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Mick Brown

Tools for the job

Tools for the job

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Most pike anglers today are aware that a decent pair of forceps is essential for efficient unhooking. If you are lure fishing, then a strong pair of long nosed pliers are even better for getting a grip on lure hooks. I always carry both, and also a spare pair of forceps in case I either lose or break them. You just can’t carry on pike fishing without them. Another thing I always carry, and I don’t often see others carrying, is a decent pair of side cutters. When you just can’t get the hooks out cleanly with forceps or pliers, there’s often no alternative but to cut the hooks to avoid the risk of damaging  the pike. Early striking when deadbaiting or livebaiting can normally avoid this, and most times lures are not too difficult to remove. Once in a while though, you may be faced with a situation where cutting the hooks is the only option.07-966

Last season, I never had to call on my side cutters at all, but Sods Law dictated that on my second session of the new season I had to use them twice. First of all a deadbait was taken too far back and the bottom treble was out of sight. I eased it forward, but it would not turn to pull out. With a bit of gentle teasing, I exposed the points of the treble 11-833one by one, and snipped them off, as close to the shank as possible. With more gentle manoeuvring, I managed to turn the treble and it was swiftly out.

 My next pike came on a spoon, and Lo and behold, I had a treble wedged between the gill rakers. It had caused no damage, but fiddling around trying to turn it would have done so. Once again I just snipped off the points of the hook and gently removed what was left of the treble  from between the rakers.

It’s a tool I’m pleased I invested in as, when it’s called upon, it is invaluable.

Book – Born to Fish

Book – Born to Fish

This is Mick’s very latest book and details his life in angling, covering a wide range of species, from the early days in the Birmingham park lakes, through his travels and adventures at home and abroad, his days as a professional angler and his TV work with his buddy Matt Hayes. 260 pages in full colour.

Special Editions also available.

This book is sold exclusively through Strike One Media.

Follow this link for full details of how to purchase and an easy transaction.

Mick Brown: Born to Fish

 

 

 

DVD – Deadbait Sessions

DVD – Deadbait Sessions

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Despite the upsurge in lure fishing in recent years, Mick ‘The Duke’ Brown still enjoys deadbaiting. Join him on a series of sessions where he explains how he approaches this technique and catches some very nice pike along the way. Filmed mainly on his own, and sometimes with his wife Jan, Mick sees this as the only way to bring authentic fishing to you that is not set up for the camera.

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DVD – Mid Winter Monsters

DVD – Mid Winter Monsters

mid-winter-monsters-frontFilmed with a basic camcorder, often under very difficult circumstances, and edited on standard software, this is a practical account of a winter season when a large number of BIG pike were captured, not only on rod and line, but also on Camera!

Producing my own pike fishing films is something I have wanted to do for years as I have never felt that the commercial films I have made for TV and DVD have really captured the essence of the way I really go about fishing for big pike. Catching for the camera to a deadline is very different to a big fish campaign on a hard water. This is the first, and I hope more will follow.
mid-winter-monsters-backThis film, which runs for just over an hour, is edited in a diary type format, and follows my progress through a recent winter in which I caught a dozen pike weighing over 20 lbs on deadbaits and livebaits. It’s not about methods and tackle, but the viewer should quickly pick up on and benefit from seeing things that are not normally shown. I see this DVD as the perfect companion to my books as I feel it brings the books to life when seeing some of my big pike catches as they actually happen, and is an ideal present for anyone interested in catching big pike.

Currently not available. I am hoping to have more copies reproduced soon.

To express an interest, please add a comment below and I will notify you as soon as it becomes available again.

DVD – The Pike and I

DVD – The Pike and I

the-pike-and-i-backAfter making more than 75 television shows together, including The Great Rod Race, Wet Nets and Record Breaking Fish, no-one else could have got to know me better than my close angling buddy Matt Hayes who has filmed, funded and edited this one hour insight into my obsession with this predatory fish. Never before broadcast on television, the filming and editing has taken two years to complete.

Of course it features me fishing for pike, but The Pike and I is so much more than that. It features archive from my roots in Birmingham, England, and the script centres around my early life and how this obsession with the pike developed. Narrated by Matt, it has evolved into a fascinating biography which I am proud to look back upon.

