Techniques for Fishing Pike, Walleye, and Smallmouth Bass


By Steve Goupil, Pro Fisherman and Club APRIL Marine Ambassador

Over the years, I have learned many techniques for catching Québec’s best-loved
freshwater fish. In this article, I share some tips to help you catch pike, walleye,
and smallmouth bass.

Pike: Reel Secrets

Spinnerbait pour brochet

Spinnerbait for pike

One of the classics of pike fishing is the use of a spinnerbait. This lure is easy to cast and has proven itself over the years.

There are two types of spinnerbait: those with Colorado spoons and those with willow leaf spoons. I don’t have a preference between the two. However, their effectiveness can change from one day to the next. I recommend having one of each in your tackle box.

To make your spinnerbait more attractive, I suggest inserting a soft plastic Swimbait or a Grub on the hook. This small change makes the lure profile bigger, livelier, and more effective.

Berkley Ripple Shad pour brochet

Berkley Ripple Shad for pike

Another technique that I particularly fancy for this species is fishing with weighted Texas rig soft plastic swimbait. Because it’s weedless, this rig allows you to fish in among vegetation. The 4- or 5-inch Berkley Ripple Shad is an excellent choice of lure for this method.

Mepps Musky Killer pour brochet

Mepps Musky Killer for pike

Another way to fish for this species is to use Mepps Musky Killer spinners, because they are effective and help you catch big fish.

For these three techniques, all you need to do is cast and retrieve lures around the edges of weed lines and in shallow bays, areas that pike are particularly fond of. The secret is to adjust recovery speed depending on this predator’s activity level. You can also trigger some fierce attacks from this carnivore by changing the speed (slow, quick, or jerky movements) during the retrieve.

Which equipment is best?

I’d suggest around a 7-foot-long fishing rod with medium to medium-heavy power and moderate action. This helps achieve a better hook-up ratio when using reaction lures.

For the fishing line, I recommend a 15 lb. braid for a spinning reel and 40 lb. for a casting reel. Although pike have very sharp teeth, I prefer to use a fluorocarbon leader with a diameter similar to that of the mainline, rather than a small steel leader. The latter is very visible underwater, and can sometimes discourage larger, more wary pike. Conversely, the fluorocarbon leader is invisible underwater and is abrasion-resistant.

Besides applying these tips, fishing in the right spots is essential because, on average, less than 20% of a body of water contains fish.

Walleye: Drop Shot Finesse

Most walleye fishermen recommend the following techniques to fish for this species: trolling with diving hard bait lures, bottom bouncer with worm harness, and vertical jigging with jig head and soft plastic. Personally, I like trolling with diving hard bait lures, to cover more ground. When I spot a concentration of walleye, I prefer to catch them with a Drop Shot Finesse rig.

Flicker Shad and Rapala Deep Diver hard bait lures used for trolling walleye

As for trolling, I use Berkley Flicker Shad to fish in depths from 7 to 14 feet. When I am in 15 feet or more of water, I use the Rapala Deep Tail Dancer lure.

To improve your chances with this technique: maintain a slow trolling speed of between 1 and 1.75 mph, adjust the length of your line according to the depth you’re fishing at, and choose the right size of diving lip on your hard bait.

Since walleye mostly stick to the bottom when feeding, it’s important that the lip be in contact with the bottom. Once again, it’s a good idea to use a moderate action rod for trolling, to increase your hookset odds.

The lure comes to life

To fish this species, I prefer using the Drop Shot Finesse. This lets you outsmart the most difficult walleye when the fishing is slow. The rig consists of a 1/0 or 2/0 size Finesse Wide Gap or Drop Shot hook attached with a Palomar knot and a bell sinker set 12 to 24 inches lower. You can attach several types of soft plastic lures to it.

Impulse Shad and Drop Shot Berkley Flatnose Minnow for walleye and bass

However, small, soft plastic minnows are often more effective for walleye. The Berkley Flat Nose Minnow and the Northland Impulse Smelt Minnow are two excellent choices.

