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Category Archives: Monster Northern Pike

15 Top Lures For Pike Fishing

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When the stars align and the feeding window is open, a big  pike will hit anything that moves. Your bait selection doesn’t matter and all you have to do is be in the right place at the right time. If you’re lucky, you’ll experience this feeding-frenzy action once or twice a season. The rest of your time hunting trophy pike will be spent cranking, casting, and waiting. The right presentation will make the difference between a bite and a follow-up. So, don’t waste all of your effort pitching second-rate lures. Here’s our round up of the best pike fishing baits on the market right now.

Heddon Rattlin’ SpookPMlures_01The Spook’s renowned walk-the-dog style has long been a pike pleaser – especially over grass. The Rattlin’ model’s tungsten BBs emit an intense sound that mimics fleeing baitfish. These rattles also serve to enhance the bait’s walking retrieve. ($6.99, Lurenet.com)

Booyah Pikee

PMlures_02Strong and durable, this ½-ounce double willow leaf spinnerbait boasts a tough Vibra-Flx wire frame that stands up to powerful jaws with lots of teeth. The Pikee comes with a 12-inch steel leader for added insurance against big biters. ($5.99, Lurenet.com)

YUM DingerPMlures_03
The 7-inch version of this flexible stickbait does a good job of presenting a baitfish profile for pike and musky. Rig the bait Texas style over weeds or wacky style when working open water. ($5.79, Lurenet.com)

Eppinger Daredevle SpoonPMlures_04a

The 00 size of this classic spoon has seen plenty of teeth mark, and for good reason. The wiggling, wobbling action puts out a lot of flash and vibration to resemble a fleeing baitfish. Trolled or cast, the Daredevle tempts pike and musky in a broad range of depths. ($9.70, Eppinger.net)

Blue Fox Super BouPMlures_05
Big on the visuals and big on fish-grabbing ability, the size 10 Super Bou imitates mature baitfish and sprouts double trebles to snare the toothy predators that seek them. Tandem blades, combined with Marabou, Hackle and Flashabou fibers create a lifelike undulating action, while the free-turning brass gear emits sonic vibration and rattles when it strikes the outer shell. ($21.69, Rapala.com)

Mepps H210PMlures_06
There’s nothing modest about this heavyweight tandem spinner, but big muskies don’t do modest. Nine inches from eye to tail, the 3-ounce H210 emits big-time thump with its twin brass Indiana blades, while a bright 100-percent holographic tail is hand-tied to tandem 7/0 VMC cone cut hooks. ($39.80, Mepps.com)

Suick Weighted Holographic Musky Thriller Jerkbait

PMlures_07
The weighted version of the original Musky Thriller carries its unique shape and enticing wiggle deeper. Holographic finishes shimmer like real baitfish. ($27.70, Suick.com)

Tackle Industries Super D Swimbait
PMlures_08

A whopping 14-inches long with its tail extended, this sturdy swimbait is built around a full Body Lock coil harness that keeps the soft plastic body in place, while connecting two underside trebles to the frame linked to jig head. The 5-ounce Super D counts down at about a foot per second. Jig it, jerk it or crank it; the Super D’s rocking motion and curly tail put on a big show for big muskies. ($13.99, TackleIndustries.com)

Mepps Double Blade Aglia (Size #5)

PMlures_09
The popular Aglia design gains enhanced visual appeal, along with maximum sound and vibration from a second blade. Whether it’s flashing metallic blades or contrasting colors, the dual spinners provide added lift for fishing over weeds or other structure. Vividly colored hand-tied bucktails help make this bait easier for fish to spot. ($6.99, Mepps.com)

Mepps Syclops (Size #3)
PMlures_10a

A real pike pleaser, this sleekly contoured spoon casts easily and trolls effectively at most any common speed. Jig it vertically over deep spots or through the ice. ($4.75, Mepps.com)

Grandma Jointed Lure
PMlures_11b

An old-school classic, the flat body and jointed design yields a wobble and shimmy that drives big muskies crazy. When cast, the bait reaches 3-6 feet; trolled, it goes to 12. Made with high-impact plastic and a tough diving lip, a Grandma will withstand the fiercest attack from a toothy giant. ($17.99, Grandmalures.com)

Northland Fishing Tackle Bionic Bucktail Jig
PMlures_12

Hand-tied with genuine bucktail, this jig features a versatile double line tie that affords the option of vertical jigging deep water or casting and trolling shallow cover. A stinger hook secured to the jig’s Mustad Ultra-Point hook snares any short strikers. ($5.99, Northlandtackle.com)
Cisco Kid Topper
PMlures_13

