Fire Down Below

Anglers like the surface-shattering explosion a big northern pike makes when it attacks a topwater lure. But the truth is, you'll catch far more ‘gators by running the bait just beneath the surface.

A large pike trying to annihilate a buzzbait in shallow water is wild, violent and just plain awesome. For my money, though, I’d rather hook fish than see 9 out of 10 flounder in their efforts to engulf the bait.

Pike aren’t muskies, and have a much harder time snatching a moving lure off the surface, even with a straight, steady retrieve. Put a similar profile spinnerbait two inches below the surface, however, and they’ll nail it almost every time.

For similar reasons, I tend to shy away from topwater hardbaits; I’d rather crawl a crankbait an inch below the surface. Slowly retrieving a No. 13 or 18 Original Floating Rapala Minnow and letting it occasionally rise to rest on the surface can also fill the void. Twitch the bait as well; just make sure you pause long enough to make it a sitting duck.

And although walking baits like Skitter Walks and Zara Spooks can work, I’d rather fish a Rapala SubWalk, which sinks a foot or two, as fish will be able to track and hit the subsurface lure much better.

Editor’s Note: Another solid option is a 5-inch Berkley Gulp! Jerk Shad fished on a 1/8- to 1/16-ounce jig. This presentation excels in shallow water, where it can be fished at a variety of speeds.

Keep the rodtip high and jerk sporadically during the retrieve to dart the minnow to the surface, occasionally allowing to splash through the film.

Another tack is to fish the Jerk Shad slowly with long sweeps of the rodtip, then letting the light jig drop slowly. Watch the line closely for subtle signs of a strike, then set the hook hard.

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