In many cases, a dividing line is drawn between what’s applicable for freshwater versus saltwater fishing. Anglers seem to fall prey to product packaging and anything that’s advertised as “saltwater” or “offshore” by design is immediately passed over by freshwater enthusiasts. Yet when it comes to big freshwater fish, like muskies and northern pike, saltwater products can help you hook up with a trophy.
Designed for use in super-clear water bridging the continents, saltwater products must look realistic and dually possess corrosion resistant properties required to fish the sea. That means a hook left laying on the floor of your boat for weeks on end exposed to the elements will retain it’s integrity without rusting.
One product originally developed for saltwater application that has naturally transitioned into freshwater markets is fluorocarbon line. Created from the periodic element fluorocarbon, the line offers near invisibility, since it refracts light in a manner very similar to water itself. Even a heavy fluorocarbon line remains undetected by wary fish swimming through crystal-clear water.
Berkley’s Big Game 100% Fluorocarbon is a wonderful asset for hooking and landing monster pike and muskies. Both 50-lb. and 80-lb. test is available on 25-yard spools. Obviously that’s not enough to fill an entire reel, but that’s not the intent. Instead of paying $5-$15 for each steel or titanium wire leader, the Berkley Big Game 100% Fluorocarbon can be custom tailored for various applications at a fraction of the price. For instance, you can make your own leaders of any desired length by tying a ball bearing swivel to one end of a short piece of fluorocarbon and a cross-lock snap to the other.
Another option is to tie the Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon directly to the heavy braided line of your muskie/pike rod without the extra hardware of the swivel or snap. I attach 50-lb Berkley Big Game 100% Fluorocarbon to the 80-lb Spiderwire Stealth spooled on my reel, then tie lures directly to it. The fluorocarbon holds up surprisingly well against toothy jaws, abrasion from wood, weeds and rocks, and “swing for the fences” hooksets required to land the gargantuan muskies and pike.
Another option is to use the Berkley Big Game 100% Fluorocarbon as the snell material for a live-bait rig. It’s essentially the same concept as a Roach Rig for walleye, but beefed up for big fish. A 30 to 48-inch length of the heavy-duty fluorocarbon is perfect for sheer invisibility and allows a large minnow to swim naturally while lip hooked.
However, one major consideration when tying knots with fluorocarbon of any diameter is getting the line really wet before cinching a knot. Fluorocarbon doesn’t absorb water like monofilament, so cinching a dry knot produces friction and thus heat, which can cause your knot or the few inches above it to fail. Simply wet the line with saliva or lake water before you tighten the knot and the line’s integrity will remain strong.
When it comes to artificial baits, a number of natural looking options line the saltwater sections of the tackle retailer and pages of the mail-order catalogs. Yet sticking with items that you would see naturally in the lake, river or reservoir you’re fishing typically catches more fish. Crab and squid look-a-likes probably aren’t going to put numbers of fish in the boat.
A favorite that looks lifelike, has great action and is paired with the ever-popular Powerbait scent is Berkley’s Powerbait Manic Minnow. The large saltwater jig has a soft plastic body that pike and muskies grab onto, holding fast in their teeth. A small plastic collar around the head of the jig performs much the same as a lip on the front of a crankbait; it makes the bait go wild! A steady retrieve is enough to catch fish, but brief pauses and twitching the rod tip drive big pike crazy.
The Berkley Powerbait Manic Minnow is a wonderful option for anglers heading to areas where big live minnows either aren’t available or legal. And using the Berkley 100% fluorocarbon leader material in front of the bait protects you from getting bit off from the toothy predators while simultaneously remaining undetected by the fish—two positive attributes while on the quest for big pike!