How to Catch Northern Pike and Muskie – Part 2

Fishing Tackle / Fishing Tips / Lures / April 4, 2017

This article covers the more active aspect of learning How to Catch Northern Pike and Musky. This article will take Northern pike and musky lure tips and fishing techniques In our first article, we shared a few of the basics about Northern Pike and Musky. If you have not read the first article, you can find it here.


How to Catch Northern Pike and Musky

Pro-Tip: As a rule, size and action are much more important than color when learning how to fishing for Northern Pike and Musky.

What do Pike and Muskie Eat?

Pike and Muskie consume a wide variety of foods so its not surprising they’ll strike most any kind of bait.

In TackleReports’ article on basic Pike and Musky facts, we mention the diets of Pike and Muskie.

They’re aggressive feeding behaviors mean they have no problem targeting:

  • Large Live Fish, like Trout
  • Rats,
  • Small ducks or ducklings
  • Muskrats.

What Lures/Bait to Use?

Experienced fisherman know that big baits catch big fish

When trying to understand how to catch northern pike and muskie, don’t be afraid to throw 12 to 15 inch long lures or baits. Your hook-up rate won’t be as high but you’re much more likely to hook up on a trophy sized fish. Just make sure you have the tackle to handle throwing that size and weight of bait, as well as pulling in a 20 pound Pike.

How a Muskie Approaches a Bait?

Muskies in heavily fished areas are wary predators. Often they will stalk a bait all the way up to a boat and turn away at the last second. However, you can often keep the fish interested long enough for them to bite by reeling in up to about a foot of line left and making small figure-eight with the lure before the final retrieve.

If you don’t learn anything else about how to catch Northern Pike and Musky…

You MUST Master the Figure-8…

This allows the Muskie to close on the bait further while keeping action and the illusion of a real fish. While a great tactic for Muskie, this isn’t needed for Pike due to their aggressive nature.

Tackle Reports explains it more in our initial article on Pike and Musky Basics

Fishing Tackle

How to catch Northern Pike and Muskie is the first hurdle. How to handle these same fish is the second.

You’re going to need some serious tackle, to tackle these predators. Fishing Tackle for Muskie and Pike require:

  • 8 to 9 foot medium Rod
  • Bait Caster Reel (suggested by not required)
  • 12 to 20-pound mono or super line for normal pike
  • Steel leaders (Pike and Musky teeth chomp straight through mono or braid.)

Northern Pike and Musky Lures and how to use them

Spinnerbaits and Bucktails.

Spinner baits are great for fishing for Muskie and Pike. Spinnerbaits ability to avoid hangups in weeds make them perfect lures to throw and seek out big fish amongst the weeds. You can fish like you would with any other spinnerbait.

You can retrieve them over the tops of weeds or through a weedy flat. You can also try letting it fall into holes and helicopter it up to the surface.

Single blade spinnerbaits are great for helicoptering but double blade spinners are great for night fishing.

Bucktails are great lures for Pike and Muskie but anglers should use them sparsely around weeds as they aren’t as conducive to weedy areas.


The Lindy M/G Muskie Tandem – Firetiger is a great spinner bait for Northern Pike and Muskie. It comes equipped with dual Colorado blades, a 6/0 hook and additional 7/0 trailer hook. 


The Mepps MuskyKiller-Bucktail Spinner is another quality lure from Mepps. Spinner action, strong hooks, and vibrant colors are all a part of the recipe for big Muskie. 


Musky and Pike are notorious for snatching prey off the top of the water. There are times when top water is the best approach.

When the fish are buried in dense weeds, you can draw them out with a well-placed prop bait. Propbaits also wont get tangled in the weeds.

Many Musky fanatics are attune to the fact topwater is deadly in the day and even more so at night. Night topwater fishing produces enough noise and splash to entice waiting predatory fish. However, topwaters aren’t great in cool water.

If water temperatures are below 60 degrees, use a subsurface bait. Top waters for Muskie and Pike are pretty similar to any other topwaters, the only exception being these lures are massive.

Propbaits work best when retrieved slowly and steadily. Buzzbaits can be retrieved fast or slow, though rapidly works best when attempting to locate fish. Crawlers, with their cupped face, are best retrieved with a slow straight retrieve. Stickbaits are attractive to predatory fish but sometimes can be hard for fish to anticipate their action so be sure to include a pause in your retrieval.

Whopper Plopper Lures are great for muskie and pike. Whopper Ploppers are a new take on an old design. While most classic propbaits have a spinning prop at the front or back, the whopper plopper substitutes a 2-blade prop style for a single quarter prop style. 

Subsurface plugs

Use subsurface plugs in open water or water with little cover. The exposed hook nature of the plug means easy hook sets, as well as easy hangups.

If fishing in weeds, select a lure that will just operate above the weeds.

If no cover, pick a lure that will dive deep enough to bounce off the bottom rocks.

TR Tip: There is always the danger of cranking or diving your lure straight into rocky crevices and breaking off your line. Tackle Reports advice isn’t scripture. We want you to catch as many world class Northern Pike and Musky as possible but if you’re in an area prone to snags, and deep divers are likely to get caught, be smart and choose another lure (or a cheaper one).

The three main types of subsurface plugs are minnow baits, vibrating plugs, and crankbaits. Each one of these plugs can be fished with a normal cast and retrieve, though a stop-and-go retrieve is likely to produce more hook-ups.

