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Flash Baked Walleye Fillets

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PIKE FISHING TACKLE BOX – A MUST TO HAVE

193Page1_SimonCheung_tackleFrom spoons to spinners to swimbaits, everything you’ll ever need to tackle mammoth northerns

No aspect of fishing has changed more over the past two decades than our understanding of pike. Indeed, if we had written about equipping ourselves for big northerns just 20 years ago, our ultimate tacklebox would have been small, the offerings skimpy and the techniques few. But as our knowledge of pike behaviour has expanded, so too has the range of tackle needed to catch these toothy critters—as the following roundup of the top lures and tactics reveals.

CRANKBAITS

When to fish ‘em
From midsummer until freeze-up, hard and soft crankbaits excel in open water, on deep flats and around main-lake rocky structures. The lipless versions are superb around reed- and weedlines.

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Where and how
You can both troll and cast these lures, but don’t do either aimlessly. Concentrate on key transitions, edges, drop-offs, breaklines and specific bottom contours. The CS25 Suspending Super Spot and Lucky Craft LVR models are awesome vibrating, lipless casting lures. When you pause them for even a millisecond, a following pike only has the option of opening its mouth and eating it. These lures may look a tad small, but they fish big because you can retrieve them quickly and they won’t roll over.

SUGGESTIONS:

  • Rapala Super Shad Rap,
  • Lucky Craft LVR D-15,
  • Cotton Cordell CS25 Suspending Super Spot,
  • Storm Kickin’ Minnow (9-inch).

MINNOWBAITS/JERKBAITS

When to fish ‘em
Cast hard jerkbaits (Husky Jerk, X-Rap, Long A, Original Floater, Slender Pointer) when the water is cold, typically early in the spring and late fall in southern Canada, and all year long farther north. Or speed troll these lures in the summer when the pike have retreated to cooler, deeper water. Soft jerkbaits rigged Texas-style, meanwhile, are deadly when vegetation is moderately sparse with plenty of open pockets. My favourite time to fish soft jerks, though, is in the late fall wherever I find thinning cabbage weeds in deep water adjacent to main-lake rock structures.
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Where and how
Hard jerkbaits are at their best in and around rock structure. In cold water, retrieve the lure as close to structure or cover as possible. Wind the bait down, jerk it three or four times and pause. The colder the water, the longer you should wait. Nick the tops of weeds, scrape rocks and tick logs and stumps. Pike usually strike when the lure suspends, rises slowly or starts the next series of jerks. You can also throw a hard jerk when there’s a few feet of water over the tops of deep weeds. When the northerns go deep in midsummer, troll hard jerkbaits around rocky main-lake points and over the tops of mid-lake humps. Contour trolling a big F18 Original Floater behind a three-way rig is a deadly hot-weather pattern.

Rig soft plastics (Houdini Shad, Berkley Saltwater Jerk Shad, YUM Dinger) weedless on a stout 5/0 to 7/0 offset hook without any additional weight and let them flutter toward bottom. Then hop, pop, twitch and pause the lure continually to imitate a dying baitfish. Along weed edges, swim the lure through the grass, deflecting it off any stalks you feel. When you’re fishing the corridor between deep weeds and the surface, let the lure fall to tick the top of the weeds, then pop it back to the surface.

SUGGESTIONS:

  • F18 Rapala Original Floater, Rapala X-Rap 14, #14 Rapala Husky Jerk,
  • Lucky Craft Pointer 128,
  • Lucky Craft Slender Pointer 127,
  • YUM Houdini Shad (9-inch),
  • Berkley Saltwater Jerk Shad (5-inch),
  • YUM Dinger (7-inch),
  • Bomber Magnum Long A.

TOPWATERS

When to fish ‘em
Be careful if you have a bad heart. There’s nothing more exciting than  watching a huge pike crush a topwater lure. During the summer months,  the best times are early in the morning, late in the afternoon and when  it’s overcast.

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Where and how
Deep weed edges, woody  shorelines and rocky main-lake structures are perfect locations for  topwaters. Instead of throwing a big, noisy buzzbait over a weedbed,  position your boat parallel to the weed edge so you can keep your lure  running over the prime pike zone. Do the same thing when you’re fishing  among fallen trees and logs. Remember, pike are ambush predators that  hide along the fringes of cover rather than burying themselves deep  inside it.

