By Steve Scepaniak
I had gone barely 20 yards when my son Travis yelled out, “Fish on again!”
He’d just caught one, I mentioned. Indeed he now had another pike of about 32 inches – perfect eating size, but this one was released.
It took a while that day to figure out right lures to catch fish, but once we did, it was a fish hooked every few minutes.
Without a doubt, early-season pike action can be some of the best.
Pike location is fairly simple to determine this time of year. Pike of all sizes will take up residency in any bay or shallow-water areas, 3 to 8 feet deep. Look for live weeds, dead weeds, and bulrushes. Live weeds provide oxygen that attracts all types of aquatic life for pike to feed on and offer cover from which pike ambush prey.
The dead weeds offer cover and protection, as do bulrushes.
When fishing weedbeds, look for any and all contour changes within that bed and make note of where they are. While subtle changes will most likely not attract pike, a significant structural contour change can and will.
The right lure
There are a lot of good lures out there to choose from. But at times, good just isn’t good enough. You need great – one that pike will fight over to strike. And while that may be a tough bill to fill, there are lures that can handle the job quite well – lures appealing in terms of sight, smell, and sound.
Let’s look at what makes a great lure for pike.
Spinnerbaits have been a favorite of pike, but spinnerbaits with willow-style blades offer little vibration. A spinnerbait with a Colorado-style blade offers plenty of the “thump” factor and vibration that pike like. A black body with orange blades and gray body with nickel blades are my favorites.
Spoons are another pike delight this time of year, and there are plenty to choose from. Some of the cheaper spoons don’t seem to have the proper action and flash. The higher-buck spoons have a patented curvature to them that causes a seductive wobble when retrieved. Combine that with the right color scheme. Go-to colors for me are red and white, yellow and red five of diamonds, perch pattern, chartreuse, hammered gold, and nickel.
It’s hard to beat a minnow-shaped plug. Like the spoons, you get what you pay for. A plug that has a tight butt wiggle gets the attention of pike. Combine that with a rattle and you’re really in business. A small, round-shaped bill offers a tight wiggle while a flat, wider bill has slow side-to-side action. The tight wiggle is preferred.
Plugs that offer good hang time when retrieved and paused are ideal this time of year. When paused, the plug hangs there for a few seconds, tempting any pike that was following it into taking it. Good color patterns are lake shiner, golden shiner, walleye, perch, sucker, pike, chartreuse, and red and white.
Some methods that lead to madness
Casting is one method that definitely produces pike. Work your boat parallel to a weedbed while fan-casting into it. The quickest way to see what pike prefer that day is to have each angler in the boat use different lures until a pattern of what they want is established.
Here’s a tip: Let your lures sink for a second or two. Sometimes a pike that is in a neutral mood can be lured into striking the lure.
Trolling has long been famous for pike fishing. But trolling has a negative side: angler inactivity. When trolling, an angler should pump his rod back and forth periodically. This rushes the lure forward when pulled and it slowly drops down when released.
Work the boat in and out of the weedbed when trolling. Don’t get in the habit of trolling the outside edge of the weeds only. A good tip when trolling is to put the motor in neutral once in a while. This enables the bait to stop and slowly drop.
A spinnerbait will helicopter down, a spoon will seductively flutter down, and a plug will just hang. When your speed drops to about 11⁄2 mph, engage the motor into forward and give it a little burst of speed.
If it’s fishing action you seek in springtime, don’t forget about pike.