Ice fishing is a sport that allows you to use a unique tool to help you catch fish: the tip-up. Tip-ups can make ice fishing easier and more efficient.
But you’re going to need a tip-up (or multiple tip-ups, if you want) that will work well and won’t break. With that in mind, I’ve compiled this list of 9 best ice fishing tip-ups. At the end of the post, I’ll give my opinion on which one I prefer.
Frabill Blackhawk Assault Tip-Up
This is a good tip-up and a popular one, at that. It has left a favorable impression on many customers.
It is made out of solid plastic. Plastic is not the highest quality material you can get for a tip-up, but it does keep the price down. So, if you want an inexpensive tip-up, this is an excellent option for that.
That said, it is tough plastic we’re talking about, so if you were imagining something that would break immediately, that’s not the case. This tip-up should last for many ice fishing trips.
It’s a simple design that doesn’t really have many extra features, but there is a bait clip on it that will make working with the tip-up a bit easier.
As you expect if you know about tip-ups (if you don’t, I wrote an article to explain what tip-ups are), a red flag will pop up when there’s enough of a tug on the spool to trigger it. Simple stuff.
Since there are different sizes of fish as well as different sizes of bait, you can adjust how easily the flag will go off. You can set it so it’s only set off with a heavy tug rather than a light one. That way, there won’t be any false alarms.
The Blackhawk is a very affordable tip-up. There are others available that are higher quality and cost more, but this could be a great choice if you are new to the world of ice fishing and tip-ups. You could also choose to buy multiple Blackhawk tip-ups, considering the low price, and use them both at the same time, if local laws allow you to, anyway.
Overall, you can’t really go wrong with this tip-up, but if you want to spend a bit more money, you can get a tip-up that will last longer. Otherwise, this is definitely a good buy.
HT TU-1 Windlass Tip-Up
This tip-up is different from the others on this list because it is a windlass tip-up. This is a kind of tip-up that is not common.
What is a windlass tip-up? You can see from the picture that the design of this tip-up is unique, with a piece rising above the base suspending the line underwater. Usually, the spool goes below the base and underwater, but not with a windlass tip-up. Here, it’s on top.
What is accomplished by this design is quite impressive. It utilizes the wind to make your bait more attractive to fish. A breeze will blow on the tip-up, and that will cause the bait underwater will move around. That makes your bait more attractive to fish. It’s as if you were using a pole and jigging the line yourself.
While motionless bait can hook plenty of fish, the fact that traditional tip-ups can’t get the attention of fish the way someone using a rod to jig can is one of the biggest disadvantages of tip-ups. With this kind of tip-up, though, that disadvantage is gone, and you can attract those fish you might miss out on with a traditional tip-up.
However, there is a big downside to it. Because the spool is not underwater, it becomes subject to freezing. And a frozen line is rather inconvenient. It will likely keep your flag from going up when a fish bites your hook.
Because of that, this tip-up is most useful in weather that’s a little warmer. I don’t mean you should go out when the lake is thawing, because that’s dangerous. But if there’s a winter day where temperatures will get above freezing in the afternoon, it’s a perfect time to use this tip-up.
Otherwise, you’re going to have to work to keep the line unfrozen, and you could argue that having to do that somewhat defeats the purpose of using a tip-up.
One thing you might worry would be another downside is a lack of wind, since wind is what makes the tip-up jig the line, but actually, that’s not really a problem. Even a slight breeze will cause the tip-up to jig the line, and it’s very unlikely that you won’t have that at least.
So, the windlass design has pros and cons. You’ll need to consider your strategy when deciding whether to get a tip-up that uses it, such as what type of fish you want to catch, and you should know how cold the weather will get, too.
As for other aspects of the tip-up’s design, this tip-up is made of plastic. A higher quality material would be nice, but at least the price is low.
I also wonder why the flag is black instead of a brighter color. Then again, I suppose black contrasts quite clearly with a frozen lake and snow. I’d say reddish flags are still easier to see, but even so, the black flag is not a huge problem at all.
Despite its downsides, this is one of the only windlass tip-ups you can easily find online, so if that’s the kind of tip-up you want, this is what you should buy.