The biggest and loudest buzzbaits (in white, chartreuse, yellow and  orange) will attract the most attention. When the fish are aggressive,  add a stinger hook and a five-inch-long soft-plastic worm or grub, or a  pork chunk to seal the deal. But here’s the key: don’t react to the  explosion when a pike strikes. Keep your rod tip pointed up during the  retrieve and keep reeling rather than dropping the tip to set the hook.  When the fish are in a funk, however, scurry a Bull Ribbit or Hawg Frawg  in the same locations. The lighter bait forces you to slow down your  retrieve, but the frog will still kick up its heels. Only pause the frog  when you swim it over an opening in the weeds.

Many pike anglers  miss the best big-fish locations: isolated rock piles, underwater  points and shallow boulder-strewn shoals. They also think they can only  use topwater lures when conditions are calm. Actually, a slight chop is  better than a slick surface for walking a big Zara Spook, Skitter Walk  or Live Sammy. And a fast retrieve produces explosive strikes. When the  fish are less belligerent, or when the water is dirty, dingy or stained,  a prop bait such as the Boy Howdy, Splash-Tail or Skitter Prop  sputtering on the surface will cause a pike to become unglued. Prop  baits are also deadly when pike are resting beside isolated forms of  cover, such as a giant deadhead poking out of the water.

SUGGESTIONS:

  • Cotton Cordell Boy Howdy,
  • Rapala Skitter Prop,
  • Lucky Craft  Splash-Tail,
  • Mister Twister Top Prop,
  • Stanley Bull Ribbit,
  • Heddon Zara Spook,
  • Rapala Skitter Walk,
  • Lucky Craft Live Sammy,
  • Mister Twister Hawg Frawg,
  • Booyah Buzz.

SPINNERBAITS

When to fish ‘em
Spinnerbaits produce well from late spring until mid-autumn, when the  pike have set up along reed- and weedlines, and shorelines littered with  fallen trees and submerged wood.

images-3imagesCA86RT7UWhere and how
A  slightly larger than normal (3/4- to one-ounce) bass-style, willowleaf  spinnerbait tipped with a soft-plastic grub or worm is a marvellous tool  when retrieved quickly just under the surface. Don’t hop, pop or  manipulate it in any way; just keep it moving.

When the biggest  toothies turn off and won’t come to the surface, dredge them up with a  heavy 1 1/2- to 2 1/2-ounce Dick Pearson Grinder. Let it flutter down,  then slowly crank it back to the boat, keeping it within a foot of  bottom at all times. It works best in thick grass, but it can also be  awesome on main-lake rocky structures.

SUGGESTIONS:

  • Booyah Blade Spinnerbait,
  • Terminator Titanium Spinnerbait,
  • Stanley Spinner,
  • Dick Pearson Grinder

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Working the Boat for Walleye

Wawang Lake boatingPresentation is a key component when chasing walleye. If your lure or bait is not positioned at the correct angle, depth or speed, your chances for success are greatly diminished.

Boat control is your greatest asset when it comes to presenting your bait accurately, yet it is a skill that requires the necessary equipment, as well as time spent on the water practicing. Follow these tactics to better your boat positioning, and reap the rewards of more walleye in the net.

Nick-Wed-5-25-2016-26.5inchWalleye

 

The Art of Trolling
The majority of anglers troll in a forward motion, which is an excellent option if the boat is rigged with a small horsepower outboard, or if the fish are in an aggressive mode. The problem lies in the fact that larger outboards tend to troll too quickly, causing baits to run untrue, and generally far too fast for walleye. Back trolling allows the boat to troll at slower speeds (upwards of 30%), while also producing enhanced cornering and greater control. The slower speeds enable anglers to toss lighter lures, creating a finesse factor for finicky fish.

A tiller motor is the preferred style of engine when back trolling, as steering in reverse is best accomplished from the rear of the boat. If large waves continually get you wet, affixing splash guards to the transom can be a quick and easy solution.

For those without a tiller or small kicker motor, a trolling plate can be attached to the big engine to slow things down. These plates act like a brake when positioned vertically, and as a stabilizer when up. Trolling plates are designed for forward trolling only, and are an excellent option to significantly decrease speed.

When fish require an ultra slow presentation, an electric motor can be your greatest asset. Position the speed on the lowest setting, and work the water inch by inch. This is an excellent technique for working large weed flats, or when following the contours of a weed line. Not only will your speed be turtle pace, but will also be whisper quiet, lessening the chance of spooking any fish along the way.

