Pike Patterns: Blades And Weeds
This blog update comes from longtime writer, editor and communications specialist Lawrence Taylor.
A northern pike is a tubular fuselage of green fury. The coloration's no accident.
It's camouflage, which allows a pike to propel itself from weeds into prey suddenly to surprise, confuse and add weight through momentum. Shock-and-awe, aquatic style. Nothing aids that approach more than a bright, green stand of weeds to creating the smokescreen for a pike ambush.
Myth has it pike lose their teeth in summer, which has no basis in science. But it drives traditional angling pressure, which peaks during spring and fall. That alone could make summer the best time to dust off your pike gear. Pike are less pressured and always hungry until waters warm above 78 degrees F or so, at which point metabolism begins to backtrack.
Between Iowa and central Canada, summer pike display three primary patterns in big water. Some move out over basin areas to track suspended schools of pelagic baitfish. Some move deep to main-lake flats surrounding structure —typically into depths of 40 to 60 feet. But some always remain shallow and within reach of the weekend warrior, haunting the dark shadows of deep weed edges wherever cabbage, coontail, milfoil and other deep-growing weeds thrive.
When the wind blows into a deep weedline for 3 days straight or longer, all three patterns can coalesce into one, big free-for-all and make weedlines the place to be. At other times, after water temperatures climb above 64 degrees or so in spring, anglers need to decide which pattern they want to address in big water. In smaller lakes, pike pretty much stick to weeds. In big water, weeds come first, meaning pike pass through a weed phase before heading out to sea, so you can always find some pike munching at the salad bar.
Blades And Weeds
Location for summer pike on weedlines is fairly easy. Stick with main-lake weedbeds that border or come closest to main channels or sharp drops into the main basin. That eliminates bays, backwaters, most shallow weedbeds and at least 50% of the main lake itself. Look for structurally-diverse areas. Rocky points, reefs, gravel bars or any hard-bottom structure intercepting a healthy weedline can be a prolific spot for big fish.
After locating a deep weedline that meets those criteria, comb it for pockets, points and spots adjacent to the steepest dropoffs. Places where the weeds are healthy and dense attract the most prey and, therefore, the most active pike. Don't be intimidated by dense weedgrowth. Rip a single-hook bait right through the weed tops and pike will come snarling, slashing and tearing into it – sometimes even when the bait has weeds draping from it.
As mentioned, the best presentations have single hooks. And the fastest way to cover a weedbed, of course, is with a spinnerbait. Pike love spinnerbaits, and the spinner arm protects the hook so it can be ripped through cabbage more efficiently than most baits. Even the biggest pike surprise us and get patterned on smaller, single-blade spinnerbaits like the Booyah Single Colorado, but effective sizes range right up through the big Lindy Musky Greats.
Position 20 feet off the edge of the weeds and start by burning spinnerbaits over the top with medium-heavy casting gear. Let the bait flutter into pockets, then accelerate and rip it right through. Let it parachute down the edge and slow roll it back to the boat with a couple direction changes, snaps or twitches. Sudden movements trigger pike.
When pike feed on perch and walleyes, they position closer to bottom at the base of the deep weed edge. Put the trolling motor down, position the boat right on the edge and cast ahead of the boat while the angler in the back pitches over the top. Fishing the base means slow-rolling with a less-resistant bait, like the Booyah Bait Company Double Willow Vibra-FLX (pictured).
Whenever the bait engages weeds, ripping it free can trigger explosive strikes. But it can also send the clip sliding up the arm of the spinnerbait. Either wrap wire around the R-bend (where bass anglers tie directly to the bait) or crimp metal beads to each side of the R-bend to keep the clip on your wire leader from sliding up the arm while casting or ripping weeds. Wire leaders should have heavy-duty, 200-pound or better snaps and swivels. A 12-pound pike can hit a spinnerbait with enough velocity to bend weak clips open. Imagine what a 30 pounder can do. You can tie directly to R-bends with steel or titanium wire, too, but it can still slide. Using spinnerbaits with closed loops or just closing the R-bend works best.
You can use the big 1-ounce Booyah baits too, and even crimp lead to the hook shaft to add more weight. This allows you to burn the bait as fast as you might do with a bucktail spinner. Cast out over the weeds, point the rodtip at the water and use a high-speed reel to sizzle the bait back as fast as the blades will allow. Breaking the surface now and then isn't a no-no in pike fishing. Having the blades "re-engage" as you slow the bait back down is a decidedly effective trigger for pike in the weed tops.
The best spinnerbait retrieves for pike are achieved with the rodtip down. Even when slow-rolling a bait along weed-edges that extend down to 15 feet or deeper, holding the rodtip low: 1. Allows you to keep the bait deeper, 2. Keeps you in a better position to set the hook, and 3. Puts you in the best position to sweep the bait right or left, changing its direction. Sudden changes of direction and speed trigger lots of strikes. It's rare for a steady retrieve to work best in summer, though it does happen.
The best retrieve some days starts with acceleration. Accelerate a slow-rolling spinnerbait, then stop it completely while keeping the line tight. That forces a following pike to make a decision: Turn or eat. Try anything and everything to trigger pike until you hit on the retrieve that drives them out of the weeds to slash, rip, shock and awe.
Lawrence Taylor was a longtime editor of Bassin' magazine who now helps promote Lindy and other Pradco Fishing brands. He'd love to hear from you. Click here to send him an email.
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