The film follows me on a series of fishing trips, as well as visiting some of the places from my past. From the river Wye to the industrial heart of Birmingham, The Pike and I is a documentary that stretches the boundaries of traditional fishing films. The soundtrack is diverse and inspiring to fit the changes of mood and emotion that Matt has captured.

In short, within its genre, it is truly unique: an angling film with a script, and one that will entertain anglers and non-anglers alike.

Go to the shop to buy now!

Book – Professional Pike Angler

Book – Professional Pike Angler

This, Mick’s second book, follows on from his first book and looks in detail at his unique lifestyle in which he became not only a professional pike angler, but also a popular television personality with his fishing buddy Matt Hayes.

It is not a technical book that deals with rigs and tactics, but delves deeper into a modern day pike angler’s thoughts and approach. The book is anecdotal in its nature, and within the stories Mick relates his feelings regarding pike behaviour. The book is not related to any tackle manufacturer but, out of necessity, refers to the many companies that Mick has worked with. Signed copies can be obtained through this web site. It’s very quick and simple to order via PayPal or you can use a credit/debit card. There is no extra charge for a signed copy.

All books will be signed ‘Mick Brown’. If you’d prefer an alternative dedication to yourself or to a friend, you can add details at the PayPal checkout where it says ‘Add special instructions to the seller’. If you order by the credit card option, please ask for a special message if required by emailing details to Mickbrownpredatorgear@talktalk.net after you have placed your order.

Price £28.00 plus post and packing. Please note that we do not make any profit from P&P.

The book size is 246mm x 186mm (approx A4) with 260 pages, over 200 photographs and in full colour.

Go to the shop to buy now!

Leather Bound versions also available. Email mickbrownpredatorgear@talktalk.net for more info.

Want to browse before you buy? Then go to YouTube and see the book in detail, and a very big pike too!

Book – Pike Fishing: The Practice and the Passion

Book – Pike Fishing: The Practice and the Passion

prac3Mick’s first book, Pike Fishing: The Practice and the Passion (Crowood Press), published in 1993, has stood the test of time and is still in print today. Having sold over 16000 copies to date, it is believed to be the biggest selling pike fishing book of the modern age.

The book covers Mick’s earliest pike fishing captures and adventures from the days when he was driven by a passion to travel far and wide in search of big pike. It was written before Mick was commercially involved with major tackle manufacturers and the television shows with his buddy Matt Hayes, which all came about as a result of the effort put in during this period.

The book is written in monthly chapters which give a taste of how to approach pike fishing around the calendar. Tackle and communications today have made pike fishing a lot more instant, but the angler still needs the drive and discipline to be successful, and this book delves deep into the thoughts and ideas that brought Mick success both in this period and in theprac2 following years.

It is a book which reflects pike fishing as it was in those days. Tackle might have changed for the better, but the tactics which Mick employed then are still just as valid today.

Signed copies can be obtained through this web site. It’s very quick and simple to order via PayPal or you can use a credit/debit card. There is no extra charge for a signed copy.

All books will be signed ‘Mick Brown‘. If you’d prefer an alternative dedication to yourself or to a friend, you can add details at the PayPal checkout where it says ‘Add special instructions to the seller’. If you order by the credit card option, please ask for a special message if required by emailing details to Mickbrownpredatorgear@talktalk.net after you have placed your order.

Go to the shop to buy now!

The book is hardback, A4 size, and has 176 pages of black/white photos, diagrams and drawings along with 16 pages in full colour illustrating many of the big pike which brought Mick to the forefront of pike fishing over 20 years ago.

