This site is about learning about and learning from people who love fishing. To say Christopher Pereira loves fishing, might be the understatement of the year. Chris’ passion seeps through each of his answers. Not only does he have a love for the sport, but I learned some things from Chris, particularly his special technique for smallmouth bass and the New Jersey pike fishing that I have been overlooking.
Where did your love of fishing come from?
I can’t give the typical answer to this question, which would probably be something along the lines of my dad or grandpa took me when I was a little boy. No one in my family fishes! So unfortunately, I missed out on fishing for about 25 years of my life! I did go maybe half a dozen times here and there with a friend growing up just tossing a worm under a bobber for sunnies, but that was it until about 10 years ago.
My friend Nick texts me out of the blue and says, hey want to get our fishing licenses? Sounded like a good idea, so off we went and for about a year we spent a lot of time fishing from shore with bait, mostly on Lake Hopatcong. As my friends say, that’s how a monster was created and now i’m pretty much obsessed with every aspect of fishing.
It didn’t help that I was dating my now wife and her parents live right on the water at a private lake in Jefferson, needless to say I spend a lot of time in their backyard as well. It’s just a combination of the always evolving hunt, connecting and battling with an unknown creature from the depths, spending time on the water with friends, and just being in nature…I can’t get enough of it. It’s an ever changing, endless challenge!
What have been your 5 favorite fishing moments since you got started in fishing?
#1 – My first really big fish. My buddy Nick and I were fishing with bait from the shore near Dow’s tackle shop on Lake Hopatcong, and I put my rod down on the ground to do something. A few minutes later my rod started sliding towards the water. I lunged for it just missing it as it went in!
I threw my arm in the water and somehow got my hand around the rod before it sank out of reach. I then was into probably still one of my top 10 battles to this day with what turned out to be a 14 pound 3 ounce channel catfish on 6 pound line.
It involved the fish diving around the dock pilings and me jumping to areas of the concrete dock that were pretty much crumbling away as i moved around. After a couple of minutes, we had the fish in a net that was way too small for it, but i’ll never forget that moment.
#2 – Getting off the shore and fishing from my first boat, a kayak…and specifically using it to saltwater fish in the ocean! Every angler should experience hooking into a big saltwater fish from a kayak…what a rush!
I can remember being out there with some other kayak anglers in the spring off the coast of New Jersey near seaside and we were just trolling around waiting and hoping a school of migrating stripers would come by. After a few hours a whale breaches the surface maybe 40 yards from us and bunker started flopping everywhere. Schools of big striped bass just started going nuts all around us. It was a free-for-all with constant hook ups left and right with kayakers being towed around by big 38-43″ stripers. What an amazing, chaotic experience.
#3 – My biggest fish to date. I was jigging for bluefish on my friend John’s Seahawk out of Keyport, and I set the hook into a fish that just started peeling drag nonstop for probably 2 minutes plus. I was using a medium saltwater baitcaster and was trying to slow it with my thumb the whole time. I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a thumb finger print for a few weeks after that.
Thankfully the beast tired before I ran out of line. I was pretty thankful I had the large spool filled with #50 braid that day. We were able to land a huge black drum that topped out our 50 pound scale so I could only estimate it’s weight at 60 to 65 pounds.
#4 – Less of a moment and more like ongoing moments, but I have to say having the opportunity to fish with some great anglers from NJ and around the east coast thanks to forums and websites that allow anglers to connect and share experiences. I firmly believe you can never stop learning when it comes to fishing, and the more people you fish with the more you learn.
Each fisherman I fish with and share experiences with is a moment that has to be on my list. For example, my friend Justin and I started fishing together after talking on a local forum, NJfishing.com. From that, we’ve had some awesome adventures traveling and fishing including huge blue catfish and cobia in Virginia, Lake Ontario king salmon, and big steelhead trout in Ohio.
#5 – Ok i can only pick 5…I’m going with my first muskie. I spent about 10 trips trying to catch my first muskie. My only boat at the time was a kayak and so that’s what I fished from.
I was getting a few follows on a large plopper lure and so I stuck with it trip after trip, 75% of the time. The time I had put in was starting to pile up and I just kept researching between trips wondering what I was doing wrong.
Finally I get smashed 5 feet from my yak and I had my first musky hooked…for about 2 seconds and it popped off. I’ll admit I lost my temper a bit on that one but pulled it together and just started fishing again.
