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Some of us like to target pike. From the time the ice melts until the lakes freeze over again, we’re out on the water slinging heavy metal on big-diameter rods fishing all day for just a couple of bites. We might also be pushing that bow-mount electric motor to the edge of its specifications in vegetation so thick on the surface it’s hard to believe there are loads of pike hiding around the sparse stalks just a few feet down.
Pike ambush their prey, which means cover, in the form of vegetation, is a good place to find them. Wherever there is a big weedy flat, there will be pike.
During the early season, you cannot beat a spinnerbait for pike. When the fish are aggressive, you can use up to a 1-ounce lure with a big willow-leaf or Indiana-style blade. When the pike bite requires some finesse, a 1/2-ounce lure with a Colorado-style blade is the best option.
With a willow-leaf or Indiana blade, you must maintain speed for the lure to produce enough flash to attract pike. The Colorado blade is the slow, precise option. When you quit reeling and drop the tip on a Colorado-bladed spinnerbait, the lure flutters down, creating a helicopter effect and floating the skirted leadhead right into a pocket or along the edge of a weed line.
Crankbaits are deadly for pike, but when combined with a heavy wire leader with big snaps, there is a definite impediment to the lure’s action. There is a remedy for this situation. It’s called Tyger Leader. Tyger Leader (www.tygerleader.com) is a stainless steel knottable leader that you can tie directly to the lure. A 5-, 10-, even a 15-pound-test is a small enough diameter to allow the crankbait to run true to form.
Start with a small barrel swivel on the line from the reel. Tie the Tyger Leader to the swivel. Use a piece about a foot long and you’re covered. But if you’re like me, changing lures every half hour, start with 18 to 20 inches, and by the end of the day you’re left with about 6 inches. You can tie the crankbait directly to the leader and it will run straight and wobble just like it’s been tied to the braided line from the reel.
Some pike anglers swear by spoons. Spoons can generate some solid bites, but there are days when pike will just follow the lure and not hit it. When this is the case, thread three 2-inch scented grub tails onto a treble hook. The fluttering tail with the added scent turns those followers into biters.
If you are a spoon expert, try the 1 1/2-ounce Sebile Onduspoon – they are loaded with rattles and have a unique action when used with a steady retrieve. Pike seem to love them, so be sure to use a wire leader because they will inhale them.
Pike love plastic worms. Those reaper tails and brush-hog bodies that are found by the gross in bass anglers’ boxes are deadly, but pike anglers haven’t figured it out yet. A favorite plastic presentations for pike consists of a No. 4/0 weighted worm hook tipped with a Gulp! Crazy Legs Jerk Shad. You don’t rig this with the hook weed less like you would if fishing for bass. No, you make sure the hook is exposed.
Use a 1/16-ounce weighted hook so the drop is slow. With the plastic body you can cast this rig some distance, but the goal is to just pitch it into pockets in the weeds and let it sink for a few seconds. Then, using a twitch-and-stop retrieve, bring it back to the boat.
Those old grizzled pike anglers with multiple scars on their hands from getting too close to a big pike’s gill rakers prefer to use minnows — big sucker minnows. These anglers anchor at a favorite spot and watch those bobbers swim around as the big suckers try to submerge into the vegetation.
That’s the secret. You want the minnow struggling to escape, so position the hook below the bobber so the bait is a few inches above the vegetation.
There are tricks to get the minnow to attract even more pike. Some anglers trim fins. Take a nip off one of the side fins and the minnow will swim in an erratic circle. Knock off half the tail fin and the minnow really struggles to stay upright. A struggling minnow is an enticement pike cannot resist. That’s why it’s important to keep the bait fresh as well. After a half hour, replace the minnow with a fresh one, although if the fish are biting, you may go through a few suckers in that amount of time.
Other items found in the complete pike arsenal are a mouth spreader and long-nosed pliers. The prevalent mouth spreaders are wire springs that wrench the pike’s jaw open and cut right through their mouth. Toss it out. Berkley developed a new mouth spreader that has a low impact on pike. The pliers, of course, come into play when the pike’s mouth is spread open. You can see by the sheer numbers of teeth that it would be a really stupid idea to reach into that cavernous jaw and dislodge the hooks with your bare hand.