TR Tip: Attach your wire leader to the internal eye of the lure rather than the attached eye, as large Pike and Muskie can easily break the secondary eyes off your lure.


Like the other two subsurface plugs, the Blitzbite Life Like Perch Lure is also designed to look like a fish on the normal pikes dinner menu daily. The Blitzbite comes in many colors and templates but the perch is simply the best if you’re targeting Muskie and Norther Pike. 


The Savage Gear 3D Real Trout Swimbait is such a great lure because Trophy Northern Pike and Muskie eat trout. Many anglers even suggest stocking trout in known musky locations, in order to feed the musky and produce world-class sized fish! The paddle tail design of this 7″ swimbait means simple steady retrieves will work just fine. A little more finesse jigging and alternating retrieval speeds could benefit the average angler, but they aren’t skills necessary to enjoy your day on the water. 

The Lixada 8″ Multi-jointed Pike Fishing Lure, looks just like the favorite food of Northern Pike, especially in the spring. Using this lure in the spawning season is a guaranteed trophy fish hook up. Muskies and Pike eat each other quite regularly. The spawning times are so close together, that they eat the vast majority of the other populations off spring. Add that to a quality and innovative new swimbait, and the story is endless. 

Jerkbait Fishing


The BlitzBite 5″ Pike Fishing Lure Bait Jerkbait functions similar to other jerkbaits, like a super spook for example. The articulated body design creates fantastic action in the water but unfortunately this can cause some casting distance problems. 

Jerkbaits are meant to mimic struggling or wounded baitfish. To a pike a big jerkbait looks like a perfect and easy meal just waiting to be devoured. These baits don’t have any natural motion, the only motion they possess is imparted on the bait by the angler.

The term jerkbait isn’t the best name.

Jerkbaits aren’t actually retrieved with a jerk motion.

They are retrieved with a serious of smooth downward strokes.

There are a couple different types of jerkbaits but they really fall into two categories: Divers and Gliders. Divers jump downward and Gliders dart from side to side.


Spoons have fallen out of fashion recently even though they’re great for beginner anglers. They’re great because its near impossible to mess them up.

Spoons are almost impossible to get hung up in the weeds or heavy cover with.You can fish them fast, slow, or anywhere in between. Spoons are great for skittering over lily pads where other lures would get hung up. Heavy spoons are great for casting but thinner spoons are better for trolling.

TR Tip: Step your game up by attaching a piece of cut bait or curlytail grub plastic


These 5 Hagan Deluxe Fishing Spoons are classic fishing spoons useful for any occasion. They’re made of marine steel and include a high gloss enamal coating so you know they’ll hold up against monster Muskie and Pike. The spoons come equipped with high quality Eagle Claw nickel treble hooks (size 3/0).

These casting, trolling, and jigging fishing spoons from Yongzhi are your basic spoons for catching your prey.  The action of these fishing spoons is based on it’s shape and thickness. Bright colors and fast-acting with a realistic motion are great for trolling or casting, jigging fishing.

Jig Fishing

Jig Fishing, like spoons, don’t enjoy the popularity that jerkbait or subsurface plugs enjoy but it certainly a viable method of chasing trophy Northern Pike and Musky.

Jigs are great to utilize when water gets cold and fish aren’t interested in chasing faster moving baits. In cold water, they may be willing to chomp on a jig that’s put right in front of their face.

A round headed jig works for sparse cover or open water.

For dense cover, a bullet-headed jig is easiest to pull through the weeds and avoid a hangup.

For fishing over weed-tops try a swimmer-head.



JSHANMEI makes a great Plastic Laser Light Swimbait. The Life-like details body,3D eyes and holographic inserts makes this lure not only looks realistic,but also feels realistic,too.  It can be fished in grass, timber, pitched under docks, or rigged on many kinds of rigs.It has a paddle tail that moves with the slightest movement of your rod. 

The Mizugiwa 8″ Pike Musky Dawg Fishing Soft Bait Lures are 100% soft plastic lures that feel real to predator fish, which results in longer hookset opportunities. It is balanced with a jig head so it swims down at a 45 degree angle on the fall and swims horizontal on the retrieve. The Unicorn Dawg can be cranked, jerked, or jigged. When retrieved, it rocks back and forth as the curly tail waves frantically, a combination that drives large gamefish crazy. It is one of the most popular Musky lures on the market today, and a must-have in any Pike / Musky anglers tackle box. 

The Holy Joe Round Head Jig is a tournament quality jig in 1oz or 1.5 ounce, on sturdy Matzuo 5/0 hook. It is Perfect for Largemouth, Smallmouth Bass, Striper and Mukie and Pike. The simple design of a round head, premium bucktail, hand-selected feathers promises to give you every advantage when tackling trophy muskie and pike


Final Thoughts


Muskie and Pike are magnificent animals. These fish take years to grow to their size.

We have no problem with you mounting a world class fish or taking a few medium sized fish home to eat. Northern Pike and Musky are good table fare.

But If every angler pulled their larger catch from the water and threw back the small fish, over time you would have generations of small fish breeding, decreasing the total size of the fish.

However, if you throw back your giant fish and keep the smaller ones, over time you’ll have, on average, a much larger genetic species of Northern Pike or Musky. These sorts of improvements or degredations can occur as quickly as one to two generations.

So please, be aware. Removing all the larger trophy fish from a body of water, could mean smaller fish for you, your children, and your grandchildren in your lifetime.

Catch and Release

Happy Fishing!


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Matthew Gallagher

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