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Timing the Pike Bite Just Right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Understanding Your REEL

Fishing Reel Features: In selecting the right reel for your style of fishing there are literally thousands of different reels on the market today to choose from. For the less experienced angler this can be somewhat confusing. Before we compare the features of fishing reels here are some pointers that will help you determine a list of requirements for the best type of reel to use.

  • First, what kind of fish will you be catching?
  • What is the average size, and angling technique?
  • Will you be casting lures using live bait or trolling.
  • What pound test line is best suited for the fishing application.

These answers will narrow down your search and aid in purchasing the proper reel.  As a general guideline the lighter the line and smaller the game fish the best reel choice for the novice anglers and children is a spin cast reel. For the more proficient caster using the same set-up a spinning reel is best. As the targeted species gets larger requiring heavier line and lures a conventional reel or bait caster will be the better choice.

For the best performance from your reel, the reel must be balanced with your rod. If you use a reel that weighs too much for the rod it will feel butt heavy. You will have problems casting and it will take away the sensitivity from the rod tip in feeling a fish strike. Conversely, a reel that is too light for a rod will make it feel tip heavy, by fishing for a length of time your wrist will tire by trying to hold the rod upward.  For a properly balanced outfit hold the rod with the reel attached on the fore grip (the handle above the reel) by using a few fingers, the rod should sway back and forth and stay somewhat horizontal not completely moving forward or backward, if not change reel sizes or rod length to achieve a balanced outfit.

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Listed below are the features and components that make up fishing reels, many of them are universal and found on all types of reels, these descriptions will help you identify and understand the ideal reel for your angling needs.

Anti-Reverse: The anti-reverse function on fishing reels is so the handle does not turn backwards when the line is pulled from the reel as the drag is used. Spinning reels have an anti-reverse on/off lever that will allow the angler the choice of engaging the drag or back reeling when fighting a fish. Most bait casting reels today have anti reverse as a standard feature. High quality reels that feature the number of bearings on models followed with a single number such as 7+1 indicates a anti reverse bearing which with tighter machining tolerances provides the angler with a “no play in handle” giving the angler complete control during stop and go retrieves and solid hook sets. For larger game fish some bait casting and trolling reels use a additional anti reverse gear along with the bearing this adds security if the bearing cannot handle the strain of hard running fish.

Ball Bearings: All conventional fishing reels contain either ball bearings or bushings built within the reel to operate the spool smoothly. It is the generally thought that the greater amount of bearings in a reel the smoother the operation and the higher the cost. But one must consider that the amount of bearings does not necessarily mean that the reel is smoother than others with less. Reel companies only list the total number of bearings for the reel, not the type or quality of the bearings. In other words a 2 ball bearing reel machined with tight tolerances and high quality factory sealed stainless steel bearings will perform longer and smoother than a reel with 6 ball bearings made of brass. The deciding factor when it comes to purchasing a new reel should not be limited to just the number of bearings but the overall performance, (smooth cranking, machining & bearing qualities) as comparing to other reels in determining which is the smoothest.

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Casting Controls: (Bait casting) All quality bait casting reels come with built in casting control systems that help determine how fast the spool is spinning when casting. These systems are centrifugal and magnetic, depending on the model some have one some have both and are either externally adjustable or internal. The centrifugal casting control is located on the reel handle side and his adjusted by turning the knob forward or backward. The magnetic control braking system is located on the other side with a numbered position dial to increase or decrease the amount of magnetic force applied to the spool. This is the fine tuning feature found on more expensive reels that works with a internal transfer braking mechanism, at the beginning of a cast (with the increased RPM‘s) this mechanism rotates out towards the braking magnets to slow the spool which helps reduce backlashing. While no bait casting reel is considered backlash free even with all of the casting features to help control the spool casting speed. It is still advisable to apply light thumb pressure on the spool in order to prevent a backlash.

Drag: All types of fishing reels have a drag system. The drag feature is a tension setting applied to the spool of the reel, think of it as a clutch or line braking system. The drag uses a set of multiple disc washers that compress when pressure is increased or relaxed when decreased. The concept of the drag is letting the line unwind in a controlled manner off the reel when a fish pulls so hard that the line is in danger of breaking. The drag should be set tight enough for a hook set, but loose enough to come off of the fishing reel easily.

Bait casting/Trolling/Spin cast reels use a star-shaped wheel located on the reel handle called a star drag, adjustments are made by turning the wheel to the proper tension. Spinning reels have two types of drags – front drag and a rear drag. Front drags are generally smoother than a rear drag. The front drag features larger, multiple disc drag washers on the spool that offer a higher level of performance and durability. The rear drag uses applied pressure on the drive shaft. Rear drag spinning reels may offer convenience and ease of use, but they normally don’t stand up to big fish and demanding conditions like front drag reel models. Lever drags are a available feature on high end (expensive) trolling and bait casting reels. Lever drags allows the tension to be adjusted in more precise smaller increments which supplies a smoother fish fighting performance.

As a rule always check your drag before your first cast.  Pull the line with your hand, if you have a decent amount of resistance, you should be fine. In cases where you hook a exceptional sized fish the drag should be adjusted (increased) as you feel the size of the fish. Another tip to reduce reel maintenance; when storing your reels for an extended amount of time, back off the drag tension setting. Leaving drag settings tight will cause the drag washers to become flat reducing the tension ability.