Eel bash updates

Eel bash updates

Ever since I was a teenager I have been fascinated by eels and fish for them every season. At one time I fished all through the summer, but as the years have gone by and work and family life has taken over, the number of nights I can devote to eeling gets less and less. I usually do three or four nights each season  nowadays, not fishing for a big eel as I used to but just to enjoy the magic of a session in the dark and to feel the unmistakable way that only an eel can pull back when it’s trying to back off into weed or a snag. This season will be no different, but due to the cold spring I will wait a bit longer before I get started.

eel2I’ve got a good supply of worms from the garden this year and a few dead roach in the freezer, and I’ve already sorted out my eel rigs for sub surface fishing which works well on my local stillwaters. I’ll give it another week and then, on a warm still evening, I’ll set up in a favourite swim, three rods out, two on worm and one on deadbait. Most of the eels in this venue are over 2 lbs, and I might even get a 5 pounder as I did 3 seasons ago. Whatever happens I’m going to enjoy every minute of it – slime and all! As usual, I’ll keep you updated with my progress.

Update 1 

My first night was quite a success. Fishing a 100 acre+ gravel pit using my off bottom rigs with worm baits, I had nine runs between midnight and 4 am. Five eels landed with 3 over 2 lb. One came off in the thick weed and missed the others. Knackering but a magic night and a great atmosphere. Back soon for another session.

Update 2 

The second night was less successful, in fact it was awful. One of those nights when you wished you’d never bothered! Windy, wet and unseasonably cold. Packed up in the early hours feeling like death warmed up and wondering why I do it.

That’s eel fishing for you. I haven’t got the sense to pack it up!

A catfish hunt

A catfish hunt

Last year I only managed a couple of catfish sessions, but I had a right result by catching the giant Oakwood Park cat at 115lb 5 oz while making a DVD for the fishery. That fish was already big when it was stocked, but another big cat I caught a few years ago at 80 lb 8 oz from another water (picture above) was stocked as a mere twenty pound tiddler and just keeps growing and growing. Rumours are that this cat is now damaging large carp and I suspect that it too is now over 100lb! To cut the long story short, I’d like to catch it again and see!

All the gear is ready for the project to start next week and I will fish as much as I can for it until September. My bait boat has been repaired, new rods and reels have just arrived from my new sponsor Shimano, and I’ve got a new lighting system for my bivvy area to illuminate it if I get the cat on the bank! Normally I’d relish the challenge but this year the lake is plagued with heavy weed which might make presenting my livebaits impossible. I’m also concerned about hooking such a big fish in dense weed and getting it snagged.

If I don’t catch it, the fishery also has some great feeder fishing for bream and float fishing for rudd and tench to offer so I’ll enjoy the fishing whatever happens. I’ll keep you informed about my progress!

Holiday fun in the USA

by Mick Brown 0 Comments
Holiday fun in the USA

With the weather in England being been pretty poor, Jan and I decided to visit family in the USA for a few days. We left London on a miserable day and arrived at Rhode Island on an equally miserable day! The weather over there has not been a lot better than ours this spring and my plans to do a bit of fishing were thwarted with cold windy weather. When the sun did break through, I managed a few days fishing and quite a variety it was too.

A day fishing for rainbows was a little different to a day on my local water as you could use lures also and I quickly managed a limit on small spoons. The fly rod was put into use as well with some interesting bass species taking nymphs just beneath the surface.

Then I discovered that the area has plenty of carp which I hadn’t prepared for. With no tackle or rigs I must have looked pretty stupid turning up with solid sea rods and method feeders I’d made quickly from some old wire I found lying around but I managed to cast a home made method mix and maize hook bait out into a lake where carp had been caught before. Sadly the tale ends there because I didn’t get a single bite.

The best fishing was on the sea in the bay nearby and although the stripers weren’t biting well, we caught enough to make it very enjoyable. Pictured is a thirty one incher which ended up on the barbeque.

After that short break, I got back to similar miserable weather but it looks like it’s warming up. Time for tench and carp!

Pike still feeding

by Mick Brown 0 Comments
Pike still feeding

I’ve normally hung up my pike rods by now as I tend to give pike a rest when the water temperature starts to rise to a level where they fight to exhaustion and often struggle to recover. This spring has been unusually cold though so I’ve been putting in a few extra short sessions with lures and picking up plenty of fish. With the weather being forecast to turn much warmer, I went out to have a final fling with my lure rod and a spectacular session it turned out to be. Anything worked high in the water was hit hard by pike of all sizes up to mid doubles, and some of the fights were spectacular as they thrashed the water to foam.

