TOP 7 Best Ice Fishing Tip-Ups of 2022 – The Expert Guide


More lines in the water mean more chances to catch a fish. It’s simple math, right?

However, you can only hold one rod at a time, so what’s the answer?

Ice fishing tip-ups allow you to fish multiple baits and several ice holes simultaneously. What’s the best ice-fishing tip-up to use?

Well, you are about to find out as I give you a detailed guide and some great suggestions.

In general, the best ice fishing tip-ups will be easy to see even at a distance. You’ll want to look for good cold weather durability and functionality too. Fishing is about consistency, so you should also aim to use a set of similar tip-ups for the best results.

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TOP 7 Best Ice Fishing Tip Ups of 2022

Multi 3 Pack Tip-Up with Tackle

If you are just starting out with using tip-ups, you will probably want to fish with more than one. This handy pack allows you to do just that, as you get three, which offer really great value.

This pack won’t be for professional anglers. Still, if you are looking for a cost-effective, entry-level solution while you find your feet, these should be ideal.

Let’s look at the features.

First, you are getting consistency, which I’m sure you know is vital to successful angling. Each tip-up is identical, so you can try three different styles by removing one of the variables.

Each tip-up has a bright red vinyl flag, meaning that you can’t fail to miss even the lightest of bites.

Pros

  • Great value with three in a pack.
  • Consistency in your method, as each is identical.

Cons

  • The traps are made from plywood that can degrade over time, especially if cold and wet.

Takeaway

You are getting really great value at a super low price point for beginners. Granted, you’ll probably want to ‘level up’ in a short time, but this setup will allow you to find your feet before moving on to more advanced equipment.

Frabill 1664 Classic Tip-Up

Frabill is an established manufacturer producing some of the best ice fishing traps. With products as good quality as this, we can see how they have made their name.

What’s so great about it?

For a start, it looks and feels super sturdy. The extra durable molded base means that you should get a good bit of use out of it for your initial outlay. The metal brass finished parts are solid and shouldn’t let you down.

Anything else?

Yeah, the spool comes pre-greased with a special low-temperature lubricant that ensures free spooling when you get a bite, so no fish missed! I really love that the product comes with a bait clip feature, so you have somewhere to stow your hook as you get prepped ready to catch.

Pros

  • A great ice fishing trap that is durable and solid.
  • An established company, so you know you’ll get really great quality.

Cons

  • The flag is cloth. This might cause it to sag slightly if it was really wet.

Takeaway

This ice-fishing tip-up will have you covered for big fish or small. It’s substantial and hard-wearing.

Frabill Arctic Fire Tip Up

love this tip-up.

Why?

Its purpose-built for the conditions. A solid poly base means that it will never deteriorate. Basically, once you’ve got this tip-up in your life, you may not need another. It should last for a very long time.

A feature I absolutely love is the bright colors. You may be sitting at a distance, or it might snow. Either way, the bright yellow body is impossible to miss. It just sings quality.

Frabill has once again proven itself. It’s the little touches that make this great. I especially like the counterbalanced crank knobs on the spool. You get wobble-free winding performance.

Is that it?

No, not quite. You can change how you rig this tip-up to account for the size of fish you are trying to catch. Whether you hook into a big Walleye or a dainty panfish, the flag will stand to attention at precisely the right moment.

Pros

  • High visibility trap body.
  • Made from high-quality and long-lasting material.

Cons

  • The flag doesn’t lay entirely flat and flush when rigged. This is minor but will be slightly annoying for some, especially in a strong wind or at a distance.

Takeaway

Good quality and durable setup that should last for several seasons.

Celsius SBTU-50 Plastic Tip Up

If you are on a budget but want an ice fishing tip-up that offers a few premium features, this should be ideal.

As with some more expensive models, the body is constructed of high-visibility orange plastic. It isn’t quite as sturdy as the Frabill models, but if weight saving is what you are about, it is slightly lighter. Super handy if you are carrying four or five.

