Thoughts on Bait
All kinds of freshwater and sea fish baits catch pike. They can also be an excellent way of singling out bigger, lazier pike, which have no qualms about scavenging an easy meal. Dead baiting needn’t be a case of chuck it out and leave it, however, and there are various presentations that will work. Wobbling or ‘sink and draw’ is a particular personal favourite. This is the technique of using a dead fish almost like a lure and twitching it through the water to mimic sick or dying prey. Sea fish will work, but I tend to find coarse species such as roach or small skimmers much more durable for repeated casting.
Wobbling is a great way to search the water slowly and thoroughly, giving a big pike all the time in the world to react. It is versatile too: baits can be air injected to sink painfully slowly and worked around weed growth, for example, or indeed weighted to search the depths.
Striper Fishing Cape Cod Canal Photo Gallery
If a pike follows the bait but is hesitant, you also have the option of simply letting the bait drop to the bottom to be picked up. For sheer effectiveness, sink and draw would probably be my most successful method. My first canal 20-pounder took a wobbled bait, as did my best-ever canal pike of 23lbs 10oz.
Static presentations also catch plenty of pike, and while they require a little more patience there is something deliciously sinister and exciting about watching the bright tip of a large float start to bob, or line start to snake from the spool. A smelly bait such as a sardine or mackerel is also the obvious way to tackle a muddy canal where pike may struggle to find your offering by sight.
Baits needn’t always sit on the bottom. Drifting or ‘trotting ’ offerings in the tow is a fun and active way to fish.
Both float and leger presentations have their place on canals. A float set-up is ideal for weedy waters where a sunk main line is easily hindered. Legering is easier in wide or deep areas however, and the line can be kept beneath boat traffic. When I fish static rods, I like to use both methods. This way I can watch a float, while my second, legered bait is set up with a bite alarm, so I know immediately when a pike takes. Unless you have eyes that look in different directions (not unheard of in my locality) I believe it is always safe policy to use an alarm on a second rod. Should you not detect a run, the result could be a deep-hooked pike, which is often tantamount to a dead pike. For this reason you should also stay close to your rods and hit bites early. When the line
Pike are deceptively fragile. Handle and release with care – just like Jim Moore.
Broom handle pike rods are unnecessary on typical canals. A light carp or specimen rod provides a more sporting bend.
The part that makes the least sense in traditional pike fishing is how often we nail our baits right to the deck. For one thing, pike have eyes that look upwards. Nor are pike always glued to the canal bed; in fact, quite the opposite when hunger strikes. Legered baits can be popped up off the bottom, either by injecting them with air, or using a little balsa or foam gadget to the trace. Not only does this make your offering far more visible to the pike, it keeps it out of the weed.
Nor do float-fished baits have to be presented hard on the bottom All canals will ‘tow’ through from time to time or be affected by the wind. A dead bait fished at mid-depth can be drifted to search a great deal of water and quite ofen outfishes one left, on the deck. I like a small roach or sprat for this method, hooked through the back with just one treble to work its way along the canal. It might feel counter intuitive, but this can be a brilliant trick. The bites tend to be very positive and on shallow canals it can be a great method for the impatient pike angler to cover a lot of fish.
The jaws have it! Pete Gregory took this canal monster on a large spinnerbait.
Perhaps I’m soft at heart, but the only method I hesitate to use is live baiting – an effective weapon no doubt, but one now banned on the majority of canals. For sensible reasons too, because every time a bucket of fish arrives from a different water, with different parasites and diseases, the angler gambles with the health of their fishery. I make no moral censure here, but should you choose to bait with live fish, you must always catch your bait from the canal you intend to fish.
Canal pike are not always jacks! The author tempted this fine 23-pounder with a wobbled roach.
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