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Best Tip Ups

last updated Mar 01, 2019

When you come home after a long summer day without a single bite, it stings a lot less than when you braved the cold and snow all day only to come home empty handed. What’s great about these devices is that it allows the user to cover larger areas at the same time to determine where all the fish are hanging out. Much like your toaster will pop when your toast is ready, these devices will pop up when you get a bite on your line. This design makes it easier to walk away from the hole in the ice, and come back when you notice the flag is raised (which means that you have landed a bite on your line). We have done our research to determine some of the best tip ups on the market so you will never come home after a cold day empty handed.

In a Hurry? The test winner after 15 hrs of research

icon
Frabill Blackhawk Assault
89.6/100 our score
Ease of Use
91
Durability
86
Size
89
Materials
90
Value
92
Frabill Blackhawk Assault
Why is it better?

Affordable

Pre-lubricated

Shaft-in shaft design makes re-lubrication very easy

Trusted brand

In a Hurry? Editors choice:
Frabill Blackhawk Assault
Test Winner: Frabill Blackhawk Assault
Amazon Link
Researched Sources
14
Researched Sources
Reviews Considered
2.5k
Reviews Considered
Hours Researching
15
Hours Researching
Products Evaluated
17
Products Evaluated
Last Updated:
Melissa Coleiro
By Melissa Coleiro:

This buying guide for tip ups has been put together to show you the best researched and reviewed products to help you while fishing for when you get a bite on your line, the device will pop up alerting you. A great tip up to keep your eye on is the Frabill Stick. We love this tip up because it is known for being from a trusted brand, it is made from durable materials, and is incredibly affordable.

Sorting Options
Ease of Use Durability Size Materials Value By Default
Rank
PictureProduct
Name
Rating
Shops
#1
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89.6
Ease of Use
91%
Durability
86%
Size
89%
Materials
90%
Value
92%
Price Comparison Last Updated (24.05.19)
Amazon Link
$13.32
#2
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.2
Ease of Use
89%
Durability
87%
Size
85%
Materials
92%
Value
88%
Price Comparison Last Updated (24.05.19)
Amazon Link
$23.29
#3
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
87.6
Ease of Use
90%
Durability
85%
Size
89%
Materials
86%
Value
88%
Price Comparison Last Updated (24.05.19)
Amazon Link
$24.95
#4
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
84.8
Ease of Use
86%
Durability
85%
Size
82%
Materials
81%
Value
90%
Price Comparison Last Updated (24.05.19)
Amazon Link
$9.19
#5
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
83.8
Ease of Use
82%
Durability
84%
Size
86%
Materials
87%
Value
80%
Price Comparison Last Updated (24.05.19)
Amazon Link
$18.93
#6
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
81.8
Ease of Use
84%
Durability
81%
Size
78%
Materials
89%
Value
77%
Price Comparison Last Updated (24.05.19)
Amazon Link
$21.08
#7
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
81.6
Ease of Use
80%
Durability
83%
Size
75%
Materials
84%
Value
86%
Price Comparison Last Updated (24.05.19)
Amazon Link
$14.99
#8
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
81.4
Ease of Use
82%
Durability
89%
Size
79%
Materials
90%
Value
67%
Price Comparison Last Updated (24.05.19)
Amazon Link
$49.99
#9
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
78.6
Ease of Use
77%
Durability
87%
Size
74%
Materials
72%
Value
83%
Price Comparison Last Updated (24.05.19)
Amazon Link
$24.99
#10
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
78.2
Ease of Use
78%
Durability
78%
Size
78%
Materials
79%
Value
78%
Price Comparison Last Updated (24.05.19)
Amazon Link
In Depth Review Top 10
  • Frabill Blackhawk Assault Frabill Blackhawk Assault
  • Frabill 1664 Classic Frabill 1664 Classic
  • HT Enterprises Explorer HT Enterprises Explorer
  • Frabill Stick Frabill Stick
  • Celsius Celsius
  • HT Enterprises Polar HT Enterprises Polar
  • Frabill Arctic Fire Frabill Arctic Fire
  • Beaver Dam Beaver Dam
  • Frabill Pro Thermal Round Frabill Pro Thermal Round
  • Clam Arctic Warrior Clam Arctic Warrior
Table of contents
  • Criteria Used for Evaluation
  • Other Factors to Consider
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Sources

