Understanding Your Trigger Mechanism
The trigger of your tip-up depends on many things, but the crossbar is what actually holds the flag down, and allows it to pop up when a fish takes the bait under the water. There are two basic principles to how this mechanism works that you need to understand in order to correctly set your ice-fishing tip-up. First, the crossbar, or at least all of the ones I have seen, have two settings that are manufactured into it. One side has a notch in the metal “T” that provides a little friction against the flag, which makes it harder for the spindle to turn, while the other side is smooth and allows the flag to slide out from under the crossbar uninhibited.
As you can see, the notch is just about the perfect size for the flag arm, which will rest underneath this bar, and cause a little bit of resistance, making it more difficult for the flag to trip. This is especially useful if you are using a larger bait, like a giant shiner, bluegill (if that is allowable, please check your state regulations). The second part of the tip-up you need to understand is the relationship between the height of the crossbar and the uppermost height of the spring. Basically, whichever is lower is going to make a difference in how you set your tip-ups. I like to keep mine all set the same way so that the crossbar is slightly higher than the top of the flag-spring. I make all of my tip-ups the same in this respect, so I can easily make adjustments on the ice and not have to figure each out individually.
Setting the tip-up for heavy bites
If your bait, or even the wind, is causing the flags to trip when there is no fish on the line, you will want to consider setting the tip-up for a more heavy bite. If you think the notch is going to cause too much resistance then you need to adjust which side the flag will sit on.
Since I know that the crossbar is slightly higher than the spring, I know that there will be a slight angle at which the flag arm will sit, and the highest point will be the tip, just above the flag itself. The crossbar will always find it harder to turn towards the highest part of the flag arm, so turning towards the flag is the heaviest setting this tip-up can produce. If you need a heavier setting, then simply turn the crossbar (whichever, notched or smooth side you prefer, this will unspool about an inch of a line) to the opposite side, and make certain that when a fish pulls the line, the crossbar turns towards the highest spot. Obviously, the steeper the angle of the flag arm, the more difficult it will be for the crossbar to turn.
Setting a Tip-Up for Light-Bites
The more common need is to adjust the tip-up for a lighter bite. This is helpful if the fish are picky, you want a more advanced warning, or you are targeting a species known for light bites, like walleye, saugeye or cold, sluggish smallmouth bass.
In this case, the rules are the exact opposite. The lower side is easier to turn to, and the notch-less side of the crossbar is the simplest to turn.
Here’s a list of the 4 basic settings, assuming that your crossbar is slightly higher than your flag-spring, from lightest to heaviest settings:
- Smooth, notch-less side turning towards the spring is the lightest setting.
- Smooth, notch-less side turning towards the flag.
- Notched side, crossbar turning towards the spring.
- For the heaviest setting, place the flag arm under the notch, and make sure that when the fish pulls the line, the crossbar turns towards the flag.
Advanced Tip-Up Setting
Now, there is a small screw where the spindle is set into the frame of the tip-up. Loosening this screw will allow you to elevate or lower the height of the crossbar. As you will see when you begin to experiment with your tip-up, the steeper the angle to the flag-tip, the harder it is to turn the crossbar towards the flag, but the easier it is to turn it towards the spring. Meddling with this is a fun thing to try, but don’t go overboard or you could be chasing ghost-flags all day, or worse, miss fish that pulled hard enough on your bait to trigger a normal flag, but were spooked by the resistance levels you set.