The Pikie has been around more than 100 years and is still evolving and catching fish.
Creek Chub Bait Company introduced and patented both the Pikie and its lip in 1920. On the East Coast, except for a few New York garage builders, Creek Chub pretty much cornered the market – which was quite small in comparison to other saltwater plugs.
When I started surf fishing in 1981, virtually no one was fishing Pikies. The prominent bait was bunker, and the go-to plugs were the larger darters, casting swimmers, Atoms and Dannys. Interestingly, it was just the opposite for West Coast striper fishermen who, given limited access to East Coast plugs, focused on the Pikie.
Creek Chub Pikies were wooden and chin-weighted with a small, reinforced lip which allowed it to swim well on the surface in calm water. With the exception of Creek Chub’s 11-inch jointed giant version which caught a lot of big fish, this construction made the Pikie less desirable than other plugs on the market. The reinforced lip made it almost impossible to adjust the lip to an appropriate angle for one’s desired swimming action based on conditions, and its chin weighting made it less stable in big water.
When fished on the surface in calm conditions – with the nose dug in, and that classic tail wag paired with its signature side-to-side and roll – nothing swam like a Pikie! Fished at night on the surface in a boulder field, the strikes could be heart-stopping. But with big waves or adverse weather, well, you might as well just put your Pikie away; it would roll over and kick out in a big swell.
Not so today. Modern-day Pikies have the same or better surface swimming action as the original Creek Chub’s – but now display tremendous versatility in a variety of water conditions. Its evolution has been fascinating.
Creek Chub closed its doors in 1978, cutting off the main supply of Pikies. The only commercial Pikie still being made was plastic – and it was a far cry from its wooden predecessor. I began making Pikies in 2004. From a plugmaker’s perspective, I chose Pikies because they were little known, tough to come by and I thought the Z-lip had untold potential. Plus, I found that I could make outsized Pikies that would still swim effectively.
More importantly, from a fishing perspective, the Pikie profile is more fishlike than any of the other metal lips. And, with a move to belly weighting (not the traditional chin weighting) and a custom Z-lip, you can now successfully fish that same Pikie in calm waters and big waves and at all depths.
If you prefer to fish your Pikie in a more traditional way, many of today’s builders use a Z-lip on their plugs which is bent down to 45 degrees. This ensures plenty of action, keeping the plug swimming on or near the surface. Alternatively, diving Pikies use the digging power of the Z-lip combined with a denser wood and additional weighting that takes you from floating at rest to depths up to 15-plus feet in any weather conditions. Instead of rolling over and kicking out, you can swim a diving Pikie down under those big waves and continue with your retrieve.
Finally, for fishermen who like to catch big, today’s Pikies tend to be on the bigger side, 7 to 10 inches. Even outsized plugs (the larger of these plugs (8 to 12 inches, or more) suffer no loss in fishability or effectiveness.
Pikies also allow you to easily personalize/optimize your swimming action. Even though the stock swimming action of a Pikie best mimics a wounded or otherwise impaired baitfish, you don’t have to, and should not rely on a cast-out-and-reel-back retrieve. It’s more effective if you break up a straight retrieve action by stopping, speeding up, swimming down or jerking sharply – anything to tease that striper into striking.
It’s also good to sweeten your Pikie with a scented gel. I religiously use the Bunker/Menhaden Lunker Lotion from Atlas Mike’s (no I don’t have stock in it). There are other scents out there, but this gel stays on the plug longer.
The Pikie is gaining popularity among surfcasters because of its extreme versatility and its ability to catch bigger fish. There is also the “wooden” factor that contributes to plugs of great charisma, beauty and durability. Currently, the main source of these plugs is still garage builders, but there are more of them now than back in the in Creek Chub days. Personally, I have fished only Pikies since 2004 when I started making them. I don’t recommend anything this extreme for others, but if you are not carrying at least one Pikie in your surf bag you are missing out!