Pike are a bit mean but great fun to catch. They eat just about anything, but the hook set can be complicated, which is why they require specific gear like a sensitive slower-action rod.
Read on to discover everything about northern pike rod and reel sets and their market.
Why Northern Pike Require a Quality Rod & Reel Combo
Northern pike have hard noses and a long face shape, so lures and bait have to travel further into the fish.
Anglers have to wait a second after the initial attack for the fish to turn to effectively set the hook, and that means a rod has to be light enough not to tip off the pike. Reels will need a high line capacity to afford the pike more space to swim without alerting it.
Considerations for Buying a Northern Pike Fishing Combo
Casting vs. Spinning
Casting reels usually have less line capacity, although they are generally thought to be easier to use. Larger targets will likely call for a baitcasting reel, which is often the smaller size between the two. If you're a seasoned angler or plan on being one eventually, you'll need to learn how to use a baitcaster sometime, and northern pike are as good a reason as any.
Longer rods make casting the curly-tailed soft baits, jerkbaits, and flys that get pike long distances with less effort. Shorter rods will work well with finesse lures, and they make the struggle against a pike more challenging, which can up the excitement factor. Longer rods can also handle heavier line, so a rod around seven feet long or longer will be best.
Tons of northern pike anglers fish from the shore. Inshore northern pike fishing is also popular, along with northern pike ice fishing and fly fishing for northern pike. Of course, fishing off a boat is common too. They prefer 60°F water, but in colder weather, they’ll be near sharp dropoffs in deep water. Pike spawn earlier in the year in areas with lots of green vegetation, preferably about 6 to 8 feet deep. In more compact lakes, it might behoove you to take a float tube out fishing for northern pike.
Reels are built of many things, but aluminum and graphite are the most common. Most anglers treasure machined aluminum reels as the best and most durable. Often, though, only the spool itself will be made of machined aluminum. The outside can be made of graphite or even plastic. If the reel is graphite, single-piece construction will be more sturdy. Die-cast aluminum is weaker than graphite, so make sure to find machined aluminum if you can.
Drag systems can be in the front or rear of a reel, and some reels have both. Front drag is hard to adjust in the middle of a fish fight, but it's relatively rare to have to do so anyway. Front drag systems usually have larger washers behind them, which enhances their smoothness. Rear drag is easier to access, so a pike spinning rod and reel combo geared toward beginners usually has it in the rear.
Line Capacity & Gear Ratio
Northern pike like to go on runs, so the more line you have on your spool, the more successful you’re likely to be. For larger pike, 20-pound test will be optimal, so make sure your reel can hold enough of it. Gear ratio describes how much line comes back on the spool in one crank of the handle. Slower gear ratios are better for larger lures and trolling, while faster ones are better for moving lures like jerkbaits, swimmers, blades, and spoons quickly through the water column.
The gears and moving parts inside a fishing reel are bolstered by ball bearings that help them move smoothly without grating on one another. More ball bearings can mean a smoother reel operation, but the more important factor is the quality of the bearings.
Stainless steel is the most common material, but fancier models have ceramic bearings in them. To keep debris from getting in and jamming things up, ball bearings are shielded. Additional protection is afforded to double-shielded ball bearings, which are the most preferable in a reel.
Extra Reel Features
Reels can have different spool sizes, which dictates how much line they can hold and usually affects their retrieval rate. The handle of the reel can be enlarged or have modified shapes that give them more torque. Brake systems prevent the line from being completely loose in free-spool, which can help control casting and prevent backlash in baitcasting reels.
Low-profile reels take up less space and are more comfortable to use for long periods. Round reels hold more line and have more stopping power. While reels can be left- or right-handed, some have handles that can be placed on either side.
Extra Rod Features
Anglers tend to fixate on the action of a rod, which describes how it bends when you have a fish on. Northern pike calls for a more flexible rod, possibly a moderate action. Materials used in rods include durable fiberglass, lightweight graphite, and carbon fiber. Cork grips and EVA foam are the most comfortable rod handles. A split grip is best for a spinning reel, and a pistol-grip handle gives more leverage on a baitcasting rod.
5 Best Northern Pike Rod & Reel Combos Reviewed
1. Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2
Our Top Pick
4’8”, 6’0”, 6’6”, 7’0”
2 - 6 Lbs.