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|Many species are a blast to catch using topwater lures, but northern pike frequently charge baits with an unbridled aggression that is simply fascinating. The ever willing participants, pike are often eager to take a bait off the water’s surface because the presentation appears to them to be an easy meal.Here are three preferred topwater baits and tips on using them for pike.
Cigar, Or Walk-The-Dog, Lures
An all-time favorite topwater for pike is a walk-the-dog bait, such as Heddon’s Zara Spook or Rapala’s Skitter Walk.
Best fished with a stout baitcasting rod, you must impart a side-to-side swimming motion to the bait. Do this by twitching the rod tip down, then immediately raising it again. This causes the bait to jerk to the side. Raising the rod gives the lure slack line to pull as it glides. After a split-second pause, start another twitch to cause the bait to turn and glide in the other direction. Continuous twitching results in side-to-side surface motion that causes a lot of commotion. The sight is often too much for pike to pass up.
To share some tips on using these baits, one effective tactic is mixing up the tempo of the twitches throughout the retrieve. Slowing it down or speeding it up often triggers hits. If a fish swipes at a bait, but misses it you can often get a pike to hit again. One method is prolonging the pause between twitches. After some practice you can get the bait to dance in the strike zone for a while. This conveys an injured and disoriented fish. Pike will often return to hit again with this tactic.
Another option is continuing the retrieve and then casting back over the area again. I’ve lost count of the number of pike I’ve got on a follow-up cast after they missed the bait the first time.
These baits are easy to work. Simply cast out and reel it in on a steady retrieve. The lure’s metallic tail spins as you pull it through the water. This prop appendage creates a plopping sound and leaves a wake on the surface. The steady rhythm and straight path make it easy for pike to hone in on. A word of advice when working these lures: don’t retrieve them too quickly. The best tempo is often a pace just fast enough for the blades to be continuously turning.
An alternative to a steady retrieve with these lures is using a twitch-pause pattern. This is particularly effective for lures with blades in the front as well as on the rear. The metallic sputtering caused by the twitch is extremely effective at attracting pike.
When targeting pike with topwaters, remember that calm to slight ripple conditions are best. Don’t be afraid to try topwaters in small waves though because big fish often hunt in the turmoil caused by waves, and will still take surface lures. Pike are always surveying their habitat for easy meals; often, a topwater is one of the best lures to portray vulnerability. Not to mention that watching a northern hit a surface lure always gets the adrenaline flowing!
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Walleyes in the North tend to have a much longer life span even though their growth rates are not as high as in the South, but the North still produces many more walleye of 10 lb. plus.
Large walleyes are exceedingly cautious and wary, if they hear or feel anything unusual they stop feeding and head for deeper water. This why only 2 of 1000 walleyes reach this magic 10 pound size. Our guides know this and use big fish strategies that result in catching many huge walleyes annually.
Big Water Big Walleye:
When considering trophy walleye waters big is best, a large body of water (5000 acres+) is more likely to support big walleye populations than smaller lakes (500-1000 acres). Competition for food, living space and angling pressure reduces the possibility on smaller waters for walleyes to achieve trophy status.
Large lakes provide an abundance of usable forage (minnows and lake herring), open space and due to large size angling pressure is reduced.
Best Times to Catch Trophy Walleye:
There are four major periods during the year when the odds increase to catch a trophy walleye, however we will only describe three of them since Wawang Lake has no winter fishing pressure:
Pre Spawn: During the pre-spawn period, large numbers of big females stage into a relatively small area. Although they are not feeding aggressively, you may be able to catch a fish or two due to the sheer numbers present. The pre spawn bite is good until spawning begins.
Post Spawn: A few weeks after spawning the big females recover from and start to bite again but finding them is difficult as they are scattered. You may catch an occasional large walleye, but seldom more than one. Your chances of finding a concentration of big walleyes are much better after they have settled into their typical deeper water summer locations. The best fishing begins about five to six weeks after spawning and generally lasts two to three weeks.
Late-fall: Fishing is unpredictable, the toughest part is to locate the walleye, but if you do find them a high percentage will be big. The majority of large walleyes caught in late fall are females. Their feeding for the development of eggs for the spring spawn, females must consume more food than males, up to six times more according to feeding studies.
Wawang Lake has no winter pressure (fishing) and therefore our fisheries remains healthy with strong genetics and lineage.
