February 27, 2014
By Rob Neumann
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.
1 Yukon River, Alaska
Outsize pike lurk in the bays and grassy backwaters of the Yukon River and its tributaries. Chances for fish from 25 to 30 pounds or better are good in the cool, slow-moving waters. The Yukon has fantastic opportunities for fly-fishing. At Midnight Sun Trophy Pike Adventures, a houseboat with accommodations for six anglers serves as your wilderness base camp, with three guided 'satellite ' boats taking you into even more remote areas. They reported fish to 55 inches last year. Contact: Midnight Sun Trophy Pike Adventures, mstpa.com
2 Taltson River, Northwest Territories
Penny considers the upper Taltson River to be the top destination for giant pike in North America today. More pounds per inch than anywhere else in North America, he says, the pike here are the toughest he's encountered. Big walleyes, too, along with magnificent scenery. Contact: Aurora Nights Lodge, auroranights.ca, 867/394-4001.
3 Misaw Lake Lodge, Saskatchewan
Straw says Misaw Lake in northern Saskatchewan has some of the most consistent trophy pike fishing he's ever experienced. The Schwandt River, an excellent big-pike venue, runs out of Misaw Lake near Misaw Lake Lodge. Misaw produces pike over 50 inches long most years, and the lodge offers fly-outs and hikes to other lakes full of trophy pike that don't get fished for years. Contact: Misaw Lake Lodge, misawlakelodge.com.
4 Wollaston Lake, Saskatchewan
Wollaston Lake, the largest lake in the world that has outflows in two different drainage basins, produces numbers of trophy pike in the mid-40- to 50-inch range every year. Sight-fishing shallow is a top tactic for early season, with an endless number of points, bays, and neckdowns that hold pike through summer. The lodge accommodations and dining are first class, and seasoned and knowledgeable guides are at the top of their game. Contact: Wollaston Lake Lodge, wollastonlakelodge.com.
5 Colorado Reservoirs, U.S.
Eleven Mile, Williams Fork, Spinney Mountain, and Stagecoach reservoirs all are top waters for big pike, says Matt Smiley, sales manager for Eagle Claw based in Denver. Last September, his friend Mike Stark caught a 46 1/2-incher just ounces shy of 30 pounds, a state-record caliber fish. All these reservoirs have 30-pound class fish that grow big on a diet of trout, he says. Guide Nathan Zelinsky specialized in trophy Colorado pike. He says peak times are May and late September and early October. Tactics include trolling with planer boards as well as casting jerkbaits, swimbaits and tubes. There's also an amazing topwater bite in July or August, he says. Contact: Guide Nathan Zelinsky, Tightline Outdoors, 720/775-7770; Colorado Parks and Wildlife, parks.state.co.us.
6 Lac La Martre, Northwest Territories
In-Fisherman contributor and trophy pike expert Jack Penny likes Lac La Martre for 20- to 30-pound pike. With spectacular sight-fishing, it's a fly fisherman's dream, he says. Fish remain shallow all year. Crystal clear water with bonus huge lake trout. Contact: Lac La Martre Adventures, nwtfishing.com, 810/334-9381.
7 Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories
Among the top spots in In-Fisherman Field Editor Matt Straw's list is Trout Rock Lodge, on the north shore of Great Slave Lake. It's located in an archipelago formed by hundreds of islands, which protect some of the most expansive far northern pike habitat on earth. Straw says you'll find lots of "kraken," as the locals call pike over 40 inches long. And he reports more 50-inch pike are caught here every year than anywhere he's been. Contact: Trout Rock Lodge, enodah.com.
8 Athabasca Lake, Saskatchewan
This massive water, stretching over 230 miles, with large connected rivers and plentiful pike habitat, has tremendous fishing for big pike, Penny says. Mostly known for big lakers, the pike fishing is overlooked. Lots of classic weedy bays with clear water. Some of the biggest pike in Saskatchewan await anglers. Contact: Lakers Unlimited, lakersunlimited.com, 780/853-1151; Blackmur's Athabasca Fishing Lodges, athabascalake.com, 877/922-0957.
10 Reindeer Lake, Saskatchewan
At over 180 miles long and up to 60 miles wide, Reindeer Lake is full of classic pike habitat, with thousands of islands, structural elements, and weedy bays. Last season, Lawrence Bay Lodge recorded their largest catches of big pike from 18 to 35 pounds, and some over 35. Sight-fishing is a top strategy in some areas. Fishing deeper structure and weededges also produces giant pike at certain times. Bonus lake trout, walleyes, and grayling. Contact: Lawrence Bay Lodge, lawrencebay.com.
9 Rainy Lake, Ontario
The location of numerous TV segments for In-Fisherman Television, Rainy Lake on the Ontario-U.S. border remains one of the top drive-to destinations in North America. Pike in the 10- to 15-pound range are common, with chances at 40-inch-plus fish. The weeks after ice-out find postspawn pike in shallow weedy bays — prime time to target pike with flies. Later into June, pike transition to deep weedlines, and many fish move to rocky structures in fall. Contact: Woody's Rainy Lake Resort and Fairly Reliable Guide Service, fairlyreliable.com
; Camp Narrows Lodge, campnarrows.ca