How Mike Quinn Became a Believer in Phelps Lake

Mike Quinn was skeptical when I called. Mike and I have fished together for years and have caught big ones. When I guaranteed him if he went to Wolf Bay Lodge on Phelps Lake in Saskatchewan he would catch the biggest pike he ever caught, and would then beat that, he was not sure. But he went.

Our guide Anderson Clipping eased the boat through the entrance to Mushroom Bay. I had fished “the Bay” before and recalled a rock pile off the first point. When within reach, I hurled a Poe’s Jackpot beyond the rocks and started a walk-the-dog retrieve. My lure only made it 5 or 6 feet before the water opened and the battle was on. First cast: a fat, 38-inch pike—I assured Mike bigger ones were on the way.

In the “Bay of Pigs,” Mike waxed me, casting a jerkbait to the bank. He caught 15 or 20, half a dozen of them from the mid-30-inch range into the low 40-inch range. As Anderson eased the boat ahead, Mike retrieved with a jerk-pause, jerk-pause. Over the years I’ve caught lots of pike doing the same thing, and had it not been for Mike’s outstanding afternoon, I would have thought I had a good day.

In the half-dozen trips I’ve made to Wolf Bay, another of the lures I’ve used successfully is Mann’s One Minus. This short, stubby lure wobbles along just under the surface—and monster pike love it. It works over rock piles and sunken weed beds. Though Mike and I did not throw the One Minus, when my son Craig went with me, the One Minus got lots of use.

Spinnerbaits are also in demand by the monster pike in Phelps Lake. On my first trip, more than a decade ago, I used up three spinnerbaits—all with tandem blades, one willow leaf and one Colorado, with red-and-white trailers. One of them however was beat up, and the one I caught the 47-incher on hangs in a place of honor on the bookcase near my desk.

Phelps Lake pike attack spoons as well. Anderson took Mike and me to Karen’s Bay. Along the west side of the bay a long reef extends north from a small island. It took some maneuvering, but Anderson got the boat over the rocks so we could fish deeper water toward shore. Almost immediately, Mike and I were catching trophy pike on red-and-white Daredevles. Before we put the monsters down with repeated trips, Mike and I each caught five or six pike over 40 inches.

How many of you have caught that many trophies in a lifetime, let alone a single morning?

Early in the spring and right after ice-out, the monster pike can be in shallow water. Anderson told us the magic temperature for trophy pike was between 60 degrees and 65 degrees.

“The big pike choose shallow bays,” he said, “either to get warm and recover from spawning, or to gorge on the bait in the bays. In any event, that’s where we’ll find them.”

Later in the season, monster pike “usually” avoid waters that warm and seek colder, deeper water. Mike and I were at Wolf Bay in only the second week of the season, and the shallow bays here are where we found them.

In turn, this made for my favorite way to fish for trophy pike—with fly rods. Mike and I were rigged with 8-weight rods, floating line, stout leaders with wire tippets and flies I tied for the trip. As a rule, my pike flies are only 5 or 6 inches long, so we did not need heavier rods.

Many of the monster pike Mike and I caught were on the fly rods. Mike rapidly learned not to try to hold the reel handle when a big pike runs. Several times I heard the staccato “whack, whack, whack,” as the handle of Mike’s reel rapped his knuckles. Often, a big pike runs 30 to 60 feet. At one of the spots Anderson took us, I noticed a big fish facing away from us, 40 feet from the boat. I cast beyond the fish and pulled my fly slowly in her direction. When the fly was a few inches from the fish, it disappeared. Her first run toward open water was long enough that I was into the backing on my reel.

On our last evening, we saw several 40-inch fish, which would not take an orange or chartreuse fly.

Anderson, eager for us to wind up our trip successfully, said, “Tie on the black ones.”

I clipped the flies off our leaders and started to tie on the black ones. I finished Mike’s rig and started on mine. While I was on that task, Mike caught one of the big pike; a few minutes later, I caught another. We had two 43-inch pike on fly rods to end the trip.

Wolf Bay Lodge does not offer an open bar or hot tubes, and the outhouse has a can of bear spray on the seat. And though it’s warm and dry with home-cooked meals, the attraction at Wolf Bay is fishing for pike and lake trout. Contact Brent Osika at if you want to catch the biggest pike you’ve ever caught.

And, I know Mike’s not a skeptic any more.