The sun was getting real low and I was about to accept that I failed again, but on the last couple of casts my lure gets demolished on the surface…and I yank the lure right out of the fishes mouth on the hook set! As the lure is launching over my head i just kept my composure, for once, and swung the lure right back out where it came from without recasting it and the fish came back and crushed it again!
I waited this time and set the hook properly. After a violent thrashing fight, I landed my first muskie at 43 inches. The time and effort I had to put into this fish and the frustrations I had to endure just made it a really special moment.
I could probably go on and on forever but that’s the first 5 that come to mind.
I love your multi-species success from New Jersey. Let me start with your bass fishing, smallmouth and largemouth. What are your favorite bass fishing waters in New Jersey?
Multi-species fishing is what I’m all about for sure! Any time I’m asked what my favorite species is, my answer is “you can’t make me choose!” One of my favorite things about fishing in New Jersey is the vast opportunities of different places to fish and species to fish for. NJF&W really makes New Jersey a great place to be an angler.
As for bass fishing, my favorite waters are Swartswood Lake, Splitrock Reservoir, and Merrill Creek Reservoir. They each have pros and cons throughout the changing seasons, but each is special in it’s own way. They are all electric motor only. That, on top of being home to some real New Jersey giants, makes these places top of the list for me. Just being able to fish without motor boats around is enough of a special feature for me.
If you had to pick one of these waters, at one time of year, with one method of fishing, what is your pick in each of these categories?
The technique I’d choose is not a common one so I feel like I should explain. A couple of years ago my buddy Arty was introduced to a unique fishing technique by his friend Ted. In turn while fishing with Arty, I learned this technique as well and adapted it to my own fishing outings as well.
The technique, in short, is basically jigging a fly while pulling it along with the trolling motor to cover water. I tie the flies myself, a type of flat-wing fly usually, and attach them to a long leader with a loop knot.
Then lead-core line of different lengths is used to hold the fly down behind the boat at the desired depth. As I pull the lure with the trolling motor I jig the fly hard and let it fall on slack line. This method is pretty much unparalleled during the fall season on Merrill…it’s hands down the way I’ve hooked and landed most of my biggest smallmouth bass.
The construction of the special hand tied flies and depth control are the keys for this technique. The bass just go nuts for it while they are ravaging the bait balls in open water.
So to sum it up…Jigging self-tied flies, at Merrill Creek Reservoir, during Autumn…I feel like I just won the fishing version of the board game ‘Clue’.
Now, I have been excited to ask you about your pike fishing. New Jersey isn’t exactly the State that I think about for pike fishing. Why am I wrong for overlooking the pike fishing in NJ?
Well, to be honest, New Jersey probably isn’t the place where anglers are going to travel from afar to target pike, but for those of us that live here we have some great pike fishing close to home. Anything over 34 inches is considered quite large here…fish that the further north states and Canada probably consider closer to average nice fish.
That being said New Jersey Fish and Wildlife has done an amazing job turning New Jersey into a great pike fishery, especially considering our latitude. My favorite pike water is the Passaic River. Pike were introduced to this muddy river, that is littered with sewage outfall pipes, to control the carp populations and the pike absolutely flourished!
It’s definitely not what most people would look at and think ‘pike waters’, but they thrive in there like you wouldn’t believe. Pair that with mostly skinny waters, and you’ve got some hand to fin, close quarters combat fishing and it’s just a total blast. Just don’t get the water in your mouth…haha.
What are your favorite baits for pike fishing? What are the keys to success with each of these baits?
My favorite baits for pike would probably be spinnerbaits, though it seems like everyone and their mother is using them these days and their effectiveness seems to be declining a little in popular spots. So over the past 2 years, I’ve also started using other lures more often to try to give them something new to strike at. Big slow floating plugs are great, my new favorite is the Game On! Bent Minnow. They absolutely love to t-bone that lure when you let it quiver back up to the surface on the pause.
I also make myself some large makeshift spinnerbaits rather than using the generic, regular sized, store bought ones. I wanted a bigger spinnerbait lure to target those bigger pike, but my muskie ones are just too heavy to fish in the shallow, snaggy sections of the Passaic River. So i just get some large blades, bend some wire the size of a large muskie spinner bait and only pinch on about 1/4 to 1/2 ounce of lead. This allows me to slow roll a much bigger presentation over the shallow snags where these pike hang out a lot of the time. I actually lost what would’ve been my biggest pike on one of these homemade spinnerbaits…it involved a broken rod, broken line, and a post snap head breach just to show me how big she really was…I don’t want to talk about it…haha.
