There may not be a more exhilarating feeling in fishing than seeing the flag on your tip up shoot up into the air sending a shot of adrenaline coursing through the veins of even the most experienced anglers. Running over to see line ripping off the spool at what seems mach speed, there’s no feeling quite like it.
Your typical run-of-the-mill tip up rig typically consists of a spool of braided tip up line anywhere from 15-30lb test often coated with a layer of a thin vinyl to resist freezing and breaking in the cold and ice. Attached to the end of a line is what is commonly known as a “Quick-Strike” rig or a “Predator” rig made up of a wire leader material that splits at the bottom to accommodate two treble hooks with or with or without spinners depending on the rig and in accordance to your state law. This rig is tipped with some sort of live or dead bait like Sucker Minnows or Golden Shiners.
I was no different when I first started tip up fishing, but countless swallowed trebles resulted in many dead fish and they were quite the pain to get out of the fish’s mouth, especially the toothy ones! I began to question my methods and searched for a new way, an easier way to rig a tip up that would result in the hookup ratio, but less dead fish. I shared my grievance with a good friend and long time fishing buddy who suggested I use a single octopus circle hook instead of trebles or quick strike rig. He explained that if you use a circle hook, when the fish strikes and eats the bait you don’t actually really have to set the hook rather just pull up on the fish and 9 times out of 10 you’ll have a fish hooked solidly right in the corner of the mouth. I was stunned and immediately had to give it a shot.
Well, that was three years ago and I continue to run the same set up today on all my tip ups. Here’s the way I rig, start with a two foot fluorocarbon leader attached to your main line typically by a swivel, I use 20lb test but anything over 15lb test will usually suffice. The leader tends to make the fish less wary of your offering especially in clear water situations. Above the leader and normally above the swivel on the main line I peg some sort of weight to hold the bait down, the amount of weight depends of the size of your bait as you want something big enough that they’ll hold to the spot but small enough that they can still move and swim somewhat freely in the spot. Tied to the end of the leader is a small octopus circle hook, size 2 to 4 depending on the size of your target and the size of your bait. Hook the bait the way you prefer, for me it is usually through the back underneath the dorsal fin and there you have it.
This rig is by no means foolproof, you may still lose a fish here or there and some fish are just so hungry that they will swallow the hook. But, this rig has been proven through hours of field-testing to be a simpler, less hassle, safer rig for you and for the fish. Why not give it a try next time you hit the hard water? What do you have to lose except the chance at discovering something new!