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Using the Wind and Waves to Your Advantage
The wind can be your greatest gift when it comes to boat control, but knowing how to work with it is the name of the game.

Drifting with the wind can be an excellent tactic when covering large expansive flats, or as an alternative to spooking fish in very shallow water. Drifting can cover water quickly, and can often be your best bet when waves and wind are on the heavy side of things.

Use your outboard motor as a rudder. This will allow you to make slight alterations to your course while drifting along. It is also important to evenly balance your boat in regards to weight. When weight is distributed correctly, a boat will drift better, especially when battling high winds.

If the drift rate becomes too quick for your desired presentation, use a drift sock (or a combination), to slow things down. These socks take up little room in the boat, and are worth their weight in gold when the wind really howls. Experimenting is key for working drift socks correctly, as the style and draft of boat, size of sock and strength of wind all factor in. Two from the stern, one from the stern, or a combination of bow and stern are recommended areas for placement. If utilizing the bow and stern, choose a larger sock for the bow, as the wind will push this area more easily than the stern.

Marker Buoys
Marker buoys are one of the most underutilized tools in fishing today. If truth were known, they may be one of the most beneficial.

These inexpensive “beacons” allow you to determine where your boat should be positioned, keeping you on the correct course in terms of structure and fish.

Used in conjunction with sonar or GPS, marker buoys allow you to keep in direct contact with marked fish or previously productive areas. They are also helpful in plotting irregular weedlines, or the tops of humps or points.

Always toss one out when a fish is caught, as where there is one often equates to more. By doing so, you will be able to pound the area thoroughly, while hopefully scraping up an additional fish or two.

There are three main styles of markers, including the Barbell, H-Style and Stand-Up. The latter is an excellent choice when dealing with high and rolling waves, and is also the best choice for night fishing. Keep a few on board and get into the habit of using them – they will definitely pay off.

Anchors
When precise, stationary boat placement is necessary, an anchor will often be your best friend. Certain situations may arise in the walleye game when staying directly on top of structure or fish is paramount for success. Small and isolated humps, breaklines and points are such scenarios.

Richter Navy Anchor - Wawang LakeThere are a multitude of anchors on the market, yet the amount of rope you let out will often be the deciding factor in terms of staying put. It is imperative to use enough rope in order to get the needed angle for an anchor to bite and hold steady. Go with a rope at least three times longer than the greatest depth you will be targeting. This will cover all of the bases. Weight is a primary consideration, but is not the deciding factor. Your local marina will be best able to recommend the correct weight and style of anchor to complement your boat and style of fishing.

If you still deal with drifting when anchored, try the two weight system – an anchor off the bow and one from the stern. This should hold you tight.

Boat control is an important consideration when targeting walleye. These fish can be finicky when it comes to speed and bait placement, meaning the more accurately you can offer them what they want, the better your chances for success. Keep a close eye on your boat control this season – the fish may not thank you, but the landing net certainly will.

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Transition Walleye – Between Patterns

Although rivers get a ton of attention in the early part of the walleye fishing season, there is an army of anglers that concentrate their efforts fishing natural lakes and mid-sized reservoirs this time of year. The challenge for these dedicated souls is that finding walleyes right now can be tough. The walleye are in transition; it’s not really spring, and it’s not yet summer? It’s a time when we say the walleye are “in the middle of the road”, meaning they are between patterns. They’ve finished their spawning ritual, but haven’t set-up on classic summer habitat. It’s a pattern (or lack of one) that many walleye anglers struggle with every season. You can catch fish during this period … you can even have great catches … but the walleye tend to be “here today – gone tomorrow”, making consistent success iffy at best. The key to catching these “middle of the road” fish is to concentrate on structural edges.

breaks

 Fishing Points with Break Lines  A point extends out from the shoreline and slopes gradually down and into deeper water. It is a good place to fish. But a point with a quick drop-off or one that doesn’t extend into deeper water isn’t a good fishing place.

  • The sloping-out formation of a point creates a break line.
  • A break line draws fish from deeper water to shallow water in search of food.
  • Fish the tip of the point and the corners of the point (the part that curves back into the shore).

