The tackle used for pike fishing needs to be very strong. Not only must the tackle subdue a large and powerful fish, but it must also withstand the exertions of casting heavy baits. Some anglers use a carp rod for pike fishing and this is fine if you are only casting small fish baits moderate distances. If you need to fish at long range with larger fish baits then a more powerful rod is needed. The line should also be strong, especially if you are fishing in areas where there are snags or where large pike are likely to be encountered. Lines between 10 lb and 15 lb (45 kg and 6-75 kg) breaking strain are not too heavy.
Bait fish for deadbaiting Just about any species of fish will catch pike, but some are more effective than others and, equally important, are more easily obtained. One of the most effective dcadbails I have used are sprats. These small sea fish are cheap to buy from your local fishmonger and, being very silvery, are great pike attractcrs. Sprats are about the same size as large bleak, and 2 lb (o-g kg) of sprats will be enough for a couple of days pike fishing. Sprats are seasonal fish and unfortunately there may be times when they are unobtainable from your fishmonger. When buying sprats always try to buy fresh ones because deep fro/en sprats tend to go very soft and mushy when thawed out. This makes them difficult to keep on the hooks. Other sea fish which make good dcadbaits are herrings and mackerel. These are more expensive than sprats but both these baits have accounted for some very big pike. Herrings and mackerel can be used whole, or cut in two and half the fish used as bait.
The best deadbaits amongst European freshwater species are roach, dace, small chub and gudgeon. Perch and ruffe will also catch pike but their green colouration makes them less visible, and therefore poor 9’ ( baits for static dcadbaiting. Worked through the water using sink and draw tactics these species will attract plenty of pike. One of the most effective deadbaits is a small grayling, but this species is very limited in distribution and only a minority of anglers have access to a grayling river. If your family owns a deep freeze your deadbaits can be obtained in the summer months when they are easier to catch and stored for use during the autumn and winter months.
The size of the bait fish you retain for pike fishing depends on the type of pike water you fish regularly. Some anglers claim that the larger your bait the larger the pike you are likely to catch. This does not necessarily follow and I have caught several pike larger than 20 lb (9 kg) when using a sprat deadbait. As a rough guide I would be more likely to use a large deadbait such as a herring when trying to catch pike at long range in a big reservoir or gravel pit, and use a sprat with the sink and draw method when searching for pike in a weedy river.
Sink and draw deadbaiting This is the simplest method ol”dead-baiting. And it is very effective. Some anglers mistakenly believe that dead-baiting is a static and inactive method of fishing. This is not so, for this technique of deadbaiting can be a very active and absorbing method of catching pike. Use a wire trace when pike fishing to prevent the sharp teeth of the pike from severing the reel line. Lengths of wire trace can be bought separately from most good tackle shops or else they can be bought already attached to two treble hooks. Lengths of wire trace complete with treble hooks are known as snap tackle. Wire to be used for traces when pike fishing should be supple as well as strong. If the wire is not very flexible the bait will not be presented to the pike in a natural maimer and is likely to be rejected or ignored.
The length of the wire trace should not be much less than half a metre. When using small fish baits such as roach or gudgeon use a single treble hook fastened to the end of the trace, or a large single hook. A swivel should be fastened to the other end of the wire trace to which the reel line can be tied using a clinch knot. The number of treble hooks you fasten to the trace or the decision to use one large single hook depends largely upon the size and shape of the bait fish you use. Pike have very hard bony mouths into which you have to secure a firm hookhold when you strike. A pike will grab a fish bait across the middle before turning it to swallow it head first. If you use a large deadbait two, or even three, treble hooks will ensure a better chance of hooking your pike whilst it is holding the fish crosswise in its jaws. A small bait fish such as a roach or gudgeon will be engulfed in the pike’s jaws immediately, so one treble or a large single hook will give you a good chance of hooking the pike.
For repeatedly casting and retrieving a deadbait it is best to use a small to medium sized bait. Repeated casting with a large bait will strain your tackle and cause a great deal of disturbance to the water. Always ensure that the swim bladder of the bait fish is punctured before using it or it will float. This can be achieved by sticking a baiting needle into the body at intervals along the fish.
