In Pursuit of Trophy Pike

by Rick Lawrence, June 02, 2019

Pike, especially really big trophy Northern Pike, can make even the most experienced angler's heart skip a beat. And, although not common, many pike anglers are still managing to land 25 to 30 pound wall-hangers each season here in the Pac. N.W..
For the past 3 years I have targeted trophy pike and I have gotten my share of big fish, but I’m looking for those fish that are over 25 pounds, the kind that can tear up your gear and go on reel burning runs. My goal is a new Idaho state “Catch and release” record. That currently stands at 46” held by a somewhat rival of mine, my ol buddy Mark Mills. My current big fish is 44 ¼” and just a few days ago I netted a 44 ½” fish for a buddy of mine. For a few years now Mr. Mills has been going over my fishing pictures with a magnifying glass trying to figure out where I have been catching my big fish and I do the same for him. Kind of a mutual respect so to speak, in a backhanded sort of way. LOL I don’t even mind sharing some of my spots if I know the angler practices good catch and release fishing methods. I do try to keep my spots secret from the kill everything that swims group which includes Idaho and Wash. F&G.
We are blessed with some real trophy Pike fishing here in the N.W. and I really don’t understand why so many people are opposed to that and want all Pike dead. In most other parts of the World Pike are a highly protected and revered game fish. In Sask. Canada you are only allowed to keep 1 fish a day over 30” In almost all of Europe the Pike is regarded as their most precious game fish, yet here in the N.W. where we have some of the best habitat for growing monster Pike, and if allowed to flourish as they should, I believe will set a new North American record in the next 10 years. Fish and Game admits that we have the fastest growth rates of anywhere in the world for pike here in the N.W. Yet rather than trying to manage a possible trophy fishery that could bring in a huge revenue they would like to kill them all even though they have no proof they pose any threat to the Salmon populations they say they are protecting.

So what’s my secret to catching monster Pike? Mainly time on the water, learning all I can about their habits and seasonal changes. Some of it I have nailed down and some of it is still a mystery to me. I still don’t know where the big Pike go in Lake P.O. in the late summer and fall, but lucky for me I have other waters I have that figured out. So far this year I have put 2 fish over 20 pounds in the boat and I lost one yesterday that I think would have gone over 25 pounds. Last season I got 5 fish over that magic 20 lb. mark including a new PB for me at 26 ½ pounds, and 3 the year before that. Beside me catching some monster fish I have guided my fishing partners on about 10 fish near the 20 lb. mark in last 3 years. Here are a few of those fish.

We here in the Inland North West are blessed with some of the best pike fishing anywhere in the US, There are many bodies of water in Washington, Idaho, and Montana that all produce trophy Pike. In Washington Long lake, Lake Roosevelt, and the Pend Oreille river all have some huge fish. In Idaho, Lake Coeur d’ Alene, Pend Oreille and the Chain Lakes have monster Pike in them. Some of Montana’s trophy waters are Fort peck Reservoir, Noxon Res. and Flathead lake. All of these bodies of water produce fish over 20 pounds every year and some produce fish over 30 pounds. I have landed fish in the over 20 pound class in all 3 of states I mentioned here as well as some in Canada.

What gear you need to go trophy pike fishing? To start with a quality baitcasting reel with a good drag what will hold about 2 long casts worth of 30 to 50 pound braid and enough mono backing under it to fill up the spool. I tie on cheaper 15 lb mono as a backing and wind on enough to fill the spool 2/3rds full. Then I fill the rest of the spool with Suffix 732 braid in 30 or 50 lb. I mate this to a 7’ 6’ to 8’ 6” MH or H action casting rod. Next I tie on 18” of 80 to 100 lb. fluorocarbon leader with the FG knot and put a Duo-lock 50 lb snap on it to make changing baits out quick and easy. I never use steel leaders as you will get more bites with fluoro and it doesn’t tend to drag the front of the bait down like steel leaders do. I like to have at least 3 rods ready to go with 3 different types of baits on them and switch them out often to see what type of lures and big girls want that day.

I’m a big believer in big fish, big baits. I throw a lot of 6” to 9” baits this time of year in my pursuit of trophy pike. Some of my favorite big fish baits are the 168 and 200 mm S-waver, the 170 mm Luckycraft LL pointers, Musky size white or white/chartreuse Spinnerbaits with # 7 or larger willow blades, the 1 1/8 oz. Johnson spoon with a large leg kicking trailer of some kind in red & white or 5 of diamonds, Big Bucktails like cowgirls and Mepps muskykillers, and large 6” to 8” soft plastic swimbaits all consistently produce big fish. These will all catch some of the biggest fish in any lake, but keep in mind that there are thousands of good pike lures out there on the market and don’t be afraid to try new baits.

My last bit of advice is pike are creatures of habit, and if you catch a big fish in a spot those same fish will come back to that spot year after year and some spots seam to hold a higher percentage of big fish and if you find a spot like that protect it with your life as I have seen many of my prime spots get ruined for over fishing from the guys that don’t practice CPR.


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