POINTERS FOR ‘GATORS
Want to do battle with one of the most ferocious fish in fresh water? Let me give you some Pointers.
When most anglers dream about catching mammoth northern pike with heads as big as a Sumo wrestler and bodies three-quarters the length, they think they need to use special gear and monstrous size lures. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. Not only can you whip a four-foot long toothy critter using standard bass fishing gear, but many times it is the best tackle you could employ. Re-read those last dozen words.
“Fully one-third of the giant pike we catch up here,” says Kesagami Lake Lodge manager, Charlie McDonald, “are hooked accidentally while our guests are fishing for walleye. I am talking about pike in excess of 50-inches in length and 30-pounds in weight. Usually, they’re fishing with spinning gear and 1/4-ounce jigs tipped with twister tails.”
McDonald’s words brought a smile to my face, because they confirmed what I’d already researched. Fifteen hundred square mile Kesagami Lake, located in northeastern Ontario’s vast Hudson Bay Lowlands is a wilderness paradise packed with gargantuan fish. Indeed, Kesagami Lake is to northern pike aficionados what Lake Fork is to largemouth bass anglers - minus the hordes of fishermen.
Still, big fish never come easily. Even more so than at Lake Fork, the northern pike angling at Kesagami is managed on a strict catch-and-release basis, so the biggest pike, the meanest moogators, have seen just about every lure and presentation imaginable over the almost quarter-century it takes to grow belligerent.
|JERKBAITS FOR PIKE|
As a result, they can be super selective when it comes to clamping down on something that looks good enough to eat. That is the reason I had brought along an ample supply of Lucky Craft jerkbaits - Pointers, Live Pointers, Slender Pointers, Flashminnows and Staysees. From past experience, I knew these realistic suspending jerkbaits are the perfects baits for luring bone-jarring strikes from giant northern pike.
So, I was feeling smug when guide Dave Reddick pushed us away from the dock and pointed our 20-foot long, outboard-powered freighter canoe toward the distant shoreline. During dinner the night before, I had carefully plotted strategy with Dave, telling him I was prepared to forgo the daily pleasure of catching 40, 50 even 60 or more “nice size pike”, in the hopes of tangling with some giants.
Indeed, I am passionate about wrestling with big toothy critters – especially ‘gators so big they make your knees knock, your mouth water and your arms feel weak. Dave’s eyes lit up when I told him this and I could tell he was equally excited.
“Let’s head across the lake in the morning and down to these bays in the southeast corner,” he said, pointing on the map to a series of slender, several mile long fingers jutting into and out of the shoreline. “The water is shallow and the weeds and reeds are just starting to poke up from the bottom. It is the perfect place to ambush big post spawn pike.”
When we finally arrived, the place looked like pike paradise. The soft peaty shoreline was undercut and slumping banks had caused large black spruce trees to fall into the water creating an underwater maze of woody ambush spots.
There were also miles of floating leatherleaf bushes hugging the shoreline under which big water wolves could hide. And acres of brown stubble from last year’s pencil reeds. Clumps of it were everywhere, sticking up above the waist deep water. The plethora of shallow cover provided an abundance of the vegetation and open water interface that northern pike prefer.
As Reddick kept the boat positioned parallel to the shore and moved slowly down it, I made long casts to the edges of cover alternating between a Lucky Craft Flashminnow 130MR and Pointer 128. These jerkbaits are perfect for shallow water pike fishing because their long profiles match the slender baitfish the big toothy predators are accustomed to eating.
By the way, I was using 7’ 6” medium-heavy and heavy action Shimano Crucial baitcasting rods teamed with Chronarch reels spooled with 17- and 20-pound test Maxima Ultragreen line. I would have been at home with this equipment on any largemouth bass lake in the United States.
|MATCH THE HATCH|
As far as lure colors are concerned, I never leave home without Ghost Shad and Pearl Ayu. They’re pike favorites. But knowing that Kesagami pike dine on whitefish, herring, yellow perch and walleye meant I had added Tennessee Shad, Chartreuse Shad, Shell White, Aurora Green Perch and Black and Gold to the line-up. With these colors, I could match the hatch precisely.
Flashminnows and Pointers are perfect pike medicine for several other reasons. Because of their unique weight transfer systems I could throw them accurately down the long narrow alleys and lanes between the toppled trees and submerged timber. The Flashminnow’s two-foot dive curve was perfect tight to the shore while the Pointer excelled in the slightly deeper water that averaged around five or six feet.
