Ice Fishing Walleye with Tip Ups: How to Spread Out and Catch Trophies

Elevate your ice fishing game with insider tips and tricks for building irresistible walleye tip-up rigs! Discover top hook choices, perfect depth control secrets, and expert bait strategies. Unleash your inner ice-pro and dominate the winter walleye bite!

Ice fishing walleye is a popular winter activity, and the target species' elusive nature and challenging behavior make it more interesting. Imagine the excitement of using tip-up rigs on the icy surface, waiting for the flag to pop up, signaling a potential trophy-sized walleye on the line.

This article will delve into the world of ice fishing walleye with tip-ups, covering everything from rig setup techniques to gear recommendations. So, gear up and get ready to learn the art of catching trophies through the ice!

Tip Up Rig for Walleye: Set the Perfect Trap in 5 Steps

Conquering winter's icy grip and luring in walleye with a tip-up rig is an experience unlike any other. But setting the perfect trap requires more than just drilling a hole and waiting. Here's a concise guide to dominate the ice in 5 easy steps:

  1. Gear Up: Choose a reliable tip-up, 6-8lb line, fluorocarbon leader, #6-#8 hooks, light sinkers, live minnows or lures, swivels, and line management tools.
  2. Find the Fish: Use a fish finder, local knowledge, or target weed edges, drop-offs, and areas with baitfish activity. Consider water depth – walleyes often cruise near the bottom.
  3. Drill & Deploy: Make a clean hole, attach your line and feed it through, tie your leader and hook with weight if needed, and bait your hook.
  4. Set the Flag: Adjust sensitivity, engage the flag mechanism, and raise the tip-up until the flag is upright. Watch for a tug, dip, or sudden rise – it's a walleye!
  5. Reel 'em In: React quickly but smoothly, reel steadily, guide the fish through the hole, and celebrate your catch! Repeat the process.

Bonus Tip: Use glow-in-the-dark flags or lights for night fishing.

By following these steps and adapting to the conditions, you'll be well on your way to mastering the tip-up rig and hauling in hefty walleyes all winter long. Remember, patience, practice, and a bit of luck are key ingredients for ice fishing success!

Understanding Tip-Up Rigs

BEAVER DAM American Flag Tip-Up
BEAVER DAM American Flag Tip-Up

Ice fishing enthusiasts often rely on tip-up rigs as a convenient way to fish without holding the line by hand. These rigs consist of a spool or reel attached to a frame placed over an ice hole. When a fish takes the bait, a flag attached to the rig's frame is triggered, alerting the angler to a potential catch.

How Do Tip-Up Rigs Work?

  1. When a fish pulls on the line, the flag on the tip-up rig is released and stands upright.
  2. This flag serves as a visual indicator for anglers, letting them know that there's activity on their line.
  3. By having multiple tip-up rigs set up across different holes, fishermen can monitor several lines simultaneously and increase their chances of catching fish.

The Benefits of Using Tip-Up Rigs

  • Covering a Larger Area: By setting up multiple tip-ups, anglers can spread out their lines and cover more ground, increasing their chances of finding active fishing spots.
  • Targeting Suspended Fish: Walleye are known to suspend themselves at certain depths in the water during winter. Tip-ups allow fishermen to sink their baits at specific depths, increasing the likelihood of attracting these suspended fish.
  • Reduced Suspicion from Walleye: Setting up stationary lines with tip-ups under the ice makes it easier for walleye to access the bait without sensing any movement from anglers. This can lead to more successful bites.

Choosing the Right Equipment

When using tip-up rigs for ice fishing walleye, it's important to have the right gear:

  • Tip-Up Lines: These specialized lines are designed to withstand freezing temperatures and have low memory to prevent tangling when released from tension.
  • Baits and Lures: Depending on the walleye preferences in your area, you'll want to have a variety of baits and lures to entice them. Live baits (minnows- shiners, or dace) are the most commonly used bait.
  • Ice Fishing Rods: While tip-up rigs handle most of the work, having a backup ice fishing rod can be helpful in jigging or targeting fish in shallower waters.

Always check local regulations and guidelines before heading out for ice fishing. Safety should be a top priority, so ensure the ice is thick enough to support your weight.

Different Tip-Up Designs

When it comes to tip-up designs, anglers have a variety of options to choose from based on their specific fishing needs. Here's an overview of the key aspects to consider:

  • Design Variations: Tip-up designs can vary widely, from traditional wooden models to modern plastic and metal options. Each design offers its own set of features and benefits, catering to different preferences and fishing conditions.
  • Materials: Tip-ups are made from various materials such as wood, plastic, and metal. Wood provides a traditional feel and is often preferred by purist anglers, while modern materials like plastic and metal offer durability and weather resistance.
  • Triggering Systems: Different tip-ups have varying triggering systems, including spring-loaded triggers, trip bars, and electronic triggers. Anglers can select a system that aligns with their fishing style and target species.
  • Line Storage: Proper line storage is crucial for preventing tangles and ensuring smooth line release when a fish takes the bait. Some tip-up designs come with built-in line management features to address this concern.

