If you're not casting swimbaits for northern pike you're missing out. Swimbaits are one of the hottest lures on the market right now, and for good reason — they catch a ton of different species. The focus of this blog is rigging tips for 5- and 6-inch swimbaits and shad baits, like Mister Twister Sassy Shad, Berkley PowerBait Flatback Shad or YUM Money Minnow. (Read Sorting Out Swimbaits: A Buyer's Guide for more on swimbaits.) The baitfish profile, natural swimming action and boot-tail driven vibrations of these plastics makes them phenomenal pike presentations. Success is never guaranteed however, so here are a few tips and tricks to help you catch more fish.
|Phil Stinson with a northern that ate a swimbait.|
When using baits that include rigging hooks in their package be sure to audit the size and strength of this hardware. Pike are sprinters and can rapidly peel off line. Thin wire hooks aren't recommended for northerns as they can bend open if the drag isn't set perfect. Use heavy gauge wire swimbait hooks with a wide gap for superior hook-ups. Another good option is to rig baits on jigheads, such as Kalin's Ultimate Series "S" heads or their Ultimate Saltwater jigheads.
Always ensure the plastic is rigged completely straight. This is critical for the bait to attain its best action; complacency with this detail will cost you fish.
A quality leader is also a must and many options exist. One is a 24- to 30-inch 80- to 100-pound test fluorocarbon leader, bookended with a heavy duty ball bearing swivel and quality snap. Wire or titanium leaders also work well. Immediately replace kinked wire leaders, otherwise they'll compromise the swimbait's action. You can also tie 7-strand wire or a product like Knot 2 Kinky Nickel-Titanium Wire direct to the swimbait's hook eye for an ultra-streamlined presentation. Thin wire slices through weeds better than fluorocarbon, but is more visible in clear water. There are always tradeoffs, so I carry a good variety of leader materials.
Although they're great at catching pike, these toothy predators will quickly shred swimbaits. To get more mileage from these plastics consider the following:
- Use superglue to seal and repair tears to extend a bait's lifespan.
- When a torn bait won't stay on the keeper-barb of a swimbait hook, try rigging it on a jig head.
- Re-rig a torn swimbait by rotating it on a jig so the hook comes out the bait's side (not it's back). This slows the sink rate but the action is just as good at catching pike.