By Dr. Paul Garner

The hunt is on!

Lure fishing is exploding in the UK at the moment, with many anglers discovering the joys of casting artificial baits for a whole range of predatory fish. On my local canal you are now likely to find just as many anglers drop-shotting for perch as you are fishing the pole. Head to the coast and piers and jetties will be frequented by anglers targeting a myriad of different species with their LRF (Light Rock Fishing) gear. All fish are predatory to some extent and I have seen bream, barbel and even dace caught fair and square on small lures, so there really is something for everyone. For me though, nothing beats fishing for big pike with lures. The electric feeling that signals a ‘hit’ from a big predator just can’t be beat, but equally importantly, lure fishing is supremely effective too.

Colour and shape

Pike have quite similar vision to our own, but when we take into account how water absorbs light then colours can appear very different underwater to how they do above the surface. Take red, for example, this is a colour that looks great to us, but even a few feet below the surface it is transformed into a dark grey. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is useful to understand how your lures will appear to a pike.

A good starting point for your lure collection is to concentrate on two different shades, rather than colours. A bright silver or green tends to be my most effective shade as it reflects lots of light and works really well in clear water on sunny days. If the water is more coloured then swap to a dark bronze, gold or brown colour. I very rarely use ‘warm’ colours, like orange and red, even though these are the ones that are most appealing to us. Use colours that create a strong outline in the water and you will be on the right track.

Most pike will approach a lure from behind and below, so it is this part of the bait that they will see first, pay particular attention to the colour of this part of the lure.

''Pike have quite similar vision to our own, but when we take into account how water absorbs light then colours can appear very different underwater to how they do above the surface.''

Cheap and reliable

I am an avid lure collector, but increasingly I find soft plastic lures dominating my tackle box. These deceptively simple rubber fish-shaped baits come in a wide range of different shapes and sizes, but all work in pretty much the same way.

You can buy soft plastics either pre-rigged, or as bare lures that allow you to rig them just the way you like. Best of all, they are amongst the cheapest of lures to buy, making this a great way to get into lure fishing for pike.

Pre-rigged lures are the ideal place to start as these will be rigged for optimal performance. Once you have learnt how to use these then swap over to rigging your own so fine-tune your presentation. Go for lures in the 6-inch / 16cm range as these will be easy to cast and will catch pike of all sizes.

The Westin ShadTeez in some of Paul Garners favourite colours for pike

''Take red, for example, this is a colour that looks great to us, but even a few feet below the surface it is transformed into a dark grey''

Slow and steady

There is no need for any complicated retrieves with soft plastics. You simply let them sink to the desired depth and reel them in! The odd pause to let the lure sink back down will also often bring a bite, as the change in speed triggers a pike that is following the lure to take it, but slow and steady is my mantra.

To keep the lure working in the right depth zone use 1-gram of weight per foot of depth. So on rivers and canals I use 5-grams, on lakes around 10-grams and on deep reservoirs anything up to 30-grams. A really useful skill to practice is counting the lure down until it hits the bottom, which you can feel as a bump. Once you know how long it takes for the lure to reach the deck you can count it down to any depth you want very easily. Try to mix up the depth that you are fishing at. Some days the pike will prefer a lure just under the surface, whilst on others they want it right on the bottom.
These simple soft plastic lures really are very effective and will also catch plenty of zander and big perch too if you scale down the size a little.

Quick tip - Unhooking essentialts: Despite their appearance, pike are amongst our most delicate of fish and need to be handled for the minimum amount of time possible. Having the right unhooking gear will make the process a lot easier and a pair of long-nosed pliers and hook cutters are essential kit in my book.

Ten minute make - Rigging your softlures

Whilst you can buy many soft lures ready-rigged, and this is a great way to start out with them, the chances are sooner or later you are going to want to rig your own. This is not only cheaper, but enables you to adjust the weight and hook position to suit the conditions. Rigging is easy though if you follow these simple steps.

Click here for more information on the Westin accessories, hooks, bits and pieces.

Step 1
The correct size of jig hook is essential, a good rule is to use a 6/0 in a 6-inch bait, a 5/0 in a 5-inch, and so on.

Step 2
Roughly speaking, I use 1 gram of weight per foot of water depth. So if the venue you are fishing is 10 feet deep on average then use a 10 gram jig head.

Step 3
Position the jig head alongside the bait and judge where the hook will exit the bait. Make a small nick in the top of the bait as a reference point.

Step 4 
Push the hook point into the centre of the front of the bait. Make sure that the hook goes straight into the bait as it goes in.

Step 5
When you reach the marker on the top of the bait smoothly turn the bait around the hook until the hook point is exposed.

Step 6
The bait should be straight on the hook with around half of the hook gape exposed.

Step 7
If you are adding a stinger attach it either to the top eye of the jig head or on a purpose designed eye on the bottom.

Step 8
The stinger hook should sit just behind the belly of the lure.