Anchoring up wind or up current from areas where pike will hang around or travel through should never be overlooked. Slip bobbers like Thill’s Big Fish Slider are normally rigged with a flexible wire and one or two hooks. Regulations are specific on what’s legal as far as rigging, and once again, you have to be 100% clear. Live minnows (chubs and suckers are two of the best) can be kept swimming with a light wire treble or single hook matched to the size of the bait. Single hooks like Eagle Claw’s Model 84 are a favorite. They pick up less debris when your minnow gets near bottom and they’re very easy to set and remove from the fish. Keep the minnow struggling in a confined under right under the float. Make thirty pound test Seven strand wire leaders about eighteen inches long and anchor them with a heavy egg single right above the top swivel. To keep the weight from sliding and spreading the rig all over the place when a pike hits and runs, peg the weight in place with a round toothpick. Peg it and butt it right up to the swivel. You want enough weight to submerge the float ¾ of the way under the water. As an added wrinkle, if you’re looking to cover water with a float using wind, lighten up the weight. More of the float sticks out of the water and helps it move. To pin it down in heavy wind, current or on a good spot, weigh it right down.
When a northern pike hits expect it to make some sort of run. Generally, once the float disappears you will see your line begin to move off. With any type of natural bait, you need to be on the ball. Quickly determine the direction the fish is heading, let the line tighten down and sweep the hook back into the fish. Make sure all the slack is out of the line before you drop the hammer. There’s really no advantage to waiting for the pike to ‘swallow’ the minnow. You risk having the fish run through snags along bottom or hooking it deeply. Use eight foot bait cast rods with a soft tip for lob casting these rigs. Rods for live bait are like trolling rods, in that they just need to be reliable. There’s no real need for exotic actions or extreme sensitivity. We suggest using composite rods.
Braided line in sixty five pound test works well because it’s visible, very tough and it floats like a cork. Soaking bait with mono will give you problems when the line sinks along the bottom. Braid keeps the whole package neat and organized on the surface and the sensitivity is great for feeling what the fish is doing and setting the hook. Great feel, control and very durable.
Garcia 6500 reels with a clicker work well as a reel. A heavy, ¾ to 1 ounce jig is a really good set-up under a float too! Nick the minnow through the tail and he’ll fight the weight of the jig all day. We have no idea why, but almost every pike landed on this rig gets the jig right in the corner of the jaw. Maybe the lead ball rolls out of their mouth, almost like a circle hook. Hot orange and pink have proven to be two good colors if you’re looking for a little extra attraction on the minnow.
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