The 7 Best Ice Fishing Tip Ups: Passive Ice Fishing is Happy Ice Fishing 

Last Updated on April 28, 2022

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The tip up is one of those pieces of fishing gear that you either love or hate. Choosing the best ice fishing tip ups can determine where you stand in that equation. 

I’ve used store-bought tip ups and I’ve even made them myself. One thing remains true. While it’s not an expensive purchase, the little details such as lubricant, sensitivity, and color make a big difference. 

I chose the Frabill Pro Thermal Tip-Up as my top pick because of the insulated hole cover, long shaft, and dual trip settings. These are three important features that I look for in a tip up and you’ll learn more about them in the full review.

Continue reading below to find my breakdown of seven of the best tip ups for ice fishing.  

Comparison Table – Best Tip-Ups on the Market

ImageFeaturesFeaturesPrice
Best Overall
Frabill Pro Thermal Tip-Up
Frabill Pro Thermal Tip-Up
  • Material: Plastic
  • Line Capacity: 50 yards
  • Pre-Spooled?: Yes 
9.7
View Details
Best Runner-Up
Frabill Arctic Fire Tip Up
Frabill Arctic Fire Tip Up
  • Material: Plastic
  • Line Capacity: 100 yards 
  • Pre-Spooled?: No
9.5
View Details
Best For The Money
Frabill 1674 Blackhawk Assault Tip Up
Frabill 1674 Blackhawk Assault Tip Up
  • Material: Plastic
  • Line Capacity: 100 yards
  • Pre-Spooled?: No
9.1
View Details
Best Polar Tip Up
Frabill Freeze Proof Tip Up with Indicator Light
Frabill Freeze Proof Tip Up with Indicator Light
  • Material: Plastic
  • Line Capacity: 200 yards
  • Pre-Spooled?: No
8.8
View Details
Best Wooden Ice Fishing Tip Up
Beaver Dam Ice Fishing Tip Up
Beaver Dam Ice Fishing Tip Up
  • Material: Clear wood
  • Line Capacity: 50 yards
  • Pre-Spooled?: No
8.6
View Details
Best Plastic Tip Up
Celsius SBTU-50 Plastic Tip Up
Celsius SBTU-50 Plastic Tip Up
  • Material: Plastic
  • Line Capacity: 50 yards
  • Pre-Spooled?: Yes
8.2
View Details
Best Line Capacity
HT Enterprise Polar Tip Up
HT Enterprise Polar Tip Up
  • Material: Plastic
  • Line Capacity: 200 yards
  • Pre-Spooled?: Yes
8
View Details

Reviews of Our Favorite Ice Fishing Tip Ups: 7 Expert Picks 

Frabill Pro Thermal Tip-Up

Frabill Pro Thermal Tip-Up

BEST OVERALL

Specs

  • Material: Plastic
  • Line Capacity: 50 yards
  • Pre-Spooled?: Yes 

Pros

  • Insulated hole cover
  • Long 20-inch flag shaft
  • Dual trip settings

Cons

  • Overly sensitive trip makes setting it difficult 

Why We Chose It

Ice fishing tip ups are all about making ice fishing simple, passive, and more accessible for people. I think the Frabill Pro Thermal does all of those things. 

It’s a polar-designed ice fishing tip up which means it comes with the round disc that covers the hole. The goal of this design is to prevent the hole from re-freezing while you’re fishing it. It won’t slush up so you’ll be able to fish that hole for the entire length of your time on the ice. 

The 20-inch flag is another great feature because it’s easy to see no matter where you are. It also comes with dual trip settings so you can set the sensitivity based on what you’re fishing. If you’re trying to catch bass and trout, you might want to set it more sensitive.

If you’re fishing walleye and pike, you’ll want to give the fish a little more time to tug on it before tripping the flag. 

Everything is removable on this Frabill ice fishing tip up which is a good and bad feature in its own way. Because it’s removable it means that you’ll have an easier time drying everything off and preventing the shafts from rusting.

But, the fact that you can remove anything sometimes creates weak points and areas where the shafts can get damaged. 

The tip up comes pre-spooled and includes a depth finder and markers. I highly recommend this one for beginners and experienced ice anglers. It’s hard to do much better than the Frabill brand too. 

