The Honest 20 That Got Away…TWICE!

I have never considered myself a fisherman that was only after trophy fish. I enjoy fishing and catching fish is always a bonus.

So let me set the backstory a little bit.

We had embarked on a trip to the Boundary Waters and were on Day 2. This was a traveling trip where we paddled all day and set up a new camp every night. The fishermen would have to squeeze in any fishing they planned to do. Camp #2 was set up and all of the chores were done so I had a bit of free time. It was approximately 10:30 in the evening, with fading light.

I grabbed a rod and reel and slipped into a canoe by myself and paddled out to some promising spots for Pike. I had caught a few small pike (hammer handles) and a couple of smallmouth before I decided to upsize my lure to a big Mepps #5 inline spinner with squirrel tail garnishment on the treble hook. I was using a 6ft Medium rod and a 2000 size spinning reel.

I noticed a huge swirl just off a point by some reed beds and made my cast. I felt my lure get slammed and it was immediately followed by an explosion in the water. The line went tight, the rod bent and the drag started screaming. Then the “Texas Sleigh Ride” began. My canoe was being towed all around that little bay as I fought to control that fish.

With a fishing rod in one hand and a paddle in the other, I truly had my hands full. As I was towed a little closer to our campsite I started yelling for them to help me (like a dummy, I didn’t bring a net or even a pair of pliers.) I was waving at them to come help me while they started lining the shore and waving back! To me it was surreal. I waved more frantically and yelled louder for help. They waved harder and smiled more. The American Gothic painting flashed through my head when I saw a couple standing there with fishing poles in hand. OK I thought, I’m on my own!

After about 10 minutes of this madness, I managed to get the fish to the canoe. It was HUGE! At first I thought it was a Muskie but the teeth layout and coloration was wrong. It was a Monster Pike! Next I tried to figure out how in the heck I was going to boat this beast. No net, no pliers. Can’t lip it like a bass! I reached to the head to pick it up by the “eyes” but there was no way my hand could reach across…it was too thick. That’s when I knew I had an Honest 20! A pike that weighed 20 pounds or more. A true trophy pike.

While I was wasting time trying to figure out how to get this monster in the boat..Mr. Pike was using his time wisely! He was resting and regaining his strength. At that point we made eye contact…when you look a pike in the eye, he looks at you like you owe him money and he’s there to collect! In an instant, he thrashed his head back and forth and snapped the treble hooks off my lure. He stayed boat side long enough to smile, give me the middle fin and glide back to the deep. I was stunned. All I could do was sit there and drift.

Eventually I paddled back to camp and gave everybody a good chewing for not helping. They of course couldn’t understand what I was saying and thought I was waving and having the time of my life. UGH! They just started waving back and cheering me on. “Crushed Dreams”…needs to be a lure color!

Fast forward to 2 years later and I was in the same spot ready for Round 2. I wanted MY PIKE!

I made the cast and set the hook. The fight was on and it was a good one, lasting almost 15 minutes. I was pretty certain it was the same fish…I recognized the smile!

Said fish is brought to the side of the canoe and I start trying to haul him aboard. Pike are SLIMY and I lost my grip. And yes…SNAP! As he made a last ditch effort to escape by diving deep…I had forgotten to open the bail on my spinning reel. With my drag setting being too tight, the distance between the fish and the reel being too short and coupled with his surge to escape…the line couldn’t hold and snapped. Again I was stunned to silence…the scoreboard flashed 0-2! My fishing partner in the canoe even had a tear in his eye. It was over.

I never tried for Mr. Pike again…content to leave him be, safe in his little Bay. An old warrior that was best left to history. TRUE STORY