A torpedo profile body with stainless steel propeller blades on the nose and tail create a big topside disturbance that gets the fish looking in the right direction. Effective for pike and muskie, the Cisco Kid Topper works well at a variety of speeds. ($17.95, Suick.com)

Bass Pro Shops Thump N Deal Swimbait
PMlures_14a

Equipped with a pair of 4/0 short shank trebles, this big bait swims with a slight side-to-side wobble that can be altered by bending and adjusting the internal non-slip body harness. A steady retrieve works best, but an occasional pause or twitch can turn followers into biter. ($17.99, Basspro.com)

Koppers Live Target Jointed Yellow Perch
PMlures_15

Incredibly realistic body shaping, coloration and fishy detail makes this a hard bait for big predators to ignore. Effective for casting or trolling, the jointed body creates an erratic tail kick that closely mimics the swimming motion of a real perch.  ($12.99, KoppersFishing.com)

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Pike – Transitions

Spring is a time when great chunks of the fish population are all doing the same thing: moving into shallow water to reproduce or feed.  Warming, stable water and a soft bottom are two of the keys. Shallow, isolated bays are popular early in the year because this water gains and holds temperature.  You will catch pike early in the year in the shallow backwaters and also along patches of protected, sandy or muddy shorelines. In all cases, the water isn’t being mixed and the bottom is right for fish to drop eggs. Thin slices of warm water are easily blown apart by weather changes. As long as fish can get over the right type of bottom and the temperature stays at a level they like, they can and will spawn in some areas you might drive right by.

Wawang Lake northern pike (10)

The better you know the lake, the more options you’re giving yourself. And even though the general trend for pike in spring is ‘shallow to spawn,’ remember that fish move in and out in waves. You can always find pike in different areas. Some might be waiting to spawn, some might be right in the middle of spawning, some might have spawned and left, and some fish won’t spawn at all. No matter what you fish for, always remember that not all fish do the same things at the same times. There are distinct populations within the same piece of water that live different lives. Fish are like tribes in a jungle. Some raise animals to eat. Others constantly move while following food and hunting. Some might only eat plants found in a certain area.

Wawang Lake northern pike (9)

Spring is a transition month, just as fall is. It’s a period of change that’s leading towards a period of stability. All you have to do to understand the spring weather.   Trips can range from comfortable to downright uncomfortable and you’ve really got to be prepared for it all. You’re not quite out of winter and you’re not into summer yet, either.  For pike, carry a wider range of gear in spring than at any other time of the year. And even though you’re focused mainly on areas that are closer to shore and less than twenty feet deep, be sure to try a range of different techniques in these areas.

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Pike – Rods, Lures & Baits

Baitcaster_ComboCasting for northern pike should be done with a bait casting rod in the seven to eight foot range and fifty or sixty five pound test braided lines, like Power Pro or Tuf Line.  Carry spinning tackle in the same actions too. Seven strand wire and fluorocarbon leaders are obviously mandatory no matter what technique you’re using. In the spring you’ll be dealing with a lot of fish most days, and there’s almost always big ones to be had. A good leader that will hold up to a lot of abuse is very important. Use knotted Sea guar fluorocarbon in forty to sixty pound test. This stuff is durable, you can tie with it, and the average leader will outlast a wire one. Year in and year out, floating and suspending minnow baits are the go-to lure. Between about five and eight inches seems to be the best size range. In bad winds, larger, heavier, suspending baits like H12 Husky Jerk or Suspending Storm Thunder stick are easier to cast and control. When you’re working lures of this size in bad wind, braided line helps you control and feel the bait when it’s far from the boat and a big bow develops in your line. Plus, even little bumps or pops of your rod tip get transmitted right to the nose of the bait.

Floating minnow baits kind of fell out of vogue after everyone started making suspenders, but, baits that run high in the water and rise when you stop moving them can be magic at times. They’re tougher to cast in bad winds, but well worth the effort! Three of the best are:

  • Cordell’s Ripplin Redfin
  • Bomber Long A’s …… and the good old
  • #18 Original Floating Rapala.

Six to nine inch Suicks are great too, and like the #18 Rapala, they cast very well. You can use floaters and suspenders slowly, with lots of pauses, or fish them faster with more snapping and reeling.

rapala-husky-jerk
Jigging and trolling are two options that consistently produce early in the year also. If you’re not doing well casting, try weaving along spots with a baited spinner rig behind a bottom bouncer, like a Northland Rock Runner.

