Fishing pelagic for Pike. I’ve already written quite a few articles around it and described what bait to use and where to find the fish. But I thought it was time to release an article describing specifically what’s really needed to target large fish on open bodies of water. It is all in the details they say and the same thing goes for this type of fishing. Details matter a lot when it comes to triggering, but also finding pelagic suspended fish, and in this article, I will tell you all about it!
Pelagic suspended fish can be either of two things. One the predators are somewhere halfway in the water column, or two, they can be found in or around the bottom, in structure, vegetation, debris, or anything else that lies below. When I say in the bottom that is when you see a fish actively cruising around but suddenly completely disappearing on the screen and it seems that they have gone straight down at some point, really hiding in the bottom. Finding suspended fish can be difficult, and therefore changes are limited when it comes to the approach. Usually, you will only have one shot, and sometimes two when you are lucky. But most of the time it all comes down to only one small feeding window. The fish either grabs your bait, or they don’t.
When it comes to fishing pelagic for Pike with either a live sonar or 2D, which for the last one can be done utilizing the A-Scope that most fishfinders carry, it all comes down to well, getting down. A few key elements have to be taken into account here. The length of the rod, for example, has to be not too short, but certainly not too long in order to stay in the cone of your sonar. This can be a tricky task at times, battling winds, current, or just plainly boating speed when trying to stay on top of a fish. On my boat, for example, the live transducer close to me, and therefore I have to be able to fish in the 20-degree cone of my live sonar. I usually fish in forward mode, so it doesn’t really matter how long my rod is, but when going into down mode a short rod isn’t an excessive luxury. Therefore I have switched to a shorter rod, which enables me to stay in the sonar beam at all costs. Conditions can vary a lot and I fish a wide variety of them, so having a standard setup is key. The rod that I currently use for this type of fishing is the Abu Garcia BEAST Pro Pelagic 50-120gr and with 1.95m a great companion to stay in the cone at all costs!
The rod has an extremely powerful blank, and the guides have been positioned in a way that the line ends up underneath the rod when it leaves the guides instead of on top. This is particularly handy fishing in the dark, or simply in the heat of the moment, so you don’t ever have to worry about the line getting wrapped around your guides. With 50 to 120gr, it carries a lot of backbone, which is also needed to set the hook on a megalodon straight below. Many people tend to forget that the closest thing to saltwater fishing in freshwater is pelagic-style fishing for Pike. There is a direct hookset, on a straight line, and brute forces will occur once a fish is hooked. The hookset can be incredibly sudden, and you don’t want to worry about the fact if your equipment is right or not. Again, key elements matter, and there is simply no room for error! For countless sessions, this rod has proven to be a great companion for fishing for hours and hours on end. It is very lightweight and feels and performs extremely durable and you will feel fright from the get-go that you have the magic stick into your hands to target large pike pelagic!
A rod is only as good as the reel that’s being used, so for this matter, you need heavy-duty equipment, but still light enough to fish all day, or all night long. Fishing pelagic for Pike is a game of hide and seek, and it can take many hours, if not days to get a large fish on the screen, let alone get one to bite, so in the end there cannot be any room for failure. The reel that I use paired up with my Abu Garcia BEAST Pro Pelagic 50-120gr is the Abu Garcia MAX41 LH with a 6:4:1 gear ratio which in easier words translates to 75cm of line retrieval with a single turn. This is right in the middle between a high-speed and a low-speed reel and therefore works best for me. What I look for in a reel used for the pelagic game is that it doesn’t reel up line too quickly. Sometimes when the fishing is slow, I need to wind up dead slow in order to get the fish to strike. With a reel that has a fast gear ratio, this is simply not possible, as the line will be spooled up too quickly. Another thing that you want to keep in mind is weight, and the reel needs to be as light as possible, yet as tough as possible to fish and endure big fish. The Abu Garcia MAX41 reel has proven to be the best for me when it comes to all of these factors of weight, line capacity, and line retrieval.
The Abu Garcia MAX41 LH is paired with 53lb 0.23mm Berkley Sick Braid X8 and the whole setup performs flawlessly this way. Choosing the right line for pelagic-style Pike fishing is Extremely important. Your line should never be too thin, nor should it be too thick, but I would rather recommend going too thick than too thin. Again, the bites are brutal. The hookset is direct, and so it happens to be that the line out is usually not so much of a distance. Here the direct force brings great powers onto a line, and when that line is too thin, you can already guess what happens right? There is simply no room for error here. In all of my fishing, I try to fish as thick as possible, and this type of fishing is no exception. It is always key to find the balance but 50lb or in this case 52lb has proven to work just fine. The line is tough enough to withstand the harshest takes, yet thin enough for the bait to be delivered down fast enough, and above all the line takes on a minimum amount of water, which also makes it comfortable for winter fishing as well. The green color of this line makes sure it blends in the water, not to spook the fish, and it really has a silent way of moving around underneath the surface. This is something that I find very important, at the end when the boat moves around, the line will cut through the water, and you do not want to spook the fish. Another reason why I have chosen to use the 53lb 0.23mm Berkley Sick Braid X8.
Talking about baits, maybe it is nice to talk about the leader first, and what comes after the line. The leader can be used different materials, and it is completely up to you what you prefer best, but for me, toughness also has to stand up to thinness. As a leader material, I also use 50lb 7×7 wire and coated. This has a minimal amount of resistance in the water, thus making it easier to present your bait, not spooking the fish. uncoated leader material ”sings” in the water, and that is something you don’t want, what you want is a silent presence on the way down. And going down can be done with a wide variety of baits. Now you have already seen me write various articles about pelagic style soft baits, but probably one of the most important ones is that the soft bait you are fishing has a natural action in the water, and in order to achieve this action they must also look natural.