Will it catch fish?

Absolutely. This tip-up works in the traditional way and even comes with a pre-lubricated spindle to prevent freezing and ensure ease of movement, so the flag is released easily.

Any downsides?

Well, I’ll say you get what you pay for. Perhaps the parts aren’t quite as premium, but then neither is the price.

Pros

  • High visibility body.
  • This ice-fishing trap is really lightweight.

Cons

  • The plastic flag may be prone to breaking or tearing, especially in subzero conditions.

Takeaway

Another mid-level tip-up would be ideal for a beginner who intends to go a few times in a season.

Frabill Pro Thermal Original Tip Up

And now for something a little bit different…

Rail-type tip-ups are great. They are lightweight and cost-effective. But sometimes, you want a little more.

What do I mean by more?

Well, take a look at this.

The Frabill Pro Thermal makes scooping ice out of your hole a thing of the past. This insulated round plastic ice-fishing tip-up effectively acts as a ‘plug’ in your hole. This has a couple of benefits. It keeps the hole clear of debris and ensures that you don’t have a ‘spotlight’ shining through the ice that can spook wary fish.

Anything else?

Yes. As a portable solution, these are great. You can stack them in a bucket, making them easy to transport out onto the ice in an organized way. Oh, and you get the same high quality with all of Frabill’s products.

Pros

  • A tall flag means that you get 100% visibility, regardless of the conditions.
  • I love that you can stack these, making them super portable.

Cons

  • For this product to work, you have to be particular about the size of your ice hole.

Takeaway

If you are looking for something round, this is a good ice fishing trap. It is highly visible, really sensitive, and works. What more could you want?

Bullnose Original Blue Ice Fishing Tip Up

Still, want to fish with a rod?

Don’t’ worry, I’ve got you.

Suppose you want to go a little traditional but are literally tired of holding a rod in freezing cold conditions. In that case, this tip-up presents the ideal solution. It is rock solid and made from durable steel, so it is pretty much immune to the cold.

Essentially this is a rod holder that acts as a pivot. You set your rod on balance and wait for it to ‘tip’.

But is it safe?

Yes, I know you are probably concerned about your rod being pulled in. Well, you needn’t worry. The super-strong rod clip accommodates a range of rod handle sizes. This, combined with some fierce-looking teeth on the base, mean that your rod, and the fish, are not going anywhere.

Pros

  • You can use conventional tactics by using your rods.
  • It’s a really simple and easy-to-use solution.

Cons

  • If it’s cold and your hands are wet, they can stick to the metal. Ouch!

Takeaway

Sometimes you want to stick with something that you know. This offers the best of traditional rod fishing with all of the benefits of a tip-up.

Ifish Pro Ice Fishing Tip-Up

Imagine combining the best of the bullnose rod holder with the benefits of the Frabill Pro Thermal… Well, you don’t need to imagine…

It’s here.

With this ice fishing trap, you will be able to use your rod in a normal fashion and gain the ability to block holes, preventing ice buildup. It’s no secret that rods offer a better hook-up rate, but you shouldn’t need to stand crouched, freezing over your hole to ensure this.

It’s not all about the hole, however.

This durable ice fishing trap also has a bright red flag that indicates when you have a bite. And I must say, it works great!

One thing I really like is not having to get my hands freezing wet and cold. This can be the downside to using integrated tip-ups. My hands never really have to contact ice-cold water by letting me use the rod, which they normally would when handlining.

Pros

  • A revolutionary and patented new system, I think it’s game-changing.
  • I get to use my rod with warm, dry hands, and I keep ice out of the hole… Brilliant!

Cons

  • For those on a budget or with multiple rods, this is a premium product with a premium price tag. Buying a few could get expensive.

Takeaway

For me, this is one of the best ice fishing tip-ups on the market. It is the best of all worlds. It’s not the cheapest, but it is worth every penny for the money.