Simple Vibrax spinners were very effective but the better fish took either Storm Saltwater Rattlin’ Chug Bugs (11cm size), Rapala X-Rap Sub Walk (15 cm size) or Storm WildEye Seeker Shads (15 cm size). The takes on the Chug Bug surface lures were absolutely heart stopping affairs. I just have to get my fix of pike lure action at this time of year and I wasn’t disappointed.

If you fancy lure fishing in the summer months, just ensure that the pike in your venue can handle being caught while water temperatures are high and oxygen levels are low. If in any doubt, I leave them alone until it gets colder, but pike in deeper venues or well oxygenated rivers often offer some great lure fishing sport. Have fun!

Choosing crankbaits

Choosing crankbaits

Do you find it confusing when looking through racks of lures in tackle shops? You want to quickly walk out with two or three lures for a local venue, but there’s hundreds to choose from. You spend longer in there than intended and still walk out with lures you are unsure of! You are not alone. In fact, most retailers I talk to are just as confused as you are and struggle to offer the advice you need. The subject is much too complex to expect them to be fully conversant with it. My job with the Rapala/Shimano group is to assist retailers and help our customers to make the right decisions which will not only save them time and money, but also catch more fish, which is why we go into a tackle shop in the first place!

In the spring months, when pike are hungry after spawning, and as the summer draws to an end and pike become much more active after their summer lethargy,lure fishing really takes off in shallower lowland venues like rivers, drains and lakes. Pike will be feeding in the higher layers of the water at these times, which is not a bad thing from the angler’s point of view as bottom weed will still be a problem for many months to come yet on most venues. They may start to become reluctant to attack surface and sub surface lures, and you may need to find a lure which works at a specific depth to make contact with them. The perfect lure for putting the angler in control in this situation is the crankbait.
First of all, I will define what I mean by a crankbait. It has slightly different interpretations, but I see it as a hard bodied fish-shaped lure which floats initially but dives when reeled (cranked) in by the angler. It could also be made to dive by trolling it behind a boat. When the angler stops reeling, it returns to the surface, but more sophisticated models can be made to suspend for a short time before slowly rising to the surface again. There are other variations which I will also deal with in this article. ‘Crankbait’ is an American term and in the UK we would most likely call them plugs.

If you look along the lure racks in tackle shops, and through manufacturers catalogues, you will see that crankbaits have an enormous presence. This is why the confusion of choice occurs. How the devil do you pick a couple of lures from so many which, at first glance, don’t seem a lot different other than in size and colour?

In defence of manufacturers, they don’t set out to confuse us but are doing so by offering us so much choice, which is all well and good for experienced lure anglers but not, I suggest, for the majority of their customers. With this in mind, I will try to take a logical look at crankbaits to help you decide which ones to buy.

What Shape?

Different body profiles have been developed by manufacturers to match prey fish around the world, not only in freshwater but in the sea as well. This gives pike anglers an excellent chance to match the prey fish in their local venues. Pike are not always fussy and will often attack any profile, but there will be times when a particular shape works better. My recommendation would be to have a few of each shape in your lure collection and chop and change them through a session to see whether there is a preference. If you don’t, you will never know!

Most crankbaits fall into one of three shape categories.

(Click the links to see the lures and their specifications)

Shads – regular fish shaped lures. Their profile is similar to our most common prey fish such as roach and crank2perch making them a very popular choice. They respond very well to a steady retrieve. A typical example would be the Rapala Shad Rap.

Minnows –profiles similar to long slim species like chub, dace and bleak. Often have a delicate  shimmering action typical of a wounded prey fish. Rod tip action often gets the best result from them and can really make them dart and keel very much like injured prey. A typical example would be the Rapala Original Floater. (pictured right)

Fat bodies – rounded and bulbous in shape. They usually have a wide rolling action and bumble along in such a way that they cannot go unnoticed. Due to their compact nature, they are often suited to very long casting. Fat bodied lures don’t seem to match any prey fish in UK waters and yet they can sometimes be fantastic pike catchers. A typical example would be the Scatter Rap Crank.

Casting or Trolling?

