Crush Pike On Top-Water
What do you get when you retrieve a topwater lure into the domain of a ferocious, opportunistic northern pike? Explosive strikes, flying water and a soaring heart rate! Excitement and awesome visuals aside, presenting a bait on the surface - or just beneath it in the subsurface - consistently produces strikes from pike. Here’s what you need to know.
Timing Topwater Action
Spring pike locations include bays, flats, marshy areas, weed beds, points and rocky reefs. Here, topwater and subsurface tactics are effective for covering areas and triggering northerns abiding in shallow and mid-depth zones.
As water warms in summer, “up-high” presentations remain effective as long as pike aren’t too deep. Focus on shallow and mid-depth foraging zones. For instance, a pike prowling a rocky point or sand bar can be tempted with a topwater. Likewise, for fish around deep cabbage and other vegetation.
Autumn sees pike position where forage is concentrated. Deep weed beds, large bays, tributaries, ledges, islands and rocky points are locations where surface and subsurface baits catch fish early and mid fall.
Surface Bait Selections
Northern pike can’t resist a Skitter V sliding side-to-side across the surface. Available in 4 and 5-1/4” versions, the versatile Skitter V can be fished quickly to sift through expansive zones or twitched slowly to tease fish. Its V-hull design enhances its walk-the-dog action, but giving the bait slack line after twitching it is important for maximizing its glide.
The BX Waking Minnow is another potent topwater. A slow, steady retrieve produces a broad wake and gives the lure dynamic rolling action and flashing - a combination of stimuli northerns can’t help but attack.
Sneaky Subsurface Options
Retrieving a lure just beneath the surface is another effective pike strategy. Take a Super Shadow Rap, for instance. Keeping the rod tip pointing up reduces the Super Shadow Rap’s running depth, allowing it to be swam and twitched just below the surface. This replicates a vulnerable baitfish
The floating Super Shad Rap and sinking X-Rap SubWalk are other subsurface candidates. Regardless of the bait used, experiment with creating wakes and dimples as these surface disturbances entice pike.
Pike are ambush predators. They conceal themselves using vegetation, logs, rocky reefs, sand bars, drop-offs, current breaks and shadowy patches of water.
Anglers will have better succesWatch For Followerss identifying where pike may be hiding and then presenting their bait at these spots. Cast beyond the target, then bring the lure into the zone.
Swimming a lure past a pike’s snout doesn’t guarantee an immediate attack. Many times a northern follows the bait, calculating whether to strike or not.
Seeing the fish, or detecting its presence (e.g., a wake), is the first step to triggering a following pike to hit. This is one reason to wear polarized glasses.
The next step is altering the retrieve to change lure speed and/or direction. These adjustments frequently prompt a strike. If still unsuccessful, try a boat-side Figure-8 with the lure.
Don’t give up when a following pike doesn’t hit a surface or subsurface presentation. Watch the direction it swims away. Then, grab another rod rigged with a different lure (e.g., sinking X-Rap Otus or Haku), cast ahead of the fish and retrieve the bait towards it. Done properly, this throw-back tactic catches plenty of pike.
Recommended Rod Combos
We recently discussed pike combos in another blog, but here’s a quick recap. The Omen Black Gen III Casting 8’ heavy (OB3C8H-SB) or extra-heavy (OB3C8XH) models are great for lures over an ounce. For lighter baits, consider an Omen Black Gen III Casting 7’1” to 7’6” medium-heavy rod.
The Concept A3 Gen II baitcaster is battle-ready for pike with rugged H.A.M. hardened brass gearing and 40-pounds of Carbon Bull Drag. The Concept A3 Gen II or Concept A Gen II Baitcast Reels don’t have the same drag power, but quite capable of handling pike.
Spool up with 40- to 50-pound Sufix ProMix Braid. ProMix has excellent knot strength, high abrasion resistance, longevity and extended colour retention. Don’t forget an 80-pound VMC Fluorocarbon Leader or 75-pound VMC Titanium Leader.
Mice, ducklings, frogs and various rodents frequently swim across the surface in lakes and rivers containing pike. Not surprisingly, opportunistic northerns are tuned-in to overhead movements. Given this, is it any wonder why topwater and subsurface lures consistently catch pike?