Creating a Rig for Ice-Fishing Tip-Ups
Tip-up line is exceedingly thick, and a lot of fish, especially light biters like walleye or even more hook-shy largemouth, wont strike on a minnow or shiner if they are attached to thick black or green line. So, the way to fix this problem, which is obvious to more seasoned anglers, is to tie on a leader of a less conspicuous material. While working on this, there are a few other things that you can do that will make your life a little easier, and perhaps encourage more hits from the fish under the ice. This is the first in a longer series of tip-up modifications; I hope you find them useful. Let's get started.
- Pre-spooled tip-up with applicable braided tip-up line.
- One good, hefty ball-bearing swivel; avoid rust or weak swivels.
- Anywhere from 12" to 3' of your leader material of choice (see below).
- One large, brightly colored shirt button.
- One small split-shot sinker.
- One hook sized well enough for the bait you plan to use.
- Line clippers, scissors or a very sharp pocket knife.
But, as you can see, there are more pieces involved than that, and your personal preference may dictate what kind of hook/sinker to use. Let's start with the button.
Depth Markers for Tip-UpsDepth markers on your tip-ups are exceedingly useful, especially if a flag pops. This allows you to be aware of how far down you've previously set the bait, so if you have to un-spool some line, or better yet, a fish does that for you, it is easy to re-set the bait to a pre-determined depth; this keeps you from having to measure, re-measure, and measure again every time you apply new bait or pull out your line. Also, if you are having a slow period of time and you want to bring the bait back up, this provides a simple, easy way of determining how much you have raised your bait. Of course there are tiny, miniature bobbers you can buy as a depth marker, but I prefer the button. There is less drag if a fish pulls the line, there is less resistance in the water, if you use a brightly colored one you can easily spot them in the hole without even lifting your tip-up, and...let's face it, they are free and you have buckets of them somewhere at home.
Simply slide a button onto the tip-up line before you tie it to the barrel swivel. If the holes in your button are particularly large, or if you use slender line, you might want to push the line through 3, or even all 4 holes to make sure that the depth marker can't slide around without you manually adjusting it. You want a firm hold on the line, but not a strong enough bend that you cannot easily slide the button back and forth by hand.
Weighting Tip-Up LineA Sinker will help keep the bait directly under the hole. There is a lot of dispute about how far above the hook you should place your split-shot, but personally I think it all has to do with preference, and the conditions you are in. Take, for example, a hole you have drilled that is surrounded by weed beds not to distant from where you would like your bait placed. Normally I would say this is a great choice for location, since the pike are probably waiting in those weeds to gobble up your minnows. However, if you give your minnow or shiner too much leash, he could easily go hide in those weeds and be safe from predation. While definitely in his best interests, it is the farthest thing from good for you.
The closer to the bait you place the split-shot, the less distance he will be able to swim from where you placed him. So, raising the split shot up the line gives him more "leash," which allows him to cover more water. In open areas, this is what I prefer, and as you can see in the image of the completed rig below, I've placed this split-shot directly above the swivel, so the minnow will be able to move around the entire length of his leader. But in the above example of the weed beds, you wouldn't want the minnow to travel so far, so make it harder for him by putting the sinker a mere 6 or 7 inches above the hook.
Tip-Up LeadersHow, exactly, you build your leader is completely up to you. If you prefer monofilament line, then that is what you should use. Want a braided metal wire leader that can get chomped on by a trophy pike? Great! Again, many anglers simply tie the tip-up line directly to the hook, which isn't a bad practice either. Personally, I use 50lb braided line, the same stuff I have on my pike-fishing reel in the spring-time, and I have yet to lose a hook to a toothy beast like a pike or muskie. I like to have anywhere from 12" to 2' of leader material topped off with a small- to medium-sized red trebble hook. I have one tip-up with a circle hook on it, and I have nothing bad to say about that either. Again, it is completely up to your preference.