Frabill Arctic Fire Tip Up

Frabill Arctic Fire Tip Up

BEST RUNNER UP

Specs

  • Material: Plastic
  • Line Capacity: 100 yards 
  • Pre-Spooled?: No

Pros

  • Dual trip settings
  • Tapered rails for easy removal
  • Large line capacity 

Cons

  • Flag shaft could be longer

Why We Chose It

Again, Frabill is one of the best manufacturers of ice fishing products on Amazon. This ice-fishing tip up is no exception in their great line of gear. It comes with a heavy-duty molded plastic base with a ruler built into it for drilling your hole. The base offers tapered rails which makes pulling it out of the ice a little easier. 

This one also features dual trip settings which is nearly essential and it allows a lot of flexibility in your fishing. You could set multiple tip ups with various settings to target specific fish with different baits. 

I mean, what more can you say? It’s a great tip up with a large line capacity. A lot of people and myself included believe that the flag doesn’t sit low enough when it’s set so it can be hard to tell if it’s tripped or not. The shaft itself is only 17.5-inches so you’ll need to be pretty close to it to tell. 

All in all, if you prefer the more traditional tip up design and you’re not worried about insulating the hole, this is the best option out there. 

Frabill 1674 Blackhawk Assault Tip Up

Frabill 1674 Blackhawk Assault Tip Up

BEST FOR THE MONEY 

Specs

  • Material: Plastic
  • Line Capacity: 100 yards
  • Pre-Spooled?: No

Pros

  • Comes with low-temp lubricant
  • Removable spool shaft
  • Dual trip settings

Cons

  • Plastic spool

Why We Chose It

While even the best tip ups aren’t necessarily expensive, this one will save you a few bucks without sacrificing much in terms of features. It comes fitted with a polar, low-temp lubricant and a bait clip for a more accurate trigger. Like most of the Frabill tip ups, it offers dual trip settings and a removable spool shaft. 

I like this one because the flag sits a bit lower when it’s set so it doesn’t give you the appearance that it’s already triggered when it’s not. 

The main thing that aggravates me about it is that they didn’t elect to use a brass spool and that’s likely why the price is a little lower. The spool can take a beating after a while and it’s going to crack and damage in the cold temperatures. It’s inevitable.

If I were you, I’d suggest using this tip up for smaller panfish, crappie, and perch and saving your ice fishing rod for the heavy-duty stuff. 

Frabill Freeze Proof Tip Up with Indicator Light

Frabill Freeze Proof Tip Up with Indicator Light

BEST POLAR TIP UP

Specs

  • Material: Plastic
  • Line Capacity: 200 yards
  • Pre-Spooled?: No

Pros

  • Insulated hole cover
  • Sub-zero low temp lubricant
  • Indicator light
  • Dual trip settings

Cons

  • Oversensitivity causes false flags

Why We Chose It

Let’s start with the negative on this one. It’s so sensitive that it triggers the flag a lot which can become a cat and mouse game really quickly. We had the same problem with the first Frabill polar tip up.

As you’re setting the flag you’ll notice right away that it’s incredibly sensitive to every little movement; similar to setting a mousetrap.

Now, onto the good news. You have a great line capacity of 200+ yards with this one. I say you’d get 200 yards onto it but a lot of people have done more than that. The insulated hole cover is a great way to prevent the hole from slushing up which will require you to spend less time attending the hole. 

The main feature that separates this freeze-proof tip up box from the other is the fact that it comes with indicator light. I wish the light was a bit brighter but in low-light conditions, you’ll find that the indicator can make a big difference. 

Beaver Dam Original Tip Up

Beaver Dam Ice Fishing Tip Up

BEST WOODEN ICE FISHING TIP UP

Specs

  • Material: Clear wood
  • Line Capacity: 50 yards
  • Pre-Spooled?: No

Pros

  • Handcrafted
  • Most durable option on the market
  • Consistent triggering

Cons

  • Price

Why We Chose It

As far as craftsmanship goes, the Beaver Dam tip up is as good as it gets. These are American-made, handcrafted, hardwood tip ups made with only the best of the best. It’s a completely metal spool and shaft with a 17.5-inch flag. The tube is filled with low-temp lubricant to ensure it stays nice and smooth in all temperatures. 

The cradle on this one is a bit different than some of the others as well. It’s a little bit deeper which can make triggering less sensitive but I find it to be a welcome feature. The reduced sensitivity results in a more accurate flag because of the smoothness of the bearings in the spool.

When this tip up goes off you can be sure you’ve got a fish on. 

You’ll want to spool this with the best ice fishing line to ensure the durability of the line matches that of the tip up. Keep in mind that this one is more than double the price of the rest, triple even but you’re not going to have to buy another one anytime soon.  

