Fishing for Pike: Baits and Tackle
For pike live-baits on still water most fisherman use the species found most commonly in the area. ROACH, RUDD, PERCH, and small CARP will all take fish. The great Alfred Jardine found that using a species unfamiliar to the pike of a given water was particularly killing — GUDGEON, for instance, not often found in lakes, or even goldfish.
On rivers, much the same kinds of live-bait are used, but RUDD are less common and DACE and small CHUB come more into the picture.
For dead-baiting, any of the small fish mentioned above is suitable. (It is important, of course, to pierce the fish’s swim-bladder to make certain that it will sink.) Considerable success, however, has been had with herrings and sprats bought at the fishmonger’s. Big fish have a well-known predilection for big baits, and a herring of a pound or so is substantial enough to interest a good pike. The fish does not necessarily have to be used whole.
It should be emphasized that the bait does not have to be fresh; we have recorded successful dead-baiting with really stinking fish. (I myself have caught pike with a dace-bait that I could hardly bear to put on the hook.) If you cannot get hold of fresh herring, bloaters are acceptable.
For normal autumn and winterartificial lures are legion, and the novice angler will be hard put to make a choice. Action, colour, and size are the vital points which have to be considered in the purchase of an artificial, and it might be convenient at this stage to look at some of the standard baits with these considerations in mind. As far as action goes, some lures revolve (spinners and most spoons) while others merely wobble (plugs and some spoons). A bait with the most violent action is not necessarily the best; I once owned a rubber plug bait which went through the water with a really demented wiggle, but I never caught a pike on it. Action seems to be more important in rivers than in lakes; presumably still-water pike rely more on eyesight and less on the sensitive lateral line which picks up the vibratory movements of small fish than do river pike. Plugs with a wild action are more effective in still water; bar spoons with a marked vibratory effect work well in rivers. What matters as much as anything is whether the angler himself is happy with the way his lure is working. If he fishes with confidence he fishes well.
The same thing applies to colour and brightness. As far as plug baits are concerned, where bright metal is not involved, reds, greens, whites, and yellows in various combinations seem to do best with pike. Very bright metal spinners and spoons are not to be recommended. I have always done far better with a tarnished metal spoon than with one that shines brightly on both sides. Very often, spoons are painted with a matt finish on one side for this reason. How bright a lure you use will depend a great deal on water conditions. Use a dull lure in clear water and a brighter one when the water is clouded.
One thing the novice angler will be up against is that the lures available in the tackle shops are usually on the small side. Most spoons seem to average no more than 5 cm (2 ins) in length. If you are lucky they may be available in sizes up to 7.5 cm (3 ins) but generally that is all. A 7.5 cm (3 ins) fish is not particularly exciting to a 9 kg (20 lb) pike, and if possible a bigger offering should be arranged. One big spoon on the market is the Hardy’s Jim Vincent, which is 13 cm (5+ ins) in length. Certain big plugs are available also, but they have to be sought out. For serious pike fishing, therefore, the lure should be not less than 6 cm (2f ins) long, and bigger if possible. Big pike have been taken on small lures, but such captures are exceptions that prove the rule, no more.
It might be useful for the beginner to have a short list of lures that are well tried. Among spoons, the Colorado, Mepps, bar spoons of various designs, kidney spoons, and elongated Norfolk spoons are all tested fish killers in their big sizes. Among plug baits, the plastic ones seem to be more effective than the jointed wooden variety. So far as I know, no British manufacturer has anything to offer as good as the plug baits imported from the United States. Phantoms and devons are not used much by pike fishermen (though some very good fish have been taken on a 12 cm (5 ins) silver-devon), but the Wagtail, in a large size, will kill pike.
One of the difficulties in choosing tackle for live-baiting is that a much greater weight has to be cast in this game than in any other branch of. Many expert live-baiters swear by a large bait, of 350 g (1 lb) or even more. Even a 100 g (4 oz) bait is a problem to cast, especially when it is remembered that there is the additional weight of the lead and to be considered.
With a really big bait, casting is virtually out of the question. The bait has to be thrown out by hand, the reel line being spread out on the ground, or, in the case of a, the pickup being left open and free from obstruction. To throw the smaller, standard bait, a reasonably hefty rod is necessary. Sometimes also, particularly in lake fishing, a long throw is desirable.
This means that a certain amount of sport has to be sacrificed as far as the smaller pike are concerned, but the specialist angler who is out for really big fish will not mind this. For him, special. First rods have been developed, notably the Stepped-Up Mark IV, designed by Richard Walker, and another to the specifications of Dennis Pye, the Norwich expert on the Norfolk Broads. Both of these rods are of split-cane. I find a long, light, surf-casting fibre-glass rod admirably suited to live or dead-baiting for pike.
