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Monthly Archives: January 2019

SPINNING FOR PIKE

??????????????The #5 Mepps’ steady throb pulsed through the 30-pound Spiderwire, down the length of the medium/heavy-action graphite rod and directly into his hand. Just as the lure reached the edge of the cabbage weeds, the blade’s thrum came to an abrupt halt.   He set the hook hard into what felt like a concrete wall!   But then the wall began to move, and he knew he was into a trophy. Five minutes later and four desperate boatside runs, he lands the 20-pound northern pike.

IT’S SIMPLE:  Big pike LOVE spinners!

Weeds are the keys to spinning big pike crazy as these predators use vegetation to ambush any aquatic creature smaller than themselves.

The Baits
Spinner choices abound, but not all are created equal when it comes to enticing jumbo “scissorbills.” The angler should select certain sizes, shapes, and colors, over others.

szczupak-pospolity-80704Lesson No. 1 in choosing spinners for Esox lucius: bigger always is better. Pick magnum-sized offerings as even hammer-handles attack huge lures with abandon, and to catch true monsters, you MUST have that big profile.

Fat, deeply cupped blades throw out big vibrations that ring the dinner bell for monster pike. While sometimes thinner shaped blades (such as willow-leafs) that spin faster turn the trick; usually the slower-turning Colorado-type blades prove to be the ticket to a pike bonanza.

Because big flash stimulates lunkers, polished silver and gold blades work great. Another killer color combo, especially for use in darker, stained water, is orange blades with a black trailer.

In-Line vs. Offset Spinners
Spinners for northerns come in two basic designs, and both work effectively, but each has its strengths and weaknesses.

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In-line spinners (such as Mepps, Worden’s Lures Rooster Tails, Panther Martin, and Blue Fox’s Vibrax), with their terminal trebles, have higher hook-up and catch rates than their safety-pin brethren, but they also hook vegetation and other underwater structure, too.

But lures such as Terminators and Stanley Jigs’ Rick Clunn 4-Blade Willow Spinnerbaits, with their single, upturned hooks surrounded by manmade skirts, slither through the weeds, logs and stumps. In-lines also cast like bullets, while offsets can catch the wind and lose momentum.

Line, Leaders
Any of the new “super-lines” such as like Berkley FireLine, Spiderwire Fusion, or Remington’s Power-Lokt, are superior to monofilament for spinning pike angling. Their low stretch and high-abrasion resistance benefit pike anglers.

Flout the convention and tie on a snap/swivel instead of a leader. Leaders inhibit action and deter wary trophies, while the snap swivels provide two major benefits: quick lure changes and eliminating/reducing line twist. True, you’ll lose lures to the razor-sharp choppers of aggressive mounters, but you’ll get lots more bites without leaders!

Speed & Delivery
Often northerns will attack even jet-powered offerings, but slowing down, pausing, or herky-jerkying that spinner, especially when it reaches the “Pike Zone,” reaps big rewards. Even lazy fish will smash a spinnerbait dangled in front on their out-sized mouth.

Always cast beyond where you think the pike lurk, because while “scissorbills” are legendary for their aggressiveness, they don’t like being bombed. Landing a bait on top of one’s head will likely result in spooking it.

Spin-Crazy Times & Spots
Primetime for driving pike spin crazy depends upon the season, time of day, and prevailing weather conditions. Early spring, right after ice out, brings spawned out northern pike shoreward (where they’re most vulnerable). Spinner rigs elicit savage strikes from hungry pike during spring.

Because northerns sight-feed, mid-day piking makes sense. Following that logic, clear, blue-sky days with lots of sun create perfect pike angling weather.

spinner-bait-diagramThe spinner’s flash and large profile, easily visible to cruising whoppers, prove irresistible.

Look for incoming streams or rivers, and concentrate your efforts just off the edges of weedy drop-offs. Weeds are the keys to spinning big pike crazy, as these predators use vegetation to ambush any aquatic creature smaller than themselves. Position the boat on the deep side of the drop-off, and cast the spinner up onto the flat itself, cranking just fast enough to keep the lure above the weeds, and pause when you get to the weed edge. Allow the bait to drift down and find the waiting lunkers, and hang on!

Using spinners to drive northern pike stir crazy is fun, easy, and productive.

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Strategies for Lazy Walleye

28 (5)They’re there. You know they’re there. In deeper water, you can see them on your fish finder. Or, in shallow water too skinny to move your boat over the fish without spooking them, you simply know from past experience they’re around. Perhaps some subtle bumps or nudges — but no hook-ups — indicate walleyes are present but just not biting. Or at least just not biting anything that moves. Here’s a simple solution. Don’t move your bait. In other words, bring out your dead.

Dead sticking — which basically means tossing a jig out, letting it sink to bottom, and then not moving it for a l-o-n-g time, equates to a war of patience and nerves between your giant-size genius brain on one end of the line and a walleye’s peanut-size brain, staring at the other. Guess who has the advantage?  Definitely not you!   In such conditions, accept some simple facts.