Gear Ratios: All reel manufactures list the gear ratio on their products. The gear ratio refers to how many revolutions the spool of the reel makes per one complete turn of the reel handle. For instance a high speed reel with a 6:1 ratio will make 6 revolutions versus a low speed reel at 3:1 with 3 revolutions per each turn of the reel handle. Generally low speed reels are best suited for lures that require a slow presentation and greater cranking power such as crank baits for walleye and pike, and large baits. High speed reels are better for working lures quickly when the angler seeks speed for “burning” buck tails, spinner baits, and lipless crank baits. Reels with the range of 5.1 are the best compromise if purchasing a single reel. Another alternative is a two speed reel that the angler can shift from high speed to low speed with a simple push or pull of a button.

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Level Wind: Found on most bait casting and trolling reels as the name implies, the level wind feature automatically places the line evenly or level across on the spool upon retrieving the line. On low profile and smaller round bait casting reels the line guide will remain in its’ position when casting, on larger round bait casting reels the line guide will follow the line when casting. This offers the angler the convenience of not manually guiding the line on the spool, which if not properly done will usually pile up in the center of the spool. Line Capacity: Printed on the reel or its package is a guideline of the amount of fishing line that the spool of the reel will hold. This chart is based on the use of monofilament line and will look like this: 8/(175) 10/(155) 12/(130) the first number is the lb test followed by the amount of yards. This indicates the line rating set by the manufacturer for 8-12 lb test line to work correctly without either stressing parts or making it difficult to use.

By varying the pound test line on the reel such as placing 40lb on a reel rated for 8lb-12lb will give you an inadequate amount of line due to the increased line thickness making the reel difficult to cast as well as increasing the stress and eventual failure on the drag (By setting the drag too tight) With the advent of new fishing lines with increased lb test and reduced diameters we still recommend that you follow guideline placed on the reel by the reel company. Line Counters: This reel feature is found exclusively on trolling reels. It allows a reference by which anglers can consistently return a bait to the same depth or distance from the boat when flat line trolling or rigging (Downriggers, Dipsey Divers and Trolling Boards) There are two types of reel line counters, Analog and Digital. Analog line counters resemble car odometers, clicking off numbers as the spool revolves. Digital line counters provide the same line usage reading as the analog but can also be programmed for differences in line thickness accounting for impressive accuracy. Line counters are also very useful on how much line is left on your reel after a fish makes a run.

On / Off Free Spool Lever: On trolling reels there is a simple on/off lever that when switched on engages the reel for retrieving the line, when switched off it is in free spool allowing the angler to let the line run off the reel using a bait or lure. Always keep your thumb on the free spool to control the amount of line released to prevent a backlash.

Reel Housings and Frames: Most reel housings and frames are constructed of either aluminum (die-cast or forged) or graphite.   Each of these materials has its advantages and disadvantages, reels made of anodized aluminum are generally stronger and more durable than the graphite models, however, they are heavier. Graphite-bodied reels are light and corrosion resistant, yet they normally don’t offer the same strength and durability as die-cast or forged aluminum fishing reels. Due to the nature of a spinning reel’s design, their bodies are composed of multiple pieces. Many conventional bait casting reels are also constructed in the same fashion; however, some manufacturers have introduced one-piece graphite frames. This design increases the overall integrity and strength of the reel, while maintaining the lighter weight.

Spools: When selecting a reel the material type and design of the spool should be a point of consideration. There are two common materials used, machined anodized aluminum and graphite. Of the two the anodized aluminum spool offers greater strength and durability than graphite spools, which can break or crack under torque. On many bait casting aluminum spools holes have been drilled in to reduce the weight while increasing casting distance. For big water heavy duty fishing large bait casting and trolling spools are made from metal, using bronze or stainless steel that will offer the strength and capacity required for specialty lines such as heavy dacron or wire used for trolling. Spinning reels today feature a “skirted” spool that overlaps the reel frame, preventing the line to become entangled with in the reel housing. Other skirted spinning reel spool options offers a choice of a standard spool, or a shallower, elongated “long cast” spool design. In theory, the newer long-cast spool design allows for reduced line friction, resulting in greater casting distance.

Fishing Rods: Fishing Rods have evolved over the years, from the early days using natural materials with fixed fishing lines such as sticks, bamboo and cane poles to rods using steel or fiberglass to the rods of today using graphite or composites of graphite, fiberglass, boron and carbon. With this development of the rod materials came the specialty rods, rods designed for a fishing technique or lure such as jigging, jerk bait, worm, pitching, flipping, crank baits, trolling, top water etc… the specialty rods are a specific tool, used and developed by tournament and pro anglers, for the recreational angler the catch rate will not increase based on having a specialty rod or rods, but place a specialty rod in the hands of an experienced fisherman in presenting a certain bait or lure and with their knowledge of fishing it will give them the edge in catching more fish.

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As the old cliché states: “You get what you pay for” For the recreational angler we recommend spending as much as your budget allows, the better the rod the more sensitive it will be, the more responsive it will be, you will be able to cast farther feel structure, rocks, weeds and the most important feel fish strikes. Part of being a better angler is the ability to place your lure/bait exactly where you want it, often as quietly as possible, and a good rod will definitely help you accomplish this. With the numerous rod selections available today here’s a few suggested basic rod buying tips that will cover multiple fishing presentations.

