Ice Fishing Tip-Ups Guide

Ice anglers setting up an ice fishing tip-up

After mastering the basics of ice fishing, many ice anglers like to use tip-ups as part of their ice fishing strategy. These devices help anglers cover a larger area, as well as help, inform their strategy for the day based on how the fish are biting. If you’re looking to get into tip-up fishing, our experts share all the basics you need to know including the different types of tip-ups, considerations when choosing a tip-up line, and how to set up a tip-up.

What is an Ice Fishing Tip-Up?

An ice fishing tip-up is a device that holds your hook and bait near the bottom of the lake.  Attached to the line is a signal flag that pops up to indicate that there’s been a bite. Using a tip-up, allows anglers to drill multiple holes and run more than one rig. Ice fishing tip-ups allow you to get more ice fishing done without the hassle of manning every single hole you drill.

Types of Tip-Ups

When getting into tip-up ice fishing, you’ll want to understand the differences between the three main types of tip-ups so you can find the right one for your ice fishing style.

1. Classic Tip-Up

Frabill ice fishing tip-up

A classic tip-up is the most popular type of ice fishing tip-up and is broken up into two categories—hardwood and thermal. 

  • The hardwood tip-up is the original style and is made out of wood. Since it lays over the hole, you’ll enjoy a stable base.
  • The thermal tip-up is round to fit the diameter of your hole and made from insulated materials to prevent the hole from freezing over. This design also blocks out more light that may deter fish. 

With a classic tip-up, you’ll let out enough line so the hook sits just above the lake bottom. Then, once the flag tips up, you’ll start pulling the line out of the water by hand. Since the flag gives an easy-to-see indication of a bite, this type of tip-up is great for fishing across wider areas.

2. Rod Tip-Up

Clam Arctic Warrior ice fishing tip-down

A rod tip-up is used for a method of fishing called deadsticking. You simply insert your rod into the holder next to your hole and drop your line. When the rod blank starts to bend, you’ll know that there is a bite, so it’s time to set the hook and reel in your catch. 

Deadsticking is a good option for those who fish in an ice shelter yet want to run multiple lines.

3. Automated Jigging Tip-Up

The automatic jigging tip-up is gaining popularity among ice anglers. Unlike a traditional tip-up that passively holds your bait just above the bottom of the lake, an automated jigging tip-up will actively jig the line for you, making it yet another option to use based on the mood of the fish during that particular day.

Choosing Ice Fishing Tip-Up Line

Fishing line is categorized by how much weight (in pounds) the line can pull up before breaking. When using a classic or automatic jigging tip-up, you want to use an ice fishing line specifically designed for tip-ups. Since you’ll be pulling the line up by hand, the fish have more room to fight than when using a rod, creating more stress and pull on the line. Tip-up lines have higher test weights to compensate for this extra force. Most anglers who tip-up fish for walleye or pike should choose a 20- to 30-pound tip-up line.

Depending on the depth of the lake you’re fishing, it’s common to put about 75 yards of line on your tip-up.

If you’re deadsticking, spool your reel with the same ice fishing line you’d use when holding the rod. For more advice, check out our guide to choosing an ice fishing line.

How to Set Up a Tip-Up

For greater success on the ice, follow these steps on how to set up a tip-up:

Reeling in a fish with a tip-up
  1. Spool the tip-up’s reel with the tip-up line.
  2. Tie a leader line (a short section of either monofilament or fluorocarbon ice fishing line) to the end.
  3. Next, tie your hook and set up your rig based on your targeted species. 
  4. Once you get to your fishing location, you need to find the water depth. To do so, attach a clip-on weight just above your rig, drop the line into the water, and let out enough line that the weight rests on the bottom. 
  5. Lift the line so the weight comes off the bottom by a few inches. 
  6. Attach a bobber stop or float just above where your line comes out of the water—this will keep the rig right above the lake bottom. 
  7. Pull the line up, remove the weight, and drop your hook back in the water.
  8. Now, wait for the flag to pop up and haul in your fish!

Ice fishing with tip-ups allows you to run multiple lines and cover a wider area of ice. If you want more helpful tips for rigging a tip-up or how to maximize your ice fishing strategy this season, stop by your local SCHEELS to speak with one of our experts or watch Mike’s outing using tip-ups to catch his lunch.