Sunday, 9 June 2013

New to lure fishing? - the casual lure anglers guide

 The sun is out and the new river season is nearly upon us and so it is time for many an angler to get stuck in to the rivers, but also it is a time when many anglers turn to a spot of piking. I'm going to put up some information that every pike angler new to the sport needs to learn. Some will be helpful, some will be a must and some might tell you to pack in before you start since you are way off the mark. Pike fishing is a part of angling which needs a bit more knowledge, care and experience so that both angler and fish can go home safe. Anyone can catch a pike. Doing it right so that both fish and angler go home to live another day is the crucial part.

The tools
Another pike suffers at the hand of inexperience
The most important thing in pike fishing is correct gear. Without it, then don't even think about going fishing for pike. You need to spend a few quid first and get some decent tools. A pikes mouth is cavernous and a lure can end up elbow deep down the throat of a toothy monster (no exaggeration). Not the easiest of jobs for someone unprepared. If you can't get the hooks back out safely, then you are going to end up with a dead fish and it will happen lots of times up and down the country over the next four or five months and that simply isn't good enough given that today, we have enough information around for every angler to be doing it the right way. Yes we have enough information, but I'm going to put my bit up there so that it helps at least one angler and many, many fish.

You need big tools. No tiny disgorger for pike fishing,  just big tough tools. Get the best you can afford but don't scrimp. Buying a cheaper smaller version now will mean you spend more in later months when you realise you got it totally wrong.

Forceps can come in handy, but they are often not strong enough for larger treble hooks. I do suggest a pair of extra long forceps for smaller lures and trebles and also just in case they may be of use for anything else (there's many a time when you end up in a pickle!). Instead I prefer a set of long nosed pliers, 12 inches at least. They are much stronger and will help get out the bigger hooks. I do also carry a small pair of pliers in my pocket for simple unhooking jobs. Lastly a large set of side cutters are needed for those rare occasions when you can't quite get a hook out. By simply cutting a treble you can free a badly hooked fish and what might be a long complicated job turns in to a simple one. Remember the fish comes first!

I also carry around with me a pair of scissors for cutting my line and also for cutting up any line I find on my travels. (Why do people still leave yards and yards of the stuff on the bank?) You could also bring along a pair of split ring pliers for sorting your lures, though I tend to not bother and sort hooks, split rings and damaged lures at home. Time on the bank is for fishing not faffing!

The fish welfare kit
Of course the tools are a big part of fish welfare, but after that the important things to have are a good sized knotless landing net, 30 inches or more. I see too many people pike fishing with tiny landing nets which are no good at all, you need a big net for a big fish! When you get that giant on the end of the line a large net to scoop up your dream fish is what's needed. When you have the fish in the net compose yourself. Have a breath or two, let the fish have a breath or two and check your surroundings. Lift the net out of the water by scrunching up the net and lifting (do not lift by using the landing net handle as it will snap!). The pike will be safe in the net should it thrash around and won't be dropped from height on to it's head.

How to photo your prize capture
A must for pike (and most other fish) is an unhooking mat. Fish don't do well laid on concrete or stones. When they thrash around they cut up and also any course ground will wipe away the protective slime they have, leaving them vulnerable to disease. There's a massive selection of mats available thanks to carp fishing. Choose one to suit your needs but keep in mind a pike is a long fish, often 30 inches and more if you are lucky. When you have the pike in the net, lift it on to the unhooking mat which should already be wet. This will help protect the fish and not wipe away the slime. A dry mat would remove a massive amount of slime. Once your pike is on the mat then it's time to look out for those hooks and get them out of the way while you can.

Please note - I will not be telling you how to unhook a pike. If you are not confident then may I suggest you go out with someone who is, such as someone from your local PAC region who will be happy to help. Joining the PAC and attending teach in days and events will gain you a wealth of knowledge no blog entry can give you. Having a look at the task first hand and even being shown up close is the only way to start handling pike correctly. Again, your safety and that of the fish is important.