Besides looking natural another highly important aspect is the sink rate of each bait. It can be said that every bait has its own density when it comes to this specific sink rate and that you can truly vary with weights to make it sit almost suspended in the water column, but that is not what I’m looking for here. What I want is to use a head as heavy as possible, yet as light as possible, and somewhere in between 50 to a 100gram lies 90, which has proven to work the best for me. Especially in combination with the Berkley Sick Vamper in 22cm. The screw in head that is used here is from the German brand Revolution Tackle, and this head and the Vamper are a match made in heaven. The long screw of the pelagic head ensures a secure hold on the rubber, yet the double eyes give the hook ultimate moving freedom. The Revolution Tackle Pelagic heads are super great quality and it is just what I like the most. Finished off the bait I use a 1/0 BKK Spear-21 SS or either UVO all depending on water clarity and if I’m fishing at night or not. The Berkley Sick Vamper in 22cm is a unique soft bait with a V tail that really stands out in the water column. This soft bait has a large profile but is still slim enough to be sucked in with ease during a strike. Another feature of the Sick Vamper that I personally really love and that is again unique to this bait is the little dot in between the V tail. The tail is much softer than the overall body and this makes it wave in the water at the fish with any tiny rod movement. This makes it a particularly special bait to fish at all times, where it will excel when the Pike are tricky to bite. The tiniest movement of the rod will get the tail in action, and the way this bait flashes to each side makes it a crucial piece of soft plastic to have in your tacklebox!
In the end, pelagic pike fishing all comes down to one thing, and that is location, depth, and boat position. Locating the fish can often be a real challenge, finding pike on any body of water, especially the larger ones, and always be difficult. As mentioned before, fish swim around a lot and there can be a severe distance between the areas where they hunt, and spend the rest of their day, usually being inactive. Depending on your body of water, most fish can be found near the bottom, or somewhere halfway through the drop. Fishing pelagic for pike has learned me over the years, that there is a wide variety of different waters where they don’t come up half the water column, but simply hang out down below. On other waters, fish seem to appear directly ”out of the ground” so when you are presenting your bait it really needs to be near the bottom, or you simply will not hook up. In certain waters, they can usually be found half where underneath or in between swarms of baitfish, but I could write a whole article on itself about how these pikes behave in these types of conditions.
One thing is for sure, they can be found in many different areas in any body of water. To find these key areas I like to keep track of the bottom with a quality map, and the Navionics Relief Shading gives me that exact detail that I need! It is essential to know what is going on at the bottom, in order to find out what is going on at half water and recognize structures that these fish rely on. Especially when it comes to fishing for Pike, and edge, the bottom, structure, or vegetation on shallower flats are all key elements you want to keep an eye on. Navionics Relief Shading has really helped me understand the water and what is going on down below. So when it comes to fishing pelagic for Pike, or any predatory fish I can highly recommend enhancing yourself with this map. It will save you precious time on the water hoping to find out the underwater world they live in, while its already been mapped out, and this will get you better results of bigger and more fish guaranteed in the end!
Something that fishing pelagic for pike in whatever body of water has in common is that they all need to be found in order to be targeted. Targeting large fish can be a tricky game, of hide and seek a true cat and mouse game. It is addictive and I go to great lengths to get what I’m looking for, even if that sometimes means I’m just looking. Because 8 out of 10 fish don’t grab the bait, they just come to look. When it comes to triggering large fish, or any fish if that’s the case, less is more, and you want a presentation that’s as natural as it can be. That’s why as mentioned before I use 80gr pelagic screws in heads. this enables me to drop down on signal quickly, but in the sense that the bait keeps its natural movement. Most pelagic baits that I fish for Pike are around the 20cm or 8” length mark, and this only helps to get strikes. Sure you can go smaller or bigger, but this size has brought me the most hook-ups over the years. There are many baits on the market, and for example, the baits down below also from Revolution Tackle called the Hel Shads also fit the profile of looking very natural in the water but with the right profile. Again tail action is everything, since less is more, and just like the Berkley Sick Vampers they give just that! The Hel Shads in the largest profile as shown below in 26cm and are perfect for the colder winter months, and during the summer when the fish want a large snack. This bait works best with as little action as possible, and with your wrist, you can give tiny movements to the tail. Just like the Sick Vamper, this bait is all about tail action, and on the waves, you will find that this bait has a life of its own. It has a super realistic movement in the water and that is exactly what you want to offer to the Pike.
All pelagic baits that I use have one thing in common, and that is that they are rigged with The Quickpin Big from Pikecraft Fishing. This little hook holder is placed onto the top of each bait and then glued in with super glue for a rock-solid hook hold. The hook shank of each treble used can be inserted with ease, and will also eject the hook with ease when a Pike strikes your bait. Personally, for me, this is a Must Have as it will enable any bait you fish to be as efficient as possible right away from the beginning, and severely minimize false hookups. The Quick Pin Big is a truly revolutionary product and it works all the time!
In the end, it all comes down to one key element and that is presentation. Searching for a signal to pop up on the screen, positioning your boat or belly boat just right above the fish, dropping your bait in a straight line, and keeping it in the eyesight of the fish. When you got its attention and the pike makes a move there is no room for error. On the water conditions such as wind or current, but also visibility can quickly turn your chances of hooking up, but if you do it correctly and trigger the fish, the strike will happen before you know it, and then its time to bring the fish to the net, knowing that with all the above your chances of failure are set to a minimum, and you have the best gear in the industry to help you catch the pike of your dreams!