Practical tackle



Being aware of where your lure is, and what it is doing, gives you a big advantage over the angler who blithely casts and retrieves without a clue. The only times he is aware of his lure position is when he can see it, or it hits something on the way back. One way to learn how to gauge the distance from the rod of your floating lures is to stop the retrieve and see if the lure pops to the surface were you expect it to. A simple little idea, but one which can help you avoid snagging up on close in ledges. Quite how you gauge the distance out is hard to pinpoint, it becomes instinctive, but probably has something to do with the angle at which the line enters the water. A highly visible line is a big help in following the path of your lure. When I am fishing I am constantly altering my stance in order to put myself in the optimum position to work and guide my lure, and to make a strike. This will change, not only from cast to cast, but even during a retrieve, in order to bring the lure along the path I want it to follow.

Having previously mentioned that rod position has a major influence on hooking success, it is worth mentioning here that it also affects how deep or shallow your lures will run. The simple rule is that the higher you hold the rod the shallower the lure will run, and fairly obviously the opposite applies. With a little thought it is possible to work lures over sub-surface features without losing lure speed by raising your rod top. This is a critical aspect of lure control. Lure speed is often crucial. By holding the rod tip very high I have worked diving lures inches below the surface to come over the top of weed that pike have been lying up in. A more normal, low, rod position resulted in the lures fouling weed within a couple of cranks of the handle. This doesn't make for a good position to set the hooks from, but it has got me takes that I wouldn't have had any other way with the lures in my box at that time.

Not only does the rod position, and hence the angle that the line enters the water at, affect running depth, but so does the diameter, and density, of the line being used. Thick lines cause lures to run shallower, and conversely fine lines make them run deeper. This is of most benefit to anyone who has to fish as deep as possible in order to get takes. Selecting the finest lines available in your chosen breaking strain will enable you to achieve maximum depth, with least effort. It will also not be necessary to crank diving baits like mad to get them down, giving a slower running speed which is often beneficial when pike are lying deep. The lifting effect of thick lines is most noticeable when trolling which is one reason why lead-cored and wire lines are often favoured for deep-water trolling. Hi-Tech braids increase running depth too, being so much thinner than monofilament of the same breaking strain.

Not everyone fishes for pike in running water, but it is worth noting that water flow also affects a lure's fishing depth. It all comes down to the velocity of the bait relative to the water. A spoon cast upstream and retrieved with the same reel speed will fish deeper than if it was cast down stream as its speed, relative to the water, is slower when cast upstream than down. The same applies to spinners and spinnerbaits. Diving plugs work in the opposite fashion, running deepest when cast downstream.

It is not always desirable to fish your lures as deep as possible in order to catch pike, though. There is an old adage that goes; "Spin slow, spin deep". I think that this was coined by lure manufacturers who want your lures as close to the bottom, and the snags, as possible! Seriously, this can be a good approach when the water temperature is low and pike lethargic, refusing to move far to feed. However, the usual reason given for working lures deep and slow is that it presents them to the pike for the longest time, is way out of line. It sure sounds fine at first hearing, but think about it. A pike's field of vision is in the form of an upward pointing cone, wider at the top than the bottom. Surely, then, a pike will have longer to regard a lure that is passing over it higher in the water? Of course, working lures deeper might be successful because the pike has less time to inspect it. Having to make, literally, a snap decision or the lure has passed. Working lures higher in the water has the benefit, to my way of thinking, of giving a pike more chance of seeing them. For a deeply fished lure to pass through a pike's cone of vision it must pass close to the fish. Fished shallower it can cut the cone further to one side of the pike. I am certain that lures passing way over the heads of pike are more likely to be spotted. There is less need to put a lure within inches of a pike for it to notice it, and higher lures will be spotted from a greater horizontal distance, too. Baits high up in the water will cut through the cones of vision of more pike than deeper worked lures. As most animals, and I expect pike too, have peripheral vision that is attuned to perceive movement I suggest that baits moving through the edge of a pike's circle of vision will be noticed quickly. Maybe even more quickly than if they were passing through the centre of the circle. This is speculation on my behalf, but I hope this will make you think a little about the received wisdom of lure fishing. Don't take my word for this, or anything else. Think about everything I have to say, and apply your own views and experiences. You might reach similar conclusions to those that I have, or maybe not. Either way, it remains a fact that plenty of pike have been caught on lures fished three or four feet down over fifteen feet or more of water. On one water I fish this is, in fact, a regular occurrence.

