Giant Plastics Equal Giant Pike

Have the North's giant pike seen so many spoons and bucktail spinners that they no longer strike them as often? Mark Davis of Shakespeare things so, and his success rate with giant soft-plastic rigs as an alternative seems to support his position. Check out the story here.Outdoor Life Online Editor
I had joined Davis, his assistant Joel Townley, and In-Fisherman publisher Steve Hoffman on this mid-August hunt for trophy pike. Our destination was Knee Lake Lodge in northern Manitoba, a spot well known to pike addicts who have done their homework. We also planned on flying out to some smaller lakes that see only a handful of anglers each year. On our flight I listened politely as Davis touted his soft plastics, but he didn't succeed in changing my strategy. After all, I wasn't exactly a Canadian pike-fishing rookie. Over, the years I've fished dozens of trophy pike lakes and landed plenty of huge pike, the largest being a girthy 48-incher that pulled my electronic scale down to 29.8 pounds. That fish hit a black bucktail with a hot-orange blade, and that's what I planned to throw in Knee Lake.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Our plane touched down at the Knee Lake landing strip around noon, we grabbed a quick bite, then split up into two boats and headed for a giant cabbage bed within a few miles of the lodge. Joel and I decided to toss bucktails, while Mark and Steve opted for jig-plastic combos. After a few hours of fishing, it was becoming obvious that the bucktails were no match for the jigs in the dense cabbage. Numbers-wise, Joel and I were keeping up, but our biggest pike was around 35 inches. Mark and Steve had already tagged 44- and 45-inchers along with several pike in the low 40s. Joel and I stubbornly stuck with the bucktails for the rest of the day, occasionally giving in to the urge to try some other baits, but never did tie into a trophy-caliber pike.Outdoor Life Online Editor
The plan for day two was to fly into Utik Lake, which reportedly had even denser cabbage than Knee Lake. But I wasn't going to let that change my strategy. Joel, on the other hand, had seen enough of the bucktails and switched to a jig-plastic combo. That turned out to be a wise move because the wind was blowing at least 30 mph, and the whitecaps made it almost impossible to see the slots between the cabbage plants. I spent the first hour of the day removing salad from my hooks while everyone else was catching pike "" big pike. Mark and Steve tagged 48- and 49-inchers, along with several others in the mid-40s, but Joel stole the show with a mammoth 51-incher caught on a J-mac jig with a 6-inch Yum G-Shad tail. We didn't have a scale, but I would estimate the weight of that fish to be at least 35 pounds, easily the biggest pike I'd ever seen. That did it "" I finally wised up and tied on a jig.Outdoor Life Online Editor
By the end of the third day, our group had landed 41 pike over the 40-inch mark, including 6 over 45 inches. Practically all of these fish were taken on J-macs tipped with various soft-plastic trailers. The total catch of 40-plus inchers for the rest of the guests at the lodge during the same period: Three. The other guests were all using traditional pike baits like bucktails and big spoons. So why did the jigs outproduce the other baits by such a wide margin? The biggest pike were buried in the densest cabbage beds, and if you didn't cast right into them, you'd catch a few smaller fish, but rarely a trophy. The open treble hooks on a spoon or bucktail would foul immediately in the heavy cover, but the J-mac with its single hook and weedguard, would slither through the salad with no problem.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Here are the details on the tackle and lures required for this deadly trophy-pike method: Lures. We used Ã'½-ounce J-mac skirted weedless jigs with one of the following soft-plastic trailers:Outdoor Life Online Editor
To maximize the number of hook-ups, Davis trims the weedguard by clipping a few bristles about a third of the way up, then a few more about two thirds of the way up. This leaves only about half as many bristles at the tip as at the base. The weedguard still deflects most of the vegetation, but flexes more easily to boost your hooking percentage. Davis says that pike like to track a bait before striking, so he recommends a steady retrieve rather than a jigging action. He also suggests watching closely to spot pike tracking your bait. If you see one, pause slightly to draw a strike.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Rod & Reel. You'll need a long, stiff baitcasting rod in order to make lengthy casts and snap off any weeds hanging on the lure. With a long rod, you can also hold the tip high enough to keep the lure in the weedtops, where it's less likely to foul. Pair the long rod with a sturdy baitcasting reel that casts smoothly and has a high retrieve speed. We used All-Star 7-foot Big Boy rods and high-speed (6:1 gear ratio) Phlueger President Reels to take up line quickly and winch fish away from and out of the cover. Line & Leader. A braided no-stretch line, 60- 80-pound test, is a must setting the hook in the thick vegetation and pulling a big fish out of the tangle (or keeping it from going in). Low-stretch mono simply won't do the job. Here's one good reason to use super-braid: I had hooked a big pike that managed to swim entirely around a huge clump of cabbage. I absolutely couldn't budge it, so Mark put on a leather glove, grabbed my line and started pulling as hard as he could. Gradually he began to gain a little and finally the line cut through the entire clump, allowing me to land the fish. After releasing it, we looked back and saw a small island of the cut-off cabbage floating on the surface. You'll need a wire leader to prevent bite-offs, but standard braided steel wire will kink up after you catch a couple big pike. We used 75-pound-test Terminator titanium leaders, which will never kink. Titanium leaders are considerably more expensive than ordinary steel leaders, but I used the same one for the entire trip. Sunglasses. Polarized sunglasses are a must not only for spotting fish, but for seeing the dense clumps of vegetation and planning your casts accordingly. The idea is to put your lure along the fringe of the densest weed clumps. If you cast right into the matted weeds, your jig may not sink at all. For the best visibility, keep the sun at your back.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Rod & Reel. You'll need a long, stiff baitcasting rod in order to make lengthy casts and snap off any weeds hanging on the lure. With a long rod, you can also hold the tip high enough to keep the lure in the weedtops, where it's less likely to foul. Pair the long rod with a sturdy baitcasting reel that casts smoothly and has a high retrieve speed. We used All-Star 7-foot Big Boy rods and high-speed (6:1 gear ratio) Phlueger President Reels to take up line quickly and winch fish away from and out of the cover. Line & Leader. A braided no-stretch line, 60- 80-pound test, is a must setting the hook in the thick vegetation and pulling a big fish out of the tangle (or keeping it from going in). Low-stretch mono simply won't do the job. Here's one good reason to use super-braid: I had hooked a big pike that managed to swim entirely around a huge clump of cabbage. I absolutely couldn't budge it, so Mark put on a leather glove, grabbed my line and started pulling as hard as he could. Gradually he began to gain a little and finally the line cut through the entire clump, allowing me to land the fish. After releasing it, we looked back and saw a small island of the cut-off cabbage floating on the surface. You'll need a wire leader to prevent bite-offs, but standard braided steel wire will kink up after you catch a couple big pike. We used 75-pound-test Terminator titanium leaders, which will never kink. Titanium leaders are considerably more expensive than ordinary steel leaders, but I used the same one for the entire trip. Sunglasses. Polarized sunglasses are a must not only for spotting fish, but for seeing the dense clumps of vegetation and planning your casts accordingly. The idea is to put your lure along the fringe of the densest weed clumps. If you cast right into the matted weeds, your jig may not sink at all. For the best visibility, keep the sun at your back.Outdoor Life Online Editor

Have the North's giant pike seen so many spoons and bucktail spinners that they no longer strike them as often? Mark Davis of Shakespeare things so, and his success rate with giant soft-plastic rigs as an alternative seems to support his position. Check out the story here.