During many of our springs we see our guests get the biggest pike trolling, and usually within five or six feet of the surface. We’ve seen poor days turned around simply by putting down the casting rods and putting the boat in gear. Using a depth finder + GPS combo will revolutionize the way you fish. Your speed control will improve and so will you knowledge of spots and how thoroughly you work them. Add in a digital map chip and it’s almost unfair!  A popular brand to use is the Lowrance electronics with Navionics map chips.

If you really want to slow down and pick apart good spots, jigging through waypoints, icons and trails is also effective. In or near moving water especially, pike will hang out with the walleye and suckers around deep holes, little slack spots or behind humps and other structures. Locking these spots down on your plotter and working them with a plastic or hair jig is time-consuming, but it works.  Spots near current really stack up fish of all kinds. Once you mark up a few, you can return again and again and find fish.  As the spring runs of walleye and pike tapered off, jigging the humps and seams just outside the rivers can be really productive on bigger fish. Having a good sonar really helps eliminate any downtime spent looking for my spots.

Along with jigging, fishing live or dead baitfish can be the only thing that produces sometimes.  Many have had the best luck doing this in the worst weather, when pike aren’t moving around much and inactive in general.   Fishing ‘meat’ also requires extra attention to your rigging and technique to make sure fish aren’t deeply hooked and injured.

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Don’t Overlook the Pike’s Reflexive Response

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Northern Pike are impulsive and will often at times strike through reflexive responses even when they’re not hungry or actively feeding. They are susceptible to being provoked into striking a fast moving lure that crosses their field of vision.

A favorite blue and silver Rapala Husky is a great lure to cast as far as you can with the wind, then proceed to retrieve the bait with a rapid crank, crank, crank, …pause, rip (and repeat) motion back to the boat. Soon by the second cast you’ll begin to see the fruits of your efforts.

rapala-husky-jerk

Within an hour you’re sure to experience rewards with this frenzied cast and retrieve method of fishing. It is something many know and witness before but for whatever reason some anglers avoid this technique never fully understanding how powerful this approach really is . It’s only natural to fish more carefully when things turn slow and you may have to remind yourself to break out and try something loud, large and fast to get the fish to strike again. Take advantage of a fishes’ evolutionary response to strike reflexively the next time things get slow on the water. It’s sure to reawaken their feeding response and put more fish in the boat.

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Northern Pike & Temperatures

Finding and catching northern pike is no different than finding and catching any other kind of fish. There are different strategies that apply as the seasons change, and there can also be different locations and approaches that are affected by geography.

DSC00753

Pike are unique in that the methods and spots used to catch small or medium-sized fish can be totally different than those used for larger ones at certain times of the year. Pike are the most temperature-reactive species we have in Ontario. It’s a unique situation. Big pike live and operate in a much different manner than smaller ones do. There are two distinct populations of pike in every lake or river. Anyone who fishes for them needs to create a game plan based on the quality of fish that they’re after. And there are times of the year when you can expect big ones and smaller ones at the same times, using the same methods, on the same spots.

Seasonally, the cooling, warming and cold water periods are when pike are the most predictable. These times are also the best for bigger fish as well as numbers of fish as they’re a cold water species. In Wawang Lake, spring, and fall are when the biggest fish are consistently caught. In the summer, good fish are still totally catchable, but always remember that the temperatures and foods the bigger fish need are normally associated with water that most people aren’t accustomed to fishing. If you remember nothing else about northern pike remember this: Big fish use parts of the water that offer them comfortable water temperatures. Water temperature is the number one limiting factor in what the big fish do. It’s not light penetration, current, cover, lunar phase, fishing pressure or anything else. Water temperature trumps it all.

1

One of the most important things to remember about water temperature is the number you read from your sonar only applies to the upper skin of the surface, right near the sensor. Late in the fall and right at ice out, the water basically maintains the same temperature from top to bottom. And in summer, water temperatures are highest near that sensor and cooler as you move away from it, deeper. Surface readings on your sonar are only telling you what’s going on within the upper few inches. In mid to late June, surface temps might read 60F or 65F degrees. Try diving off your boat down eight or ten feet – that water is much, much colder! You need to understand, appreciate and respect what temperature does to pike, but you also need to see the bigger picture. A big part of this is remembering that your sonar only describes a tiny slice of the water column that fish don’t spend any time in to begin with, and that it takes a lot longer for larger slices of water to warm and to cool. On big, deep bodies or water, water takes longer to gain warmth, but it can also hold onto it longer.