5‘-6″-6‘-0″ Spin cast Rod Power: Light Action: Soft Lure Weight Test Line Rating 4lb-8lb Fishing: Perch and Walleye.  Spooled with 6lb test. Good combo set-up for children and novice anglers for easy casting and bobber fishing.

7‘-0″ Spinning Rod Power: Light Action: Soft Lure Weight 1/32 – 1/8oz Test line rating 4lb-6lb Fishing: Perch and Walleye spooled with 4lb test monofilament for Float(Bobbers) with live-bait, small jigs and light lures 1/16-1/8oz.

7’-0″ Spinning Rod Power: Medium Light-Medium Action: Moderate Lure Weight 1/8 – 3/8oz Test Line rating 8lb-12lb Fishing: Walleye spooled with 8lb test monofilament for live bait and soft plastic bottom rigs, jigs, tubes and mid weight lures 1/8-3/8oz.

6’-6″-7’-0″ Bait casting Rod Power: Medium-Medium Heavy Action: Fast Lure Weight 3/8 – 1 oz Test line rating 10lb-17lb Fishing:   Northern Pike spooled with 12lb-15lb test monofilament with a leader primarily for heavier artificial lures 3/8-1oz (spoons, crank baits, inline spinners, spinner baits, top water)

Length: 7’-0″ Type: Bait casting Rod Power: Extra Heavy Action: Fast Lure Weight: 1-3oz Test line rating: 25lb + Fishing: Northern Pike spooled with 50lb-80lb braided line with a leader for presenting heavy lures 1oz and up  inline spinners, spinner baits, jerk baits, gliders, crank baits, top water) Rod Materials: Fiberglass: Fiberglass rods have been popular since the 1950’s taking over the era of steel rods, in terms of performance and features fiberglass does lack the sensitivity of the newer rods today made from graphite and weighs more, but is noted for its toughness and soft/moderate action. Some anglers use fiberglass when fishing crank baits for the slow action and pike anglers use fiberglass in cold weather for quick strike rig sucker fishing where the rod sensitivity is not required but the toughness (setting the hook especially in very cold weather and not breaking the rod) is needed. Fiberglass is also a very good choice for children starting out in fishing where durability is an issue.

Graphite: Graphite rod building started in the 1970’s and has continued to this day. Most all quality rods today are built using graphite and have become the preferred choice for rod blank builders. The benefits of graphite rods are many, they’re extremely light, sensitive and flexible, which is vital for light biting fish, along with being strong and powerful to handle larger game fish.

In marketing graphite rods a few common terms have been developed to associate the quality of the rod. The first is “modulus graphite rating”, graphite comes in what looks like sheets of cloth. The cloth is measured to determine the amount and stiffness to weight of modulus fibers. If your shopping for a new rod don’t base your decision solely on the modulus rating, the higher the rating the better the rod. For high performance rods the combination of fiber strength, resin toughness with the amount of fiber, resin and cross-scrim construction (overlapping layers to achieve exceptional strength and action) are more important than the modulus count or rating. Rods with high graphite modulus ratings tend to be brittle and need to have a secondary chemical added on the blank to increase the strain/strength rate. This is called a composite blank. The other term that rod companies use to identify a blank style is IM with a following number such as IM6 or 7 and currently up to 10. The IM rated rods are not regulated by industry standards or an indication of quality but rather a trade name for particular graphite produced by the Hexcel Corporation. Since some rod companies use the IM designation ratings to refer to their rod blanks that are not supplied by Hexcel, at least you can compare the rods built by the same manufacturer, being assured that the higher the IM ranking the higher the graphite quality of the rod.

Rod Ratings: Action / Power Action refers to the flex characteristics of a rod, in other words how much the rod bends when you put pressure on the tip and how far the rod flexes. Action ranges from extra fast where just the tip flexes to slow or softer where the majority of the rod flexes. Fast action rods are the best choice when the fishing technique requires the sensitivity of feeling light biting fish or when fishing for large game fish in heavy cover and weeds where the key is to setting the hook fast with just a snap of the wrist moving the fish’s head up and away. For instance, fast action light rods are used for jigs, soft plastic worms or twitching minnow/shad shaped crank baits for walleye. Heavier fast action rods are used for Pike in burning buck tails, walking top water lures or a cadence retrieve on gliders and jerk baits. The moderate action rod is the most common choice due to the versatility of fishing applications, in casting a moderate action rod it will bend for about half of its length which will provide more casting distance and still have the capability for an adequate hook set. Ideal for slip bobbers/floats live bait for walleye fishing because the fish is less likely to feel resistance from the soft tip and drop the bait, along with reaction lures such as crank baits, spinner baits and spoons for bass and pike where the slower action will not pull the lure out of the fish’s mouth. Slow or Soft Action rods will bend starting in the lower third using nearly the entire rod providing the most flexibility. Because of this parabolic action the angler is using the rod as a shock absorber in fighting the fish, this allows the use of very light line. These rods are used for perch especially for the paper thin mouths on fish so the hook is not ripped clear on hook sets.

Power: A rod’s power describes how much a rod will flex under a load also referred as a rod’s “backbone”. The thickness and type of rod material will determine this, power ratings are usually described as:

  • Heavy
  • medium heavy
  • medium
  • light, etc.

