Slip-float fishing for winter pike

by Lyle Gayder | February 22, 2019
A photo of a bobber and a shiner minnow on the ice.

Using big slip floats to present large shiners to ice-bound pike has become a favourite technique of mine. It works as both a primary method and like a tip-up, as a secondary rod, away from the hut. No matter where you fish it, watching a big live bait get nervous, followed by that orange-topped float chasing a charged-up gator down the hole is enough to add excitement to any outing.


The rig is simple and cheap to assemble. Basically, you will be slip-floating a quick-strike rig. The benefit of this rig is that you don’t hook a fish deep on live bait and have the option of releasing it.

Bobber and pike
Since most of my local pike are not monsters, I use two No. 8 treble hooks tied to the swivel using 15-pound fluorocarbon. Smaller hooks and a lighter leader allow the bait to swim freely, and help ensure non-lethal hook-ups.

When it comes to the quick-strike component, there are a few pre-tied options. I like Clam’s Zero Fluoro Rig, but if bite-offs are a major concern, Mason’s Pike Tamer Quick-Strike Rig offers an adjustable 30-pound wire option. These pre-assembled rigs are great for hunting trophy pike.

You can also add bangles or spinner blades above the trebles as an added attractant in dirty or moving water.

The bait

When it comes to bait, the bigger the better, within reason. I’ve found that even small pike routinely prefer five- to seven-inch common shiners. Whether you catch your own bait or purchase it, make sure to review provincial baitfish rules and regulations.

After making sure the bait is swimming naturally, lower the rig slowly to reduce tangling. An underwater camera or flasher can be used to determine the depth at which to set the bobber stop. Experiment with how far your bait is off bottom, but generally one to two feet works well. Once set, open your bail, watch your bobber, and get ready for chaos.

Going bobber-down for pike is one of the most exhilarating bites you can chase, and it’s a great way to introduce someone to ice fishing because it’s easy and exciting.

Watch the video here:

Also check out these great Tip-up tricks for pike.

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