Practical tackle


There is little doubt that the first lure most pike anglers will have used was a spinner, or bar-spoon as they are sometimes known. Spinners are used in their thousands, not least because they are widely available - and cheap. They are also very good fish catchers. The vibrations that spinners give out are very strong, there is plenty of flash, and the lure doesn't mask the hook. All in all spinners have a lot going for them. Unfortunately they are probably responsible for the reputation that lure fishing has for catching predominantly small pike. Because small spinners are the ones most widely available they get used most often. Small spinners give off higher frequency vibrations than larger spinners, making them attractive to small pike, and their small size ensures that even tiny jacks will get hooked on them.

The most common type of spinner is the Mepps and its hosts of imitators. These lures have what is referred to as a French blade (no doubt in recognition of the Mepps country of origin). French blades spin easily, biting the water well, and give out a good strong vibration. Mepps, along with other manufacturers also produce spinners with willow leaf blades. Slimline willow leaf blades spin closer to the shaft of the lure, and they spin faster, than French blades. As a result of the reduced angle between blade and shaft, and the shape of the blade, willow leaf spinners have less lift than more traditional baits. This is a factor that can be used to your advantage when determining fishing depth. For example, French bladed spinners will fish higher in the water than willow leafed baits, given similar sized lures retrieved at the same speed.

Of course, larger blades give more lift than smaller ones. But as you might expect large blades to be accompanied by larger bodies, these factors tend to balance each other out. This is why many spinner manufacturers offer different ranges of lures with light, medium and heavy bodies married to blades of a similar size. Body weight is the way to determine running depth of spinners while maintaining a constant blade size. This ensures that the vibration and flash of the lure remains the same. So you can see straight away that there are many permutations available to the thinking angler when it comes to depth control for fishing spinners. It may seem absurd to fit a spinner with a buoyant body, but there are one or two such lures available. The Worden's Rooster Tail Lite being one I have tried. In its largest size the lure is sufficiently heavy to be cast on light baitcasting gear, but not into much of a wind! Most of the weight of the Rooster Tail Lite comes from the blade, which is large in comparison to the overall length of the spinner, and free turning. As you might expect this lure can be fished very shallow, at quite a slow speed, while still giving out a low frequency throb. Fished faster it can easily be bulged in the surface film. Not a lure I have had much time to try out, I admit, but an interesting one.

Colorado, Fluted, In-Line, Magnum Willow and Willow Leaf blades.

There are other blade types used on spinners. Colorado blades often seen on spinnerbaits are rare on in-line spinners, but not unknown. These blades give a tremendous amount of lift and are good for 'bulging' the lure just below the surface. A more frequently seen blade type is the Sonic blade. This one doesn't spin around the shaft on a clevis, as do all the other blades mentioned, but directly on the shaft. In-line blades give a strong vibration, and are a much neglected blade style. Fluted and Indiana blades fall somewhere between the French and willow leaf types in terms of both lift and speed. Some people feel that fluted blades bite the water better than plain blades, and give out stronger vibrations. In practice this is difficult to notice, but there is possibly something in this theory, there certainly looks to be more flash from the fluted surface than from a plain blade. The same goes for blades with a hammered finish.

As already implied, most spinners are too small to be consistently good at catching reasonable sized pike. Spinners the size of a number four and five Mepps Aglia are as small as I like to go for pike. Notwithstanding one or two big fish over thirty pounds (and the reported capture of one British record pike) on such lures, I don't honestly think that anyone would recommend spinners as a good bet for regularly catching big pike. Spinners are good at catching numbers of fish, though. So should you ever enter a pike-only lure match, don't forget your spinners! I could be wrong about the value of spinners. Let's face it, U.S. musky fishermen rate their bucktails very highly indeed. And a bucktail is only a jumped up spinner with a bigger blade and the addition of a hair dressing to the hook. Maybe it is because muskies are more surface orientated, and more willing to chase or follow quickly moving lures than pike, that bucktails are almost the standard lure for them. Certainly the dressed treble hook gives these spinners more lift than the baits we are used to over here, and all spinners have to be retrieved fairly quickly to keep the blade spinning. The hair also adds to the bulk and silhouette of the lures, making them more attractive mouthfuls for the fish. One or two musky bucktails are as much as fifteen inches long! Some years ago I experimented with home made lures working on these lines. I added large sea fishing muppets to a big Mepps, wiring in a second treble hook to compensate for the increased length of the lure. Total length was somewhere around seven inches and it worked - in attracting pike. Fish would follow it, but nothing ever hit it and I gave up. Maybe I should have persevered. But then again there have been a few spinners around for many years that have a rubber fish behind the blade, mounted on a couple of trebles, and these have never been of any use for me either. I know for a fact that they do catch pike for other anglers, but not for me.

If you do give bucktails and their like a trial, remember that they will fish shallower than standard spinners, and that the same rules still apply when it comes to blades. This is why many bucktails have willow leaf blades, to counteract the buoyancy of the bucktail or other hook dressing. Larger bucktails even have a second treble wired in behind the first, and maybe a lead weight at the back of the lure too. This weight is sometimes in the form of a keel to try and reduce the tendency of spinners to rotate in sympathy with the blade. The added lead aids casting and helps keep the lure down in the water. Don't forget that bucktails are heavier when wet, so dunk your bait in the water before making the first cast with it. This will help to prevent quite a few overruns.

