Best Ice Fishing Baits for Giant Northern Pike

WKND Warriors Blog

Best Ice Fishing Baits for Giant Northern Pike


Best Ice Fishing Baits for Giant Northern Pike


Best Ice Fishing Baits for Giant Northern Pike

Whether you call them gators, slough sharks, ditch pickles, danger noodles, water wolfs, jackfish, or just Northern Pike; there is something about giant Pike that excites many anglers abroad. While targeting them on the open water can be challenging, many anglers opt for the winter months to chase them on ice, through the hardwater season. So whether you are a water wolf veteran or are looking to catch your first Northern Pike, this article will showcase a few helpful tips on bait choice to improve your chances of catching a giant Northern Pike through the ice.

Forage and Feeding Habits

You will always hear a fly fishers say that ‘you have to match the hatch’; the same can be said for chasing big Northerns through the ice. Every body of water that Northern Pike call home have one thing in common. An abundance of prey. Studying the baitfish and their movements is a great way to improve your chances of finding big Pike. But what happens once you’ve found them, and they don't want to eat anything in your tackle box?

This is where understanding the Baitfish is crucial in getting more Pike to eat. Matching your bait to the baitfish in the lake is a sure-fire way to get more fish up the hole. However, there is a massive difference between the feeding habits of Pike under 40 inches and fish over that mark. Smaller Northern Pike are known to eat a piece of moving rope or a bottle cap on a hook. Larger Northern Pike caution before feeding is much greater than that of a smaller fish. By focusing solely on the feeding habits and baitfish of Northern Pike, you can significantly improve your chances of putting one to hand.


If you have spent any time targeting a primary predator species, then you have likely heard the saying “bigger baits bigger fish”. But is this really true?
Well, it is, and it is not. A Northern Pike over 40 inches can eat larger prey than smaller Pike; however, a variety of factors such as fishing pressure and Baitfish size significantly impact on a larger Pike's feeding habits. Large Northern Pike are wary and well-educated predators that will turn down bait if not presented properly. Pike are known to eat a variety of food sources such as Lake Whitefish, Burbot, Walleye, Suckers, Yellow Perch, smaller Northern Pike and so on. By looking at the primary bait fish that holds the greatest abundance in your local body of water, you will have a good indication of the overall size of the bait you should be using.

Additionally, the average size of the Baitfish fish in your lake will indicate the size of bait you should be using on your quick strike rig. Whether the main baitfish is a five-inch Yellow Perch, or fifteen-inch Lake Whitefish, matching the length of the average baitfish with the most abundance will greatly increase your chances of peaking the interest of a larger Northern Pike. For example, if Lake Whitefish in the eight-to-twelve-inch range are the main target of Pike in your local waters, then Herring or large Sardines are a good option for accurately representing the baitfish. This in turn will entice more big Pike to eat under the ice.


Although profile may seem like size in a way, the two factors are different, and each play a key role in getting pike to bite. The overall body shape of a fish makes up its profile, this shape is a factor often overlooked by anglers. Northern Pike like many predators have to swallow a prey item headfirst so that the fins of the prey does not get caught in their throat. By choosing a large profile bait shaped like a big Perch or a large burbot that has a wide head, it reduces your chances of getting more Pike to eat as it is harder for them to swallow their prey.

By using skinnier profiled baits, it allows an easier meal for bigger fish. Skinny prey items like Sardines or Mackerel are an easy meal for a big predator. In lakes that have deeper bodied food sources like Perch or Carp The best bait would be tall, bodied saltwater species at your local grocery store like Yellow Scad.


Smell plays a huge role in attracting large Northern Pike to your bait. Without scent you rely on the visual cues of Pike rather than adding the benefit of scent. But how do you create scent over a large area in a lake without chumming or adding scent to the water? Scent clouds are emitted from dead fish hung under tip ups, and by choosing the right bait you can greatly increase the chance of a giant ditch pickle finding your bait. Bait like Sardines and Mackerel that have a high oil content that emits a scent cloud much larger than that of a large smelt. A larger scent cloud will trigger the feeding response in more Pike in the area that may have not seen or smelt your other baits.

By focusing on these three key factors the odds of getting more giant gators to eat drastically improves. Skinnier high oil content baits such as Herring, large Sardines, Mackerel are all proven winners that allow ice anglers targeting Pike to have more consistency in numbers. To sum it all up, by matching the size and profile of the Baitfish in your lake and using baits with high oil contents you will greatly improve your chances of getting more Northern Pike to eat through the ice.

By Wknd Warriors Co


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