In the world of fishing, there are so many awesome species to target. One of the coolest is northern pike. Today, we will be giving you a guide to pike fishing so you can hit the water and maybe have some real success. So, let’s dive right into your guide to pike fishing!
What are pike?
Northern Pike or slender, aggressive fish that can be found in freshwater bodies. As the name implies, the more north you go in the United States, the more plentiful they are. You can find pike in southern areas, but they will not be as healthy and there will not be as many to find.
Pike have sharp teeth and are quite aggressive. Oftentimes, bass fishermen will unknowingly catch pike while going for bass because they will bite just about anything thrown in their face.
What do I need for pike fishing?
Although they are aggressive enough to attack a wide range of presentations, there are a few things you will need to get the job done. Before we get to the baits, you need some equipment.
Best rod for pike
There is no rule that dictates the type of rod you need to use for pike. For a lot of anglers, casting rods do better than spinning rods. This is because they tend to be stiffer and can handle a lot more action. Plus, casting rods fit with baitcasting reels, which is the desirable setup for fish of this size.
You absolutely can use spinning rods and reels, but they tend to have a lot of flex and could be difficult for throwing the right lures.
Best line for pike
Generally, braid is an excellent line when fishing exclusively for pike. This is because braid is super strong and will fare better against the pike’s teeth than some of the other line types. Even braid can snap against the razor-sharp teeth of a pike, but it stands a better chance than fluorocarbon or monofilament.
Many anglers also use a strong fluorocarbon leader to give the presentation a more stealthy approach. You really need to beef up the fluoro in order for it to stay intact as well.
Now, the weight of the line is pretty important. Although there is no predicting how big the fish is that you will catch, you can plan for a big one and not risk losing the small one. Generally, using 20-40 pound braid is best. This also should coincide with the drag capability of your reel. The higher the drag capability, the higher the weight of your braid.
For the leader, you should not use any fluorocarbon less than 20 pounds. If you do, you are at a much higher risk for snapping off and losing your rig.
Best hook type and size
The type of hook you use will directly correlate with the type of lure being thrown. If you are going to use live bait, you will probably use a 1/0 or 2/0 partridge hook. If you are throwing a jerkbait, treble hooks are key.
You absolutely do not want to overdo it with the hook. You would be surprised as to how small a hook can be while still hooking into a large pike. So, as long as you match the presentation to the hook size in a good dimension, you will be in a good spot.
Best bait for pike
There are a number of ways that you can target pike specifically. Although you can absolutely catch them by targeting other species like bass, fishing for pike exclusively can absolutely be done. Here are a few presentations that will work for catching pike.
Although a lot of anglers use artificial lures to catch pike, you can absolutely use live bait if you so choose. If you want a smaller approach, you can use suckers and shad. This is a good course of action if you know the pike are active but not huge. If you know there are some good sized pike in the area, you can hook on a live bluegill or perch to add some ultra realistic action on the hook.
Of the four categories of bait, dead bait is probably the worst. However, that does not mean you can’t catch good fish with it. The most common type of dead bait is shad that has been packaged and stored so you can buy it off the shelves. This shad is usually preserved in chemicals and attractants that smell bad to us but enticing to them.
Especially in cold, clear water, jerkbaits are excellent for hooking up with pike. This is because they imitate moving baitfish that pike can be super aggressive toward. Crankbaits will do the same thing. When you can put a reactionary lure in front of their face, they love to pounce at the opportunity.
We have even seen pike destroy topwater lures. Frogs and Whopper Ploppers can entice pike to fly through the water column and explode out of the water. If you are fishing at dusk and dawn, this is a super fun way to fish.
Finally, there are soft plastics. Northern pike love moving baits with a lot of action. Keep this in mind no matter the presentation, but it needs extra thought with soft plastics. With hard lures, that action is built into the technology. With soft plastics, it is all about how you present the lure.
Of the vast amount of soft plastics on the market, a couple are best for pike. The most common and popular presentation is a swim jig with a long, heavy swimbait plastic. Rolling this by structure and off of drop offs is a great way to entice a reaction bite. Having a paddle tail swimbait on deck in a number of colors is the best way to increase your chances of hooking up. In this case, having swimbaits that are 4-8 inches long will be the way to go.
Best time to catch pike
Pike will typically eat through the day, all year round. But if you want to increase your chances, there are certain times are better than others.
Time of year
Although these next two points will vary slightly depending on your location, there are some hot times to target northern pike. Generally, the late spring is the best time to wet a line.
The spawn usually starts in mid April and goes until Mid May. After the spawn concludes, the pike go on a feeding frenzy as they try to make up all of the weight they lost with giving birth. This target zone is when you have the best chance of catching tons of pike. Generally, from the middle of May to early June is the prime time to get bites.
Ice fishing for pike is also very popular. Pike, like most fish, are less active during winter months. That doesn’t mean you can’t catch them in the winter. And at least you have an excuse to get out of the house in the winter!
Time of day
On a smaller level, dusk and dawn hours are the best times of day to target pike. This is because the water temperatures will be cooler and the feeding times will be in full effect. This is also when baitfish are more active, so you will be right in the mix for getting those strikes.
As you can see, pike fishing can be a great way to get outside and fully enjoy the fishing experience. Although viewed as a pest fish to some, northern pike can make great trophy fish to target exclusively.
If you want to increase your chances of hooking up, reference this guide. You can then get all your gear in place and put yourself in a good place to make some memories on the water. Good luck, and happy fishing!
Hello! My name is Tim and I’ve been fishing for over 30 years. I’ve learned a lot about fishing during that time and I love sharing that knowledge with others. I’m also a member of the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). Thanks for checking out the site!