Many species are a blast to catch using topwater lures, but northern pike
frequently charge baits with an unbridled aggression I find fascinating.
Willing participants, pike are often eager to take a bait off the water's
surface because the presentation appears to them to be an easy meal.
Here are three of my preferred topwater baits and tips on using them for
Cigar, Or Walk-The-Dog, Lures
Perhaps my all-time favorite topwater for pike is a walk-the-dog bait, such as
Heddon's Zara Spook or Rapala's Skitter Walk.
Best fished with a stout baitcasting rod, you must impart a side-to-side
swimming motion to the bait. Do this by twitching the rod tip down, then
immediately raising it again. This causes the bait to jerk to the side. Raising
the rod gives the lure slack line to pull as it glides. After a split-second
pause, start another twitch to cause the bait to turn and glide in the other
direction. Continuous twitching results in side-to-side surface motion that
causes a lot of commotion. The sight is often too much for pike to pass up.
To share some tips on using these baits, one effective tactic I find is
mixing up the tempo of the twitches throughout the retrieve. Slowing it down or
speeding it up often triggers hits. If a fish swipes at a bait, but misses it
you can often get a pike to hit again. One method is prolonging the pause
between twitches. After some practice you can get the bait to dance in the
strike zone for a while. This conveys an injured and disoriented fish. Pike
will often return to hit again with this tactic. Another option is continuing
the retrieve and then casting back over the area again. I've lost count of the
number of pike I've got on a follow-up cast after they missed the bait the
These baits are easy to work. Simply cast out and reel it in on a steady
retrieve. The lure's metallic tail spins as you pull it through the water. This
prop appendage creates a plopping sound and leaves a wake on the surface. The
steady rhythm and straight path make it easy for pike to hone in on. A word of
advice when working these lures: don't retrieve them too quickly. The best
tempo is often a pace just fast enough for the blades to be continuously
An alternative to a steady retrieve with these lures is using a twitch-pause
pattern. This is particularly effective for lures with blades in the front as
well as on the rear. The metallic sputtering caused by the twitch is extremely
effective at attracting pike.
Unlike the above lures, which often feature treble-hook clad models, buzzbaits
are a single-hook lure. The up facing hook point makes a fairly weedless
presentation. Buzzbaits have either metal or plastic blades attached at one end
of a wire form, which has a dressed hook at the lower end. These lures excel at
fishing the shallow, weedy haunts pike frequently inhabit. I'll cast them on
the edge of lily pad bays, among sparsely growing rice or reed areas, and
sunken wood zones. In fact, anywhere you think might hold pike are good places
to cast buzzbaits. Bring it in on a fairly steady retrieve, but keep in mind
twitches in the rod tip or changing the bait's direction can trigger strikes.
When targeting pike with topwaters, remember that calm to slight ripple
conditions are best. Don't be afraid to try topwaters in small waves though because big fish often hunt in the turmoil caused by waves, and will still take surface
lures. Pike are always surveying their habitat for easy meals; often, a topwater
is one of the best lures to portray vulnerability. Not to mention that watching a
northern hit a surface lure always gets the adrenaline flowing!
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