Depthfinders Give Pike, Muskie Anglers Deep-Water Clues

Today’s depthfinders give the deep-water anglers an edge that they never had before. Most depthfinders today are very proficient. Not only do they tell an angler how deep the water is, they will show fish. The first step is to locate a school of baitfish; pike or muskies will most likely be nearby. The second step is fishing for them at the depth at which they are holding.

One good presentation for suspended pike is vertically jigging bright, heavy leadhead jigs. It’s important to add a stinger hook to catch any fish that strike short or merely swat at the bait. A No. 4 treble hook tied to a 4-inch piece of 20-pound monofilament line that is tied to the jig hook will do the trick. Sharp hooks are also important. Pike have hard mouths, so a sharp hook and a hard hookset are needed to penetrate a large pike’s jaw. Large smelt, live suckers or other large live minnows are effective baits.

Watch The Fish And Your Jig
Another advantage of the depthfinder is that when you locate what you think are pike, you use the depthfinder not only to watch the pike, but also to watch your jig. Once you are over the pike, use your electric trolling motor or slowly backtroll with your outboard. Watch your depthfinder as you drop the baited jig; you should be able to see it go down on the screen of the depthfinder (assuming you have a wide-angle transducer). When the jig approaches the depth of the suspended pike, stop its decent and begin to jig. A sharp 3-foot or 4-foot lift followed by a free fall is a proven presentation. When you are at the bottom of the fall, let the jig come to a complete rest, then just quiver it a bit and repeat the procedure.

In a lot of cases, you can watch a pike on your depthfinder move toward your jig. When you know the pike is there, it helps you give a more tantalizing presentation. You will have to keep in mind that pike will hit the jig as it free falls or as it reaches the bottom of its free fall. Sometimes, you will only feel a slight “thud” as the pike takes the bait. The vicious strike you were expecting may not occur, so set the hook whenever you feel something “different.” Once into the pike, keep resetting the hook without offering any slack line, maintaining steady pressure.

You will want to use a medium- to heavy-action graphite rod when jigging for pike. A rod must offer plenty of backbone to set the hook into a deep-water pike; yet, it must still have the sensitivity needed to pick up subtle hits. However, not all of the deep-water strikes will be soft and subtle. There are times when pike will hammer bait. More than one angler while jigging has had a rod torn from his or her grasp by an aggressive pike. It pays to be on your toes at all times.

A real good way to take suspended muskies is to troll deep-diving crankbaits. A combination of lines trolled off planer boards and weighted flatlines is the best approach.

Trolling through deep water can also provide action. Once again, it’s a matter of locating the depth where the fish are holding, then trolling your baits at, or just above that level. You can now buy crankbaits that can be trolled down to 35 feet or so, or you can use three-way swivels. Attach an 18-inch dropline to the three-way swivel and tie 2 ounces or 3 ounces of lead to it. Then, tie the lure of your choice to a 7-foot leader and attach it to the three-way.

Use Downriggers For Deep Water
Downriggers are another choice when it comes to trolling deep water. Whatever lure presentation method you choose, use it in conjunction with the depthfinder and practice patience. Realize that big pike and muskies don’t come easy.

Besides suspending in deep-water areas in a reservoir, summer pike and muskies will relate to underwater reefs and points. Usually, these underwater humps, reefs and points will attract a certain amount of baitfish and walleyes. Look for this type of structure in the 15-foot to 28-foot depth ranges.

Once again, a good depthfinder will prove to be invaluable. The depthfinder will point out the underwater structure and, in some cases, show the pike and muskies. Then, it becomes a matter of either trolling a crankbait at the right depth over the underwater structure, or using heavy jigs tipped with minnows to take them. Some days, jerkbaits or bucktails casted over the structure will entice both fish. Most reservoirs have clear water and pike and muskies often will zoom up 10 feet to 20 feet to take a lure that’s above them.

Live bait, either slow-trolled or suspended from a slip bobber over structure, can also take plenty of pike. Once again, use big baits. (Big bait equals big fish.)

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