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Category Archives: Northern Fishing

How to Fish During the Cold Fronts

 

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We’ve all had to face it at one time or another – waking up on the day of your fishing trip to a chill in the air and bluebird skies to boot. What you are experiencing is the passing of a cold front, a weather occurrence that can shut down fish, and cause severe headaches for an angler. Fishing will be tough – there’s no two ways about it – but it is possible to put some fins in the boat if you are prepared to alter your delivery.

Try these techniques the next time you face a cold front and watch your catch rate increase dramatically.

What is a Cold Front?
A common definition of a cold front is as follows: “A narrow zone of transition between relatively cold, dense air that is advancing and relatively warm, less dense air that is retreating.”

cold_frontA cold front actually takes a day or so before the drop in temperature sets in and the skies become blue. This typically shows itself in the form of high winds, rainy weather or thunderstorms. It’s those kinds of days where all hell breaks loose, as the approaching front is causing a disturbance as the differing masses come together.

As the cold front approaches, fishing can be excellent. Fish become wired and active, feeding up a storm and hitting baits with ferocious strength. Even the fish know that once the front passes, they will take on a neutral or negative mood, and will develop a case of lockjaw for a couple of days. So, they feed heavily in preparation of this ‘dormant’ stage.

If you can get out on the water as a front approaches, I would certainly suggest it. Enjoy it while you can, because within a day or so, things will be much different.
Post cold front conditions vary greatly from the actual cold front. Clear blue skies, calm winds and colder temperatures are the norm, and not the exception. The change in pressure and temperature seems to shut down the fish, causing them to retreat to heavier cover, sulk on the bottom structure and become extremely inactive.

woods and weedsWhere To Find Fish
After a cold front has passed, fish stage in predictable areas of a lake. Don’t expect fish to be moving around much, nor, will there be much activity in the open water shallows.

For northern pike, thick vegetation or heavy cover are good places to start. Most fish under these circumstances will snuggle into the security of some sort of structure, content to sit still and wait out the prospect of changing weather.  The thicker the cover you can find, the better your chances of having fish present.

Depending on the type of lake, walleye will either seek out a thick weed bed and position themselves smack dab in the middle, or if rocks and boulders are concerned, they will sit right on bottom, remaining primarily motionless.

No matter what the species, seeking out the shelter and comfort of thick vegetation or other structure is a likely scenario. Remaining in a neutral or negative mood is a given

Downsize Your Lures
Although a northern pike may have no trouble hitting a ten-inch lure during a ‘normal’ day of fishing, he certainly won’t be as forthcoming after a front has moved through. Scale back on the size of the lures you are tossing, downgrading to finesse style baits for a better reaction. Since you are downsizing your lures, lowering the thickness of your line is also a good idea. Not only will get more of a lifelike action with your baits, but also less likelihood of scaring away line-shy fish.
Lightweight lures and line are most certainly in, and will often be the only thing that gets the attention of a heavyweight.

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S-l-o-w Things Down
When fish are inactive, the last thing they want to do is chase down a fast moving buzzbait, or a spinnerbait cranked at a lightning fast tempo. They just won’t exert the energy, nor do they have the initiative to do so.

Work your baits in a ‘slow motion’ mentality. Even if it seems excruciatingly painful to be fishing a worm or tube with nary a movement, continue to stick with it. If anything, slow it down even more. Dead sticking a bait is a great technique that can bring positive results.

Think Vertical Instead of Horizontal
A neutral fish has a small strike zone or feeding window. What this means is, unless a lure comes within six-inches or a foot to a fish’s snout, he will not be willing, or convinced to strike it. The closer you can get to the strike zone, the better your chances for success.

Vertical baits work well in this situation because they can spend more time in the strike zone, as opposed to a horizontal bait moving through relatively quickly.

Switch to Live Bait
When the fish are finicky, switching to God’s lures is the way to go – you guessed it, live bait. Minnows, worms or leeches will all work well, and will play on a fish’s natural prey attitudes and preference.
Slip floats, live bait rigs and tipped jigs all have a time and place, and post cold front conditions are definitely one of them.