Some rod companies use a numerical system:

  • 1-10 with 1=Ultralight-10= Extra Heavy

The rod’s power rating is closely related to the suggested line strength. It is important to follow the line test guideline limits printed on the rod since a heavy power rod will snap light lines too easily and heavy lines can snap a light rod. Another factor to consider is the fishing presentation for pike in weeds and cover will require a strong power rod using heavier line, on open water where hard to see light line is used for walleye use a lighter power rod. Quite often anglers get confused with rod power ratings and action. As an example the power rating is listed on the rod, the flex of the rod is considered the action.

Rod Line Guides: These are the circular loops affixed to the rod and run the length of the rod blank, The concept is simple, keeping the line from touching the rod, this offers a smooth surface for the line to pass over. The technology of rod guide designs has improved dramatically over the years from the old metal guides and the classic agate inserts of earlier rods.

Most of the new guides today are made of two parts:

  • A metal frame (stainless) attached to the rod blank and some form of an insert (inner ring) using Ceramic, Alconite, Silicon Carbide or Hardloy.
  • Some rods use line guides made of all stainless steel wire instead of inserts, these guides are lighter reducing the overall rod weight, but they are not as smooth as rods using inserts.

The newest line guide introduced is made from titanium wire, which will spring back even if they’re bent flat unlike the stainless guide that will break. The overall purpose of the rod line guides manufactured today is to provide less friction along with reducing the line fray and wear in the guides during the cast. Less friction means longer casts and less heat, and heat definitely doesn’t help when it comes to fishing lines. The total amount of line guides on a rod are an important feature as well, the higher amount of guides the better, as they ensure distance on the cast, and when fighting a fish the energy/ stress on the rod is dispersed though out the entire rod blank. Depending of the rod power rating line guides are available in two different styles, single and double foot. Single foot guide’s adds less weight on the rod and help retain sensitivity, these are used for mainly ultra – light to medium power rods. The double foot line guides are used when sensitivity is not required but strength is as they are wrapped twice on the rod blank. These are found on heavy to extra heavy power rods used for larger game fish.

Handle / Reel Seats: The combination of a quality rod handle and reel seat are as important as the rod blank itself. The reel seat is where the reel is attached to the rod and constructed of graphite and aluminum or both. Graphite is lighter and more sensitive, while aluminum is stronger. Some reel seats offer a cutout that allows direct finger contact on the rod blank for greater sensitivity. The rod handle is also referred to as “grips” and are located below and above the reel seat. Cork is the preferred choice on rod handles as it is lightweight, durable, and transmits rod vibrations even when wet better than synthetic materials using EVA foam. There are varying grades of cork based on the rod’s cost, the higher the rod price the better quality of cork used. Another alternative is cork tape to achieve the look of cork. Composite cork is made by combining a mixture of cork particles and resin, this combination is more durable than using straight cork.

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Fall Fishing for MONSTER Northern Pike

Catch one big northern pike and you fall in love with these magnificent predators. Their willingness to chase and crush baits is amazing. The fight for which they’re capable is thrilling. It’s no wonder that in Europe where pike reach epic sizes, they’re commonly referred to as “water wolves.”

In addition to all the reasons northern pike are revered for their aggressiveness and tough attitude, they’re also wonderful table fare when they’re in that 3-4 pound class. With a little practice in removing the pesky Y-bones, you’re left with a fresh, flaky fillet that’s tough to beat and northern pike are best to eat right after being caught. They just don’t seem to freeze as well as walleyes or perch.

All summer long, northern pike are among the easiest fish to catch. This is due to their voracious appetite and the fact that pike are keen impulse strikers. I believe they’ll lash out at a bait for the sole purpose of doing it harm. They’re just plain MEAN!

During the warm summer months, you’ll find them predominantly hunting anywhere where there’s weed growth. But as summer surrenders to autumn and the water temperatures cool, things change. The weeds begin dying, and when they do they actually become noxious to fish. The first weeds to go are typically in shallow areas with muddy bottoms. The weeds that hold out the longest are usually related to hard bottom.

When fishing in the fall, if you find weed growth that hasn’t laid down yet and it’s still green, then it will continue to hold fish. Baitfish, perch, walleye, and you guessed it: pike. But as these last holdouts of vegetation finally wane, the pike will change their haunts.

This time of year happens to coincide with the fall turnover. This is the period when a lake’s thermocline disappears. The warm upper water cools with air temperature and ultimately trades places with the once cooler water below the thermocline. Pre-turnover fishing is great. During the turnover, fish generally get negative. But after the turnover is complete and the lake stabilizes, pike fishing gets good again. But don’t look for weedline fish anymore. Instead, search for cover in the form of rocky reefs, points, saddles and edges where flats fall away into deeper water.

A great way to locate fish in the fall is by trolling big crankbaits, swimbaits, spoons or inline spinners. If you pop a couple of fish trolling, pay attention to your sonar and lake map to get a reading of the depth and bottom constitution that’s holding fish. This will help you identify other spots on the lake that match those conditions.