EDIT - I made a video to show how to unhook a pike

Do not use a boga grip for pike (or any other fish). If you are scared to handle a pike then do not fish for them. Here is a picture showing the damage a boga grip can cause to a pike which I am sure you will agree is not good at all.

The tackle
So you've spent a small fortune and not even got a line wet yet. Get over it, fishing costs a fortune. Seriously, please make sure you have the essentials before even digging out your old pike gear. But now we're on to it, here's the guide to rods, reels and what line to use. Not all answer are provided and this is only to try and give you an idea on things and why we make our choices. You will find that many pike anglers have multiple set ups and each person has their own preferences so what I will do is try to explain how each person comes up with his or her own solution.

Budget is key to deciding what tackle you'll have and how many set ups you will have, but nowadays you can pick up a decent rod and reel for £30-50 each. You don't have to spend more than that at all on a rod or reel. Some folk will most certainly spend more but even they will tell you they do it more for their own pleasure than for necessity.

Rod choice - Think about what venues you will be fishing. Think about the sizes of lures you expect to be throwing. Think about if you will just target pike or you might target perch, zander, chub or even trout too. Now you've just confused yourself even more, but don't worry even the serious lure freaks get ourselves in knots thinking about the right set up.

If you go have a look at a few lure rods you'll see that not only do they come in a few lengths they also have a few casting ratings. Rod length is up to you. Often when chucking larger lures a long rod is preferred where as chucking tiny lures in small streams a short rod is required. However those rules are not strict and it is in the end down to personnel preference. Casting weights is important. A small spinner and a large 35cm rubber lure are massively different and you would use two set ups. So if you will be throwing small spinners and small lures then you might be looking at casting weights of 2g-20g (2cm to 5cm approx). Standard sized pike lures might be 15-50g (3cm - 16cm approx) and large lures might be 50g-200g (15cm-35cm approx). That split of lures and brief guide is very basic and only to try to show how you might split lures, and rod set ups though once you get in to it serious you will have a different set up totally to that of your buddy due to how you fish. The idea is to pick a range of lure sizes and weights and get a rod to suit. A 2-12g casting weight rod won't cast a large 35cm bulldawg lure and a heavy 100g plus weighted casting rod won't cast a 2g spinner so have a look and a think before jumping in to buy a lure rod.

Other things to consider with a rod are line size. Kind of similar to the casting weights, a small rod isn't suited to heavy line and a large rod isn't suited to light line. You might also think about what reel you would be using. Most "casual" lure anglers use a standard fixed spool reel and so you would buy a rod to suit this. More serious lure anglers often choose a multiplier rod and reel set up.

For reel choice, again it is a size thing. You want to match a reel to the rod as per size, what line it will be carrying and how much. Retrieve speeds, gear ratios and lots of other complicated things can be considered. However, just try to match by size and you will be on the right track at least.

Once you have a rod and reel sorted then get it loaded up with line. Most lure anglers prefer to use braided line because you get so much more feel than the stretchy mono line. Honestly, you do and you can tell the difference between the lure banging the river bed and a small 4 inch perch nipping away at your lure. Line breaking strain is important. You want to have a bit of strength, especially in summer, so that you can get a pike out quickly rather than having to play it for half an hour on 6lb line. An exhausted pike is a dead pike. But another reason you want to have strong braid is because it will help you get your lure back from those snags. When you go look for some braid you'll often see it priced around £12-£15 for 150 yards. You may turn your nose up and turn to a cheaper mono but it will cost you much more in lost lures. The breaking strain of the braid wants to be a match for your set up. If you have a light rod, small reel and small lures then those lures will have small treble hooks with a thin gauge which can be bent out easier than a 12inch lure with massive treble hooks. Generally, you  are looking at something like 15-20lb braid for a light set up, 30-40lb for a medium and 50-80lb for a heavy set up. Don't think the same way you would when fishing on the pole, fishing for silvers or even bream, tench and chub where you might scale down to catch finicky fish. We're not using 80lb braid to get the pike in, we're doing it to get back our £20 lures. Another thing to think of with your choice of braid breaking strain is casting distance. Lighter will cast better than heavy, but you'll lose lures to snags with light braid. But with that in mind, don't have 10lb braid and a 100g lure as you will watch the lure disappear in to the distance on the first cast. The final decision must be down to you but keep in mind it needs to be a strong line as you also must not be snapped off by a pike as this could/most probably would result in a dead fish.