Scent It Up
If live bait isn’t available to you, making your artificials smell and taste like the real thing is the next best thing to do. Go with tried and true scents, including crawdad, shad and worm. Any extra second you can get a fish to bite and hold on, is an extra second you can get those hooks into him.

Cold fronts don’t have to be the kiss of death in fishing. Although the fish may of changed locations, and be reluctant to hit baits, it doesn’t mean they are uncatchable. All it usually takes is a change of tactics to get into some fish again.

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Targeting BIG Pike

Big pike are  predators and also not pushovers. Being at the top of the food chain they can muscle their way into the prime real estate on any water system. Northern pike, especially big ones, inhabit the structures on a water system that best meet a variety of criteria, including access to food, shelter, ambushing opportunities, water temperature, and oxygen levels.

Prime areas that often meet these criteria for large pike after they’ve spawned in the shallows are points, humps and saddles. Here’s a refresher on these time-honored pike structures.

Points
Points are a piece of structure that juts out into deep water off of shore or an island. They range in shapes and sizes but ultimately points extend into and are surrounded by deeper water. The variation they provide compared to the uniform surrounding shoreline and underwater contours, along with fast access to deep water, make them attractive to pike.

Northern move on points to feed, whether on walleye, perch, bass, or any other species they can get their mouths on. Wind-blown points attract big pike as the turmoil created by waves often stimulates feeding activity as prey become disoriented. Pike are active all day, but morning and evening are particularly good times to try points. When choosing points consider that the larger the structure the more fish it’s likely to hold.

hump1Humps
A hump is an uprising in the bottom depth with a considerable area. They’re also often referred to as bars or sunken islands. The same fish-attraction structural qualities of points also make humps a common place to find northern. Mid-lake humps are particularly productive for trophy pike during summer and autumn. On large, deep lakes northern often inhabit cool, deep water where they’ll follow and feed on schools of whitefish and lake herring.

Humps often attract deep-water pike as both resting and foraging areas. Shallow humps, that peak around 10- to 15 feet often have weed growth, which will attract all sizes of pike. Deeper, rocky humps that top out around 20- to 35 feet appeal to big, deep-water fish.

saddleSaddles
A saddle is best described as follows: Picture yourself holding a rubber band in two hands so it’s straight. Move your hands together and the band drops — there’s your saddle. Your thumbs and forefingers represent either humps or islands, which could vary in size and shape, and the bends in the band are the sloping, connected points that join these two land masses. Sometimes these slopes are relatively uniform, as in the rubber band example, while in other instances one side may extend farther or drop faster than the other.

In addition to the reasons listed above for points and humps, there are a few other benefits to saddles. The first is they tend to be fairly sizeable structures giving them the potential to hold multiple big fish. Add to this the fact that saddles contain a variety of different depths plus plenty of physical features all wrapped up in one interconnected formation, and it’s no wonder they’re a pike paradise and typically known as big fish spots.

Structure Details
When fishing points, humps and saddles, paying attention to the finer details in the layout of these areas will catch you more and bigger pike. You want to find additional features that will concentrate fish. These zones are often referred to as “the spot on the spot” and represent prime real estate for fish. Small fingers, which could be described as miniature points, and inside bends on any of these three spots have a tendency to attract fish and funnel their movements. Focusing on deep weed walls is wise as pike will hunt along these edges. Rock piles also attract fish.

graph-weed-pikeINFS-110026-WEATH-05a

The next time you’re pursuing a fishing map, keep points, humps and saddles in mind. These structures regularly hold quality northern pike throughout the year after fish have spawned. Fish them thoroughly and don’t be afraid to hit the same structure multiple times in a day to better your chances at intercepting a big pike feeding.

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Big Tube Jigs For Autumn Pike

# 1 choice of lure for Lahrman Group 6/2013

Wawang Lake is the # 1 choice for the Lahrman Group – Chicago (area), IL

There are few a shorter days and cooling water are signals to northern pike that autumn has arrived. During fall, these sleek predators will feed heartily to pack on energy reserves to help them etter ways to catch pike in cold water than using big profile jigs, and giant tubes are particularly productive baits.

