July 12, 2012
Look at that calm water. Two days of bluebird skies on my recent northern Saskatchewan pike adventure had many of the fish laying comatose in thick vegetation in the back ends of bays.
Common occurrance. Northerns don't like post-frontal conditions. Especially the second day after a front, which is where we were yesterday. Some of the fish were so dormant I could drape a wire leader with a lure dangling from it across the body of a 46 incher and jig it up-and-down with no reaction. So I'd poke the fish with my rod tip and all hell would break loose. The trick, at that point, becomes getting the lure way in front of the big V vectoring toward the main lake.
But a perfect cast is no guarantee for hooking fish you've just prodded like a stubborn mule on a muddy road. Those fish will react to a spoon or spinner about 5 percent of the time. A minnowbait has slightly better odds. A tube or swimbait — the odds improve. A fly is the best choice — especially a bunny strip.
Without a fly rod, bluebird days force you to downsize with spoons, spinners, cranks, plastics, and swimbaits. Personally, swimbaits have produced the greatest success for me in post-frontal conditions under bluebird skies for years now. Yesterday was no different. (Finally, a voiced objection to the Year of The redundant Blade.)
The bait in the photo is a 5-inch Density Tackle Panic Minnow. Not a giant bait by any means. The jig is a 1/4-ounce Lunker City Fin-S-Head. Another great lure for reluctant pike in tough conditions is the 4.5-inch Lunker City Shaker tail with a natural deep blue or green back and a gray-pearl belly. Even in the far north where you expect 50 inchers to come out of the wood or weeds with violence in their eyes to cream a big, gaudy spinnerbait every day, you have a far better chance of fooling such a fish with a relatively small, relatively natural, relatively boring swimbait on a good 'ol fashioned jig head.
Pike you have some hope of catching in the far north tuck in tight to the base of drop-offs after a front — just like a variety of other species. Down here in Minnesota, where I live, we have the option of targeting suspended fish or pike that use deep structure — which are typically less affected by fronts and barometric pressure changes. North of 60° latitude, all pike are relatively shallow all the time.
Light swimbaits are best tossed on spinning gear. A medium-power, fast-action, 7-foot rod rigged up with a fairly large reel and 30-pound braided line is optimum. I like to tie my own leaders with 20-pound Terminator Titanium single-strand wire. Titanium may be expensive, but each leader catches ten times more pike than any stainless wire leader before becoming too deformed to use anymore. And you can tie on swivels and snaps with simple clinch knots aided by the use of needle-nose pliers. Hey — every time you sit down to tie a leader with standard wire you could be standing up and fishing with titanium. Sit down with titanium and you're done tying in less than 2 minutes. That 50 incher might only be hungry for 5 minutes every 8 hours in these conditions. Do you want to be standing or sitting during those 5 minutes?
Soft swimbaits on jigs are ideally suited to this situation. Cast into the shallows, reel the bait to the drop-off, and let it fall. Count it down. Keep experimenting with the count on each cast. When you're done counting, reel with the rod tip down. Reel slow. And don't give up. No matter what you use, it could be a long time between fish.
But if you use small swimbaits on light heads, bites will come fastest.