Modern tip ups are designed to suspend baits at the depth where fish are holding, indicate bites, and allow the fish to swim away without feeling much resistance. They also allow anglers to adjust the amount of pressure required to trip the flag or turn the spool, so a single tip up can be used to present one-inch fathead minnows to crappies or perch, or foot-long suckers to pike or muskies.
Simple and inexpensive tip-ups feature a folding wood or plastic frame. On models like the Maine Trap and Fisherman tip-ups from HT Enterprises, the frame folds out into an "X" to hold the tip-up over the hole while a vertical stick holds the spool beneath the surface. Spool tension is adjusted by loosening or tightening a wing nut on the side of the spool. A spring-loaded flag wire rests in a notch on the vertical stick and is tripped when the spool begins to turn.
The Bull Valley Automatic Tip-Up is based on the same design, but features a spring-loaded yo-yo reel to set the hook and even reel in small fish. To set the bait at the proper depth, maintain tension on the spool with your thumb while stripping line. Then slide the lock pin into a notch on the spool to lock the spool in place. When a fish moves off with the bait, the spool turns slightly releasing the pin. A spring inside the spool constricts, and line is retrieved. According to the manufacturer, this tip-up is legal in all states except Minnesota.
Arguably the most reliable tip-ups have a metal tube filled with antifreeze to ensure that an internal spindle turns smoothly in cold weather. An underwater spool is attached to the lower end of the tube, with a horizontal trip bar attached to the other end. The trip bar on the HT Polar Tip-Up is smooth on one end for small baits and notched on the other for heavier baits. Raising the trip bar or using the wire wind cradle on the Arctic Fisherman Beaver Dam also increases the amount of pressure needed to trip the flag.
Even if the spool doesn't freeze, though, the hole will eventually freeze over in frigid weather. Foam or plastic hole covers from HT Enterprises keep holes ice free for hours in below-zero temperatures. The HT Thermal and the Frabill Igloo tip-ups combine a fluid-filled vertical tube with a plastic frame that covers 6- to 10-inch holes. Pile snow or slush around the perimeter of the frame to create a thermal seal that keeps the hole free of ice and blocks light that may spook fish in shallow water.
Wind tip-ups are used to flutter deadbaits for pike and lake trout, but they also keep livebaits swimming. The spool is mounted to one end of a pivoting frame, and a metal fan is mounted to the other. The angle of the fan can be adjusted to change the amount of movement given the bait. Since the spool rests above the surface, however, it's more prone to freezing. Nylon line from HT€ˆEnterprises and teflon-coated dacron ice line from Gudebrod don't absorb water, preventing the line from freezing. The Ice Hole Heater from Cabela's, a floating 4-inch disk powered by 2 AA batteries, helps keep line from freezing in the hole.