All of us were beginners at one time or another. Even for those of us who were 4-5 years old when Dad or Grandpa took us out and taught us how to start fishing, you still had to learn along the way, pick up more skills as you grew up, and continued to grow as an angler. If you grew up fishing one type of fish like bluegill or trout and then move to bass or northern pike, it can be a bit of a culture shock.
The basic fishing gear every pike angler should have starting out include:
- A solid medium action rod
- 8-12 lb test line
- A good deep net
- Good pair of fishing gloves
It’s worth noting that any gear that is important for the safety and effectiveness of a first-time or beginning pike angler will also be the same list that is useful for muskie or tiger muskie fishing. The only difference is that muskies tend to be more bizarre or mischievous, so long-time anglers of muskies will have plenty of stories and grow their own tricks and techniques over time to help increase their chances of catching those pesky pike cousins (see the figure 8 technique as an example).
But what makes for a good pike fishing rod versus one that isn’t right for beginners getting used to these aggressive freshwater wolves? What constitutes a deep net versus one that’s just too shallow?
I’m going to dive into this from my decades of experience fishing for pike and we’ll get you not started with the best pike fishing gear not just knowing what some of the best gear is but also why that particular gear is necessary or a good choice versus an alternative.
Beginning Pike Fishing Gear 101
While it doesn’t take too much gear to start pike fishing, and a lot of it sounds like common sense at first glance, the devil is in the details. Sure, you need a fishing rod.
Some are built to be strong but don’t have a lot of feel to them. That also takes out some of the fun from the amazing fight that these fish love to give to you.
So what type of fishing rod are you looking for? What test line?
What lures get you the most bang for your buck and considering the reputation that pike have for injuring anglers, or the actual news stories of where muskies hurt people, it makes sense that you want to have your safety gear in order on your boat because these are incidents that don’t even include common things like getting your hands gashed by northern pike teeth or throwing a hook into your hand – something that the always squirming, flopping, and fighting pike are infamous for.
But don’t worry – we’re going to cover what to look for, and what to avoid, in every piece of fishing gear you look at when prepping for some serious pike fishing.
What Makes a Good Pike Fishing Rod?
While I really enjoy hitting mid-sized northern pike with an ultralight rod – that’s generally not the route to go for beginners. When you’re starting out the ideal fishing rod is one that balances action (sensitivity) along with sturdiness because pike hit hard. They often hit and fight above their size, and for a freshwater fish northern pike can grow to a pretty impressive size.
For beginners you want the following set up with your fishing rod:
- A medium action rod – enough to feel taps but also some sturdiness so when a 12 lb pike hits your rod isn’t bending over and threatening to snap. Every fishing rod description talks about what level of action and for beginners you want medium action. Medium-low or Medium-high is also okay, but the basis needs to be medium action.
- 10-12 lb test line. Some anglers will say that 8 lbs is enough, others suggest 12-14. I see merits for both of those points of view but individual anglers figure out which range of line they prefer by starting with the 10-12 lb, which is a great range and what I usually use, before adjusting up or down based on preference.
- A big name brand. You want a brand that is reliable, has a long history, and is designed specifically for fishing large freshwater fish. There’s a reason St. Croix, Piscifin, and Ugly Stix have the reputation they do – it’s because of a long history of being reliable in challenging fishing situations.
- High recent ratings. My brother and I have been in the outdoor space a long time and we’ve seen once great and highly rated brands switch to overseas dropshipping from China and India and the quality level of their items absolutely plummet. This is why high ratings aren’t enough, but you want to make sure out of the last dozen or so there aren’t all 1-stars. If you see that, run!
If you have a good fishing rod that is well built and set for fishing for more aggressive and larger freshwater fish then you’re ready to go. If you have a good bass fishing rod, chances are that’s more than enough to also serve as your pike fishing rod.
If you’re starting from scratch or switching over from another entirely type of fishing (like fly fishing) then the quick recommendations (check out the Related Article just a few paragraphs down for a much more in-depth deep dive) for a good pike fishing rod from us would be:
- St. Croix Triumph Fishing Rod – These are premium fishing rods that have some of the best medium-heavy action fishing rods on the market which makes them perfect for pike fishing while still making them versatile for more light biters like walleye.
- Shimano Curado Fishing Rod – Premium fishing rods designed to work hand-in-hand with the wildly popular Shimano Curado fishing reels, making them a great fit for fans of these fishing reels and giving a good solution for not having to worry about finding a good rod-reel combo. Generally one of the more expensive choices, but it is a premium match.
