How To Prepare CountDown Magnums for Northern Pike
They say, “go big or go home”. Well, we’re not going anywhere, so let’s go bigger than big!
The Northern Pike is a top predator here in Scandinavia, and there are not many fish swimming in our lakes that the pike won’t eat, or at least attack and try to eat. Sometimes, they catch a too big meal, such as a 3kg trout, which they then cannot swallow and must let go. Frogs, snakes, rodents, birds and just about anything in suitable size that dares to take a swim in pike territory is at risk of being seen as a snack. When thinking about the size of lures we use and then comparing it to what a big pike readily swallows, such as other pike of 4kg, 1,5kg perch and so on, we quickly realize we must invest in big lures. But should we be using supersized lures? Can they be beneficial?
The answer to both questions is yes. Some of the big pike have learned to only target big food items to maximize calorie gain for as little effort as possible. That is why they won’t even bother chasing down a small prey. No, they wait for the real deal. Or in this case, meal.
Another upside the big lures have is that they send out a lot of “noise”. The noise is created by the swimming action and water resistance. Especially big crankbaits move a lot of water in front of them and create vibration, which pike pick up with their lateral line and move in to investigate. The second upside is the size of the lure - it’s clearly visible and creates a very visible silhouette against the sky or background.
Rapala has a wide range of upsized and magnum sized lures, such as the Rapala Magnum and CountDown® Magnum® series. Ranging up to whooping 22cm (CD22) we got ourselves a lure that will create so much turbulence below the surface there’s not a pike that won’t notice it.
Created for the tropics, the Rapala CountDown® Magnum®s are super durable, made to endure big sharp teeth and they can easily handle the speed we pike anglers use to retrieve or troll our lures. Their slender, minnow shaped size imitates many of pike’s natural foods and increases the hook rate since it slips easily between the teeth, getting a good grip.
This saltwater beast comes armed with heavy duty saltwater hooks, which are unnecessary thick for pike fishing. Not only do they need more force for penetration, they also leave bigger wounds in the fish. That is something we do not want, since we are often practicing catch and release angling. The share force to set the hook in tropic angling is due high-speed trolling where the boat will force the hook to penetrate. Bit casting for pike we need to apply that force our self by setting the hook. The CD22 comes with even thicker and more formidable dual hooks, so before heading out casting these beasts for deep water and pelagic pike we will make some hardware adjustments to make the lures more suitable for our target species, the mighty Northern Pike.
What we need in addition to our Rapala CountDown® Magnum®s are a pair of strong split ring pliers. I recommend using the Rapala RCD Mag Spring Split Ring Pliers which are easy to use with one hand and are strong and sharp enough to easily open a split ring. We also need extra split rings, since we are about to do a trick to increase our hook rate. And of course, we also need replacement hooks that are more suitable for pike. I primarily use three hooks on the CountDown® Magnum®s, depending on model size and purpose of usage. The hooks are the VMC 4551 Rapala Pike Series trebles found on the X-Rap® Peto, X-Rap® Otus, Super Shadow Rap®, to mention a few. I also often use the VMC 7554 which is a 2X strong treble and suits the Mags very well. Then I also rig a couple CountDown® Magnum®s with the VMC 7556 which is a 3X strength hook. They are good to have for situations where I put more pressure on the fish or want to use a smaller sized hook without losing strength.
For the biggest Magnums I use the VMC 4551 in size 3/0 or the VMC 7554 in size 2/0. With the CountDown Magnum 18 and smaller, I just go down in hook size. Rule of thumb is that I want the gap between two points of the hook to be wider than the body of the crankbait.
The modification we make is very easy. On all sizes from CD Mag 14 to CD Mag 22 I use two split rings for every hook. This will give the hook much more space to rotate when fighting a fish so your successful landing percentage will increase a lot. The original Mag split rings are more than enough for pike, so you don’t need to replace those - just add an extra to every existing split ring and then attach the replacement hook.
The CD22 has a special dual hook, that is easy to remove with the RCD Mag Spring Split Ring Plier simply by grabbing the hook eye and pulling it loose. The hooks are strong, so if you are struggling, spread the hook apart at the same time with your hands as you pull it out with your pliers.
As you can see, the procedure is very simple and quickly you have modified your tropical Magnum cranks into dual split ring pike slayers. They have better penetration and harm the fish less. If you want to take the extra step for catch and release angling, you can use the same pliers to flatten the barbs of the hooks to make them barbless.
These lures are amazing for being cast in deep waters for pelagic pike, fished outside deep slopes or over deep reefs. They work very well and catch a lot of fish. It’s also quite common for me to get bonus zanders on them, even with the biggest CD22.
This article was about preparing our Magnum cranks for the upcoming season, and we’ll take a look at how and when to use these lures in a future article.
My favorite time to make lure modifications, maintenance and such is now during the winter, when the lakes are frozen and my craving to go fishing is complemented with these kinds of activities. Put on some good music, grab some snacks and drinks and start tuning and dreaming about how to put your creations to use next season.