WILTZ: Hoping a fishing magazine callsLike all of you, I have my dreams. In one of them, the In-Fisherman magazine people call me about a fishing technique they read about in my column.
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
Like all of you, I have my dreams. In one of them, the In-Fisherman magazine people call me about a fishing technique they read about in my column. They want to feature it in their publication. This will be my stepping stone to the big time. Today’s column just might feature a technique that could make my dream come true, and I’ll be interested in seeing if any fishing magazines give me a call.
The northern pike topic is unseasonable right now, but ice out on our Francis Case Reservoir is not far away. With the good population of big pike we currently have, filing what I’m about to tell you into the back of your brain may pay big dividends this coming summer. I’m afraid it won’t last as spawning conditions, in my opinion, are not right for the pike on Francis Case. They need flooded grass, and last summer’s drought didn’t produce much in the way of grassy lakeside meadows.
In my 40 years of writing this column, I don’t know that I’ve ever said that I was pretty darn good at something. If I were to pick an area of the outdoor scene where I might be above the average angler, I’d put bass and pike fishing at the top of my meager list.
On my South Dakota home waters, the big largemouth bass that roam our many prairie lakes and stock dams can often be fooled early or late in the day on still water. I like to tie an artificial floating minnow such as a Rapala directly to the end of my line. I don’t need a leader as bass don’t have teeth. I prefer silver and black or silver and blue, and I lean toward the 4-1/4-inch body with three treble hooks.
After quietly and carefully inching my way to the bank so my footfalls don’t betray my presence, I choose a target, perhaps a spot where I’ve already seen a bass engulf some hapless critter. I then cast it out and wait until the surface splash rings disappear. Now a slight twitch will often trigger an explosion! If it doesn’t, I work the lure back in a series of jerks where I allow the lure to surface. Periodically, I’ll pause until the rings again disappear. I’m trying to imitate a wounded baitfish … a free lunch. Very Important — Don’t allow the line to “break” the water in front of the lure!
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It was June 1985, and the early evening water on Lake Besnard’s Banana Bay was dead calm. The Saskatchewan provincial campground on the 30-mile lake was closer to the south end, and the northward trip in a small boat to Banana Bay, a known haven for big pike, took about 90 minutes. The pike showed zero interest in anything dad and I threw at them. At this point I thought about the bass fishing technique described above. Might it also work on behemoth pike?
I snapped a floating Rapala onto my steel leader. While I realized my success on bass came without a leader, I knew the toothy pike would shear off a lure tied directly to my line. Though I worked my bassin’ technique as skillfully as I could, the pike would have none of it. It occurred to me that if bass didn’t like a leader hanging down in front of the lure, the same might be true of pike. I’d pay the price of a lure to find out.
After cutting the leader off of my line, I tied the lure directly to my 10-pound test monofilament. Now, the cast … the wait … the twitch. A violent swirl consumed my lure, and then my line was limp. I quickly tied a cheaper floater imitation to my line and made another cast. This time the pike must have hit the lure on the side of his jaw, for the line held. Minutes later, I released a 15 pound pike.
The action continued until we ran out of lures that we were willing to offer the pike gods … a small price to pay for a half dozen 10- to 18-pound northern pike. Years later the advent of braided products like Fireline offered new hope, but I soon learned that the braided stuff was more vulnerable than the mono.
During spring 2011, I began using fluorocarbon line on our South Dakota Missouri River walleyes. Like most of the local anglers, I tied minnow-tipped jigs directly to the end of my line. At this same time I was also using tube jigs tied directly to my fluorocarbon for smallmouth bass and walleyes. Even though I was only using six-pound test line, I began to notice that the occasional northern pike were not shearing off jigs with the same regularity they did when I used traditional monofilament. Would fluorocarbon leaders work on those big Canadian pike?
In June 2012, I made a trip to the Tate Island Lodge (jim&gail@TateIslandLodge.com) on Saskatchewan’s Reindeer Lake. Though we spent most of our time chasing lake trout, I wanted to try floating plugs tied directly to fluorocarbon line on Reindeer’s big pike. Using about 10 feet of 17-pound test Stren FLUOROCAST for a leader, I spent an afternoon catching and releasing about 20 northern pike. The pike were not able to cut my line. In fact, in running the line through my fingertips, I discovered that my line was relatively free of abrasions.
Pike are generally aggressive, but they can be finicky at times. When this happens, tie a length of fluorocarbon to your line with a barrel knot and use it as a leader. It won’t work with spinners as there is no swivel, but it will make top water floaters, especially crippled baitfish imitations, positively lethal. I’ve chased pike for 60 years, and I know what I’m talking about.
Another thought has crossed my mind. Might this fluorocarbon leader technique work on muskies? God willing, I’ll find out this coming summer.
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While visiting our oldest daughter and her family in the Kansas City area the week of Feb. 11-15, snow geese were abundant along the Missouri River between Kansas City and the Iowa-Missouri border. Where they will be when you read this I have no idea, but if they haven’t arrived yet, they are coming!
*See you next week.