Review : Frabill Pro-Thermal Tip-up Combo

Posted by MNAngler On February - 18 - 2011

Every week, the Outdoor Blogger Network holds a contest and gives away some gear to its members. The catch is that you have to review any product that you win. Back in December, they gave away some really cool ice fishing equipment and I was picked as a winner for the Frabill Pro-Thermal Tip-up Combo.

Unfortunately, I only had once chance to use it in December and none in January. I finally got a second chance to use it when my brother was in town recently so I now feel better about doing a review. I would have liked to use it a few more times before this review, but OBN review guidelines ask that a review be done in 4-6 weeks. I’m already late, so I didn’t want to keep OBN waiting.

When the package arrived, I expected to find just the tip-up, but I also got a few bonus items. Included in the package that Frabill sent me was the tip-up combo, several line/leader rigs, and a line saber.


The tip-up combo itself contained:

  • “Lil’ Shiner” Tip-up light
  • 50 yards 3# Braided Dacron Line
  • 1.25 oz Depth Finder
  • 2 Line Markers

For those of you unfamiliar with tip-ups, there is a flag on a flag pole attached to a spring at the base. It’s natural position is vertical, but the spring allows you to bend the flag down horizontally to the tip-up platform. The flag sits at the edge of the tip-up. In the middle of the tip-up, there is a metal rod that has a line spool on one end (that goes in the water) and a rod or piece of plastic on the top side of the tip-up platform that forms a T to hold down the flag. When a fish takes the bait, it spins the spool, turning the T which lets go of the flag, and “boing,” your flag goes up. FISH ON!

As far as tip ups go, this one has some cool additional features that most tip-ups don’t have. My favorite one is the storage compartment. It’s very useful for storing the depth finder and line markers (teenie weenie bobbers) that come with it as well as extra split shots and emergency jigs. With this black colored version, you’d probably miss it if you didn’t know it was there (assuming you don’t pick it up and hear the klanking of its contents), so as a bonus, it appeals to every man’s (me included) secret desire to be a super spy extraordinaire. Because all super spies go ice fishing.

Another cool feature is the plastic flag holder. It is formed so you can set your flag to trigger with a light bite, or a heavier bite. One one side, it’s squared off, but on the other, it has a 45 degree angle that allows the flag to slide off of it more quickly. The flag itself has an indention molded into it that allows the squared off side of the flag holder to sit in it for a firmer “grip.”


The flag holder also has an antenna like piece sticking up for you to turn the spool easily (herein dubbed as the “winding handle”). Many of the board-style tip-ups have the winding handle at the bottom of the spool. This Frabill spool has a piece of cork under it for you to sink your hook into for safe storage, so they couldn’t put the winding handle there. I found this winding handle awkward at first because it is difficult to use when you want to wind the line up at the end of your fishing trip. But it is handy when the line is “deployed.” It just takes a little getting used to winding the line a different way than you’re used to.

The cork is nice to have, though, so you know your fingers are safe from exposed, flailing hooks (because hooks do flail, you know). If you use a treble hook like the one of the ones Frabill provided to me for this review, the danger is not so much averted, but at least you know where your hook is.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Lil’ Shiner tip-up light. It won’t do much good during the day, but I can see it that it would be very nice to have if out on the ice at night. The light is powered by watch batteries and the when the flag pops up, gravity pulls the batteries down to complete the circuit to turn the light on. It’s a pretty clever design. But in an effort to figure out how it worked, I unscrewed the bottom and the batteries fell out. I then promptly got the first battery stuck at an angle when I tried to put it back in. It took me a good 15 minutes to get it unstuck and then I put them in backwards. It would have been helpful to have a ‘+’ or ‘-’ somewhere to denote which direction to put the batteries back in if you’re a dolt like me.

The underside of the tip-up is covered with styrofoam to insulate your ice hole to prevent it from freezing. Personally, I don’t put much credence into this because when it’s cold out, water is going to freeze. The instructions molded into the super secret storage compartment cover says you should pack snow around the sides of it to help insulate the hole, but that seems to me to be a lot of work to give you an extra couple of minutes at most. Besides, it’s all going to get ruined when you pull the thing up for that big lunker that took your bait, then got off the hook. Then you have to pack it all together again.


I only have two complaints about the tip-up. First, I prefer an enclosed line guide. That is, a metal plate with a hole in it. The “U” guide on this spool (see the cork picture above) was a little difficult to deal with. The line doesn’t stay in it as well as an enclosed guide. I also didn’t like the instructions. I know, I know, real men don’t read instructions, but for completeness of this review, I read them anyway. However, they weren’t very good. For one, they didn’t do a very good job of describing how the flag holder worked for lighter vs. heavier bites. It took me a few re-reads to understand how it worked.

I will point out that the tip-up does catch fish. I caught two in my first outing with it. It didn’t go off at all in my second outing. I must say that the braided Dacron line that was included in the combo package performed very well in the cold. It didn’t freeze as badly as the line on the tip-ups of my compadres. Here’s the tip-up in action:


All in all, I do like the tip-up a lot. It has some extra features that make it a good buy. I saw it at my local sporting goods store for $29.99, which is a bit hefty for a tip-up, in my opinion, even with the extra features. But even plank style tip-ups run upwards of $25 these days. And with the Lil’ Shiner light costing $12.99 on its own, if you fish at night and do some shopping around, it will be a good value.

[Disclaimer: The Pro-Thermal tip-up combo in this review was provided to me free of charge by Frabill in cooperation with the Outdoor Blogger Network in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any other way.]

5 Responses to “Review : Frabill Pro-Thermal Tip-up Combo”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by MNAngler, MNAngler. MNAngler said: I finally got around to reviewing the tip-up combo that I got from @obnetwork: [...]

  2. bumpkinlord says:

    I picked up a couple of these babies at Fleet Farm earlier this year, and was pleasantly surprised at the value of the package deal. Frabill makes solid products for sure, and this combo was definitely a sweet deal.

  3. [...] This review of the Frabill Pro-Thermal Tip-up Combo was originally posted by MNAngler of the blog Journal of a Minnesota Angler [...]

  4. [...] Gear Review: MNAngler of the blog Journal of a Minnesota Angler posted his review of the Frabill Pro-Thermal Tip-up Combo here. We have reposted it on the gear review log here. For those of you who are still surrounded by ice, [...]

  5. [...] Review : Frabill Pro-Thermal Tip-up Combo [...]

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