Celsius SBTU-50 Plastic Tip Up

Celsius SBTU-50 Plastic Tip Up

BEST PLASTIC TIP UP

Specs

  • Material: Plastic
  • Line Capacity: 50 yards
  • Pre-Spooled?: Yes

Pros

  • Solid frame
  • Low-temp lubricant

Cons

  • Plastic spool
  • Poor flag color choice

Why We Chose It

Now let’s turn our attention from the ultimate in tip up craftsmanship to the typical. The Celsius is your “run of the mill” fishing tip up. There’s nothing really flashy about it. It has a 17.5-inch flag shaft with a heavy-duty base. The base is tapered which makes pulling it out of the ice a bit easier. 

I’m not a fan of the plastic spool because it will start to break down over time and I also don’t like when they pre-spool it with line. You’re not likely to use that line because it’s cheap and not rated for cold temperatures like some of the better lines you could purchase. 

Another thing that honestly pisses me off is the fact they color the flag the same as the base. If you’re sitting inside your ice fishing shelter looking out the window at this thing, you’ll have no idea if the flag is up or down unless it’s right beside you. 

The plastic might be durable but the design is flawed. Overall, not a terrible choice but there are better options out there. 

HT Enterprise Polar Tip Up

HT Enterprise Polar Tip Up

BEST LINE CAPACITY 

Specs

  • Material: Plastic
  • Line Capacity: 200 yards
  • Pre-Spooled?: Yes

Pros

  • Large line capacity
  • Metal shaft
  • Windproof design

Cons

  • Poor flag color choice

Why We Chose It

Before I go off on a rant talking about how the flag is the same color as the base, let’s talk about some of the positives. The best tip ups for ice fishing contain a high-quality low-temp lubricant, a metal shaft, long flag shaft, durable base, and a decent spool capacity. You get all of that here. 

You know what you don’t get? A flag that you can see beyond 50 feet because it’s the same color as the base. This is a no-brainer for me. If I buy this tip up, I’m spray painting the flag neon green or something that will stand out dramatically from a distance.

The main feature of this one is the extended line capacity. It comes pre-spooled so you’ll want to take that line off there and throw it in the garbage and spool it with your favorite ice fishing line. 

As I’ve said a few times, is this one of the best tip ups for sale? Yes, it certainly is. Are there better options? Absolutely. Why choose this one over the rest? I’d choose this one for the longer line capacity that will help when fishing for larger game fish. 

What is an Ice Fishing Tip Up? 

An ice fishing tip up is a piece of ice fishing gear designed to present the bait without requiring you to sit over the hole with a rod and reel.

You set the tip up over the hole you drilled, bait your hook with whatever ice lure or live bait you’re using, and then you set the flag. It works a lot like a mousetrap. When the fish comes along and strikes the bait, the action of them pulling it away will trigger the flag to come up and that’s how you know you have a fish. 

Once you get to the hole, you’ll pull the line in by hand, remove the fish, and set the hook again. The main reason people use ice fishing tip ups is that it allows them to have more than one line in the water at a time. 

You can set multiple tip ups around the lake while also fishing with a rod and reel in one of them. The process creates a more successful fishing trip and also allows you to get out of the cold weather and warm up next to your ice fishing heater without having to actually stop fishing. 

Types of Tip Ups 

Ice Fishing Tip-Ups Types

All in all, a tip up is a pretty straightforward piece of gear. There are some variations though as you’ve seen in the examples above. These slight differences will impact how you use them and how successful you are while ice fishing.

Let’s break it down. 

Thermal/Polar

Some people call these a thermal tip up, some call them a polar tip up. Regardless of what you call it, they are the design that covers the hole to prevent it from slushing up throughout the day. The cover contains thick insulation keeping the hole warmer than if it was exposed. 

Another positive is that it prevents light from getting into the hole providing a more natural appearance to your bait. Since light won’t peak through the hole, the fish are more likely to strike the bait from a polar tip up. 

Pop Up 

Pop ups use a magnet design instead of a spring-loaded flag. One magnet connects to the other and when a fish takes the bait, the spool spins and the magnets disconnect. These work best when conditions are really poor and it’s extremely windy.

You’ll end up with a lot of false flags in these situations and the magnets are more accurate and less sensitive. 

