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Category Archives: Trophy Fishing

TROLLING TOOLS FOR FISHING

28.5" walleye - Rick Lahrman

For many anglers trolling has always been one the most effective fishing techniques by presenting lures to numbers of game fish at a precise depth or spread out over a large area. There are two key fundamentals for a good catch, trolling at the proper speed, and depth of the appropriate lure choice. With the modern innovations of trolling gear and tackle today anglers no longer have to guess how deep or how fast their lure is running.

Trolling Tools

Downriggers
Used specifically for constant trolling depth. The downrigger is a winch-type mechanism that feeds cable off a rotating reel through a guide system along an extension arm. A weight is attached to the end of the cable and the line release is attached to the weight. The fishing line from an independent rod and reel is attached to the release mechanism on the downrigger cable. By lowering the weight (ball), you can drop the line down to the desired depth. A footage counter is connected to the reel unit to indicate the specific amount of cable that has been released. At the desired depth the reel is locked into place.

Downrigger Fishing Tip

Downrigger Fishing Method

Trolling is the most effective way to catch many species of fish. A moving bait or lure in the water trolled at the depth where fish are present is the best way to ensure a hookup. The use of modern downrigger technology further improves trolling results. A downrigger is a spool of wire/cable mounted on your boat. A heavy weight is hung on the end of the braided downrigger wire. A downrigger release is hooked to the wire and your fishing line is hooked into the release. The downrigger can then be lowered to precisely the fish depth. When a fish hits, your line is released and you fight the fish on your rod and reel free of heavy lines  and weights.

Better downriggers are equipped with line depth counters so you know exactly how deep you are fishing. A fish finder and a downrigger are a deadly combination. The fish finder shows you what depth the fish are and the downrigger allows you to fish exactly in front of them.

Downrigger models range form portable clamp on styles, permanent mounts, some with electronic motor retrieval systems capable of lifting downrigger weights of up to 10lbs 100 feet down by a simple push of a button. Other new features on downriggers are networked with electronics, a speed sensor can be attached to the cable indicating how fast the lure is moving at that depth. Bottom tracking sonar systems using a transducer on the transom sends a programmed signal to the downrigger that will raise and lower automatically the weight off the bottom, or jig the weight up and down giving action to the lure with a auto setting. Multiple downriggers can be operated off of the same sonar signal working simultaneousl

wi1405_ArchBoardsATrolling Boards
For increasing the spread of the trolling pattern as fish move to the side when the boat passes over them trollers have two options. Trolling boards that plane to the side on a separate cord which is held onboard by a planer mast. Fishing line (s) are imagesCAO4XJBJattached to the cord using manufactured line releases or wire loops and rubber bands, as the boat moves forward the release slides down the desired point, upon a fish strike trips the release to fight the fish on a free line.

Online Side Planers
They are attached to the fishing line by the use of a line release ( clip on / tension clip). As the boat moves forward they plane to the side upon a fish strike the board will release and slides down the line until it hit’s a stop (swivel/bead) several feet from the lure.

Both trolling board and side planers allows the angler to run multiple fishing lines behind the boat covering a vast area.


Diving Planes

This is a circular diving device commonly know as a Dipsey Diver. Depending on how the rudder is set it will track right, left, or straight. The fishing line is tied directly to the front eye and snapped on a release. The lure is attached to the rear eye using a leader. When a fish strike occurs the front eye releases flattening the diving plane in order to reel the fish in with out pulling against the dive setting of the plane.

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Fishing Lines and Weights   Lead Core (Weighted Trolling Line)
Lead Core line came on to the fishing scene during the 1970’s as weighted trolling line. This allowed Salmon, Lake Trout, Steelhead and Walleye anglers the ability to use light weight shallow running lures such as spoons, balsa and plastic minnow lures to reach depths were the fish are present. Lead Core is constructed of two components, the inner wire made of soft pliable lead and the outer sheath of nylon braid which is color coated every ten yards for metering purposes referred as the term colors. Recently a new environmentally safe non lead line was introduced using a metal alloy wire in lieu of lead. Weighted trolling lines are available in 100 – 200 yard spools ranging from 12lb to 45 lb test ratings.

