I can’t pretend to be even in the top 100 of modern day pike anglers but I have fished with some of those who would be on that list and I have learnt a few things from them.
Lure fishing is really catching-on nowadays but still there are anglers using old worn out lures that are no longer fit for purpose. First of all we must accept that pike are a more fragile creature than was once thought. At one time many pike were killed as they were seen as a threat to the general coarse fishing enjoyed by pleasure and match anglers. Times have thankfully changed.
Despite their vulnerability, tackle needs to be stronger than that used for other species, even carp. Hence, one major requirement is to use braided line of a weight-rating suited to the size of lure and size of fish you intend to catch. For example; for light lure fishing up to 28 grams (1oz) you could get away with 15lbs mainline, but aim as best you can up to around 30lbs. For jerk bait fishing I even use strengths up to 65lbs and have one reel loaded with 80lbs.
This is to ensure that you don’t lose and leave a fish with a mouthful of trebles. You need to get that fish onto the bank and for this monofilament just cannot hold a candle to modern braids. Braids are also very much thinner pound for pound than monofilament so a good quality 15lbs braid can be as fine as 3-4lbs monofilament and 65lbs braid the same as 15lbs monofilament.
Buying quality braid is expensive but that’s just the initial outlay; you will find that it lasts many seasons and when it starts to lose its colour, you can simply de-spool and reverse it. The other saving you’ll make is on the amount you’ll need to use: 70-75 metres is plenty because you’re not going to cast anything like that far and even if you could, you’d have no control over the lure. So a 150 metres spool of braid will provide two fills for you. Take sharp scissors that will cut braid cleanly.
Another benefit of braid is its ability to turn a big fish and land it a lot sooner. This will save the fish from exhaustion and prevent the build-up of lactic acids in muscle tissue (which can lead to the fish’s demise if you’re not careful) Braid, then, is the way to go and that’s for all pike fishing.
For fishing with dead-baits, use a soft, parabolic-styled rod designed for pike-fishing and not a fast-action carp rod for casting to the sun.
Next is the trace and this, too, should be strong so don’t be afraid of using 20-45lbs trace wire. Coupled with strong braid it should be possible to retrieve any lures that get snagged on the bottom or on weed. Traces should be long enough to wrap around a pike’s mouth without the mainline coming into contact with its teeth so anything up to and around 15-18inches is fine. Stiff steel traces used with jerk-baits – typically 6 inches to 10 inches – rarely get near a pike’s teeth so these are fine for this method.
A word about swivels: use large ones of the ball-bearing variety where possible and always use them with heavy traces. Obviously, on lighter set ups you use whatever is available at that size, but don’t expect it to do a particularly efficient job.
When it comes to landing-nets, the most important thing is that the net material is latex-coated to prevent hook-points tangling. Avoid using nets which are too deep. When a pike is in the net, thrashing and twisting around wildly, too much netting can allow the fish to bind itself and this makes for a more difficult job in untangling the fish before unhooking.
Spoon nets of 30 inches in length are ideal unless the fish you expect to catch are 20lbs plus. The old Fox Predator net was ideal but it’s no longer made so you might find some of the ‘boat nets’ suitable with measurements of 70x80cms or greater. Some have a folding frame for easy storage and a handle that collapses into the net itself – or almost. Look for the makes Spro, Savage Gear, Greys, Pezon, Wychwood or any quality name.
You will also require unhooking equipment. Long-handled forceps are ideal but some of the stainless steel ones have long jaws which cannot impart the pressure often necessary to dislodge the hook. The answer is to cut the jaws down to around 1¼-1½inches in length with a hacksaw and then round off the tips with a file. A little rub-up with wet and dry paper sees the job through and the ends won’t go rusty because, of course, the forceps are of stainless steel. You will need to buy a pair with strong arms though: nothing that will bend and give.
You should also equip yourself with side-cutters in case you need to snip the hooks. The types designed specifically for pike fishing are recommended though tradesmen’s models will do the job if they’re long enough. Usually – but not always – lures hook-up just inside the jaw, but wherever their location, be careful to keep your fingers away from those needle-sharp teeth: bleeding can be profuse and difficult to stem.
There is, apparently, some kind of enzyme on the pike’s teeth and gill-rakers which prevents blood from coagulating so if you’re unfortunate or daft enough to sustain a really bad wound you might consider packing up for the day. It is well worth carrying some sterile cleansing wipes and waterproof plasters in case this happens, but as one expert told me, you haven’t had a good day’s pike fishing unless you’ve received a wound or two!
And so to gloves… you may see the odd pike angler using a purpose-made ‘wire’ glove when unhooking his catch. Some seasoned pike-anglers frown upon these as they can damage the fish’s gill-rakers; others, however, say they’re OK as they give you more confidence in handling the pike. Remember though, these only prevent a cutting motion: the pike’s teeth could still penetrate through the weave of the material with a stabbing action.
Always use a standard unhooking-mat rather than a cradle; the latter is fine for carp and other large specimens but for unhooking a pike you’ve caught while roving they’re impractical. I won’t go into handling the pike for you should know how to do this before setting-out. If you don’t know, go with an experienced piker on your first few sessions.
When posing for a photograph, keep the fish fairly close and stay low to the ground. If it’s anything other than a very special fish, just get it back into the water and don’t bother with the photography. Some anglers recommend dropping the fish back in but the bigger girls require particularly careful handling and a gentle passage back into their world.
What you DO NOT need is a gaff or a gag. These are tools from the old days and quite illegal to use now. If you see anyone using these illegal instruments, remind them of the new bye-laws.
Enjoy your lure fishing!
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