With hard water right around the corner, now is the perfect time to start getting the ice fishing gear ready to rock. Unfortunately many anglers tend to neglect their ice fishing gear, especially tip-ups which can lead to the all too familiar broken line or leader right as the fish reaches the hole, or missed strikes due to poorly lubricated moving parts. Here’s a few tips to help take your tip-up game to the next level and get them ready to slam fish all season long.
Tip-ups are really awesome, simple devices. As with a lot of things in this day and age, some models are far more complex than others which can lend themselves to failure. That said, sometimes the most simple designs are best. A great tip-up that has stood the test of time is the Beaver Dam tip-up. Although they are a little pricier, they are very well built and perform flawlessly even in the coldest temperatures.
Check out your springs!
Although convenient, storing your tip-ups with the flag bent over against the board can be somewhat detrimental to the life of your spring over time. This is especially true with older tip-ups. A lighter, more “broken in” spring IS easier to trip, however, when the flag is sticking up at a 45 degree angle vs. a straight 90, it can be somewhat difficult to see that the flag has tripped, especially as the sun starts to go down. Should you find your springs to be in a state of disrepair, replacing them is super easy and most manufacturers sell replacement springs.
Check your line!
Line is almost always overlooked when it comes to tip-ups. Sure, it’s durable and can last a long time, but through uses it can fray, acquire knots, and even become somewhat brittle. It is always a good idea to run all of the line off the spool to check it for any imperfections that could lead to lost fish. Even a small knot or loop in the line could result in the line snagging itself when a fish is running, in turn causing the hook to pull out.
Lube the tube!
Most tip-ups won’t require much in the way of lubrication, however, if you notice that the spool doesn’t spin freely, especially when cold, it might be a good idea to clean out the old lube and re-grease the spool shaft. Should you find yourself needing some lube, remove the spool from the housing carefully and spray out the inside with some brake cleaner. Give it a quick rinse with clean water, let it dry, then re-lubricate with a low viscosity lubricant. Beaver Dam makes an excellent lubricant made specifically for their products, and will work on any other tip-up with great results.
Re-tie knots and leaders!
It is so easy to overlook the condition of leaders and especially the knots connecting them to your line. As in most things, your tip-up rigging is only as strong as the weakest link. By replacing your leaders and re-tying all of your knots you can save a lot of time and headaches associated with them failing. If you fish with steel leaders, check the crimps by giving a good hard tug with a pliers to make sure they are still snug. For fluorocarbon leaders it is easier to simply tie up fresh leaders. Generally a 12 to 18” leader is sufficient. A good rule of thumb is to use 8 to 10lb test for walleye, and 20-30lb test for pike and other large toothy critters. A good quality size 8 to 10 ball bearing swivel is a great, strong way to connect your leader to your main line. This will prevent excessive line twist and provides a strong, secure connection between the two lines as compared to simply tying the two together.
Use fresh hooks!
Even though hooks can last you several seasons it is still a good idea to replace your hooks for fresh ones at the start of the season. Depending on your personal preference you might go with either a wide-gap octopus hook or the more common treble hook. For most applications a size 8 to 10 treble works great for most game species. Although they may seem a little on the small side, using a smaller hook reduces the chance of the fish feeling the hook and consequentially dropping the bait. A quality wide-gap hook will help to ensure a solid hook set. An excellent and affordable choice is the Lazer Sharp L934 treble hook. If you REALLY want to drive you hooks home, give the Lazer Trokar TK300 trebles a shot. They are insanely sharp and can handle the abuse of battling toothy things all season long.
By simply giving your tip-ups a quick looking over you can really decrease the chances of any mishaps throughout the season. Sure it’s a little time consuming, but hey, in the time it took you to read through this you could probably have a few all tuned up and ready to rock! A little extra effort now can pay off big time when you find yourself battling a monster via hand to fin combat in the coming months.