Pike's eyeline
Because a pike's eyes are upward facing, lures do not need to be presented within inches of their snouts to be noticed.

One thing that I have noticed playing a big part in this strategy's success is the action of the lures used. The best all seem to have a wide side to side element in their action. Maybe this is because they cover a broader swathe of water, making the lure visible to more pike. This could easily be the case when it comes to gliding jerkbaits. And while a tight wiggle may well give out fish attracting vibrations, a more pronounced tail-wag will make a better visual trigger. Some minnows fit the bill well, as do the Gudebrod Maverick and Arbogast A.C. Plug among others. For dawn and dusk fishing these lures can work superbly too. Given reasonable water clarity, and fished close to the surface all the lurking pike will see is a silhouette swaying from side to side. Noisy lures are not essential for pike fishing in low light conditions. Two doubles (which required the flash gun for the photographs) caught within minutes of each other, on a Maverick, one autumn dawn proved that point to me.

Having disagreed with the deep part of "spin slow, spin deep" I'll now disagree with the slow bit! But not quite as vehemently. There are two main reasons for adopting a faster lure speed. The first is to cover more water more quickly. The second is to give pike less time to decide about taking a lure. Covering water quickly is most important in warm weather when pike are very active, moving around hunting and will chase lures. Having had a mid-double chase a jerkbait being cranked back as fast as I could, because I wanted to make another cast to a pike I had seen strike, I am now prepared to fish lures very quickly at times. I don't make a habit of this tactic, but it is one that is worth trying at times. Not all lures lend themselves to high-speed fishing, so experiment. Giving pike less time to inspect lures works best when near ambush points, so noisy or flashy lures are the ones to choose here. The plus side to fast retrieves is that pike that hit your baits are usually well hooked as both lure and fish are moving quickly. As the pike turns there is a good deal of pressure on the hook points. You don't have to react so rapidly to the take either. Unless the pike has followed the lure, grabbed it and carried on towards you giving that awful slack line experience. The only other problem with fishing fast is that pike quite often miss speeding lures altogether! Pike are not very accurate even at slow speeds. There is no happy medium. You either miss the fish altogether, or hook it well when it turns away.

Whether you agree with my views on lure speed and where in the water column you should be fishing your lures, or not, you will not be able to disagree that it is a good idea to present your lures in areas where there is a pike or two. All too often the advice to would be lure anglers is to cover as much water as possible with your baits. Not a bad plan provided you are only putting a few casts in each small spot. When searching for fish, perhaps on a new water, this is the tactic I adopt in the warmer months. But repeatedly fancasting an area in an attempt to locate pike is extremely time consuming and extremely boring. It is also a far less productive method for locating pike than it is supposed to be.

As a rule I prefer to confine my attentions to areas that I would be happy to spend some time in if I were static fishing with live or deadbaits, and to concentrate my casts to cover the precise spots where I hope the pike will be lying or moving through. I might spend an hour, or sometimes even longer still, in a small area giving it a thorough going over with various lure types. I may even return and try it again at a later stage, there is always the possibility that pike were present but not sufficiently switched on to show any interest in my baits. I always try and think in the same way as I would when fishing natural baits. I will frequently walk some distance without casting a bait in order to get quickly past water that I know to be unproductive. I am not saying that I don't miss out on fish by doing this, I do, but I think that I catch more fish in a shorter time by bypassing such areas. Only experience will teach you which areas to avoid and which to spend time fishing. I know one place that looks hopeless in comparison with nearby swims, but which outfishes them almost every time, and produces pike of a slightly larger size too. Unfortunately, spots like this can only be located by systematic searching - usually over a long period of time.