Before going any further, it is very worthwhile looking at the difference between crankbaits used for casting and those intended for trolling. Any crankbait that can be used for casting can be trolled. That’s quite logical as you just let the boat do the work and have the advantage of the lure being in the water for longer and covering more distance. Dedicated trolling crankbaits, however, cannot easily be cast or at least cast in an effective manner. This is where some confusion arises because some trolling lures look like crankbaits but are not practical for this purpose. It is not really correct to even call them crankbaits because of this, but as they look like crankbaits it’s important to understand the difference.

To explain why they are different, we have to look at the diving vane (sometimes called the lip) which protrudes from the front of the lure adjacent to the trace clip. Its shape and angle determine how rapidly it dives and to how deep it dives. They become dedicated trolling lures when a normal cast would not have enough retrieve time to get them to their working depth or keep them there long enough to be effective. Deep diving lures are easy to identify by the shallow angle of the diving vane. As a rule of thumb, lipped baits which dive deeper than about ten feet are better trolled to get them deep enough and fishing effectively.

We can now start to refine our search as the manufacturers packaging should tell you how deep each lure is intended to dive to. Some even have the working depth printed on the product. For all intents and purposes, we are looking for cranks which dive down to about ten feet, and these should be easy to use for their intended purpose in most UK lowland waters at this time of year. You can see now that it is easy to eliminate many lures on the shop racks from your search simply by looking at their diving depth and remembering that pike will be feeding high in the water at this time.

What size?

crank3You should by now be able to choose from three basic shapes and pick a working depth to suit where you are fishing. It may sound basic, but if the venue you are fishing is typically eight feet deep, then you do not want to choose cranks which work any deeper than that. The next thing you will notice is that they come in different sizes. Expect to see crankbaits from as little as 3 cm long up to about 15 cm. I would eliminate the smaller sizes for pike, but if perch are also likely to feature in your catch, then by all means consider them. To get the best from these relatively small lures, it is best to choose a rod, reel and line combination which balances them. I’m currently using a Shimano Vengeance SVAX 21M, 2.1 metre spinning rod which casts lures of 10 to 30 gms. Used in conjunction with a Shimano Catana 2500FC fixed spool reel and Suffix 832 (or Power Pro) 20lb breaking strain braid line, it’s a great combination which won’t break the bank to get you started. If you are fishing bigger or snaggy waters, you might want to get a more powerful version of this rod and a stronger line. Pike will take very small lures, but I find that cranks in the 9 to 15 cm range to be ideal. Once again, it’s worth having a few different sizes in your collection to see if the pike show a preference. They often do!

What colour?

We are so lucky today to have a wonderful range of crankbait colours to choose from. They are no longer limited to simple solid colours but frequently have amazing attractive finishes to help make them more convincing and noticeable. There are holographic finishes, reflective finishes and metallic finishes to name but a few, and they each add a little something extra to the way the lure appears to the pike. The skill is in combining these features with rod tip action and making use of the lures inbuilt action to try and find the winning combination that catches fish. Many do not believe this to be true and put it all down to luck. American and Continental competition anglers prove this wrong time and time again with their finely tuned lures. They put most of us who think we are good lure anglers into the shade in comparison to their fish catching skills.

Within these different finishes are a multitude of colour combinations ranging from very natural looking patterns to bright attractor patterns. Even after lure fishing for forty years, I know it’s not easy to ‘second guess’ which colour will catch unless I’m really up to date with the form of the venue. Here we have to look at choices again by having a variety of colours to offer the pike. You have to start somewhere and can’t go far wrong with picking natural colours, but there will be times when brighter attractor colours will be needed to stir up lethargic fish. It can take time to build up a wide range of different colours and finishes in your collection, but you will give yourself more chances to catch by experimenting with them in a logical way.

Specialised crankbaits

Along the racks of lures, there will be some which do not quite fit the simple selection procedure I have outlined. To help clarify this, I will mention a few variations to the crankbait theme which are quite common and which you will start to appreciate when you become a little more experienced.

Jointed Crankbaits. Being articulated, jointed baits offer a more exaggerated and seductive movement even at slow retrieve speeds. Their rhythmic rear-end action can be a key trigger at times. A typical example would be the Rapala X-Rap Jointed Shad or Storm Jointed Minnowstick.