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imagesCA0L2XLXThe amount of weighted trolling line spooled on your reel is totally dependent on the species of fish you are targeting by the depth required, as a example Great Lakes walleye anglers may use 30 yards of weighted line or three colors were as a Salmon angler may spool the entire 200 yards or twenty colors. The approximate rule dependent on the lb test is every two yards of weighted line will sink one foot. The only reel type to be used for weighted trolling line is a conventional level wind trolling reel, the line capacity is based on the species ( smaller for walleyes larger for salmon). In spooling the reel a line backing should always be used this also helps to fill the reel to the proper line amount. The most popular line backing used today is the super braids which is tied to the weighted line using a Albright knot, after the weighted line is spooled a monofilament/fluorocarbon leader is tied using a Uni-knot.( Note: When tying backing or a leader to lead core remove the inner wire) This entire line set-up is referred as “segmented” which when properly used places the weighted line and lure at the feeding depth of fish. Trolling weighted (lead core) line is a technical presentation requiring a level of expertise and knowledge. If your considering using this trolling technique your success would be best served if you research the fishery and species before purchasing the proper equipment.

american_fishing_wire_surflon_micro_supremeWire Fishing Line
Wire is another trolling line option especially if your fishing presentation requires to go very deep. Wire lines come in a variety of choices, solid and stranded. Solid wire know as Monel is a metal nickel copper alloy which will go deeper than stranded based on the ultra thin line diameter and weight. Stranded offers many versions made of stainless steel or copper, in cable-laid wire, 49 strand, three and seven strand wire some of these come with vinyl coatings used mainly as leader material. One of most popular wire line for freshwater fishing is the seven stranded six wrapped or braided around one. Copper seven strand is utilized as a alternative to lead core were as the weight of copper is double than lead core this achieves the same depth of lead core with only half the amount of line. The advantages of using wire line are numerous when compared to other conventional lines such as braided or monofilament, wire line with the weight and the ultra low diameter cuts through the water easily getting deeper using less line, it also has very low line stretch thus telegraphing fish strikes as they happen. Getting set-up with a wire line outfit requires all special equipment, reels are trolling level wind with a metal or stainless steel spool to accommodate wire line, rods require hardened line guides that wire won’t cut along with a roller tip or all line guides using rollers. We highly recommend if your looking to use wire as a trolling outfit, go to a pro shop that specializes in wire line rods and reels. One of the most common problems in using wire starts with correctly spooling the backing and wire on the reel to the proper level. Fishing wire with the proper knowledge and set-up will add another dimension to your arsenal increasing your catch rate.

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Snap on Weights

Snap weights are a attached/removable weightsystem ideal in getting your bait down to suspended Walleyes, Salmon, Trout, Bass and Muskies when flat line trolling. The weight sizes are relatively heavy 1/2 to 8 that snaps on to the fishing line by a spring tension clamp, the weight is secured on a metal ring below. Upon a fish strike the line is retrieved to the snap weight and un clipped from the line to fight the fish. With the various sizes of

Inline trolling weights

Inline trolling weights

weights available offers a range of different depth settings with out having to re rig your rod. Most anglers start by using the 50/50 system placing the snap weight halfway out on the line. By moving the snap weight closer to the lure increases the response to the movements of the boat and your rod. Moving the weight farther away from your lure it becomes less responsive, but more influenced by the action of wind and waves.

The farther back the snap weight is from the lure will reduce spooking the fish from biting. Snap weights Inline trolling weightscan be used on braided line, low stretch monofilament / fluorocarbon and lead core line.

Inline Trolling Weight
Another option for lures and baits to be trolled at a desired depth are online trolling weights (sinkers) these include torpedo or through the use of a down weighted keel design for stabilizing the weight as it travels in the water preventing unwanted wobbling. All good trolling sinkers have bead type chains and swivels to minimize line twist and should not reduce the action of the lure by having the bulk of the weight hang below the line.

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HOW TO CATCH TROPHY WALLEYE

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All dedicated walleye anglers seek to catch a 10+ lb. walleye, considered by many, a once-in-a-lifetime prize catch. To accomplish this task one must recognize the variety of waters that yield big walleye, using the proper fishing presentations and fishing the best times of the year which increase your chances of landing that trophy walleye.

Walleyes in the North tend to have a much longer life span even though their growth rates are not as high as in the South, but the North still produces many more walleye of 10 lb. plus.

Large walleyes are exceedingly cautious and wary, if they hear or feel anything unusual they stop feeding and head for deeper water. This why only 2 of 1000 walleyes reach this magic 10 pound size.   Our guides know this and use big fish strategies that result in catching many huge walleyes annually.

