The Right Lures For Muskies & Pike: Part 1

Nearly any artificial-lure style has the potential to take pike and muskies. The best lure choice for any given pike or muskie situation depends mostly upon the depth the fish are holding at, and/or the amount of cover they may be holding in. In this respect, all artificial lures are nothing more than tools. Successful anglers select the right tool for the job at hand.

Spinnerbaits And Bucktails
Spinners come basically in two styles: the traditional straight shaft and the safety-pin “spinnerbait.” You might say that the newer weight-forward spinner falls into a third category, but in essence it’s still a straight-shaft spinner.

Spinnerbaits can be deadly on muskies. Larger versions are called bucktails and have produced more muskies than all other lures combined.

The traditional straight-shaft spinner has been a legendary producer for pike and muskie ever since its invention. Small- to medium-sized straight-shaft spinners averaging between 3 inches and 5 inches long with blade sizes ranging up to about a No. 5, line the tackle boxes of nearly every pike angler around. Larger versions from 5 inches to 12 inches long are more popular as muskie lures, and are more commonly referred to as “bucktails.” Bucktails have produced more muskies than all other lures combined.

Small, pike-sized spinners are exceptional muskie producers in the early spring before muskies get their big-time appetite. It’s not uncommon for someone to bust a real trophy at this time of year while pitching a small spinner for pike or bass.

Large, straight-shaft bucktail spinners are well noted muskie catchers, but their success on large northern pike is underrated. Whenever pike over 30 inches are available in any numbers, muskie-sized bucktail spinners are better big-pike producers than smaller versions.

Safety-pin spinnerbaits were first popularized as bass lures. But, bass anglers accidentally caught lots of pike on them, and a few muskies, too. When pike and muskies hang in shallow brush, or any other tough, impenetrable cover, nothing beats a spinnerbait.

Spinnerbaits are also terrific trolling lures. Unlike the straight-shaft version, spinnerbaits will not twist your line. Their shape produces a natural keel keeping the bait upright in the water at all times. On top of that, they are less apt to foul in weeds as they only have one upriding hook. Finally, these lures flutter nicely on trolling turns, which helps trigger following fish into striking.

An almost endless selection of blades is available for today’s pike and muskie spinners. To make matters less confusing, stick with larger, rounded blades whenever a shallow-running spinner with quick-lift is desired. Tandem (two blades) spinners simply create double the lift, double the flash, too. Big blades produce a lot more drag making them harder to retrieve. Small and/or long, thin blades usually provide far less lift making them better weapons for slightly deeper cover. Small spinners ride smooth and effortlessly through the water.

A wide array of colors is available on spinners for enticing strikes from both pike and muskies. Generally, the more highly visible colors are best suited for pike, while muskies tend to go for dark hues.

Spoons: Pike Simply Love ‘Em!
Nearly every angler on earth who has fished for pike knows the “deadliness” of spoons. Something about those funny looking hunks of metal wobbling through the water drives pike wild. Spoons come in a wide assortment of shapes, colors and sizes, but there’s no doubt some styles work better than others depending upon conditions. Here are a few guidelines to follow.

Spoon size depends on the size of the pike available, the overall number of pike in a given body of water, and the time of year. Generally, big pike like big spoons. Smaller spoons will consistently bag big pike in waters with lower overall populations and heavy fishing pressure. In this case, competition among their own species is not an issue. A small spoon fluttering by on thin, low-visibility monofilament is more attractive now than a giant model attached to a thick wire leader.

In early spring, cold-water pike often prefer smaller spoons, even in remote Canadian lakes. In this scenario, the pike’s metabolism might not be geared up yet for much action.

Various spoon shapes, bends and weights produce distinctively different actions and running depths. Wide-bodied, rounder spoons produce a slower, wider wobble, and usually run fairly shallow. This is the most popular style for casting. Heavier versions run deeper, and wobble slower. This concept is the same no matter what style of spoon you choose.

Long, thin profile spoons slither through the water much easier, and display far less lateral wobble. They naturally run deeper and produce a much more subtle action. A heavy, thin-bodied spoon works well when extra depth is needed. It also makes a great vertical jigging lure for ice fishing. A lightweight, thin-bodied spoon works great over the shallows when it appears that pike are short-striking a wide-wobbler.

The classic favorite pike spoon color is red and white, but quite often, it is not the best overall producer. In clear waters, spoons with white and silver are usually No. 1 without fail. Hammered silver with a white pork trailer is “double deadly.” But in stained waters, common to many great pike lakes and rivers, yellow or chartreuse combined with a gold brass backside are clearly better. Under the same conditions, a hammered gold spoon with a yellow or chartreuse pork trailer is superb. Another color worth considering is fluorescent red on dark overcast.

Please read more about lures that catch muskies and northern pike in Part 2.

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