Jig and Pig for Pike
|Pike Do Eat The Jig&Pig|
It had been several hours since either Mike Quinn or I had caught a pike worth bragging about, though we were fishing one of North America’s best trophy waters – Phelps Lake in northeastern Saskatchewan. Smaller fish, from three to seven or eight pounds, were still providing plenty of action. But bigger fish were scarce.
For several days, weather oscillated from rain, wind shifting direction, and clear skies. Every time stability seemed to settle in, we got a shift. Anderson Clipping, our guide, maneuvered the boat within casting distance of a long bed of reeds. The reeds ended in a couple of feet of water, adjacent to a drop into eight or nine feet of water. In the reeds, small pike were common and Mike and I had a good time casting into the weeds and catching them.
While Mike and Anderson pondered the absence of big pike, however, I dug through my box for my “secret weapon” for reluctant pike – a jig-and-pig. Jig-and-pig combos are favorites among largemouth bass anglers, but those seeking pike seem averse to them. Big mistake.
Once I was re-rigged, I caught three pike in rapid order along the drop off from the reeds into deeper water. While none were in the 40-inch class we sought, all were larger than those we had been drawing out of the reeds.
When to use a jig-and-pig for pike
Anytime is a good time to use a jig-and-pig for pike. There are three basic retrieves with a jig-and-pig; let the pike tell you which to use.
Lift-and-drop is perhaps the most common retrieve. Bass and walleye anglers know, the strike is most likely when the jig is falling. For a jig to fall, it has to be lifted. Most success comes when a “lift” of more than 6-inches or so works, but not more than a couple of feet. Critters in nature, crayfish for example, that scuttle along the bottom of a lake, reservoir or river sometimes leap several feet before settling back to the bottom. With the length of rod most of us use (more about gear below), a modest lift in the rod tip causes the jig to jump forward several feet. Small lifts are usually better than big ones. Lift-and-drop is the preferred retrieve when pike are in a neutral or negative mood – as when the weather changes frequently.
Dragging the jig along the bottom is a second retrieve. Along a sandy or clay bottom, a steady retrieve often works best. Along rocks, dragging the jig is not as productive as the jig sometimes gets caught in crevices in the substrate. Again, this retrieve works best when pike are in a neutral or negative mood.
A steady retrieve works also. Here the angler is essentially “swimming” the jig-and-pig. Usually the best bet is to swim the combo just off the bottom.
And the best of all is to combine the three retrieves. Lift-and-drop over a gravel or rocky bottom and at the edge of a drop off or weedbed, dragging over the sand, and steady when needed. Try them all; let the pike tell you what they want. Your role is to adapt to what the pike want, not impose your will.
If you are pretty sure there are pike around, fan casting, much as you might do with jerkbaits or spoons, works. A few years ago Craig, my son, and Glen Beatty, our guide, were scouting shallow weedbeds for pike. They were not paying much attention to me. It seemed to me, “if they are in those weeds, they have to get there from somewhere.” I cast my jig-and-pig into the middle of the large bay. Within a few feet of retrieve, I felt a telltale tap, and set the hook in a 49-inch trophy. It was the biggest fish of our trip.
Another great spot for a jig-and-pig is when pike are scattered in pond weeds (also called pike weed or cabbage). A jig-and-pig can be maneuvered through the weeds at depths, all the way to the bottom, where other lures would get snagged. It’s pretty exciting to cast a surface lure over a weedbed and have a big fish come to the surface and smash it. If pike are holding deep in the weeds, however, chances they’ll come to the surface or near it are not good. The jig-and-pig can sink through the weeds and drag out the big guys. As Craig, Glen and I approached a pond weed bed, I picked up the rod with a jig-and-pig attached. “What are you doing?” one of them asked. “Gonna catch one off the bottom right now,” I answered. And I did.
Dropoffs are other great spots to try a jig-and-pig. Neutral pike often lay in deep water, just off shallow banks or weedbeds. Compared to jerkbaits or crankbaits, a jig-and-pig can hug the edge of the dropoff without losing contact of the spot pike are most likely to be. Even a spoon, which can be fluttered down a dropoff, pulls away from the ledge. If the water is clear, you may be able to control the jig-and-pig visually. If the water is colored or visibility is challenged by rain or dark skies, you can feel a jig-and-pig as is scoots along the bottom and drops off the ledge.
What rods I use depends in part on how I got to wherever I fish for pike. A fly-in trip gets different equipment than a drive-to-the-end of the road trip. One-piece rods get the nod for an end-of-the road trip. Two-piece rods, because they are easier to put in a shorter rod tube, meet the need of a fly-in trip. That said, I have four rods I use for jig-and-pig pike; two are Pete Maina musky rods from Bass Pro Shop, though Bass Pro no longer markets the rods with Pete’s name attached, and St. Croix rods.
All rods are 7-footers. That length lets me cast a long way if I need to. And these rods have lots of backbone to drive a hook home, even if the hit comes at the end of a 70-foot cast.
My favorite reels are Diawa Millionaires. There are lots of quality reels available to pike anglers. Large arbor reels, like the Millionaires, take up more line on a single revolution than smaller reels. If a big fish grabs my jig and heads toward the boat, l like to be able to match the speed of the on-coming pike and large arbor reels facilitate a fast retrieve.
For all my trophy pike fishing, I spool my reels with 50-pound test Ultra-Braid. Braided line, in the last decade or so, has improved in casting quality. I add a leader of 20- or 30-pound fluorocarbon like Silver Thread. Sometimes I add a wire leader.
Jigs come in infinite variety. Football style jig heads are oblong with the widest axis perpendicular to the hook shank. The idea of a football style jig is the broad head prevents the jig from wedging in the rocks. Swimming head jigs have tapered heads with the eye pointed upward. The idea here is to allow the pointed head to maneuver between weeds. For pike, I prefer the Esox Cobra jigs. Like football heads, they are wide enough to minimize, not prevent, dropping between rocks. And the broad head creates a side-to-side movement for a swimming retrieve.
Silicone skirts work better than other varieties. Unlike rubber, the fibers of silicone skirts do not stick together on hot days or after a week in a tackle box. Vinyl skirts are not as “alive” as silicone skirts.
Pork chunk trailers work great on a jig-and-pig combo. In the last decade or so, I have relied on soft plastic trailers. Lots of manufacturers produce quality soft plastics. Examples include Yum’s Wolly Bug or Big Show Craw.
Colors make a difference. My rules for color selections, applying not only to jig-and-pig combos, are: 1) bright days and clear water, a natural or translucent color; 2) cloudy days and stained water, a bright color; 3) contrasting colors between the jig skirt and trailer. I usually use a brighter color skirt and a darker color trailer.
Nearing the end of our trip with Anderson Clipping, Mike Quinn and I were dragging pike up to 10-pounds out of a shallow weed bed. Hoping to catch a larger fish, I picked up my rod with a jig-and-pig. First cast into the weeds, a larger fish than we had seen for several hours came toward my offering in a mad dash. As the jig dropped off the weeds, the trophy pike grabbed it – battle on. A 43-inch fish.
If a jig-and-pig is not in your combination of pike attractors, perhaps you should reconsider.
Last updated on March 12, 2018