Reel Suggestions for Pre-spawn Pike Fishing

Warm winter, no ice got you feeling down? Don't fear! This opens up a new possibility: open water pre-spawn pike. Being someone who enjoys open water over ice fishing, I await the spring thaw each year. Luckily, living close to a river that sometimes opens as early as February allows me to break out the long rods and my Piscifun reels. I have an assortment of Piscifun reels that I use for fish as small as bluegills up to fish as large as pike. Some of my favorites are the Viper X, which I use on ultralight and light rods for panfish and trout; the Carbon XCS, which I pair with a medium light casting rod for the most fun smallmouth fishing; and the Carbon X, which I pair with a medium rod to skip docks. I prefer the Torrent for the pre-spawn pike as it is an affordable, quality reel I am comfortable using in the snow and mud of spring.

Find the best location

For pre-spawn pike, as air temperatures approach the upper 30s or lower 40s, watch for bays and lower current areas of your rivers to open. These open areas can lead to some of the biggest pikes you will catch. The best location to find them during this time is typically a weed flat just off the main current. Depths in the 4 to 8-foot range are a great place to concentrate. Being confined to fishing from shore during this period, a good way to find the weeds is to tie on a jig and plastic, cast it out, and drag it along the bottom. Note where you have snagged and pulled weeds in. Live, green weeds typically hold fish. Once these locations are noted, you can start hunting the pike.

Mike Janssen holds the pre-spawn pike

Bait suggestions

Tips to use jerk bait

On the days where the temperatures are still in the 30s the break near the current edge typically is where the fish are. A slowly worked jerk bait usually will work on these days. Vary your retrieve to see what mood the fish are in. Some days, a slow reel with no jerks works best; others may be a typical jerk, jerk pause retrieve. If possible, start fishing at the farthest point downstream, working the current edge as you move upstream. This will help prevent scaring away any fish that may be closer to the bank.

Combine jerk bait and swimbait

On the days when the temperatures are in the 40s, the fish tend to move further up onto the flat. Don't rule out the current break, but areas where you may not be able to cast to the break are more likely to hold fish. The water may warm slightly on extended days in this temperature range, bringing a jig and swimbait combination into play. Otherwise, continue using the jerk bait, as mentioned previously. The jig and swimbait can be worked through different levels of the water column by varying jig size or retrieve speed. Work the middle of the water column on the warmer days for more aggressive fish. On cooler days, ticking the tops of the weeds is a great way to get bites. With either retrieve you use, be prepared for aggressive strikes that frequently come straight at you. For those strikes, crank fast on your Piscifun to catch up to the fish and then drive the hook home. 

Fishing rod and line selection

During either temperature range, similar setups can be used. The jerk bait and jig with swimbait are typically thrown with a medium-heavy rod. The rod's action is more of a personal preference, with typically the jerk bait being used on a rod that is more moderate to prevent the treble hooks from pulling free. The single hook jig and swimbait are often paired with a fast-action rod. Regarding reels and lines, temperature dictates what to use this time of year. For days in the 30s, a Piscifun bait caster spooled with 20lb fluorocarbon is a good choice as it is less likely to freeze than a braided line. On days in the 40s, a Piscifun bait caster spooled with a 30lb braid with a 20lb fluorocarbon leader tied to the end works well. If you prefer a spinning rod and reel, a Piscifun spinning reel will do a good job with a 15-20lb braid with a matching-sized leader.

pre-spawn pike and Piscifun fishing reel

The next time you are bummed about the warm winter weather, remember that there may be some big pre-spawn pike waiting for you, ready to put your Piscifun gear to the test! Get out and catch a few before the season closes.


Mike Janssen

Mike Erin Janssen

He is just an avid angler from Wisconsin who enjoys sharing his knowledge. 



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March 07, 2024 — Mike Janssen
Tags: Fishing Tips

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