Pitching and flipping technique in pike fishing
Pike and bass spend a lot of their time hiding under cover. The follow technique is very effective on luring inactive fish out into the open.
Fishing in pike’s “living room”
As a three-time consecutive Croatian bass fishing champion with Savage Gear bass team, heavy cover fishing is one of my primary strengths and have learnt a thing or two about how to catch in these tricky conditions.
The most impressive thing to me is the mood of those fish situated in the safety of deep shade. In most cases these fish react to a lure presented close by, seemingly forgetting about periods of activity, sun, fishing pressure or other factors that can make fishing very difficult. Bass are reaction feeders and you can often find active fish, but pike are notorious for keeping their jaws firmly locked when inactive. However, this is not the case when feeling safe in their living rooms.
Though my go big or go home philosophy rarely lets me down, this autumn I decided to try some new approaches to pike fishing. Mainly because I was fishing in the Croatian Pike masters fishing league and was forced to hunt for any sized pike available during competition hours, on mostly pressured waters where quantity usually wins over quality. After applying some of my proven heavy cover bass techniques to pike waters I could not believe how similar some spots are that pike and bass will choose for their daily habitat.
Pike love shallow water and roof above their heads
Fishing local ponds as a kid, I learned that pike of all size love to hang out in the shallowest water during daytime. If there is an overhang tree with the shade available, it usually means a fish will be using it as a living room, because this darker water will be cooler than surrounding lake. I have caught a lot pike during bass fishing sessions, so I knew if I adopt gear and make a brighter lure choice, this will have to work. Fish that feel safe under a weed mat (weed beds that are matted on the surface) or under overhanging tree, are usually in sort of a neutral mood and will usually approach and eat a bait that is presented in a quiet way.
This concept is totally different from big lure concept where the sheer size of bait and weather conditions draw fish to your lure. When texas rigging or skipping, I enter quietly into a pike’s living room, which is a specific type of cover and micro-location. As with bass fishing, I constantly try to work out a pike’s positioning. Are they under heavy mats or sparse weed patches, over deep or shallow water, do you look for mats close to deep water, isolated patches, do you want weed mixed with hard cover? Once I work out a pattern I try to replicate it to catch more fish.
Pike will most definitely use the heaviest cover available during sunny days and non-active periods. Grass with canopy and a weed mat on top will always hold baitfish and little crustaceans. You can always find roach, rudd, minnows, crayfish and other little prey-fish under and inside grass, so why not look for pike?
The other approach is getting to really shallow clean water under trees quietly with the lure skipping technique.
Though fly fishing is considered as a pinnacle of fishing where skill, grace and casting technique blend into perfect harmony, I also think modern bass techniques of lure presentation are very similar to that level of fishing skill. I fly fish as well, so I can compare. Quiet pitch and skip casts are something you must practice and have the right gear to do.
Skipping with a baitcasting reel is something I practiced and there is always room for improvement. A few years ago, I did not know how accurate, quiet and far a lure can be presented, but with a bit of time on the water, I`m getting there. If you place your bait close to the pike with no splash, not only will it not spook the fish, but it will draw its attention and interest. I cannot describe the thrill of visually seeing a good micro spot, make a perfect quiet cast and then seeing the cover come alive and feel a good thump on the line. It`s addictive! If you are lucky enough to strike a bigger pike in 90+ cm range at close quarters, you are in for an unforgettable fight.
It is not necessary to use baitcasting reels for this type of fishing, but it is a lot more efficient and precise. With baitcasting reels I use my thumb to control lure trajectory and distance, but also it allows for a wider range of different casts on short distance. Basic casts are pitching (underhand cast), flipping (taking up the slack line with hand and dropping bait into cover without engaging reel), Underhand roll cast (sidearm underhand cast) and a skip cast (both backhand and forehand).
How to set your texas rigging for pike fishing
The biggest challenge for a pike fishing T-rig is how to set up a tooth proof leader and have a slick connection that will not catch weed or get stuck onto debris. I use Savage Gear’s Blood 49 strand in 0,48mm diameter, which is a soft thermo coated steel wire. I will connect it to the main 40-60lb braid with the FG knot. I use the Savage Gear 8HD Silencer for this and I will use a modified TG knot for connecting leader to the hook. These connections will go in and out of cover smoothly and are super strong and capable of battling big fish on short line in heavy cover!