If I find a swim where I would choose to anchor a livebait close to a feature of some kind, in the knowledge that the pike are going to patrol along it, then my aim is to keep my lures as close to the feature for as long as possible. This doesn't necessarily entail working them slowly though, as a lot of quickly fished casts will achieve the same end result. In American parlance this might be referred to as "keeping the bait in the strike zone". The strike zone is, basically, the place where you expect to get takes! Of course, if this is the far bank of a drain there are problems. The ideal situation would be to fish parallel with the bank, but working a lure slowly is the next best option. Any feature that you suspect pike might be using as ambush points are worth investigating using a dead-slow, twitching retrieve. If you think that pike are actively hunting then cover the open water in a faster manner.

Sometimes lures fished close to or in amongst weed or other structure will be ignored, while those in the clear are hit time and again. The reason is simple. There are no pike in the weed, that's why the prey fish are there. The pike are stationed close to the food source, but not so close as to cause alarm, waiting for something to stray from safety. Make sure it's your lure! At other times the prey fish taking shelter will be small pike. If you are repeatedly catching pike of two pounds or less, from an area that is offering them a hiding place, lures fished near by but away from the cover might well produce a bigger fish.
The bank you are fishing from is always worth investigating even if there is only a foot of water, and here casts parallel with the bank are possible in many situations. Don't try to make the longest cast you can first time though. Start with short casts and gradually increase their length. This way you avoid spooking too many fish if you foul up on weed or whatever - or cast on to the bank itself and have to pull the lure free. It always hits the water with an almighty splash and a huge lump of vegetation! I have caught quite a few pike on casts of less than ten yards, sometimes quite a lot less.

When working my way along drains and canals, in particular, I have lost count of the number of fish that I have caught casting back to the swim I have just vacated. Even though I have been working lures over the same patch of water, a lure brought through in the opposite direction will often produce a take. Many times on the first cast. Has the pike been woken up by the initial activity, and provoked into striking when the lure goes past the other way? I haven't got a clue! All I know is that this tactic works time after time - and that's good enough for me.

Not all waters allow the use of boats, and not everyone has access to them in any event. They do, though, open up areas that are inaccessible by other means. I have caught a number of otherwise un-reachable pike by wading in shallow bays. This tactic is not without its attendant problems. Being many yards from the bank means that you have to carry everything with you, which limits lure selection. Luckily only surface lures, spinnerbaits, spoons and very shallow runners are required in these bays so only a few baits are needed. Even so, I have considered making a floating lure tray to tow behind me, complete with anchor to stop it drifting away. A landing net is not needed and the biggest difficulty arises when you want to weigh and photograph a fish. The best answer is to go wading with a friend. Wade quietly and slowly to minimise the number of pike you spook. In weedy bays they will lie in very shallow water when the water is warm. The fun aspect that this approach offers is tremendous. Takes under the rod tip are exciting enough when your feet are on dry land, but when you are up to your waist in the water it is multiplied many times. Add to this the fact that fish can run behind you while you play them and I think it is even more exciting than fishing from a boat. It's a pity that there aren't more opportunities for this kind of fishing.

When fishing lures close in, from the bank, it should go without saying that stealth is paramount. It isn't always essential to creep about on all fours to avoid alerting pike to your presence, but a low profile is a good idea on waters with little bankside cover. Most important is to tread quietly and move slowly. There have been a lot of occasions when I have been fishing a spot for some time when I have made a sudden movement and a pike has bolted from right under my feet. It must have been there all the time, probably aware of my presence, but un-alarmed. Maybe I wouldn't have caught it, but at least I know my approach to the swim had been right. As well as avoiding undue noise and movement, it is wise to keep your shadow off the water. Have you ever seen small fish scatter when a bird has passed overhead? All it takes is the shadow of some harmless fowl to trigger this reaction. Pike are no different and treat any large shadow as a possible threat. They might not shoot away, being more likely to glide slowly into deeper, safer water. No doubt switching off in the process. There are some stretches of one canal that I only fish in the mornings as this is when the sun is in my face, luckily the towpath switches over at one point giving me water that I can fish in the afternoons.