Pike Locations From Early Fall To Ice Up
Fall is very much a time of transition. At the start of autumn, pike will still relate to healthy weeds, but as shallow plants die look for northern in deeper vegetation zones. Tributaries and the mouths of feeder streams on rivers are also good late-season spots as baitfish stage in these areas. Sharp breaks where walleyes hold will also attract pike, which will eat walleyes any chance they get. Rock-gravel reefs and points adjacent to deep water are good whitefish and cisco (lake herring) spawning grounds. These two prey species spawn between October and November, so these structures make prime late-fall pike spots.Current areas also attract pike year-round. As an example, on lakes the narrows between shore and an island often has wind-induced current traveling through it. This pushes in baitfish and pike follow.   Northern wait in ambush in current breaks, such as eddies, outwash holes, and deep pools.

An autumn-sized bait. Pictured here is WaterWolf Lures's 7-inch Gator Tube with a 9/0, 1-ounce jig head.

An autumn-sized bait. Pictured here is WaterWolf Lures’s 7-inch Gator Tube with a 9/0, 1-ounce jig head.

Basic Tube Jigs Tips
Big tube jigs between 5- and 7 inches are a supreme autumn bait. The bait’s thickness also appeals to northern stocking up on calories. When pike are sluggish as a result of cold water these baits also have just enough action to get fish interested. Their multi-filament appendages wave at the slightest movement and are deadly at triggering bites when pike are sluggish. Tubes are outstanding lures to work on swimming retrieves. Pumping the rod tip during the retrieve will add either a side-to-side twitch or an up-and-down bob to the tube depending on its rigging.

When fishing tubes near the bottom, be alert and keep a feel on the bait at all times as it sinks. Tubes fall in a shimmy or a spiral that imitates a dying fish and pike often strike during the initial drop. Once on the bottom, you can use either a lazy, lift-drop swim or a drag-pause retrieve.

Hooking Followers Fall fish can be lazy and follows are common. The best scenario is spotting an aggressive fish a distance from the boat. In this case, try speeding up the retrieve or adding some snaps. This imitates escape-moves and sometimes triggers bites. If the fish appears lazy, slow the retrieve slightly. If working the bait along the bottom, add pauses or experiment with the length of drags. Slow twitches that impart an escape-like dart to tubes can also evoke strikes. If you spot a following pike close to the boat while your jig is traveling upwards, letting out line so the jig falls is your best option.

Tackle useTips Rig tube jigs using a long-shank jig head. Large baits featuring a wide body cavity will accommodate a range of jig-head styles. Also, adding a stinger treble hook on a wire leader to large 7-inch tubes can help with hook-up rates when pike bite short.

pikeBig tubes demand heavy gear.  Use heavy-power bait cast outfits. For deep-water applications, use rods at least 7 feet, and most preferred is a 7-1/2’ for better line control when drifting and moving line for deep-water hook sets.

This autumn try casting tube jigs around deep weed edges and rocky structures. This non-traditional tactic is a great way to boat bragging-size northern pike.

 

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Which is Best – Live Bait or Lure?

It’s one of fishing’s most common questions – what’s the best choice: real bait or artificial lures? In reality, there’s NO one-size-fits-all answer to this timeless dilemma. Each approach to catching fish has its particular strengths and weaknesses, and each one is better suited to different conditions, environments, target species, and levels of angler competence. Let’s look at the pros and cons of real bait versus counterfeit offerings!

Learning the Ropes Having said that, there’s no question that the very best, most consistently successful anglers are almost always those who cut their fishing teeth using natural baits. Bait fishing teaches us the absolute basics of the sport, including what food items fish prefer to eat, where fish expect to find those food items, and how and when fish prey upon them. Whether you remain a dedicated bait fisher for life or go on to try lures or even fly fishing, understanding these fundamental basics of the sport will stand you in great stead.

