Bob Volz knows where he'll be this Saturday:
On Hayden Lake fishing for pike. It's tournament time.
"Oh yeah, I'll be there," he says.
The Spirit Lake man knows pike. He has been going after them in North Idaho since sportsmen first realized pike were in the chain lake system back in the mid-80s.
"There was nobody around in this area who knew how to fish for pike," he said. "I decided to go ahead and go work swing shift at my job, then when I'd get home I'd get the boat and go out and fish. I was on the water, every day, seven days a week on Coeur d'Alene until I learned how to catch them. Once I figured out how to catch them, I had to figure out how to catch the bigger ones."
And he has done that perhaps better than anyone in the Idaho Panhandle.
In the past two decades, Volz had caught thousands of pike - and released a great number of those, too. He prefers to let them go for a young angler to hook on another day. He'll be happy, along with other members of the North Idaho Pike Association, to share his secrets of pulling pike from lakes.
"It's quite a process if you've got nobody to show you. But that's the good thing about our club members," Volz said. "We're real good about helping people who want to learn how to fish for them."
One thing to know up front. Pike put up a fierce fight, so get used to tired, aching arms.
"It's a thrill. These fish are very powerful," he said. "When you get one over 10 pounds, you get one on, you don't just bring them in."
One 23-pounder he landed took more than 20 minutes to net.
"It was pulling the boat all around," he said.
The North Idaho Pike Association's purpose is "to gain new friends at a competitive level while bringing people together who have a passion for pike fishing."
The 2010 pike tournament fishing season kicks off Saturday at Hayden Lake. About 14 teams of two persons per boat are expected for the tourney that may see some challenging weather conditions of wind and rain.
"It's going to be tough," Volz said. "This weekend, I figure you catch one you'll be in the money."
Members fish about 10 tournaments a year in Idaho, Washington and Montana. Basic rules include two people per team; one pole per person; must have rubber nets and must have a state fishing license.
Volz has patches on his coat as proof of just a few of the tournaments he has won. There's one each for the North Idaho Pike Association overall champion in 2004 and 2005. There's one for the NIPA Hayden Pike Tournament in 2006.
He hopes to collect another title this week. And it's not just about winning. It's personal.
"My pet peeve is just to beat Jeff Smith. He owns Fins and Feathers. He and I are good friends. I don't care about winning the tournament," Volz said with a laugh. "I just want to beat him."
Pike have long been his favorite fish.
"When you're fishing for pike you'd be amazed how many big bass you catch. I mean big bass. We're talking 8, 9-pound bass," he said.
"Pike are so unpredictable; they're the only fish I know of that you can't predict when they're going to bite like you can a bass or a trout or perch," Volz said.
He displays a small stack of pictures of members at different tournaments. There's one in Trout Creek, Mont., at the Noxon Reservoir. Another of a fish being pulled from the water near Cougar Bay, more anglers at Hayden Lake and Lake Coeur d'Alene. There's a shot of Volz holding up two pike, one 18 pounds and one 13, that landed him the title at a tournament at the Noxon Reservoir.
"These are all pretty good fish. We do get quite a few."
Volz, originally from Abilene, Texas, lives in the Spirit Lake area, where he owns 40 acres and built his log cabin out of red fir.
He has been president of the NIPA for about five years.
"I'm a very avid hunter and fisherman," he said. "That's my life."
He even designed his own 18-foot Procraft boat that has taken him on the region's water in pursuit of pike. His biggest was a 28 pounder he reeled in at Twin Lakes.
Volz loves the action that comes with pike.
"You'd be amazed how many fish we've caught in the 10-15 pound bracket, another fish will come in and smash the side of that pike while you're fighting it. It's amazing," he said.
This time of the year, he recommends throwing something bigger than normal to hook a pike.
"Whatever you put out there now, you want to really move it slow. Very slow. And you want something that will show a long ways. Bright, silver, white, because you've got murky water."
If you're wearing polarized glasses, it helps so you can see the fish coming up. When that happens, start twitching the lure.
"It will spark their instinct to strike that lure," he said.
Most North Idaho lakes have pike patrolling them, more than anglers might suspect.
"In some lakes, the pike will take hold," Volz said. "In others they don't seem to reproduce."
Volz said there is no limit on pike in Idaho, something he would like to see changed, but nothing too restrictive.
"This area here holds the potential for world record northern pike, over Canada, even. It's got the right water and the right situation for it."
The North Idaho Pike Association fishing club is looking for members and the season opener tournament is Saturday on Hayden Lake. There is still time to register. The nonprofit club has been around for nine years. Information: www.northidahopikeassn.com or Bob Volz, president, (208) 651-4547