Your browser does not support inline frames or is currently configured not to display inline frames. Other than the rare scenario where you are dealing with ultra-clear water, walleye won’t be found on deep structure, nor do they tend to be really shallow right now. Look for these transitional walleye somewhere in between … in that eight to twenty foot range … usually relating to the primary break closest to their spawning areas; the primary break defined as the first major drop off from shore. For instance, if the shore tapers off to say ten feet, then drops into fifteen, that’s the primary break for that area. Now that sounds simple enough, but it’s where they are located on the break that’s the trick. They may be on the bottom edge, the top edge, someplace in between, on the flat adjacent to the top edge or even suspended just off the break.

If the weather has been stable, and conditions prime for the fish to be active and feeding, look for them to be near the top edge of the break. That’s not to say they’ll be right on the edge, but they won’t be far from it. They could be cruising the adjoining flat chasing schools of minnows, but they won’t be far from the edge. A flat with sporadic or newly emerging weed growth makes the situation even better. In fact, weeds on the flat create a different set of edges that attract the fish this time of year. These edges offer travel routes as well as ambush points for feeding fish. On Wawang Lake, you’ll begin noticing better catch rates early and late in the day … probably because the walleye are sitting tight to the primary break during mid-day, and moving on to the flat to feed during low-light periods.

So what’s the best way to catch these “middle of the road walleyes”? That’s a tough one … the problem being that May can be a time when virtually every tactic in your arsenal will catch fish under the right circumstances. That may make it sound easy, but the key here is “under the right circumstances”. Picking the right presentation for the given situation when you have so many options can play mind-games with the best of anglers.

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Let’s look at a couple scenarios to give you some insight into how to approach fishing this time of the season. It’s a perfect, calm and sunny spring day. You’ve found a primary drop off that goes from eight feet down to twelve off a large flat with scattered weeds along the top edge. The break runs pretty well defined for about a hundred yards, so you start off working along it with bottom bouncers and spinners. Things aren’t looking very promising for the first fifty yards, then “bang” … you catch a nice sixteen incher. Thinking you’re on to something you continue on. Another thirty yards you go untouched and then “bang” … another decent fish. You could go all day like that but you decide to turn around and go back through the area. This time you pay close attention to your electronics, and notice that the spots those fish came from were two small hard-bottom points that jut out into deeper water. These irregularities in the break are classic fish holding structures. While you could keep trolling back and forth with the spinners, and probably pick up a few more fish, you’ll risk spooking those fish off and be forced to start looking all over again. A better plan of attack would be to put away the bouncer rod, pick up a jig stick and try pitching small jigs tipped with a minnow or an artificial like a Berkley GULP! 3 inch Minnow or PowerBait Ripple Shad to those isolated spots on the break.

Wawang Walleye Katy

For the next scenario, the primary break runs across the entire mouth of a large bay … several hundred yards wide, dropping off from fifteen to twenty feet off the edge. The flat is covered with scattered rock piles, clam beds, and sparse newly emergent weed growth. There’s a fair “walleye chop”, and it’s an overcast day. With the low-light conditions and the deeper flat, it’s a good bet that the walleye will be up and roaming. This would be a great time to pull out the trolling rods and concentrate your efforts pulling crankbaits over the flat just inside the edge of the break. While there’s little need to spread lines out too far (remember, the walleye are likely to be close to the edge of the drop), we’ve found that it never hurts in a situation like this to run one line out on an Off Shore Tackle OR-12 Side Planer so that it’s running well up on the flat. It’s amazing how many times that has accounted for a bonus fish or two in the course of a day. Keep your crankbait selection simple … you’re still dealing with fairly cool water temps, so stick with moderate action lures like Berkley Flicker Shads.

Of course that’s just two scenarios out of dozens that you may encounter during this transition period. And this “middle of the road” deal doesn’t come in to play on every body of walleye water …

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MORE BOTTOM BOUNCING TIPS

Bouncing – A Little Trick
RR-Slip-Bouncer-CardAs the water temperatures rise to (some of the highest levels of the year) the fish’s metabolism is really mounting and they will chase baits to a much greater degree than any other time. At this time you can really slam some nice fish and do it quickly. Add two 2 ounce bouncers and run a willow leaf blade. Here we are not going to worry too much about following contour but more relevantly described as being in a depth range. The reason fish are occupying more of the water column is because the temperature is more equally distributed. Some will be deep, some shallow and some in between.  Run this method in about ten feet of water. You are probably wondering about why so much weight, because you’re going to crank up the speed.   Remember that speed and weight determine line angle. We want to be able to feel the bottom and we don’t want to get hung up by having too much line angle. The fish will really hit on this type of presentation and you can nail some real beauties too.  Speed or the lack of it can provoke strikes.   In the summer, fast is better as a rule. The key here is speed, being relatively shallow (especially in stained water), and not worrying about the exact depth. You will be amazed on the amount of territory you can cover working your bouncer like this.