Sinking Crankbaits. Not a crankbait as such because they sink immediately after casting, but they are useful for getting down deeper than a floating diver without excessive effort being put into retrieving them. They still have a lip, and this makes them dive even deeper when retrieved. A ‘countdown’ technique is used to get them to different depths before staring to wind them back. They start to return to the surface when the angler starts to run out of line at the end of the retrieve. They are best used in deep water and where snags are less likely. A typical example is the Rapala Countdown Magnum.

Suspending Crankbaits. As the name suggests, this type of crank is balanced so that it suspends at its working depth rather than quickly returning to the surface as a regular crankbait would when you stop winding it in. The advantages are obvious in that the lure can be made to stay in the pikes ‘strike zone’ for longer periods of time. It’s a very useful lure where the pike are fussy, maybe due to being well fed or in cold water. A typical example is the Rapala Jointed Shad Rap. This particular lure, in common with many others, also has an inbuilt ‘rattle’ feature. This is yet another variation on an already complex topic!

By now, your head must be spinning from the complexity of crankbaits, but I hope that I have shown that they can be broken down into categories which make choice a lot simpler! Don’t let this initial confusion put you off from getting started though. The fact is that becoming a good lure angler does not happen overnight. It doesn’t even happen over a season or two either and can be a lifetime’s ambition to achieve. Along the way though you will find it fascinating as you teach yourself the skills required, and catch plenty of pike and other predators as you progress.

It should now be easy to see how lure anglers soon build up an almighty collection of lures, but is it through ignorance or wise choice? Anyone can have a box full of colourful lures and catch very little, whereas a good lure angler will have chosen intelligently and kept his expenditure to a minimum. Hopefully this feature will guide you through the tackle shop maze of lure racks and get you catching pike and putting you onto the path to a lifetime of rod bending pleasure!

Choosing a lure rod

Choosing a lure rod

With lure fishing for pike, perch and zander being really popular at the moment while the weather is still mild and the fish are very active, I’m being asked quite a lot for help with choosing a lure rod. Lets face it, it can be very confusing when looking through a catalogue or racks in a tackle shop when confronted with dozens of different ones. I can’t be there to help everyone but I have compiled a simple guide to help you through the maze of rods available.

1 Fixed spool or multiplier?

Multipliers are useful for specialist lures like jerk baits and those which offer high resistance on the retrieve. Other than that, its a matter of personal preference. If you are a beginner, consider using a fixed spool until choose2you are more confident of your ability as multipliers can be a lot more difficult to use at first. The rest of my guide considers rods for fixed spool reels

2 Casting weight.

Decide exactly what you want to use the rod for. This will depend upon what species you are fishing for and the weight of the lures you plan to use. They broadly fall into three categories:

Lightweight – for smaller pike, perch, zander and chub. Usually rated to cast lures up to 30 grams.

Standard – for most general purpose pike fishing. Usually rated to cast lures from 20 to 60 grams.

Heavyweight – for casting heavier lures or more demanding situations where there are snags. Usually rated to cast lures from 40 to 80 grams.

As you will see, there is an overlap and there may be variations in the rating. For example a standard rod might be rated as 20-50, 20-60 or 15-50 as there is no industry standard. Look for a rod in the category you require. Remember that most lures, or their packaging, are marked with their casting weight if you are not sure.

3 Price point

You will frequently find several rods which fall into your choice of casting weight. The next step is to consider their price tag. You will have to decide whether you want an entry level/budget priced rod, a top of the range model or something in between. Most entry level rods from reputable companies like Shimano are excellent value whilst their top of the range models have advanced features.

choose34 Choose a length

When you have completed steps 1, 2 and 3, you will have chosen a rod with the desired casting weight and at the price you want to pay. There may be one more choice to make as many models are offered in different lengths. Longer rods have the advantage of fishing around dense waterside vegetation whilst many boat anglers prefer shorter rods. The choice is yours.

