There are many questions that excited new anglers have and one of the big ones is: “What lure size is best for northern pike?” That’s a good question, and honestly it’s one that many pike anglers debate over. Sometimes very passionately. While there are many obvious factors that can affect the answer to what type of lures you should use for pike, and which size of those lures to use, the good news is that there are some general rules of thumb that work as a great starting point to giving yourself the best chance for catching a big stringer of fat pike.
Generally speaking, most fishing guides agree that lures in the 5-7 inch range tend to be the best size for northern pike. This makes them big enough that very large pike will still strike the lure while it’s small enough that many good sized pike will also strike at those lures.
This is part of the reason that crankbaits are such great lures for pike fishing and are widely used among long-time pike anglers. These lures fall right into that range, mimic local small fish pike feed on, and gets attention from decent pike of all sizes.
So is this always the case? How do smaller lures or larger lures affect pike fishing? Well let’s dive in and find out!
There’s a Reason Crankbaits Are King of Lures Among Pike Anglers
The average crankbait falls right in that 5-7 inch range that is perfect for attracting the majority of northern pike. Crankbaits are also versatile. You can cast or troll, use them in a variety of lake or river environments, and they just are the right size, give the right movement, and I can attest personally from catching hundreds of northern pike over the years that when it doubt, go to the crankbaits.
Dad was a huge fan of using crankbaits so there is undeniably a bias here but there’s also decades of firsthand experience seeing it. That doesn’t mean you have to use them. Spoons, jigs, and other lures can all work. I even talked to an old timer who swore by a big rubber frog with a giant hook right through, but those are definitely outliers and you still want them to generally be in that 5-6 inch size range if you want your setup optimized for catching northern pike.
You still want to pay attention when ordering as some crankbaits will be a bit smaller or a bit larger. Again, these can all work but if you’re just starting out grab a few of the normal sized ones in this range before expanding your collection.
Some of my favorite crankbaits for pike:
- The “Tiger Stripe” Crankbaits
- Classic Blue Rapala (I have caught more fish on this lure than all others combined. Get a silver and black to pair with this one, too)
- Yellow Perch Crankbait
I know some anglers like the crankbaits that are jointed in the middle. I’m personally not sold on them. With pike hitting so aggressively I don’t know they’re as structurally stable as others and I just don’t like the casting or feel as much.
Does Bigger Lure Mean Bigger Pike?
Well, yes and no. If you’re looking to get the attention of only larger pike, using larger lures does make it slightly more likely that smaller pike will look for something more their size while larger fish might actually bother since they are looking for that food all at once. Considering the very real stories of anglers who have found big dead pike who choked while swallowing and adult duck – sometimes bigger is better.
This is far from being the case, though, in large part because pike are notorious for being aggressive. This also means sometimes their eyes are bigger than their stomachs. And with pike, this can be much, much bigger.
Take this picture for example:
This happened to me at Maki Bay (Lac de Millie Lacs, Ontario) when using a Magnum crankbait. The first cast it was hammered. Reeled it in, and the fish was about 1.5 inches longer than the lure. That was the smallest pike we’d seen on that lake in three years…and it was caught on the largest lure that we used.
So sometimes that extra size to the lure might help, but it’s certainly not guaranteed by any stretch!
Does That Mean “Bomber” Crankbaits Don’t Catch Pike?
If you’re not familiar with the “bombers” they are the crankbaits that look like chubby minnows and only have 2 treble hooks instead of three. The answer is that bomber crankbaits still work. In fact, I’ve caught a lot of decent looking 4-7 lb pike with those lures when not much else was working.
That said, those are very unlikely to hook a big pike, and I’ve never had the line snap because a giant pike or muskie smashed into the crankbait. This has happened many times with regular crankbaits, and that has also happened with the larger magnum crankbaits, but not with the smaller bombers which tend to be half the size of a regular crankbait or just a touch more.
This means that here definitely seems to be a point where a fish is a bit too small for a trophy sized northern pike to bother with, which makes sense since spending energy on hunting food too small to make up that energy just doesn’t make sense.
Why Location Can Affect The Lure Size Question
At this point it’s pretty clear that the 5-7 inch range is ideal for pike and I’ve talked to anglers who will cut that down even more to say the 5-6 inch range is the ideal size for a pike fishing lure. That said, never underestimate the impact that location has. If only one or two types of lures work in a an area, you should use those whether they’re 3 inches or 10 inches.
Understanding the local pike fishing waters, that sweet size spot for fishing lures, and combining the two while just spending time on the water is what you need to do to give yourself the best chance at a delicious and good looking stringer filled with pike.
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