Bouncing – Another Trick
Target the fish that have laterally suspended off a hump. A fish has two choices when moving off a hump, move down or move out.   Most move out, rather than down. However most fisherman move down that could prove unproductive. This is regarding the deep water humps, something in the 20′ range for example. Anyway, when you are bouncing a hump or a shoreline and you come to the end or the drop off to deep water, just hold your bouncer at the same level you did when bouncing the hump and tool around out over deep water. You will be amazed at the fish you will catch suspended, they usually run fairly good size and hit like a ton of bricks. So just run right off the edge and hold the bouncer at the same level as the hump. Make a figure eight type of maneuver with your boat, and then go back on the hump and repeat. It is good to mark the edge of the drop off with a marker.


Bouncing – In the Spring
northland-fishing-a-bottom-bouncerSpringtime is a time of change from hard water to cold water to warmer water. At first when the water is very cold, just after ice out, the fish are deep because it is warmer and more consistent. However, as water warms as opener arrives, the eyes have moved shallow to eat, spawn, rest, and eat again.   Now in the early morning as the water has been cooling, they may be a little deeper, but as the sun warms it up they will be shallower.   What is shallow, this would be around ten feet to as little as six inches. Using bottom bouncers in the spring, it was the best way to find constantly moving fish.

Fish will hold to a spot as long as there is food. However, once that diminishes, they are on the move again. The best way to find them quickly is to pull a bouncer. Use Colorado’s (medium to small) for this. For weight, something in the 1 oz range works nice. Fish the flats and points and hit the bays, the shorelines between bays and key on fish holding spots. The main shorelines are the ticket as the off shore humps are not going yet. That happens a little later on. Once fish are found, you can crank them or jig them or just keep bouncing. This works so much better than randomly checking areas with a jig which is way just slow.   Use live bait the rest of the season as well. However, live bait is a personal preference and we don’t discount the successes of artificial baits. They all can work well. Leeches can be iffy in the early spring because they have a tendency to curl and a little trick is to step on them to make them run straight in the cold water. Minnows are great, use one hook snell’s with a stinger (if needed).

Late spring in Canada is June, which is summer in the lower 48 states. However, it still can be brisk up Ontario. Fish start along the shorelines and move to the center of the lake as the water warms up. So the first humps to get action are the ones closest to the main shorelines. Check these as the shoreline action begins to tail off. The water should be in the mid sixty degree range and the walleye will really be turned on.

Bouncing In the Summer
As the water warms up even more, and the water temp becomes more equal from surface down into the depths, the fish have more options for food and comfort, and safety of course. It is this time of year that the fish have moved to their summer haunts. The majority have now moved from the main lake shorelines and utilizing the off shore humps, flats and island shorelines. However, a few will still be along the main lake shorelines and bays.  Find the 20+ depths to be quite important at this time of year. Not to say that some won’t be shallower, but the bulk of the population will be deeper most of the time. However, it depends on the forage base. Walleye will be feeding on whatever is easiest, so if they are keying on shallow bait fish, then they will be 222Page2_GregHargraves_pitch-361x430shallow.  However, this is more of an exception then a rule.  Some years, a shallow bite will be stronger than other years, and some years it seems that they are all shallow. You can actually site fish them with cranks or light jigs. But once again, this is the exception. Work the main lake shorelines and off shore islands. Especially the ones with round rock about basketball size as opposed to hard granite shorelines. These round rock shorelines give the forage places to hide and the eyes are there –  looking for them. With a bouncer, you can quickly cover ground and locate the active fish. Then work that area. Speed can be increased as the fish are now willing to chase a bait, and it will trigger inactive fish in many cases. Speed will be more productive than going slow. Slow is for early season and late fall.

Flats – the Walleye Secret Structure
One of the most common areas that are almost completely overlooked by anglers are flats. One of the best spots can be a long flat surrounded by deep water. Sometimes they appear to be featureless, yet from the beginning of summer until fall, these spot hold an abundance of walleye. As an example check for islands that hold a lot of gulls.

