My buddy pushed his thumb down hard on the bait-cast spool to put
the brakes on the hard-driving fish. It worked, and he managed to
turn the toothy end of the aqua missile back toward the boat.
the jack wasn't buying that nonsense, and instead of surrendering,
he nosed down and took drag and nearly my pal's fishing rod down
to the depths beneath the boat. Then he came up, fast, and broke the
surface in an angry jump landing with a whomp-splash.
A series of boat-side runs kept the fight plenty interesting,
until the last one sent the pike shooting into the open end of a
ready net. The battle was over. Both fish and fisherman were spent
from the episode. One was smiling.
That fisherman was a good friend of mine who has shared many the
hour with me in a boat, fishing various haunts in North America. On
that particular trip, we were on a fairly small lake in
north-central Ontario, Canada. It was late autumn and the pike were
hungry for big meals. They get that way before winter eagerly
gorging on large forage to prepare for winter and the upcoming spawn
in the springtime.
We had tried several different lures on that trip, but the ones
that outperformed the rest were good ol spoons big 5- to
6-inchers to match the profile and flash of jumbo forage. We started
out by trolling them to cover a lot of water fast and to find the
depth and bottom type the fish were relating to.
It didn't take long to realize that the pike were positioning
themselves on windswept points and in the saddles between islands.
There is no shortage of islands in Ontario, believe me! So we were
like kids in a candy store going from point to saddle to point to
saddle. Nearly every location held at least one fish. And some of
them were whoppers!
[to top of second column]
After identifying these likely spots, we opted to cast our spoons
(versus trolling) and really pinpoint key features on the spots
like big boulders, visible weeds, deadfalls and other structure.
When swimming those spoons past structure that looked "fishy," we
paused the spoon and then pulsed it to mix up the retrieve a bit.
Pike seem to get a kick out of walloping something that's either
wounded or fleeing for its life. They're pretty ruthless that way.
So when you pause-pulse a spoon in front of an otherwise negative
northern pike, it often triggers that predator into action.
Another retrieve that worked that day was one that nearly
simulates a surface bait. Immediately after the spoon hits the
water, raise your rod tip up to 10 o'clock to keep the nose of the
spoon up, then crank pretty fast. The spoon will rise, and with the
right speed, swim just below the surface. Every once in awhile, give
the rod tip a twitch and let the spoon break water. It can be really
effective, and when you do get a bite, it's a visual thrill.
We spent that day catching and releasing countless
fierce-fighting gators. Oh, man, was it fun! My pal's 45-incher was
the biggest. Two others over 40 inches were landed, along with
plenty in the mid- to upper 30s. Two 3-pounders found their way into
Back at the Ontario resort, we filleted and deboned the two pike,
grilled them and ate them alongside some wild rice, fried potatoes
and sweet corn. There are meals you remember, my friends, and that
was one of them. You might say, it was a dinner we were spoon-fed.
[By BABE WINKELMAN]
Babe Winkelman hosts "Good Fishing" and
"Outdoor Secrets," the most-watched fishing and hunting programs on
television. Tune in on NBC Sports Network, Destination America,
Velocity, Time Warner Sports Texas & New York, and many local
broadcast channels. Visit
Winkelman.com for airtimes and more information. Follow
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