To make your own quick strike rig, start by assembling the necessary components. For trebles, Stange opts for the Lazer Sharp 374 by Eagle Claw. He keeps sizes #8, #6, and #4 on hand. The L384 has a beaked (curved) point, which helps hold the hook on baits and hooks pike well. Mustad offers the V.B. Instant Strike Hook by Partridge. The V.B. Partridge is a double-tined hook, with the smaller tine used for hooking bait while the bigger tine remains exposed. VMC offers the Double Ryder hook with a small and large tine set off at 90 degrees.
The standard wire for quick-strike rigging is 18- to 27-pound test Sevenstrand uncoated stranded. Another option is American Fishing Wire's Surfstrand, also a seven-stranded uncoated wire. They also produce a more flexible Surfstrand Micro Ultra (19 strands) and an even more flexible Micro Supreme (49 strands), which is knottable.
About the only drawback to using thin stranded wire is that it tends to curl after icing a fish or two or three. Curled leader material is more visible to fish and doesn't hold baits as cleanly, so have some replacement rigs to tie on as needed.
Single-strand wire like Sevenstrand Magnum is another option. The 32-pound test has the same diameter as 27-pound Sevenstrand stranded wire. Although single-strand wire is stiffer than stranded wire, wire testing under about 20 pounds is supple because it's thin. Single-strand wire tends to bend and curl after a pike's caught, so carry extra rigs. The life of a single-strand rig can be extended by removing kinks and bends with a wire-straightening tool, like the one available from DuBro.
Other wires to experiment with are coated, stranded, and knottable wires like Cortland's Toothy Critter, the Surflon Micro lineup from American Fishing Wire, and leader wire from TyGer. The coating makes the wire a bit more kink and curl resistant, but potentially more visible than an uncoated wire of the same break strength.
Many manufactures offer color choices in wire materials. Toothy Critter is available in green, American Fishing Wire offers red Bleeding Leader Wire, and multiple color choices are available from TyGer. We haven't experimented with colored wire on our rigs, but it seems logical that at times it may be beneficial, while at other times a subtler approach is better.
It's easy to learn to tie your own rigs. Lindy Legendary Fishing Tackle's Rigger X-Treme is a good way to transport pretied rigs. There are also waterproof storage jars on the inside that can hold your spare components.
To tie stranded wire, slip the end of the wire through the eye of a hook or swivel, leaving about a 2-inch tag end. Clip a hemostat to the end of the tag end and hold the hook in one hand and the leader in the other with the hemostats dangling. Swing the hemostats around the mainwire making tight coils for about an inch, then trim the tag end.
Tie single-strand wire by slipping the wire through the eye of the swivel or hook, leaving a 3- to 4-inch tag end. With your fingers, make seven loose wraps around the main wire. These wraps serve as a cushion. Then bend the wire at a right angle to the main wire and finish with a tight haywire of 5 to 8 wraps. In all cases, make more wraps with lighter wire and cut down the number of wraps with heavier wire. Trim the tag end close to the wraps by bending the wire back and forth so it breaks clean. Or use a small wire cutter to cut it clean.
Although the end hook is fixed, the upper hook can be made adjustable to change the distance between hooks. One way to do this is to slide a sleeve and the upper hook on the mainwire, and then make a second pass of the mainwire through the sleeve. The hook dangles on the loop, and the hook's position on the mainwire can be adjusted by working the sleeve-loop-hook trio up or down the wire. Then attach the end hook and swivel. The distance between hooks is typically 2 to 4 inches, depending on the size of the bait. Extending the distance between the hooks doesn't increase the hook up rate. The final rigs should be 15 to 20 inches long.
Another way to make the upper hook adjustable is to slide a piece of shrink tubing on the mainwire followed by the upper hook. Then pull the tubing over the hook eye holding the hook shank snug to the main wire after it's heated with a match or lighter.
In some states, the addition of a spinner is necessary to make a quick-strike rig legal. All legalities aside, however, the added color and flash may offer advantages, and it's something we should consider regardless of what the technical definition of a lure is in your jurisdiction.
There are probably instances when the added color and flash helps attract pike from a distance or from close range in murkier water. The extra attraction might be just enough to make a pike commit when it otherwise might have remain tightlipped.
Experiment with four basic color patterns -- silver, gold, hot orange, and chartreuse. Stick to smaller spinner sizes #00 to #2. Directly thread the spinner (and maybe even a colored bead or two) on the wire just above the top hook. Add a quick-change clevis to rigs you build to change spinner colors in a snap. On pre-tied rigs, you either can snip off the swivel, add the spinner, and re-wrap, or clip the spinner to the wire with a small Cross-Lok snap.
HOOKS -- A SPLASH OF COLOR
Another way to add a bit of color to a quick-strike rig is to use colored trebles. The standard hooks in quick-strike rigging typically run the range from black to bronze to nickel, which probably have fairly low visibility against the baitfish in which they're embedded. Experiment with red, chartreuse, and various glow colors available from a variety of hook manufacturers.
IS FLUOROCARBON AND OPTION?
Fluorocarbon line is fairly abrasion resistant compared to monofilament of the same break strength, and it's less visible under water. We haven't determined yet whether it's a suitable leader material for quick-strike rigs, but the low visibility property of fluorocarbon is worth the try. We often use 20-pound fluorocarbon leader during spring when we're bass fishing and it stands up fairly well to pike biteoffs. Higher pound-tests might hold up even better on quick-strike rigs, but then it becomes a question of whether the line is getting too thick to be effective.
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
5 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
7 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
8 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
10 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 461â„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
2 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
3 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
4 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: Laker's Unlimited, lakersunlimited.com
, 780/853-1151; Blackmur's Athabasca Fishing Lodges, athabascalake.com
6 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