But it was the erratic side-to-side swimming action of the Lucky Craft jerkbaits that drove Kesagami’s pike crazy. Especially when I ripped one of them beside cover and paused the lure to mimic a frightened baitfish that suddenly discovered it had been spotted by a big water wolf and had stopped, frozen in fear.
Many anglers fail to appreciate when they use Lucky Craft jerkbaits – Flashminnows, Live Pointers, Pointers, Slender Pointers, Pointer 78DDs and Staysees – that they have two lures at their disposal. One with which you can attract the fish by the lure’s lively action, and a second with which you can trigger it to strike when you stop it dead in its tracks.
And that is how the pike at Kesagami wanted their dinners served. Without exception, every big fish I caught either crushed the jerkbait during the pause, or ate it the nano-second I starting moving it again.
The same thing happened when Reddick moved me out to the slightly deeper 8- to 10-foot flats at the mouths of the bays. Fresh green cabbage weeds were sprouting up from the bottom and I could easily tick the tops of the vegetation by ripping down a Pointer 100DD. The key with this deeper diving Pointer was to intentionally snag the top of a weed and then pop it free. The tactic gave new meaning to having the rod ripped from your hand.
I only wish I could revisit Kesagami later in the season, when the lush weeds have grown to within a foot of the surface. Then, a Lucky Craft Sammy 128 or Wood Sammy 100 walked across the surface rapidly would produce mind-boggling explosive topwater action.
|RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP|
Still, there was a recurrent thought I couldn’t shake from my mind. It was Charlie McDonald’s musing over dinner the night our float plane had landed at the resort, about the number of camp guests that accidentally hook into the pike-of-a lifetime while fishing for walleyes. It meant some of the biggest northerns were out cruising around the same rocky structures as the walleyes, and likely feasting on them. I kept wondering how those giant ‘gators would react to a deep diving (DD) or medium running (MR) Lucky Craft jerkbait suspended off the tips of their noses.
Unable to wrestle with the suspense any longer, I finally reeled in my line and said to Reddick, “David, where’s the best walleye spot in Kesagami Lake?”
“Off Pickerel Point, “he replied with a smile.
“Well, then, start up that blasted outboard,” I chuckled, “and take me there.”
The conditions were perfect when we arrived at the long bouldery underwater point running off the northern end of the tiny spruce studded island in the middle of the lake. A steady breeze was creating a good chop, waves were piling onto shore and foam lines were swirling around the point.
Wind strongly influences the amount of light penetrating the water and when it blows relatively hard, it increases turbidity, breaks up the surface tension and darkens the water column. Conditions that cause pike to feed ravenously.
On my first cast, I felt the Staysee 90SP bounce off a boulder in about seven feet of water. I paused for a second and felt a thunk! Setting the hook hard, I expected all heck to break loose, but instead, I felt the unmistakable headshake of a what turned out to be a fat, 22-inch, four-pound walleye. A beautiful fish to be sure, but I was looking for something with fins and a mouth full of teeth that would eat it. I didn’t wait long.
Switching over to a Live Pointer 110MR for its enhanced feathered tail and famous screw action, I retrieved the lure using moderate twitches and long pauses. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years chasing big northern pike from the wilds of Canada to places as far away as the Gulf of Sweden, it is that you always want your lure to hover above the fish.
In fact, northern pike are extremely efficient visual predators that are at their best when they can silhouette their prey, swimming high in the water column, against a much lighter background. And the Live Pointer 110MR, with the air pocket in the tail section, suspends horizontally in a more natural fashion than any other jerkbait.
I don’t know how many casts I made, but it wasn’t many, before I paused just a little bit longer than normal and felt my black and gold Live Pointer 110MR being engulfed by a huge northern pike. Once safely in the cradle, the fish measured 46-inches in length and had a head as big as mine and a stomach almost as round. It was a trophy befitting a spectacular lake in a stunning setting, and a series of premium Lucky Craft jerkbaits that cause pike everywhere in the world, to lose all comprehension for reason.
|JERKBAIT AND TOPWATER INSURANCE|
Too many pike anglers are hesitant about using their favorite Lucky Craft lures when they’re fishing for big toothy critters like pike because the fish can easily bite through the strongest braided, monofilament and fluorocarbon lines. And the thick metal leaders that most pike anglers use can dampen and negatively affect the action of their lures. You never have to worry about those things, however, if you use the ultra-thin, invisible, titanium wire leaders made by Stringese Tackle or make your own leaders using the pliable 13- or 20-pound test Surflon Micro Supreme knottable stainless steel wire made by American Fishing Wire. Think of it as your Lucky Craft insurance policy when you’re fishing in pike country.
Article & Photosby Gord Pyzer, Provided byCox Group