On top of all that, in spring and early summer especially, there can be huge variances in temperature from one area to the next, and on similar areas from one hour to the next, because of sun, wind or current. When fish are at their shallowest, such as early in the fishing season, pay the greatest attention to temperature. Why? Because:

  1. the fish are using shallower water in general and
  2. because temperatures at this time of year can be so volatile.

Similarly in the fall, we watch for falling water temperatures to signal things like forage movements and/or the breaking up of travel barriers created when the water gets too warm in the summer. You don’t need to study temperature gradients scientifically or buy special instruments to measure data. But you do need to be aware of changes and what they mean to where and how you fish. All fish respond to temperature in one way or another, pike just happen to be one of the most sensitive to it.

5

 

The more time you put into anything, the better the chances you’re going to have success. One of the biggest things you can do to consistently catch good sizes and numbers of pike is to stay on them all season long. The simplest ways to do this is sticking to one or two bodies of water, finding areas where the fish spawn and tracking them out from these areas as the year moves along. You’re better off learning one piece of water in great detail rather than running around from lake to lake. If you remember nothing else about finding pike, remember that familiarity breeds success! The best fishermen are people who stick to a handful of water bodies and specialize in fishing them. They know the seasonal timing (usually the daily timing, too) the spots on the spots and have the best fishing methods distilled.

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Northern Pike and Temperatures

Finding and catching northern pike is no different than finding and catching any other kind of fish. There are different strategies that apply as the seasons change, and there can also be different locations and approaches that are affected by geography.

DSC00753

Pike are unique in that the methods and spots used to catch small or medium-sized fish can be totally different than those used for larger ones at certain times of the year. Pike are the most temperature-reactive species we have in Ontario. It’s a unique situation. Big pike live and operate in a much different manner than smaller ones do. There are two distinct populations of pike in every lake or river. Anyone who fishes for them needs to create a game plan based on the quality of fish that they’re after. And there are times of the year when you can expect big ones and smaller ones at the same times, using the same methods, on the same spots.

Seasonally, the cooling, warming and cold water periods are when pike are the most predictable. These times are also the best for bigger fish as well as numbers of fish as they’re a cold water species. In Wawang Lake, spring, and fall are when the biggest fish are consistently caught. In the summer, good fish are still totally catchable, but always remember that the temperatures and foods the bigger fish need are normally associated with water that most people aren’t accustomed to fishing. If you remember nothing else about northern pike remember this: Big fish use parts of the water that offer them comfortable water temperatures. Water temperature is the number one limiting factor in what the big fish do. It’s not light penetration, current, cover, lunar phase, fishing pressure or anything else. Water temperature trumps it all.

DSCF3951

One of the most important things to remember about water temperature is the number you read from your sonar only applies to the upper skin of the surface, right near the sensor. Late in the fall and right at ice out, the water basically maintains the same temperature from top to bottom. And in summer, water temperatures are highest near that sensor and cooler as you move away from it, deeper. Surface readings on your sonar are only telling you what’s going on within the upper few inches. In mid to late June, surface temps might read 60F or 65F degrees. Try diving off your boat down eight or ten feet – that water is much, much colder! You need to understand, appreciate and respect what temperature does to pike, but you also need to see the bigger picture. A big part of this is remembering that your sonar only describes a tiny slice of the water column that fish don’t spend any time in to begin with, and that it takes a lot longer for larger slices of water to warm and to cool. On big, deep bodies or water, water takes longer to gain warmth, but it can also hold onto it longer.

On top of all that, in spring and early summer especially, there can be huge variances in temperature from one area to the next, and on similar areas from one hour to the next, because of sun, wind or current. When fish are at their shallowest, such as early in the fishing season, pay the greatest attention to temperature. Why? Because:

  1. the fish are using shallower water in general and
  2. because temperatures at this time of year can be so volatile.

Similarly in the fall, we watch for falling water temperatures to signal things like forage movements and/or the breaking up of travel barriers created when the water gets too warm in the summer. You don’t need to study temperature gradients scientifically or buy special instruments to measure data. But you do need to be aware of changes and what they mean to where and how you fish. All fish respond to temperature in one way or another, pike just happen to be one of the most sensitive to it.