Top 10 Picks

1. Frabill Blackhawk Assault

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89.6
Frabill Blackhawk Assault
Amazon Link
Ease of Use
91
Durability
86
Size
89
Materials
90
Value
92
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$13.32
Pros:

Affordable

Pre-lubricated

Shaft-in shaft design makes re-lubrication very easy

Trusted brand

Cons:

Base is made from molded material that may not persevere in extremely low temperatures

Frabill is a brand that seems to dominate this particular market. We really liked this option because it has a basic design that makes it easy to use, and it also comes in at a really affordable price point that gives you really no reason not to give this option a try.

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Ease of use

This unit has already been lubricated, so you will not have to go through the hassle of doing that yourself once you hit the ice. Wind your line onto the spool on the base of the unit, and then use the handy bait clip feature to mount your bait. Once it is all set, drop it into the waiter and sit back to wait for that flag to fly.

Durability

Some users feel that this pre-molded design might not have the highest durability when it comes to extreme temperatures, so for those that like to get out of the water when the temperature is below 0, there is a possibility that you may run into trouble. However, the lubricant used for this design is considered to Sub-Zero low temperature lubricant, so you won’t have any issues with the shaft components in cold temperatures.

Size

This unit measures to be about 19 inches long, and it is 4 inches long and 4 inches high. It also weighs in at just 10.4 ounces, making it very lightweight and easy to pop into your pack.

Materials

The base of this unit is made from lightweight and molded materials, which might suffer just a little bit when the temperatures really start to plunge. The shaft components, however, are of metal materials that as a brass finish to them, and it sports a shaft-in-shaft design to make lubrication easy.

Value

Our favorite thing about this design is that it comes in at a really affordable price point. The base might not be made from the strongest materials on the planet, but the lower price point makes it an excellent deal.

Overall

If you were looking for something that is incredibly easy to use, and comes in at a really affordable price point from one of the leading names in the market, the Frabill Blackhawk Assault will be an excellent choice on your next fishing expedition.

2. Frabill 1664 Classic

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.2
Frabill 1664 Classic
Amazon Link
Ease of Use
89
Durability
87
Size
85
Materials
92
Value
88
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$23.29
Pros:

Trusted brand

Made from high quality hardwood

Pre-lubricated

Removable spool shaft

Cons:

Slight more expensive than some of the others

Frabill makes our list yet again with their classic wooden boxed design. This unit is going to cost you a little bit more than the molded option, but users find that this design is built to be tough and to withstand some of the coldest temperatures out there.

Read more

Ease of use

Just like many of the other Frabill options out there on the market, this design has been pre-lubricated with their high performing Sub-Zero lubricant on the spool. Before you pop this design into the water, first wind your line around the lubricated spool, and clip you bait to the end of the line. Once everything is in place, all that is left to do is sit back and wait for a bite.

Durability

If you like to test your personal limits and get out on the water when the temperatures are sending most fair weather ice fishermen inside, this is going to be the design made for you. The durable frame will not blink in eye at temperatures that are below zero.

Size

This unit measures to be a little over 23 inches long, and is 4.4 inches long and 2.8 inches thick. It is a little heavier than some of the other options out there, weighing in at 1.85 pounds.

Materials

What we like most about this design is that the base is made from a high quality hardwood that makes it a little bit heavier than most, but it also makes it incredibly more durable in the long run.

Value

While the cost of this unit is little bit more than some of the more affordable options out there, the inclusion of the higher quality materials makes this well worth the slightly higher cost.

Overall

For those that are not deterred in the slightest from a little cold weather, this option from Frabill is going to be one of your best options to staking out the lake and trying to find the best spot even in some of the coldest temperatures.

3. HT Enterprises Explorer

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
87.6
HT Enterprises Explorer
Amazon Link
Ease of Use
90
Durability
85
Size
89
Materials
86
Value
88
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$24.95
Pros:

Folds in compactly

Users like the the flag flies quite high when you land a bite

Made from solid wood

Cons:

A little expensive

This option from HT Enterprises is constructed just a little bit differently than some of the others that we have seen from companies such as Frabill. What we really liked about this option is that you will be able to set the drag on the line, and we also found that the flag flies significantly higher than some of the other options out there on the market.

