For months, maybe for years, a trip to a trophy pike lake has been in the works. Buddies have been recruited, reservations made, new lures purchased and old favorites renewed. And when you get to the site, the weather turns sour. What to do? I get this question often.
Mark Monsebroten, a long-time pike guide in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and I found ourselves in such a predicament last spring. On this trip Mark was a fellow angler, not a guide. We flew to Phelps Lake, in the far northeast corner of Saskatchewan.
Our first day was a beautiful spring day. Monster pike were in shallow water. Often we could see fish, if not in detail, in outline. From time-to-time, we selected which fish to target. A couple of times, Mark or I would tell the other, “You cast to that one and I’ll cast to this one.” My favorite spoon, a 5-of-diamonds Red Eye Wiggler, was dynamite!
Over night things changed. For two days it snowed or rained hard. The wind blew so severely that we avoided crossing open water. But we kept on catching the huge pike we caught in stable weather. How?
We did not have secret lures or try methods unavailable to every angler. We did, however, make some adaptations open to all. And while Mark and I were fishing trophy pike water, the same adaptations work where more modest size fish are the norm. We called our adaptations “the four D’s.”
A key adaptation or modification of our approach was to use smaller lures. Over the years I have been fishing for trophy pike, I have come to rely on a number of pretty large lures. And I’m still committed to them – Squirrely Burt, Reef Hawg, Long A, and 6-inch spoons and 2-ounce spinnerbaits.
But once the weather turned bad, the large lures – while they still caught fish – did not work as well as smaller ones.
For example, rather than throw the larger Dardevle Jay Merasty, our guide, offered, I stuck with the 2 ¼ inch Red Eye. (I know, Dardevle’s come in smaller sizes as well.)
In a protected bay not far from the lodge, Mark, Jay and I noticed a trophy sized pike. We could tell we saw the same fish repeatedly because it had a several inch scar across its back. Both Mark and I enticed the fish to follow one lure or another. A couple of times, we were sure the monster was about to grab whichever lure had attracted attention. Each time, however, the trophy simply slowed and turned away.
Yet, we were still catching fish. Some pretty nice ones.
As the wind pushed the boat toward the bank, I heaved the small Red Eye toward the middle of the bay. Two or three cranks and I had one. Through the snow, we could see the fish clear the water. Folks who say trophy pike never jump – enough said. When we finally got the fish to the boat, it was the one with the scarred back, a 47-incher. At that moment, it was the largest pike I ever caught.
Lesson learned. When a cold front pushes through, downsize the presentation.
Another of the myths of trophy pike fishing is that big fish do not take surface lures.