As long as treblehooks are allowed on the lake I’m fishing, I use quick-strike rigs on all my tip-ups. A quick-strike rig (below) is built on a steel leader with a treblehook fastened to one end and a barrel swivel on the other end that attaches to the main line. A second treblehook slides up and down the leader. When rigging bait, insert the fixed treblehook into the top of its head and attach the sliding treble just behind the dorsal fin. This way, the bait will sit horizontally and look more natural.
Quick-strike rigs work so well because of the way pike feed. A big northern will grab its prey in the centre of its body and run it through the water to disorient or drown it. That’s why you see the tip-up spool spinning quickly when you get an initial hit—it’s the fish running away with its meal. The pike then stops and swallows the bait head-first so that it slides easily into its gullet.
Since there are hooks in both the middle of the bait and its head, you can hookset as soon as there’s a strike. The pike will either have the dorsal hook in its mouth when running or it will have the front hook in its mouth when it stops running and swallows the bait. The only time you need to be cautious is when the fish stops running and starts turning the bait in its mouth. If you try to set the hook at this point, you could pull the bait away, so always feel for tension on the line before setting the hook.