Fast, moderate, moderate-fast
Ultralight, medium, medium-heavy
7-year Limited Rod
1-year Limited Reel
The GX2 is a dependable rod no matter what the target species is, but it’s the best rod and reel combo for northern pike fishing because it has the backbone to set the hook right, the flexibility to bend without breaking, and the line capacity to dole out enough braid or fluoro when a pike goes on a run.
Perfectly rated to handle the 6-pound test that’s so ideal for catching pike, the GX2 rod is renowned for its flexibility and durability.
Combined fiberglass and graphite construction gives it the strength of glass and the lightness of graphite, while one-piece line guides maintain their shape and don’t fall out.
Whether you’re throwing frogs and heavy lures or trying to pull pike with microbaits and flys, Ugly Stik has the length you need.
Smooth reeling is guaranteed thanks to the three ball bearings in this reel, and the larger sizes have an extra bearing built-in.
The 5.2:1 gear ratio is slow, but that makes it optimal for large lures, and slow-trolling like you might do for pike in winter and early spring. The GX2 has a retrieval rate that's just fine for spinners and spoons. The machined-aluminum spool can really take a beating.
Pair the GX2 with a mono leader and a sharp hook, and you'll revel in the success of the best pike rod and reel combo on the market.
Check out our YouTube video which reviews this top fishing combo plus the next two picks for Northern Pike fishing!
2. PENN Squall Level Wind
Best Baitcasting Rod and Reel for Northern Pike
20 - 30 Lbs.
This powerhouse pike fishing combo is unbelievably strong and effective at stopping pike in their tracks and getting them out of the water. Anglers chasing trophy pike or trolling off the side of a boat will find it incredibly useful.
Constructed with a fiberglass blank, it seems safe to say that this rod will just never break. Designed to hold heavier lines and packing enough power to haul in larger targets, it also has the perfect action for northern pike fishing.
It's stiff, but it will bend enough for a pike to bite without catching on until it's too late. At that point, the fast action in the rod tip will help you set the hook right where you want it.
It may only have three ball bearings, but the operation in this reel is still smooth. It’s also just as tough as the rod and has up to 15 pounds of drag, which may seem a tad low, but it can hold a whopping 320 yards of 15-pound mono test so you can let that pike swim a little to tire it out.
The ratio is only a 4.9:1, but a retrieval rate of 28" per turn will still get your lure back to you as fast as you want it.
3. Abu Garcia Black Max
Longest Baitcasting Combo for Northern Pike
8 - 15 Lbs.
3-year Limited Rod
1-year Limited Reel
Look no further than the Black Max for a pike rod and reel set that can send a pike lure sailing long distances more efficiently. It will give the angler good leverage over the fish and hold up to their sudden attacks very well.
Graphite blanks make this Abu Garcia pike rod flexible and more lightweight than many competitors’ rods. The EVA foam handle is comfortable, which makes it a cinch to use for long periods.
A recessed reel foot gives more power to the reel if a pike suddenly attacks the lure. Anglers who love fast-tip action will enjoy this rod very much. Casting lures a long distance is easy with this rod, making it ideal for shooting crankbaits into vegetation without tipping off the pike.
Fashioned into a single-piece frame, the graphite used in the frame makes the Black Max reel durable. It's a low-profile reel that works well for northern pike fishing. It holds 145 yards of 12-pound test, which is plenty for northern pike fishing, and it has a 6.4:1 gear ratio, a bit faster than other reels.
Plus, it has five ball bearings where competing models often have fewer, making it one of the smoothest northern pike reels around. It has 15 pounds of drag, which is pretty standard for pike fishing reels.
4. Pflueger President
Light Northern Pike Spinning Combo
5’0”, 5’6”, 6’0”, 6’6”, 7’0”
2 - 6 Lbs.
There’s nothing better than this Pflueger President combo if you’re going fly fishing for northern pike. Finesse lures and techniques can be tons of fun with hard fighters like pike, and this combo is just about perfect for the task.
In addition to being a great caster and flexing well, this rod also gives the angler a lot of sensitivity, which can be handy when fishing for pike provided the angler is patient enough not to react to the bite instantly, which can lead to a bad hook set.
The combination of ultralight action and medium power gives great snapping action to this rod. Additional design features that make it easy on the user include a cork handle, which is split for better hand position, and a hook keeper to keep the line in order.
Adding to the overall light impression of this combo are the 7 ball bearings that give the 20-size reel its super-smooth operation. It can also hold 200 yards of 2-pound test, much more than you might expect from a lighter combo.
