Tip Downs: An Easy Guide to Ice Fishing

Tip Downs: An Easy Guide to Ice Fishing

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Video ice fishing tip down

Ice fishing can be a rewarding yet challenging experience. Anglers often rely on various tools and techniques to make their fishing trips more efficient. One such technique is tip down ice fishing, which is particularly effective for catching smaller fish like panfish and small walleyes. But what exactly is tip down ice fishing?

What is Tip Down Ice Fishing?

Tip down ice fishing involves using a device known as a tip down, which holds a fishing rod in a specific position when the baited hook is lowered into the water. This device consists of a stand, usually homemade, paired with a well-balanced rod. The key is to create a setup where the fish feels minimal resistance when biting.

How Does Tip Down Ice Fishing Work?

Tip down ice fishing is a simple and beginner-friendly technique. After drilling a hole in the ice, you choose your bait and depth, and then set up the rod on the stand. The rod is usually positioned at a 45-degree angle, with the tip facing upwards. When a fish bites, the tip of the rod moves downward, alerting you to set the hook.

The philosophy behind tip downs is to eliminate any resistance that the fish may feel. This ensures that the fish doesn’t spit out the bait. It’s crucial to pay close attention to the rods and be ready to react when the tip goes down.

Tip Down Ice Fishing - How Work

Making a Tip Down at Home

While it’s easier and more efficient to buy a tip down device, you can also try making one at home using materials like wood or PVC pipes. However, when balancing a rod on a stand with a regular spinning reel, it becomes challenging because of the reel’s weight and shape. The key is to ensure that you can reach the rod quickly when it moves down.

You can find step-by-step videos online or plans created by other anglers who have successfully made their own tip downs. Just keep in mind that some modifications may be required for your rod, so be cautious with expensive equipment. Additionally, remember to use a thin line to tie your rod to the base of the tip down to prevent accidents.

Essential Gear for Tip Down Ice Fishing

When it comes to gear, tip downs work best for small fish. It’s advisable to use thin and nearly invisible lines, such as monofilament. If possible, opt for ice fishing lines that are less prone to freezing and becoming stiff. Additionally, keeping your fishing holes clean and preventing ice formation is important to avoid line cutting and losing a fish.

For hooks, choose sizes ranging from 2 to 6, depending on the size of the targeted fish species. If you plan to keep the fish, consider using smaller treble hooks, such as size 14. Ice fishing rods, which are short in length, are the most suitable for tip downs. Remember to pair your rod with a light reel to maintain balance and ease of use.

Tip Down Ice Fishing - What Gear

The Best Bait for Tip Down Ice Fishing

The most commonly used baits for tip down ice fishing are live baitfish such as minnows, worms, or cut bait. The choice of bait depends on local regulations, personal preference, availability, and the fish species you are targeting. Live minnows and worms, especially waxworms, are highly effective in attracting hungry fish due to their natural motion.

Artificial bait is not recommended for tip down ice fishing as it lacks the motion and scent that attract fish in winter. Keeping it simple with live bait is the key to success. Remember to choose the size of the baitfish or worm according to the targeted fish’s size.

Tip Down vs Tip Up Ice Fishing: What’s the Difference?

Tip down ice fishing is just one of several ice fishing techniques that utilize devices to aid in catching fish. Another popular option is tip up fishing, which is primarily used for larger fish like pike and big walleyes. Tip ups have a flag that tips up when the fish bites, serving as a bite indicator.

Both methods allow you to cover more ice holes and a greater area compared to traditional jigging techniques. Adjustable triggers in tip ups help eliminate false indications, but be careful not to set them too high, as it can cause the fish to feel resistance when pulling the bait.


Tip down ice fishing is an excellent and relatively simple technique suitable for all experience levels. It enables you to fish multiple holes simultaneously and can even be made at home if you’re up for the challenge. Remember to use light lines and reels to maintain the proper balance of your setup.

Tip downs work exceptionally well for smaller fish species, and using live bait like minnows or worms is highly recommended. So, if you’re planning an ice fishing trip, consider giving tip down ice fishing a try. Enjoy the thrill of the catch while embracing the beauty of winter fishing!

Embed Video: East Coast Paddle Sports

For more information on tip downs and other ice fishing essentials, visit East Coast Paddle Sports.

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