By Dr. Paul Garner
If you have never experienced the smash and grab of a pike hitting a lure then you have missed out on one of the highlights of fishing in the UK. That instant when the rod is nearly ripped from your grasp is what every lure angler lives for, and believe me, it is an addictive experience.
Whilst many people, including a lot of serious pike anglers, think that lure fishing for pike is a less productive method than bait fishing, when done right nothing could be further from the truth. For me, the next couple of months are all about pike fishing with lures, as the predators are active and you can fish much more effectively with lures than baits. What is key though is to use the right lures at the right times. Fortunately, despite the millions of lures that are available, the vast majority of pike will fall for just a few pike lures that should be in every anglers box when pike fishing. Here is my selection of the five lures that I wouldn’t be without, and where and how to use them.
''You can catch big pike like this 27-pounder on simple lure tactics''
If I was limited to just one lure then this would be it, simply because soft lures are so versatile. Because they can be rigged with various weighted jigheads the depth that they fish can range from right on the surface to over fifty feet. As a rule-of-thumb use one gram of weight for every foot of depth that you want the lure to swim at. These are also often available as ready-rigged and this is a great place to start as they will have the optimal weight and hooks for most situations.
I prefer the paddle-tailed varieties to other styles, as they are simple to use and catch fish everywhere. Simply cast them out, let them sink for a couple of seconds to reach the right depth and then slowly retrieve, putting in the odd short pause from time to time. There is absolutely no doubt that soft lures with paddletails is among the best and most versatile lures when fishing for pike and other predatory species.
It can take a lot of faith to cast out something that resembles a coat hanger for the first time, but believe me these odd-shaped lures are very effective. Working on a similar principle to highly-effective spinners, spinnerbaits have the advantage that they are very snag resistant, thanks to the single hook being located behind the frame. This makes them ideal for many rivers, lakes and canals.
I like to fish spinnerbaits on a steady retrieve, with the odd faster turn of the reel handle to inject a bit of variety. The big spinner blade also puts out a lot of vibration and flash which attracts the pike and then they hit the skirt which conceals the hook.
´´I like to fish spinnerbaits on a steady retrieve, with the odd faster turn of the reel handle to inject a bit of variety´´
Shallow diving crankbaits are ideal for fishing over the top of weedbeds. Expect the pike to shoot out of cover and hit the lures from below as they waddle past. Most crankbaits naturally float or suspend, so it is not until you start the retrieve that the lip on the front digs in and makes the lure dive. No matter how fast you retrieve they will only dive to a specific depth; which will be printed on the lure or packaging.
I like to really mix up the retrieve speed with crankbaits. Start off fast to get them down to their working depth, then give the reel handle a few turns before briefly pausing. This start-stop action resembles an injured fish and will really stimulate any pike to hit the lure.
A cross between a soft plastic and crankbait, these lures have a sinuous swimming action that better resembles a real fish. The soft body produces lots of action, whilst the hard lip on the front ensures the lure dives quickly and stays down.
I like to fish these lures on a relatively slow, steady retrieve, putting the odd pause in that will make the lure hang in the water, giving pike plenty of time to engulf it. On tough days a slowly retrieved hybrid lure can work wonders and catch fish that are ignoring other lures.
This video is a good example of the impact Hybrid Lures can have when pike fishing. Their attractive swimming action is irresistable to the fish.
These slow-sinking lures have a massive internal rattle chamber filled with ball bearings that produces loads of pike-attracting sound in the water. In tests, this can be heard more than fifty feet away, giving these lures an added dimension to their attraction.
Because the hard body produces little action of its own, the retrieve is more important with this style of bait than it is with some others. I like to fish a very erratic fast-stop retrieve, pointing the rod tip almost at the lure and using the reel to vary the speed. This will cause the lure to dart from side to side, just like an injured bait fish does when being pursued.
Quick tip - Size matters: For pike lures in the 5-6 inch range are best. These will catch pike from a couple of pounds up to thirty pounds or more. Lures of this size are also easy to fish and cast with normal tackle.