With hard water right around the corner, now is the perfect time to start getting the ice fishing gear ready to rock. Unfortunately many anglers tend to neglect their gear, especially tip-ups. This can lead to the all too familiar broken line as the fish reaches the hole or missed strikes due to poorly lubricated moving parts. Here's a few tips to help take your tip-up game to the next level and get them ready to slam fish all season long.
Check Your Springs
Although convenient, storing your tip-ups with the flag bent over against the board can be somewhat detrimental to the life of your spring over time. This is especially true with older tip-ups. A lighter, more "broken in" spring IS easier to trip, however, when the flag is sticking up at a 45 degree angle vs. a straight 90 it can be somewhat difficult to see that the flag has tripped, especially as the sun starts to go down. Should you find your springs to be in a state of disrepair, replacing them is super easy and most manufacturers sell replacement springs.
Inspect Your Line
Line is almost always overlooked when it comes to tip-ups. Sure, it's durable and can last a long time, but through uses it can fray, acquire knots, and even become somewhat brittle. It is always a good idea to run all of the line off the spool and check it for any imperfections that could lead to lost fish. Even a small knot or loop in the line could result in the line snagging itself when a fish is running, in turn causing the hook to pull out.
Lube the Tube
Most tip-ups won't require much in the way of lubrication, however, if you notice that the spool doesn't spin freely, especially when cold, it might be a good idea to clean out the old lube and re-grease the spool shaft. Should you find yourself needing some lube, remove the spool from the housing carefully and spray out the inside with some brake cleaner. Give it a quick rinse with clean water, let it dry, then re-lubricate with a low viscosity lubricant.
It is so easy to overlook the condition of leaders and especially the knots connecting them to your line. As in most things, your tip-up rigging is only as strong as the weakest link. By replacing your leaders and re-tying all of your knots you can save a lot of time and headaches associated with them failing. If you fish with steel leaders, check the crimps by giving a good hard tug with a pliers to make sure they are still snug. For fluorocarbon leaders it is easier to simply tie up fresh leaders. Generally a 12 to 18" leader is sufficient. A good rule of thumb is to use 8 to 10lb test for walleye, and 15 to 20lb test for pike and other large toothy critters. A good quality size 8 to 10 ball bearing swivel is a great, strong way to connect your leader to your main line. This will prevent excessive line twist and provides a strong, secure connection between the two lines as compared to simply tying the two together.
Switch Out Hooks
Even though fishing hooks can last you several seasons it is still a good idea to replace your hooks with fresh ones at the start of the season. Depending on your personal preference, you might go with either a wide-gap octopus hook or the more common treble hook. For most applications a size 8 to 10 treble works great for the majority of game species. Although they may seem a little on the small side, using a smaller hook reduces the chance of the fish feeling the hook and consequentially dropping the bait. A quality wide-gap hook will help to ensure a solid hook set. An excellent and affordable choice is the Lazer Sharp L934 treble hook. If you REALLY want to drive your hooks home, give the Lazer Trokar TK300 treble hooks a shot. They are insanely sharp and can handle the abuse of battling toothy creatures all season long.
By simply giving your tip-ups a quick looking over you can really decrease the chances of any mishaps throughout the season. Sure it's a little time consuming, but hey, in the time it took you to read through this you could probably have a few all tuned up and ready to rock! A little extra effort now can pay off big time when you find yourself battling a monster in the coming months.
By Pros4- 1Source's Noah Humfeld