- Piscifun Lightweight Fishing Rod – This is the pick if you are looking for lightweight fishing rods that can still take a beating. This is one of the better options out there and is a good pick for the beginning pike angler.
- Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Fishing Rod – One of the absolute best budget-friendly fishing rod that can handle big action freshwater fish like bass, pike, or muskie.
Any one of those will work really well, and whatever your preference you can grab one or two great fishing rods from this last and you will have no problem with pike fishing…at least not from your fishing rod!
Also: ALWAYS bring a back up fishing rod. I don’t know how pike do it, but the number of times they have somehow snapped the top of a fishing rod back in the boat – it happens a lot if you spend enough time on the water.
Related Article: Best Fishing Rods for Northern Pike Fishing. If you want to dive into several of the best options from premium to budget, here are the best rods to match your style and budget as we have gone through all kinds of rods including ultralight, light, medium, and heavy action as well as premium and budget models to find the fishing rods that work and refuse to cover the ones that can’t hold up to a good day of pike fishing.
Best Pike Fishing Net – Deep and Sturdy!
The size of the net matters a lot when it comes to fishing for northern pike, and in particular we’re looking for the depth of the net. A good walleye net might not be enough. While I enjoy a good walleye fishing outing, the depth of the net doesn’t need to be nearly as long for those fish as it does for pike, which are longer, bigger, and will flop a lot more to try to throw the lure and get out of the net.
So what do you need to look for in a good pike fishing net?
- Net Length – Pike can fight to the last breath, and they will sometimes swim straight for an engine prop to try to snap the line. You need a net that allows you to reach out a little and secure them at a decent range instead of pulling them all the way up to the boat.
- Net Depth – The depth of the net is one of the most important things when fishing for pike. Big walleye, and even most big bass, aren’t going to compete with the size of big pike which are very long. If you’re dealing with a 36 inch fish flopping out of a net, you want a net deeper than 20 inches.
- Net Materials – The net doesn’t have to be super fancy or anything, but the netting itself needs to be at least decent. It can’t be cheap rope/thread that frays or breaks under stress. The material of the net frame can be metal or plastic, but needs to be solid. If you have a net that extends, make sure that connection looks solid and the net doesn’t bend too much.
Pike fishing nets need to be firm, deep, and have at least a moderate reach. The extra long nets with a semi-shallow net that many trout anglers and walleye fishermen use might work occasionally with some smaller pike, but the larger the northern pike and the harder they fight, the more likely things are to go sideways and the more likely that the net breaks.
The good news is that although the high end freshwater fishing nets are going to be more expensive because of the better materials, these are going to be outstanding nets that can easily be used for walleye, bass, muskies, trout, or other popular types of freshwater fish.
If the net is designed with a solid metal frame, good netting materials, and built to hold up against the beating that big northern pike are going to put it through year after year, then it will hold up against any other freshwater fish you go after, and makes it far more likely that net will last for years. It took several years for my dad to find a net he liked for dealing with pike.
That was back in 1997. It’s the same net he still uses for largemouth bass down in Florida during his retirement years now.
Related Article: Best Pike Fishing Nets. This one was fun to test out, although there were a couple stretches where the other one of us was wondering if they were going to go overboard or not. Alas, no fools were made, although after testing a lot of nets there were a few that came out on top and you can read the article here for a much more in-depth look at the best pike fishing nets for beginners or pros and see our reasoning behind the list.
The Right Fishing Line For Pike Fishing
Generally I find the right fishing line is in the 8 to 12 lb area. There are all types of fishing line that brag about being made of Kevlar or superfilament, but generally that really doesn’t matter. Solid fishing line is just that: solid fishing line. Find anything name brand in the 8 to 12 lb test range. The 12 lb test line will break a little less often while the 8 lb test gives you a bit more feel.
I grew up using 8 and 10 pound test and honestly could rarely tell much of a difference. This is just the right line for two main reasons:
- This size test line works very well with open faced fishing reels, or any other types for that matter
- It’s a decent line for adding steel leaders and larger lures
Let’s be honest: without a steel leader there’s always the chance a pike hits so hard that it inhales everything and then bites the line off. Happened to me more than once in Canada even with magnum lures, and a 30+ plus pike can snap even a much stronger line…or it might not.
