In-Fisherman first introduced pike quick strike rigs, about 30 years ago, working off the elaborate European designs that were virtually unheard of on this side of the big pond. Although there were many variations, these rigs shared a fundamental design: A hook attached to the end of a 15- to 20-inch section of wire, with a second hook riding a few inches above. Doug Stange, In-Fisherman Editor In Chief, tested versions of these rigs in North America, eventually calling them “quick-strike rigs.” Results were convincing, setting a new stage in the theater of ice-and open-water fishing for pike.
A typical North American pike rig consists of a big single hook or treble attached to a wire leader, with live- or deadbait impaled on the hook. This rig works, but it was apparent that tandem-hook rigs maximized efficiency for several reasons: 1) increased probability of hookups; 2) since pike are hooked shallower in the mouth, hook removal is made easier, increasing chances for survival; and 3) you can set instantly, rather then letting the pike run—hence the term “quick-strike.”
Two hook designs remain standard for quick-strike rigging: the treble and two-tine designs. Stange recommends the Lazer Sharp 374 by Eagle Claw, finding that #4 and #6 size trebles have better hooking and landing rates than larger sizes. The 374’s beaked design helps hold in baits and hooks pike well. The Partridge VB, a unique two-tine hook, has a smaller tine opposite the larger one. The larger and smaller tines on the VMC Double Ryder are offset 90 degrees.
The hook’s function on tandem rigs serves two purposes—to hold the bait and to hook the pike. With trebles, one tine on each of the hooks is inserted into the bait, leaving the remaining tines exposed for hook-ups. On the VB and VMC, the smaller tine is used to hold the bait. For either hook style, insert the end hook near the dorsal fin of a baitfish, and the upper hook in or near the tail. You also can set the end hook farther near the head, in the “shoulder” of the bait. If two trebles on a single rig are illegal where you fish, you can switch out the upper treble for a single hook, inserted through the mouth of the baitfish.
Making a quick-strike rig starts with cutting about a 20- to 25-inch section of wire, allowing a few inches for crimps or wraps, and trimming. The standard wire is 18- to 27-pound uncoated stranded, strong enough yet thin. Sevenstrand and American Fishing Wire’s Surfstrand are both quality 7-strand wires that work well. Other wires to try include Cortland’s Toothy Critter and American Fishing Wire’s Surfstrand Micro Ultra (19 strands) and Micro Supreme (49 strands). Stranded wires tend to curl after icing a fish or two, so have extra rigs on hand to avoid having to make them in the field. I carry extra rigs on a Lindy Legendary Fishing Tackle Rigger X-Treme and store components in its built-in containers.
On one end of the wire, thread on a 1/2-inch section of heat-shrink tubing followed by the upper hook, then attach the end hook with a crimp or wrap. Attach a swivel to the opposite end of the wire. Finish by heat-shrinking the tubing over the eye and a portion of the shank of the upper hook. The tubing holds the hook snugly, yet allows the position of the hook to be adjusted to accommodate different-sized baits and hooking locations. You also can make the upper hook adjustable by looping the wire through a crimping sleeve (don’t crimp), with the upper hook riding on the loop.
In some states, adding a spinner blade is required to make a quick-strike rig legal. Legalities aside, the added flash and color are features we should consider regardless of the technical definition of a lure where you fish. Beyond spinner blades, experiment with hook and bead colors.
HT Enterprises, Thorne Brothers, and Bait Rigs Tackle offer premade quick-strike rigs. HT’s Dual Hook Quick Strike Rig is available with #4 or #6 trebles on 27-pound-test wire. A fluorescent blade rides above an adjustable upper hook. The Quick Strike Rig by Thorne Brothers features #4 Gamakatsu trebles, an adjustable upper hook, and attractor beads on 30-pound wire. Their Bleeding version features red hooks and red beads. Bait Rigs tackle offers a selection of Tandem Quickset Rigs with VMC two-tine hooks from #8 to 1/0 on 20- to 40-pound-test wire.
Pike aren’t particular if the bait hangs perfectly horizontal, either. Hooking a baitfish near the dorsal fin and near the tail results in a head-down bait position, which is perfectly acceptable, whether below a tip-up or a jigging rod.
Another dual-treble rig that Digital Editoral Director Jeff Simpson finds effective is the Zero Rig–which Simpson created. Unlike quick-strike rigs where the hooks are attached inline on the wire, the Zero Rig has two trebles in a looped wire. Simpson, along with many other diehard pike anglers we know are convinced it has the highest hook-up percentage of any rig on the market.
An advantage of the Zero Rig setup is that the hooks can be inserted in a baitfish so that the points run in opposite directions. Simpson often finds that by inserting one hook near the tail and one near the dorsal fin or head, with the hook-points facing each other along the long axis of the bait, hooking percentage is increased. No matter which way a pike runs, the points on one of the trebles pull in the direction of the hook-set. And because the hooks can slide freely in the loop, deadbait can be angled up or down, depending on your preference.
A new tandem hook rig available from HT Enterprises is the Balance Tip-Up Rig. This unique design has two equal-length wire droppers about 4.5 inches long, each sporting bleeding red trebles and small spinner blades. While the rig is designed to balance baits, its strongest benefit is the option of hooking baits with trebles lying in the same direction or opposed.
Make Some Noise
Pike rely heavily on sight for feeding, but it makes sense that rattles activated by a struggling baitfish would help alert pike to a bait. The biggest advantage may be during low-light periods or when water clarity is reduced. The added signal also should provide an advantage when cover, like beds of aquatic vegetation, obscures a pike’s line of sight to a bait. Perhaps there’s a benefit even in clear, lighted conditions.
Keith Lambert of Hertfordshire, England, says he often uses rattles on European rigs to attract giant wels (European) catfish. I asked Lambert about rattles for pike. “Obviously my main targets, at least during the summer months, are catfish, and I often incorporate rattles into the rigs as audible attractants,” Lambert says. “Unfortunately, this attracts so many pike that I have to ditch the rattles. They’re very effective for pike and I always try to incorporate them into my winter campaigns.”
Lambert uses the clip-on Catfish Pro Rig Rattles, a ball-shaped design available in red, black, silver, yellow, or white. The rattles come open, the two half-chambers linked on a hinge. Add a few beads and snap the two halves together. The rattle snaps over line or leader.
The ball rattles Lambert uses are available through the Catfish Conservation Group’s online shop (ccgonline.co.uk), though you’ll have to pay international postage—no comparable ball-shaped designs seem to be available from U.S. suppliers.