Pound Pike With Jigs
By: Tim Allard
This simple lure can be one of your best offerings
A jig is a basic design, cloaked in a veil of versatility, and will catch just about anything that swims. Pike are no exception and will rarely pass up the chance to snap at a jig. There are plenty of jigs available, but you won't go wrong soaking a 5- to 6-inch swimbait, bucktail, jerkshad, weedless jig, or tube.
Search with Swimbaits
Shad bodies rigged on jig heads or plastic baits moulded around a weighted hook are two categories of swimbaits, and both are pike producers. A swimbait is perfect for covering expanses of water where pike prowl, such as sand bars, rocky flats, or shorelines.
Fishing a swimbait is straightforward. Reel it in with a steady retrieve so the paddle- or twister-tail flicks and emits vibrations. Lifting and dropping the rod tip adds a scurrying action. Swimbaits work at all water depths. Crawl them near the surface, count them down for suspending fish, or skim them along bottom.
The Hardest Worker
Bucktail jigs were born to conquer pike. The hair-tied bodies of quality jigs take tons of abuse, and on retrieves the fibres perform a tantalizing, lifelike dance that infuriates pike. A time-honoured tactic is to rip-jig bucktails over a weedbed's canopy and along its outside edges. Rip-jigging works as it sounds. Rapidly snap the bucktail forward, reel in the slack line, and then yank it again for a jump-and-dive action. Tearing snagged baits free from weeds will often triggers bites.
Fishing bucktails isn't always about extremism, though. In the cold water of early spring and late fall, use a toned-down retrieve to illicite strikes from sluggish fish. Actions should range from a lift-fall routine of about a foot to a subtle bounce imparted with a light nodding of the rod. Add a plastic grub, worm, or jerkbait to the hook to enhance the action. Deep weed edges, rocky points, and drop-off ledges are all good areas for tossing bucktails.
The Jerkshad Curse
Jerkshads on jigs are pike kryptonite. When reeled back while shaking the rod, the bait's forked or whale-type tail will deliver a delicate, waving action. This movement is stellar at convincing complacent pike to chomp down when other lures are ignored. For a more extroverted presentation, use a pull-fall retrieve. This displays an erratic, panicky action that riles up aggressive pike and frequently triggers hits.
I particularly like using them in areas cohabited by pike and walleye, such as rocky points, reefs, or large sand/rock bars. A jig and jerkshad will catch sizeable specimens of each species, and there's nothing wrong with a little angling multi-tasking.
Edge of the Veg
As children gravitate to an aunt with a sweet tooth, pike will flock to weed edges because tasty treats are always nearby. Weed-guard jigs are well-suited for catching plant-loitering pike. One option is a bass-style flipping jig with either a plastic skirt or a bucktail body. There are also weed-guard jigs specifically for pike and muskie, such as Esox Research's Jig-A-Beast, Musky Mahem's Stickem' Jigs, and Esox Cobra's Grubtail or Shadtail jigs. Outfit either jig style with a soft-plastic creature, lizard, or shad trailer. Use short casts with these jigs to dissect irregular weed areas. Let the bait fall to bottom, then hop or swim it back. Opt for long casts on uniform weedwalls and use either a suspended or bottom-bouncing retrieve. These jigs are also effective over structures void of or with intermittent weed growth, such as points and saddles.
Tubes have a spiralling swagger that gets the interest of complacent pike. The typical tube groove is working a jig along bottom with either a lift-drop swim or a drag-pause shuffle. This isn't the only option, though.
An often overlooked tactic is fishing them like a jerkbait. A steady retrieve causes a tube to sway back and forth, mimicking a disoriented fish trying to regain its equilibrium. Add a few twitches and the bait darts erratically, tentacles flaring. Throw in a pause and it corkscrews downward. Combine all of these elements and you've got one whopper of a pike-catching presentation.
When working jigs on 1/4- to 3/8-ounce jig heads, a medium- to medium-heavy extra-fast 7-foot spinning rod is a good choice. This will let you fling jigs a decent distance, and the length and power should easily handle the scrap from an average pike. Otherwise, use a medium-heavy baitcasting setup for bulkier jigs, fishing in weeds, or when chasing big pike. Spool up with a superline between 30- to 50-pound test and use a wire or fluorocarbon leader to prevent bite-offs. Also be sure to use strong jig hooks that will stand up to a pike's punishment.
A pike can quickly slice a soft-plastic bait to an irreparable state. With a bit of preventative care, though, you can get more mileage from soft plastics. One method is to use superglue to seal cuts.
Another option that's best reserved for the work bench at home is using a small butane torch to melt and repair jumbo plastics. Run the flame back and forth over the damaged area. Shallow lacerations often self-heal, while deep gashes require more manipulation. The process tarnishes the colour and stinks, but this Dr. Frankenstein DIY project can breathe new life into expensive plastics such as swimbaits.
Don't shy away from tossing jigs and plastics for pike just because they will suffer some tooth abuse. Tackle casualties are unavoidable, but that's a loss I'm willing to take in order to boat plenty of pike.