How Do You Target Early-Season Pike?

It's time for pike, or very soon will be. I know some people who are hammering them through the ice right now, but I mean open-water pike fishing. The big northerns gather along shallow, marshy lake shores after ice-out in early spring for spawning. It's a great time to catch them.

The question is: how? Even the most occasional pike angler seems to have his or her favorite flies, lures, or tactics. One of mine is a floating, hard-bodied swimming plug, such as the Cordell Redfin that took the pike in the photo above. If the early-season sun is warm enough for the fish to be at all aggressive, I retrieve such lures in a repeating jerk-stop routine that allows the lure to float to the surface between jerks. That erratic action draws some truly awesome surface strikes.

If the fish seem sluggish in really cold water, I'll switch to an unweighted Slug-Go slowly twitched. Sometimes I'll go all the way up to a 9-inch-long version if I think there's a chance for larger pike. Most often though, I use a 7.5- or 6-inch version, usually in the color called Arkansas shiner.

One popular pike lure that I rarely use (at least for pike) is a Johnson Silver Minnow. These weedless spoons can be very effective, especially with a pork-rind trailer, but their very popularity can reduce their success. "Don't bother with a Silver Minnow," longtime Manitoba pike guide Jerry Dunlop told be once. "The fish have been looking at those all week. Throw something different."

And I know some people like to cast large in-line spinners for pike, such as a Blue Fox Vibrax. I confess to not having done much of that. But I can see where such a lure might fish a little deeper and hence successfully. I guess I'm just too enamored of drawing near-surface strikes that I can see....