The heart of quick-strike rigging hinges on two trebles — typically #6 or #4 — as smaller hooks yield better hooking rates than larger sizes, unless the baits are giant, in which case a #2 hook is favored. Hooks are spaced about 3 inches apart on a section of supple uncoated stranded wire testing 18 or 27 pounds. Sevenstrand was the primary wire in play. It's still offered from Pure Fishing in 27-pound test today. The upper hook is held in place by doubling the wire through a small crimp sleeve and letting the hook ride in the resulting loop. A wire wrap secures the second treble on the bottom of the leader, while a small swivel is wrapped at the end.
This tandem-hook rig offers many advantages over traditional single-hook systems. Hooking success soars. No more racing headlong to respond to a tripped tip-up, only to kneel breathlessly in prayer while waiting for the spool to stop spinning before attempting to drive the hook home. When a fish grabs a bait on a quick-strike, you set as soon as you have a chance to grab the line.
As anglers began tying their own rigs and manufacturers churned out their own versions, variations emerged offering options in hook size, spacing, and components. Through it all, Stange's original choices in treble size remained solid producers. Early on he recommended Eagle Claw's 374 for its beaked design. These days he prefers the Lazer Sharp L774.
Stranded wire is still a great choice, particularly on lightly fished lakes, though Stange ties rigs on 25-pound fluorocarbon when targeting jaded gators in heavily fished waters. "Twenty-five pounds is just right for deadbait," Doug Stange says. "Fishing livebait is a different story. I drop to 20-pound fluorocarbon for livebait, especially when walleyes enter the mix along with pike; but at that point I'm usually fishing a single hook and not quick-strike rigging. Again, livebait's a different subject. And for giant pike at late ice, I always fish wire, because there's a chance to get bitten off with fluorocarbon. But it doesn't happen often. Indeed, in more than 8 years of fishing it I've never been bitten off. But it could happen."
When fishing a quick-strike rig, the baitfish is rigged by nicking one tine of the upper treble in just above the tail, and the end hook at or just above the dorsal fin. Hooked in this manner, a baitfish rides head down. Stange: "The Europeans had this method perfected long before I started tinkering with it. The head-down posture makes it easy for pike to inhale the bait head-first. This means solid hook-ups near the front of the mouth, which allows fish to be released successfully. Meanwhile, hook-up rates have always been right at 95 percent. And with lighter wire and fluorocarbon you get more bites."
But, he qualifies, this isn't a system for the ham-handed. You can't set the hook hard and you need to play fish out before landing them. "But it works," he says. "Thousands of anglers have landed thousands and thousands of fish with this rigging. The only time you have to go heavier is fishing near thick vegetation or woodcover."
Meanwhile, he finds it nonsensical that some anglers think a deadbait has to set horizontally in the water column to get bit. "Granted," he says, "there's nothing natural about a deadbait hanging head-down. But what's anymore natural about a dead baitfish setting horizontally tethered to wire with treble hooks? Has a pike ever seen a deadbait swimming or setting horizontally? Deadbaits don't swim. The only natural way to present deadbait is on the bottom, which works superbly in many instances."
Yokes and Zeros
Other quick-strike configurations have been introduced in recent seasons, including Y-style yokes that hold the bait horizontally. Minnesota's Jeff Andersen and Josh Kragthorpe met while attending college and forged a friendship founded on pike adventures. They particularly enjoyed tip-up fishing, and tinkered with tackle to boost their success on the ice.
A defining moment in their quest for better tackle occurred when Andersen lost a battle with a giant pike off the south shore of Lake of the Woods in the winter of 1998. "I hooked a huge fish and fought it hand-over-hand to the hole," he says. "And suddenly it was gone. The rig was broken. I never wanted that to happen again."
They crafted a stouter system, and they wanted their baits to hang horizontally. "Dangling them vertically didn't make sense to us," Andersen says. "So we made a Y-style rig that holds baits horizontally." They formed Bigtooth Tackle Company in 2000.
Other yoke-style rigs include Northland Fishing Tackle's Predator Rig, unveiled in 2013 after testing by the company's cadre of Team Northland pros, including Canadian pike masters Jeff Gustafson and Dave Bennett. The rig features a bright red leader spun from 45-pound Surflon nylon-coated stainless steel, with a 90-pound #5 crane swivel held in place dead center by a double-crimped leader sleeve. Hook sizes range from #4 to 1/0, allowing for super-size baits aimed at monster pike.
HT Enterprises' Hot Rigs also feature a balanced design. Company spokesman and noted iceman Tom Gruenwald says the rig, which hit the ice about five years ago, features supple wire, which works well with livebait, too, along with beads and spinner blades for added attraction.
Meanwhile, frustrated at the propensity of the yoke rig to occasionally hang up on the bottom of the ice, Andersen started producing In-Fisherman Digital Editorial Director Jeff Simpson's loop-style wire design dubbed the Zero Rig. It allows adjustment of the bait's angle in the water column, and also brings trebles together after the hook-set, greatly reducing the chances of hang-ups. Simpson says the Zero, and other rigs that allow inserting hooks so their points face each other along the long axis of the bait means hookup rates comparable to, and he thinks better than, standard in-line systems. Bigtooth builds the Zero Rig, but the company recently partnered with Clam Outdoors to promote and sell its lineup, greatly expanding distribution of these loop-style rigs.
Others are still tinkering and experimenting, including Aaron Rodriguez, of central Minnesota's Generation Next Fishing, who recently introduced modified in-lines and tinsel-sweetened solo rigs to trip the triggers of hard-pressured pike on his home waters.