A few times during a whole lifetime all the pieces falls into place, the conditions are perfect and the fish are really biting. Join us on a historical fishing trip in a huge water system – a fantastic experience where the big pikes went crazy!
Text: Jörgen Larsson
Photos: Jörgen Larsson, Luc Coppens & Thomas Sanotra
In the corner of my eye I see the rod tip, quickly and unexpected, torn backwards in a violent strike. I throw myself over the bulging rod and there is no doubt. It responds heavy and tough, almost like the lure is stuck in the bottom, but slow movements and a few powerful strokes reveals a good fish. It would be untrue to say that the fight is spectacular, but the massive weight and the slow movements from a relentless opponent who swims down there in the murky water still makes my heart beat. I can feel it´s a big fish…
After just a few minutes the line points straight down into the depths below the boat. Slowly I can pump the fish towards the surface and suddenly we can see a wide back. The pike is big, maybe not that long, but extremely wide and thick. Luc is ice cold and want to do some filming, but even if the fish is calm and manageable I am close to panic. It was so many years ago I got a really big pike, that film and a photo right now is secondary. I want the fish in the boat and my upset comments about the filming are not suitable for printing.
Luc does a great job when landing it and suddenly it's in the boat: big, wide and extremely impressive. The pike has completely swallowed Tommy the Trout and it takes some time to get the tousled bait free from the mighty jaws. But how big is the fish? After a few years with sparse pike fishing I don´t dare to guess. When the scale shows 14,2 kilos there is loud shouts, high fives and clenched fists in the boat. We managed today also!
The author with his first well fed and impressive pike of 14,2 kilos. What a beast!
Tommy the Trout hybrid trolled at only 1 knot speed accounted for this fish.
As an angler you experience many strange and unexpected events that are not included in the original plans. Most commonly, the weather and fishing surprise negatively, and the high expectations are destroyed by bad weather or fish that don´t want to cooperate. But occasionally, you can also experience the complete opposite.
When everything falls into place and positive entanglements takes your breath away; days where the fishing is so good that your deepest desires and dreams come true.
Me and my colleague Thomas Sanotra, actually went to Holland to fish for big perch and test some products from Westin. But in the back pocket, I also had another insidious plan that could be launched if necessary...
After a number of visits to the Netherlands, I have learned that many continental predator fishermen are very talented. But I have also found that they are rather simplistic and not particularly receptive to new influences. When it comes to boat fishing for pike almost everyone fishes in the same way. With the help of an electric engine they are casting along the drop-offs and plant belts in relatively shallow water. Searching, searching, searching – casting, casting, casting.
Although Holland is home to some of Europe's biggest pike, and a number of huge specimens are caught every year, the fishing can still be difficult and demanding. Pike in the Netherlands more or less grow up with artificial lures and for a long time I have personally had the feeling that new methods and lures might do wonders in these heavily fished waters.
Along sharp drop-offs we trolled four rods directly behind the boat to get as many lures as possible in the hot zone of 2-4 meters depth.
If the pike fishermen in the Netherlands are extremely competent when it comes to certain methods; they are less knowledgeable when it comes to other techniques. Trolling is normally done with handheld rods in the speed their petrol engines permits, which often means 2,5-4 knots as slowest, regardless of the season and water temperature. Trolling is not popular, the Dutch want to fish actively and I do understand them. But is it not more fun to catch one big pike trolling than catching nothing during several days of casting?
We have just taken up the boats after the first afternoon. Thomas has been fishing with Luc Coppens, while I have shared boat with Jeremy Staverman, Luc's competition partner since a few years. The splitting between the boats will look the same tomorrow and when Thomas go home I'll stay and fish two more days with Luc.
On the way home in the car, I decide to start my persuasion campaign. From experience I know that Luc is usually difficult to convince when I have crazy ideas and sometimes it has taken several years to convince him of a theory or a method. For this reason I have a long term plan and the idea is that we next winter and spring, in a whole year, will try trolling for the huge pikes in the water system.
Calmly and objectively, I present my views, explaining how and why we should use the Swedish model with special lures at very low speed. To my surprise Luc swallows the bait immediately. He understands the logic of fishing slow in cold water and eagerly cheered by Thomas, Luc suggests that they should try trolling already tomorrow. Perch in the morning and pike in the afternoon. The rapid sequence of events was not really in my plan, now I can not join on the first attempt, but I cannot complain. On the other hand I am still dreaming of a big perch.
