Ice Fishing: Tactics for a Better Tip-Up

Illustration by Samuel A. Minick

Successful fishing with tip-ups begins with suspending the bait in the cruising lane of the fish. Pike, pickerel, panfish, walleyes, and bass often frequent the area about 12 inches above the weed tops. Here's how to make sure your bait is in the strike zone and not buried in the grass.

1. Clip a 1-ounce depthfinder or "sounder" to the hook and drop it so it falls through the weeds and hits bottom.

2. Pull the sounder up about 1 foot above the tops of the weeds. Clip on a small bobber at water level as your marker.

3. Raise the sounder an additional 3 to 6 inches (to compensate for the fact that the spool will be under the water) and slide the bobber down the line the same distance.

  1. Remove the sounder. Hook the bait through the back and drop it through the hole. When you set the tip-up, the bobber should be visible on the last wrap of the tip-up spool. Not only will it mark the proper depth, but it can also reveal whether you actually have a bite when the flag pops up. If the bobber is still visible when the flag pops up, blame the wind or a frenzied shiner.