Better still, finding, gathering, or catching your own bait rather than buying it from a shop magnifies all these important lessons. Bait collecting teaches an angler a great deal about where the food items fish prey upon live, how they behave, and what they look like. If you ever move on to try lure, these lessons will prove to be invaluable…and even if you don’t, catching your own bait will definitely save you lots of money!

Hunting Versus Trapping  In many ways, fishing with lures is akin to hunting, while bait fishing is more like trapping. In other words, the bait fisher sets out his or her “traps” (baited hooks) and waits for the prey to stumble upon them. In contrast, a lure fisher can cover more water in less time. Like a hunter using a rifle or bow, the lure caster or troller actively seeks out the prey, and his or her lures are effectively bullets and arrows.

Clearly, these two subtly different approaches will have varying levels of appeal for different anglers and comparative strengths and weaknesses under changing conditions. There’s no overall “best” method, simply better choices on the day.

When Using Bait is Best:

  • At night
  • When instructing new chums or kids
  • When the water is muddy or discolored
  • When it’s very cold (especially while ice fishing!)
  • When targeting vegetarian and omnivorous species
  • When catching a meal is absolutely paramount!

When Using Lures is Best

  • In most catch-and-release fisheries
  • Where undersized and non-target “nuisance fish” are abundant
  • In clearer water
  • In warmer weather
  • For aggressive, predatory fish
  • On waters designated “artificial only” or “fly and lure only”

The Best Features of Bait

  • Bait is extremely effective at fooling most fish.
  • Bait is usually cheap (free if you catch your own!).
  • You can cast out a bait, set your rod down, and wait for the fish to come to you!
  • Leftover bait can be returned to its natural environment or taken home and frozen for future use.
  • Many fish hook themselves when they eat bait; thus, knowing exactly when to strike is less critical.
  • Bait appeals to an extraordinary range of fish species in most aquatic environments, and you will nearly always catch something on bait!

The Downfalls of Using Bait

  • Most bait needs refrigeration or a water-circulating live well to maintain freshness.
  • Finding and catching bait can be a dirty, difficult, and even potentially hazardous task.
  • Most bait smells! Your hands, clothes, and gear will also become smelly when you go bait fishing.
  • Bait is non-discriminatory; it often attracts under-sized fish and non-target species.
  • Bait fishing is less spontaneous, and it usually requires at least some planning.
  • Using bait often results in deeply hooked fish that can’t be easily released with a high chance of survival.

The Best Features of Lures

  • Lures are simply fun to use! Catching a fish on a lure always seems especially satisfying.
  • Lure fishing is an active, engaging pursuit, and you can cover a lot more water with a lure.
  • Lures tend to catch slightly larger fish on average and attract less unwanted by-catch.
  • Lures nearly always hook fish in the jaws, lips, or mouth, facilitating easier, safer catch and release.
  • Lure collecting can become at least as addictive (and pleasurable) as lure fishing!

The Downfalls of Using Lures

  • Most good lures are expensive, and some are very expensive!
  • Many lures are easily snagged on obstacles such as rocks, trees, or strands of water weed.
  • Lure fishing demands constant motion, such casting and retrieving or trolling from a moving boat.
  • Many species of fish are much less responsive to lures than they are to bait.
  • Lure fishing generally demands better-quality tackle and a higher degree of skill than bait fishing.
  • Lure collecting can become at least as addictive (and expensive) as lure fishing!

And the Winner Is…
In the final analysis, there can be no overall winner in the bait-versus-lures contest. Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses, and each will dominate under certain conditions or on a particular day. Smart (and successful) anglers will strive to be adept at both forms of fishing!

 

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Does Lure Color Matter Underwater?

Most anglers have a favorite lure and swear that their choice will out-perform all other offerings. But just how important is color when it comes to lure selection? Well, according to science, not very important at all!

Water progressively absorbs or blocks light of different wavelengths, meaning that colors effectively “vanish” one after another as “white” sunlight travels through the water column. The overall intensity or brightness of visible light also diminishes rapidly underwater.

Because this absorption is greater for longer wavelengths (the red end of the spectrum) than for shorter wavelengths (the blue end of the spectrum), perceived colors are rapidly altered with increasing depth or distance through the water.