In waters that stratify, after the fall turnover is completed the depths are warmer than the shallows. Big walleyes may swim into shallow water for short feeding sprees in the evening, but during the day they may be found as deep as 50 feet. Although difficult to find, they form tight schools, so you may be able to catch several from the same area.
Trophy Walleye Presentations:
Locating big walleyes is half the equation and other half is the proper fishing presentation. Here are a few tips to help you land big walleyes.
The first and most common mistake made by anglers is noise, whether it be dropping the anchor on top of the fish, running the outboard over the spot you wish to fish or dropping anything in the boat while fishing.
- For position fishing, idle or use an electric trolling motor past the spot you’re fishing and set your anchor at a distance, let the wind drift you over the spot.
- For trolling use inline planer boards that spread the fishing lines off to the side of your boat. Remember large walleyes are exceedingly cautious and wary, if they hear or feel anything unusual they stop feeding and move.
Most often large female walleyes will relate to a piece of structure similar to the smaller males, but will hang 10 to 15 feet deeper this is attributed to a walleye’s increasing sensitivity to light as it grows older. In addition, bigger walleyes prefer cooler water, and they can usually find it by moving deeper.
Increase your chances for big walleyes by fishing in the shallows during low-light periods, especially in spring and fall. If the water is very clear, or if there is a great deal of boat traffic, big walleyes will feed almost exclusively at night. During the daytime they prefer relatively deep water, deeper than the areas where you typically find smaller walleyes.
In deep northern lakes, the shallow water temperature stays cool enough for big walleyes through the summer. If the walleyes can find boulders or other shallow-water cover to provide shade from the sun they may spend the summer at depths of 10 feet or less. In these lakes, most anglers fish too deep.
Increase the size your live bait or lures, they maybe too small to interest a trophy walleye. Many times large walleyes are caught on musky/pike baits in the 6″ – 8″ range. Larger baits will draw far fewer strikes than small ones, and
most anglers are not willing to fish all day for one or two opportunities. But if you are intent on catching a trophy that is the price you must pay.
Big walleyes are extremely cautious, especially in clear water. You don’t need to over-rig your set-up. They’re more likely to take a bait using a size 6 hook using 6-8lb test line than 12-17lb test with a 1/0 or bigger hook. A small hook will allow the walleye to swallow the bait without feeling anything unusual and will not pull-out or break. Most large walleyes are caught away from snags and take your time to bring the fish in allowing the rod, reel and drag to do its job.
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When the stars align and the feeding window is open, a big pike will hit anything that moves. Your bait selection doesn’t matter and all you have to do is be in the right place at the right time. If you’re lucky, you’ll experience this feeding-frenzy action once or twice a season. The rest of your time hunting trophy pike will be spent cranking, casting, and waiting. The right presentation will make the difference between a bite and a follow-up. So, don’t waste all of your effort pitching second-rate lures. Here’s our round up of the best pike fishing baits on the market right
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The #5 Mepps’ steady throb pulsed through the 30-pound Spiderwire, down the length of the medium/heavy-action graphite rod and directly into his hand. Just as the lure reached the edge of the cabbage weeds, the blade’s thrum came to an abrupt halt. He set the hook hard into what felt like a concrete wall! But then the wall began to move, and he knew he was into a trophy. Five minutes later and four desperate boatside runs, he lands the 20-pound northern pike.
IT’S SIMPLE: Big pike LOVE spinners!
Weeds are the keys to spinning big pike crazy as these predators use vegetation to ambush any aquatic creature smaller than themselves.
Spinner choices abound, but not all are created equal when it comes to enticing jumbo “scissorbills.” The angler should select certain sizes, shapes, and colors, over others.
Lesson No. 1 in choosing spinners for Esox lucius: bigger always is better. Pick magnum-sized offerings as even hammer-handles attack huge lures with abandon, and to catch true monsters, you MUST have that big profile.
Fat, deeply cupped blades throw out big vibrations that ring the dinner bell for monster pike. While sometimes thinner shaped blades (such as willow-leafs) that spin faster turn the trick; usually the slower-turning Colorado-type blades prove to be the ticket to a pike bonanza.
Because big flash stimulates lunkers, polished silver and gold blades work great. Another killer color combo, especially for use in darker, stained water, is orange blades with a black trailer.