Big Water Big Walleye:
When considering trophy walleye waters big is best, a large body of water (5000 acres+) is more likely to support big walleye populations than smaller lakes (500-1000 acres). Competition for food, living space and angling pressure reduces the possibility on smaller waters for walleyes to achieve trophy status.

Large lakes provide an abundance of usable forage (minnows and lake herring), open space and due to large size angling pressure is reduced.

Best Times to Catch Trophy Walleye:
There are four major periods during the year when the odds increase to catch a trophy walleye, however we will only describe three of them since Wawang Lake has no winter fishing pressure:

Wawang NEW Map

Spring
Pre Spawn: During the pre-spawn period, large numbers of big females stage into a relatively small area. Although they are not feeding aggressively, you may be able to catch a fish or two due to the sheer numbers present. The pre spawn bite is good until spawning begins.

Summer
Post Spawn: A few weeks after spawning the big females recover from and start to bite again but finding them is difficult as they are scattered. You may catch an occasional large walleye, but seldom more than one. Your chances of finding a concentration of big walleyes are much better after they have settled into their typical deeper water summer locations. The best fishing begins about five to six weeks after spawning and generally lasts two to three weeks.

Fall
Late-fall: Fishing is unpredictable, the toughest part is to locate the walleye, but if you do find them a high percentage will be big. The majority of large walleyes caught in late fall are females. Their feeding for the development of eggs for the spring spawn, females must consume more food than males, up to six times more according to feeding studies.

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Winter
Wawang Lake has no winter pressure (fishing) and therefore our fisheries remains healthy with strong genetics and lineage.

In waters that stratify, after the fall turnover is completed the depths are warmer than the shallows. Big walleyes may swim into shallow water for short feeding sprees in the evening, but during the day they may be found as deep as 50 feet. Although difficult to find, they form tight schools, so you may be able to catch several from the same area.

Trophy Walleye Presentations:
Locating big walleyes is half the equation and other half is the proper fishing presentation. Here are a few tips to help you land big walleyes.

The first and most common mistake made by anglers is noise, whether it be dropping the anchor on top of the fish, running the outboard over the spot you wish to fish or dropping anything in the boat while fishing.

  • For position fishing, idle or use an electric trolling motor past the spot you’re fishing and set your anchor at a distance, let the wind drift you over the spot.
  • For trolling use inline planer boards that spread the fishing lines off to the side of your boat.  Remember large walleyes are exceedingly cautious and wary, if they hear or feel anything unusual they stop feeding and move.

Most often large female walleyes will relate to a piece of structure similar to the smaller males, but will hang 10 to 15 feet deeper this is attributed to a walleye’s increasing sensitivity to light as it grows older. In addition, bigger walleyes prefer cooler water, and they can usually find it by moving deeper.

Increase your chances for big walleyes by fishing in the shallows during low-light periods, especially in spring and fall.  If the water is very clear, or if there is a great deal of boat traffic, big walleyes will feed almost exclusively at night. During the daytime they prefer relatively deep water, deeper than the areas where you typically find smaller walleyes.

In deep northern lakes, the shallow water temperature stays cool enough for big walleyes through the summer. If the walleyes can find boulders or other shallow-water cover to provide shade from the sun they may spend the summer at depths of 10 feet or less. In these lakes, most anglers fish too deep.

Increase the size your live bait or lures, they maybe too small to interest a trophy walleye. Many times large walleyes are caught on musky/pike baits in the 6″ – 8″ range. Larger baits will draw far fewer strikes than small ones, and

most anglers are not willing to fish all day for one or two opportunities.  But if you are intent on catching a trophy that is the price you must pay.

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Big walleyes are extremely cautious, especially in clear water. You don’t need to over-rig your set-up. They’re more likely to take a bait using a size 6 hook using 6-8lb test line than 12-17lb test with a 1/0 or bigger hook. A small hook will allow the walleye to swallow the bait without feeling anything unusual and will not pull-out or break. Most large walleyes are caught away from snags and take your time to bring the fish in allowing the rod, reel and drag to do its job.

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TIPS TO CATCHING SPRING WALLEYE

Rick Lahrman caught this nice 29" walleye at Wawang Lake.

Rick Lahrman caught this nice 29″ walleye at Wawang Lake.