Read more

Ease of use

Just like many other options, users will have to first lubricate their spool, and then wind theirs on line onto the base. Once that is set, bait the end of the line, drop it into the water and you are ready to go. Some users have noted that this design allows you to set the drag on the line, which is a feature not offered on many other designs.

Durability

Users will not have to worry about how well this is going to persevere in harsh winters. It is made from strong and sturdy materials that fold easily when not in use so that you can toss it right into your backpack when you are packing it in for the day.

Size

Once completely folded, this unit looks to be able as long as a yardstick, and about as wide as well. We did a little bit of digging to try and find accurate products dimensions for this design as well as weight, but there just isn’t anything listed on the product description over multiple shopping sites.

Materials

What we liked about this design is that it is made from a solid hardwood construction. This means that it is going to persevere very well when the temperatures really start to plummet, and it will persevere for multiples years of use.

Value

The price tag on this design isn’t the most affordable option out there on the market, but we feel that the thinner design and high quality materials used make it well worth the price tag.

Overall

If you are looking for something that is able to fold in very compactly, and has a flag that is quite a bit higher than some of the other designs, the HT Enterprises Explorer is going to be an excellent addition to your winter fishing gear this season.

4. Frabill Stick

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
84.8
Frabill Stick
Amazon Link
Ease of Use
86
Durability
85
Size
82
Materials
81
Value
90
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$9.19
Pros:

Trusted brand

Durable materials

Incredibly affordable

Cons:

Some users feel that the flag trigger is overly sensitive and constantly raises the flag when there has been no bite

This a is more slender and easy to use unit from Frabill, and it is designed to be used in cold, snowy conditions. Users respond well to how easy this unit is to use, and often buy it for their kids as their first fishing trap. They also really like that it comes in at an incredibly affordable price point.

Read more

Ease of use

As we mentioned before, many users actually buy this particular model for their kids so that they can learn how to set their first trap. To use, simply wind your line around the spool at the base of the unit, and hook your bait. After that, all you need to do is drop it into the water and you are ready to go.

Durability

While this unit is made from high quality materials, the thickness of the materials used might be a bit of an issue. Slender arms that unfold might become weak or corroded when exposed to cold, wet temperatures over time.

Size

When it is completely folded , this unit measures to be 26 inches long, 4.2 inches wide, and it sits just over 2 inches off of the ground. It also weighs in at 1.62 pounds.

Materials

This unit is a little bit different because it is made from a metal frame instead of using a hardwood material. While the metal might pose to be a more steady option, it can become a little corroded and difficult to unfold over time.

Value

The most important feature about this design is that it comes in at one of the most affordable price points of any of the others out there on the market, and will set you back just a little bit more than you would spend on your morning cup of coffee before hitting the lake for the day.

Overall

If you want to get something that incredibly affordable and will allow you the option to buy more that one for the same price point, this is an excellent option from Frabill.

5. Celsius

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
83.8
Celsius
Amazon Link
Ease of Use
82
Durability
84
Size
86
Materials
87
Value
80
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$18.93
Pros:

Made from highquality hardwood and metal components

Comes pre-lubricated

Affordable

Cons:

Users feel that the flag is cheaply made

Perhaps you just want something that is simple and sturdy that is able to get the job done, and it is made from classic materials that come in at a reasonable price point. If that sounds like something you would be interested in, you might want to check out this option from Celsius.

Read more

Ease of use

To use this option, first wind your line around the spool at the base of the unit. Once the line is in place. Once your line is in place, play your bait at the end of the line and then place the spool into the water. Once you get a bit on your line, the flag will raise to indicate to you it is time to bring in your catch!

Durability

What we like about this option is that it is made from high-quality materials that have been used by fishermen for years when it comes to these types of products. Users can feel confident that this particular design is going to be something that they can take out on the ice with them season after season as long as they ensure to properly lubricate their spool and shaft.

Size

This unit measures to be 24 inches long, with is just a little shorter than other options we have seen out there on the market. It is also 3 inches wide, .5 inches thick, and weigh in at 1.4 pounds.

Materials

The thing that makes this such a solid choice is that it is constructed from a durable hardwood frame that hosts the quality metal components that come pre-lubricated.

Value

The cost of this design is just slightly lower than some of the other higher end options out there on the market, and will likely set you back the same amount that you would spend on a large pepperoni pizza.