Shallow bay wading.

It is not just clear shallow waters that need care in your approach. I mention elsewhere how important I consider lure silhouettes to be in all water conditions, and the same applies to your shadow. I am sure that shadows on the water are very visible in most situations. Contrast is very noticeable under all light conditions, and shadows are pure contrast - light and the lack of it. Obviously light intensity plays an important part, and on overcast days there is less to worry about. Maybe this is part of the reason that such days are often productive, pikewise.

Pike that make their presence known in one way or another can be a blessing or a curse. In as much as they let you know that there are pike around and, to some extent, interested in your lures they are better than nothing at all. However, they can be extremely frustrating at times. We all like the times when every fish we see has a lure in its mouth, but some days pike all over a water will be in a following mood, other days it might just be the odd fish. I make a few suggestions for turning follows into takes elsewhere, the most obvious one, and one that is worth repeating is to change your lure. If this doesn't work, try switching back to the one that prompted the first follow. Sometimes the pike will take it. Other times it can be worth simply flogging away with the one lure until the pike takes. There are no hard and fast solutions, but resist the temptation to try every lure in your box. This is the least successful option. Far better to admit defeat and go look for another fish. One that is interested in eating your lures!

It is a strange aspect of lure fishing for pike that you can catch them outside of their normal feeding spells. Anyone who has done a lot of piking with static methods will tell you that pike feed best at certain times of the day. These vary from water to water, and at different times of the year. As a rule morning is the best time, and the middle of the day the worst, especially so in the warmer months with their longer days. Despite this I am quite confident of fishing lures at any time of day, which proves to me that lures trigger strikes from pike that are not actively feeding. Three o'clock in the afternoon, with a clear sky and the sun beating down would see me getting an undisturbed sleep if I was fishing with static baits. But this picture can be turned into non-stop action if lures are in use. Not every time, of course, but often enough. Along with a lot of lure anglers I like bright sun and clear water, preferably with a nice ripple on the water. When the sun is low in the sky this can be good for static fishing, but in mid-afternoon it makes for superb lure fishing conditions. Get out those flashy chrome baits and do the business.

If you accept my premise that pike are triggered into hitting lures, then it is plain to see that they offer an excellent way of catching a few fish in a short space of time. For pike nuts who have only limited amounts of time to go fishing, lures are the best option. I hate having just a couple of hours to pike fish with natural baits. Only if I know exactly where the pike are on a water, and precisely when they are feeding will I contemplate a brief session with natural baits. Lures, however, are another matter altogether. On my local waters I will quite happily have an hour chucking lures about at any time of the day, and be confident of catching something so long as conditions are not completely against me. I am the first to admit that unless your local water holds a lot of big fish this approach will not get you the monsters, but it will give you a lot of fun, excitement at times, and relaxation.

Depending on how long the trip you are making, and what kind of water it is to, you have to make decisions about which lures to take with you - and how many rods you will need too. For a short session of an hour or two walking around a local stillwater all that will be needed is one rod and maybe a dozen or less lures. But a full day, or more, afloat on a large lake four rods and a hundred baits will not go amiss! For long bank sessions I frequently carry two rods, both in order to deal with different lure types more efficiently, and to ensure a back-up in the event of mechanical or other failure. When using just one rod it will be the one that will easily cope with the heaviest lure I have with me. This may well see me fishing a spinnerbait on a jerkbait outfit. At least this is possible, whereas fishing a jerkbait on a spinning outfit is not. My two rod approach would be a heavy jerkbait rod for these lures, stickbaits and crankbaits, and a heavy spinnerbait rod for minnows, spinners, spoons and some topwaters. In the boat dedicated rods are used for their intended purposes.