If hooking a big walleye is the plan then Wawang Lake is where you want to go whether it’s spring, summer or fall . While walleye are rather active and generally numbers are much easier to find during the spring, but catching BIG trophy sized walleye happens all season long.  Catching these big guys still takes some tactics to reel them in. If the plan is to drop a line, hook a fish and go home happy within a few minutes, the outcome could be disappointment.

Although springtime is the favorite for walleye fishing, anglers need to keep a few things in mind. Everything from actual weather conditions to location and bait can impact the outcome of a fishing trip. The trick is really gauging the action carefully before picking a spot to stay at.    Walleyes like water between 55 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and they move to follow it. In spring you’ll find them in the shallows of lakes and fall they will move into shallower water depending on light and wave activity.

Location Matters in The Spring

coldWhen the waters are thawing, but haven’t turned warm just yet, the shallows are generally the place to go. Anglers often quickly find a few key spots that work very well in the spring months.

It’s important to keep in mind that changing weather patterns can affect where walleye happen to be on a particular day or night. Many anglers swear by very shallow, night fishing to catch walleye during the cooler spring days but this is not always true. Slightly warmer, less windy days might find them a little further out though.

Some places to seek them out include:

  • Shallow points and mid-depths. While walleye are known to move into deeper waters when the temperatures heat up, early spring won’t generally find them there yet. Look along sunken islands and in mid- to rather shallow points by boat. If electronics do not turn up fish action, move on.
  • On-shore/wading. Many anglers find they are better off leaving the boat at home for springtime fishing, especially in the early days of spring. The fish are often found in very shallow waters that can be fished from shore or from piers.
  • Picking The Right Equipment. Having the right bait and equipment cannot be stressed enough when walleye is the catch of choice. These fish have changing preferences. What they enjoy in the hotter summer months is not necessarily what they’ll bite in the spring. Some of the suggested bait and tackle recommendations for springtime angling include:
  • Tackle. Rigs with live bait and live bait with slip bobbers are generally the preferred means for catching walleye during the spring months. Keep in mind if it’s early spring, walleye are getting ready to move to their spawning grounds, so they’re ready to eat.
  • Bait. Walleye tend to gravitate well toward minnows and night crawlers during the early spring months. In some areas, they might prefer noshing on insect larvae like during a mayfly hatch. For this reason, some anglers swear by using marabou jigs and other similar lures.

Spring is typically the one of best times of year to hook a winning walleye, but that doesn’t mean the prospect will always be easy.

 

walleye_catchThe temperatures this time of year, especially in early spring, can be brutal on anglers. Exercising a bit of patience, finding the right spots and paying heed to weather patterns can make a difference.

Remember, the landscape can change from day to day. On cooler days (or nights), they are often found very close to shore, but mid-level areas might hold them when the temperatures start to turn up just a bit.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

34" northern pike

34″ northern pike

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.

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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.

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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Pike – Locations & Tackle

Seasonal patterns, habitat preferences, tackle selection — understanding these basics will help you connect with more pike over the course of a season.

While pike fishing isn’t an exact science, there are some basic tactics and skills that will put more fish in your boat.

The northern pike — or “water wolf” in some circles — is a predatory fish that holds a healthy appetite, both for chowing down and battling tough. Pike can reach formidable weights, but even those relatively small in size are capable of torrid line peels and acrobatic jumps.

Fishing for northern pike is certainly not a science, but there are some basic tactics and skills involved that will ultimately lead to more fish — both on the end of your line and in the boat. Here are some suggestions for those that want in on the action.

Equipment Considerations – THINK BIG

Wawang_Pike_RodsWhen chasing northern pike, the equipment one chooses can often be paramount to the success one achieves. Beefy tackle is definitely recommended, and bait cast combos get the nod all the way.

A standard pike rod would be a 7′ medium-heavy action stick. This should cover most of the bases, although if the baits you throw are hefty (and the fish grow big in your waters), you may want to upgrade that stick to a heavy-action model.

Try to choose a rod with a lot of backbone throughout the bottom half, but with some limberness towards the top. This will ensure better casting capabilities, but with the toughness to back up a hard-fighting fish.

Bait cast reels should be dependable and tough, with a silky-smooth drag. A gear ratio of 6.3:1 or 7.0:1 is most definitely preferred, as this will allow you to burn buck tails or spinner baits back to the boat in an effortless manner.