Overall

We like this option because it is solid and simple, and easy to use. If you are looking for something that doesn’t have all of the extra and sometimes unnecessary gimmicks, and is offered at a reasonable price point, this is going to be a great choice.

6. HT Enterprises Polar

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
81.8
HT Enterprises Polar
Amazon Link
Ease of Use
84
Durability
81
Size
78
Materials
89
Value
77
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$21.08
Pros:

A light turns on when you get a bite

Made from high quality materials

Easy to use

Cons:

Does not come with flag included with purchase

HT Enterprises is making our list yet again with their sharp Polar design. Users like this option because it is built to be quite different than many of the classic wooden options, but it still comes in at a price point that runs about par for the course.

Read more

Ease of use

Even though it sports a shape that looks different from many of the other designs out there on the market, the way that it works is essentially the same. Simply wind your line around the spool, and then bait the end of your line and pop it into the water. When you snag a bite, not only will the flag raise, but it will also trigger a light at the base of the flag.

Durability

This unit is going to be something that is really going to hold its own on some of the coldest winter days. While some options that are spring loaded can malfunction or freeze, the use of magnets for this options means that you will not need to worry about components freezing on you.

Size

This unit measures to be 30 inches long, and the raised flags stand to be 25 inches tall. When the legs are expanded, it is also 7 inches wide, and the shaft is about 3 inches thick. The entire unit weighs in at just over 14 ounces.

Materials

What we liked about this option is that instead of employing the use of metal springs that trigger the flag, it uses magnets- which is something that isn’t going to be affected by cold climates. The entire unit, included the stabilization legs and spool are all made from a durable metal material.

Value

The cost of this unit runs about par for the course in comparison to some of the higher end hardwood options. We feel that it is well worth the price point considering that it uses magnets and has a lighted tip when you snag a bite.

Overall

Do you like to fish at night, but hate that you can’t see your flags on your traps once the sun goes down? The great thing about this design is that will light when you catch a bite, so you can continue to trap while you stay nice and warm in your ice shanty all night long.

7. Frabill Arctic Fire

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
81.6
Frabill Arctic Fire
Amazon Link
Ease of Use
80
Durability
83
Size
75
Materials
84
Value
86
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$14.99
Pros:

Trusted brand

Reduces the risk of wind flags

Easy to use

Cons:

Flag shaft is a little shorter than some of the other models which may make it a little harder to see

Tired of wind flags sending you running to your trap only to find that the only thing you caught was a wing gust? This option from Frabill is design to reduce the risk of exactly that. It is made from high quality materials that will persevere for multiple seasons, and it comes in at a very reasonable price point.

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Ease of use

This unit has a lot of smart little features that make it very easy to use. Users will simply need to wind their line onto the spool at the bottom, add some bait, and drop it into the water. The tapered arms make it just a little be easier to pull out of the water once you have landed a bite, and a built in ruler will allow you to measure your big catch right on the spot.

Durability

The base of this unit, as well as all of the components, are made to last multiple seasons. The way that it is designed to sit so close to the surface means that there is going to be less of a chance of wind flags. And the less wind flags you get means there is going to be less of a chance you chuck your unit into the next county out of frustration.

Size

This unit measures to be 19.8 inches long- which makes it one of the smaller designs out there on the market. It is also 3.5 inches wide, and 3.5 inches high as well, and it weighs in at just over 14 ounces.

Materials

This base of this unit is composed of a molded polymer materials, and all of the components are composed of a high-quality metal material.

Value

What we liked most about this option is that it comes in at a very reasonable price point. It isn’t the least expensive design out there on the market, but it is far from being the most expensive. If you were looking for something that runs about in the middle of the road in terms of price, this is going to be your best bet.

Overall

For those that are tired of chasing wind flags, this unit is specifically designed just for you. We liked that it has a lower profile that makes it easy to toss into your backpack, and users love that it comes in at a very affordable price point from a very trusted brand.

8. Beaver Dam

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
81.4
Beaver Dam
Amazon Link
Ease of Use
82
Durability
89
Size
79
Materials
90
Value
67
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$49.99
Pros:

Easy to use

Trusted brand

Smart design will not freeze to the ground or create false flags on windy days

Cons:

Very expensive

Users love this product from Beaver Dam because they take claim for being the original manufacturer of this device. Their products are made in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, and are made from some of the best materials out there on the market. The downside to this design, however, is that it comes in at a price point that is about 3 times as much as many of the similar designs we selected for our list.

