Scouting for pike
Cattail bays may hold fish but last year’s weed is a better spawning habitat and more easily functions as a good place for pike to spread their eggs and offers a high degree of protection after the hatch has begun.
The ambient air and water temperature will dictate the degree of hunting that pike may pursue during the spawning phase. Experience has shown that a mid, to late afternoon bite is the norm in these very early seasonal conditions.
Scouting in the evenings or early morning pays dividends in huge pike. Map out several good bay’s and creek arms noting the best wind direction for fishing each individual area. Many times the wind will change direction cooling a bay and sending the pike off to hunt for warmer waters nearby.
By scanning the water you can actually see large black shadowy hunters slowly moving through the water!
For shore casting baits use the long predator rod such as a St. Croix equipped with a good spinning or baitcast reel in order to make long cast’s with larger baits with relative ease and precision.
A favorite rod and reel is the 11 foot ABU Boron graphite ABS 110-3M 20-60g #3 F-11 (913971) rigged with a Shimano Baitrunner 6500 reel.
The long rod allows you to make effortless cast with float or slip rig and also aids in fighting a big fish from heavy cover or steering the fish away from big trouble like logs or brush.
The Shimano Baitrunner reel is a great tool for bait fishing situations. Well engineered with two separate smoothly operating individually adjustable drag systems. One is the main drag and the other a running drag designed to allow for a fish to take the bait with the least amount of resistance and run.
The running drag is adjustable and easily activated by a flick of a lever after you have made your cast.
After a strike and the fish is on the bait and into a run you simply begin the retrieve and this disengages the running drag while simultaneously engaging the main fighting drag.
Line choice is a personal preference thing, but as long as it is Berkley XT or Big Game, you should be all right. Abrasion resistance is the key factor to consider in your personal choice. A little stretch is a good thing on these bruiser pike, no stretch may lead to hooks pulling free on a thrashing head shake bank or boat side.
Rigging for bait pike
Mood dictates an appropriate presentation, and in this case bait choice too. Live baits do work well, such as 6-12″ white suckers, but dead baits offer more appeal to hungry cold pike.
Fresh water frozen smelt and herring has consistently proven to be the right bait under these conditions.
These oily baits secrete a scent trail that triggers a pike to feed readily when live bait is greatly restricted in appeal to action.
Since the water temperature is not far from freezing, action presentations is a low percentage game at this point in time.
In conditions were the temperature is rapidly and steadily rising crank baits such as:
- Salmo Whitefish SW 13 SX BS
- Salmo S-12 Sting
- Count Down Rapala #11
- Rapala Husky # 13 Jerk
Fan casting crankbaits over mud flats can be a very effective method of covering ground and locating active pike plus the action can turn explosive if the pike are on the feed.
An abundance of food may increase pike feeding activity but a glut of forage will often make bait sets a low percentage game becoming lost in the crowd of available food.
Two basic bait rigs work well under most pre-spawn conditions, the slip float rig, and the bottom slip rig. The slip float rig is much the same as others you may have used in past months while ice fishing. A float set to slide from the leader section to a point where a stop bead and slip knot has be placed allowing ease of casting and depth control. The big difference is size, these floats will need to suspend a bait that may exceed 1 ½ lb’s, such as a large sucker minnows.
The 6-8″ long 5/8″ diameter Styrofoam pencil style slip float is a good choice as it can be weighted to alow for differences in bait and can be pulled under with little effort thus not spooking a wise old pike.
“Thill” floats in the 4-6″ cigar style makes for an excellent choice in springtime conditions. They offer a high amount of buoyancy combines with a minimal overall size but yet enough weight to make casting less cumbersome in wind.
A crafty option that is new to the pike game is the addition of flash to a suspension rig above the bait to entice a pike into the bait offering hanging below.
One ideal flash rig is the Mack’s smile blade Flash Lite system. The Mack’s smile blade is innovative in that the construction of the blade is such as to be adjustable while extremely light in weight so it will turn emitting a flash in a 360 degree radius with as little as a ½ mile an hour push upon its reflective surfaces.
This can easily be achieved by the slightest wind or currents producing a bobbing motion to stimulate the Smile blade and trigger a pike.
The Flash Lite blades are rigged on a steal leader with a high quality snap on one end and an equally high quality swivel on the other. This can be easily added to a quick strike leader below a float to produce additional attraction and bite off protection when the need arises.
Individual blades can be pre-rigged on leaders if a more subtle flash is desired. Originally designed for trolling scenarios they are extremely effective with live and dead bait presentation.
Leader choice for both the suspension rig and the bottom set rig should be constructed from quality leader materials; such as Bait Rig’s Quick Strike rig or a Titanium leader.
Longer the better is the thing to remember as bite offs and high abrasive conditions will raise havoc on the first 3 foot of leader or line above the bait itself.
Quality hooks are a must, hooks such as Partridge Vb quick strike hooks, 6 o/t circle hooks and a stinger, or Excallaber treble hooks.
Preferred is the Partridge Vb.’s or the circle hook and a stinger as they will not harm a fish as much and a released fish shows less stress, wear, and tear.
Dead baits should be thawed prior to use or they tend to float up. On a bottom set rig frozen may be advantageous, but not so on a suspension rig.
Proper hook placement on these jumbo baits is crucial to insure a good hook up.
The head should be hanging downward on a suspension set. Place the first hook in the bait just above the tail and the bottom hook at the base of the head. A helpful hint is to carry a bag of small dental bands to aid in holding the bait to the wire leader while casting.
One band worked over the first hook and placed about midway between the first and second hook will greatly help prevent bait loss on long hard casts.
Bottom slip set rigs are much the same as the float rig with the addition of an egg weight just above the leader to hold the bait in position.
Bait set placement
Putting this all together we know to look to creeks feeding into bays to locate pike. Look also for likely runs that hunting pike may follow with careful consideration given to inside corners and points.
Large mud bays are a crapshoot so just get the bait out there and see if they cruise on by. You can up your odds by studying our lake map carefully noting where creek channels brush up against shoreline areas, flooded timber, or brush.
Often these old creeks are like highways to pike moving in and out of bays, most certainly a high percentage area worth staking out and making a few sets.
Necked down areas funneling into creek runs is a choice location and should be sought out if available. Suspension rigs in these areas may be best run high off the bottom.
If the estimated depth of the creek is 8′ set the bait at 4′. Many of these huge old pike ride mid water column as they cruise the bays and channels.
A good plan is to mix it up, one high, one low, and be sure to experiment. This flexibility will pattern their preference much faster and up your odds considerably in landing that trophy pike of your dreams.
The slot size for northern pike in Wawang Lake is:
- All pike 27 ½” must be released back into the lake
- Sportmen’s License: 4 northern (under our slot size) in possession at all times
- Conservation License: 2 northern (under our slot size) in possession at all times
Guests are welcome to eat as many pike under our slot size while at the lodge and providing they are within their possession limit. Guests are also welcome to take their limits home as well.
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