That first morning on Misaw Lake in far-northern Saskatchewan, my son Matt and I were ready for the big beds of pencil reeds we figured held oversized pike. However, we weren’t prepared for camp owner Bernie Golling to ask if we had plenty of giant plastic baits to use for those pike.
“Big eight-inch-long Jellyhoos, rigged weedless, are best-just like you’d fish for largemouth bass,” he said matter-of-factly. “Best big pike lure I’ve ever seen. I’ve got some if you don’t have ’em.”
Bernie, indeed, had plenty of Mann’s Jellyhoos in his wilderness Canada camp tackle shop, which was about the last place I expected to find such lures. Jellyhoos are designed for saltwater fishing. They’re long and soft, and feel like oversized plastic worms used to snag bass. But Jellyhoos are very different. They’re blocky, bulky, elongated and minnow-shaped; they were originally designed for marine trollers to rig when real ballyhoo baits are unavailable. I’ve used them in salt water for cobia, king mackerel and striped bass, but never in fresh water, and certainly not rigged weedless for pike. But I grabbed a bag of Jellyhoos, and out we went for giant Canadian northerns.
Rigging Jellyhoos and other similar soft-plastic lures for pike is a bit different from setting up plastic worms for bass fishing. Wire leaders are needed to prevent cutoffs, of course. And nylon-coated braided wire (20- to 30-pound-test) makes rigging easy because, unlike with single-strand wire, you can tie knots with it. A 12-inch length of wire is adequate for even big pike, and a clinch knot is used to secure it to a worm-style hook, preferably a wide-gap model like a 7/0 Owner, 5/0 Eagle Claw or 5/0 Mustad Ultra Point.
Jellyhoos are generally rigged weedless, Texas-style, just like a plastic worm for bass, but with slight modifications. Because a Jellyhoo is fish-shaped and flat, a hook is positioned so it penetrates a lure through its narrow sides, not through the deep dorsal plastic area. This is done to facilitate a quick, sure hookset.
Another weedless rig with a big soft-plastic is the “Tex-posed” method. This is simply a modification of the Texas rig. Instead of leaving a hook point buried in plastic, push the point through and out of the plastic. Then pin the hook tip just barely back in the lure. This way, few fish are missed at the strike, because the large worm hook already has been worked through the thick plastic. It then takes only a minor hookset to bury the barb, especially if you employ low-stretch braided line.