Line choices are simple — mono-filament or braid. If going the route of mono, choose a strength of at least twenty-pound test. For braid, the standard is a minimum of fifty-pound. Regardless of which you prefer, a leader is a must when attaching main line to lure. Wire leaders between a foot and eighteen-inches in length will cover all bases and can be purchased in either wire versions or heavy fluorocarbon styles (80lbs +). The length of your leader should be longer when trolling as opposed to casting. By religiously using a leader, the chances of teeth and gill rakers slicing through your line are dramatically reduced, leading to more fish and fewer lost lures.

Careful handling and a quick release helps ensure fish live to fight another day.

Spring Locations
Northern pike spawn during the early spring in shallow water, often when ice still coats the lake. The period directly after ice out can often be your best bet for catching large fish, as the majority of post spawners will linger in this skinny water for some time, regaining energy and replenishing lost body fat. Most shallow back bays will yield the greatest concentrations of fish, and many can be sight fished.

As fish make their way out of the shallows, they will begin to stage on the first structure point they can locate. This can take the form of emergent weed beds, points, or the first drop-off situated in the main body of water. Finding these prized gems can often be easy, as working your boat outwards from the bay will have you stumbling upon the prime real estate quite easily.

Summertime Patterns
The summer months will see a definite switch in pike locational patterns, starting with a flurry of activity in healthy weed beds and lines. Finding the green stuff near points and shoals can bring about positive results, as the “hunter-instinct” in this fish will see them patrolling the edges actively.

As the water warms and the season progresses, large fish will begin their descent to the more favorable conditions that can be found in deeper water. Many of these pike will roam in a nomadic manner, intercepting bait schools as they travel freely and unimpeded. Pike anglers may scratch their heads at this time of year, but covering a lot of water in order to connect with fish is often part and parcel of this puzzle.

Small to medium-sized northern pike will still call the weed areas home and can often be counted on for rousing games of tug-of-war when the big girls have seemingly disappeared from the radar.

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Fall Tactics
As the water cools and the leaves change color, pike will again begin to move throughout the water system. In many cases, they will return to the same weed beds they occupied initially after leaving the shallows back in the spring.

Slow tapering flats holding a mixture of vegetation will be your best bet, while the healthiest remaining weeds should get your most attention. Some fish will still roam the depths, so don’t overlook a wide variety of water when searching for the water wolf.

Selecting lures for pike fishing isn’t tough; lure choices are quite universal.

Stocking the Tackle Box
Outfitting your box for pike fishing is not a tough chore. Lure choices are quite universal, and having a small selection of baits at your disposal will not break the bank. Make your choices from the following list, and be prepared to hang on tight to that rod.

Spoons
Spoons have been a standard on the pike scene for years, and for good reason. Simply put — this bait is guaranteed to put fish in the boat. There’s something intoxicating in the wobbling and flash of a spoon that drives a northern mad, and they will often strike these pieces of metal with reckless abandon.

Choose spoons in the 4 to 5-inch size, and give the nod to white/red, silver, yellow, and gold hues. A slow, lazy retrieve will often work best, with occasional pauses and flutters to catch the curiosity of any following fish.

40 (4)Spinner baits and Buck tails
Over sized bass spinner baits account for a lot of pike. Their body and hook design allows for an almost weedless presentation, which can work wonders when the fish are up tight to cover and in the shallows. White and chartreuse are two colors that top the list, with orange and black also being effective. Go with willow leaf or large Colorado blades for maximum flash and vibration, in either silver or gold colors.

Four to six-inch musky buck tails can really get the attention of pike, and work equally as well for both of these predator species. Their large profile, fast speed, and flashy blades make for an easy, yet effective bait to throw. Choose contrasting body and blade variations, sticking closely with the colors suggested above. Straight retrieves work best with these lures, with high-speed cranking or bulging being two of my favorite ways to fish this bait.

Jerk Baits
Minnow-shaped crank baits represent a pike’s favorite prey and can often trigger strikes when other baits fail. A five or six-inch floating or suspending crank twitched back to the boat is all that’s needed for your retrieve. Fire tiger, silver, blue, perch and baby bass are all proven colors, and utilizing baits with rattle chambers will make them even more attractive. Experiment with diving depths, and keep in mind to always run your bait higher in the water column than the actual level of the fish.

