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Big Fish, Small Boats and St. Croix Tackle

PARK FALLS, Wisc.  – Kayak fishing is on the upswing. From coast to coast, more and more anglers are fishing out of kayaks in both fresh and salt waters. These portable, nimble craft are easy on the wallet, can be launched almost anywhere, and can be outfitted with a dizzying array of fish-hunting gear. And while bass and panfish are always popular targets, there’s a growing number of kayak anglers chasing the challenges and reaping the rewards provided by larger predator species like pike, musky, striped bass, bull redfish, tarpon and more.

We talked with St. Croix pro staffer Tanner Speidel, Hobie Fishing’s big-fish-hunter Morgan Promnitz, and 2018 IFA Kayak Tour Championship victor Benton Parrott to get scoop on some gear considerations kayak anglers might think about before targeting and doing battle with big fish from small boats.

St. Croix Pro Tanner Speidel

Northeast Iowa’s Tanner Speidel has been fishing seriously from a kayak for about ten years and says northern pike are his favorite species to pursue.

“Here in Iowa we’re blessed with a lot of large interior streams and rivers. Two of my favorites are the Wapsipinicon River and the Cedar River, and they’re really good for northern pike. I like to target a lot of smaller waters like creek mouths and backwater bays off of the main rivers. Northern pike can really stack up in these slack-water locations because they’re usually loaded with ambush cover and food,” offers Speidel.

Like most predatory fish, northern pike are opportunistic feeders, so you can catch them on about anything. “I use a lot of spinnerbaits and bucktails in UV colors, considering our stained water,” says Speidel. “One of my favorite things about northern pike fishing is that if you ever miss one, you can usually cast out to the same spot again and catch it. They’re also very predictable; seems like they’re always going to relate to the backwater areas and shaded banks, so it makes them easier to find on most days. One of my favorite things to do is cast a spinnerbait over really dense areas where there are logjams and weeds… really icky stuff that you wouldn’t want to be throwing treble hooks into. You just know they’re in there waiting to ambush. If they don’t hit me the first time, I’ll throw a big bucktail out and usually get them on the second time, even if they already hit and missed the spinnerbait. That’s one of the great things about northern pike; they’re usually very forgiving.”

Speidel’s absolute favorite northern pike rod is the 7’4” heavy power, fast action St. Croix Legend Tournament Bass Slop & Frog model (LBC74HF). “It’s an awesome, versatile rod for lures up to about 1.5 ounces,” he offers. “It handles lighter stuff really well, too, and is definitely my favorite spinnerbait rod. It has an accurate tip and plenty of power to pull big pike out of the brush, and it’s plenty long to fight fish around the bow of a kayak.”

Another of Speidel’s favorite rods is St. Croix’s ultra-unique 9’ Legend Tournament Musky Downsizer (LMD90MLF). “Casting bucktails on that rod all day is just a blast,” says Speidel, who adds that the rod has surprising power for its medium-light rating. “The SCIV carbon and 9’ length of these blanks work together to provide immediate access to the rod’s power for setting hooks and fighting big fish. St. Croix designed this and the other two models in the Legend Tournament Musky Downsizer Series for fishing some of the smaller musky baits that are highly effective and preferred by many on smaller rivers, in the springtime, and anywhere where muskies are less pressured. These rods are exactly what the name implies: downsized musky rods that reduce fatigue and actually match ideally to most popular northern pike presentations.”

Speidel is also adept with a fly rod in his hands, searching out northern pike with oversized and flashy flies tied on his own vice. “In the middle of the summer when we have a lot of northern pike run up into the creeks, I like to fly fish for them from the kayak with a 9 weight St. Croix Imperial USA Fly rod. Believe it or not, you can do a lot of sight fishing for pike during this time and it’s a riot. I tie a lot of my own flies with dragon tails and the pike just love them,” says Speidel, who adds that fly fishing for pike is not only fun, sometimes it’s the best way to catch them. “Because of the materials we use, flies can be created that are neutrally buoyant. Therefore, there are some fly-fishing presentations that simply cannot be duplicated with conventional casting gear.”

Speidel is also very excited by the launch of St. Croix’s new Victory Series. “I’ll definitely be ordering a few of these rods. I like that they are going to be made in Park Falls and priced at a place where a lot of anglers can afford them. I’ll definitely be putting the 7’4” heavy fast (VTC74HF) and 7’3” heavy, extra-fast (VTC73HXF) models through their paces and believe they will translate well to the large, predatory fishing I do. I’m especially intrigued by the 73HXF; that’s looking like an incredibly unique rod, and I’ve heard it can throw a surprising range of lure weights.

Tomorrow in The Fishing Wire: St. Croix Pro Benton Parrott

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