Bluegill on Tip Ups

Home | Panfish | Bluegill on Tip Ups

Tip ups are a great tool when it comes to ice fishing. As I’m sure you know, they allow you to set a line at multiple different holes so that you can cover more ground and find where the fish are. These work great on bigger fish like walleye, perch and trout. But what about catching bluegill on tip ups?

If you are ice fishing with a traditional tip up, you will have a hard time catching bluegill. The tip ups aren’t sensitive enough to be tripped by a small bluegill. However, there are great alternatives such as a tip down, or a tip up device called the Firstrike bite indicator.

If you aren’t convinced, then keep reading. I’ll go into the challenges of catching bluegill on tip ups, as well as what you can do to overcome these. There are some great products you can buy, but if you are a DIYer, there are some other options.

Challenges of Catching Bluegill on Tip Ups

There are really two issues you run into when trying to catch bluegill on tip ups. Don’t let this stop you though. After this I’ll get into some solutions.

1. They Aren’t Sensitive Enough

As you know, bluegill are small and can have a pretty light bite, especially when they are cold. Most of the standard tip ups are designed for catching bigger fish like perch and walleye. 

The bigger fish will usually bite aggressively, then swim off with the bait. They have more than enough size and strength to set off the tip up without even noticing it.

So if you are determined to use your standard tip ups to try and catch bluegill, you’ll have better chances if you can adjust the sensitivity to its maximum. Some people will even find ways to modify their tip ups to be even more sensitive than their original design.

The downside to getting this max sensitivity is that if the wind is blowing hard, it can trip the flag. And you’ll be constantly resetting flags rather than fishing.

2. They Don’t Give Action To Your Bait

The second issue to do with fishing for bluegill on tip ups is that bluegill generally like active baits. Jigging with a rod in hand is going to do more when it comes to triggering a bite from a bluegill. 

Of course the thing is, you can only fish one hole at a time when you are jigging. So this still leaves a good argument to utilizing tip ups or something similar to cover more holes.

There are quite a few devices out there that use wind power to give some jigging action to your rod. Some are more sensitive than others, so try to find a more sensitive option if you want to go this route. That being said, most of these wind jigger designs are more similar to a tip down device than a tip up. I’ll get more into tip downs below as I think these are your best option for bluegill.

First Strike Fishing

If you don’t mind buying a new indicator, check out the Firstrike Bite Indicator. It’s like a mini tip up that attaches right to your rod. This is cool because you can still fight and reel in the fish with your regular rod rather than hand lining the fish in.

These tip ups are sensitive enough for bluegill to trip them. They also sell a little line clip that allows you to fish with your bail open so the fish is free to pull the line off as you run over to it.

They have a few other cool products you can check them out at I don’t get paid for this, I just think they have a really cool product.

Bluegill on Tip downs

The main reason for using a tip up is to fish multiple holes at once right? So it really doesn’t matter to me if a flag pops up or a rod tip does down so long as I can see it. 

You have probably heard of tip downs, they are getting pretty popular. They work especially well on crappies which are famous for their light bite. They work just as well on bluegill. 

Tip downs utilize a fishing pole with a rod stuck perpendicular through it just forward of the balance point. That balance rod is then set in a saddle that allows the rod to sit tip up until the slightest pull of a bluegill or crappie pulls the rod tip down. When you see your rod tip pointing down rather than up, you can run over and set the hook. 

Tip downs are probably the easiest to make. You’ll need one of the cheap ice fishing rods with the wooden handles so you can drill a hole through for the balance rod. Then you make the rod holder out of wood or pvc pipe.

Fishing For Bluegill on Tip Ups or Tip Downs

Like I said, these bite indicator systems are good for fishing multiple holes at once. After the bluegill start triggering them, remove the tip up and just start jigging with a regular rod and reel. You’ll be able to get more action in your bait and entice those bluegill to attack. 

Remember, bluegill are usually schooled up, so where you catch one, you’ll have a good chance of pulling a few more out of that same hole. With your tip ups spread out you may even be able to track the school of bluegill and stay ahead of them.


Using tip ups and other bite indicators can definitely help you to catch more bluegill, but they need to be as sensitive as possible to detect the light bite of the bluegill. Look into using tip downs as these are much more popular for anglers targeting bluegill, crappie and other panfish.

I know I didn’t cover everything, but hopefully this is enough to get you started and send you down a few different rabbit holes. Have fun out there!

And if you are still waiting for the next ice and want some bluegill catching tips, check out my panfish page.

By John

Hi I'm John. I'm the author of I have been obsessed with fishing since my dad took me to catch bluegill in the creek as a little kid, over 20 years ago. I love learning and perfecting all kinds of fishing techniques. I have spent time living in different countries learning their unique traditional fishing methods, and then combining the best of all worlds to catch as many fish as possible. My hope is that this website can help you, or someone you are teaching, to have a better fishing experience early on so that you too can be hooked into this wonderful sport.

Leave a Reply