Summary – 4 decisions you need to make to quickly arrive at the ideal rod for your personal requirements:

1 – Preferred reel type

2 – Casting weight

3 – Price

4 – Length

Follow these logical steps and you can’t go wrong!

Greedy jack pike

Greedy jack pike

The weather was wild and windy and perfect for jerkbaiting on a local venue where they like to attack when there’s a big blow on the water. Six pike hit the lures during the two hour evening session and I landed five of them, all single figure fish. The other one rolled in the waves and I saw it’s fat white belly as it turned and missed the lure. I’ll be back for that one! The lure that had them coming up was a Rapala Glidin’ Rap in Banded Peacock pattern (15cm). Several anglers have commented to me that the 12 cm might be a better bet as the 15 cm is quite a big lure. Have a look at the pic of this tiny jack that thought differently! In practice you should try both sizes to see if there is a preference as when the water is colder the smaller size often works a little better. Another session soon I think! Great fun!!

Does colour matter?

by Mick Brown 0 Comments
Does colour matter?

I’m frequently asked whether lure colour is important. In my opinion it is and this can easily be proven by trial and error. Experience has shown me that there will be an optimum colour for any situation, and when I go lure fishing my priority is to find it. Sometimes you can be lucky to find that predators will attack anything that moves, regardless of colour, but this happens too infrequently to rely upon. This week I am using the Rapala X-Rap Shad Shallow range of lures to demonstrate what I mean.

color1The UK range consists of four colours, carefully chosen from the 10 colours available worldwide, to suit UK fishing situations. There are 2 perch style patterns, Firetiger and Nordic Perch. The Firetiger is bold and bright while the Nordic Perch is more subdued. The Silver colour resembles a small roach whilst the bright orange Hot Head is an attractor colour looking nothing like anything which swims in our waters. I took all of them out for a day pike fishing on a clear shallow gravel pit to see which one proved to be the ‘killer’ colour for the day.

I chose this lure because the water is generally shallow, up to 8 feet deep, and there is a thick covering of bottom weed. My plan was to work the lures just above the weed, varying the speed of retrieve to do so and keeping the rod high to work them where the weed rises higher in the water. The X-Rap Shad Shallow sinks very slowly and it is quite easy to make it look attractive using up-strokes of the rod tip. Using the four colours evenly through the session, one thing stood out like a sore thumb. The Firetiger pattern was the one they wanted, time and time again. The Nordic Perch also scored quite well but the Silver and Hothead patterns were largely ignored. When one finally took the Hot Head, it swallowed it well into its jaws, typical of an attack on an attractor colour.

Knowing the water quite well, it was clear to me why the ‘perch’ style lures worked best as the predominantcolor3 prey fish in the lake are perch and the pike are primed to attack anything which it recognises as food. On another water, it could be that the Silver pattern scores better or in waters of poor clarity, the Hothead might come out as top colour. Experience will eventually tell you which colour to try first but one thing is for sure – if you don’t try a range of colours you will often miss out on the action. Remember also that the pikes preference can often alter as light conditions change,particularly at dawn and dusk as different colours appear differently with variation in the light falling upon them.

I have chosen the X-Rap Shad Shallow as an example but this thinking applies to all lure types. Further benefits of the X-Rap are it’s internal long-cast mechanism which gives more casting distance and accuracy. They also have an internal rattle which can encourage strikes if you ‘rip’ the lure through the water, something worth trying if you are not catching with normal retrieves. They are also ‘suspending’ lures and will hover on a pause, allowing predators to take a closer look. Giving them a twitch a few seconds later often induces a strike. Because they are critically balanced to suspend, variations in trace weight can affect how fast they sink and for how long they suspend. Advanced lure anglers might want to consider fine tuning their traces to get them perfectly matched to their lures. You can easily alter the trace weight by adjusting the length of wire and using different sizes of swivels and clips.

Pike painting

by Mick Brown 0 Comments
Pike painting

Some of you may already have seen the painting done for me by Worcestershire artist Karen Sarkar. For those who haven’t I thought I’d put a copy up on my website. Needless to say I’m extremely pleased with it as it captures the moment perfectly.

