|I'm not sure what Chad Haughenberry used to catch and release his monster northern pike in early June, top, or what Jim Zabloudil, bottom, used in late August but surface baits worked great throughout the season|
In fact, I would say there were many times when these plugs more commonly thought of as better suited for bass outperformed more traditional spoons and spinners. And they are a whole lot more thrilling.
At the very least, a pike will swirl or "boil" at the surface lures. But they also frequently come sailing completely out of the water, tail-walk or even do flips. It is a blast.
|Walking Frog is example of hard-bodied surface lure|
Since a lot of these baits are frog imitations, it's important to differentiate them from a common bass bait -- the rubber frog. The rubber frog does not hold a candle to its hard-bodied cousin when it comes to pike.
|Rubber frogs not so good|
The Zara Spook is another walk-the-dog standout. Although the one shown here is in the frog pattern, other colors and patterns that work include those that mimic shiners and perch or even plain black.
Other companies offer similar lures. As long as they "walk the dog" or zigzag on retrieve, they will produce.
|Zara Spook in frog pattern. Other colours and patterns work great also|
You only need to move your rod tip 16 inches when you give each jerk and you do not need to change the position of your rod. In other words, you don't need to jerk left to make the lure go left, then jerk right to make the lure go right. You just always jerk the rod in the same direction and the lure does the rest. You can jerk too hard and too light. Just watch the bait. Is it zig zagging a foot or two each time?
So why are fish so interested in this? The action obviously imitates something on the surface that is in distress. It might be a frog, but it could just as easily be a fish.
One of my favourite surface baits is a small, silver lure with Bill Dance's name on it. I'm sure fish think it is a dying shiner minnow.
|Baby Suick in frog pattern|
You might think any floating lure, such as floating Rapala, would accomplish the same thing but they are not nearly as successful as the above-mentioned lure. The Suick has a kind of unpredictable movement as compared to the totally predictable wiggle of the floating Rapala.
Suicks come in gigantic sizes for musky, but you don't want those. Try the 4 1/2-inch model. Ditto for the Zara Spook and the Walking Frog. These work great, don't break your arm to cast and provide the action with little more than a flick of the wrist.
They absolutely work the best when the water is calm or nearly so. I'm sure that is when the fish can see the lures' erratic behaviour the best.
A non-floating surface lure -- boy does that sound like an oxymoron -- that will also work with a little chop is the buzz bait. It's not to be confused with the similar-looking spinner bait. Although made of metal, the buzz bait is designed to rise to the surface when retrieved steadily. Its metal spinner chops through the surface, making a buzzing sound. Some buzz baits have a little rudder that the propeller strikes on each revolution, adding to the noise. Others simply make the sound by the propeller chopping the water and air.
|Booyah buzz bait|
I think some fishermen also see the lures as a novelty, not a mainstay for northern pike. If they give them a serious try next summer, their attitude may change.
Take my own experience from last summer. During our Family Week when only my family is at camp (the first week of July) I went fishing with my grandson, Raven. We were casting spoons and spinners for pike and doing so-so in the early afternoon when the wind dropped. I switched to a Zara Spook and went back to the same area we had just covered. I literally had a strike or a fish on every cast.
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