September 25, 2008

Bass Specialist Crowley Hooked on Pike in Manitoba

Jim Crowley, 41, Bloomington, is best known in Central Illinois as a bass expert. He guides anglers to largemouth often, and bass fishing is often the topic when he writes magazine articles or appears on television.

But, it's a different story north of the border. In Manitoba, Crowley is a pike specialist, an honor he was given last year when he completed the required task of landing five northern pike over 41 inches. Three came on one trip to Dunlop's Fly-In Lodge & Outposts in northwestern Manitoba.

Crowley added oak clusters to his pike battle ribbon when he returned to Dunlop's on assignment for Midwest Outdoors Magazine recently. He landed another "41" and a 42.4-inch pike. Both fish reached or exceeded the 41 inches needed to be counted in the Master Angler awards in Manitoba.

But, that wasn't all. Within an hour after fishing began, Crowley was cradling a monster 48.5-inch pike for his fishing partner, lodge owner Jerry Dunlop. That was the second beast that size Crowley netted for Dunlop in two years.

They were fishing a fly-in lake called Campbell. Never heard of it? You would if you were in Manitoba.

"Of 10 of the biggest pike ever caught in Manitoba, I think three of them came from Campbell," said Crowley, whose dad hooked him on pike as a kid. "A 50 was caught there this year and a 55-incher was caught there three seasons ago. This is a lake for big fish."

Campbell Lake is an outpost stop for Dunlop Lodge, which is so far north in northwest Manitoba the resort is only open from June to early September every year. Crowley was one of the last anglers there this season before moose hunters arrived for their season.

Campbell is just four miles long and two miles wide. But there's no shortage of places to fish on what is a typical Canadian lake chiseled from rock. Pike haunt the huge weed beds.

A cold front that arrived pushed the biggest fish to the outside weed line where they held tight to the edge or suspended just off the vegetation. The pair cast lures like a Mann's Minus 1 or Mepp's Number 5. They switched to a Grinder, a bait classed as a small muskie bait that is equipped with a single willowleaf blade.

"What was really cool, we were slow rolling them like you would bass fishing, but you had to drop into the pockets in the weeds and you never felt a strike," Crowley said. Even with 50-pound braided line, you would just feel weight, set the hook and it would be a 20- pound like. It was so strange. Jerry lost one or two in the 45-inch range and he never felt the bites. They would come out and tarpon and come off because you never got a good hook set."

Crowley also used a 7-inch Gulp Jerk Shad designed for saltwater fishing with some success.

The lodge is on Lake Waskaiowaka at the mouth of the Little Churchill River where Crowley caught three of his Master Angler pike on one trip last year.

Visit for more information.

Tournament notes

The Gregg Tichacek Memorial Muskie Tournament hosted by the Central Illinois Muskie Hunters and Illinois Muskie Tournament Trail will be Oct. 18 at Evergreen Lake. Launch at the White Oak Ramp. Hours are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Entry is $60 per team. Phone Duane Serck at (309) 267-1601 or [email protected]

The Illinois Walleye Trail will host a Fall Classic at Henry on the Illinois River on Oct. 19. Entry fees will be $200 in advance, $215 on the day of the event. Big fish pot of $10 is optional. The IWT 2009 fishing tournament schedule on the Illinois River kicks off Nov. 2 at Hennepin and Nov. 23 at Henry, then March 22 and April 25 at Spring Valley. The state championship will be April 26 at Spring Valley. Cost is $200 per two-angler boat plus optional $10 for big fish pot. Visit or call (309) 527-6328.

Scott Richardson is Pantagraph outdoor editor. Contact him at (309) 820-3227 or email [email protected] Share stories and read past outdoor and fishing columns at blogs

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