In-Line vs. Offset Spinners
Spinners for northerns come in two basic designs, and both work effectively, but each has its strengths and weaknesses.
In-line spinners (such as Mepps, Worden’s Lures Rooster Tails, Panther Martin, and Blue Fox’s Vibrax), with their terminal trebles, have higher hook-up and catch rates than their safety-pin brethren, but they also hook vegetation and other underwater structure, too.
But lures such as Terminators and Stanley Jigs’ Rick Clunn 4-Blade Willow Spinnerbaits, with their single, upturned hooks surrounded by manmade skirts, slither through the weeds, logs and stumps. In-lines also cast like bullets, while offsets can catch the wind and lose momentum.
Any of the new “super-lines” such as like Berkley FireLine, Spiderwire Fusion, or Remington’s Power-Lokt, are superior to monofilament for spinning pike angling. Their low stretch and high-abrasion resistance benefit pike anglers.
Flout the convention and tie on a snap/swivel instead of a leader. Leaders inhibit action and deter wary trophies, while the snap swivels provide two major benefits: quick lure changes and eliminating/reducing line twist. True, you’ll lose lures to the razor-sharp choppers of aggressive mounters, but you’ll get lots more bites without leaders!
Speed & Delivery
Often northerns will attack even jet-powered offerings, but slowing down, pausing, or herky-jerkying that spinner, especially when it reaches the “Pike Zone,” reaps big rewards. Even lazy fish will smash a spinnerbait dangled in front on their out-sized mouth.
Always cast beyond where you think the pike lurk, because while “scissorbills” are legendary for their aggressiveness, they don’t like being bombed. Landing a bait on top of one’s head will likely result in spooking it.
Spin-Crazy Times & Spots
Primetime for driving pike spin crazy depends upon the season, time of day, and prevailing weather conditions. Early spring, right after ice out, brings spawned out northern pike shoreward (where they’re most vulnerable). Spinner rigs elicit savage strikes from hungry pike during spring.
Because northerns sight-feed, mid-day piking makes sense. Following that logic, clear, blue-sky days with lots of sun create perfect pike angling weather.
Look for incoming streams or rivers, and concentrate your efforts just off the edges of weedy drop-offs. Weeds are the keys to spinning big pike crazy, as these predators use vegetation to ambush any aquatic creature smaller than themselves. Position the boat on the deep side of the drop-off, and cast the spinner up onto the flat itself, cranking just fast enough to keep the lure above the weeds, and pause when you get to the weed edge. Allow the bait to drift down and find the waiting lunkers, and hang on!
Using spinners to drive northern pike stir crazy is fun, easy, and productive.
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Use a Light Line – By using a light fishing line such as Berkley’s Trilene Big Game, you’ll get less resistance and drag when using a lure. This lets the walleye suck in the lure more easily and prevents you from getting a short strike. Remember, walleye inhale their prey most of the time and if that flow is prevented you’ll get a short strike.
Try a Bottom Bouncing Rig – An L-shaped bottom bouncing rig is a great way to fish for walleye. As you retrieve your line the rig will bounce up and down off the bottom. This is a great way to attract walleye and give them an opportunity to do a hard strike, just make sure you go slow and steady.
- Artificial Lures Can Be Effective – Crankbait is the artificial lure of choice for most Walleye fishermen. But not all crankbait is created equal. You want a brand that accurately mimics that look and movement of real baitfish. We recommend Dynamic crankbait.
- Don’t Forget About Minnows – Minnows are one of the best live baits to use to catch walleye, especially when the water in cool and clear. A 2″ to 4″ minnow is sufficient when hooked behind the dorsal fin or through the lips by a #1 to #4 hook. Make sure to add a few split shots to your line and slowly reel in after you cast, only a turn or two per rep. If you don’t have split shots, then check out the Water Gremlin Split Shot Pro Pack.
- Stealth is Vital – When fishing for walleye from a boat you need to remember that walleye can detect when a boat pulls up, especially when it’s gas powered. Instead try drifting into your walleye hotspot from 40′ to 50′ out. You don’t want to give yourself away!
- Scent Matters – The presentation of your bait/lure/jig is very important, but so is the scent. Do your best to avoid getting man made and unnatural scents on your rig, this can easily tip off a walleye that something isn’t right. You can also use scent to your advantage by applying this Liquid Mayhem Fishing Attractant to your lure.
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