Auto-Set Rail 

These tip ups look very similar to the many options above but they add one additional feature. A big problem is getting a proper hookset that prevents the fish from getting away. These tip ups trigger when the fish begins to swim and it locks the hook in place for a second.

This allows for a better hookset so you don’t have to scramble to the hole everytime you see the flag fly. 

How to Choose the Best Ice Fishing Tip Ups 

How to Choose the Best Ice Fishing Tip Ups 

There are some important things to keep in mind when shopping for tip ups. If you purchase a subpar product, you’ll end up wasting a lot of time and missing out on a lot of fish.

Here are some important components to look for in your tip up. 

Material 

The material is everything and you want to make sure your tip up has the right combination of elements. It should feature some metal, some plastic, or wood. Wood is the best material but it’s often more expensive and difficult to find. 

If the tip up is made of mostly plastic, it’s likely cheaper but more prone to cracking and damage in the cold temperatures. The main thing I recommend looking for is metal shafts and a metal spool.

Anything that’s in the water should be made of metal because the constant exposure to freezing water will cause the spool to crack under pressure. 

Trigger Bar 

Your trip settings are going to play a major role in how quickly you punt the tip up across the ice. If you’ve ever set a traditional wooden mousetrap, you’ll know what I’m talking about. 

Ideally, your tip up should contain two settings. The first sensitivity is for panfish, bass, trout, and other finicky winter fish. The second sensitivity is for larger game fish such as pike and muskie.

If you’re fishing in rough conditions with a lot of wind and snowdrift, you might want to just keep it on the less sensitive setting because it will result in fewer false flags. 

Flag Design 

I’ve said my piece on this a few times now but I’ll say it again, try to find a flag with a color different from the base of the tip up. If they’re the same color, you’re going to have a hard time telling if the flag is up or not. If you’re absolutely determined to have a tip up with this problem, spray paint the flag. 

As for the shaft, the longer the better. Generally, flag shafts range in length from 15-20 inches. 

Hole Covers 

Polar tip ups come with hole covers. I recommend using this style of tip up because it makes the most sense and it saves you a lot of aggravation. The only reason people don’t use this design is that it’s a little bulkier to carry around. 

The hole covers prevent the hole from freezing which will not only reduce the amount of time you need to spend scooping slush but it’ll extend the life of your tip up by preventing the spool from locking up too. 

Since you can’t actually jig the lure yourself, you need to do everything possible to make sure that you don’t spook the fish. Sometimes the wind creates a jigging movement that can be unnatural but when you’re covering the hole, it’s less likely to happen, resulting in a more realistic presentation. 

You’ll Also Need 

Ice fishing can sometimes be a game of deep pockets. Meaning, those who buy the best gear, have the best chance at catching more fish. Here are three things I think every ice angler should have. 

Ice Auger
Ice Fishing Fish Finder
Ice Fishing Chair 

Ice Auger 

You need a great power auger to drill a proper ice fishing hole. They’re a lot lighter and easier to cart around than they were years ago. 25 years ago you’d walk on the ice and think you just walked into a gas chamber from the smell of all the 50-pound gas augers. Today, electric augers are much lighter, more affordable, and easier to use. 

To learn more, check out my article on the best augers for ice fishing.

Ice Fishing Fish Finder

A fish finder will make ice fishing so much easier for you. Using a fish finder will not only help you identify the ideal area to drill your hole, it can even help you see when fish are approaching so you can plan to react to your tip ups quickly. 

Click the following link to learn about the best ice fishing fish finders on the market!

Ice Fishing Chair 

Once you have all your tip ups set, it’s time to relax. Whether you’re sitting inside a shelter or roughing it out in the cold, you need somewhere to sit down, and resting your rump on buckets gets old after a while.

The best ice fishing chairs will make you feel more comfortable on the ice and some of them even offer space to store food and drinks. 

To make sure you pick out the right chair for your situation, give my best ice fishing chairs article a read.

Final Thoughts 

Choosing the best ice fishing tip ups requires you to understand that even something simple can make a big difference. The right lubricant, a sensitive trigger, and a durable base can all impact the success of your fishing trip. If you’re out there fumbling over the hole for 30 minutes trying to get the flag set, you’re wasting time. 

A lot of anglers may argue that rod holders are a better option because they’re easier to reel in. I believe that if the tip up is made with high-quality materials, and a great trip mechanism, you won’t ever think about rod holders. 

Even though this might not be the most expensive purchase you make for your ice fishing game, it’s an important one that can have a big impact.

Choose wisely and good luck out there!

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