Minnows will work well for northern pike. Anglers typically use bigger baits for northern pike, but it is possible to catch pike on large fathead minnows or emerald shiner minnows. Golden shiner minnows grow bigger and they work much better for pike, especially through the ice. Most pike anglers prefer to use larger minnows such as Creek chubs, redtail chubs and suckers. These are the minnows you want to use if you want to consistently catch bigger pike.
Creek Chubs & Redtail Chubs work great for northern pike. The smaller chubs, in the 4 to 5 inch range work great on a jighead, carolina rig, drop shot rig or under a bobber. The bigger chubs tend to work better fished on a quick-strike rig because most pike will grab the bait in the middle. If you have one hook running through the mouth of the chub, you’re going to miss a lot of bites with the bigger chubs. The chubs in the 6 to 8 inch range tend to get more bites from northern pike of all sizes, but especially the bigger fish.
Suckers work well for northern pike. Some anglers would argue that suckers are the best live bait for pike, but there are plenty of other anglers that would argue that chubs or perch work better. Whatever your preference, suckers will catch plenty of northern pike. Suckers in the 6 to 8 inch range probably work best for getting the most bites to go along with many bites from trophy-sized fish. We highly recommend a quick-strike rig with the bigger suckers above 8 inches because it will prevent you from hooking northern pike in the back of the throat. By getting a hookset in the mouth, the survival rate of released fish will be much higher.
Golden shiners are great baits for northern pike. These shiners can get big, so you can use the bigger ones for big pike and the smaller shiners for action. Fish them on a jighead or drop shot rig and you will do well.
Smelt work well for northern pike. Most pike anglers dead stick smelt through the ice. Some anglers will jig a dead smelt during the open water season as well, but smelt are usually considered an ice fishing bait for most pike anglers.