Luc Coppens with the first big pike of 12,8 kg and the start of a historical pike fishing trip. This fish was caught on a Mike the Pike hybrid lure.
Jeremy and I struggle on with the perch. We try different spots to try to locate the exclusive fish that are scattered in the huge lake. During the morning, I have had three nice perch and Jeremy's got a decent pike. Our partners in the other boat caught five large perch before they changed to pike fishing in the afternoon.
The perch seem to be more active in the mornings and the hours go by without any activity. I lose a perch while Jeremy gets a zander. Suddenly Jeremy's phone is ringing. I don´t understand exactly what is being said, but I recognize some words and judging by the tone, something has happened. Luc has just caught a pike of 12,8 kilos. It had completely swallowed a Mike the Pike trolled in a knot. Luc is on fire and no longer doubts the low speed and lures with hardly any action.
Personally, I get very fragmented by the report. Of course I'm happy for my friends, now my theories are confirmed, but I also feel some envy. I also want to try the low speed trolling. At the same time I am haunted by big perch in my head.
An hour later, we see our friends far away on the lake and decide to see how things are going for them. When we arrive there is complete chaos. Rods and lures are scattered in the boat while Luc and Thomas are laughing and screaming. At the same time as Thomas grabs a camera, Luc lifts a huge pike. What the...?!!
It turns out that Luc has just caught a dream fish of 16 kilos and once again it's Mike who has delivered. Jeremy and I had a hard time digesting the first fish, but now we are almost shocked! What is going on?
Instant success! Luc Coppens with the pike on 16 kilos from the first days of "test fishing".
The next day it's just Luc and I fishing. After yesterday's unlikely development, it feels a bit strange to begin with perch in the morning, but anyone who knows me also know that I'm pretty stubborn. But it turns out that our plan works to 100%.
A few hours later I am sitting baffled in the boat and thanking my lucky star. Not only have I experienced the best perch fishing of my life, with two dream fish over two kilos. I have also caught and released a pike of 14,2 kilos. But it does not stop there...
In the space of an hour the big pikes goes completely crazy and we manage to outsmart two more magnificent fish. Approximately 40 minutes after my first pike it is Luc's turn. A violent strike is met by a total grinding halt. Luc and I first look at each other and then at the deeply bent rod. Is it fish or bottom? Then there is a pair of heavy jerks.
''It´s a fish, it´s very heavy. This must be a big one! Luc says with a trembling voice''
The fish stays deep all the way to the boat and Luc really have to put some pressure on the rod to lift it from the bottom. At the surface, we see a mighty back and when the pike is secured in the boat we are shouting straight out. It has completely swallowed Percy the Perch, the lure we were close to changing 5 minutes earlier. The pike is almost square; high, extremely fat and wide as a pony across it´s back. The scale shows 16,5 kilos!
Fully pumped with adrenaline and completely speeded, we hardly get the lures in the water when it happens again. Another big fish have put the teeth into Mike and now it's my turn again. The fight follows the same undramatic pattern as before, but my heart rate is still high before Luc can lift the pike into the boat. This fish is not as fat, it looks more normal, but who can complain when the scale is showing 13,2 kilos?
After a restless night's sleep, where we had a hard time sleeping because of the incredible fishing we both experienced, we wake up the next day, where we are greeted by a thick fog. The morning is raw and damp, and I have a nagging feeling that the good fishing is over. We have had more than our fair share of what is commonly called "luck" among fishermen, but of course we are still hoping.
Due to the fog, we cannot fish the areas where we had caught yesterdays pike. It is not only dangerous; we also risk being fined if the police show up. We start with perch until the fog lifts, but they don´t want to cooperate. At long last, I get a gently take and land another magnificent fish, but that's all that happens.
A cold easterly wind drag across the lake and when the fog lifts, we try several areas without seeing any pike. We still have faith, patiently waiting for the time that produced the earlier days, but nothing happens and finally it's time to break.
Both Luc and I are disappointed - but who can blame us for wanting more? Good fishing is addictive. But deep down I also feel a great gratitude to have experienced some of the craziest fishing in my life.
We were lucky to hit the first warm spring days and a period when the predators were willing to bite. The Swedish trolling tactic did the trick, but without Luc's knowledge and magical sense of where to fish, we would never have succeeded. It was a combination of luck, coincidences and successful cooperation across the borders, between good fishing buddies, which gave us the chance to experience the continental pike fever!