You can adjust the tension on the spool to account for different sizes of bait or fish. This is always an important feature because fishers shouldn’t be forced to do things a certain way just because the tip-up was designed to only work with a certain level of force.
The spool can hold a ton of line: 500 feet. That’s enough line for any situation, and you probably won’t want to even fill it up completely. Of course, this is just an estimation, and the actual amount of line you can put on depends on the thickness of the line you chose to use.
Overall, if you haven’t used a tip-up before, I’d recommend going with a traditional kind over this one. But if you see the usefulness in the windlass design, absolutely go for it. Being able to jig a line without even touching it is a really cool feat.
This tip-up is not expensive at all. If you want to attract more fish, this tip-up is an excellent way to do it. Just be ready to take measure to keep the spool from freezing. Over at Amazon, the HT Windlass tip-up is available for a great bargain.
Frabill Arctic Fire Tip-Up
Here’s a tip-up whose body is made of thick plastic. Yes, it’s technically plastic, but it’s tough. I don’t think the plastic can be considered a downside here at all. It’s hard to imagine the body ever getting damaged.
The body is also yellow, which could be helpful for keeping track of where you left your tip-up if you are covering a lot of ground (which is a great strategy).
The body also functions as a 19-inch ruler. You can use it to measure the length of fish you catch, or for anything else that you think of. It might seem silly to have the ruler painted on, but adding more simple functions to a tool is never a bad thing.
The spool is made of some sort of metal, which is good news. It’s somewhat on the small side, but you should be able to get plenty of line on there.
All the moving parts are made of metal too, so you should expect them to be tough.
The spool has counter-balance crank knobs, which should help the fishing be more stable and keep things from wobbling.
You will find that the tip-up comes pre-lubricated (with a lubricant that is designed to not freeze, by the way), so everything should work very smoothly right away.
Additionally, you can adjust how easily this tip-up trips. If you want the flag to go up for small fish, you can have that happen. But if you’d rather the flag only go up for large fish, you can set the tip-up to do that, too. This is convenient because you won’t have to waste time bringing up small fish you don’t want. But if you do want small fish, you can have the flag go up for them too.
Note that if you’re going to use large bait, you will definitely need to use the heavy trip settings. Otherwise, the flag will never stay down.
There’s not much else to this tip-up. It’s a traditional, useful, straightforward design that doesn’t give bonus features except for the ruler. The materials are high quality and are made in such a way that they shouldn’t freeze in the icy weather they’ll be subject to.
It’s slightly pricier than many other tip-ups, but only slightly. I would say it’s worth it due to the higher quality of this tip-up.
You can find the Arctic Fire Tip-Up on Amazon.
Eagle Claw Plastic Base Tip-Up
The Eagle Claw is a tip-up with a cool look. You can get it in blue or pink, so that’s fun. I haven’t seen other tip-ups with these colors, so if you like to have a little more personality, that might persuade you to get this product.
These colors should be pretty easy to spot from far away, too. The red flag that pops up when triggered, of course, is extremely easy to spot.
Also, the flag has a logo of an eagle on it, so once again, if you are looking for personality, this is a good tip-up for you. That won’t help you catch more fish, though.
However, with these unique visual aspects, you reduce your chances of getting your tip-up mixed up with someone else’s. But what if someone nearby has the same tastes as you? Well, that situation is kind of a stretch, so I wouldn’t worry about it.
The Eagle Claw tip-up is very inexpensive. With the base being plastic, that is not too surprising. You might want to get more than one of these so you can increase your fishing success, and with such a low price, why not? Always be sure to know how many lines the law allows you to have in the water, though.
Also, this is another tip-up with a ruler–a 16-inch one, to be exact. It’s handy to have a ruler around if you want to measure the fish you catch, and with this tip-up, there’s no need to bring another one.
The spool holds almost 200 feet of line. Of course, the actual amount of line you can fit on there varies depending on how heavy the line is. 200 feet is enough line for almost any situation.
The spool is made of plastic, which is definitely a negative for this tip-up, but not a dealbreaker by any means.
Overall, this is a good tip-up at a low price, and it offers unique colors that may appeal to some people.
