Northern Pike Fishing Tips & Tactics

Northern Pike under normal conditions are not hard to catch in Rugby Lake. They go after bright colors and shine or erratic movement and splashing. You always have to use steel leaders because the pike's teeth are razor sharp and will cut through your line in a second. Most people that target Northern Pike want to catch a big one. Maximizing your chances at catching a trophy pike means understanding their behavior and feeding patterns and then throwing the right bait based on the water conditions and structure.

Big Northern Pike are ambush predators. They hide and wait for unsuspecting Walleyes or bass to swim within striking distance. They respond to visual stimuli and sound. In Rugby Lake colors that are highly visible in Walleye Wine colored water work best, which are Gold, Silver and Chartreuse. Since Rugby Lake is a shallow lake we are only discussing shallow water techniques in the article.

Fishing Shallow:

Many people go into a back weedy bay and start casting baits and don't catch anything. You can look at the area and think it's perfect for Northern Pike but there is nothing there. A trick to this is to look at the mud on the bottom. If you see pitch black mud on the bottom it usually means there is too much decomposing organic matter so hydrogen sulfide and nitrogen levels will be too high for pike. Don't waste your time in spots like that. You want to find an area that is rocky, sandy or the bottom mud has a lighter brown color. Usually there needs to be weeds close by but not always.

Even though the bay is full of weeds usually big trophy Northern Pike will hang around the points leading into shallow weedy bays. They may be in the deeper water out in front of the bay and then they head to the outside of the points and then chase feeder-fish into the bay cutting off their escape route. See diagram below.

In this case try casting DareDevles, deep diving rattle baits or Musky plugs at the points. Big pike will also hit big spinner baits and Mepps Musky Killers. If you don't get anything after a few casts try dropping your DareDevle straight down and jigging the lure. If that does not work put on a weedless spoon like a Weedless DareDevle or Johnson Silver Minnow and cast a couple of feet into the weeds and then bring your lure out into deeper water where your boat is.

Northern Pike also respond to sound and splashing. Casting surface lures like Heddon Spooks, jitterbugs and weightless spinnerbaits with the blades cutting the surface work great.

There are two tricks you can use to increase strikes. First, when casting a spoon cast it up high and just before it hits the water give the line a violent jerk so your lure slaps the water. This will attract pike from a distance. Another trick is to constantly change the speed in-which you are reeling in and give the lure jerks once in a while to make your lure look like an injured fish. If you just cast out and reel in at a steady speed the pike many times loose interest because a constant smooth retrieval does not look natural to a pike.

The Art of Casting Spooks:

Back in the 50s and 60s the most popular way to catch trophy Northern Pike was to fish the surface with a Heddon Spook. It's an art form that has been lost and many younger fisherpersons are not aware of this effective and exciting technique.

1st) You have to cast your Spook out. The perfect spot to cast a Spook is over-top a thick weed bed that is just under the surface, in between patches of lily pads or along side Bulrushes. The whole purpose is to be able to fish in places that are not practical for other lures.

2nd) Once your Spook hits the surface, don't start reeling in yet. Give it a couple of yanks so it makes splashes on the surface like a wounded frog or bird. Many times the Pike will hit the Spook before you start reeling in.

3rd) This is the tricky part. You have to hold your rod up as high as you can and pull the line tight so your fishing line is not in the water or even touching the surface. Your line has to be out of the water or the Spook will not make the proper motion when you reel it in.

4th) Start to reel in slowly at a constant speed. While reeling in you have to jerk your rod every second. When you jerk your rod, the Spook will slide to one side. When you jerk it again, it should slide to the other side in a crisscrossing motion. You have to get a rhythm going. As you are reeling in, your Spook splashes from side-to side and this drives the Pike crazy.

Below is an animation showing the motion that your Spook should be exhibiting.

Fly-fishing for Northern Pike:

Casting big floating flies to the edge of the weeds or landing them in clear patches among the weeds can be very effective. Fly-fishing for Northern Pike is getting more and more popular every year. Fly-casting for pike is very different than fly-casting for trout. With trout on a stream you are letting the fly float down stream. When fly-fishing for trout on a lake you are casting out and them pulling 3 feet of line in at a time so the fly is streaming back at you. With pike you want to cast out the fly and just give the fly little 5-inch jerks. The reason for this is if you are in a patch of open water in the middle of thick weeds you only have so much room before pulling the fly into the weeds.

Below is a list of the most popular pike flies.

Barry Reynolds Pike Bunny
Rabbit Strip Pike Bunny
Red & White Pike Fly
Shiner Flies
Whistler Fly
Mickey Finn Streamer
English Pike Fly
Softshell Crayfish Fly
Dancing Frog Fly
Phils Shiner Bunny
Slider Diver
Dahlberg Diver
Kelpie Diver