With August rapidly approaching, many larger northern pike have retreated to deep water weeds, deeper rock piles, or roam the basin in some cases chasing schools of baitfish. During this time, many anglers put away their northern pike gear because it can be more challenging to catch bigger fish than it is during the spring and fall seasons. However, if you can find the fish, they can be caught. One of my favorite lures to fish large northern pike during late July and throughout August is the Yo-Zuri 3DB Knuckle Bait.
At 1/4, 1/2, and 5/8 oz. the Yo-Zuri 3DB Knuckle Bait can effectively be fished throughout the water column. The 1/4 oz. Knuckle is a perfect choice when fishing in water up to about 10’ above downed wood, right at the edge of weeds that drop into deeper water, or off of long points. The 1/2 oz. and 5/8 oz. Knuckle Baits are a great choice when fishing in water from 10-20’ deep while working the edge of weedlines and sharp drops or humps. The 5/8 oz. Knuckle Bait can also be a great option when pursuing large fish in the 15-25’ range over basins when they are chasing schools of baitfish.
Two of my favorite colors regardless of how deep I am fishing are the Golden Shiner and Tennessee Shad. The Golden Shiner 3DB Knuckle Bait is perfect for tannic or dirty water and the Tennessee Shad is an excellent choice for clear water conditions where the sun is high in the sky. With each pattern, it is recommended to use some kind of trailer. Normally, I go with a 4” or 5” plastic grub that emulates baitfish that are in the system. So, for example, when fishing the Golden Shiner Knuckle Bait, I might choose a grub that has some chartreuse and orange flecks in it because it mimics a bluegill that northern pike will be feeding on in weeds. When using the Tennessee Shad Knuckle Bait, I might go with a pearl or white grub to try for basin fish because these colors look like tullibees that northern pike might be chasing.
Fishing for large northern pike during summer can be daunting at times, but they can still be caught with relative frequency. Throwing the Knuckle as a change-up to patterns used in spring and fall can be a terrific way to keep you on the numbers and good-sized fish.
Rod: Cousins casting rod (SSW 79M-T) 7’9, 12-20 lb, extra fast tip; and Lamiglas Mark Wilson Striper Trolling rod (XCC 795) 7’9, 12-25 lb.
Reel: Diawa reel with a line counter when fishing with multiple people this helps coordinate each others distances behind the boat.
Fishing Line and Hardware: Yo-Zuri TopKnot Mainline fluorocarbon in 20lb test with a Owner 79 lb Hyper Crosslock Snap (a snap-swivel will rob the lure of its action)
Lures: Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow 5 1/4″ in bone white, pink, chartreuse, blue, and others. This lure has a very tight fast wiggle and dives a few feet deeper than the Yo-Zuri Hydro Minnow LC. The Hydro LC is just as effective as the Crystal Minnow, however I use the Hydro LC when trolling in shallower water because it dives from 3-6 feet deep depending on how far behind the boat you are trolling it (130 ft versus 200 ft.) The Hydro LC also has a larger profile than the Crystal Minnow; I like to downsize the lure when the bite is tough. In the Crystal Minnow I prefer the colors: Bone, Florescent Pink, and Chartreuse. The Hydro Minnow LC I always have the best luck on Bone or Purple Black.
Fishing Technique/Application: Water in the river ranges from 48 degrees (winter/early spring) to 62 degrees (summer/fall, or further downriver). When I am fishing all of the above listed lures, I am trolling them upriver or downriver at speeds ranging from 2.5-3.5 mph, with my lure approximately 120-200 ft behind the boat depending on the depth of the hole I am trolling. Depending on what depth in the water column I am trying to fish, I will let out less line (i.e. 120 feet) to achieve a shallower depth, and more line (i.e. 200 feet) to achieve a deeper depth. Remember, you can also fish shallower or deeper in the water column by changing from the Crystal Minnow to the Hydro Minnow to the LC Minnow.
Another cool tip to note; to trigger reaction bites is to make the lures swim up or down in the water column by increasing or decreasing your troll speed. When using any floating lure, you can get it to swim down (or dive) by increasing your speed, and also get it to swim up by slowing down your troll speed. Sometimes doing this or trolling in a Z-pattern can trigger bites!!!