A northern pike is a tube of green fury. The coloration is no accident because it enables pike to use summer weed stands as a smokescreen to ambush their prey.
Myth has it that pike lose their teeth in summer, which has no scientific basis. However, it drives traditional angling pressure for pike, which peaks each spring and fall. That leaves summer as a great time to dust off your heavy pike gear when they're less pressured and always hungry until water temperatures creep above 78 or so, at which point metabolism begins to backtrack.
In the upper Midwest, 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 structurer pike on weedlines. Stick with main-lake weed beds that border or are closest to main channels or sharp drops into the main basin. Eliminate bays, backwaters, most shallow weed beds and a majority of the main lake, and look for structurally diverse areas that offer additional ambush points along weed lines such as rocky points, reefs, gravel bars or any hard-bottom structure.
After locating a deep weed line that meets these criteria, comb it for pockets, points and spots adjacent to the steepest drop-offs. Places where the weeds are healthy and dense attract the most prey and, therefore, the most active pike. Don't be intimidated by dense weed growth. Rip a single-hook bait right through the weed tops, and pike will come snarling, slashing and tearing into it, even at times when your bait has weeds draping from it.
The best pike presentations have single hooks, and the fastest way to cover a weed bed 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. Position yourself 20 feet off the weed edge, and start by burning spinnerbaits over the top with medium-heavy casting gear. Let the bait flutter into natural pockets; then, accelerate and rip it right through the weeds. Let it parachute down the edge, and slowly roll it back to the boat with a couple of direction changes, snaps or twitches, which can often trigger pike.
Cast out over the weeds, point the rod tip 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 is completely acceptable when you're pike fishing because 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 rod tip down. Even when slow-rolling a bait along weed edges extending down to 15 feet or deeper, holding the rod tip low allows you to keep the bait deeper, keeps you in a better position to set the hook and positions you to sweep the bait right or left. Sudden changes of direction and speed trigger lots of strikes, as it is rare for a steady retrieve to work best in summer.
Lawrence Taylor is the product manager for PRADCO Outdoor Brands.