Now trolling is great, but most popular is catching pike on the cast. So once you figure out a location and bait that gets results, start to work these areas by casting. Boat control and casting direction is essential here. You’ll want to position your boat on structure that allows you to cast down the line on productive water, thereby keeping your bait in the strike zone for the longest possible time.

pike2Remember that northern pike are notorious for chasing baits and have no problem smacking a lure right by the side of the boat. So on every cast, keep the retrieve going all the way back to the boat. If you see a pike following but not chomping, give the bait a slight pause or a sudden twitch. Sometimes that change in the action will flip the bite switch in a fish.

If a giant follows but doesn’t eat, you can try this trick too. Have a second rod set up with a quick-strike rig hooked to a big sucker minnow in your livewell or bait bucket. If a jumbo pike follows and gives up, you can be sure that he’s still very close to the boat. Set down your casting rod, pick up the quick-strike rig and pitch that minnow to the last place you saw the fish. Very often, the introduction of a live minnow will be just the thing that fish wants.

Fall is a fantastic time to be on the water. You’ll have the lake all to yourself and no shortage of hungry pike just waiting to pounce. After just one memorable battle with a big water wolf, you’ll fall for autumn pike too.

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Best Lures for Northern Pike

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luresNorthern pike are exceptional game fish, known for their propensity to hit lures with heart-stopping ferocity and to engage in epic battles once hooked. But northern pike can also be finicky, so being well-prepared with a variety of lures increases your chances for success. An assortment of spoons, spinners, crankbaits and topwater lures should be in the arsenal of every northern pike angler.

Spoons

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Spoons are most effective because of their wiggling, vibrating movement in the water and the flashes of light that reflect off their metal surfaces. Spoons come in all manner of shapes, sizes and colors, but a good fundamental choice is a spoon of about 4 to 6 inches in length. The color to use varies with water clarity, but, according to “Game and Fish” magazine, red and white spoons are often the best combination to start with. The weight of the spoon determines the depth at which it runs. Heavier, thicker spoons sink faster and run deeper. They are also the best choice for trolling. Dardevle spoons, made by Eppinger, have long been a top choice for anglers. Spoons are generally used with a cast-and-retrieve routine or are trolled, but they are versatile enough to use as jigs or, when retrieved quickly, as surface lures.

Spinnerbaits

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Spinnerbaits are effective because of the fish-attracting vibrations and light flashes they create when retrieved or trolled. Spinners consist of shiny metal blades with a clevis that spins around a wire shaft. Spinnerbaits often are “dressed” in hair (bucktails), feathers, rubber or fur to increase their attractiveness to northern pike. Anglers often add a soft, plastic-bodied, twister tail, either as a trailer hook (to catch short-striking northerns) or to the treble hook itself. Mepps makes high-quality spinnerbaits in a huge variety of sizes, shapes and variations.

Crankbaits

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Crankbaits are lures designed to resemble bait fish, and you can fish them either by casting and retrieving or trolling behind the boat. Some are designed to run shallow, and some run deep. The experts at Pike Lures.com comment that the majority of crankbaits are manufactured out of plastic, but some companies still use the traditional wooden bodies. Either is a good choice. Generally, a crankbait is painted with a pattern and color that closely matches that of the species upon which the pike feeds, but, sometimes, a wild and unnatural color works even better. Rapala is one of the premier makers of crankbaits, available in either wood or plastic, in a wide variety of sizes and shapes.

Topwater

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Topwater lures are about the most exciting type of lure to use for northern pike fishing. Topwaters are designed to create surface commotion, in imitation of a dying fish or swimming animal. Northerns hit these lures explosively at the surface, creating a large and startling splash. Stickbaits, buzzbaits, propeller baits and crawlers are typical variations on the topwater theme, with movement dictated by the angler’s manipulation of the fishing rod. Heddon Company has made such lures since 1894 and continues to produce popular and effective topwater lures.

 

 

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Deep Water Walleye Fishing

DSCN0898When you catch a big Walleye, big meaning over 6-pounds, there is a 95% chance that it’s a female. The big females generally only go into the shallows in the spring where they are up along the shore, in rivers or over sandbars, which are their favorite places to spawn. The smaller males seem to stay in the 2 to 15 foot range all year. The bigger females tend to go deeper then 15 feet. When fishing deep for big mid-summer/ early fall walleye fish between 20 and 40 feet deep.

Why do the big females go deep? There are several explanations depending on the size of the lake and how far north the lake is.

1) Bigger females have a larger air bladder, which makes them hyper sensitive to changes in atmospheric pressure. Being deeper makes the adjustment a little easier when the weather changes.LOTM-rapala-ice-jig

2) Bigger females spend too much energy chasing small bait fish that are found in shallow water. The bigger bait fish that are found is shallow water like perch etc., are hard to swallow as they have defensive spins in their fins. Lake Chub, Whitefish, Lake Herring  are all found in abundance down deep AND this food source is abundant in Wawang Lake. They are easier to swallow and more rewarding when considering the amount of energy needed to catch them. These deep water bait fish, especially Whitefish, have more oil in their meat thus more calories.

3) A walleye metabolism speeds up in shallow warm water. As a result, the bigger they get, the more food they need to maintain their weight. If the food is not there, they go to deeper cold water so their metabolism slows down. The dangerous thing about this is there is a fine threshold between eating more or conserving energy. If a big Walleye gets to the point where they can not find enough food to maintain their weight, they do get smaller, then they die. As soon as a Walleye gets to the point where they are starting to weaken from lack of food energy, they do not have the energy to catch bait fish and starve to death.