Anyway I think the real key to these fish is to remember it’s never going to be the same and it’s very likely fish that see your lure have been caught before in skinny water. You have to be careful not to spook them, take the time to try different retrieves, from stop and go, slow steady, to burning it. They’re very aggressive at times, but sometimes they seem to want just one very specific combination of things.
You recently took a trip to Florida. How was the trip?
I really loved this fishing trip; not just because of the bass fishing, but because I had the opportunity to fish with a real stand-up veteran angler and friend. Captain Morris Campbell and I had been exchanging comments and fishing pictures on Fishidy.com for a while. We are both Ambassadors for the site and he often told me to come down to Florida.
Unfortunately this trip was not for fishing, but was a trip to Disney World with my wife and a couple that we’re friends with. I had no car, no way really to get away to meet up to go fishing. Morris offered to drive about an hour and a half, out of his way, to pick me up at the hotel and take me to one of the top big bass lakes in Florida.
We went to Stick Marsh/Farm 13 in Melbourne, Florida. Keeping bass even in a live well to release is not allowed there, I believe, so there are no tournaments there ever. Morris told me, that kept the fishing pressure down and it sure paid off.
We caught 38 bass average size of 17 to 19 inches, and I had 6 to 7 bass between 20 and 26 inches! My biggest one was 26″ and 7lbs 13oz, and it was pretty skinny. It was absolutely the best bass fishing I’d ever experienced and I will be back to Florida in the next few years, for sure, to fish with Captain Morris again. Though probably saltwater next time, there are a lot of species down there that are still on my ‘to-do’ list.
What is your review of Captain Campbell as a guide?
He was an absolute pleasure to fish with and a total pro. He made sure I had the best bass fishing of my life and pretty much ruined me from largemouth bass fishing in New Jersey for the rest of the season…haha. He guides for bass and also many saltwater species down in Florida.
You do a lot with Fishidy. What is Fishidy for those that may not know?
Fishidy.com is a great site! It is basically a water map based fishing forum. People from all over the United States can post and share fishing pictures, fishing tips/spots, or even specific structure on a lake or river.
Posts can be tagged with as much or as little information as you want. You can tag a lake/river on an actual map which can then be accessed by your friends/followers. The maps are overlaid with Navionics mapping so you can go on and look before a fishing trip and game plan based on other anglers marked structures and fish catches laid over an actual depth map. It’s pretty cool and very helpful, especially when hitting a lake you’re not familiar with.
Users can also just share pictures and comments, like I said you can really use the site however you please. I’ve been using it for a few years now and post a lot on it. They asked me to be an ambassador for them a while back and I gladly accepted that request. It’s filled with great people and it’s a real great community of anglers that pretty much just love talking about fishing and sharing photos, on top of the mapping features.
Who are your other pro staff companies?
Besides being an ambassador for Fishidy.com, I also represent Ardent Reels, Xzone Lures, Game On! lures, and American Tackle Company. This is the first year I’m trying the pro staff opportunities for these companies and it’s definitely a pretty neat experience.
Ardent reels makes great spinning and baitcast reels so I took advantage of the huge pro staff discount to replace some old reels and increase my arsenal. Their C-Force spinning reel has become my favorite spinner, and I even started using it for big saltwater fish. It’s so light it almost feels like you’re going to be outmatched by big fish but it hasn’t failed me yet! It’s pretty cool to be a part of great teams of anglers and get huge discounts and freebies on gear you love using!
Game On! Lures and Xzone Lures have some top of the line lures that flat out just catch fish. Game On!’s bent minnow lure is really unique and quickly became one of my go to top water/subsurface lures this past spring/summer. Xzone Lures has amazing versions of popular soft plastic lures with their own unique twists.
I was recently asked to join American Tackle Company, as well, and I can’t wait to try out some of their unique jigs. I’ve already become a huge fan of their Bushido Fluorocarbon line.
All in all, I love having the opportunity to use effective gear from great companies and promote it to other anglers. I’m no salesman, but I sure love catching fish and taking cool pictures! I’ve also been starting to do some photo editing and I’ve created and innovated many of my own lures in my garage, so maybe i can take it to the next level…we’ll see!
I already can’t wait for a next interview with Chris. What passion for the sport. It is easy to see why these great companies have selected him for their pro staff. And, I have already started thinking about a spring kayak pike trip to the Passaic!