Ice Fishing Tip-ups – How to Choose and What You Need to Know

As you’ll have seen, there are plenty of ice fishing tip-ups out there. But how do you know which is right for you?

Don’t worry, guys.

Here’s my simple guide, so you can make the best possible choice.

ice fishing tip up and ice auger on the winter lake

Material

Your best bet is to choose an ice fishing tip-up that is really solidly constructed. My favorite types tend to be made of either wood or metal. While these may cost a little more, they will last a lot longer.

You may be tempted to look for a cheaper ice fishing tip-up.

But, be warned. The adage “buy cheap, buy twice” is very relevant.

Why?

Often cheap ice fishing tip-ups are made with substandard materials. Plastic is OK, but certain types of plastic can turn brittle and crack very easily in cold weather conditions.

A Wide Base

I find that anything around the 16-inch mark is a nice size. Ideally, you want it at least 25% bigger than the diameter of your ice hole.

A nice wide base will give your ice-fishing tip-up excellent stability. As a general rule, the wider the base, the more stable your tip-up is. Besides this, the last thing you want is to lose a big fish and your tip-up.

Flags

You need to look at a few things when choosing an ice tip-up, and flags are actually one of the most important. If you can’t see the flag, you won’t know that you have got a fish on!

There are two qualities I look for when choosing an ice fishing tip-up based on flags:

  • The flag must be easily visible.
  • The flag must be durable in cold weather.

Plastic flags are good, as they don’t soak up moisture, but cheaper flags are easily frozen and tend to tear and split easily. Try choosing a trusted brand from a quality supplier and reading reviews to see if this is a problem on your chosen tip-up.

ice fishing tip up on frozen lake at sunset

Activation Pressure

The best ice fishing tip-ups will have a feature that you won’t find on budget models.

A trip bar.

A trip bar is used to set how much pressure will be needed to trigger the flag. If you are fishing for smaller species, you’ll want your trip bar set at a light setting to avoid missing bites. Likewise, if you are looking for bigger fish, you may want to turn it up a notch to avoid being bothered by smaller ‘pecks’ at your bait.

If you’ve ice fished as much as I have, you’ll know that the wind can also be a real nuisance if it starts triggering false flags. A good quality trip bar means you can stay firmly tucked away in your ice fishing shelter until you have a real bite.

Portability and Storage

Listen, you need to be practical. And I know that ice fishing comes with a lot of gear, all of which has to be taken down onto the ice and back.

Ideally, you want to try and find a set of ice fishing tip-ups that are easy to transport. To aid you in choosing, look for one of the following types:

  • Ice fishing tip-ups that stack – Disc-type tip-ups are often able to be stacked like plates, meaning they take up less room on your sled.
  • Ice fishing tip-ups that are slimmer – The ‘beam’ or ‘rail’ type ice fishing tip-ups are my preference when it comes to transport and storage. They take up next to no space and are easy to transport, you could even carry them in a fishing bag.

Aside from the size, look for other features that make life easy. Things like hook holders and flag locks are also well worth paying a little extra for.

pike ice fishing on frozen lake

Spool Type

You’ll generally find two types of spools on ice fishing tip-ups:

  • Plastic spooled ice fishing tip-ups.
  • Metal spooled ice fishing tip-ups.

My preference is metal because it lasts longer and is less likely to crack or turn brittle in cold weather. However, plastic also has its merits.

Why?

Because it is less conductive, there is less likelihood of your spool freezing up when the weather is really cold. Plastic spools also tend to cost a little less.

Spool size is also pretty important. Ice fishing line is thicker, so it takes up more room on the spool, so be sure to choose an ice fishing tip-up with ample capacity to fit plenty of line on. This may depend on the type of species you are looking to catch and be influenced by the average depth of the lake you will fish.

Cost

Let’s face it, while we all wish we had an unlimited fishing budget, this isn’t the case.

