The Run Down: Trick Out Your Tip-Ups
By Nick Simonson

The hardwater season brings with it expanded opportunities to get on fish and experiment with a variety of set ups. In many states throughout Runnings territory, winter regulations often allow anglers to utilize more than one rod to target fish, with as many as four poles or tip-ups at their disposal. The latter option provides an easily-customizable way of covering water and targeting fish of all species, not just pike as many people might be familiar. Using a tip-up, however, is a sweet science, and with the right accessories from Runnings, you’ll find new ways to catch fish of all kinds under the ice with these tried-and-true options.

Tip Up Models

As the ice fishing market has advanced over the last two decades, the variety of tip-ups has increased as well. Where once simple wooden or plastic rectangular models were the only option, anglers now have a number of circular and other hole-covering options to make deployment easier. Classic, lightweight tip-ups are available from companies like HT and deploy easily out of a Runnings five-gallon bucket and are quickly reeled up and stashed at the end of the day.

More advanced options, which cover the hole and keep snow out and slush from forming on top and ultimately freezing (which can prevent an easy hookset) are available from companies such as Frabill in their Pro Thermal model or HT Enterprises’ Magnum Pop Up. Additionally, hole covers like Tip-Up Mates available from Productive Alternatives make any tip-up model a thermal model. Don’t forget to look into specialized tip-ups like the Windlass which adds an enticing movement to stationary baits, and those with all the bells and whistles, like Frabill’s Calibrator.

Line & Tackle

Standard tip-up line serves as a base for most models and helps bulk up and fill a spool quickly. Simple, black Dacron line in 20- or 30-pound test is inexpensive and easily utilized.  From there, treat any tip-up as a fully-customizable option for the species you’re after. By adding a ball-bearing swivel at the end of the base line, you can tie on a variety of terminal lines, such as Fireline, PowerPro or Fluorocarbon for walleyes and trout. A single hook in size 4 or size 2 is perfect for small baitfish, and a selection of split shot weights positioned a couple feet above the bait will allow for more lively movement under your setup. You can also tie an 18-inch leader or quick-strike rig for dealing with pike.

Depending on the jurisdiction, you may be able to utilize a single large treble for deploying frozen baits like smelt or herring, or you might have to employ a quick-strike rig with a spinner blade and multiple hooks, but be able to use larger live bait like suckers. Check in with the friendly staff at your local Runnings to get an idea as to what can be used in your area waters, and more importantly, what works best, noting that regulations can change from lake-to-lake.

Get Set

Most tip-ups will have a T-bar where the flag is loaded, so that when a fish takes the bait and swims off with it, as the line comes off the spool and it turns, the flag pops loose. Typically, these bars have two notches, a large one and a small one. Utilize the large notch to hold the flag in place on windy days and to minimize false-tripping of the tip-up. Use the smaller notch for more sensitivity when targeting walleyes and other light-biting fish.

When a flag trips, get over to the tip-up as fast as possible. A spinning T-bar will confirm that line is peeling off the spool below. As it does, gently lift the tip-up out of the hole and set it out of the way, grabbing the line with your other hand. A sharp upward pull will set the hook.

Do Battle

After the hookset, the fight will be a matter of line management as the fish below makes a series of runs. Try to set the line next to the hole in a fairly-organized fashion so that it easily goes back down when a fish surges, and make sure there’s nothing for it to tangle on, including the tip-up. It’s as close to hand-to-fish combat as you’re going to get, so enjoy the contest and keep working to gain line until the fish tires. As it does, work it head first into the bottom of the hole and steer it up – a task that gets more challenging as the ice thickens throughout the winter.

Use tip-ups to cover water this winter. While you’re jigging and exploring points, bars and reefs, stationary offerings under a bright orange flag will put baits in high-percentage areas for all fish species. Utilize the higher number of poles that are available to ice anglers to get the edge on fish. The friendly staff at your local Runnings will help you find the models you need for fast fishing this winter and the lines, tackle and baits to customize each one to the fish you angle for. Get ready for a season of fun, hearing your shouts of “FLAG!” echoing across the frozen landscape of Runnings territory!