The moment I set the hook, my drag started singing. The next few minutes were a real treat as the giant northern pike hugged bottom and veered off to the right, then busted hard left. Three times I got the beast to the surface before it again peeled off line and headed back to the bottom, each time making my heart pump harder. Finally, my buddy netted the huge northern, ending the epic fight. I often hear anglers complaining about catching pike, but I sure didn’t—and I was proud to let the fish go to fight another day.
Pike are aggressive predators living at the top of their aquatic food chain, a trait that often gets small and mid-size northerns into trouble with walleye, perch and trout anglers using light tackle. When lines get tangled and lures are stolen, too many anglers overlook the fun of the fight and get frustrated; some even handle the fish roughly or purposely injure or kill them. But these feisty little predators have the potential to become trophies—if only every angler could see them for the great gamefish they are. And the best way to appreciate pike is to go after the big ones.
For targeting large northerns, the perfect set-up is a medium-heavy to heavy-action six-and-a-half- to seven-foot rod, with either a spinning or baitcasting reel spooled with 15- to 20-pound monofilament. Wire leaders are a must—I prefer a 12-inch, 20-pound wire leader with a quality cross-lock snap. When it comes to baits, pike are so aggressive they’ll fall prey to a variety of presentations; large, loud or flashy lures that create commotion are the go-to choice for many anglers. I like a more refined approach, however, matching my presentations to the time of year.