DSCF3958

The more time you put into anything, the better the chances you’re going to have success. One of the biggest things you can do to consistently catch good sizes and numbers of pike is to stay on them all season long. The simplest ways to do this is sticking to one or two bodies of water, finding areas where the fish spawn and tracking them out from these areas as the year moves along. You’re better off learning one piece of water in great detail rather than running around from lake to lake. If you remember nothing else about finding pike, remember that familiarity breeds success! The best fishermen are people who stick to a handful of water bodies and specialize in fishing them. They know the seasonal timing (usually the daily timing, too) the spots on the spots and have the best fishing methods distilled.

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EARLY SPRING: Pike Fishing

Spring fishing is some of the best of the year for northern pike, especially if you want to catch a big one! Here are some tips to help you score.

Very little compares with the gentle ebb and flow of the surface as you glide out over our fantastic northern fishing lake in the early springtime. Just knowing there are big pike somewhere in the depths gets the heart beating a little faster. This is the time of year for pike; right now is your best shot at tangling with trophy-class northern pike.

Understanding a bit of pike biology and how these razor-toothed predators relate to habitat during the post-spawn period is the key to success. Many waters are just opening up to anglers and the pike are ripe for the taking.

The first thing to know is that while pike are aggressive in the summer, they can be downright finicky while recovering from the rigors of spawning activity.

The second thing is that these “water wolves” aren’t always ravenous. Most pike begin feeding heavily when the water temperatures reach the 55- to 60-degree range and go into the spring feeding frenzy when it climbs to 65 degrees.

Spring may be the best time of the year to be on the water but some anglers still go home empty handed. If you’re wondering about the best way to tempt a big pike in the spring, here are some tactics that you can take to the bank.

graph-shoals-INFS-110026-WEATH-04aFind green vegetation and you’ll find pike. Submerged weeds that have wintered over and remained green are pike magnets. Developing bulrushes in shallow water hold their share of pike as well. Combine these features with deep water nearby and you’re on high-percentage spots.

Admittedly, several tactics work in the weeds as the water warms up but in the post-spawn period, finesse is the name of the game. Set the dinner table with offerings of slow-moving soft plastics that big northern pike just can’t resist.

Toss oversized plastic minnows, lizards, and grubs on 1/4- or 1/2-ounce jigs to the outside edges of the weeds. Green beds of cabbage and other long-stalked weeds in water 6 to 10 feet deep are ideal. Let the bait glide naturally to the bottom and rest for a moment before shaking it with your rod tip. Repeat the process as you lift and glide the bait along the outside edge. Anything that appears to be dying qualifies as a meal worth chasing as far as early-season pike are concerned. Plastics fished that way seldom get slammed and a little tick on the line may be all you’ll feel.

Soft baits also produce well in the old bulrush stalks that were broken off just below the water’s surface by the ice. Once the fresh growth begins showing above the water, pike move to the outside edges adjacent to sloping points, dropoffs, and breaklines.

Pike are addicted to submerged weeds and the deeper and thicker they are in the spring, the better.

Ticking the tops of developing green is another hot ticket for springtime pike:

Reel Dardevle spoons
floating Rapala Original Minnows
shallow-running Mepp’s

Magnum Muskie Killer in-line spinner’s
Spinner bait with Colorado blades just deep enough to bang the weed tops. Retrieve the bait at a steady speed for about two-thirds of the distance back to the boat and then give the rod tip a twitch or two. After that, pick up the speed. Northern pike sometimes follow a bait without hitting it, and the unexpected change can trigger a strike. Spoons have an added dimension of attraction. If a pike strikes and misses the spoon stop reeling and let it glide backward. The northern assumes the bait is injured and moves in to finish it off.

Target the bays, sloughs, and sections off the main current as pike aren’t particularly fond of moving water. If the weed beds are in current, cast from downstream and retrieve with the current. A shallow-running spinner bait or weedless spoon skims over the stalks and isn’t likely to foul.

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If you have to fish across the flowing weeds, try a heavy plastic worm rigged with the hook buried inside the worm body. Skim the bait across the surface and let it drop down into holes and gaps in the vegetation. Northern pike dart out of cover to make short work of such hapless-looking creatures.

Remember that weeds are important, but pike key in on variations of the vegetation theme. Shallow lake basins that harbor dropoffs, steep bars adjacent to weeded flats, and clumps of emerging weeds are the perfect places to try yet another spring tactic. The secret weapon here is the lipless rattle bait. Rattle baits cover lots of water quickly, tick the tops of weeds, and probe the deeper edge habitat. The combination of tight vibrations and quick wobbles pique the interest of pike and result in smash-and-grab strikes. Even lethargic pike get excited over the antics of a Rapala Clackin’ Rap or Daiwa Game Vibe Beauty.