4) In smaller northern lakes, there is a larger population of Pike regularly attack walleye and bigger slower moving females are an easy target. This is another reason why they go deep right after they spawn.

 

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Some Types of Lures to Use on the Big Lake:

When you are Walleye fishing on big water like Wawang Lake, the walleye tend to stay suspended along with the schools of bait fish. Lets say you were on a big  part of the lake, , the best thing to do is troll until you come across a deeper school of bait fish and then keep trolling over the bait school.

These schools of bait-fish can be 15 to 40 feet deep and the walleye will be there too. The most popular lures are the Rapala Husky Jerks and the Rattlin’ Fat
Raps.
–> 10 to 20 feet deep – Regular Husky Jerks
–> 20 to 40 feet deep – Down Deep Husky Jerk or Down Deep Rattlin’ Fat Rap

Just troll around and use your depth finder to spot schools of fish. To determine how deep you are, the Regular Husky Jerks go down about 1 foot for every 10 feet of line out. The Down Deep Rapalas go down about 3 feet for every 10 feet of line out. So using a Down Deep Rapala, getting down 30 feet deep means you need 100 feet of line out. This is just a general estimate. The speed of your troll will affect how deep the lures will go.

3-Way Swivel Rig:

 

The best way to fish down deep for Walleye is with 10-pound test line and a 3-way swivel rig. This technique is also excellent for other fish that are right on bottom in the 20 to 60-feet of water.

You need 8 to 10 pound test because thicker line has too much friction with the water and it will be hard to find the bottom. You also need a 1-oz or 2-oz weight, a 3-way swivel and a lure that does not sink. Use an Original floating Rapala, Junior Thunderstick, Countdown Rapala or a worm harness with small spinner blades and a big fat worm.

This rig is smaller than the standard type; You need a 3-foot lead line from the 3-way swivel to the sinker. Then you need a 5 or 6-foot lead line to your lure.  Get a strait slow troll going and slowly let out line until your sinker hits the bottom. Then reel up a foot and wait.. Keep those lines tight!

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MORE PIKE – Three Spoon Techniques

Getting out-fished by someone in your boat is a humbling experience, but when that someone is your spouse or child, a jaw can get awful tight. At least you’re not alone, as many experience the same lack of luck catching watching someone else catch 3-4 pike to your one.   Sometimes it’s hard to figure it out. You can be fishing in all the right spots such as; wide, flat, shallow bays and fish with all the right lures but what can give one person an edge over another?   What are they doing that we weren’t?   Obviously something was going on under the surface that you might not be paying attention to.

Give the “pause concept” a try.  Many pike will follow lures, then turn off as they near the boat.  This is a common occurrence with post-spawn pike that hadn’t really started to feed yet    Whenever you stop reeling for a short while the lure it then flutters down, but more importantly, the tapered spoons would backup toward the pike. Most pike were lazily following in a straight retrieved spoon, and would spook to the side as the lure neared the boat. But when the retrieve was halted, (and as we further discovered) the rod tip dropped back towards the spoon, the lure would flutter backwards from 18-inches to 4-feet, right back into a following pikes face. And if there is a best way to trigger a following pike cruising behind a lure into striking, the in their face approach is tops.

The distance a lure will flutter backwards is determined by the style of the spoon, depth of the water, and how the falling, flat spoon planes as it sinks. Try this next to the boat. Have 5-6 feet of line between the lure and rod tip. Move the spoon through the water parallel to the boat’s side, then stop and drop the rod tip back towards the lure. This gives the lure some line so it can back up the maximum distance. Clear shallow water will give you the best view of how the drop-back works. The best drop-back spoons I’ve used are the size 6 Lindy Gator Spoon, Eppinger TrollDevle, and the 1-ounce standard Dardevle.

                        

The Drop-Back technique is a great way to trigger following pike.

Summary: Whenever casting spoons for pike, especially if conditions are tough, try dropping the lure back several times on each retrieve. This is a good technique to practice whenever casting a spoon.  

Jig-Trolling Spoons P2

When normally confronted by a big weed bed with lots of potentially good-looking water, trolling usually allows for quickly checking it over.   Run bucktails, big spinnerbaits, or shallow-running jerkbaits over the top, and deeper-diving jerkbaits and crankbaits along the edge. Fifteen minutes of trying some of those techniques can quickly show if they are a waste of time or not.   Here is what a potential problem could be. Weed growth is very inconsistent, sometimes it comes to the surface, other times it could be 3-4 feet below. Lures that ran at a specific, near-surface depth level would constantly foul up in the erratic growth. Another option would be is to run a spinnerbait or buzz-bait across the surface. But what can tossed this plan for a loop, is the hundreds of dark, shadowy weed pockets that exist throughout the vegetation. And due to the bright sky conditions, light winds and fairly clear water, you can sense that pike are holding in those weedy lairs. But there has to be a way of rooting them out. If the weed bed is smaller, you could jig fish it with plastic-bodied lizards, reapers, big double twister tails, Sassy Shads, or other types of soft-bodied “creatures.” At least these presentations will penetrate down into the weeds, and the single hook on the jig would allow to snap and rip through any clinging vegetation.

