Pike Fishing: Float & Fly Pike

Pike Fishing: Float & Fly Pike

As is customary on many lakes in the North, the first few weeks of open water often find pike congregated in protected areas like marinas or shallow back bays. Pike start moving in when these areas are still locked in ice, but unstable conditions often prevent anglers from getting at them until there's enough open water for casting.

Fishing at this time of year can be unpredictable. In spite of their aggressive reputation, pike are prone to periods of moodiness, particularly near spawning time. Warm, stable conditions often get fish active enough to hit standard hardware like suspending jerkbaits, wobbling spoons, and jigs, but even then, there usually are a few extra fish to be caught using slower presentations, such as dead- or livebait fished beneath a float or on bottom.

But, as In-Fisherman has demonstrated so many times, good catches are achieved by finding the right balance of attraction and triggering, and occasionally by straying outside the norms of fish conditioning.

On one of our first outings of the season, we connected with a few nice pike on traditional approaches, but it wasn't until we switched to fishing for panfish that the full potential of our pike spot started to materialize. Cast after cast, our slipfloats and 11„2-inch tube jigs were yanked downward, and our light tackle was pushed, often beyond its capacity, as pike twisted and chewed their way to freedom. As the number of bite-offs started to climb, it was clear a change was in order.


Thinking we had a good jig bite going, I removed the float and attached a heavy fluorocarbon leader with a small bucktail jig. Pike love jigs, but wood and algae frustrated any type of refined bottom presentation in the area we were fishing. Although I had never specifically targeted pike with a float-and-jig setup before, it seemed like a pragmatic solution to keeping my lure off bottom, so I reattached the float. The float-and-jig combo drew immediate results and the fluorocarbon leader alleviated bite-offs. In spite of the pikes' apparent disinterest in our more aggressive presentations, they were hitting suspended jigs with enough force to produce an audible "pop" as the float plunged downwards.


It's always exciting to experiment with a new technique, and so it went, my partners and I experimenting for the majority of the day, on and off for the next two weeks with various ways and means of catching pike on floats.

One of the benefits of fishing side by side with other keen anglers is learning from one another, as we worked our way through a range of float, jig, and retrieve types in search of the best combination. Throughout our ­trials, fixed floats consistently outperformed slipfloats. While the difference is likely subtle, we reasoned that the swimming path of a jig fished under a fixed float kept the jig closer to bottom and imparted a more gradual swimming motion than slipfloats, which cause a more drastic up-and-down action.

Pike also showed a preference for a more aggressive jerk-and-pause retrieve over slower pulls or even a slow, steady retrieve. Rip the float forward 2 or 3 feet then let it rest for 5 to 10 seconds, and repeat. When the water was calm, each forward motion left a trail of bubbles on the surface. We reasoned that the action of the float grabbed the attention of the fish and prompted them to cruise over for a closer inspection.

Pike hit a range of jig styles, but bucktail jigs were particularly effective, due partly to their durability. For an extra level of pike-proofedness, add a heavy dose of epoxy to the thread portion of the jig. Tying 40- to 60-pound Maxima fluorocarbon leader directly to the jigs prevented bite-offs and held the jig tight enough to keep it horizontal as it hung beneath the float. Experiment with lure depth but think in terms of how far your lure is off bottom, rather than the distance between the lure and the float. Water depth varies in natural bays, so adjust the lead length as you move from one area to the next. Areas around marinas are often maintained by dredging, so the depth may be similar throughout.


Whether as an intermediate option between jerkbaits and deadbait, or simply a new curveball to pitch at those wary gators, the float-and-fly technique could be one of your favorites for springtime pike.

*Lonnie King is a fishery biologist, multispecies angler, and writer from Ottawa, Ontario.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Spawntime World Class Crappies

Spawntime World Class Crappies

Doug Stange and Brandon Fulgham illustrate spawntime crappie patterns on one of North America's most famous fisheries.

Electric Filet Knife from Bubba Blades

Electric Filet Knife from Bubba Blades

As OSG's Lynn Burkhead looks on, Josh Neville shows off the cordless and corded versions of a new electric filet knife from Bubba Blades.

Costa and Captains for Clean Water

Costa and Captains for Clean Water

With the company's heavy involvement in initiatives like Kick the Plastic and Captains for Clean Water campaigns, Costa's Amanda Sabin tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead all about the sunglass maker's unwavering commitment to help the freshwater and saltwater environment.

X-Factor Smallmouths

X-Factor Smallmouths

The In-Fisherman staff keeps it on the cutting edge, as they use the X-Factor plus topwater lures for smallmouths.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural baits and commercial options. Other Fish

Best Carp Baits Today

Dan Johnson - June 29, 2018

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural...

Several methods are available to estimate the weight of a fish. Some use length as well as girth measurements. Biology

Walleye Length To Weight Conversion Chart

Dr. Rob Neumann - January 03, 2017

Several methods are available to estimate the weight of a fish. Some use length as well as...

Check out this Largemouth Bass Length To Weight Conversion Chart, a simple and accurate explanation from the In-Fisherman biologists. Bass

Largemouth Bass Length To Weight Conversion Chart

Dr. Rob Neumann - January 22, 2017

Check out this Largemouth Bass Length To Weight Conversion Chart, a simple and accurate...

Everything you need to know about popular catfish species and how to catch them on proven riggings. Catfish

All About Catfish

Rob Neumann

Everything you need to know about popular catfish species and how to catch them on proven...

See More Trending Articles

More Pike & Muskie

Techniques and locations for finding big winter pike throughout the country. Pike & Muskie

Super Spots for Winter Pike

Gord Pyzer, Doug Stange, Jason Mitchell, and Steve Wald with Josh Loebs - February 03, 2020

Techniques and locations for finding big winter pike throughout the country.



Big water equals big fish. There's truth to this statement when it comes to fish at the top end Pike & Muskie

3 Prime Locations for Big Muskies

Steve Ryan - May 24, 2018

Big water equals big fish. There's truth to this statement when it comes to fish at the top...

To cast or to troll, the age-old question? Pike & Muskie

Casting vs. Trolling While Muskie Fishing

Steve Ryan - November 20, 2019

To cast or to troll, the age-old question?

As muskie guide Captain Jon Bondy will tell you, muskies aren't ”most other fish.” Pike & Muskie

Catching Muskies on Bondy Baits

Gord Pyzer

As muskie guide Captain Jon Bondy will tell you, muskies aren't ”most other fish.”

See More Pike & Muskie

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All In-Fisherman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now