The Woodsman Magazine

Small Baits for Big Pike

By Bob and Ginny Riege

Pike are aggressive, which is unfortunate for them but fortunate for fisherman.  They lack judgment.  Where a walleye would look at a minnow from six sides before believing it is a minnow, a northern will nail almost any glittering object that moves.  Even better, northerns keep bankers’ hours.  You can sleep in, get up, and find the northerns pigging out at midday.  My kind of fish, and, better yet, northerns go right on snarfing up the poor forage species even after cold fronts that cause so many fish to throw tantrums and go on hunger strikes.  Finally, and best of all, northerns keep right on filling their bellies when hot weather arrives and other game fish become picky eaters.

For the most part, pike are associated with weeds.  They lie in ambush in weeds, then attack their prey with astonishing speed.  You cannot move a lure too fast for a northern to catch it, either trolling or casting.  In fact, a lure that zips past a pike at extremely high speed is likely to trigger a strike that a pokey lure might not.

Pike fishing traditionally means BIG baits, but what about those days when the fish continuously follow the lure but refuse to strike? Small baits are the answer to the question. Pike can become conditioned to big baits that are commonly thrown by the majority of anglers.  Some of the fish there are 30 to 40 years old and they have seen just about every bait known to man. Most days, everyone and his brother are throwing large jerkbaits or gliders, sometimes resulting in fish that love to follow. Next time you run into this frustrating dilemma, make a quick switch to a smaller version of the bait you are using, and be prepared to hang on to that rod. A simple switch in the "size game" is often all it takes to find action.

Although pike can attain tremendous weight and size, there is something about a small bait under the right circumstances that can work pure magic. Early season is one of those moments.  Springtime means cooler water in many regions of the country, and it also means slower metabolism for its watery friends. Northern pike are less likely to exert themselves chasing down large prey, but can be convinced to take a swipe at a bite-sized snack.

Phil explained that they were having a lot of luck on small baits to catch big pike. The phrase "small bait" is a relative term when discussing species-specific lures. For the northern pike, small can be defined as a lure that measures less than five-inches in length.

Small inline spinnerbaits, like a # 5 Mepps Aglia or a BlueFox Vibrax are very effective. They combine color and flash with a small sized bait. You often hear of downsizing baits in the early spring and late fall, and this is the key to these spinners. They are faster moving than the jig and grub combination, but present a perfectly sized prey to the sluggish pike.

Cold front conditions are another situation that calls for downsizing your presentation. We've all been there before - bright blue skies, sunny and without a cloud in the sky. This is darn tough fishing in anyone's book. Pike can be caught during these periods, but it will take something small, natural and unobtrusive to do the damage. This isn't a time for monster cranks or behemoth trolling plugs, but scaled down versions that will be appealing and noteworthy to the lazy pike with lockjaw.  The other small bait that we used was a Mann’s Minus 1 bait.  It has a wide wobble and can be cranked over the top of the weeds without getting hung up.  We selected colors that varied from silver to bright red to attract the pike.

For the most part, pike are associated with weeds.  They lie in ambush in weeds, and then attack their prey with astonishing speed.  You cannot move a lure too fast for a northern to catch it, either trolling or casting.  In fact, a lure that zips past a pike at extremely high speed is likely to trigger a strike that a pokey lure might not. 

Downsizing your baits will increase your odds of catching trophy fish this fall.   

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