An excellent lure is a Johnson Silver Minnow, but instead of casting with it – troll with varying speeds in a lazy S pattern. This prevents the lure from following the boat’s path. When turning toward the lure it would sink into the weeds, but as the boat swung the other way the lure would be on the outside of the turn, going faster and swimming out of the weeds. This method works like a charm, as the spoon was actually being jigged down into the weeds, then pulled out, while the boat was constantly moving over new waters in the search for pike. Many have had excellent success with this technique, rooting many pike out of weedy cover that would not come up for a high-running, more horizontal presentation. But there are certain things that must be done for maximum success.

The plated hook on a Silver Minnow is dull and must be sharpened along the sides and tip with a fine grain file. South Bend makes a great one. Adjust the weed guard so it lines up with the hooks tip and extends out a little past it. If the hook point and weed guard aren’t in a straight line, you’ll grab a lot more weeds. Don’t adjust the wire weed guard too far out from the point or it will be too hard to set. Adjust the setting according to the density of the vegetation.

Trolling silver minnows gives you a great way to cover massive weed beds
and to get down into the vegetation.

Most hook-ups on larger fish occurred after quickly gunning the motor to pick up line as the hook is being set. As the technique evolved , here’s what works best.:

  • Use no-stretch super line such as Berkley WhipLash or FireLine.
  • Don’t use a shorter rod or one that doesn’t have backbone.
  • A Heavy “bucktail rod” that’s at least 6 foot 9 inches, or a sturdy flippin’ stick are recommended for maximum hook-setting power.
  • Longer rods give you a long, sweeping hook-set that picks up slack line, they also keep the lure a little farther from the boat, plus they aid in controlling and playing pike.

Dress the Silver Minnow with pork or plastic. A dressing’s length and bulk will alter how fast or slow the spoon will wiggle or sink. Be careful not to use a soft plastic dressing that slides up on the hooks shank every time a sharp forward rip is executed to clear weeds. Gluing some plastics to several spoons with a “Krazy” glue can solve this problem. The standard silver-colored “Silver Minnow” is a must, but gold, perch and fire tiger can also be hot, especially when the water has some color, or darker skies exist.

Summary: When faced with lots of weeds, trolling can help to quickly find the pike. But be careful not to go too fast in a straight line. A soft zigzag pattern allows the lures to constantly sink down and be pulled out of the weed clumps. It’s this “jigging action” that roots out the big ones!

Flutter Spoons

When game fish are aggressive, fishing fast and horizontal is often the best way to cover water and catch the maximum amount of fish. But as the action starts to decrease, slower speeds and lures that fall, flutter or pause usually become more productive. A slower falling lure may also be more effective on suspended fish, or those holding tight to cover, as it gives them a little more time to zero in on the presentation.

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Wafer-thin “flutter spoons” like those used for trolling salmon and trout are
slow falling with a lot of flash that trigger non-aggressive pike.

 

Anyone with basic pike fishing experience knows that spoons are tops for these toothy predators, and we’ve already discussed two deadly tactics. But the ultimate “tease” technique, the tactic that temps even the most tight-jawed pike into hitting a spoon, is the one that gives us the slowest, falling, most tantalizing action. This involves casting with super-light weight flutter spoons, those wafer thin spoons that are usually trolled in deeper water for trout or salmon while using weights or planer devices to get them down. Before going out and trying to cast these spoons on baitcasting gear spooled with heavy line, three words of advice-don’t try it:

  • They are best fished with long-handle spinning rods that are at least 6 1/2 to 7 feet long, and a reel full of soft 10-14 lb. test mono such as Trilene XL, or better still 14-20 lb. test FireLine.
  • Two handed “snap casts” are recommended, where a right-handed caster pulls the butt section of the rod sharply towards his body with the left hand, while the right hand fires out the cast. This tactic increases rod speed to give extra casting distance.P5
  • Look at a South Bend System 9 IM6 graphite spinning rod I designed (P-246) to get an idea of the type rod to use. A ball-bearing, wide-spool spinning reel with a tapered spool works best.

Flutter spoons have a lot of flash and movement with a minimal amount of forward or drop speed. You can slow the frantic fluttering action down a bit by adding a plastic or pork trailer, but I rarely do. These spoons won’t let you cover a lot of territory, but they are deadly under certain situations. One of them is when sight fishing for pike. Although this may sound easy it’s not. In stained waters only slight shadows or dark spots on the bottom may be noted. In clear water the fish can more easily be seen, but a cast made too close will usually send them bolting away. Always cast at least 10-15 feet past the pike, and not directly over it. If the fish is moving, cast well in front. Even if you lead the pike too far, let the spoon sit on the bottom until the fish is within 5-8 feet. The lift up and allow the spoon to flutter downward.

Sometimes the pike may just watch the lure sink, and nose up to within inches of the lure. Short little jiggles or soft “pops” will usually provoke a strike. A flutter spoon can also be rigged on a follow-up rod. When a pike follows in a faster-moving, more horizontal presentation then turns off, a flutter spoon can be blind cast in the direction the fish headed. Let it sink 5-6 seconds pull it upward, then repeat. This slow-falling, crippled action is often different enough to trigger a response. Flutter spoons also work well when allowed to sink into larger holes in a weed bed, or into the shaded areas between higher clumps. Let the light lureP5 slowly flutter down into the pocket a few feet, or down between the clumps, then left the rod to pull it back out. These thin spoons sink much slower than a conventional spoon, and have a wilder, flashing action. This attracts pike and gives them plenty of time to react to the slow falling lure.