Whatever rod you choose, do not let it be too short. A long rod can occasionally be a nuisance in fishing heavily overhung waters or from a boat, but the extra casting power it gives, and the control one is able to exercise over a hooked fish by mean of it, amply make up for this. 3 m (10 ft) I think, should be re.
Garded as the minimum length. To facilitate casting, the reel fittings should be well up the butt, and should be designed to hold the reel firmly. I prefer afitting.
A centre-pin reel of good line capacity seems to be best suited to live-baiting, though there is something to be said for using a multiplier, or a sea-type fixed-spool reel, the last-named particularly if much casting has to be done from a bank constricted by trees and bushes. I prefer a centre-pin as a rule because the cast is an easier swing, not so likely to throw off a bait.
The line can be of monofilament nylon, but I prefer one of the braided synthetics such as Terylene, since these give no stretch to speak of, an important point when striking a fish. I do not think 6.7 kg (15 lb) b.s. Too heavy to recommend, since with the comparatively heavy weight involved, the line is liable to shock-loading during the cast. The biggest pike, too, seem to live near horrible obstructions, sunken trees being a favourite haunt. A really big pike diving for safety takes a lot of stopping! The trace, of course, must be of wire. Alasticum is still the best bet, although it has to be carefully checked for kinks developing during fishing. The twisted wire covered with nylon which is now on the market looks good but is untrustworthy. It suffers from the same defect as the old gimp did; the wire rusts inside, and the weakness is not apparent until it is too late.
Traditionally, a tandem of special treble (a hook with three points on one shaft) hooks known as ais used for attaching the live-bait. This, perhaps justifiably, has been stigmatized as involving undue suffering for the bait, and, used wrongly, can in fact kill the bait in a short time. Many pike fishermen these days, myself included, use a single treble hook mounted amidships or lip-hooked. With the single-hook tackle it is noticeable that while small pike are quite often missed on the strike, it is rare not to hook a good one successfully.
There remain to be discussed the float and the lead. Traditionally again, a tubby, Fishing Gazette pattern float is recommended, the bait being kept down in the water by a spiral lead of appropriate size. There is no point at all in using a very big float unless a really big bait is being used. Even in this case, a more streamlined float is much less likely to arouse suspicion in the pike, since it will offer less water resistance when it is drawn under. Walker suggested a bomb-shaped rather than a pear-shaped float for this reason. For small baits, a good-sized cork-bodied Avon float is perfectly adequate.
As far as the lead is concerned, the spiral type is more satisfactory when fished on a wire trace than it is on a nylon one, but even in the former case it has a distressing tendency to come off during the cast or in the water. A drilledlead, stopped with a , is much more useful.
The tackle for dead-baiting is just the same as that described for live-baiting, until the trace is reached. Clearly there is no need foror a lead. Two treble hooks are used in tandem, mounted on a wire trace as before. The hooks are set into the bait, one behind the gill-cover, the other about midships, and the wire is then threaded by means of a baiting needle through to the tail root and out.
For the most part, a light SALMON spinning rod is well suited for pike. These rods are usually of split-cane, but there is an increasing tendency to use fibre-glass in their manufacture. If you do decide on glass, choose hollow glass, not the solid kind. You will find this has a better casting action. The length usually recommended is between 2.1-2.4 m (7-8 ft) but I prefer a longer rod for the reasons mentioned above. Areel fitting is recommended; continual casting tends to work the reel loose on simple sliding fittings. If you intend to use a fixed-spool reel, make sure that the butt ring is a big one, one of those designed for the purpose. The rod I have described will cast conventional artificial lures and small dead fish.
A standard-sized fixed-spool reel is preferable to any other type, especially if much of your spinning from the bank is done in constricted surroundings, since with a fixed-spool reel it is easier to flick out a bait under a canopy of trees and bushes. Load the spool with 3.5 kg (8 lb) monofilament; I think it rather foolish to go below thisif there is a possibility of hooking a heavy fish.
This is the tackle to use in most pike spinning contexts, but in certain circumstances it is not ideal. In the summer, for instance, good sport may often be had by ‘stalking’ pike. In shallow lakes, the fish may often be seen near the surface in sunny weather, lying over the weed which may come to within 30 cm (1 ft) of the surface. For this game it is best to use a lighter rod than in standard spinning. The pike are usually smallish fish up to 2.5 kg (5 lb) or so, and great sport may be had with a trout-spinning rod, a fixed-spool reel loaded with 2.5 kg (5 lb) b.s. Line and a floating plug which is fished very slowly on the surface.
When the weeds are down, and the water reaches its winter level, a very large natural bait wobbled through the water is an excellent lure for a big pike. Heavier tackle is necessary, however; I myself employ the gear described earlier for live-baiting.