Anyway spots like that can be very productive. There is almost always fish on them. Flats are never totally devoid of structure, they just look that way. But there are little depressions, troughs, a boulder here and there, maybe a clump of weeds. Usually soft bottom, they also hold all kinds of bugs and worms which the eyes will root out. Flats are easy to find, they are the areas on the map where the break lines are spread quite a bit a part as compared to the sharp breaks where the break lines are close together. Ideally fish flats in the 15-20 foot range. Once you find one of these flats, it is almost certain that you will have it all to yourself.

Now, how is a jig guy going to cover a flat?  He’s not. You might think that some anglers over doing the bottom bouncer presentation.   You are right, it’s the best search tool for walleye.  However, jigs, spinner rigs, and cranks all play apart in obtaining the best success. There is a time for each and fisherman who only fishes on way is only playing with half the cards and will be consistently out fished by a versatile angler who uses all methods.

 

Bouncing – When doesn’t it Work
Bottom bouncing will not work well when you are fishing very shallow or need a horizontal presentation. You are better off fishing with jigs or crank baits in those circumstances. Jigging can work better when the fish are tightly grouped on a piece of structure, like an inside turn for example. Of course, the bouncer is probably what found them for you to begin with. Bouncing is not the way to go on very small humps, however very small humps don’t hold many fish anyhow.

 
One might say that bouncing is about as exciting as watching ice melt. However, catching fish is very exciting and bouncing allows for catching.   It was very rewarding and makes a remarkable difference to any fishing trip.  Remember to be versatile, keep it simple, and have fun!

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PIKE FISHING TACKLE BOX – A MUST TO HAVE

193Page1_SimonCheung_tackleFrom spoons to spinners to swimbaits, everything you’ll ever need to tackle mammoth northerns

No aspect of fishing has changed more over the past two decades than our understanding of pike. Indeed, if we had written about equipping ourselves for big northerns just 20 years ago, our ultimate tacklebox would have been small, the offerings skimpy and the techniques few. But as our knowledge of pike behaviour has expanded, so too has the range of tackle needed to catch these toothy critters—as the following roundup of the top lures and tactics reveals.

CRANKBAITS

When to fish ‘em
From midsummer until freeze-up, hard and soft crankbaits excel in open water, on deep flats and around main-lake rocky structures. The lipless versions are superb around reed- and weedlines.

tip3

Where and how
You can both troll and cast these lures, but don’t do either aimlessly. Concentrate on key transitions, edges, drop-offs, breaklines and specific bottom contours. The CS25 Suspending Super Spot and Lucky Craft LVR models are awesome vibrating, lipless casting lures. When you pause them for even a millisecond, a following pike only has the option of opening its mouth and eating it. These lures may look a tad small, but they fish big because you can retrieve them quickly and they won’t roll over.

SUGGESTIONS:

  • Rapala Super Shad Rap,
  • Lucky Craft LVR D-15,
  • Cotton Cordell CS25 Suspending Super Spot,
  • Storm Kickin’ Minnow (9-inch).

MINNOWBAITS/JERKBAITS

When to fish ‘em
Cast hard jerkbaits (Husky Jerk, X-Rap, Long A, Original Floater, Slender Pointer) when the water is cold, typically early in the spring and late fall in southern Canada, and all year long farther north. Or speed troll these lures in the summer when the pike have retreated to cooler, deeper water. Soft jerkbaits rigged Texas-style, meanwhile, are deadly when vegetation is moderately sparse with plenty of open pockets. My favourite time to fish soft jerks, though, is in the late fall wherever I find thinning cabbage weeds in deep water adjacent to main-lake rock structures.
MG_10002

Where and how
Hard jerkbaits are at their best in and around rock structure. In cold water, retrieve the lure as close to structure or cover as possible. Wind the bait down, jerk it three or four times and pause. The colder the water, the longer you should wait. Nick the tops of weeds, scrape rocks and tick logs and stumps. Pike usually strike when the lure suspends, rises slowly or starts the next series of jerks. You can also throw a hard jerk when there’s a few feet of water over the tops of deep weeds. When the northerns go deep in midsummer, troll hard jerkbaits around rocky main-lake points and over the tops of mid-lake humps. Contour trolling a big F18 Original Floater behind a three-way rig is a deadly hot-weather pattern.