The key to success with this technique is to make sure your sinker remains in contact with the bottom and avoid any slack in your line. It’s also important to adjust the size of your sinker to the current and the depth of the water. When using a finesse technique like this one, always bear in mind to fish very slowly. Often, a weak current is enough to make your soft bait wiggle. If not, simply flick your wrist lightly, to gently move the tip of your rod. This subtle movement brings your soft lure to life.

The power and action of the Drop Shot rod is important. I recommend a 7-foot, medium-light power rod with fast or extra fast action. This type of rod will allow you to easily keep contact with the bottom and to feel the gentlest of bites.

As with any finesse technique, it is crucial you use a small-diameter braided line (8 to 10 lbs.), combined with a fluorocarbon leader of a similar diameter, in order to better identify bites and remain invisible underwater. This technique is also very effective when fishing for smallmouth bass in deep or shallow water.

The Drop Shot technique explained in 6 easy steps:

Smallmouth Bass: Small, But Strong

There are 1,001 ways to fish for bass. Because it’s a valiant fighter, smallmouth bass is my favourite freshwater fish. Of all the available techniques, the following brings me success on a regular basis.

First, there’s the Wacky technique.

Set The Hook Spike (Senko) wacky rig for bass

This rig consists of a 5-inch soft plastic worm, commonly referred to as a Senko, hooked at the centre with a Finesse Wide Gap hook. You can also put an O-Ring in the middle of the Senko (using the tool intended for this purpose) and pass your hook through it. This way, your lure will last longer before coming apart. This may sound like a ridiculous set-up, but it’s a very effective one.

Easy and natural

This fishing technique is relatively simple: all you have to do is cast the lure in an area suitable for bass and let it gently drop to the bottom and wait a few minutes. The action of the Wacky rig is designed to work naturally by free-falling in the water column. When you feel a bite, it’s best to wait a few seconds with the bail open before picking up the excess line and setting the hook. This way, the bass will have time to fully swallow your lure.

For this technique, a 6.6-foot, medium-power rod with fast or extra fast action is recommended. This shorter, stiffer rod will allow you to cast this lightweight rig easily. With a little practice, you may even be able to pull off very precise throws around docks and under trees that overhang the water. Bass will often take refuge under these structures to hide from the light and ambush their prey. An excellent choice for this lure is the Spike from Set The Hook, a Canadian company.

Another classic lure for fishing smallmouth bass is the Tube, because this fish loves it. This lure has two components: the soft plastic tube and the jig head specially designed to fit perfectly inside the Tube cavity.

Fishing using this technique consists of making small, jerky jumps while keeping contact with the bottom, on rocky or sandy plateaus in deep or shallow water, which smallmouths are particularly fond of.

Strike King Coffee Tube for bass

This lure beautifully imitates a crayfish, Goby, or small bottom-feeding baitfish. The Coffee Tube from Strike King is a must-have lure for this technique.

Although selecting lure colours isn’t an exact science, here are some quick tips. The basic principle is to try to mimic the prey of the fish you’re targeting, commonly referred to as matching the hatch. In clear waters, natural colours generally work better.

For example, if you are fishing for smallmouth bass in the clear waters of the Saint Lawrence River, opt for a Goby.

Juvenile Goby Drifters, from Set The Hook

Megabass Dark Sleeper Goby

Conversely, in turbid waters, flashy colours such as chartreuse, orange, and pink often make a difference. These shades can also be a game-changer on cloudy days in murky or clear water.

Besides applying these tips, fishing in the right spots is essential because, on average, less than 20% of a body of water contains fish.

Finally, do take the time to practise your techniques, because they can’t be mastered in one season. Believe me, it took me over ten years to properly learn how to fish using a Tube and a Drop Shot.

All lures mentioned in this article are available at SAIL Outdoor and other fishing and hunting retailers.