Read more

Ease of use

This unit works much like many of the of similar long, flat designs out there on the market. Simply use your own line to wine around the spool on the base, and then add your bait. Once your have done that, place your unit on the ice and pour yourself a cup of hot cocoa from your thermos as you wait for the flag to raise when you get a bite.

Durability

You can tell that this design was expertly crafted due to all of the little details around the edges and on the components. This style is crafted to last many harsh winters. According to Beaver Dam, their product will not freeze, and users will not have to worry about false flags.

Size

There are no specific measurements listed on the product description of this product. However, we do know that it weighs in at just shy of 2 pounds, making it one of the heavier models we have come across.

Materials

The base of this unit is crafted from a high-quality wood that has a glossy and polished finish. All of the components are also made from a high quality metal that will persevere quite nicely in harsh weather.

Value

The downside to this design is that it packs a wallop of a price tag. This unit will likely cost you about the same amount that you would spend to fill your gas tank in your car before hitting the road to head to the lake for the day.

Overall

If you are willing to pay the extra price to ensure that you get something that it expertly crafted to last you for years of continuous trips to the lake in incredibly cold temperatures-wee feel confident that this design from Beaver Dam will not let you down.

9. Frabill Pro Thermal Round

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
78.6
Frabill Pro Thermal Round
Amazon Link
Ease of Use
77
Durability
87
Size
74
Materials
72
Value
83
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$24.99
Pros:

It includes a signal light

Affordable

Great deal

Cons:

Not so great in extreme cold

While pretty much all the models out there sport the same long and slender design, this option from Frabill sets out to do things a little differently. This option has a rounded base that is designed that way in an effort to keep all of the components for this design from freezing in very hard winter temperatures.

Read more

Ease of use

Hands down, this is the easiest design design to use because it comes with everything that you need to get fishing right out of the box. While others require that you procur your own line, this design comes with the line already on the spool. So, all you will have to do is add your bait and drop this unit into the water.

Durability

Due to the fact that many of the working components are housed within the rounded and enclosed container, they are going to be subjected to the cold and ice directly, meaning that it is going to last you for multiple seasons without breaking down or becoming weak with continued use in the cold.

Size

This unit measures to be 10 inches long and 10 inches wide, and stands about 2 inches off of the ground. It also weighs about 1.2 pounds, which means it is going to be a cinch just to toss into your backpack with the read of your gear.

Materials

The case of this unit is made from a high quality molded black plastic with yellow accents. All of the components are made from a high quality metal, and the top of the spool is coated with a layer of cork to prevent against freezing while in the water.

Value

The cost of this design is one of the more expensive designs out there on the market, but users feel that the compact design makes it well worth the price tag.

Overall

If you are someone that likes to get out there on the ice no matter how cold it is, this model is going to be the right choice for you because it is designed specially to ensure some of the coldest temperatures that mother nature can throw at it.

10. Clam Arctic Warrior

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
78.2
Clam Arctic Warrior
Amazon Link
Ease of Use
78
Durability
78
Size
78
Materials
79
Value
78
best offer for today
Amazon Link
Pros:

Uses can use their fishing pole rather than the hand over hand method

Affordable

Made from quality materials

Cons:

Users have found that it is very unstable

While these devices can really help you out when on the lake, some fishermen do not like them because when they need to reel in a catch, they have to do it by hand. If you miss using a fishing pole when you are out on the ice, you might want to give this design from Clam Arctic a look.

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Ease of use

What users really like most about this product is that they do not have to engage in the tedious art of spooling their line. Users simply need to set their baited fishing pole onto the base of the unit, and clamp it onto the base. When you get a bite, the flag will raise, and users will be able to reel with their fishing pole instead of using the old hand over hand method.

Durability

Due to the fact that this unit is a little on the unsteady side, it is going to suffer a little bit more wear and tear over the more traditional options. Plus, the straps that hold your pole in place are made from fabric, which can get weak when subject to cold temperatures.

Size

This unit measures to be 14.8 inches long, and it is just over 5 inches wide. It also weighs in at 1.7 pounds, making it just a tad on the heavier side.