You can find the Eagle Claw tip-up on Amazon, where it’s available for a great price.
Frabill 1664 Classic Tip-Up Wooden Boxed
This tip-up’s body is made of wood. So, you can expect more durability from it compared to the many plastic ones we’ve seen. Even so, the price is still fairly low.
The spool is made of brass. It’s not all that big. There are other spools that can hold more line. This shouldn’t be a problem for most occasions, but you should be aware of it in case you just want to have a ton of line on there.
There are two options for trip settings: light or heavy. This refers to the amount of force it will take to make the flag go up. If you are looking for lighter fish, clearly, you will want to use the light setting so that when a small fish bites, the flag will go off. Of course, a bigger fish would still set it off too if it bit.
The good thing about this is that you can prevent wasting your time on tiny fish you don’t care about if that’s what you want.
The flag is red-orange and is 17.5 inches tall. It will definitely catch your eye, even if you’re some distance away from it trying to cover a lot of ground. Not noticing a flag could very well mean the fish having enough time to get lucky and escape. With an obvious flag like this, that won’t happen.
This wooden Frabill tip-up is a high-quality product that doesn’t come with any extra gimmicks. There aren’t a lot of wooden tip-ups available online (though I believe making one yourself would be a fun project), so it’s nice to have this one. It’s sturdy and should be trapping fish for a long time to come.
Check out the high-quality Frabill 1664 on Amazon.
HT Enterprise Polar Thunder Tip-Up
With this tip-up, you can adjust the tension for different sizes of bait. If you’re going to use a heavier one, you don’t want the flag going up when nothing’s actually bitten. So you adjust the device to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Also, you might adjust the device to the heavier setting so that tiny fish you don’t want can’t set off the flag. It’s a good way to make sure you use your fishing time wisely.
You get a 500-foot spool here. That is more than enough line. I don’t know if there’s any reason to ask for more space than that for ice fishing. So, kudos to HT for giving this tip-up a spool with such ample room for fishing line.
A “thermal carry tube” with a lanyard is included with this product. It’s always nice to have something you can use to carry your stuff. The tip-up is especially small, so both transporting and storing it are a cinch.
The materials this tip-up is made from don’t seem to be the highest quality. They will work fine, but I do not expect this tip-up to last as long as some others.
This tip-up is inexpensive. It’s not a bad idea to get two orders of it. That way, you can have at least two lines in the water at the same time, and more if you use a rod on a third hole. Make sure to check local regulations regarding the number of lines you can have in the water, though.
The HT Polar Thunder is a fine tip-up. It’s not the highest quality tip-up out there, but it does the job quite well. Available on Amazon, check out the Polar Thunder, which you can get there for a really good deal, now.
Frabill Pro Thermal Original Tip-Up
Some tip-ups are made to cover the holes they are placed over. They function the same as other traditional tip-ups, but their bodies are shaped just as circular as the holes you dig should be. This is one of those.
This tip-up will fit perfectly into a 10-inch hole. If you have a smaller hole, then you’ll pretty much just have to set it on top of it, which is fine too. It won’t work with a bigger hole, but you are not likely to make a bigger hole than 10 inches in the first place.
If you’re not using an auger to cut your hole, you are probably not drilling a perfectly round hole. This is fine as long as what you dig is less than 10 inches in diameter, but if you’re trying to cut a hole that’s exactly 10 inches, it’s easiest to use an auger. Otherwise, you risk making something that this tip-up won’t properly fit into.
Now, the benefit of using a cover is that it helps keep your fishing hole from freezing up. When fishing in freezing weather, it can be a challenge to keep the water you’ve exposed from turning solid, but by providing some insulation, it gets easier.
In extremely cold weather, it doesn’t take long for water to freeze, but with this tip-up, the water you’ve thrown your line into will remain liquid.
Also, you are blocking out sunlight that might otherwise spook some shallow-water fish who aren’t used to a hole being in the ice, so that’s another advantage of the cover.
As for the normal tip-up part, it works the same as other ones. You can adjust the trip settings to either light or heavy. If you set it to light, the flag will be set off more easily. If you set it to heavy, it will take more force to set off the flag, so you can use heavier bait.