Rig soft plastics (Houdini Shad, Berkley Saltwater Jerk Shad, YUM Dinger) weedless on a stout 5/0 to 7/0 offset hook without any additional weight and let them flutter toward bottom. Then hop, pop, twitch and pause the lure continually to imitate a dying baitfish. Along weed edges, swim the lure through the grass, deflecting it off any stalks you feel. When you’re fishing the corridor between deep weeds and the surface, let the lure fall to tick the top of the weeds, then pop it back to the surface.

SUGGESTIONS:

  • F18 Rapala Original Floater, Rapala X-Rap 14, #14 Rapala Husky Jerk,
  • Lucky Craft Pointer 128,
  • Lucky Craft Slender Pointer 127,
  • YUM Houdini Shad (9-inch),
  • Berkley Saltwater Jerk Shad (5-inch),
  • YUM Dinger (7-inch),
  • Bomber Magnum Long A.

TOPWATERS

When to fish ‘em
Be careful if you have a bad heart. There’s nothing more exciting than  watching a huge pike crush a topwater lure. During the summer months,  the best times are early in the morning, late in the afternoon and when  it’s overcast.

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Where and how
Deep weed edges, woody  shorelines and rocky main-lake structures are perfect locations for  topwaters. Instead of throwing a big, noisy buzzbait over a weedbed,  position your boat parallel to the weed edge so you can keep your lure  running over the prime pike zone. Do the same thing when you’re fishing  among fallen trees and logs. Remember, pike are ambush predators that  hide along the fringes of cover rather than burying themselves deep  inside it.

The biggest and loudest buzzbaits (in white, chartreuse, yellow and  orange) will attract the most attention. When the fish are aggressive,  add a stinger hook and a five-inch-long soft-plastic worm or grub, or a  pork chunk to seal the deal. But here’s the key: don’t react to the  explosion when a pike strikes. Keep your rod tip pointed up during the  retrieve and keep reeling rather than dropping the tip to set the hook.  When the fish are in a funk, however, scurry a Bull Ribbit or Hawg Frawg  in the same locations. The lighter bait forces you to slow down your  retrieve, but the frog will still kick up its heels. Only pause the frog  when you swim it over an opening in the weeds.

Many pike anglers  miss the best big-fish locations: isolated rock piles, underwater  points and shallow boulder-strewn shoals. They also think they can only  use topwater lures when conditions are calm. Actually, a slight chop is  better than a slick surface for walking a big Zara Spook, Skitter Walk  or Live Sammy. And a fast retrieve produces explosive strikes. When the  fish are less belligerent, or when the water is dirty, dingy or stained,  a prop bait such as the Boy Howdy, Splash-Tail or Skitter Prop  sputtering on the surface will cause a pike to become unglued. Prop  baits are also deadly when pike are resting beside isolated forms of  cover, such as a giant deadhead poking out of the water.

SUGGESTIONS:

  • Cotton Cordell Boy Howdy,
  • Rapala Skitter Prop,
  • Lucky Craft  Splash-Tail,
  • Mister Twister Top Prop,
  • Stanley Bull Ribbit,
  • Heddon Zara Spook,
  • Rapala Skitter Walk,
  • Lucky Craft Live Sammy,
  • Mister Twister Hawg Frawg,
  • Booyah Buzz.

SPINNERBAITS

When to fish ‘em
Spinnerbaits produce well from late spring until mid-autumn, when the  pike have set up along reed- and weedlines, and shorelines littered with  fallen trees and submerged wood.

images-3imagesCA86RT7UWhere and how
A  slightly larger than normal (3/4- to one-ounce) bass-style, willowleaf  spinnerbait tipped with a soft-plastic grub or worm is a marvellous tool  when retrieved quickly just under the surface. Don’t hop, pop or  manipulate it in any way; just keep it moving.

When the biggest  toothies turn off and won’t come to the surface, dredge them up with a  heavy 1 1/2- to 2 1/2-ounce Dick Pearson Grinder. Let it flutter down,  then slowly crank it back to the boat, keeping it within a foot of  bottom at all times. It works best in thick grass, but it can also be  awesome on main-lake rocky structures.

SUGGESTIONS:

  • Booyah Blade Spinnerbait,
  • Terminator Titanium Spinnerbait,
  • Stanley Spinner,
  • Dick Pearson Grinder

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