Knockin’ the wood is a technique more commonly employed by bass anglers, but there are spring pike applications as well. When the weeds are sparse, northern pike move into woody tangles of fallen trees and docks where they border deep water. Timbered points and stump fields are a real draw. Getting a big pike out of that mess can be tricky, and so floating crank baits that cast accurately and can be danced through the wood are called for. Pike aren’t particularly fussy in the wood so just open the tackle box and use what you’ve got.

As the water warms, don’t be shy about banging the wood with a weedless Dardevle. Northern pike don’t seem to mind a lot of commotion and the louder the ruckus, the more interested they become. Pike ambush plenty of tough critters and a loud spoon isn’t going to intimidate them.

There’s a special place for Countdown Rapalas and similar controlled-depth baits. As the bigger northern begin to migrate out to weeded bars, flats, and break lines, cast or troll from 10 to 20 feet down. Pike in the 30-inch-plus range can almost be classified as cold-water fish with temperature preferences down to 50 degrees. To reach these fish you’ll have to go deep. Fish finders are invaluable during this period.

Occasionally, you’ll have to think outside of the box in order to catch pike in the spring. Pike are recovering not only from the stresses of spawning, but from a depleted pantry as well. These top predators can eat creatures up to a third of their own length; due to a aggressive temperament and a rumbling stomach, pike will attack baits up to 8 or 9 inches. Toss muskie baits as large as a Storm Thunderbeast or a 10-inch plastic grub into holes in the vegetation and slowly drag them over developing weed tops. Give a big northern time to size up your offering. Ignore the chuckles from your fishing buddies when you tie on a whopper-sized bait. You will get the last laugh.

Angler preferences toward fishing gear vary considerably, but the fact remains that fighting big pike requires medium-heavy to heavy gear with muscle. Fast-action tips to cast lighter lures are OK, but heavier rods are needed for heavy baits. A good rule of thumb is to use a rod in the 7-foot range for maximum control. Spool reels with 25- to 40-pound monofilament or an equivalent super line. Strong leaders are required equipment. A pair of needle-nosed pliers for hook removal is a given to avoid teeth that can easily shred a finger.

The best spring pike tactic is the one that happens to be working at the moment. Experiment with a variety of baits and presentations in good habitat and it won’t be long before you’re on the money.

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Tips for Big Spring Pike

If you’re a ‘gator hunter, you’ll want to add these tips and tricks to your arsenal.

Wawang Lake northern pike (4)

 

Springtime is pike time and that’s a good place to begin. How early? Well, that sort of depends on your geographic placement, because in areas with continuous seasons, open-water pike fishing commences the day the ice goes out.

This pre-spawn period is coveted. Muscled but undersized males travel with swollen females. Together, they enter sacred breeding grounds to propagate. Really big fish are exposed, cruising ankle- and knee-deep shallows. The submarine backs of 35- to 45-inch gals occasionally break the surface. Visually, mature pike appear as darkened logs that mystically glide through the shallows.

Food runs and spawning runs often share common terrain. Swampy fields of standing vegetation that seem suited for dabbling ducks rank high, as do shallow, weeded bays and tributaries leading to said places. Bulrushes are good, as are cattails and rice paddies. No creek is too small or bottom too silted. In the spring, I’ve seen huge pike travel streams that could be stepped across. Creeks known for their sucker runs are doubly attractive. But remember, once procreation begins, feeding ebbs, so play your hand accordingly.

pike2

Begin spring pike fishing in bays. First, they provide the egg-laying environment that attracts pike from far
and wide. Second, said bays host sufficient rations that invade shallow soft-bottomed bays, but to their dismay, hostile pike are there to greet them. Remember this: Where there are perch and other forage food, so will there be pike – spring, summer, winter and fall.

Not all bays are created equal either. Super-shallow ones – those not dipping past, say, 4 to 6 feet – provide supreme breeding habitat, but a short-lived bite, as choking weeds invade and water temperatures escalate into uncomfortable zones. These are excellent for pre-spawn fishing, and during cool and high-water springs when weeds remain manageable through May and into June. Hyper shallows also rejuvenate in the fall, after heavy greenery collapses and temperatures become comfortable once more. Visit them again at first ice with tip-ups and a bucket of suckers.