Materials

It is important to note that this unit is for the frame only, and the fishing pole is not included with purchase. The frame is made from a high-quality metal material that has a light blue powder coating on the surface to prevent it from freezing if it becomes wet.

Value

The cost of this unit runs about double of what some of the more basic options cost out there on the market. However, if you are not interested in using the hand over hand method to bring in your big catch, this unit might be well worth the padded price tag.

Overall

What we found is that this unit is a bit unstable, and it costs quite a bit more than some of the other models, but it makes reeling in your catch far easier than all of the other devices that force users to use the tricky to master hand over hand method.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Ease of Use

This is one of the most important things that we considered, because a design that is easy to use if going to produce more fish.

We were drawn to designs that were already coated with a layer of sub-zero lubrication, because it meant that all users need to do in order to use their device is to load the spool with their favorite type of line. While we liked designs that came with line already loaded on the spool because all you need to do is drop them in the water, other users do not like this idea. Typically, when a company adds a spool of line to their design, they are not using top of the line materials. Many fisherman like to pick their personal favorite brand of line to use in cold weather conditions, and often this line comes at a higher price point than those that come preloaded on some designs. Selecting a style that has a simple frame with clear positions for stability legs and line was a very important thing that we kept in mind. Plus, the easier a unit is to use means that you run the possibility of catching more fish!

Durability

These devices are not used on a warm, lazy summer day- so you are going to want something that is going to hold up to those hard winter weather conditions.

There are a few things that we looked at to ensure that we selected designs that were made to make it through multiple seasons without giving you much of a hassle. The base of the unit was one thing that we considered. We found that designs that has solid bases that were made from wood were generally considered to be better because they were able to stay in place while in use, and the natural material ran less of a risk of having frozen components when left outside for long periods of time. We also selected designs that had solid components that were easy to lubricate and wouldn’t rust over time. If you have a rusted spring that isn’t able to raise a flag when you land a bite, then your device is basically going to be considered useless.

Size

Not everyone travels or fishes the same way, so we wanted to select a wide range of options that were able to suit just about everyone’s needs.

For fishermen that preferred to set a wide range of traps far off on the ice, and then head back to their shanty for a nice hot cup of cocoa, we selected styles that had flags with longer arms that reached heights of over 20 inches to ensure that it will be able to be seen, even from long distances. We also took into consideration the side of the actual frame. For the most part, these designs measured to be about 18-30 inches long. The 18 inch models might be something that will be easy to toss into a backpack, but the 30 inch models might be a little more problematic. From what we had gathered, weight really isn’t much of an issue. For the most part, these designs all weigh around the same weight- 1-2 pounds, and that is regardless of whether they are made from solid wood, or if they are made from some type of pressed polymer.

Materials

One way to determine if your unit is going to blow away at the first strong wind gust is to take a look at the materials that were used to make each design.

Luckily, materials used across many of the different brands do not change much. From what we gathered, many of the veteran ice fishermen out there opt for the wood designs because they were the base for some of the original traps that came out of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. If there is any material, natural or manmade, that is equipped to handle an oppressively cold winter- it is going to be the former trunk of a tree. However, that isn’t to say the pressed polymers or metals will not do a fine job as well (especially because they come in at a lower price point), it just means that these materials have a few flaws that hardwood just doesn’t have. While the metal and polymer options will hold in place and are able to work well with moving components, they often can move around on the ice quite a bit. If a design doesn’t want to stay put on the ice, you run the risk of triggering a false flag- and no one wants to be bothered with those.

Value

Last but not least, we also considered how much each design is going to cost you.

Luckily, even some of the well known brands like HT Enterprises and Frabill offer their a very affordable price point that will likely set you back about the same amount that you would spend on a large pepperoni pizza. We also wanted to make sure that we also included some of the really affordable options that might set you back about the same amount as a cup of coffee, because fishermen typically don’t just buy one of these products. The more traps you set means the higher the chance that you won’t need to order a pizza at the end of the night because you are going to be dining on all the fish you caught. However, if you want to buy something that is the very best of the best, we recommend checking out the options out there from Beaver Dam. Their designs othen come a a price point that can double or even triple some of the other brands, but we found no one can really match their craftsmanship.

