By Spence Petros
Seeing big fish in the shallows that you can’t catch can be very frustrating. Fortunately, through the years we have found various ways to tease many of these reluctant fish into grabbing our lures. Well over 20-years ago I had my first success teasing big pike into hitting just after ice-out. I was doing a combination bear hunt/fishing trip on Atkins Lake in southern Manitoba. Chicago Tribune Outdoor writer John Husar was my partner on the excursion. We had seen a number of larger pike in the pencil-reed lined shallows, but it was tough getting a lure to them, and if we did they ignored the presentation. For some reason, I had brought along some 5-inch Sluggos, a hot bass bait at the time. We rigged them “Texas style”, snaked them through the weeds, and let them slowly sink where the pike could see them. A few light twitches usually teased the pike into sucking the lure off the bottom.
A few years later I was on another Canadian lake in early spring doing another combo trip. The resort owner told me of a shallow bay loaded with big pike that wouldn’t hit. My thought was they wouldn’t hit the spoons and spinners that were being tossed at them, but I was sure they would bite a slow-falling plastic presentation. For the first hour I made the “perfect cast” to many big pike and they ignored my presentation. Thinking the lure maybe falling a little too fast, I took off the wire leader. The slightly slower drop speed was just the ticket, buy about one out of seven pike cut me off. But we caught many big ones including one monster that was on the front of the camp owner’s brochure for several years.
Fast forward at least 15-years to a trip I made with Babe to Lac La Martre in the Northwest Territories. We hit the perfect conditions, an early July warm trend, that followed a few days of cold, windy weather. The big pike were all over the shallows and could easily be seen. In the three days we were there, Babe and I caught 34 pike over 20-pounds, most of which were on slow-falling plastics such as big Banjo Minnows and tubes. I have caught hundreds of pike over 40-inches, but fish over 45-inches are much harder to come by. The good thing about this lake was every day we caught one to three pike in the 47 to 49-inch range. And we saw them all strike!
I re-visited the lake last June with my grandson and it was pretty much the same. Some fish had already left the shallows, but enough remained for some good sight fishing action. My guide Steve heard about our previous success with the Banjo Minnows, but had not really seen them fished correctly. On our first afternoon, we pulled into a shallow bay and saw about 15 pike in the 12 to 25-pound range. Within an hour or two I think I got almost all of them, including the 25-pounder.
The first key to a good presentation with a slow-falling plastic (or fly-fishing with a big streamer fly or “bunny fly”) is not to cast right at the fish. See what direction the fish is swimming and cast well in front. The ideal situation is the lure sitting on the bottom as the fish approaches. A twitch or two will get its attention, then just try to tease it into sucking it in. If the fish is laying motionless. First try to bring the lure slowly towards its face. If that fails, sometimes coming in from the side, or from the rear to “surprise it” will often cause a reaction strike. One of the biggest kicks in fishing is sight-fishing for giant pike. If I can see them I will catch them has been my motto for many years.