First, walleyes react according to instinct, not thinking. If weather and water and fishing pressure combine and conspire to shut off the bite, amazingly, they’re often all that way.  There’s no way you will get all your fishing buddies to all agree on exhibiting the same mood, based of course upon their superior intellect.

Second, because walleyes are reacting (or not reactive!) in negative fashion, you not only can’t outthink them, but you likely won’t be able to razzle-dazzle them with your array of fancy tackle and gadgets. So your best bet is to stick a food item in their faces and outwait them, hoping to trigger some form of subtle response through sheer time exposure rather than clever tactics.

What comes to mind?   Well, a slip bobber suspending a lively leech just off bottom is a likely candidate, drifted slowly and subtly through prospective spots. So too would be a split shot rig, with you casting a nose-hooked night-crawler on target, letting it descend to bottom, and allowing it to sit there, wiggling enticingly, with walleyes gathered ’round, eyeballing the worm. Occasionally, you could lift the rod tip a few feet to slide the rig a bit closer to the boat, take up slack, and then set the rod down again, waiting for the rod tip to bend, indicating a strike. Pretty darn patient, especially since both tactics would require first anchoring the boat.

27 (3)Are there any slightly more mobile and fractionally more aggressive tactics that might cover a teeny bit more water, especially up in the shallows? Enter dead sticking with a lightweight 1/8-ounce jig, tipped with minnow, half-crawler or leech. Or perhaps even a scented plastic tail (ala bass tactics) although the lack of motion inherent with this system definitely favors live bait in some form, due to its natural lively appearance, scent and taste, even when fished in place.

A DEADLY APPROACH To dead stick a small jig, you needn’t do much different that your normal lift-drop jigging retrieve back to the boat. Except, of course, for the excruciatingly long pauses between lifts of the rod tip. The key is having the confidence to believe a walleye is out there looking at your bait at all times, and to let it sit and soak and tease and tempt and turn that aggravation and exasperation back against the fish, letting the extended pause work in your advantage to eventually fool the walleye into closing the gap, flaring its gills and lightly sucking in the jig. You likely won’t feel much. It might be a tap, but more likely just a sudden slight weight on the end of the line. Tighten up slack while lowering your rod tip to horizontal — if it isn’t already there — and then sweep set the hook.   Thus you should try to minimize slack at all times without tempting yourself to unnecessarily jiggle and wiggle the jig.

25.5 (2)Remember, the extended pause with the jig anchoring the wriggling live bait to the bottom is key to getting bites. The nice thing about dead sticking is that you don’t have to anchor, at least on a calm day. Rather, use your electric trolling motor to creep along, then stop or hover, and make a series of fan casts across a general area to test for the presence of fish. Hopefully, you’ve already established that they’re nearby, because this isn’t a method to be used to locate fish, due to the limited amount of water you’re able to cover. But if you can force yourself into the mode of 30-second pauses between subtle lift-drops of the rod tip, making each cast last at least two or three minutes, then you’re in the dead zone.

The perfect tactic for tempting reluctant biters spread across shallow rock or gravel flats within or adjoining spawning areas; sparse sand grass flats emerging from sandy bottoms; rocky or wood-lined reservoir shorelines where walleyes move shallow to feed aggressively in windy conditions and may linger inactive when the weather turns calm; or basically anytime walleyes are up shallow, skittish and not responding to presentations that move. Turn the tables. Fish lures so slowly that they’re virtually motionless. Bring out your dead.

OTHER DEADLY APPROACHES Think about it. Are you fishing through walleyes that aren’t biting? (It’s a terrible thought, isn’t it?) But is there a nagging feeling at the nape of your neck that your offerings are going unappreciated?

Tone things down, speed wise and action wise. Instead of buzzing along a drop-off with a bottom bouncer, spinner and crawler, switch to a bouncer and plain snell, and creep and crawl along, barely moving, even pausing occasionally. Ultraslow movement requires short lines, with the bouncer barely ticking or slightly suspended above bottom, to prevent it from toppling over at rest. Consider using an upright floating bouncer like the Today’s Tackle Foam Walker, which stands up at rest.

26.25

Extend the principle to other presentations. Casting neutrally buoyant minnow-imitating crank baits isn’t that far unrelated from dead sticking; you pull, then p-a-u-s-e, before pulling again, letting the bait hang there before a walleye’s eyes. The suspense kills them. A three-way rig lets a floating jig head or simple live bait snell hang in place before a river ‘eye. A drop shot rig suspends a live bait or plastic tail above bottom in lakes and reservoirs. Lack of movement is often a key trigger for catching reluctant walleyes, which brings about a closing thought.  Chances are that by this stage in life, however, you’ve been shut down enough times to learn that smooth opening lines don’t guarantee a favorable response and, in fact, can be counter productive. Sometimes, you just have to sit down and do nothing but look good in order to attract attention.

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