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Perfection

Be sure to see what people have to say about each design out there on the market. While a company may tell you that their product will not result in any false flags or wind flags, there is always going to be someone who has purchased the product in the past that is going to tell you the truth. One way to ensure that each product is going to suit your needs perfect is to take a look at the materials used. Veteran fishermen find that hardwood bases are the best not only at staying put and not sliding around too much on the ice but they also hold up well year after year.

Other Factors to Consider

Portability

Like we mentioned earlier, hardwood options are the key to longevity. However, make sure that before you put your device into storage for the wintertime that you ensure that it is completely dry, and many experts say you should lubricate all of the shafts to prevent possible rusting while it waits in storage. So feel free to put them in your garage or basement where the area is dry and it is easy to take out during the months you are able to use it.

Frequently Asked Questions

q: How do they work?

a:

To use these devices, first you are going to need to drill a hole in the ice, and place the unit down into the hole in the ice. For most designs, users are going to need to wind line around a spool found at the base, and then clip some type of bait to the end of the line. There is a flag that lies flat against the base, and when a fish tugs on the line in the water, the flag will raise. There are even some designs that have lights that will turn on when the line is tugged. Most designs are spring loaded, while there are some that use magnets. This allows fishermen to get a feel for where the fish are biting by placing multiple units about 20 feet apart, and then gauging where the best spot is going to be to cast their line.

q: Why do I need one?

a:

Like we mentioned earlier, sometimes it is hard to gain a feel of where the fish are biting when you have little information of what is happening beneath the surface of a frozen lake. Users generally like to set up multiple units on the surface of a frozen lake, and then sit back in their ice shanty and wait for where the lines seem to get getting the most hits. While some fishermen user these options to gauge the activity on a lake before they park it in front of a hole, other simply like to do all of their fishing via free lines that are attached to these types of devices. If you wish to fish in this way, you are going to need to master the art of the hand over hand method, and leave you pole at the shoreline.

q: What's a false flag or a wind flag?

a:

You might have come across quite a few negative reviews of products claiming these some of these devices will give off a false flag. Basically, what this means is that something other than the bite of a fish triggered their flag to rise. This can happen for a number of reasons. The first reason is when the spring or magnets are overly sensitive. If that’s the case, the smallest of movement in the water that will cause your line to move will cause the flag to rise. Another reason this happens is if you are fishing in very windy conditions. Depending on where you placed your device, a sudden gust of wind might send all of your carefully placed flags in the upright position.

q: How do I reel it in without a fishing pole?

a:

The prehistoric man did not have access to a St. Croix fishing rod. If they wanted fish, they would toss their line into the water and use what is referred to as the hand over hand method. When you are using one of these devices, you will need to channel the spirit of your prehistoric ancestors to use this method to pull your fish in. This method can get a little tricky, especially for those larger catches. This trick in this instance is to let the line drag a little big without giving it too much slack, and then gently pull in the line in hand over hand. Be sure that you don’t jerk the line too hard, or your catch might get away. Most of these designs utilize this method for catching fish, but if it doesn’t seem like it is going to be your bag, you can always opt for a style that clamps onto your existing pole, and raises the flag when there is a tug on your line.

q: Why do I need to lubricate the shaft?

a:

The key to a successful fishing trip to have gear that will not freeze when working in cold conditions. Keep in mind that these devices have moving parts that are going to be submerged in water, so if the freeze on you, they aren’t going to be very effective. To ensure that you are stuck with a frozen line in the water, keeping your spool and shaft properly lubricated with freeze sub zero lubrication oil is going to be the trick to keeping your lines in perfect working order. Plus, many users find that when ice fishing season is over, coating your gear with a final coat of oil before you pack it away for the summer is the trick to keeping moving metal parts from becoming rusty while in storage.

q: Do I need special line?

a:

From what we could gather, many seasoned ice fishermen prefer to used braided line for their devices. This line is just a little bit more durable (and more expensive) than regular line, but it is going to make life just a little bit easier when it comes time to pull that line in by hand. Some fishermen opt for a teflon coated line as well, because it also makes pulling the line in from unforgiving frozen water just a little bit easier, especially on the hands. Pulling in a big catch can be a long a tedious process that can take anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes, so picking a line that it going to be tough but easy to work with is going to be half of the battle.