Spool up to 180 yards of 4-pound braided test on this reel when you want to move the bait faster. The drag system is sealed to prevent corrosion in saltwater, but don't expect the 6-pound drag to stop any big fish all on its own.
Best Value for the Money
6’0”, 7’0”, 8’0”, 9’0”
6 - 12 Lbs.
Designed to maximize portability and the vest value for the money, there's hardly a better starting rod for northern pike fishing.
It's versatile enough to use for bass and other sport fishing targets, too, which makes it the best for beginners who don’t want to make a huge investment in their gear yet.
The durability of the collapsible rod might surprise you. It has a blank that’s made from carbon fiber and fiberglass to be both lightweight and sensitive, plus it’s far and away the most portable rod you’re liable to find.
Pike and bass both fall victim to the strong power and fast action, which can set the hook just as efficiently as any standard rod. There's enough sensitivity to feel bites, although you may miss some lighter nibbles if you aren't keeping a good eye on your line.
This reel has an aluminum spool that holds plenty of mono line and is certainly up for the task of northern pike fishing.
It might fool you into thinking it’s cheap or fragile because of the plastic body casing, but all the important parts are built from high-quality materials and should last long enough to make the purchase worthwhile. The 5.2:1 ratio on this reel is great for slow-moving lures.
A Quick Guide to Northern Pike Fish
Male northern pike grow to be around 8 pounds while females can be 30 or 40 pounds. They have exceptional eyesight and see all shades of color.
Pike are predators and eat almost anything, but they will also eat dead things, so creature bait and frogging enthusiasts both have something to love about northern pike fishing. In places like Pend d’Oreille, northern pike feed primarily on whitefish.
Tips on How to Fish for Northern Pike
The most important part of northern pike fishing is the hook set. Let the fish take the bait, swallow it, and then turn. Rip the rod at that point to set the hook. Otherwise, you risk hooking through the nose or losing the fish altogether.
If you don’t know how to fish for northern pike, it's not much different than bass fishing. Knowing where to fish for northern pike is half the battle. In the summertime, shallow in the morning, go to deep water in the afternoon and return to the shallows later on. Do the opposite in winter.
Recommended Northern Pike Lures & Baits
Try to use lures that will pretty much set the hook themselves for the greatest success with northern pike. Swimbaits are great to scope out a new area if you don’t have electronics with you.
Hard and soft jerkbaits are great for finesse tactics and for ripping out of vegetation if you’re power fishing. Live bait like minnows, suckerfish, and whitefish, or anything scented that way, work very well.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
What is the best fishing line for northern pike fishing?
A 20-pound braid with a fluoro leader is going to give the most strength. It’s also lighter and will sit on the water without being discovered. If you aren’t using a leader, you can also use all fluoro. Mono will work but will be less successful most of the time.
What about the best fishing pole for northern pike?
To get just the right amount of sensitivity, flexibility, and power, there’s nothing that beats the Ugly Stik GX2 spinning rod.
What about the best fishing reel for northern pike?
For its durability and massive line capacity, the PENN Squall Levelwind reel is the best for serious northern pike fishing. The GX2 is a fantastic reel too, but it’s unfortunately not sold as a standalone item.
Can I pickle northern pike fish?
Yes! Follow these steps:
- 1Boil 4 cups of water and dissolve salt in it. Let it cool to below room temperature.
- 2Add pieces of fileted pike until they’re submerged and refrigerate overnight.
- 3Boil sugar, vinegar, and a cup of water with allspice, mustard seed, and black peppercorns. Let it steep and cool after boiling.
- 4Layer the pike in a glass jar with bay leaves, lemon peel, and red onion. Pour in the liquid from step 3 and leave it for a week to ten days. Enjoy!
How do I clean and store my pike fishing rod?
Use soap and hot water, and make sure it's good and dry. Wipe it down with polish or wax to keep it in perfect shape. Pro-tip: use a cotton ball to find scratches you might not see at first glance.
Will any rod and reel combo do the job with these fish?
A skilled angler can probably use anything to reel in a northern pike. However, to have a true advantage and catch them in high numbers, and especially if you want to catch a sizable pike, you’ll need a rod that’s sensitive enough and flexible enough to get the right hook set and a reel that can hold enough line to let them hang themselves, so to speak.
If you want a fun and exciting target, northern pike are just the thing. Get a rod with moderate action and enough power in the blank, like the Shakespeare GX2, the best rod and reel combo for northern pike fishing, and you'll be reeling them in soon.