Texas rig weight depend on the cover we are fishing and can be even weightless if the water is shallow and cover is very sparse all the way to 1 oz. (25 gr) or heavier if we are punching thick mats to reach pike that are beneath it. Usually 7gr works for open water fishing in between clumps and lilly pads and ¾-1 oz. will get thru mats. For heavy weight you need to use a bobber stopper to have your lure and weight tight together, but for more open water applications and lighter weights, a sliding unpegged weight will enable more natural bottom presentation and better hook up.
For pike fishing, usually you want to slow down and have a pause after you place your bait in the target area. Think of a pike sensing something moved and is slowly approaching lure. It needs time, so quite often I will leave my bait motionless for 5-7 seconds before shaking it. If the cover looks really good it might be even longer. After that I give the lure a few shakes, then another pause, and if nothing happens, onto another presentation elsewhere!
A bite can feel like a firm thump on your rod tip, or you can visually see movement in the water or cover. Sometimes the lure can be stuck or even better, the lures is stuck in the mouth of the fish. I always give the lure a bit of time before setting hook, sometimes even pulling the lure a bit just to make sure fish has it. They will not let go that easy, so you have some time.
To have success with target casting to pike, I had to have some patience. It can be really slow for hours and then I run into a section with several fish in a small area. Regardless of a neutral mood, active fish will move several meters thru the cover to get your bait and the action can be fast and furious, so there are some periods of activity that need to be taken into consideration.
The rods I use are generally in the 2,00-2,40 cm range with medium/heavy action. I need a strong rod to fight big fish on a very short line in a heavy cover, but you do not want a broom stick that will tear the hook out. The best one I have found is the Savage Gear Black Trigger series up to 70 gr and 2,20 feet length. It is light, sensitive and has plenty of backbone, but a softer tip that will allow for a high landing ratio with very few fish lost. The braid I use is Silencer 58 lb and the reel is Okuma Komodo, both are very durable and reliable reel. You will need a high quality reel for this sort of fishing, because an inferior model could let you down when you need it most; under heavy pressure of big fish, on a short line. Lures are very important, they usually like white or chartreuse colours. My personal preference is Savage Gear 3D Crayfish 10 cm in white. This lure is designed for T rigging with a great pincher movement on the drop. It also features rattles inside its body, so fish can hear it from a distance and it will also feel alive after they grab it.
The tackle must be strong and durable. After I feel that tap and I strike the first meter and fish and could be right at your feet – things will get explosive and unforgettable!
How to make a T rig montage
The Gear – Savage Gear Reaction Crayfish 10 cm in ghost(white), 8 strand 58 LB Silencer braid, Savage Gear Blood 49 strand in 0,48mm diameter , Mustad EWG 5/0, tungsten weight, bobber stopper…
Connect the braid with the Blood leader using FG Knot. You can also use Albright knot. No swivels or crimps for this connection, it has to be super smooth, or it will catch weeds and debris…
Thread the bobber stopper onto the leader. If you are using lighter weights in cleaner water, no need for them, but when going to heavy cover, you want your bait compact.
Slide the weight onto the leader, tungsten is far better due to smaller volume and greater density.
Thread the leader through the hook eye…
Make a loop
Then double the loop.
Run the tag end thru both loops.
Run two times.
Tighten smoothly and you will get a strong, simple and reliable knot…
Cut off the excess tags, a lighter can be used to heat up the thermo layer for added safety, but it isn’t imperative.
Thread the hook point 1 cm behind Reaction Crayfish tail.
Thread the hook, then turn around and measure the length to hook point.
After threading the bait, make sure it is nice and straight, then bury the hook pint into bait so it is perfectly weedless.
This rig will enable the lure to get in and out of grass with no hang ups, and is teeth proof and very strong!
90+ cm fish caught on the white reaction Crayfish by Savage gear and ¾ oz weight (21 gr). I fished it through the weed mat at the back of shot.
Fat T Tail 13 cm on weighted swimbait hook is a fantastic skipping bait. Wide belly design allows for awesome skipping over surface.
The rod for pike texas rigging should be strong, but not broomstick. You will tear the hook out of the mouth if your rod is too stiff!
Another 90+ on ½ oz (14 gr) weight and a white Crayfish.
Key spots in this little area. Pike love a roof above their head.
Okuma Komodo casting reel, Savage Gear Black Trigger series up to 70 gr and 2,20 met, Silencer 58 LB braid are ideal pike Pitching and flipping combo.
Though white seems to be the best pike lure color, darker shades can work as well…
Texas rig is the only option for thorough inspection of spots like this.