Wait, don't go fishing just yet. There's one really important thing you need before you are all set to fish. One important thing that many casual anglers often do not use. A wire trace is an absolute must when fishing for pike. A pikes teeth are very, very sharp and can cut straight through even strong line. A wire trace will prevent this, will prevent a dream fish being lost and prevent the dream fish dying later. Pike are not bothered in the slightest about a wire trace so don't let that put you off. You are not carp fishing, where a bait presented with the tinniest man made object visible will never be picked up by a carp. When lure fishing, the pike does not see the trace, it is too busy focussed on the flashing, vibrating, noisy, fast moving, slow moving easy picking you are presenting. Please try to stay clear of some of the cheap £1 wire traces from the tackle shops. They don't last long for a start and also aren't always the best made. There are plenty of on-line tackle dealers who can offer better options. Try here, or try here and for your heavy lure traces try here. You might notice one massive difference in a few of the traces and that is price. The ones at a couple of quid are made from thin wire which will eventually kink. Sometimes after twenty pike sometimes after one. A kinked trace has potential to break at a much weaker rating. The more expensive traces are made from titanium wire and are fantastic. They just don't kink at all and will last you a very long time. so if you can, go for a titanium trace or two or at least save up for them on your next purchase of pike gear if you opt for the cheaper ones to start with. A final note on the traces, match the trace to your line breaking strain. If you have 30lb line and an 80lb trace then you are going to lose an expensive trace (and lure) if you get snagged up. So for a light set up go for a cheaper trace, but match the breaking strain still, at least there or there about. You would opt for the titanium 80lb/100lb traces to go with your 80lb braid to hold on to your £20 lure that weighs 100g. 

Since writing this article I have since found a perfect example of a poor wire trace. Click here to read more.

bottom trace is far too short

Where do you start? Everyone has their own favourites, everyone has a lure that catches fish. The truth is, in my opinion, that pretty much every lure will catch you a pike if you use it enough, if you use it where pike are and if you use it when a pike wants to eat something. Again, there's a size issue to think about. From tiny lures to huge lumps. You want to choose the lures to suit your set up, matching the size of lures to your casting rated rod. There's absolutely loads of on-line retailers and plenty of lure manufacturers such as Rapala, Salmo, Savage Gear, Daiwa, Abu and even home made lures from various people such as Mark Houghton and Matt Holmes and many more. So go check them out and have a browse and see which lure catches you!

Here is a selection of lures I use, just to try and give you an idea of what to look out for.

Tiny lures
Use with a light set up. 1000-2000 sized reel, 15-20lb line and a rod with casting weights 1-15g ideally. 15-20lb wire trace. Suitable for pike, perch, chub and trout. 

Lure IDs- (Left column from top) Rapala Shad rap 8cm, Mark Hughton crank 'n' shad, Savage Gear soft 4play 9cm, Silver Mepps Aglia size 3, (right column from top) Rapala jointed shad rap 6cm, Salmo, kopyto relax shad with 7g jig head, Mepps Aglia copper size 3.

Medium lures
Use with medium set up. 2000-3000 sized reel, 30-50lb line and rod casting weights of 10-40g. 30-50lb wire trace, possible titanium trace if matched to line. Suitable for pike but can pick up perch and chub too as a bonus. 

Lure IDs - (left column from top) Savage Gear real eel 20cm, Savage gear lip lure 13cm, Abu Jointed tormentor, Spro bronze eye frog,  (bottom) Ace hell tail, (right column from top) Savage Gear cannibal shad, Savage gear soft 4play 13cm with lipskull.

Large lures
Use with a heavy set up. Ideally a multiplier rod and reel combo is better in the opinion of most however a fixed spool set up is still usable. Minimum 50lb line but ideally 80lb to stand a chance of getting lures back. 80-100lb titanium wire trace. 

