Are Crankbaits Best for Pike Fishing?

caught northern pike

My reaction when I first heard that people were using any lure but the crankbait when fishing northern pike? “Why make things any harder than they ought to be.”

I simply couldn’t believe anyone would consider another type of lure considering how effective the crankbait is for catching pike.

Ask anyone experienced in fishing northern pike and they will invariably tell you the exact same thing. Fishing guides, veteran anglers and professionals alike all have their special selection of crankbaits on hand and often includes such classic specimens like the Rapalas, Bombers and Magnums.

It does take some skill and experience to match the perfect lure to the right situation, but northern pike just can’t help themselves and hit those crankbaits like it’s going out of style.

This is because the crankbait is designed as the perfect target for the aggressive and highly territorial pike that hunt by ambush –– a smaller fatter fish that has obviously gotten lost on the wrong side of the pond is too good to be true.

Of course, there are many expert opinions and every good angler has their own selection of the best lures and styles for their favorite catch and fishing spot.

But, in my opinion there is no question about it: first place lure for fishing northern pike goes to the crank bait every time. I say this because in my personal experience, and the experiences of many fellow anglers, there is just nothing as consistently perfect for enticing the pike to strike.

old crankbaits

Why Are Crankbaits So Effective on Pike?

Every fish that is out there waiting to be caught has a special bait, lure or fishing technique that will attract it to swallow a hook. It must have taken a lot of observation trial and error to figure that panfish like worms or that Midwestern trout can be enticed with a kernel of corn.

But, for predatory fish like bass or pike there was really only one thing these hunters were interested in –– live bait, or the closest we could come up with.

Lures have been designed to mimic the movements, appearance and physical features of a live fish or some other natural prey. The right lure is the one that most resembles the natural prey of the fish you are trying to catch.

Because, pike are big ambush feeders they will not be travelling around to find a meal but waiting in the weeds for a hapless victim to come their way — so you need a lure that looks like one.

Crankbaits provide the following benefits to catching northern pike:

  • Natural movement –– choose the crankbait that moves and looks like the prey most likely to be found in your lake.
  • Speed control –– anglers can control the speed of the crankbait through the water, making the perfect motion for a “wounded” minnow, for example.
  • Colors and movements –– colors have been designed to trigger the ambush instinct of predatory fish.
  • Treble Hooks –– appropriately sized treble hooks will ensure that your struggling pike is firmly hooked.

Top 3 Crankbaits from My Personal Experience

If you are headed out to your favorite fishing spots, you won’t regret taking along a nice selection of suitable crankbaits for landing northern pike. But you will need some important clues on choosing the right one.

In the following reading, you will find everything you need to know about the crankbait and how you can increase your chances of the catch of your life by choosing the right one.

Here are three crankbaits you will find in my tackle box and the gear of the most successful anglers today. Whether you are a beginner to pike fishing or an expert with your techniques down pat, if you aren’t using one of these notable crankbaits, your pike is fishing is about to get a whole lot better.

1. Rapala Magnum Lures

In my opinion, there is no equal to the Rapala Magnum Lure line, and more specifically the Floating Magnum Rapala.

Floating Magnum Rapalas have brought me more pike catches than any other lure I have had the pleasure of suing. At a full 7” in length, they are the perfect size for pike fishing and can be cast to a depth of 9’ to 11’.

You can try your hand at casting, but trolling is its specialty. This crankbait also features that wounded minnow design that is especially tempting for a pike.

Be sure to read the section on picking a good crankbait color below, but for the Floating Magnum Rapalas, I would suggest the fire tiger, mullet or silver color schemes –– these brought me much success and are my all-time favorites.

Other Rapala Magnum Selling Points

  • Made from Abachi wood, same wood Rapala uses for their “BIG FISH” designs.
  • Sharp Top-Quality Perma Steel Treble Hooks
  • Excellent color selection

Click here to price the Rapala Magnum lure on!

2. The Original Floating Rapala

My second choice for northern pike fishing would be the Original Floating Rapala. Actually, this has been a good choice for snagging bass, walleyes and perch.

But there are two things that are really good about this crankbait. First, they come in a variety of sizes suitable for different depths. This allows you to select the best size for the pike you are trying to catch at the correct water depth.