The flag and base are both bright red, so you won’t have any problems seeing them in winter weather. This is always important, particularly for times when you are covering a lot of ground and need to be able to keep track of your tip-ups from afar.
If you want an easy way to keep a fishing hole unfrozen in freezing weather and still catch lots of fish, this tip-up is a great way to do it. There really aren’t a lot of downsides to it, but it works best if you drill a 10-inch hole, and it’s inconvenient to need a particular size of an auger.
Still, smaller holes technically work, too, so it’s not like you can’t use it if you don’t have the right auger. It’s just not the most ideal.
Overall, I definitely recommend this tip-up, especially for those brave enough to go out in subzero temperatures. It’s up for sale on Amazon, where there are lots of pictures and customer reviews.
HT ICM-200 Iceman Tip-Up
Here is a small, bright yellow tip-up. With such a vibrant color, you are unlikely to lose track of this device.
You may have noticed by now that almost all of these tip-ups are made by the same two companies. Looks like “mass-produced tip-ups” is not a very crowded market.
Anyway, you’re getting a ruler when you buy this one, as in one that’s engraved on the body of the tip-up. It’s great to be able to measure fish you catch, and having a ruler on the tip-up means one less thing to remember to bring.
There is not really much to say about this tip-up. It’s not made of the highest quality materials, but it is quite affordable.
The flag is bright orange, so the tip-up will do a good job of alerting you when it’s caught something, even if you’re a bit far away.
The spool has room for about 200 feet of line. That’s a good amount, but if you want more, there are other options out there.
As average as this tip-up seems, customers so far have had only good things to say about it, so clearly, it’s doing its job quite well. This tip-up might just be a steal.
Frabill Round Tip-Up
This tip-up covers a 10-inch hole. If you want to make 10-inch holes, then you should get an auger that will cut that exact size. Smaller holes are fine, too, however.
The difference between this tip-up and the other round one I listed above is that this one does not provide as much insulation. It just covers the hole, while the other one was much thicker. So, in freezing weather, the holes you make still could freeze eventually. But the cover is definitely better than nothing.
There is still the benefit of keeping snow out of the hole. Plus, the light that a hole lets in could spook some fish, so covering the hole prevents that.
The base of the tip-up is black, and against a snow-covered lake, it’d be hard to miss. More importantly, the flag is bright red, so when a fish tugs on your line, you’ll definitely know.
As with other tip-ups, the tension is adjustable. If you don’t want the device to trip unless a heavy fish bites the hook, you can set it to do that. Or you can let it trip more easily in case you want to catch smaller fish.
This is one of the most affordable Frabill tip-ups you can get. That makes it a very compelling purchase.
It’s an excellent idea to get more than one of these. That way, you can have more lines in the water and have a higher chance of catching fish. Local laws may restrict how many lines you can have at once, though, so make sure you check.
The reason to get this tip-up would be to have an inexpensive tip-up that covers a hole in the ice. As I said above, there are some nice advantages to keeping the hole covered, so to have the ability to do that at such a low price is quite useful.
Which One I’d Pick
Most of these tip-ups are pretty similar to each other, so it’s hard to go wrong when choosing any of them. After all, this is a list of the best, right? So, personal preference plays a role here.
As for myself, I would choose the Frabill Pro Thermal.
I like that tip-up because the ability to cover my fishing hole and keep it from freezing is really useful, especially on brutally cold days. Aside from that, it’s just a solid tip-up in general. It does the same things that other tip-ups here do, but with the extra feature of covering the hole.
Alternatively, if you want to do a ton of jigging and aren’t worried about your line getting frozen easily, then the HT Windlass may be the tip-up for you. You just might catch more fish by using it.
Any of the other choices here are good picks, so pick what you like. If there was one I’d recommend the least, however, it’d be the ICM-200 Iceman. It doesn’t really have any special benefits and just seems average. Even so, those who have bought it and left reviews are happy with it.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you discover what kinds of tip-ups are out there, and maybe even led you to get one for yourself. And if you do get one, I hope it leads to a lot of successful fishing this winter.