An Unforgettable Kayak Ride: The day ‘Mr. Tooth’ escaped

A quiet morning at Center Lake located in south-central Michigan began with a calm current, a gentle breeze and a beautiful sunrise. I was donning my cold-weather gear, had my safety equipment and launched my tunnel hull Native Slayer 10-pedal- drive kayak. Peace and serenity was an understatement, as the water sparkled and a swan drifted by in front. The water and air temperatures were still chilly, but having the opportunity to travel out in the “yak” was a welcome change from winter.

The first cast was a calm, controlled spin of my medium-spinning reel. I released the fluorocarbon line into the water with a small synthetic worm. A beautiful little 5-inch bluegill with green skin was caught. I grabbed it with my angling glove without incident.

Later, I pedaled over to my old reliable spot—it was time to switch up the bait for the largemouths. My first choice was a synthetic leech rigged with a 2/0 octopus hook. Cast after cast produced no strikes, a place that normally was very active with quality bass. One view of my fish finder revealed most had disappeared. Usually, I’d move on to another spot, but the electronics revealed a large arc, signifying a larger fish. I switched to one of my other go-to baits: a 6-inch, red, synthetic worm with the same 2/0 hook.

Four casts into the 14 feet of water with gentle lifts and tics of the pole, proved successful—clunk. My reel then screamed and I practically was shot out of my kayak. Then all of a sudden, the chase began, as the fish moved toward the kayak. If this were a bass, it had to be a record. I cranked my light-tackle rig gently and prayed that the line would not break. Luckily, on this setup, the line was just replaced a week before with 10-pound-test line before. For such a potentially large fish, this weight rating is was light as a tug of “wills” continued.

Eventually, both the fish and I were wearing down, after one half hour. My arms were on fire and I was still amazed that the line had held up. After skirting across the lake for an hour with calmer pedaling and controlled reeling, I was exhausted. Whatever fish was on the hook, it was tired out too.

With all of my remaining strength, I managed to carefully place the rod in one of my holders and keep steady pressure on the fish. I paddled and pedaled backward, and gained some ground during the fish’s rest period. I then reached the shallow water of Center Lake. “Mr. Tooth” was in my line of sight, about 20 yards away now. I kept thinking to myself: Keep calm and you will have your personal best of some species of fish.

Finally, the monster appeared; it was a large northern pike.

The anticipation was unreal, and soon this lunker would be mine.

Mr. Tooth finally made it to my yak. This was the largest northern I had ever landed on any tackle out of a kayak. The only evaluating device I had with me was my Hawg Trough that reached 30 inches. This mechanism had floatation added, and was carefully placed in the water above the pike. The fish measured at 42 inches. After such an arduous battle I realized my net was not behind me, and left at home. Consequently, I tried to lift this fighting fish into my craft.

Then, the rod and line just snapped.

Mr. Tooth was free to live on for another epic battle. He won this round—until we would meet again on Center Lake once more.