“It gets cold, but the bite can be pure madness,” I said to a buddy when explaining my logic behind chasing open water northern pike early in the spring.
March is notorious for being an in-between time for anglers up north. Most guys either grind it out for panfish on dwindling ice or patiently wait for open water while keeping themselves busy by organizing gear, prepping the boat, or rigging tackle.
Unlike most lakes, which have a closed pike season until May, select rivers in the upper midwest allow for year-round pike fishing. Exploring these systems in March is an easy way to stick a monster pike lurking in the shallows before the spawn, and we have just the guy to help you do it.
Pinkalla, The Pike Prodigy
Ryan Pinkalla is a pike-crazed angler eager to start cranking on big, bodacious, backwater northern pike this spring, and he’s got a few tips to help you do the same. In addition to his Esox adventures, Ryan is routinely featured on the Crappie Chronicles; a YouTube series focused on chasing giant crappie around the Minneapolis metro region.
Here’s Ryan Pinkalla’s 3 go-to lures for chasing pre-spawn pike
1. #6 Blue Fox Vibrax with a 4″ grub.
This is the go-to for covering those shallow spawning flats. You can throw it a mile and the blade has enough lift to easily fish it under 3 ft of water. This is a straight-up reaction bait and the bite is usually from behind, so be prepared to have slack knocked in the line. It comes with an optional single hook which is ideal when it comes to unhooking because they tend to eat this thing super deep.
2. 1/4 oz Swim Jig paired with a 4-5″ swimbait trailer
Throw any color as long as it’s white. If I’m getting a lot of followers or fish seem less aggressive, this is a good change up. The light weight head allows you to fish it slow yet keep it up in the water column. If I’m sight fishing I can easily hop it along the bottom right in front of a pike’s face. The weed guard helps for fishing tight around laydowns or stumps.
3. Size 14 husky jerk
A pull-pause type of retrieve is the back up plan if the fish don’t seem to be chasing. I like a metallic finish, it looks just like a dying shad kicking around. This doesn’t need to be a very snappy retrieve, just slow steady pulls and the bait will just hang there on the pause. This will run about 5ft and is really perfect for the first break or ditch off the spawning flat.
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