Early Season PikeBy Mike Mladenik - March 1, 2006
Over the years I have developed finesse presentation for largemouth and smallmouth bass. The same techniques that will catch big bass under the most adverse conditions also work for pike. When it comes to pike fishing few anglers even consider finesse presentations thinking smaller baits will only catch small pike. With the unstable spring weather we experienced the past few years finesse presentations were the ticket.
First off we need to examine spring pike location Prime spawning areas for large pike will include shallow muck filled bays close to the deeper sections of the lake. Also look for inlets with the more water entering the lake the better. This incoming water is critical if you are searching for big pike. On many lakes I fish a shallow bay with no inlet will usually only hold small pike. The biggest pike in the lake relate to the moving water during spawning and remain there to feed after spawning.
Weeds are the key to locating active northern pike. On some lakes weeds may be sparse while on others weedgrowth can be surprisingly heavy in spring. Much will depend on the actual time of ice out so the weeds will vary from year to year. In fact last year with the unusual cold spring it was tough to find any weeds ate all. If weedgrowth is limited locating active pike will be all the easier. If you do have a fair amount of weeds you will need to cover more water effectively.
On many flowages and river backwaters weeds and wood may be present, or weeds may be absent and wood will be the only available cover. Regardless if you are dealing with weeds, wood or both remember that cover is cover. In spring cover is at a premium and all cover must be fished effectively. I see to many anglers passing up productive structure. I look for even the smallest bit of cover in spring.
Once I establish pike locations I will start looking for active fish with a spinnerbait. 3/8 and ½ ounce single blade spinnerbaits work best in cold water, with white and orange being the preferred skirt color. After we catch or have a few pike follow we switch to finesse presentations. Use either a five or six inch soft plastic jerkbait or lizard. The smaller sized plastics will out produce larger plastics in cold water. If you are fishing under warm stable weather and the water temperature is on the rise use larger plastics.
Plastics can be fished on both a jighead or Texas rigged. I use both presentation and the daily bite will determine the way the plastics are rigged. When fishing with a jig, crawl the jig and plastic along the bottom and when you detect a strike wait a few seconds before setting the hook. If the bite is light Texas rigging plastics is more effective. For stubborn pike use the slowest possible retrieve and many times no retrieve is the best retrieve. I have caught large spring pike by dead sticking a six inch plastic lizard.
Active pike will not be shy about striking bait and color is not important. For neutral and inactive pike I prefer white. White best resembles spring baitfish and works in both stained and clear water. Also choose plastics that are scent impregnated. While scent may not be important when fishing pike in warm water, scented baits have an advantage in cold water.
Both casting and spinning rods work fine with personal preference being the deciding factor. When using a casting rod, use a six foot six or seven foot heavy action rod. My preferred rods are a Lamiglas XC 665 and a XPS 703. As for line, last year I had great success with Cortland Spectron Blackspot. Since I use a medium sized bass casting reel I spool the reel with 80 pound Spectron. I use a heavier pound test due to the small diameter of the line.
Northern pike are not only another option in the Northwood's but they are fun to catch and can also make an excellent meal. This spring when the sum is high and not much is happening try for a few northern pike. Remember that the smaller bait might catch the largest pike of the day.