The use of luminous, or glowing, baits for pike is often overlooked and it’s my opinion that opportunities are missed because of this fact. No, these lures are not a magic cure-all, but there are certain times and situations when they can make a big difference.
I first became aware of glowing baits years ago while ice fishing for panfish. Then, luminous products came out for the walleye fishermen. So they’ve been around awhile. Lately, there has been a surge by manufacturers to include glowing baits in their lineups and more new products appear every year. Think this is just a ploy or all hype? If so, you should have a talk with my good friend, Harold “Nick” Meiers, the original Prince of Pike from Madison, Wisconsin. Nick holds the distinction of entering the largest pike ever entered in the In-Fisherman’s annual contest. A huge 51.5-inch monster that weighed in at 34 pounds. And the lure he used was a now-discontinued Doctor spoon that came with a small cylume stick that fit into the middle of the spoon. Even though these spoons are no longer available, there are plenty of other glowing products out there to fill the void. Nowadays there are even small lights available to charge the lures with. I’ve found a few situations where glowing baits seemed to make a difference, and all share a common trait. Low light conditions.
Just last year at ice out, Donny Ingle and I headed up to Nungesser Lake Lodge to deadbait some big pike. It was an unusual spring. The ice had been out for five weeks by the time we got there, but the weather had remained fairly cold and water temperatures remained in the mid to upper 40’s. With conditions of overcast skies and occasional drizzles, we set up on an incoming river with floater rigs tipped with dead suckers. Fishing was pretty slow even though Donny could see pike on his AquaView camera. We both knew there had to be a way to get these fish to bite. Donny hooked up a glowing jighead with a quick strike trailer and that was the key. Why that little glowing jighead made such a difference remains a mystery to me. We had watched pike come up and sniff the bait only to slowly turn away. But with the addition of the glowing jighead, they took the bait. I’m still searching my head over that one, but I don’t argue with success.
And my buddy Nick Meiers? He caught that fish on a dark, rainy day on the outside of a giant cabbage bed. In fact, it had been dark and drizzly for a couple of days preceding his catch.
Nick was fishing with another good friend, the late Bill Tenney, and related the story to me. They were in Northern Saskatchewan at Rio Lake and had taken several good fish, but fishing was tough. The weather was cold and rainy and my friends were casting and trolling, trying to get something working. Nick told me, “The guide was stuck on using one lure only. We fished that same spoon all day! Every time I tried to change over the guide threw a fit, so I stayed with his spoon until late in the day. Finally, after getting zip all day, I clipped on the glowing Doc and on the very first cast, she hit. I knew it was a big fish but wasn’t sure how big until Bill started jumping up and down yelling ‘She’s over 30!’ Then I started to get concerned. But we got her in, took a few photos and turned her loose. Changing to that glowing spoon is what did it, and it shut that guide up too!”
Another spot where I’ve found glowing baits to be effective is in deeper water. It’s well-known that once water temperatures reach a certain range (mid-60’s) a large percentage of the bigger pike in a system will vacate the shallows and head to cooler climes. Most times this means deeper water. Trolling is very effective during this period, as is drifting and jigging sunken humps and points.
Before I get into the different bait options, I’d like to mention a curious aspect on the use of these luminous offerings. It has become apparent through our experiments that most times just a little bit of glow will outfish something that’s totally energized. As an example, Kalin makes a nice luminous grub that I sometimes tip my weedless spoons with. Instead of supercharging the whole grub, I cover all but the last half of the tail with my hand and charge just the tail. This gives it somewhat of a two-toned effect with the tip of the tail glowing brightly and the rest covered in a semi-soft glow. I like to fish these on the deep edge of cabbage beds, often allowing the spoon to sink to the bottom before retrieving slowly.
Another hot bait I like to use in cabbage and deep water is the spinnerbait. Since I make my own skirts, I can customize the colors and amount of glowing skirt material. As an experiment, we tried a skirt totally made of luminous material versus one made with just a couple of strands of glow coupled with other colors. The sparsely glowing skirt way outdid the totally glowing one. In fact, the totally luminous spinnerbait never did account for a really big pike, although I stopped using it after seeing what I thought were conclusive results tipping in the other one’s favor.
Trolling deep cranks is often very productive during hot summer months, and the addition of a little bit of luminous material does seem to up our catch rate. However, one must use care when altering a crankbait or the action can be ruined. On some cranks, a small crappie-sized grub can be impaled on the tine of a treble hook without fouling the action. Another one I really like is the addition of a couple of strands of that luminous skirt material attached to either the middle or rear treble. Just a couple of strands won’t affect the action and gives it just that little bit of glow to really catch their attention. In testing at boatside, if I think the bait isn’t running right, it’s easy to trim the material down a bit to bring the lure back to where I want it.
Sunken humps will also attract big pike during warm water periods. Locate one with baitfish hanging around and chances are good that the pike are close by. We like to use jigs on humps. They’re easy to drift across a hump with, bouncing that jig across the bottom. We’ve also had success anchoring right on top of a hump and vertically jigging. The deeper humps seem to produce best and the addition of a bit of glow has definitely seemed to attract more pike. Tipping a glowing jighead with a small sucker or a chub can be irresistible to big pike checking out a hump for a meal. I’m inclined to believe that a pike can spot that little bit of glow from a distance and it will raise its level of curiosity. Coming in for a better look, it sees and smells the bait and commits. I also think that too much glow will tend to mildly spook a fish when it closes in, and it will turn off. Of course, it’s all a guess. Who knows for sure what their thought process is? All I know for sure is that adding a bit of glow has put big fish in the boat for both Mary and I that I don’t think we would have caught without it.