TOP 7 Best Ice Fishing Tip Ups of 2021 + Complete Guide to Ice Fishing Traps


Do you fish with more than one rod? Or just want to stay dry under cover? Keeping an eye on several things at once, and staying warm and dry whilst you do so, can be a challenge.

If only there was an easy way to do it…

Well of course there is.

By using one of the best ice fishing tip ups you can easily identify when you’ve got a bite.

This article is going to look at the best ice fishing traps and things you need to think about when choosing one.

Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.

TOP 7 Best Ice Fishing Tip Ups of 2021

Multi 3 Pack Tip-Up with Tackle

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

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

Let’s look at the features.

First, you are getting consistency, which I’m sure you are aware is vital to successful angling. Each of the tip ups are 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

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

Frabill 1664 Classic Tip-Up

Frabill are an established manufacturer, producing some of the best ice fishing traps. With products which are 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 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 which is durable and solid.
  • An established company, so you know you’ll get really great quality.

Cons

  • The flag is cloth, this may cause it to sag slightly if it was really wet.

Takeaway

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

Frabill Arctic Fire Tip Up

I love this tip up.

Why?

It’s 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 sat at distance or it might snow. Either way the bright yellow body is impossible to miss. It just sings quality.

Frabill have once again proven themselves. 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 are able to 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 for some will be slightly annoying, especially in a strong wind or at distance.

Takeaway

A good quality and durable set up 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 then 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 then it is slightly lighter too. 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, this would be ideal for a beginner who is intending 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 that you get 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 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.

If you want to go a little traditional, but are literally tired of holding a rod in freezing cold conditions then this tip up present the ideal solution. It is rock solid and made from durable steel, so is pretty much immune to the cold.

Essentially this is a rod holder that acts as a pivot. You set your rod on a 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 the normal fashion, but also 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 which will indicate 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. By letting me use the rod, my hands never really have to come into contact with ice cold water, which they normally would when handlining.

Pros

  • A revolutionary and patented new system, I think it’s game-changing.
  • Warm dry hands, I get to use my rod, 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 for the money it is worth every penny.

A Quick Guide to Ice Fishing Tip Ups

If you are just starting out, or looking to invest in something new there is a massive range of choice when trying to decide what is the best tip up for ice fishing.

I’m going to go through a few things that you may want to consider when making your purchase.

ice fishing tip up and ice auger on the winter lake

Decide on Your Budget

Like most fishing tackle there are a range of options to suit all wallets. And with ice fishing tip ups there is certainly an element of getting what you paid for.

As a general rule the more features, the better the ice fishing trap will be.

Normally you will have to invest a little more if you want features, but they should make your fishing experience easier and more fun, so you have to decide what that is worth to you.

How do You Want to Fish?

With our selection above you have two options. You are either going to be fishing using the ice fishing trap on its own as an all in one solution, or you are going to use the ice fishing tip up to supplement your bite detection using a rod.

It is worth noting that if you are using the all in one solution, then this may be an entirely new technique.

I’ll cover the differences in the FAQ below.

ice fisherman reeling in a fish

Is the Flag Material Important?

Yes, it is. Plastic may stay dry, however, in very cold conditions it can become brittle and crack. With the premium brands this happens less often (but let’s face it the flag is replaceable).

Cloth flags can be a great solution, however, if they get wet and freeze, they can weigh down their ‘pole’ a little which may hinder bite detection.

Consider the Conditions

If you are purely a fair-weather fisherman then you can maybe afford to go a little lighter and less sturdy on your choice of ice fishing trap.

However, if you want to go out in all weathers and conditions you are going to need a trap that is sturdy, visible and doesn’t ‘pop up’ at the first hint of a breeze.

Want to know what you are looking for?

You want long, bright flags for a start. Further to this you will want a body that is thick, durable and brightly colored. Ideally, it should be constructed of a material that will resist the long-term effects of being cold and wet.

And finally…

Do you fish in conditions where your hole quickly starts to shrink as ice and snow is blown into it? If the weather is particularly cold you can find that you will either need to have something to keep your ice hole open, or have a really great ice auger.

If this is going to be an issue for you, I would definitely go down the route of circular ice fishing tip ups. Whilst I am talking ice augers, if you are tired of working to keep a hole open, you could always consider something electric. Why not take a look at my quick guide to the best electric ice fishing augers?

Consider the Species

If you are only going to be fishing for Panfish, then you don’t want to miss bites by using something that is too ‘heavy’

The ability to set and change the pressure required to ‘fire’ the flag is a really nice thing to have in an ice fishing tip up.

It will allow you to alter your style to catch a range of species. I would probably advise against anything that is too light if you are going to fish for bigger species.

fisherman with a northern pike on a frozen lake

FAQ

What is the best ice fishing tip up?

A great ice fishing tip up will have the following qualities. You’ll want something that is 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 it is vital that you have a decent ice fishing trap that is 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 in turn is attached to a bobbin of line.

When the bobbin turns as a result of 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 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 is going to 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, instead of taking all of your time reading, I could show you a video about it.

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

How do you set 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, other 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 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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