Then there is a terrific color selection with over 20 different combinations. When you really get into northern pike fishing, you can’t have too many colors.

Some other nice points about the Original Floating Rapala is the sturdy balsa wood construction and wounded fish action that is irresistible to these ambushing predators.

I recommend the Model Size 18 because I believe 7” is the perfect length for pike fishing and going a little deeper is never a bad thing.

Click here to see current prices on the original floating Rapala!

3. 1 oz. Rat-L-Trap

Number three on my list needs no introduction. The Rat-L-Trap is hugely popular with pike anglers and I prefer the 1 oz. size.

The primary reason this is a good option is the noise that it makes. This noise is especially good at attracting attention from northerns in murky waters. I choose the 1 oz. model as it allows me the flexibility to head for the shallow waters or move deeper.

I have caught just as many pike in shallow reed beds as I have when trolling deeper waters with Rapalas.

There are 15 color schemes to choose from, and you can refer to the forthcoming color guide to select the best for you. You can expect that these crankbaits will suffer from loss of paint as time goes by and big fish knock them about.

But, believe they work just fine scuffed up a little as they do right out of the box.

Other big selling points of this lure include:

  • Made right here in the USA!
  • Excellent simulation of wounded fish action!
  • Multiple sizes are suitable to various depths and fishing styles

Click here to see current prices on the Rat-L-Trap

Choosing the Color of Your Crankbait

From my decades of experience dating back to childhood fishing excursions with my father and brother, I have found the color of the bait makes all the difference. While the best effects of the colors will be achieved when the sun and cloud cover are perfect and the water’s clarity ideal, there are some colors that I have always found the most successful.

The black & silver and blue & silver combinations are my favorite choices for regular sized crankbaits and the smaller Bombers too. When on the water, we would have several rods and always uses these combinations.

The blue & silvers were usually our first choice and we would trail the black & silvers behind just in case. If we figured one was doing better than the other, we would swap them out quickly.

Aside from the black & silver or blue & silver combinations, the only other color that I have had much success with is chartreuse. Then against the success I have seen with a chartreuse lure seems to be very “feast or famine,” as the old saying goes.

On those fishing trips where my chartreuse lure was performing well it seemed that the pike were provoked to a feeding frenzy.

There were some pike fishing adventures I remember clearly when the brightly colored lures were getting struck right and left, and other times when they weren’t getting any attention at all.

There were also times when the odd color like perch seemed to work well, although the green & and black side stripes has always seemed less effective.

Nevertheless, I have tried the odd colored lure at times when the algae levels were high and had a raging success. They may not come out often, but in the right rare situation you will want to have one of these babies on hand.

I remember from fishing as a youth was these rules of thumb worked out for our crankbaits and fishing locations. This allowed us to focus on the harder to predict details like when to use the larger crankbaits or the smaller ones, or when to choose a rattler over a regular.

But, most times even just the regular crankbait would have some effect when pike fishing.

If you are in doubt, I recommend our tried and proven technique of blue & silver followed by black & silver. If this seems slow, try changing the sizes and use smaller “Bombers” before you decide to try the other colors like chartreuse, perch or green/black stripes.

This proved effective for us and I’m sure it will do well for you too.

When to Use Specialty Crankbaits

Then there are some specialty crank baits that that can work extremely well in certain conditions. For example, after a strong rain you may find that the rattlebaits work better in the murky water.

Crankbaits that have a blinking light have also caught the attention of pike in murky water.

Full Disclosure: I have seen rattlebaits work better more often than I have seen the blinking light options work effectively.

Sometimes there are other factors that can affect how the extra stimulus affects the pikes nature as a predator. In some conditions it may excite them and in other instances the same additional stimulus will cause them to retreat.

So, in the end, I’d say that these specialty options are wild cards and you can feel free to experiment all you like. It would be great to hear about your experiences with them.

In Conclusion

Much of the fun and mental stimulation of angling comes from strategizing and selecting your gear and tackle for the needs of the moment. I hope this concise guide to crankbaits and pike fishing serves you well and brings you many happy experiences.

Catching Pike with Crankbaits YouTube Video