Bigtooth rigs for big pike

Earlier this week, my good fishing buddy, Jay Samsal, and I hit Lake of the Woods with the Reel Outdoors Ontario film crew to shoot an ice-fishing segment for their program that promotes outdoor activities in Sunset Country.
The show airs on several networks in the U.S. Midwest and has been an effective promotional device for area resorts and outfitters.
We met up Monday afternoon with intentions to catch a bunch of walleyes. The walleye fishing was okay, but not great.
We got enough fish for the show—and even cooked a couple up out on the ice, so that was great.
We had been marking a lot of fish on our electronics, but they were really inactive. Mid-winter lull, I guess.
One thing I’ve made a habit of doing over the last several years has been to drop down a big cisco beneath a tip-up as my second line when I’m walleye fishing.
I use one rod which I’m constantly jigging when I go walleye fishing and never put in a second line for walleyes.
Using a tip-up, instead, with these big dead baits have put multiple giant pike on the ice for me and my friends—some in the 25-pound plus range (truly big fish).
These things very seldom bite our spoons and jigs when we ice-fish, and it has become apparent that they would rather spend their energy tracking down larger meals.
About halfway through our afternoon of fishing, a flag went off on one of the tip-ups we had out. I raced over and set the hook on what I knew right away was a big fish.
We use really heavy line on our tip-ups because it is much easier on the hands, and there is nothing subtle about the system that would require the use of thin line.
We generally are using 50-pound tip-up line, which is heavily-coated to make it easy to handle.
The tip-ups themselves are Frabill 10” Pro-Thermal round models that come with insulation in them. They totally cover the hole and prevent them from freezing up.
It’s a really neat product that functions amazingly well, especially during the mid-winter when temperatures are seldom warm.
I got the fish close to the hole and it instantly made a big run back to deep water. That’s when I knew that it definitely was a really big fish. I’ve caught literally hundreds of pike in the 15- to 20-pound range and most of them give up rather easily.
Pike have the ability to make powerful runs, but their endurance usually is not that impressive when compared to a lake trout. Things were different with this fish.
I eased it back towards the ice and when its head popped up, it completely filled my 10” hole. Jay grabbed her and lifted the fish from the ice.
We were very excited because this fish was a giant! We took a couple of quick photos and got her back in the water—she swam away fine.
The actual rig that I tie to the business end of my lines is called a Bigtooth Rig. Made by a small company in Minnesota, these rigs differ from traditional quick-strike rigs because they hang the bait horizontally in a natural state, rather than vertically, which is how they sit on a traditional in-line rig.
The Bigtooth rigs also are made with small spinners placed above the hooks to make them legal in Minnesota. Although the spinners aren’t turning, they offer some flash which I believe helps to call in fish for a closer look.
You can find these rigs online at bigtoothtackle.com (The Great Bear tackle shop in Fort Frances also is carrying an assortment of Bigtooth rigs).
As the season progresses, big pike will be more predictable as they move towards shallow spawning bays. Get your hands on some tips-ups, some dead ciscos and some rigs, and you’re ready to go.
A final note: I have tried and tried, but live baits do not work nearly as well as dead baits for big pike.

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