Once water temperature maxes out in late summer, targeting suspended fish with trolling techniques will up your average size almost immediately. On inland lakes has proven to be a #1 pattern for big pike during the dog days of summer. Pike near the upper reaches of the thermocline are un-pressured, well-fed and usually easy to locate with your sonar. Running baits from eighteen to thirty feet down over forty to one hundred feet of water is pretty common. In-line keel weights from 5/8 oz. to 1oz, Dipsey Divers and even downriggers can be used to deliver a range of plugs, spoons or baited spinner rigs. Small baits like #9 Rapala Shad Raps or Spoonbill Rebels can sometimes be just as effective as larger baits, like Cisco Kidds, Jakes or magnum spoons like Eppinger’s Husky Devil. Many of the crank baits you already use for pike can be flatline trolled deep enough all on their own. Dropping down to sixty five or even fifty pound test super braid will help small to medium sized deep divers dig deep. You won’t be making any bottom contact fishing these open water areas, so the lighter line isn’t going to be a problem. Straight and Jointed eight inch Depth Raiders are one of the best lures for running down fifteen to twenty feet on a long line. Of course, line counter reels make this whole procedure easier. Try a Daiwa Sealine. The little LCA27’s work great for open water pike. At three miles an hour, about 110 feet of fifty pound Power pro will but a straight Depth Raider down about nineteen feet.
Speed and depth are the two most important factors. Once you get these wrinkles down pat, you can really start seeing patterns and exploiting them. You might need to crawl along at 2 mph with small baits on weighted lines to fish deep in the water column sometimes. Other times, powering through areas at two or even three times that speed with baits pounding high and fast over top of the fish will do it. If you’re seeing big clouds of insects, baitfish or game fish on your sonar over deep water late in the summer, try trolling them. Evenings have proven to be one of the most effective times to try this, and if what you’re marking is close to big, prominent structures, you’ve really got an area to work! As always, punch up icons on your plotter whenever you see good action on the graph, and definitely after you get a strike. Jointed Legend Perch baits are a great bait for powering over deeper fish late in the summer. They will handle speeds in excess of six miles an hour and their violent action and durability are very good.
Trolling really comes into its own once fall sets in and the water begins to cool off and the thermal zones within the lake start to break apart. Just like in early summer, pike can be ‘shallow, near deep’ once again. One misconception is that weeds all die in the fall, and that dead or dying weeds repel fish. Both are completely untrue. Some of best weeds to fish on a lake are the weeds that never die! They get a constant flush of high-quality water due to their location. They’re on big spots near sections of open water and there’s always natural and wind-induced current to keep the water becoming stagnant or too warm. If you can find spots like this where you fish, please, fish them hard this fall! Some of the growth around the edges or the smaller clumps/fingers will die back, but the main bodies last all year.
These are great weeds to troll. Staying just outside with a large, steep-diving crank bait takes time to learn how to do, but is very effective on big fish.
Legend Perch Baits
and other crankbaits all get down fast and you won’t need much line out. This is a real key for trolling tight to fall structure.
In rough, cooling water in September and October, trolling becomes one of your best and safest options. Plot out spots, and attack areas from different depths, speeds and angles. If edges or open water trolling passes don’t work, then make at least a couple ‘suicide runs’ for instance; take your boat and drive baits right over the thickest weeds, shallowest parts of the rock or right up the gut of the spot. You’ll either get snagged/fouled or nail a fish. By mid to late October, some weeds will have their leaves blown off and all that’s left are long, skinny stalks. These are easy to fish through and don’t think for a second that fish have left a spot simply because the weeds are beat up. Good spots are good spots for more than one reason (remember the ‘sum of their parts’ idea?) and in fall, focusing on a handful of good, big areas or spots that you know intimately is the best approach.
Deep structure requires the same level of familiarity to fish. Grinding bottom over flats or deep-topping ledges, shoals or extensions off islands with crank baits is a favorite trolling technique. Use trolling outfits rigged with twenty to forty pound solid wire to stay deep at low speeds, typically between 2 and 4 mph. Pike will tuck into any kind of ambush points they can on these spots, or will sometimes be out on patrol, actively moving. Ten Inch Hookers, Legend Plows and a selection of hand-made crank baits get deep, give off great vibration and are almost totally snag-proof. Their big lips, high buoyancy and the steep dive angle created by the wire line makes for an efficient package. For staying on bottom from twenty to forty feet deep, this type of set-up is the only way to go. Generally, the rougher the bottom, the slower the troll.
And that’s about it. Pike, no matter what size, are an awesome fish to target, fight and in Wawang Lake – released. Northern Pike over forty inches are every bit as special as a fifty inch muskie. In my opinion, given their depth and water quality needs, they’re even harder for lakes to produce but we’re proud to say that Wawang Lake holds many of these trophy sized fish. Carrying a good camera, large net with quality mesh (look at the ones sold by Beckman and Frabil) and a simple set of hook-removing tools will make sure that big ones are handled fast and released in good shape. For smaller hooks and split rings, a heavy pair of side cutters works. For heavier tackle, Knipex makes some great tools for cutting hooks and getting fish free quickly. Learn a manageable selection of good spots on a good pike fishery or two, and apply some basic techniques, learning as much as you can every time you’re out.
Follow the fish around through the seasons and you’ll learn to catch ‘em with ease.
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