Trying to optimize fishing line often adds to a lot of headache that doesn’t matter. If you find a good fishing line in that sweet spot of 8-12 lb test that spools easily and reels in nicely then you really don’t have anything else to worry about. We always used fishing line from Berkley. Trilene fishing line worked well enough for us while pike fishing, so why change?
Other pike anglers might have their preferred fishing line but in my experience you stick with fishing line that works very well and don’t go with anything that is fancy or “specialized” or otherwise tries to be trendy. Don’t change what works, just get some reliable solid fishing line in that 8-12 lb test range and you should be good to go.
What Should a Pike Fishing Reel Look Like?
My best advice here is don’t get fancy. I have overwhelmingly used simple open faced spinning reels and never had any trouble. I know there are some fishing reels that are designed to work with special fishing rods and while I have dealt with mediocre reels before, there really isn’t a difference between a fishing reel that’s good for one type of fish and another.
What you want out of a pike fishing reel is the same as any fishing reel. It needs to be:
- Smooth action when reeling in
- Easy to fix snags out of
- Fit well with the fishing rod you are using
Make sure you check these boxes and whatever you choose will be fine – just make sure to grab the left-handed reel if you are a leftie!
Personally, I am a fan of the open faced spinning reels. In my opinion these are the best combination of being simple, high quality, and check all the boxes I want for being easy to cast, easy to fix, and just work with pretty much any fishing rod.
There are many good options out there, if in doubt I just grab a KastKing Spinning Reel. These have been among the most reliable spinning reels out there for at least a decade now and I’ve never had one that let me down. There’s a reason these reels are consistently among the most popular available and even better, the price range for a good KastKing open face reel is right in there with the average price for an open face reel.
In other words, you don’t have to pay premium pricing for premium quality. If you’re looking to replace some closed face fishing reels or aren’t happy with your current one, then going with KastKing is just a safe bet. Especially before you head out pike fishing once again.
Why You Need Gloves and Pliers for Pike Fishing
These are your important safety gear. The reason is that pike will keep fighting until the last moment and I’ve seen many an angler pull in a pike into the boat only to have it throw a lure into their hand then or gash their hands with teeth. While you can get away with bare hands with many fish, this is NOT a good idea for pike or any fish that is related to the northern pike.
The good news is that there are some great fisherman gloves that allow you the full degree of finger flexibility while also providing decent protection from northern pike teeth or a thrown hook. I haven’t gotten new fishing gloves in a while. KastKing and Berkley were both some of the best brands I’ve experienced and from asking around my friends who fish those brands are still rock solid.
There was also a new name that came up which I hadn’t heard before: Fish Monkey. That was definitely a new one to me!
JP swore by these up and down and he really knows his stuff so I did the research. Turns out the guys behind the crazy name for these gloves, and the equally crazy design, really know how to make some incredible fishing gloves. Their ratings across multiple websites are through the roof from actual users and it’s hard to find anything remotely comparable.
Best Pike Fishing Lures
This is a harder question to answer for one simple reason: there is no simple one technique for catching northern pike. There are multiple lures and styles of fishing that can do plenty of work to help you catch a very healthy stringer full of great pike ready for the pan, or if you’re lucky, big enough to mount on the wall.
The best advice I can give to beginners is to start by looking for advice on how to fish for pike with a style of fishing you’re familiar with, whether it’s crankbaits, spoons, spinnerbaits, or even jigging. There are many way to get a pike’s attention and by starting with something close to what you’re used to, it increases comfort and lets you concentrate on hooking and reeling in the pike!
Best Pike Fishing Lures – Multiple Article Resources
- Whopper Ploppers for Northern Pike Fishing
- Spinnerbaits for Northern Pike Fishing
- Best Size Lures for Northern Pike Fishing
- Best Bait for Northern Pike Fishing
- Best Crankbaits for Northern Pike Fishing
This isn’t even a complete list, and there will be more in the future, but it goes to show that when going after aggressive fish like the northern pike you will have plenty of options for getting it done!
Now Get Out on the Water and Catch Some Pike!
While there are ideal bits of gear versus non-premium, but serviceable “it will do” level gear, the most important thing is to get out on the water and enjoy your time fishing for those big northerns! As long as you have the basic beginner gear we talk about, you have enough to get started and will pick up the experience and knowledge along the way in order to adjust based on area and what works best. Not to mention the type of lures, bait, or gear that you’re most comfortable using.
That all starts with covering the basics in this article, and now you’re ready to hit the water and start reeling in some delicious northern pike!
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