

Depending on a fish you are targeting, you can set it up more or less sensitive. For larger fish like pike, you may want to reduce sensitivity, while for bluegills you want to increase it.

These settings have to be done correctly, otherwise the flag will indicate bites when there are none, for example, when fish is just checking out your bait.

Can You Make a Tip Up for Ice Fishing at Home? [DIY]

Diy tip up for ice fishing can be created at home, at an affordable price, with basic items available in any hardware store.

There are hundreds of different options, and some are more sophisticated than others. You can find videos and detailed instructions online ...

Some will even improvise with ice fishing rods, while other create basic versions.

To create the most primitive version, you will need three wooden dowels, glue, zip ties, cheap plastic reel, screws, flag, and a spring.

Two dowels are used as a base, and you should connect them to form a cross. The third one makes the vertical portion, that should be mounted in a way that it extends on both sides of the base.

Attach the reel on a lower part of a vertical portion with zip ties and that is it when it comes to construction. You just have to add a flag. You need a strong spring that is attached on top of the vertical portion. Flag should be attached in the end of the spring.

To make it work, install some kind of an L screw onto the reel handle and bend down the flag and attach it. When the fish pulls the line, the screw will turn and release the flag.

Of course, a metal version can also be made ...

Tip Up Ice Fishing - DIY

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

For tip up ice fishing you will need a tip up device.

I already described how it looks, and you see that it consists of just a few basic parts.

You need a hook and a line to go with it. Hook is chosen in accordance with the fish size and bait used. The same goes for line strength, but what about line type?

Although you can use both mono and braided lines, for tip up ice fishing line anglers prefer braided ones.

Unlike tip downs that are usually used for smaller fish (ill mention that a bit later), with tip ups, you will be fishing for large predators like pike. Braided lines with a fluoro leader are commonly used.

The only problem here is getting a heavy fish out by hand when the braided line is very thin.

Luckily, today you can choose among various line types and sub-types, so if you want strong and dependable, but not so thin lines, go with Dacron linesThey are thinner than mono, have almost the same strength as braid, but are made from slightly different material and a bit thicker than braided.

Ice fishing versions also exist to prevent ice formation ...

Tip up ice fishing rods are not necessary if you are using a simple tip up, but some versions, especially home-made use rods and improvised rod holders. Having one will make fish retrieval easier. Rods are mounted on a base with a holder that also has a flag attached, and there is a trigger and a spring to erect the flag when bite occurs.

When you have a rod and a reel you get a rod and land a fish in a standard way. Rods should be short and firm ice rods, as you would use for standard ice fishing.

What is the Best Bait for Tip Up Ice Fishing?

Tip ups work the best with live bait ...

Motion and scent will attract the fish, and you can’t get that result with any kind of artificial bait. Minnows, shiners, and other baitfish can be used if allowed, and make sure that it matches naturally present baitfish in the area.

Another option is cut bait, and that too can be effective due to scent. Dead bait is just sitting in one place, and as you are not creating any motion to make it interesting, it is less effective than live ones.

Some anglers even use worms or salmon eggs, and they say they have a lot of success, however, that is mostly connected to specific fishing conditions. As a beginner, go with a tested and proven option, and that is live baitfish.

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

Tip downs are similar devices for ice fishing, and they also allow you to fish many holes at once. The difference is that tip downs are used for smaller fish, and work in a way that the rod is balanced on the stand. When the fish bites, the tip of the rod moves downwards and the fish doesn’t feel any resistance. Anglers must immediately get the rod and set the hook.

Pre-maid versions have rods attached, and simple reels that hold the line, while home made versions use standard ice fishing rods and light spinning reels.

However, home made version due to weight and balance will never be as good as the professionally made one.

Tip Up Ice Fishing - Tip Down

What is the Best Ice Fishing Tip Up?

The best ice fishing tip ups are the ones that do the job right ...

Some anglers buy them, while others make them at home. Both can be found in different price ranges, but what they all have in common is trip bars that can be adjusted to react when more or less pressure is applied. Trip bars on poorly made tip ups will make a flag go up for no reason, even because of stronger winds.

Another important feature is a bait clip that prevents unspooling for no reason. Besides that, flag needs to be bright and visible and the whole setup has to work smoothly. Spool size is also important for line capacity.

If you are thinking about very lightweight and affordable model, check out HT Polar, or if you are more interested in traditional wooden models, check out Frabill Hardwood or Beaver Dam Original.


Tip up ice fishing is fun, efficient, and can make a difference between good and bad fishing day. These devices enable you to cover more water, and indicate when a bite occurs even if you are not standing nearby.

You can make them or buy them, depending on your needs and wishes, just make sure that they are dependable, stable, and can be adjusted to react under certain pressure.

This method works best with live bait, so get some shiners and minnows, go out, drill a hole, install your new tip up and prepare to be amazed!

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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