As an aside, I find it best to take lures off traces when moving swims. This applies when on foot or in a boat. Hooks tangle in all sorts of things when you leave the lure hanging from a rod eye or keeper ring. My only exception to this rule is one rod when I am in a boat alone on the occasions when I'm not trolling between swims. Say I am moving into a quiet bay for example. In this instance I will have a rod set up with a minnowbait or some other stealthy lure like a Slug-Go. This rod is ready to go should I detect a pike that I can cast to. I once spotted a small fish skitter on the surface close to a reed bed. Unsure as to the presence of a pike I cast a white grub on a jig-head straight to the spot where the fish had shown itself. Three turns of the handle and a pike was hooked. If the rod hadn't been already rigged with the lure, the pike might well have moved on by the time I had clipped a bait to the trace.

It would be nice to come up with a plan of attack to use on every spot you fish. Start with this lure, then try that one and next another. This kind of routine might make logical sense, but it is very tedious. In any case, every spot is different, and the moods of pike change from day to day. My first lure choice might be made logically after weighing up the situation, and the second choice might also. It is just as likely to be made on the grounds that the second lure is completely different to the first one. It is usually a good idea to use a quiet lure initially to avoid spooking the fish, but don't worry about trying to wake the pike up if they refuse to co-operate. Even though a pike might not actually strike at a very noisy lure, a propbait say, it might take the next lure you throw.

Try and put the first lure you cast out as close to where you think the pike are. Don't waste time fishing shallow if the fish are lying deep. If it is sunny the pike might be in cover taking shelter, but if it is windy too they might be actively hunting in open water. Always let the pike dictate the lures you choose and how you fish them, rather than working your fishing in with a random selection of lures. While you will catch a few pike by sticking to one lure all day long, you will catch far more by swapping lures to fit specific swims. The other extreme of changing lures every few casts is also generally unproductive, as you rarely spend long enough using the right lure in the right place. It can be all too easy to get into this latter trap when nothing is showing. Don't. Stop, and take stock of the situation. Weigh up the conditions, the features, where in the water column you think the pike are feeding, and how they might want a lure presented to them. Select a lure on these grounds and persist with it. If you have thought things through correctly, and there are pike present, then eventually you should catch one. And where there is one pike, there will very often be more. If you don't get another fairly soon, move on looking for a spot that is similar to the one where you did catch.

Some days pike want lures that are a particular colour. The type of lure being almost incidental. Other days they want a specific action, the colour being irrelevant. Why this should be, and what makes it so, is one of the many mysteries of piking. It is however well worth being aware of if someone is catching on a particular lure and you are blanking in style. First go for the action match, as there may well be a relationship to a feeding depth that the lure is reaching. If that fails go for the colour match, aiming for a lure action as close to the successful bait as possible. Always try and think the pike onto your lures. Random lure choices work at times, but the reasoned selection is the better option. Even so, if you are flogging away with a logically selected black crankbait, to no avail, try the same lure in a lighter shade. You might have got the action right, but pike don't read the rule books so the colour could be way out. Many times, though, switching back to the original pattern provokes a response. I don't know why either!

I have no intention in going into detail about the weather and how it relates both to pike and lure fishing. This is because most of us have to fish when we can, and make the most of the prevailing conditions. So to lay down hard and fast rules is rather pointless. If the rules were spot on, then the occasions when free time and ideal conditions coincided would be very rare indeed. Far better to fish when you are able to, and work hard at enjoying yourself. However, lure fishing is undoubtedly most enjoyable in shirt-sleeve weather, which often suits the pike too. Given warm, but not hot, water pike will be pretty active. Someone more pedantic than I would quote temperatures, but terms like "warm", "cool" and so on are good enough for me! In all pike fishing it is changes in conditions, be they temperature, light level or whatever, that are likely to provoke or curtail feeding spells. Many's the time that the sun coming from behind a cloud has coincided with the first signs of pike activity. Equally many times the sun disappearing has done too!

As a general rule, a breeze that ripples the surface of the water is preferable to a flat calm. A stronger wind can be even better, so long as it doesn't hamper lure presentation. Rain, on the other hand can knock sport cold - literally. A sudden influx of colder water will tend to put pike down. That's not to say that pike cannot be caught on lures in the rain. They most certainly can, but I have a feeling that the noise of the rain might affect their hearing. It might be an idea to go for lures with more vibration to them. This is the only time I would suggest that 'noisy' lures might offer an advantage. Most of the pike I have caught on lures in the rain have fallen for crankbaits and spinnerbaits. In strong winds, when wave action might be thought to have a similar effect to that of rain on a pike's hearing, I prefer to increase lure size to make a more visible target. Light patterns are broken under water in a big wave, thereby concealing lures from the pike. The parallels between the two conditions are fairly plain to see, and the responses similar too. Make your lures stand out.

