Favorite Lures of the Pike Guides
Northern pike are vicious, elusive, and can be downright picky when it comes to hitting a lure. But these four trophy pike guides from across North America need to send clients home happy. When all else fails, these are the pike lures they trust the most.
Location: Lake Delavan, Wisconsin
Credentials: Liedberg has called Lake Delavan his home since childhood and now plies its waters with clients, offering a “no pike, no pay” rule on all full-day trips.
Number of years guiding: 12
Contact: (630) 830-7687; pikeboy.com
Favorite Jerkbait: Original Rapala Floater
Size: 7 in.
Weight: 11/16 oz.
Details: “The Original Rapala just matches so many different bait species. It’s a top choice no matter where you chase pike. Lots of anglers think the biggest pike are caught in really deep water, but that’s not true. Some of the heaviest fish from Lake Delavan have come from water two feet deep or less. Although I’m not a huge jerkbait fan, they do have an advantage in the shallows, especially if you remember that big fish live there, too.”
Favorite Spinnerbait: Pikeboy Single Colorado
Color: Black/Red/Silver Blade
Weight: 1 oz.
Details: “I’ve been making all my own spinner baits for a long time because everything I used to buy, the pike would destroy. These lures are made with heavy-gauge wire and high-end components. It’s really about durability. I chose that color because it gives a sharp silhouette in lots of water conditions. Finding closed-eye spinner baits these days isn’t easy, but they have a major advantage. I use wire leaders with a snap, and without a closed eye, that snap could slide all the way up to the blade and hurt the action or cause you to lose a fish because you end up pulling against the wire at a more vulnerable point.”
Favorite Diving Hardbait: Rat-L-Trap
Weight: 1 oz.
Details: “Put me anywhere in the U.S. for pike and I’m bringing my Rat-L-Trap. You can work these lures at any depth in the water column, fast or slow. They’re just as versatile as you can get and pike slam them. I never get rid of a Rat-L-Trap that the pike have beaten up. Actually, once a little of the chrome peels off, exposing those subtle white spots underneath, I catch more with it. I guess it looks even more like a natural baitfish.”
Favorite Soft Plastic: Berkley Gulp! Shaky Shad
Size: 4 in.
Weight: ½ oz. skirted jig
Details: “Pike are generally aggressive, but there are times when they’re picky. That’s when bouncing a soft plastic in front of their face works best. The Gulp! in dark, natural bait colors work best for me when the bite is slow. I typically rig these shads on ½-ounce skirted largemouth-style jigs, but vertical jigging doesn’t work that well. I use this setup to punch through the weeds and just retrieve slowly and steadily. You cover more water that way, and the idea is to pull the lure right in front of the pike. With jigging, you might lift it right over the fish.”
Location: Lake of the Woods, Ontario, Canada
Credentials: A professional guide since he was 16, Klassen, now 23, is one of the youngest guide service owners and pike gurus on Lake of the Woods.
Number of years guiding: 7
Contact: (204) 480-4572; andrewklassen.com
Favorite Spinnerbait: Musky Mayhem Double Cow Girl
Color: Black/Nickel Blade
Size: 10 in.
Weight: 2 ¾ oz.
Details: “This spinner was designed for musky, but I catch lots of big pike on it. Our fish are primarily eating large ciscos. This lure matches the bait size, as well as producing lots of flash. I find spinners produce best over rocky bottom where weeds don’t impede the visibility. Pike will rise up from ten feet down to hit one, but you’ve got to get the blades going the second it hits the water.”
Favorite Diving Hardbait: Musky Mania Jake
Color: Holoform Silver Shiner
Size: 8 in.
Weight: 2 ¾ oz.
Details: “The flat, narrow profile of this bait is pretty unique. Because it’s not round, I think it has more flash. It also works well casting or trolling up to 16 feet down. To get the most out of a Jake, you want it to roll a little on the retrieve. A sharp twitch is all it takes, and by rolling it, you can better expose the sides of the lure to maximize the flash it gives off.”
Favorite Jerkbait: Original Weighted Suick Thriller
Size: 10 in.
Details: “I don’t really know why anything eats these lures, because they just look like a big stick in the water, but with a little modification, you can get them to hang in a fish’s face and they crush them. I’ll take pliers and bend the corners of the tail down at a 45-degree angle. It might take some time to get the action just right, but the end result will add just a little back-end shimmy to the lure when it stops. That little twitch drives pike mad.”
Favorite Soft Plastic: Musky Innovations Bull Dawg
Size: 9 in.
Weight: 3 oz.