Sprats are a fairly soft bait so, to prevent them falling off the hook during casting, mount them on two small treble hooks set a few centimetres apart. Stick the point of the end treble into the mouth of the sprat and a point of the second treble into the back of the sprat near the dorsal fin. Gudgeon and small roach can be mounted in similar fashion or by simply hooking the mouth of the bait fish with a single barb.
No leads or floats are necessary for fishing with the sink and draw method. The bait fish is cast out into the swim and allowed to flutter enticingly down through the water.
Very often a pike will grab the bait as it sinks through the water. If no biles are fortheoming allow the bait to remain on the bottom a minute or two, then raise the rod tip and reel in a few turns to lift the bail up through the water. Repeat this process until you eventually draw the bait into the bank again. The idea is to keep the bait constantly fluttering up from the bottom and then sinking again to imitate a sick fish. Few pike can resist a bait worked this way, and if pike are in the vicinity one will soon make-its presence known. The pike will attack the bait in several different ways. Some fish will lunge at the bait as it is sinking and move off quickly. Others will approach the bail whilst it is resting on the bottom and grab hold as soon as you lift the rod to move the bait. Some pike will gently pick up the stationary bait giving no indication of their having done so until you lift the rod to retrieve and feel the heavy pressure. Do not delay the strike when using small baits fished sink and draw. To ensure you drive the hooks home properly, tighten up the line and sweep the rod back in a smooth but powerlul strike. The emphasis is on a smooth strike rather than a hasty snatch.
By fishing a deadbail by the sink and draw method you can cover many likely looking swims. If no bites occur after half a dozen retrieves, then move to another spot and try again. This is a very active method of catching pike and you can cover as much water as you can livcbaiting. It is also just as successful. Static deadbaiting As the name suggests this method of fishing for pike is something of a waiting game. Pike are confirmed scavengers and will readily pick up a dead fish which is lying on the bottom. The deadbait can be fished using frcclining tactics or, if you want to cast small fish baits long distances, a running leger can be added to assist casting. When using large sea fish baits such as herring or mackerel mount them on two treble hooks. Hook one treble in the gill flap of the bait and the other in the back near the dorsal fin. When casting long distances it is often wise to bind the trace to the body of the fish with thread to withstand the force of casting. After casting out reel in the slack line and place the rod on two rod rests. The back rest should be higher than the front one so that the rod is inclined towards the water. In windy weather it is best to sink the rod tip under the surface to avoid wind interference. Leave the bale-arm of the reel open so that a pike can pick up the bait and move away without feeling any undue resistance.
A bobbin indicator can be used next to the reel to indicate a bite. This need not be sophisticated; silver paper folded across the line is quite effective. When you notice a pike pulling line off the reel, remove the silver paper and pick up the rod. Leaving the reel bale arm open. When you decide to strike, close the bale arm and wait until the moving pike takes up the tension on the line, and then sweep the rod back smoothly. When you are fishingatvery long range begin the strike by pointing the rod tip at the water so that the rod travels in a big are before the strike is completed. This compensates for any stretch in I he nylon line which may cushion the strike and prevent the hooks from penetrating the pike’s bony jaws. Floatfished deadbaits Deadbaits can also be fished effectively by suspending them below a float. Do not use the large traditional pike bung, but use a streamlined float sufficiently buoyant to support the weight of the bait fish and yet large enough to be seen easily. A float can be used to indicate takes from a pike when fishing on the bottom, or to support a bait fished in midwater. On a large lake a float can be used to drift a deadbait across a large area of water. This is an effective way of searching for pike in a lake during windy weather. The surface drift carries the float across the lake and tows the dcadbait along after it. If you have the deadbait well clear of the bottom the float bobbing up and down in the waves transmits this movement to the dcadbait which will attract the pike.
Another effective method of presenting a deadbait is by using a paternoster rig. The bait is anchored in position with a lead on the bottom and the fish is suspended at Un-required depth. This is an effective method for presenting a bait above weedbeds. For this method it is better to use a dead fish which has not had its swim bladder punctured, and so floats clear of the line.