Overall, multi-dimensional bays are preferred to slough-like coves. so look for ones featuring good depth, 10 feet or more, and abundant features like humps, points, weedlines and inlets. They harbor more pike, and fish linger there longer, not being forced out by early-summer heat and subsequent lack of oxygen and forage. Many are lakes unto themselves, sporting deep flats and offshore bars. In lake-like bays, pike spawn in the shallows, recuperate and then gradually move to the bays’ deeper areas, notably weed lines.

The frequent loss of leadhead jigs to slime and teeth should trigger the conclusion that pike like what they’re seeing. But a change needs to be orchestrated for you to secure the upper hand. Reach for larger haired jigs and tether them with stronger, more abrasion-resistant lines. Big jigs, like the soft plastics mentioned earlier, maintain a large profile and can be presented languidly. Sizable 3/8- and 1/2-ounce bucktail jigs are marvelous. Leer rhythmically pumps a Northland Bionic Bucktail Jig tipped with a 3- or 4-inch sucker minnow. The meaty dressing adds visual stimulation, bulk and flavor. Griz does the same but with a Griz Jig – his own creation, featuring feathered marabou instead of bucktail and thereby achieving a similar dancing effect.

Operating larger jigs demands an upgrade from conventional walleye gear. Where you might have spooled 6- or 8-pound-test monofilament for ‘eyes, use 10- to 14-pound-test strengths. Overall, in a jigging scenario, mono outperforms the current wave of superlines, which impress in other arenas. You’ll want to tie in a leader, though. Spring pike aren’t known to be “leader shy,” likely due to their aggressiveness and usual springtime water coloration, so factor in a 12- to 18-inch seven-strand steel leader. Make your own and crimp the jig on, or go with a factory rendition. Leer likes a Berkley 14-inch leader with a steel ball-bearing and cross-lock snap, thus preventing line twist and allowing him to switch jig sizes and colors.

Spinning gear is preferred for jigging, although some anglers do prefer baitcasting equipment on drifts. I like a long 6 1/2- to 7-foot medium-heavy rod with a forearm-length cork handle. Long handles ease wrist-fatigue and provide a fulcrum during battle. You needn’t be as persnickety with reel selection, as long as you pick one that will spool heavier lines, run drag when it’s supposed to and not backpedal on hookset – instant anti-reverse.

Speaking of wobble, crankbaits and stick baits (long, shallow-running cranks) are the next line of offense. Beginning with the latter, focus once more on big and slow. Baitfish-mocking stick baits, like spinnerbaits and bucktails, can be cast or trolled. A healthy-sized Rapala Husky Jerk, Bomber Long A, Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue or shallow-running Storm ThunderStick can be lethal. Realistic minnow finishes – gold and silver – are reliable, as are patterns involving white and red. Fire-tiger, a bright perch imitator, also smokes pike, and most manufacturers offer it. I utilize straight retrieves with infrequent twitches, modifying as conditions warrant.

Unquestionably, springtime pike react more strongly to lipless rattling crankbaits than any other variety.

  • Bill Lewis Rat-L-Traps
  • Rapala Rattlin’ Raps
  • Frenzy Rattl’rs score big time.

They’re wide-profiled and highly visible, plus the incessant clacking and wickedly tight wobble cause pike to come unglued. Because they sink, you’re able to control running depth. Unlike stick baits, which I retrieve methodically with occasional twitches, lipless cranks should be burnt through the water. Cast, point your rod tip at the splash and bear down.

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SPINNING FOR PIKE

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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.

Contact us for your next MONSTER PIKE Fishing Trip!

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Timing the Pike Bite Just Right

 There are three times during the open-water period that can be considered prime for big pike.

Each of these windows of opportunity lasts from 10 to 14 days and is key for large-sized northern because during this time, the bigger fish of this species are more concentrated in the shallower water. Here’s where they can be found easily and caught with lures that allow anglers to cover some ground in their search. Once these big pike head to the cool depths where they spread out and suspend, finding and catching them requires tremendous amounts of luck. It’s better to time your fishing for big pike to these three periods to take advantage of factors that give the edge to the angler instead of the pike.

  1. The first period is right after ice-out, which can be a problem in many areas where the season is closed on inland waters.
  2. The second period is as the shallows warm, when the big pike transition from shallow water to deep water.
  3. The third is right before a water body turns over in the fall, when big northern will move up into shallow water after spending summer in the depths.