When choosing a tip-up design, it's essential to consider the overall build quality, ease of use, and compatibility with different fishing lines and live bait presentations. Understanding the nuances of each design can help anglers make informed decisions when selecting the right tip-up for their ice fishing expeditions.

Check out our article on the Best Tip Ups for Ice Fishing this Winter.

Ice Fishing Tip Up Rig Essentials for Walleyes:

Tip-UpsChoose durable, lightweight models with sensitive flags. Consider quantity based on local regulations and desired fishing spread.Look for features like adjustable sensitivity, line release, and insulated shelters.
LineUse monofilament (6-8lb) or fluorocarbon (8-10lb) for invisibility and good knot strength.Consider braided line for shallow water or areas with weeds.
LeadersFluorocarbon leaders (6-8lb) offer abrasion resistance and invisibility. Length: 12-18 inches.Swivels at both ends are recommended for tangle prevention.
HooksSize #6-#8 treble hooks are common for walleyes. Choose sharp, corrosion-resistant models.Consider single hooks for deeper water or finesse fishing.
SinkersSplit shot or small slip weights for adjusting lure depth. Start light and add weight as needed.Consider using tungsten weights for smaller size and faster sink rate.
BaitLive minnows are the go-to for walleyes. Consider shiner minnows or dace depending on local availability.Artificial lures like spoons or jigs can also work, but may require more active fishing.
SwivelsBarrel swivels at line-to-leader and leader-to-hook connections prevent line twist.Consider size and weight capacity based on your line and hook sizes.
Line CutterA small, sharp line cutter is crucial for quick and safe line removal.Consider a retractable model for easy access and storage.
PliersSmall, multi-functional pliers are essential for hook removal and gear adjustments.Look for rust-resistant models with different gripping surfaces.

Tips for Using Tip-Ups for Walleye Fishing

When it comes to walleye fishing with tip-ups, there are several key tips that can help anglers maximize their success on the ice.

1. Covering a Larger Area and Targeting Suspended Fish

One of the main benefits of tip-ups for walleye ice fishing is the ability to cover a larger water area and target suspended fish. By strategically placing tip-ups at different depths and distances from each other, anglers can effectively increase their chances of attracting and catching walleye.

2. Setting Up Stationary Lines Under the Ice

Properly setting up stationary lines under the ice with tip-ups is crucial for maximizing effectiveness. This involves:

  • Ensuring that the tip-up is securely positioned over the fishing hole
  • Having the line properly spooled and ready for action
  • Considering using tip-up lights or glow sticks to make setups more visible in low-light conditions
  • To avoid line twists, use a barrel swivel tied to the fluorocarbon leader using an improved clinch or trilene knot.

3. Emphasizing Live Bait and Proper Bait Placement

Choosing the right live bait, such as minnows or shiners, is a highly efficient way to set up walleye tip-up rigs. It's essential to:

  • Carefully hook the live bait to ensure natural movement
  • Place a split shot to sink your bait at the desired depth.
  • Ensure that the split shot is not too close to the bait and allows the bait to swim freely.
  • Use a treble hook near the middle of your bait's (usually minnow) back
  • Place it at the desired depth based on walleye behavior patterns
  • Pay attention to local regulations regarding bait usage and ensure compliance with any restrictions

Experiment with different bait depths and lure types to find what works best on your lake. Remember, ice fishing is all about adaptation and perseverance. So, stay warm, stay safe, and enjoy the thrill of the ice!

FishPod 5X Bluetooth Fish Finder
FishPod, 5X Bluetooth Fish Finder

Comparing Tip-Ups for Other Fishes

When comparing tip-up rigs for walleye to those used for other fish species such as trout, pike, and perch, it's essential to understand the subtle differences that can significantly impact your fishing success.

Differences in Tip-Up Rig Setup:

Lake Trout

Consider using longer leaders and larger bait due to the lake trout's preference for bigger prey. Additionally, ensure your main line and tip-up line is strong enough to handle the powerful runs of a hooked lake trout.


Opt for sturdy hooks (usually, the treble hook is bigger in size than those used for walleyes) and wire leaders to withstand the sharp teeth of pike. Using quick-strike rigs with large bait can be effective in targeting trophy-sized pike.


Smaller hooks and lines are suitable for targeting perch, and setting up multiple tip-ups in a spread-out pattern can increase your chances of catching these schooling fish.

Tips for Maximum Success:

  • Understanding each fish species' specific feeding behaviors and preferences is crucial when setting up tip-ups.
  • Pay attention to the depth at which each species typically feeds and adjust your bait placement accordingly.
  • Knowing the tendencies of different fish will help you tailor your tip-up rig setups for optimal results.