Top Waters
In terms of excitement, nothing can compare with the surface strike of a northern pike. Over sized buzz baits, walk-the-dog style lures (think Super Spook), and large prop-baits will all bring a feeding frenzy to the top.

Predominantly thought of as a shallow water lure, tossing top waters over weed beds, off points, and along rock and weed shoals can bring about positive results. Slow and steady is often the key to action.

Slug-Gos and Senkos are two popular soft plastic sticks, and both work well when targeting northern pike. Primarily used during the spring and early summer months, the tantalizing fall and wiggle of these baits can trigger some pretty hefty strikes. Often thrown to finicky fish, or those that have been spotted lurking in the skinny water, a soft plastic stick can fool even the most wary of fish.

Six-inch baits are a good choice with white, chartreuse, and pink being optimum colors. Rig these baits wacky (through the belly) or Tex-posed (through the nose) with a 4/0 worm hook.

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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.

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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Top Lures For Early Season Pike

With spring, thoughts of hefty pike in shallow water dance through anglers’ heads. Fresh from the spawn, pike will be found in specific locations and can be caught with a variety of lures.

At that time of year, the fishing can be fast and furious, monster pike are more than willing to entertain you with a game of tug-of-war. Jump-start your fishing season by tangling with the mighty “water wolf,” and be prepared for some of the best fishing you can imagine.

piketipsWhere To Find Them
Pike spawn in shallow, weedy back bays shortly after ice-out. Bays and shorelines found on the north side of the lake will be the first to warm up, and will be the most attractive to the cruising pike. Once the spawn is complete, the majority of the fish will linger in these back bays for some time, gorging on the available baitfish and awaiting a warming trend to occur in the main lake area.

Searching the shallow bays on your favorite lake will be the key to finding post-spawn pike. Make sure the area you are concentrating on has a variety of cover — be it weeds, logs or stumps — and is between the depths of 2 feet and 6 feet. Finding an area like this has pike written all over it, although your next step will be deciding what to throw at them.

Lures To Consider
One of the most productive and easiest baits to fish for spring pike is the spinnerbait. It represents an easy meal, has a bulky profile in the water and gives off flash and vibration that rings the dinner bell loudly for these opportunistic feeders.

A personal preference early in the season is a spinnerbait sporting a large willow-leaf blade, a sturdy wire body that will stand up to the abuse a pike can dish out, and a fur or nylon skirt that undulates nicely in the water. Couple this with a needle-sharp sturdy hook and you have the perfect setup for the mighty pike.

Bright colors seem to be the best route early in the season with chartreuse, red and white getting the nod for most applications. Depending on water conditions, it is best to experiment with natural and unnatural colors until you hit a winning pattern.

Topwater
Nothing can compare to the visual thrill and heart-pounding excitement of taking a pike on a topwater plug. Post spawn fish are more than willing to grab an easy meal off the surface, and the shallow water locations make this tactic extremely productive.

topwater3There are a number of topwater baits on the market that are suited to early season pike and have worked well for me over the years. The buzzbait is a top choice due to the large silhouette it provides and the surface commotion it exhibits. Fish this bait with a steady retrieve and be prepared to hold on tight. A stinger hook may be necessary for those fish that strike short or blow up on the bait.

 

Another key lure is the Zara Spook. The lazy side-to-side motion is intoxicating to both aggressive and neutral fish, and many of the pike you encounter will hunt down this bait as if it truly is alive. Choose the larger version Spook and make sure you fish the lure with a wire leader in order to save it from the jaws of this predator.

Spoons
Spoons have become a staple among early season pike anglers and for good reason — they catch fish. A spoon exhibits the movements of a baitfish precisely, and the positive vibrations and body characteristics make it a good choice.

spoonsProven spoon picks are the Red Devle Dardevle, Five of Diamonds, Red Eye, Blue Fox, Original Doctor, Johnson Silver Minnow, and many of the Williams Wobblers’ line of baits. Experiment with different weights, and thickness of bodies, in order to establish those that have the most desirable motion and action in the water, and which ones the pike show a preference to striking.

A trick to keep in mind for fish that follow yet refuse to hit, is to suddenly stop the spoon in mid-reel and let it flutter slowly downward. This tactic will entice the majority of “hot” pike to strike, and has proven itself repeatedly.

Head to Wawang Lake this spring and have a tussle with the mighty “water wolf.” The fishing will be fast and exciting and the eagerness of the pike to strike will have you returning year after year.

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