MY TOP 10 PIKE BAITS REVEALED
Predator angler Duncan Charman reveals his top 10 best pike deadbaits and explains when, where and how to use them. (As published in European magazine)
Without a doubt my favourite deadbait for static pike fishing on both still and running water. Sardines are very soft and oily which means they have to be cast out in a frozen state. Before casting its best to pierce the body a few times or remove the head as this will increase the thaw under water and allow the blood and oil to disperse into the water surrounding it giving it extra appeal. Mounting a sardine is simple just press the barbed holding hook (nearest to the swivel) into the tail root and then the second treble into the body just behind the gill plate. Sardines are what I classify as an ‘instant-bait’, where you expect to get a pickup relatively quickly and the soft skin allow the hooks to release from the bait on the strike giving you a very high hook-up ratio. I have also had some fantastic results by popping up off the bottom.
Due to the soft skin they are no good for sink-and-draw, trolling or wobbling and are prone to being ripped apart from unwanted species like eels.
Frozen sections can also be hair-rigged next to a big single hook and fished with devastating results over a pre-baited area.
2 – Mackerel
Tough skinned and very oily make these a favourite for many, especially when pike are found at distance and a long cast is needed. Small mackerel known as Joey Mackerel are similar in size to a sardine and again best mounted when frozen by placing the holding treble in the tail root and the other behind the gill plate. Piercing or removal of the head allows the juices to disperse into the water and a bait that can be recast a few times once thawed out. Bigger mackerel can be cut in half with the tail section especially good for very big fish, probably because it can be cast out and left far longer and able to withstand the attention of unwanted species for longer than softer baits.
Being toughed skin allows them to be used in techniques where movement is required but generally considered more as a static bottom bait. I tend to use bigger hooks with mackerel as it’s harder to set the hooks on the strike compared with a soft skinned bait and you often find the bait still in the pikes mouth after capture.
3 – Roach
Without a doubt one of the most versatile of all natural baits and one that I landed many a big pike on including my best of 31lb 10oz. Its slim lined body and tough skin makes it a good caster both frozen and thawed, however a couple of turns of bait elastic is recommended once thawed. Small roach are great when packs of pike have rounded shoals of bait fish up and can be retrieved back through these in a sink-and-draw or wobbled fashion, or even simply fished under a float at different depths.
Bigger roach can be used as a static deadbait, mounted with the holding treble set in the tail root and second in its flank, popped up using poly balls or critically balanced with balsa sticks. Piercing the body or removal of the head again releases bodily fluids and small sections are perfect for hair-rigging over a pre-bait.
Equally productive on both running or still water and great for trolling, wobbling or sink-and-draw techniques when mounted with the holding hook placed in the head and once again some bait elastic wrapped around will prolong its life.
4 – Trout
Probably the best bait when it comes to inflicting movement as its tough skin will withstand casting all day so its number one for trolling, wobbling or retrieving in a sink-and-draw fashion. Always place the holding hook in the head of the deadbait when the above techniques are used and due to their size often two trebles are set along its flank with a single it its head.
It’s also a bait that often scores when all else fails so pays to always have a couple for such a situation. Obviously a top scorer on large gravel pits that are stocked with trout (if allowed) and a bait that has also accounted for many a big fish on pressurised venues where everything else has been tried and the pike have wised up.
5 – Smelt
The most distinctive factor about a smelt is its smell, similar to cucumber! These yellow slim lined supple sea fish are again something every pike angler has to have as on a tough day they often score when all else fails. Just because they aren’t that big doesn’t mean they don’t catch big pike, they do. Brilliant bait when movement is inflicted and often mounted by using a big single holding hook placed in the skull and a treble down its flank. Brilliant for wobbling and sink-and-draw tactics when pike have shoaled bait fish up, especially those venues with a natural bait ban, although wrapping some bait-elastic around is recommended. Not often associated with trolling, but works well as a static bait and one that can easily be popped up by simply injecting air into the body.
6 – Sprat
These small silver sea fish aren’t associated with big fish but are what many anglers start using in their early days of pike fishing as they are cheap and replicate small baitfish that pike feed on. Very soft skinned mean they need to be mounted on hooks frozen and wont withstand powerful or repeated casts. Often only lipped hooked and fished under a float when pike are feeding heavily on live fish and one good tip is to fish a single treble and place a small sprat on each hook.
Absolutely no use when any amount of movement is inflicted and due to their soft delicate skin not a bait that can be left out for long when static deadbaiting but a bait that mimics small roach very well.
7 – Perch
Not as easily obtainable as other natural baits such as roach but many a pike angler’s first choice for wobbling, sink-and-draw or spinning tactics. Spinning is completely different to that of wobbling or sink-and-draw as this involves creating a kink in the perch by keeping the wire taught. Mounting a perch head-up (holding hook nearest the trace swivel in the head) with a kink in it makes it spin in the water and the deep body of a perch works much better and creates much more flashes and an agitated movement than slimmer fish such as roach.
Also a very good, tough static deadbait and one that casts well and will withstand the attention of nuisance species for far longer than that of a soft skinned bait. Piercing the flank or removing the head also adds attraction and when deadbaiting the holding hook needs to be placed in tail of the perch.
8 – Herring
This is classified as the in-between to a sardine and a mackerel and is popular as it casts well when frozen, is really oily, has a skin that’s tougher than a sardine allowing hooks to be set in a pikes mouth easier on the strike but then not as durable as a mackerel. Small herrings can be mounted like sardines, along with their heads removed or body pierced for extra attraction or cut in half when bigger and fished as a big fish static deadbait, one that can be left out longer.
Certainly too soft for any use when movement is needed but a bait that takes on colour well so often used to outwit wary predators that have seen it all. I’ve had some great results trotting these down a river under a float when pike are feeding on big silver fish as its silver skin replicates these well.
9 – Lamprey
This strange pike bait was all the rage a few years ago and gave the piker something totally different to the standard fish looking deadbait. Long and thin with a very tough skin it looks similar to an eel and it’s full of blood. Its tough skin and strange shape allows it to be fished in a sink-and-draw fashion, wobbled even slowly retrieved back just off the bottom, yet in most cases these are cut in half, or just a inch off the tail and used statically allowing the blood to draw predators in.
It’s also a very good bait to use in the up-and-coming single hook style of fishing and hair-rigged behind a big single and seems to catch not just pike but perch, zander and strangely carp!
10 – Bluey
This strange looking sea fish seems to have taken pike fishing to a new level as anglers seek to find edges over others. Normally around twelve inches long this long thin silver sea fish is usually cut in half and fished statically on pressured venues where anglers are prepared to sit and wait but a few have been inflicting movement with startling results, so don’t ignore mounting these head-up’ and twitching back.
Its thin body is ideal for those conservation minded anglers that are finding just how successful hair-rigging fish sections next to a big single hook is and fishing over a spot that’s been pre-baited.