Ice fishing is fun and adventurous, but your success depends on a lot of factors, including the right bait selection.
Pike is a smart predator, so you will need to present an irresistible lure to make it bite, especially in freezing cold waters.
So, what is the best bait for ice fishing pike? Live baits like minnows are always a good choice, but pike will gladly bite a dead one too, like suckers or shad. If you prefer lures, try spoons, jigging swimbaits, or blade baits. Presentation and location are also very important.
Pike tends to spend time alone in cold waters, so looking for a school of fish can be counterproductive. As a beginner, you have to learn about fish behavior, not just baits and techniques.
Just keep in mind that ice fishing can be dangerous and take care of your safety. Always pack all the essential gear to stay safe and comfortable.
Here I will tell you more about ice fishing baits for pike, and how to choose the right size and color to get the best results.
What is the Best Ice Fishing Bait for Pike?
Pike is a strong predator, and many people are convinced that only the live bait will do the trick.
However, this fish will sometimes turn into a scavenger, especially if usual food sources are not available. So, the truth is, pike will bite a dead bait.
No matter how good artificial baits are, nothing can look as natural and be so appealing to fish as the real thing. Movement of an injured fish will attract even the laziest predator.
Minnows are a great option, and you can buy these in many well-equipped bait stores. Many anglers will advise you to downsize a bit for ice fishing, so you can take some medium-sized minnows. Just make sure to adjust the hook size too.
Pike, especially larger ones, have a tendency to eat dead fish when there is a shortage of live prey. As an angler, you can turn this into your advantage. Many beginners have troubles while hooking live bait, or you just don’t want to take care of it to stay alive.
No matter the reason, you can use pieces of suckers, shad, and similar bait. Just make sure that these are fresh and not rotten. If you can, choose species of baitfish that are more oily.
What is the Best Ice Fishing Lure for Pike?
If you prefer lures and like to practice different fishing techniques, you can choose among a variety of lures.
These are the best when it comes to ice fishing for pike:
Spoons are an excellent option, especially a bit bigger flutter spoons. Their fluttering and flashing will be heard and seen from a distance, and you can rely on that motion to attract a hungry pike. I will tell you a bit more about sizes and colors, as well as the techniques, in the following chapters.
Jigging Swimbaits (Darts)
These lures do not have a long tradition as spoons, but they proved to be very effective for any kind of vertical lure presentation. Due to their design, when jigged, these lures will move laterally and that makes them excellent for ice fishing for pike.
Blade baits can be described as lures that have features of both jigging swimbaits and spoons. Their metal body will make vibrations and flashes but, in a bit, different way. Connection point to the line is usually in the center of the back side.
In my experience, it is best to have a few different ones and change on the spot if the conditions require so. Your tackle box should contain all of these.
What is the Best Lure Size and Color for Pike?
Best bait for ice fishing pike will work only if its size and color are chosen well. This fish can grow quite large, and naturally you may think that very big lures and baits will attract a trophy-size one, but in very cold waters and harsh conditions, that could be a mistake. Besides, it is better to catch a few smaller ones than waiting for the big one that will never come.
Yes, due to pike size, you will choose lures on a larger side, but not as big as you would use in seasons when the pike is extremely aggressive.
Around 3 to 3.5 inches of length is perfectly fine. Weight of 1 oz is the preferred one. When it comes to color, choose metal and flashy ones like silver, or go with bright natural colors. Besides outside light conditions, your success depends on a preferred diet of a pike for that day. As I already mentioned, have a few different ones.
What is the Best Ice Fishing Technique for Pike?
Besides choosing best bait for ice fishing pike, you have to choose the right technique. Bait presentation is very important, as well as working the lure in the right way if you are using those. It all depends on a fish activity and willingness to bite. So, be ready for some practice until you figure it out.
Jigging off the bottom will work excellent with artificial lures. This technique is fun and great for a beginner who can learn a lot from it. You should present the lure in a natural way and avoid repetitive movement at the same pace.
Flutter spoons should be worked up the water column and then you should let them fall down. They are designed in a way so that the fall is slow and looks like an injured baitfish. Be ready for a bite during this time.
In deeper waters, you can use heavy spoons which can be controlled on the fall.
Blade baits are a bit different. Snap jig them while they drift in the water. Control them so that they remain vertical when falling back down. This is a bit tricky but after a bit of practice, you will figure it out.
If you are using live bait, you can use tip-ups for ice fishing. Some will say that it is a method for lazy people, but it allows you to cover more water, and fish more effectively.
Except for proper bait selection, which can be natural (both live and dead) or artificial like spoons, you have to know where to find pike and when to present your bait.
Pike is not just a predator, it can also be a scavenger of no options are available, so don’t be afraid to try out dead baits, or at least spicing up a lure with it.
Whenever you are out on the ice, take all the safety precautions to avoid your wonderful adventure turning into a disaster. Make sure you obey all the rules and regulations and that you obtain a permit if required.