Right to left, top to bottom. Mepps Aglia Longue. Mepps Musky Killer. Worden's Rooster Tail Lite. Wordens Rooster Tail. Abu Morrum Spin with treble replaced with worm hook and curltail grub. Mepps Lusox with replacement treble from a Musky Killer. Standard Lusox. Blue Fox Musky Buck. Renosky Lunker Minnow.

Bucktails are designed to be fished fast. This is partly to do with the American approach to musky fishing, and indeed to much of their fishing. From what I can gather their predominant style is a hit-and-run, searching one. If one spot doesn't produce the goods within a fairly short time they move on to the next spot. As the vast majority of U.S. fishing is done from a boat this is no problem. The British way is more contemplative and considered. On the whole I prefer our way of doing things, but can see the logic of the American 'percentage fishing' for fishing large waters from a boat. The more time your lures spend in the water, and the more water you cover, then the more fish you should catch. Sounds great. However, I always reckon that one cast in the right place at the right time will catch just as many fish. I guess this could be called thinking fish into the net". Any fool can catch pike by percentage fishing, it takes brains to catch them the other way!

I have already hinted at the biggest drawback to fishing with standard spinners. Line twist. No matter how free turning the blades are, the whole lure always revolves in sympathy, in turn passing this motion on to the line itself. There are ways around this, like using ball bearing swivels and anti-kink devices, preferably in conjunction with each other. As already mentioned, some bucktail spinners actually have anti-kink weights built in which rarely solves the problem completely. Other spinners have shafts that are bent upwards slightly ahead of the blade. Some even claim to have ingenious body designs that eliminate line twist. My solution to the line twist problem is foolproof - don't use standard spinners! Seriously, there are other, similar, lures that can be used, but which avoid the line twist altogether. One such is the spinnerbait, more of which later, and another is the weight-forward spinner. This type of lure has the weight fitted in front of the blade, and it forms a keel rather like an anti-kink vane. Weight-forwards are much scarcer than spinnerbaits and spinners, only three spring to mind as being available in the U.K. The best two are the Abu Morrum and the Mepps Lusox. Both these baits are available in a limited array of patterns but share a useful feature for the experimenting angler - interchangeable components. The Lusox has interchangeable heads, which means that blade sizes can be swapped or the head can be added to a standard spinner, creating an even heavier lure. The Morrum allows for dressed trebles to be interchanged, or even single hooks rigged with soft plastic twister tail grubs making for a weedbeating spinner, and increasing the bulk of the lure considerably.

Weight-forward spinners are designed, not only to reduce line twist, but also to spin as they fall through the water. Standard spinners have little going for them on the drop, but weight-forwards are just as attractive to the fish in free-fall as they are when retrieved. Fairly obviously this is because the weight is ahead of the blade. With weights up to an ounce these spinners cast well and fish deep. Larger baits are made, but are difficult to get hold of. Weight-forward spinners are superb if you need to fish deep water, or reach far out, with a spinning bait. They can tangle on the cast sometimes, but not as often as bucktails and other standard spinners. The rigid wire shaft in front of the lead-head acts as an anti-tangle device.
In my opinion, weight-forward spinners are the most underrated type of spinner available to pike anglers. An excellent search lure for casting and retrieving in open water, as well as for deeper fishing applications. If a greater selection of weight-forwards were available I am sure that they would become more popular. The Morrum is listed in Abu's Tight Lines catalogue up to 28gm (around an ounce), and the Lusox is currently available up to 21gm. Mepps actually manufacture a Lusox that weighs 45gm - what a deep water spinner that would make.

Unlike in-line spinners which have to be kept moving all through the retrieve so that the blade keeps on spinning, weight-forwards can be worked in a sink-and-draw style. This makes them quite versatile. With all spinners it pays off to strike if the blade goes dead. This could be a pike coming towards you, or it might just be that the blade has picked up a bit of weed or other underwater debris. Weight-forwards are a little more weed-resistant than standard spinners as the head tends to push it away from the blade, but they are better at wedging between rocks in my experience!

Tackle for fishing standard spinners and weight-forwards need not be over heavy. Monofilament from ten to fifteen pounds test will be sufficient in most instances, or a braid of twenty pound test, with traces of no more than forty pounds. Lighter baits are best cast on fixed-spool outfits, while those of ½oz upwards can be fished with ease on baitcasting gear. A small baitcaster like the Abu Black Max 1 holds plenty of the light line used for fishing spinners. Rods can range from the traditional ten footer to short trigger grip rods, the choice is yours. I cannot find any real advantage that one might have over the other. The longer rods offer a little better casting potential with light spinners though. Provided that the outfit you select will cast your lures the distance you require there is nothing to worry about. Keep the rod pointing down the line throughout the retrieve and hooking pike will not be much of a problem. Spinners suffer few of the hooking problems associated with other lure types as the hooks are not masked by any part of the bait, and their lack of bulk ensures that the hooks slip easily into the corner of a pike's mouth.