When fishing flutter spoons around weeds, use one with a large single hook, and put the hook on so the point faces the inside or cupped side of the spoon. This rigging will give you the minimum amount of weed snags and make releasing pike easy. With a little practice this single hook spoon can be cast over thick vegetation and skittered across the top, periodically stopping the retrieve so the lure flutters down into holes or along edges. The trick to avoid hanging weeds is to halt the lures flight just before it hits the water by engaging the reel and lifting the rod tip.

Wire leaders should be used with all the spoon techniques discussed. Always use a quality ball-bearing snap-swivel to the lure. A size 4 Berkley Cross-Loc snap swivel is ideal. When casting a spoon, either with the drop-back technique or with a flutter spoon, a 12-inch leader is perfect. When trolling with the Silver Minnow, where a lot of pulling and ripping of weeds is going on, a 3-foot leader is better as it will slice through the vegetation and won’t weaken. Put these 3 techniques in your pike-fishing bag of tricks and watch your catches soar!

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Fall PIKE Fishing

31The Ontario archery hunting season will be open mid-September and it’s a tortuous time of year, because the urge to hunt is so strong after a long off-season. Yet, while the bush beckons the hunters, Wawang Lake is still here – promising what is arguably the best fishing of the whole year!

That’s because the cool autumn months before winter are prime days to catch fish, and BIG fish, in generous quantities. Why? Because fish feed more voraciously during the fall than any other time of year. They instinctively know that winter’s coming, marking a cold-water period of low activity. So, predator fish bulk up for winter by packing in as much eating as they can. This time also coincides with the fall spawn of baitfish.

Basically, the baitfish school-up to move into the spawning grounds and the predator fish follow them.

One such predator in the mix of the fall bite is the magnificent Northern Pike.  As anyone who knows Wawang Lake – it’s stuffed with these jaw, snapping monsters! Our pike hunters love the way they look, strike and fight. They have the attitude of a pitbull on steroids! Even a 3-4 pounder can give any angler a thrill. Add twenty pounds and you have a serious freshwater battle on your hands.

One of the best ways to catch a bunch of pike in the fall is by trolling and covering a lot of water. Before hitting the water, have a game plan. Study the Wawang Lake map of the lake and identify the steep breaks where shallow water drops off into deep structure. These are potential hotspots.

If the shallows in these spots are weedy, look for weedlines that are still green. Weeds that have already laid down and are beginning to decay do not hold fish like they did in the summertime. Fish like GREEN weeds, for the leafy cover they provide, and dying weeds don’t offer the same concealment. On a particular weedline, the top fish-holding locations are points and inside turns. These are key ambush areas at any time of year, including fall.

If the lake has no green living weeds, then other types of cover are your next best bet. Rocks are ALWAYS dynamite areas to target big pike, particularly if they’re out on a nice point. Add wind ripping into or over that point, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for big gators laying in wait. The wind creates current that pushes bait into the point, where opportunistic feeders are always hanging around After determining which weedlines, rocks, points, etc. that you intend to target, the next decision to make is lure selection. During the fall, northern pike like to eat big meals. So opt for baits that have a large profile.
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Lure suggestions to start with: ·

  • a big jerkbait like a 9-inch Suick in Firetiger, Perch or Red/White – always clipped to a steel leader. ·
  • 10″ Swimming Joe (Bucher) baits in firetiger, perch, or walleye – a proven overall best
  • Other proven performers are big spoons, paddle-tailed swim baits and bucktails. ·
  • If picking up stray weeds is a problem, troll a jumbo spinnerbait or weedless spoon like a Johnson Silver Minnow.   ·
  • Add a large twist-tail grub body to the shank hook on spinnerbaits and Silver Minnows, to increase the size of the bait’s profile, enhance vibration and for a splash of color.

Once you get on a weedline depth (typically 10-15 feet), watch your sonar and stay on that contour. Pike aren’t afraid to hit a fast-moving bait, so I usually begin with a troll speed of about 2.5 miles per hour. If that doesn’t get results, try slower or faster speeds – even up to around 5 miles per hour even.

Leave your rod holders at home when trolling for pike, because you’ll get a lot more bites if you continually work the lure with quick, hard jerks; steady pull-and-drop movements; and erratic twitching. Pike will routinely follow behind a bait, and the instant it “pauses” it often triggers an aggressive strike!

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Fast trolling regularly results in an immediate hook-up, especially if you’re using no-stretch braided line instead of monofilament. However, we prefer braid for trollling, because the line transmits the wobble of the lure to your hand and lets you know if the bait is running properly or whether you’ve picked up a stray weed.

The fall trolling pattern for northern pike can provide you with some of the most action-packed fishing of the year. Handle the fish with care and release them healthy so they go into the winter months stress-free. And don’t be afraid to keep a couple of 3-4 pounders for the dinner table. Pike is an amazing fish to eat, especially if you de-bone it to remove those nuisance “Y” bones. Or, leave the bones in and opt for pickling instead. The pickling process turns the bones to mush, and there’s a better than pickled northern pike!

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