PRIME TIME FOR BIG PIKE!
As the water warms in June, and the weeds start to emerge, pike start to shake their post spawn doldrums and get on the move. Early in the season, a slow presentation is usually more effective. Right now fast and aggressive is better. In fact if I had to choose in June it would be a jerkbait or a spinnerbait!
BIG WATER PRODUCES BIG FISH
Some of the best to drive to locations in Saskatchewan include Last Mountain Lake, Lake Diefenbaker, and Tobin Lake. In Manitoba, Cross Bay on Cedar Lake is my favourite spot. There are plenty of others to choose from, but you might have to go a little further afield
One of the best pike days I ever had was with friend Russ Heatherington on Tobin Lake while filming an episode of The Complete Angler television show. We had launched the boat at the east end of this massive reservoir to concentrate on the bays and points on the north side of the main lake. It was an overcast day with a decent wind blowing. We ended up in a protected bay, somewhat sheltered with a bit of sun breaking through occasionally. Dropping the front troll motor, we tried to cover as much as water as possible in order to locate what section of this large bay the pike were using.
FORAGE AND WATER TEMPERATURE THE KEY
This can depend on available forage and water temperature. Some parts of the bay can be considerably warmer. As we started working the bay with the front troll motor I kept my eyes glued to my depthfinder’s temperature display.
In order to cover water, Russ started out by throwing a fluorescent orange and white spoon which he had doctored. On the single back hook was threaded a Berkley grub. He has had tremendous success on this lure over the years, the paint almost worn off from the fish he has caught on it. It didn’t take long to work its magic, a sixteen pound pike on the end of his line. Meantime out of the back of the boat, I was firing out my fly rod loaded with a big bunny streamer.
While Russ caught the first five fish, he had three of those on big slip float/smelt setup with a quick strike rig. It was still early in the day, the fish a bit lethargic from cooler water temperatures overnight. Dropping an anchor in the area we were having the most action, I switched over to a slip float as well. In no time, we were running around the boat, battling two big fish at once. With a ton of sunken timber, you were not always successful landing these strong fish.
When the action slowed an hour later, I picked up my fly rod and started catching fish immediately. Later in the afternoon, when the wind settled down a bit, the fly rod really started to gain traction and I hooked the biggest fish of the day on a red and white bunny fly. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a net to put on this bruiser. When Russ tried to slip his hand under the jaw, the fish managed to shake the fly and swim away, just a bit camera shy. It was (almost) a fitting end to what was one of my best pike days ever. What the day taught me, is the open mind needed to consistently catch pike at this time of the year.
When pike decide to follow and not strike a fast moving bait, something that glides and falls horizontally like a well presented fly can be the key to get those big bites. If you are not a fly fisher, soft plastic can do the same thing. Below are pictured a number of finesse baits that will work. For slightly more aggressive fish, especially in weeds, the boottail is an awesome choice. For those a little deeper, on weed edges, sliding a splittail down to them can be deadly!
VERSATILITY IS THE KEY
Pike can hold in a wide variety of areas. Try and quickly find a pattern by covering water. Start with trolling or casting. Once fish are located pick them apart with different presentations. In cold-front conditions I like subtle baits, like jerkbaits or soft plastic. When pike are aggressive spinnerbaits, in-line spinners and spoons are all excellent choices. When fish are neutral, a fly rod is dynamite, backed up by soft plastics. I am fussy about the flies that I use for pike. I have two boxes of custom tied pike flies that cover a wide range of conditions. Pink has been added to the collection. When you find the fish, don’t be afraid to get out a big slip float, quick strike rig and large dead bait. ■