Best Tips for Tip Ups: Catching More Fish Through the Ice

Tip-ups are a great way to cover hard water, no matter what the weather. This is something all ice anglers agree on. If the idea of a lake full of pike and walleye but covered in ice or snow makes your heart beat faster, we understand.

You need to know how to maintain your tip-ups and do some routine maintenance.

Are you aware of the recommended frequency to lubricate your spools Do you know the best way to see your flags? You’re not sure why last winter wasn’t as productive.

Continue reading to learn more!

Tip-up Basics

Tip-ups are a tried and true way to catch fish in hard water.

All tip-ups have the same basic components: a spool to run lines underneath the ice to your terminal tackle and a flag signaling a hit. A base keeps the tip-up in place.

Tip-ups are simple and effective. They cover a lot of water, maximizing your chances of catching panfish, trout, or walleye.

Our guide will help you find the best ice fishing tips ups.

Take care of your tip-ups and they’ll take care of you!

Tip-ups can be as simple as they seem, but they require maintenance and care.

As the days get shorter and you prepare for ice-over it is time to pull out your buckets, take a good look at your tip-ups. You should inspect them for cracks and torn flags.

It is also important to consider lubrication. Factory-applied lubricants won’t last forever. A few seasons in cold water will mean that it’s time to do some basic maintenance. Although I do not recommend re-lubrication every single year, that is a good idea. However, at least every two to three years it is time to disassemble the spool and relubricate.

You can skip the WD-40! Beaver Dam’s No-Freeze Grease is a better choice.

Every tip-up brand is different so make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

This video will help you get started if you are unsure.

You must also ensure that your tip is properly spool.

This is a quick tutorial to show you how to use a cordless drill to spin a tip.

These Top Tips Will Help You Get Success With Your Tip Ups

These five tips will help you maximize your success once your tip-ups are in top shape.

Light is not your friend

You must consider the effects of all the light coming through the hole when you make an ice hole and then place your tip-ups.

Pike and other species are low-light predators that rely on their excellent vision to find prey. They will cruise very shallow once the water is hard and try to trap prey on the frozen surface. They don’t like a spotlight on hunting activities.

Many experienced ice anglers know that pike will hit the covered lines more often if they are run through the same amount of holes as before, and you cover half the holes.

This is a serious matter that must be taken seriously. Whether you backfill your holes using snow, make your own covers from plywood and rubber roofing material, or use a ThermaSeat product, making it a priority to reduce the light reaching the water column.

Water protection is vital. If you can reduce the light in your area, you will find your tip-ups are more effective.

Flag visibility is key

Tip-ups enable ice anglers to run many lines. However, it is important to check the local laws to make sure you are running a legal number. They rely on flags for alerting fishermen in distress to strike.

However, if you don’t see the flag you will miss fish.

It may be worth it to fish in areas with extreme snowfall. The Heritage Laker Ice Trap is a reliable ice fishing tool that hails from Maine.

They are 45 inches tall with the flag raised and designed to give extreme visibility in deep snow. You’ll love every inch, even when the snow blows into drifts.

It is also important to maintain your flags in top shape. But let’s face it, even the most vibrant orange can be nearly indistinct in the winter darkness.

A tip-up light activates when the flag is raised.

These are available in green, blue, or red.

Vibration is a No-No

Many anglers are afraid to spook fish in open water. However, ice anglers have far more concerns.

Your footsteps transmit vibrations to the water below when you walk around your holes. Believe me, it makes a big difference!

After you have set up your tip-ups, don’t check them more often than once every 30 to 45 min. You want to check if the bait is missing or has iced over, but frequent trips to the hole can reduce tip-up productivity.

Leaders: How and When to Use Them

Many ice anglers use the Dacron line that connects with their tip to their terminal tackle. It’s also true that pike, in particular, doesn’t particularly line shy.

However, I highly recommend using a leader for every species.


It never hurts to decrease line visibility–ever–and that Dacron does inhibit the action of live bait.

I recommend a tough monofilament. Standard line weights for panfish will work just fine. For walleye, I would recommend a 10- to 15-pound mono. For bruisers like pike or lake trout, I would start with a 60-pound test.

Why mono instead of fluorocarbon

Mono is almost as good as fluorocarbon for tip-ups. Mono is superior in shock strength and abrasion resistance, ties easily, and is as low-visibility and as possible.

I recommend that you have at least a couple of feet of leader. You can join it to your mainline using a Double Uni knot. Some anglers also like to add a swivel to enhance line twisting and knotting while running live bait.

It’s a simple truth: if you are a leader, you will catch more fish from your tip-ups.

Hook Size: Is a smaller hook better?

You should throw away old, rusty and dull hooks.

Use new, sharp hooks from companies such as Gamakatsu or Eagle Claw.

A high-quality, sharp hook will increase your hit-to-hook-up ratio. This is especially true since tip-ups depend on hooks more than reel and rod fishing.

For ice fishing with tip-ups, big hooks can be a good choice for warm water. I size down, regardless of whether I’m using a treble or single hook for pike and walleye (with the exception being crappie).

Pat Kalmerton says, “There is a place for big hooks. But when in doubt, you should go smaller.” For walleye, I usually size down to a #16 triple and opt for the extra flash with a gold Eagle Claw. I size pike up to a #12 triple.

Matt Straw, Dave Genz, and others advise that the bait be balanced with the weight and hook size of the jig. Maggots and Nymphs (wigglers) are delicate baits that require thin hooks. They can be as small as #12 up to #10 on jigs with a weight of 1/250 to 1/64 ounce.

Maggots are easily ripped by larger hooks. However, if the barb is pinned down, three maggots can then be slipped onto an #8 hook to balance jigs up to 1/32 ounce. Poppers (larger maggots), balance well with heavier heads and a range of hook sizes. Waxworms are best caught on #8 or #6 hooks. Jigs should not weigh more than 1/80 ounces.

Last Thoughts

Tip-ups are an ice angler’s best friend. They can help you catch no matter what the weather is like.

To get the best out of your tip-ups, it is important to take care and properly rig them.

These tips should help you catch more fish this winter. We’d love to hear your feedback as well.

Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.