When waters are cool it is a general principle that lures should be slowed down, but worked closer to pike that are lethargic and unwilling to move far to feed. I am not convinced that this traditional theory is totally correct. When pike are feeding hard, which they will do in winter but less frequently, they will pursue prey just as actively as they would during the summer. I have seen enough pike chasing lures in January, February and March to know that this is the case. Unfortunately for us such active pike are far fewer in number on any given day in the cold months than they are in the warmer ones. It has to be said that river pike tend to be more active than their stillwater counterparts during the winter, and as a result are more likely to respond positively to lures at this time of year. However, I am becoming more and more convinced that lure fishing for stillwater pike is a viable proposition. In winter - provided you think about where you are going to fish in advance. If you know of a spot that holds a large concentration of pike, then spend a good deal of time working over this area. A few hours giving it everything you can. Winter pike will not feed all day, but this short window of opportunity could occur at any time. If you don't know when feeding time is, all you can do is keep at it. Treat your lure fishing like you would static bait fishing, or combine the two methods. I don't pretend that winter lure fishing on stillwaters will be easy, but I reckon that sticking at it is the answer.

Another approach, which might seem a little odd, is to choose a water that is pretty uniform in depth, and maybe even shallow overall. My reasoning behind this is quite simply that the pike could easily be evenly distributed throughout such a water. There is less requirement to search various depth bands for the pike as they are more than likely to be close to the bottom. Shallow waters are easier, in terms of practicality, to fish with a wide range of lures at a wide range of speeds and to put lures close to as many pike as possible. Perhaps it is wrong to assume that winter pike are lethargic. Certainly they don't feed as often, but when they do feed they are every bit as active as during the summer. A prey fish is going to require just as much catching in cold water as it will in warmer conditions. Slow is generally best for lures when water temperatures are low, but not always. More so than at other times of the year, putting your lures as close to the pike as possible is imperative in winter. Particularly on shallow waters of less than eight feet or so pike may be prepared to come up two or three feet to a lure, whereas a lure fished six feet down over twenty feet might be ignored. This is why I suggest that shallow waters might be a good bet for a spot of winter lure fishing.

I know quite a few pikers who, although quite content to lure fish in the summer, put their artificials away come October. If you really want to come to terms with lure fishing, then you must keep at it all year round. I always think that if you can learn to catch pike when the going is tough it will make life easier when things are not as difficult. This applies to all methods, not just lure fishing, but the use of artificial baits is the one area of pike fishing where we all still have a lot to learn. Perhaps as jigs and so on become more widespread in use we will see them coming to the fore in winter lure fishing, as they have for muskies and pike on the other side of the Atlantic. I am sure that winter lure fishing will become more and more understood over the next few years.

A January double which took a twitched Super Shad Rap after following in a slowly cranked Grandma. Despite the low temperature this stillwater fish was active.

As more and more pikers are discovering how effective lures can be for short session fishing I can see a change in attitude to piking in the U.K. Many people these days have commitments that prevent them going for the all-out, full day session piking approach. So the attraction of successful lure fishing is obvious. I know of people who have turned to golf because they got tired of the crack of dawn starts associated with pike fishing. Had they turned to lures the story might have been different. Sure, you can have a dawn to dusk day's lure fishing if you want, but it is not as essential as it is for static bait fishing. There just seems to be less pressure on you when you are lure fishing. I can also see that as the method gains in popularity how it can become a sport that the whole family can join in with. There are no messy, smelly baits to deal with and early starts are not essential. Perhaps lure fishing is going to become the future of pike fishing in this country as more and more bait bans and rod limits come into force. Let's hope they don't ban summer pike fishing. Not that pike can't be caught on artificials in winter, of course.