The precise rate at which this loss of color occurs varies depending on the intensity of the sunlight, whether the sun is directly overhead or low on the horizon, the amount of cloud cover, as well as the clarity and color of the water itself, and the presence of any suspended matter such as weed or plankton. Even in very clear ocean currents far from shore, less than 25 percent of available sunlight hitting the sea’s surface will penetrate much beyond 30 feet or so. By the time we reach a depth of 300 feet, the remaining light may be as little as 0.5 percent of that available on the surface. In other words, it’s a pretty gloomy place down there! In freshwater lakes and rivers, this loss of light with depth is even more dramatic.

As already mentioned, red is the first color visible to our eyes to disappear, and is typically gone within 15 or 20 feet of the surface. much less in turbid water. Orange disappears next, then yellow, green, and purple. Blues penetrate deepest of all, both the tones visible to our human eyes and also the shorter, ultra-violet wavelength many fish can see.

This phenomenon has a profound impact on the way things look to us, and also to fish underwater.

  • White objects will appear bluish or gray underwater, and the darkness of that blue/gray appearance increases rapidly with depth.
  • Red objects will begin to look dark brown or even black within a few meters of the surface.
  • Down at 40 or 50 feet, even in very clear water, the world appears to be composed entirely of shades of gray, blue, and black.

It’s worth stressing that this loss or alteration of visible colors occurs in both the vertical and the horizontal or diagonal planes. So, 40 feet of vertical depth has roughly the same impact on light waves and color perception as 40 feet of horizontal or diagonal separation between object and observer. In other words, a red lure may look black when viewed at a depth of 40 feet, but it will also appear black, or at the least brown or very dark grey, when viewed from the side at a distance of 40 feet, even if it’s traveling right up in the surface layer.

At face value, this phenomenon of light and color loss underwater ridicules the importance of color in lures anywhere beyond shallow, ultra-clear scenarios, yet anglers the world over will continue to argue that one color is better than another, even in deep-water jigging. The funny thing is, if you ask half a dozen fishers for their opinion on the most effective lure color, you’re likely to receive six different answers. Perhaps it’s time we moved color to the bottom of the list of criteria when choosing a lure, and placed far greater emphasis on the size, action, profile, and speed of our offerings.

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Get the Most Out of Your Crankbaits

How to Get the Most out of Your Crankbaits There is perhaps no lure more versatile than a crankbait. This style of lure will catch fish of all species in all seasons, whether you’re casting or trolling.

What’s a Crankbait?
Any fish that routinely eats smaller fish can be targeted with crankbaits. A lure with a plastic lip that causes a bait to dive underwater can be classified as a crankbait. The depth ranges vary from just below the surface down to 20 feet or even deeper. To simplify things, crankbaits can be grouped into four major categories:

Squarebills and Shallow Divers
The shallowest-diving crankbaits – including the popular squarebill crankbaits – work best around shallow cover. Ideal places to throw shallow crankbaits are around rocks, docks, submerged wood, and shallow grass lines. The key with shallow-diving crankbaits is to fish them with no regard to getting them hung up. While this may seem crazy for a lure that has two treble hooks attached, shallow-divers actually do not hang up often if you reel them in fast enough. When a lure deflects off a hard object, it is often the best time to catch a fish, as it causes a reaction from the fish as the lure changes direction. The body and lip of the crankbait will absorb the impact, causing the deflection, and the hooks will rarely penetrate the cover at high speeds.

Medium Divers
Medium-diving crankbaits work well in water that is shallower than 10 feet, even when they dive deeper than the water’s depth. A crankbait that dives 10 feet, for example, will be excellent in shallower water, as it will dig into the bottom and cause a disturbance. Like shallow-diving crankbaits, a deflection also triggers strikes, and a short pause after a deflection often results in a strike.

Deep Divers
A deep crankbait works well for fishing off shore structures like rock piles, creek channels, and ledges. It takes more effort to get these crankbaits down deep and to make them stay there. Like the shallower styles, bottom contact is important, and any deflection or change in the retrieve will trigger a bite.


