The Importance of Diving Pikes
Back in the day when I fly fished in fresh water for trout, I knew the value of drifting weighted nymphs along the bottom of deep pools for bigger fish. This thinking has stayed with me and has carried over to surf fishing. I loved fishing artificial, but most plugs were surface or sub-surface like a Bottle or a Darter; if I wanted to fish the bottom, I used a Bucktail even though it lacked a larger profile.
My first keeper as a surfcaster – 44 lbs. – came on an Atom Popper, but even that early into my surfcasting experience I felt it was an exception to the rule. I always felt the bigger fish hung deep and it would be more productive to go down after them than try to and entice them to come up. Easier said than done, at least with wooden plugs.
As a new plug maker in 2005, I settled on the Pikie as my plug of choice. At that time, I was focused on swimming action and I chose the Pikie because of the tail-in-the-air combination of side-to-side and roll. That action was caused mainly by its Z-lip/dive lip that Creek Chub Bait Company developed back in the early 1900’s. Not only would that classic pike lip allow me to make outsized plugs (another requirement needed to target larger fish consistently), I also felt it was underutilized with respect to the depth it enabled a wooden plug to dive.
The average pikie will dive to 3 to 5 feet. I started off building big surface “Pikes”, but it was always in the back of my mind to go deeper. My first attempts were comical. I made them out of oak, the densest wood I had available. I took some prototypes with me to Block early one spring and swam them off a jetty so I could see the action and the depth at which they swam. The problem was there wasn’t any action! They dove right down without an ounce of swimming action. So, back to the drawing board.
A month later, on a morning walk with my wife, I came up with the right combination for wood and weight. It led to the development of my “Giant” Deep and Medium divers. I was also able to use the same ratio of wood-to-lead with my SLIMs, Trollers and Jointed Eels. The beauty of these plugs is that they have big profiles and dove deeper than any other wooden plug.
My first indication of this came from a customer who trolled Giant Deep and Medium divers at 3mph – they both bottomed out in 15 ft. of water. Then I got an e-mail from a guy that said he was using a Beach Master Cowboy and catching fish in the low 30’s (pounds) and the fish were deep. His buddy was using my Giant Deep Diver and because he could get deeper and all of his fish were upper 30’s to a 40 pounder. I have also gotten pictures from a boat guy in New Jersey who was catching a bunch of fish in the upper 30’s to low 40’s (pounds) by swimming my Deep Diver under the Bunker schools.
Another advantage of my divers, particularly the Deep Diver, is that it has a slower swimming action (because of the added weight and denser wood) that makes it ideal for fishing in strong currents or heavy outflows. I know of one sharpie that gives a seminar on the effectiveness of fishing my Giant Deep Diver in the Cape Cod Canal.
In general, I like my plugs sub-surface or deeper. My surface Pike will swim on the surface or dive down 6 ft., depending on conditions. Their Z-lip/dive lip and belly weighting makes them very stable in rough conditions. In big waves you can feel the pull on the plug as the wave approaches. You swim the Pike down, let the wave go by and float it up, and continue the retrieve. The night I caught my 51 I was fishing my Surface Giant sub-surface in huge waves very effectively. I could feel it swim all the way in. After I caught my fish another fisherman fished my spot, but he kept changing plugs because he couldn’t keep his plugs in the water.
So the key to the divers is the lip/wood/weight. The lip dives it down and the combination of wood and weight keep it swimming deep. With my divers, I reel quickly after the cast. The Pike dives down until it hits bottom or the desired depth. The pike dives lip first so when it hits bottom it has less chance of hanging up. Let the plug float up a little and start a slow retrieve. The pike will swim at that depth. If you hit anything, let it float up a little and continue the retrieve. I use Deep Divers in deep water (and or strong current). I can hit bottom from anywhere I can swim too. I use Medium Divers to fish the bottom in shallow water, or the mid-depths in deep water. Because my divers float at rest you can start the retrieve off slow and fish them just under the surface. Some fishermen will float them out and hang them in a river current, having them swimming in place just under the surface. Very effective! I am still learning the different ways to fish my Divers effectively. What keeps me coming back is that most of the bigger fish caught on my Pikes have come on my Divers.
Fish in Your Kayak?
Take a look at this video…if you’re not dragging a Troller behind your yak, you’re missing out!
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