By recognizing these subtle differences and adjusting based on the target species, anglers can maximize their success when using tip-ups for ice fishing.

Choosing the Right Lines for Tip-Up Fishing

When it comes to tip-up fishing for walleye, choosing the right fishing line is crucial for a successful and enjoyable experience on the ice. Here are some key points to consider:

Advantages of Specialized Lines

  • High-Tech Monofilaments: These lines are designed to perform well in low-temperature conditions, ensuring flexibility and strength even in extremely cold water. Their low memory allows for smooth line release, making them ideal for tip-up fishing.
  • Co-Polymer Fishing Lines: Known for their flexibility and toughness, they are an excellent choice for tip-up fishing. They offer reliable performance and can withstand the challenges of ice fishing, providing anglers with the confidence they need to target trophy walleye.
  • Fluorocarbon Lines: With their exceptional invisibility in clear water, fluorocarbon lines are invaluable for tip-up fishing. Their low visibility ensures that wary walleye are less likely to be spooked by the line, increasing the chances of a successful hookup.


  • For shallow water conditions or when targeting smaller walleye, a lighter line with a diameter of 4-6 lb test may be suitable.
  • In deeper waters or when pursuing larger walleye, a heavier line with a diameter of 8-10 lb test or more would be advantageous.
  • Consider using different line types and diameters based on the specific fishing conditions you encounter, adjusting your setup to maximize your chances of landing trophy walleye.

By understanding the advantages of specialized lines and making informed choices based on the fishing conditions, you can optimize their tip-up rigs for targeting walleye with confidence and precision. But if you are unsure, go big without any worries.

Using Leaders and Wire Materials

Ice fishing for walleye with tip-ups requires strategically using leaders and wire materials to ensure a successful catch. Incorporating leaders into the various walleye tip-up rig top-up setups offers several advantages, mainly when targeting different fish species under the ice.

Benefits of Leaders

Fluorocarbon Leader

These leaders are essential for their abrasion resistance and stealthiness. When dealing with toothy fish like pike, fluorocarbon leaders provide the necessary protection against line breakage and visibility in the water. Their low visibility is particularly advantageous in clear water conditions, making them an ideal choice for targeting wary bass and walleye.

Titanium Wire Leader

For toothy fish species such as pike that have the potential to bite through traditional lines of rigging, titanium wire leaders are indispensable. They offer remarkable resistance to kinking and biting, ensuring that your setup remains intact even when faced with aggressive predators.

When setting up your tip-ups, carefully selecting the appropriate leader material to tailor your setups to match the specific challenges posed by your target fish species will significantly improve your chances of success.

Modern Innovations in Tip-Up Design

In recent years, ice fishing technology has seen a significant evolution, leading to the development of modern disk-style tip-ups. These innovative designs have redefined convenience and functionality for anglers on frozen lakes. Here's a closer look at the key features and benefits of these modern tip-up designs:

Enhanced Portability

Modern Circular Tip Up
Frabill Pro Thermal Tip-Up

One of the standout features of modern disk-style tip-ups is their enhanced portability. Unlike traditional tip-ups that can be cumbersome to transport, these new designs are lightweight and compact, making them easy to carry to and from your fishing spot. The portability factor adds a layer of convenience for anglers who need to move between multiple ice holes.

Convenience Features

Modern disk-style tip-ups are equipped with user-friendly convenience features that streamline the fishing experience. From quick and hassle-free setup procedures to intuitive flag systems for bite detection, these tip-ups are designed to make ice fishing more efficient and enjoyable.

Stackable Design

Some modern disk-style tip-ups are designed to be stackable, allowing anglers to neatly organize and transport multiple units without tangling lines or taking up excessive space. This feature is particularly valuable for anglers who deploy several tip-ups across different locations on the ice.

These innovative advancements in tip-up design reflect a commitment to improving the overall ice fishing experience, providing anglers with tools that are not only effective but also convenient to use in challenging winter conditions.

Fish Smarter, Not Harder:Pick the Best Ice Fishing Tip Up
Looking to catch more fish while ice fishing? Check out our article on Ice Fishing Tip Ups to learn how to set up and use tip ups effectively, and increase your chances of catching a big one. Don’t miss out on this essential guide for any ice angler!

Final Thoughts

Using tip-up rigs in your walleye fishing trips can greatly improve your chances of success. By covering more water and exploring different depths at the same time, you increase the likelihood of encountering active walleye. Remember to spread out your tip-up placements on the ice to maximize coverage and increase your chances of catching trophy-sized walleye.

Now that you're equipped with these tips, it's time to gear up and head out onto the ice. Check out our recommended ice fishing gear to ensure you have everything you need for a successful and enjoyable tip-up fishing experience on the frozen lakes.

Happy fishing!

Ice Fishing Walleye with Tip Ups