Spring
In most cases, the warmer the water is, the faster you want to crank your reel handle. A steady stop-and-go retrieve will also work in all seasons. Shallow crankbaits are perfect for springtime, as many of the largest fish in the lake will begin to enter shallow water in preparation for spawning. A red crankbait used with a fast retrieve will dive into the bottom and will look like a scurrying crawfish.

Summer
As the water temperature heats up, so does the metabolism of predatory fish. This is a time of year when you can crank as fast as you want to and fish deeper than you would in other seasons. A deep-diving crankbait is the top choice when fishing off shore structures.

Fall
Fall is arguably the best season to use crankbaits. This is when the baitfish become most active and the predatory fish begin to chase them. In lakes that have shad, a white or shad-pattern crankbait with a fast retrieve is the best lure to use to cover water until you locate a concentration of fish.

Winter
Winter is time to use a flat-sided crankbait that produces a tight wobbling action. A crankbait with a wider wobble does not work as well in colder temperatures, so flat-sided crankbaits are the top choice when fished with a slow and steady retrieve.


Line Type, Size, and Diameter
Selecting fishing line is one of the most overlooked aspects of crankbait fishing. Line size and diameter greatly affect how deep your baits will dive and what action they will have. Simply put, the thinner the diameter is, the deeper a bait will dive.

In addition to the line diameter, the type of line will affect the diving depths of your crankbaits. Monofilament and braid will float, and fluorocarbon will sink. Braided line will also have the least stretch, making it the least attractive option for crankbait fishing. The lack of stretch will tend to pull hooks out of the mouth of a fish, resulting in more lost fish.

Monofilament and fluorocarbon are the top choices for crankbaits. Monofilament is ideal for shallow crankbaits, especially when you are fishing around grass, as it will not hang up as often as the sinking fluorocarbon.

Fluorocarbon is a great all-around line for crankbait fishing; it has minimal stretch, and the sinking properties will allow a crankbait to dive deeper.


Cranking Gear
Crankbaits need rods and reels specifically designed for the technique to get the most out of your lures.

A reel should be able to handle a large amount of line to get a better casting distance, and it should also have a slower gear ratio. A 5.4:1 or similar gear ratio works well for all crankbaits because of two major factors: it forces anglers to fish the baits slower, and it allows for more power during the retrieve.

Crankbait rods should be long to allow for increased casting distance and to get to the maximum diving depth. A rod that is longer than seven feet is ideal, and up to eight feet is not too long.

The rod action is another key factor, as having a rod with some give is best to allow the bait to dive deep without being held back or impeded by the rod. A good medium-heavy rod with a moderate action has a perfect balance of backbone and flexibility. Fiberglass composite rods are popular, as they provide the balance needed for casting and cranking.

Modifying Hooks
The practice of swapping treble hooks is important as hooks become dull, but changing a hook style or size can have a big impact on a crankbait’s action and dive. Each treble hook style will vary in thickness and weight, causing a lure to dive shallower or deeper. The drastic change could also negatively affect how the crankbait was designed to run, giving it little or no action. With that in mind, it is best to change out hooks for similar sizes, styles, and even the same brand to avoid affecting your bait’s action.

Tuning Your Crankbait
Making sure that your crankbait is always running straight is a priority. If not, it could be due to a defective lure, damage from an errant cast, or simply catching too many fish! The solution to fixing a straying crankbait is very easy: tune it! Needle-nose pliers will allow you to slightly adjust the line tie to the opposite direction of where you want your crankbait to run. Simply put, if your crankbait is running to the left, turn the line tie to the right.

Crankbaits are among the top-producing lures for any species that eats smaller baitfish and crayfish. They allow an angler to quickly cover water and will be appealing to any fish that is in a feeding mood. They will even tempt those that are not hungry. By following these steps, you will be sure to get the most out of your crankbaits.

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The Complete Pike Arsenal

7Some of us like to target pike. From the time the ice melts until the lakes freeze over again, we’re out on the water slinging heavy metal on big-diameter rods fishing all day for just a couple of bites. We might also be pushing that bow-mount electric motor to the edge of its specifications in vegetation so thick on the surface it’s hard to believe there are loads of pike hiding around the sparse stalks just a few feet down.

