Monday, December 26, 2011

Simple Tip-Up Alarms

Simple Tip-Up Alarms

Missing a Flag

Missing a tip-up once it has tripped can mean a few things. You could miss the fish and lose your bait, as that trophy pike or lunker bass tears the shiner off your hook once it spools the line out, and swims away happy as a lark at his free meal. Or, if the fish swallows the bait without a head-shake, you could deep-hook it, killing the fish if you are interested in catch-and release, or at least losing your hook and making you re-rig your tip-up. Finally, if the fish completely spools out your line, you'll need to waste precious time and aggravation re-spooling it.

Tip-Up Alarms

So how do you keep yourself from missing a flag? You give the mechanism an audible response as well as the visual response of the flag.


If you read my earlier post regarding tip-up modifications, then you saw the list of materials I suggested for enhancing and optimizing your ice fishing tip ups. This post will address probably the simplest of all modifications, a very simple tip-up alarm that anyone can make. There are some risks involved with this method, which I will address at the end of this post.

    For this modification, you'll only need three easy-to-find supplies:
  • Wire cutters, the pair at the base of your needlenose pliers will probably do.
  • Floral wire, or any light gauge wire that is pliable enough to bend by hand, but rigid enough to stand on its own.
  • A jingle bell, the type you find on a holiday wreath, given that it is probably winter when you see this blog, it will probably be very easy to find. A small one, since it has to be light enough that it wont impede the motion of the flag popping.


Anyone with tip-up experience can already see where I am going with this. At the top of the flag arm there is often a rubber cap that keeps the flag from pulling off of the shaft. Simply wrap some wire between the flag and the cap, and thread that wire through the jingle bell, keeping it tight and taught to the shaft.
simple tip-up alarm

So when the flag pops, you'll hear the distinctive jingling, making you look in that general direction to hopefully see the flag raised and you can immediately make your way to the tip-up to nab your trophy pike.

The Risks

Finally, there are some risks associated with creating an effective response out of a jingle bell.

  1. Freezing The ball within the tip-up, particularly if any moisture gets within, could freeze to the shell of the bell, making the bell silent and completely ineffective. This has never happened to me, but I can easily see how it could happen.
  2. Ghost Flags I hate ghost flags. You think you hear the spring trigger, get excited, bend at the knee prepared to sprint towards a flag, but nope, it was just your imagination. Since you put a bell on the flag, the wind could easily shake the bell enough to make you think you have a tip up and fish on, but alas, nothing. Introducing another sound apart from the sound of the spring on the lake makes it that much more likely for a ghost flag. I'll get to setting up a tip-up to deal with wind later, but if you are like me and you experience ghost flags, this could make the problem worse.
  3. Frozen Spring Again, this has never happened to me, but in below sub-zero temperatures, an older, rusty spring with less remaining strength and force to lift the flag can freeze to the spindle and shaft of the tip-up, and won't pop up when the fish takes the bait. Adding more weight to the end of the flag arm can make the issue worse. Again, maintaining your tip-ups will help this not be an issue, but if you are like me, and you buy all of your gear at garage sales and ebay, you might have a rusty spring or two. I wouldn't worry too much about this, unless you live in the far north or you have the worst cold-snap in history.

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