Right after ice-out, you find huge northern pike in the spawning areas.  These will be shallow weed-choked bays in the lake, and weedy backwater bays up the river.

Little northern aren’t hard to find and catch, but the big pike are a challenge and they put up one heck of a fight.  When you hook into a really nice pike, you can’t make any mistakes.

Don’t let the cold water temperatures right after ice-out deter you from using an approach that allows you to cover some ground. This is the perfect time to be tying on a spinner bait because it’s a lure that works well in shallow vegetation.

The pike move up into whatever vegetation is still standing from the previous year — and any newly emerging weed growth that can often be found in very shallow depths.   Use a 3/4-ounce spinner bait with a large Colorado blade.  This lure casts a long way and can be retrieved slowly, if that’s what’s necessary. You can also burn it a little faster just below the surface in the real shallow water.

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Some of the pike will have already spawned, more than likely while ice still covered the surface. Others are still spawning or are preparing to.  Occasionally you may catch a big pike and you can tell is post-spawn, most of the really big pike after the ice has just gone out are still fat with eggs and just on the verge of spawning.    All trophy fish are released back to Wawang Lake.

It’s the transition period when the shallow shoreline regions are warming and the big northern are moving into the deeper, cooler water when most anglers get their first shot at big pike. This period usually falls into a two-week time frame a couple of weeks after the traditional opener. Anglers who can be on the water at this time can capitalize on big fish that are still in reaching distance for a spinner bait or crank bait.

It’s no secret that big pike like the colder water.  You will seldom find the bigger pike in the shallower regions in the lake during the summer months, because the water temperatures there are just too warm for their liking. If you miss this transition period, you’ll likely be into fall before you get another chance at a really big pike, because those bigger fish get hard to come by when they disappear into the depths.

This is a good time to get out Spoon plugs.  Any lake that has a well-defined deep weed line is a perfect candidate for Spoon plugs.

The Spoon plug is a lure that was promoted years ago by famous angler Buck Perry, and is a staple of many diehard big-pike anglers. It allows an angler to troll a weed line or break line precisely at speeds of 1 to 4 mph.

You can cover some ground and find out where those pike are, although during the transition, it’s more important to have your lure in the right place than worrying about the speed.   Those Spoon plugs will get the lure to the right depth and stay on the weed line, no matter what speed I find triggers the bite.

So how does an angler know when the transition starts and ends? Water temperature signals the start.  When the surface temperature hits about 67 degrees, you know it’s going to start pushing those fish out.  This could be early June during some years and early July in others. The weather is the biggest determinant in when this transition period occurs.

You can tell it’s over when the fish quit the bite.  You’ll have a week where the weed line and shallow rock piles are producing big pike with some consistency, then one day you go out there and they’re gone.

The pre-turnover period is when those big pike come out of the deep water as the shallow water cools, just prior to the lake rolling over.

Turnover is a tough time to call, which is why the guys who can get out on a body of water often generally hit this time just right. If you miss it, then there is a period for a couple of weeks after turnover when the fishing is tough all over a lake. It’s just luck and timing.

The big pike will be roaming over the tops of the vegetation, you’ll just want to be ticking the tops of the cabbage, coontail or milfoil with that spinner bait, and if the blade is just a nice slow thump, that’s perfect.

Back troll slowly over the vegetation, with only about 25 to 35 feet of line out — the line from the reel at a 45-degree angle toward the lure and the spinner bait right above the vegetation. By wearing a good pair of polarized glasses, an angler can watch the bait as it dances in and around the stalks and branches. As the boat moves from shallower to deeper water, drop the rod tip or lets out a little more line until the lure starts ticking weeds again.

If seeing an opening in the weeds, drop the rod tip and let the lure settle in.  It’s amazing how often you see the big pike react to the spinner bait and come out of a big pile of milfoil or coontail and attack that lure.

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These big pike are the top predators in a lake and they fear nothing at this point.   You’ll see them swim right into the prop wash to hit a spinner bait or spoon as it’s trolled out from the boat.

Back trolling allows more depth control.   It’s easier to get the speed down and work a depth more thoroughly when backing the boat.   If the pike are deeper switch to crank baits or Spoon plugs, then front-troll. But when pulling spinner baits over the tops of the weeds, back troll.

Open-water season in northern Ontario lasts about 28 weeks or so and the time frame for quality big-pike fishing is between five and six weeks, so it’s imperative that you be on the water for these peak times.   Those big pike don’t give you many opportunities, so you need to take advantage of every one.

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