The one thing I hate about lure fishing is blanking. I can sit behind a couple or four deadbait rods for hours on end simply watching the world go by, but any more than two hours casting and retrieving without a sign of a pike is about as much as I can take. When the pike are having it', lure fishing beats all other methods hands down. But when they are off I find it just about the most boring method going. One way to beat the boredom of long fishless sessions is to have a rest. Maybe a bite to eat and a drink, or even an hour's shut eye. When you start casting again you are revitalised and full of confidence again. Tiredness and boredom are the two biggest drawbacks to long lure fishing sessions. I have to say that anyone who can cast and retrieve all day without stopping, except for food drink and the call of nature, must have a screw loose. Fishing should be fun, not an endurance test. Anyone who knows me will tell you that during a full day session in summer I don't cast all day, nor in winter for that matter. When nothing is happening I give things a rest. Sometimes I just hate lure fishing! The one thing that is guaranteed to keep me going is catching pike, or even just getting takes and missing them, or seeing pike follow my lures.

All this raises the question of what makes a good lure water. It would be nice if it was possible to weigh up a water without fishing it, taking into account the clarity, amounts of weed, depth variations and any other factors that might have a bearing on matters. However, it is my contention that the critical factor in determining if a water is good for lure fishing is the number of pike present. Low densities of pike make for slow piking with any method, and make it harder to put a lure in front of any pike - let alone one that might be in a responsive mood. The higher the density of pike in a water the more likely you are to get your lures in range of them, and the more responsive pike there are likely to be on any particular day. Second in importance in making a good lure water, is a low amount of lure fishing pressure. Research has shown that pike wise up to lures before natural baits, so this much is obvious. I can vouch for this as one water I have done well on with artificials sees hardly any piking pressure. In fact on this water lures have often out-fished livebaits - so much so that I have even gone there with just a box of lures and a couple of rods. Not something I like to own up to, but a fact nonetheless! Only after weighing up the number of pike (and pike anglers) would I start looking at the condition of the water. Ultra-clear water is often cited as essential when searching out good lure fishing waters, but I am always wary of this as it makes it all too easy for the pike to spot the angler, and the artificiality of a lure. A tinge of colour is preferable in my view because I am certain that it makes the angler's presence less obvious to the pike. There are so many variables to consider that I would suggest that the best way of discovering if the pike in a water respond positively to lures is to go and fish it. Fish it as regularly as you can in as many different conditions and learn if and when lures are successful.

To the committed lure only pike angler, what follows will seem heretical, and may well seem out of place in a lure fishing book to the rest of you too. I have already stated that I treat lures as just another kind of bait, so I see no problem with fishing them alongside livebaits or deadbaits. This way of fishing lures has a number of advantages for the angler whose aim is to catch pike. Sometimes the lures will draw pike in towards your swim where they might take one of your static baits. I remember winding a Kwikfish past a paternoster rig, so close to it that when the float disappeared I thought the lure had fouled the line. It hadn't, a pike had taken the livebait. Maybe it would have taken it anyway, but I like to think that the pike had followed the lure in. At other times the pike will prefer the lures. Maybe the static baits, live or dead, attract the pike in but they require the triggering effect of an artificial to promote a strike. Another attraction that this combination approach offers to the angler is the opportunity to try out an outrageous, or new lure, while still having another bait in the water. Fishing an untried lure on its own I find that I rarely give it long enough to succeed as my confidence is low. After a short while there is always the temptation to switch to a known fish catcher. Such is human nature. But with a static bait out I am likely to persevere with the artificial until it catches something. Hedging my bets I suppose.

The only problem I have when fishing lures and baits in the same swim is in deciding where to position the static baits. Do I put them in the spots where they are most likely to catch, and have to fish my lures outside the taking area? Or do I fish the lures in the optimum area? This will vary from swim to swim, and on the mood of the pike. There are no easy rules, you simply have to play it by ear.

One way of  getting the most out of a swim on a drain by fishing static natural baits in conjunction with artificial lures.

Next : 11 - Boat Fishing Tactics and Techniques