Northern Pike on Spinner Baits
It was a long time ago when I caught my first northern pike on an ancient spinner bait. It was one made by the Gapen company called the Weedcutter. The year was 1966. The place was a small lake in northern Ontario called Frazer Lake, near the town of Nipigon. It was near Nipigon that I was raised, and it was on this lake that I spent many days guiding as a 15-year-old youth...I'd come back, along with a fishing companion to try once again to catch the mighty pike that this lake was so noted for.
Gapen's Weedcutter Spinner Bait was the first on the market to incorporate a willow leaf blade instead of the normally-used, round Colorado style. Gapen's had placed a willow leaf blade on the Weedcutter so the lure could be retrieved through the water without the normal heavy pulsating pull created by the round-bladed baits. Not only did the willow blade retrieve easier, but Gapen had discovered by replacing the round blade with the slimmer, long blade, his new spinner bait traversed without becoming entangled in most kinds of weeds. Thus was founded the lure's name, the Weedcutter.
During the previous hour, my fishing buddy Dave Conn and I had worked the western edge of the 10-mile-long lake. So far, our reward had been limited to four pike between 2.5 and 4 pounds. Not good considering Frazer was noted for holding countless numbers of trophy pike. During my early years while guiding Frazer, I'd taken hundreds of fish over 15 pounds. "David, we used to use a trick to get pike to strike when they were just following and not hitting, as they are today," I commented as David moaned a complaint as another 10-12-pounder turned away at the boat.
That's the way it had been going for the past hour...follow, after follow, after follow, but no strikes.
"We're going to troll a long line right along this area where we've had all these follows. And, David, we are going to troll fast." I laid out the plan while turning the boat parallel to shoreline. Placing the boat right on top of the area where light water turned to dark, I began to speed up. The exact point where water depth dropped from 5-8 feet of depth.
Pushing the old ten horse Johnson motor to half-throttle, our boat began to rapidly run shoreline. Line was let out and my bright yellow Weedcutter disappeared beneath water 125 feet behind us. Dave did the same with a red-bladed, white-bodied Weedcutter. Both baits traversed beneath water 125-150 ft. behind us. Estimated speed was 6-8 miles per hour.
Dave indicated he thought the speed was excessive and that "no pike" in Frazer Lake would be capable of catching up with a lure trolled this fast. No sooner had the words escaped Dave's mouth, his rod tip slammed down hard and the line began to peel away as the reel screamed protest. There was no need to set the hook--there never is when speed trolling. Boat speed had done that. With the motor stopped, Dave fought the first decent fish to boat. Upon lifting it over the gunnel, the pike weighed in slightly over 10 pounds. After a picture was taken, the pike was released.
"That's more like it, Gapen. You said this lake had good-sized pike in it. But, I can't believe it took trolling a spinner bait to entice one," my fishing buddy commented as he readied to cast back behind the boat for another go at trolling up northern pike.
During the next three hours on Frazer Lake, David and I boated and released 34 pike ranging in weight from 4.5-18.5 lbs. All were taken via the fast trolling presentation. Whenever we attempted to cast, to check out our theory, the same "follow to boat" reaction came from the Frazer Lake pike.
I'd first used speed trolling while guiding the water near my parents' fishing resort on the Nipigon River watershed. Then it was a devil spoon used as the fast troll bait. Today, it has been a modern bass bait called the spinner bait. Today's bait had cut the water with greater ease and less resistance than the old reliable devil spoon. There was another factor which impressed Dave and I: The spinner bait could be trolled faster and seemed to hold beneath the surface better. At one point, we trolled the 10 horse motor at 3/4 throttle, reaching a speed of near 10 miles per hour. Even so, the pike were able to smash the bait with ease.
Today, speed trolling has become a proven technique used by many hard-core pike fisherman. Most of these use a spinner bait as their key lure. The reason for this lure being the best is that crankbaits and spoons fail to hold beneath surface at high speeds.
When applying the speed-trolling technique for northern pike, it seems to work best at a point along the shoreline where water depth drops off from 5 feet of depth. A reason for this is that northern pike are found to stage off shoreline during summer days, in the 6-to-8-ft. water depth mark.