Pike ambush their prey, which means cover, in the form of vegetation, is a good place to find them. Wherever there is a big weedy flat, there will be pike.

During the early season, you cannot beat a spinnerbait for pike. When the fish are aggressive, you can use up to a 1-ounce lure with a big willow-leaf or Indiana-style blade. When the pike bite requires some finesse, a 1/2-ounce lure with a Colorado-style blade is the best option.

With a willow-leaf or Indiana blade, you must maintain speed for the lure to produce enough flash to attract pike. The Colorado blade is the slow, precise option. When you quit reeling and drop the tip on a Colorado-bladed spinnerbait, the lure flutters down, creating a helicopter effect and floating the skirted leadhead right into a pocket or along the edge of a weed line.

Crankbaits are deadly for pike, but when combined with a heavy wire leader with big snaps, there is a definite impediment to the lure’s action. There is a remedy for this situation. It’s called Tyger Leader. Tyger Leader (www.tygerleader.com) is a stainless steel knottable leader that you can tie directly to the lure. A 5-, 10-, even a 15-pound-test is a small enough diameter to allow the crankbait to run true to form.

booyah_super_shad_spinnerbaitStart with a small barrel swivel on the line from the reel. Tie the Tyger Leader to the swivel. Use a piece about a foot long and you’re covered. But if you’re like me, changing lures every half hour, start with 18 to 20 inches, and by the end of the day you’re left with about 6 inches. You can tie the crankbait directly to the leader and it will run straight and wobble just like it’s been tied to the braided line from the reel.

Some pike anglers swear by spoons. Spoons can generate some solid bites, but there are days when pike will just follow the lure and not hit it. When this is the case, thread three 2-inch scented grub tails onto a treble hook. The fluttering tail with the added scent turns those followers into biters.

If you are a spoon expert, try the 1 1/2-ounce Sebile Onduspoon – they are loaded with rattles and have a unique action when used with a steady retrieve. Pike seem to love them, so be sure to use a wire leader because they will inhale them.

Pike love plastic worms. Those reaper tails and brush-hog bodies that are found by the gross in bass anglers’ boxes are deadly, but pike anglers haven’t figured it out yet.  A favorite plastic presentations for pike consists of a No. 4/0 weighted worm hook tipped with a Gulp!  Crazy Legs Jerk Shad. You don’t rig this with the hook weed less like you would if fishing for bass. No, you make sure the hook is exposed.

spoonsUse a 1/16-ounce weighted hook so the drop is slow. With the plastic body you can cast this rig some distance, but the goal is to just pitch it into pockets in the weeds and let it sink for a few seconds. Then, using a twitch-and-stop retrieve, bring it back to the boat.

Those old grizzled pike anglers with multiple scars on their hands from getting too close to a big pike’s gill rakers prefer to use minnows — big sucker minnows. These anglers anchor at a favorite spot and watch those bobbers swim around as the big suckers try to submerge into the vegetation.

That’s the secret. You want the minnow struggling to escape, so position the hook below the bobber so the bait is a few inches above the vegetation.

There are tricks to get the minnow to attract even more pike. Some anglers trim fins. Take a nip off one of the side fins and the minnow will swim in an erratic circle. Knock off half the tail fin and the minnow really struggles to stay upright. A struggling minnow is an enticement pike cannot resist. That’s why it’s important to keep the bait fresh as well. After a half hour, replace the minnow with a fresh one, although if the fish are biting, you may go through a few suckers in that amount of time.

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Other items found in the complete pike arsenal are a mouth spreader and long-nosed pliers. The prevalent mouth spreaders are wire springs that wrench the pike’s jaw open and cut right through their mouth. Toss it out. Berkley developed a new mouth spreader that has a low impact on pike. The pliers, of course, come into play when the pike’s mouth is spread open. You can see by the sheer numbers of teeth that it would be a really stupid idea to reach into that cavernous jaw and dislodge the hooks with your bare hand.

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