As a result, you will want to look for maximum value for money.

A multipack of tip-ups can be a great choice and offers excellent value.

But I’d suggest going for quality over quantity. It’s better to fish with three amazing ice fishing tip-ups than 6 sub-standard tip-ups of low quality. The former will catch you more fish, so don’t be afraid to spend a little extra to get good quality.

ice fishermen catch fish on a frozen river at sunset

Ice Fishing Tip-Up FAQ

What is the best ice fishing tip-up?

A great ice-fishing tip-up will have the following qualities. You’ll want something portable, convenient, and easy to bring out onto the ice. It should be really easy to set up too.

Once you are fishing, you will need the ability to detect bites. This includes avoiding ‘false flags’. If your setup is too light, you may find that smaller fish, the wind, or even a slight undertow may give a false indication. Therefore you must have a decent ice fishing trap suitable for the conditions.

How do ice fishing tip-ups work?

They are quite a simple solution. If you are using an ‘all in one’ style of ice fishing tip-up, you don’t actually need a rod. Essentially You have a few elements.

Let me explain…

The tip-up spans your hole in the ice. Mounted upon the tip-up will be a spring-loaded flag. This flag is held down by a trigger mechanism or catch. The catch is normally attached to a central spindle, which is attached to a bobbin of line.

When the bobbin turns due to the fish taking line, the spindle also turns, releasing the catch and allowing the flag to pop up. This indicates to you that you have a bite. You then haul the fish in using your hands.

What is the best line for tip-ups?

Think about what I have just said above.

Traditionally you don’t ‘reel in’. You bring the fishing line in by hand. As a result, you will find that the fishing line for tip-ups is generally a lot thicker than normal fishing line.

Tip-up fishermen will use a variety of lines to suit individual tastes. Braid is a popular choice as it offers a really high breaking strain for a relatively small diameter.

You might see other lines too.

Because it will be handled directly with your hands, often coated lines may be the best choice. They aid in grip, especially when you are wearing ice fishing gloves.

How do you rig an ice fishing tip-up?

Well, there are several styles. However, I thought it might be best if I could show you a video about it instead of taking all of your time reading.

Take a look here. It will take about 5 minutes, and you can really see what it is all about.

How do you set the depth on tip-up?

It does depend on the species you are trying to catch. However, you’ll find that most anglers attach a marker to their line when they know they have reached the required depth.

As to assessing what that depth should be, the old-fashioned way used to be to attach a plumb weight and lower your line into the water.

So, what’s the best way to assess depth?

Well, let’s be slightly more methodical in our approach. We want accuracy. One of the best ways to ensure this is to use a depth finder, or if you want to get really technical, you may want to consider using an ice fishing flasher.

If you are unsure about this kind of technology, don’t worry, as I have a really handy ice fishing flasher guide just here. This works exactly the same way as sonar in a submarine. It is super useful for assessing depths, learning what is on the bottom, and even giving you advanced warning of when you are about to get a bite! Cool eh?

What is an ice fishing tip down?

Remember how we talked about different approaches?

An ice fishing tip down is a slightly different solution. In this scenario, you will be using your existing ice fishing rod and placing it in a holder.

Depending on the model of tip down that you go for, bites may be indicated by a flag that raises when your rod moves, or you might just have to keep an eye out for your rod moving in its mount…

Literally, the tip moves down, hence the name! You can find an example of a really good ice fishing tip down in my product review.

Conclusion

Each angler is different. Some will prefer to use the purely tip-up method. Others might want to get the best features of an ice fishing tip down.

Fortunately, my ideas on the best ice fishing tip-ups should have you covered regardless. I appreciate that this might be new ground for some of you folks. But I am committed to always giving you the most up-to-date information.

If you want to keep on top of your game, why not subscribe to my newsletter, where I share all the best tactics, tips, and products. I offer advice on everything from the best ice fishing line to the best ice fishing boots!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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