Details: “I just have lots of confidence in this lures because it’s so versatile. It will run at any depth you want and looks great at any speed. Some people don’t understand spend a lot on Bull Dawgs to have pike tear them up, but they last longer than you think. My record is 20 fish on one Dawg, and the trick to that is taking a lighter to the cuts and gashes to melt them shut after each trip. You’ll prolong lure life significantly.”
Location: Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota
Credentials: Specializing in trophy pike weighing upwards of 20 pounds, Scepaniak has honed his lure methods over the last 25 years to entice the biggest fish in Mille Lacs Lake.
Number of years guiding: 25
Contact: (320) 253-7535; predatorguideservice.com
Favorite Jerkbait: Original Weighted Suick
Size: 9 in.
Weight: 2 ½ oz.
Details: “I love these jerkbaits because it’s up to the angler to implement the action. That lets you tailor your retrieve to match conditions. I stick to black because it has the sharpest silhouette in the water. Any time you cast a jerkbait, it’s essential to let the ripples dissipate before you start your retrieve. Pike key in on the splash and come to investigate, but sometimes they take their time. If you start to retrieve right away, the lure is almost back to the boat by the time the fish reaches the point of splash down.”
Favorite Spinnerbait: Ruff Tackle Rad Dog
Weight: 2 1/8 oz.
Details: “That light gray color resembles the belly of a baitfish and these lures are pretty heavy-duty. I also caught 32 pike over 40 inches on this lure one season. I modify about 90% of my lures, and spinner baits are no exception. I take off the blade that comes on the lure and replace it with a silver Colorado, number seven. You get maximum vibration from that, and the rod tip actually quivers. Pike pick up that vibe with those long lateral lines.”
Favorite Diving Hardbait: Salmo Whitefish
Size: 7 in.
Weight: 2 oz.
Details: “Both the size and color of this lure matches a sucker well, and they’re the main food for our larger fish. In Mille Lacs, we’ve got suckers that weigh up to seven pounds. A spastic retrieve will always catch more fish, but to take that further, something I always tell me clients to do is rip the bait up to the surface when it gets near the boat. Pike will follow it and often lose interest near the boat, but if you rip it up, they think it’s a baitfish trying to escape and smash it.”
Favorite Soft Plastic: Musky Innovations Heli Dawg
Size: 9 in.
Details: “One of my clients landed the largest pike of his life on this lure. They’re ideal for fishing thick cabbage patches because of their weight and helicopter action on the fall. The best thing you can do with a Heli Dog is get it hung in the weeds, then rip it free. The pike home in on the movement of the weeds and grab the lure as it breaks out and starts swimming away. You’re essentially making the effect of bait fleeing from the cover that much more realistic.”
Location: Allegheny River, Pennsylvania
Credentials: A moving-water pike and musky specialist, Childress runs over 80 trips a year in his jet boat to put his clients on northerns that frequently tape out over 40 inches.
Number of years guiding: 14
Contact: (814) 723-5912; alleghenyguideservice.com
Favorite Spinnerbait: Lee Snyder Spinnerbait
Weight: 2 oz.
Details: “Lee is a local lure maker, and I’ve always done well on pike and musky with his spinnerbaits. White is a very versatile color, and although silver and gold blades have advantages in different light conditions, gold is the all-around producer. I rarely throw a spinnerbait that isn’t tipped with a little meat, like a grub or scented shad. Pike are either on or they’re off, so anything you can do to add just a little more life to a spinner will always catch more fish.”
Favorite Soft Plastic: Shack Attack Curly Sue
Color: Brown Sucker
Size: 9 in.
Weight: 4 1/2 oz.
Details: “There are similar soft plastics on the market, but I have yet to find a soft jig that is more durable than a Shack Attack. Right down to the internal rigging wire, these baits are tough. I’ll fish them at any depth, but you have to be ready with these lures because the fish like to hit them on the drop.”
Favorite Diving Hardbait: Bomber Long A
Size: 6 in.
Details: “I don’t really throw diving swimmers that often, but I’ve always done really well on a regular Bomber Long A. Chartreuse and silver are highly visible in almost any water conditions, so this pattern has proved particularly deadly. Bombers are also great because you can cast or troll them.”
Favorite Jerkbait: Phanton Lures Phantom
Color: Bleeding Sucker
Size: 7 1/2 in..
Details: “Phantoms have a great walk-the-dog action unlike many other jerkbaits. They’re also nearly indestructable because of the high-impact plastic they use to make them. The bleeding sucker is a dead-on imitation of a real sucker, which happens to be a main forage item for the larger pike and muskies in the Allegheny.”