Lure IDs - (left column from top) Savage Gear real eel 30cm. Savage gear lip lure 19cm, Jointed depth raider, (right column from top) Salmo slider, Musky Mania Squirrely burt, Matt Holmes Jerk bait, Savage Gear soft 4play 19cm.

Below is a video I made with more about using big lures for pike. It's pretty long but worth a watch if you are new to lure fishing for pike and want to target them seriously.

There's absolutely loads to have a look at there and absolutely all of it are a must (except lure choices that's up to you and part of the fun). Whether you are a serious or casual lure angler you still have to think about your safety and that of the fish. There are far too many people who are going after pike with just 6lb mono and a spinner tied straight to it. This simply is not good enough. If this is you and you simply did not realise, we all make mistakes but learning from them is key. If you have read all this and still wish to carry on with a poor set up, incorrect tools and the rest then you really should reconsider what you do with your spare time. Our fish are precious and we all need to do our bit to look after them the best way we can.

Care about your fishing?
And on that note, if you seriously do wish to look after the future of our fishing then why not consider joining the Angling Trust who are our voice and our action group in fishing. They are the people who are working to protect our fish and our fishing.

If you are passionate about pike, then go have a look at, and join up to the Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain. Helping to promote pike welfare and the voice of pike anglers, they also have a vast wealth of pike fishing knowledge among their ranks and for anyone who wants to get in to pike fishing they are a must.

Thanks for reading and thanks for taking any of the advice if you didn't already know about it. Feel free to ask questions and I'll do my best to answer them or point you at someone who can If I don't know the answer.If you're an experienced piker and see a mistake or want to add something then point it out to me, I will be more than happy of the help.


  1. Great post Paul. Some really good tips and advise for the less experienced pikers out there.
    Good to see you putting something back into the sport mate!

    Massively looking forward to the new season and my first real river lure campaign. Looking forward to reading more of your blog entries from the coming new season!


    1. Thanks Glen, appreciated mate. We'll have to have a crack. Maybe I could come over and we'll see if there's anything in your bit of water.

    2. Sounds good Paul - you can show me how to go about it on the river.

  2. Top blogging Paul,
    I have copied a link of this on to my clubs, Junior section- Facebook page,
    some great advice and easily understood Well done !

    1. Cheers Mark. That's great, I hope this helps a few of them. Kids only need to know how to do things and then they evolve it themselves to something even better.

  3. A great read Paul and I must say I really enjoy your blog.

    I started piking last October and it amazed me to see how many other anglers are totally ill equipped to deal with actually catching a fish. I might not have the experience of unhooking but having the right tools certainly goes a long way to giving you confidence to get up to scratch.

    Only yesterday did I have a cheapish trace fail on me, losing me a £10 replicant in the process to a snag so if I take anything from this post it'll be to invest in some ti!


    1. Thanks for the comments Mike. You can never guarantee getting all your snagged lures back but at least you can do your best. As in the guide, if you can match your braid and trace strength to the lure size/hook strength then you at least give yourself good odds. Another trick is to change hooks if they are thick gauge to something like Eagle claws, which are sharp as hell but not too bad to bend out of a snag. Another tip is swapping the split rings for a "softer" strength. I use 80lb and have 30lb rings on some of my lures. If you look on eBay there's always plenty for sale with ratings on them. The split ring is then your weak point and you lose the hook rather than the lure. It does work if you set it up right. Test the set up in your garden first to make sure. Don't put the split ring on the eye of the lure though as you'd lose the whole lure of course!

      I've just realised I have no way of being contacted by readers so I've just added the option to the main page. If you want to ask anything else Mike feel free to get in touch.

  4. Very good, I have done lots of fly fishing, now I lure fish, I have gone through the lure buying addiction part of it now and I am well on the way to being a confident fisher. All this info is invaluable, as well as being good it really allows one to enjoy the sport so much more.
    All I need now is to discipline my self to only take the gear I can comfortably carry to where I fish.

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  6. Nice post! I wrote a similar type of paper about diversity and online learning Best bait for fishing