During the transition period focus on the general areas that held fish a month or more earlier. Only now, look for spots that are adjacent to deep water. One of the golden rules in summer is that good spots are a sum of their combined parts.
If you can find areas with mixed rock, some budding weed growth and some deeper water nearby, you can usually start finding good quality fish. The mistake people make a lot is hanging around those shallow, flat spots too long. Early in the year, pike will be in six to ten feet of water for hundreds of yards in all directions. But by early July and into August, the depth requirement changes. Pike can still be comfortable in six or eight feet of water, as long as it can be off in a thirty feet drop with a few tail kicks. You will find quality pike when casting early to mid-summer near the high spots on the shoals or points in water fifteen to thirty feet deep. The pike are still ‘shallow,’ they’re just much more associated with ‘deep.’ The same types of areas always produce. They’re usually large in overall area, close to deep water, and have a great mixture of cover (broken rock, cabbage or coon tail weeds) and depth levels. This is a well-worn cliché from magazines and television. And it’s one of those rare occasions that happens to be 100% true.
This time of the year, and on these types of spots, pike have the option of tucking along the sharpest part(s) of the spot, suspending/travelling out away from it, or sulking on the bottom nearby. The location of the fish sounds pretty vague, but you must check all three zones. Casting and trolling are both effective. Medium to large-sized spinners and spinner baits catch a lot of fish. Spinner baits are one of the most popular lures for pike. They’re great over rocks, through weed, dropped vertically or bumped along the bottom in deep water. You can check multiple zones on a spot with one lure, even within the same cast.
Esox Research’s Grinder
Fudally’s Hawg Spins
Grimm Reapers and
all catch pike. You can burn them fast, plowing through weeds, you can troll them, or you can crawl them along almost like a jig. With spinner baits either let it hit the bottom before the retrieve or at least once before it gets back to the boat. This is one of those things that’s easy to forget but produces fish! Spinner baits are probably the best-hooking lures out there, and very easy on the big fish you’re releasing. As the weeds get heavier and heavier and the water warms up, they tick the deep side of heavy cover and work out into open water. Heavy ones, from three to five ounces, with smaller blades and thinner skirts are great for rolling deeper. Typically, any muskie gear is the way to go, using braided line from sixty five to one hundred pound test and a heavy wire or fluoro leader on a good reel and long, heavy action rod. St.Croix’s 8’6 Premier and 8’6 Slingblade models are some of the finest rods used for casting spinners.
The smaller jerk baits that worked all spring will still work, use larger baits this time of year for their casting distance, diving ability and overall target appeal. A range of dive/rise, twitch and cranking baits all work.
10” weighted Suicks
Bobbie Baits and
Musky Mayhem’s Big Daddy
are what is classify as garden variety, ‘wooden jerkbaits.’
For the most part, they dive straight down when you reel/sweep them forward and either hang or rise slowly. Big Daddies and Wades run pretty deep and can call big pike up from ten or fifteen feet below them. Even with jerk baits that come weighted from the factory simply add a small bell sinker to the front split ring and add heavy wire hooks like Mustad’s 3x. As long as the bait isn’t sinking, it’s weighted right. All should run very deep and suspend when they stop. Sometimes in heavier weeds and over rocks, more buoyant jerk baits are better for picking through without hanging up. Baits that dive and rise can be awesome any time of the year. That melodic, prodding action is a natural fish magnet.
Glider-style jerk baits have been very popular with fishermen for some time now, and their action and running depth fits with summer pike very well too. Most of these lures sink, and they range in action from left to right (or ‘walking the dog’) to up and down, to all over the place!
Baits like Esox Research’s Hellhound flutter down almost like a spoon when you stop them and will walk the dog as well as pop upwards and downwards.
Ten inch Manta Hang Tens are another good glider. They can be made to run deep and are easy to get in a rhythm with. Pike will miss these things just as they do erratic, walking surface lures, but there is no arguing their appeal to the fish. Pike will hit gliders when other baits aren’t working. As a bit of a side note, the same is true about walk the dog surface lures like
Magnum Zara Spooks
Hooking percentage definitely falls off, but this type of action simply fascinates pike.
Magnum, unweighted Bulldawgs are another great one for working deeper. They’re hard to fish wrong and are the #1 bait for quality pike in the cold and nasty weather. Sharpen the hooks and give them a try. They’re deadly. Don’t think twice about casting the Magnum version. With the tail extended these lures are well over a foot long. Pike of all sizes will fold them up like a hot dog bun and gulp them down.
The key with all these baits is that they get down and stay down, move enticingly, and closely replicate the size and shape of what pike are usually eating this time of year, namely small walleye, suckers, whitefish, lake herring and pan fish. The more you use them the confidence you will gain.
Baits like Esox Research Co.’s Double and Triple D are basically like a Husky Jerk on steroids, and pike smash these things too. Cranking them down and jerk-reel-pausing is really as complicated as it needs to be. Musky Innovation’s Shallow Invader works much the same. It’s a bait that catches big pike and it has earned a regular spot in the boat for about the last two seasons. We do more and more fishing with rubber-tailed plugs every season and they flat-out produce. Standard crankbaits like ten inch Maina-Drifter Jakes, nine inch Grandmas, Bucher Depth Raiders and Rapala Super Shad Raps are also good lures for working deeper spots casting and trolling. Nine inch Grandmas have heavy thump, no rattles and they run and suspend very deep. They’re a real sleeper bait for big pike all season. We fish all these types of crank baits and jerk baits on eight to nine foot rods. They cast further and absorb most to the workload from all the ripping and jerking. Making long casts around the edges of good structure with a deep diving crank bait or twitcher is a simple and effective way to catch some nice fish.
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