Thursday, September 3, 2009
Pike Lures revisted, Part 2
A selection of hardbodied swimbaits
The swimbait revolution has taken over the bass market. There are a plethora of huge, expensive hardbodied swimbaits used by trophy hunting bass anglers, particularly in So. California. While I am by no means an expert of any kind on these baits or their histories, I believe they evolved (at least on the national level) when AC Plugs started catching huge largemouth in California. The AC Bait is a hard body with a soft plastic tail section. Most of these baits started as rainbow trout imitators. The stocked rainbows were like fish-food to the giant CAL largemouths.
The baits evolved into what I now call the hard swimbaits. While the original baits are still around, I like, and fish, the lipless, or very small lipped baits with 1, 2, or 3 joints. They have a hypnotic side to side swimming action on a straight retrieve. How aggressively they swim is determined by the angles of the joints. The Sebile has a very straight track with a tight wobble. The Lucky Craft has 1 joint and a much wider swimming track. Both are effective.
To be quite honest with you, using these baits on pike is probably overkill. They are expensive baits, and I don't think pike are that selective - if they see something even remotely edible, they eat it. Still, I like to try new stuff, so I threw them for at least a while on this trip. They all caught some fish for me, with the Lucky Craft probably drawing more hits than the others. You can't go wrong with them, but I believe you will catch just as many fish with other, more affordable jerkbaits. The one advantage they DO have is that they are generally big baits, since they are designed as trophy baits.
RATTLETRAP TYPE BAITS
I rely on Rattletraps a LOT when pike fishing. One of my most beaten-up, tooth scarred baits is a 1 oz. Rattletrap that used to be chartreuse. I rely on 3 models of these baits when pike fishing. I usually have at least 8 of them along with me on any given pike trip. The 1 oz. Rattletrap is my go-to bait. There is just something about these baits that drives pike crazy. I believe I have had the most vicious hits I've ever gotten with these 'traps. I rely on Chartreuse, Fire Tiger, and Honey Bee colors. Before this trip, I found some 1-1/2oz. SW Rattletraps, and I liked them a lot. they've found a place in my arsenal.
My favorite 'trap-type baits for pike
I also use Lucky Craft LVR 15. They cast a mile, give of a very loud rattle, and have terrific hooks on them. Finally, Strike King Redeye Shad in 3/4 oz. round out my selection. You must add these baits to your pike trips. You will shake your head in amazement when a relatively small - 30-35" - pike nearly tears your rod out of your hands when they attack these baits.
Glide baits are used extensively by musky hunters. They are large wooden baits that have a slow sink rate. Using a rod tip-down technique, the angler jerks the lure in a repetitive motion, causing it to jerk erratically side - to - side under water. The musky baits are very big baits - 4-10 oz. - and require specialized rods to work and fish them effectively.
Rapala glide-style baits - pike love 'em!
Then, 2 years ago, Rapala introduced the Sub Walk. This bait does exactly the same thing, but is small enough to handle on bass gear. And they work for pike. Then, last year, they brought the bait out in a saltwater size. BINGO - perfect trophy pike lure. The same year, they introduced the Glide Rap - a musky type bait that is just a little smaller than a lot of musky baits, making it perfect for pike.
Well, these baits DO work for pike. I had high expectations for the SW Sub Walk on this trip. For some reason, I didn't get around to using it as often as I would have liked. Plus, I had a little difficulty slowing down my rod action - the bait really whipped around on a slack-line twitch, sometimes coming around on the line. Still, Andy and I caught fish on them, and I'll always have some along. The Glide Rap is a big bit and really requires a stout rod to effectively cast and work it. Even if you don't have specialized BIG pike / musky gear, be sure to use the XRSB09 Sub Walk, which is 3-1/2" long and weighs 5/8 oz. - perfect for typical bass gear. (The SW XRSB15 is 6" long, weighs 2 oz)
Finally, the lure category that stole all the honors on my recent trip - jerkbaits. I categorize all crankbaits with lips as jerkbaits. Whether you jerk them in erratically, or do a straight retrieve, they work. They work because they imitate the primary prey species for pike - other fish.
Pike jerkbait assortment
Jerkbaits really make up the 3rd part of the 3 major categories of pike lures - bucktails, spoons, and jerkbaits. Many jerkbaits are easy to cast and retrieve, and can be fished with any bass gear. This includes some fairly large baits - the Rapala F-18 comes to mind. Of course, if you target big pike using big lures, you'll want to use rods and reels appropriately matched up to your lure selection. On our recent trip, 3 individual lures shined through as the stars: A Rapala X-Rap Jointed Shad - XJS13 - in Hot Steel color, a Rapala X-Rap Saltwater size 14 - SXR14 - in GGH (Glass Ghost) color, and a Salmo Pike. You've read about Jim's retrieval technique - a slow, steady retrieve until the Jointed X-Rap hit some cabbage, then a rip through the cabbage. Andy works the SW X-Rap in an aggressive jerking motion, and it calls in fish due the erratic movement and size as well as when it gets popped out of the weeds. Billy relied on straight retrieves with the Salmo.
Again, you will see that the baits we opted for on this trip are, by most accounts, pretty big lures. You need to get the attention of the fish, and the size / flash of the big baits does just that. Also, since we're really targeting big fish, it's our intent that these bigger baits discourage some of the smaller fish from going after them. I don't really think this works at all, since pike will go after baits as long as they are, but we like to think it does. I've included 2 pictures for you. One shows the difference in bait size for a freshwater X-Rap to a SW X-Rap. It is substantial. the next shows a war-torn Jointed X-Rap Shad in Hot Steel. these baits just get better and better the more mauled and chewed up they get.
FW vs. SW X-Raps
A battered X-Rap
Very little has been mentioned (by me) about topwaters for Pike. I always have an assortment of topwaters along with me on these trips, but the last 2 trips I have had very little success with them. In the past, buzzbaits and Super Spooks have been good to me on pike trips, and I always have them along. The other bait I've done OK on is a Woodchopper. I 've gotten very little on Popper style baits (Chug Bug, ...) I would rather catch fish on topwater than anything else, but I won't use them if the fish don't want them. While I'll always have a few along, in recent years they have been falling out of favor with my. I hope that changes in the future, but when you have weight restrictions on what you can carry on your trip, you can't waste precious ounces on baits that have not been productive.
I hope you enjoyed the overview of pike baits. The lists grow and shrink with each passing year, and I love to try new stuff. I'll keep everyone posted on new baits for these toothy predators.