Lure success is in YOUR own hands

Lure success is in YOUR own hands

Perhaps you will recognise this situation! Drawn in by inspirational advertising and marketing, you have bought a handful of ‘must catch’ lures and rushed down to your local venue with a view to emptying it. Hours later, your result is much the same as it ever was, and you don’t catch a great deal more. Feeling that your money has been wasted, you either start scanning the media for more lures or perhaps even loose heart and give up. In my experience, this scenario is not at all unusual. But it needn’t be like that!

lure2In order to sell lures, or any products for that matter, manufacturers have to show them in their best light, and promotional tactics range from the most conservative to the outrageous, as the market is very competitive. It is easy to be drawn in with clever promotion, but the bottom line is the product itself and how well you make use of it. As a Rapala consultant, I know that we have the finest range of lures available, and it is true that we don’t make a big noise when promoting them as other companies do, but the fact remains that they stand against the very best in the world in terms of quality, value and fish catching capability. From the point of sale though, whichever lures you choose, the rest is up to YOU!

I have always maintained that most lure anglers make the initial mistake of buying lures and then trying to find somewhere to use them. I always do things the other way round. I look at the venue in terms of the species present, depth of water, water clarity and time of year, and then select lures that will obtain the best result within those parameters. Having done this though, I must repeat that the rest is still up to YOU!

There will be times when it is simply a case of casting out and predators will attack lures, but these days are few and far between in my experience. Most days I have to work at the fishing by going through a series of tactics that will offer a different presentation. This might involve varying the lure speed, or maybe changing it’s action using rod tip movement, and a whole host of other tricks which can only be discovered by practice. As you might be starting to realise, I hope, catching the predator is partly down to the lure I am using but mostly down to the skill of the angler using it.  It’s only common sense that you cannot become a lure fishing expert overnight, and for consistent results you need to gain experience.  This comes with practice, but it is vital that it is performed in a structured manner.

Where is this leading to?  If you really wish to become a better lure angler and catch more fish, I would respectfully suggest that you forget everything you know, put aside your old ideas, and start again, building lure3your skills from the ground up.  This isn’t the place to detail this, but it must start with selecting the ideal rod, reel and line for the type of venue you are fishing.  Just as important is selecting an appropriate wire trace.  It may seem a minor point but you may one day appreciate how this can affect presentation.  Next, using the procedure I have outlined, you must select a small range of lures to practice with.  Until you can really make these lures sing and dance, and you have exhausted every possibility that they offer, I suggest you do not buy further lures until the experience you have gained, tells you exactly what you are looking for.

Serious trial and error will eventually unravel the shortcomings of lures in particular situations.  You could conclude after a period of time that, for example, you need lures that work deeper or those with more subdued colours.  Other considerations such as subtle variations in colour and action might also enter your mind whilst trying to get the best from the lures you have.

By taking a logical and structured approach to your lure fishing, you will not only catch more fish, you will spend less money in the long term, and actually enjoy the fishing a lot more, because the result has come from your own effort.  When a predator hits my lure, it is the ultimate in fishing pleasure, and if this has happened due to my skill rather than luck, then the reward is double.  Happy lure fishing!

The good old mackerel tail

The good old mackerel tail

mack2My winter pike fishing usually kicks off in mid October, and deadbaiting will be very effective on my local pits, rivers and drains from then onwards. A favourite deadbait is a mackerel tail which is aerodynamic for casting and absolutely oozing with attractive oils and juices which draw pike from far and wide. It’s a tactic
I’ve used for over forty years and it is still as effective today as it ever was. My first 20 pounder on a mackerel tail came in 1975 from The Old Bedford River in the Fens and since then I have caught more than 50 twenty pounders with mackerel bait and also a 31 pounder.

It’s easy to use on a simple float rig or leger rig, and easy to pop up too.

More and more I am using mackerel tails for zander too, and have found them very effective on some waters, mack3but not all. Certainly on the Fen rivers and some local stillwaters they work very well and have produced several double figure fish for me.

You would be very unwise to ignore the mackerel tail as a pike and zander bait.

TIP: As the water gets colder, use a smaller piece of bait. You may be surprised how much difference it can make.

All of my rigs for using mackerel and other deadbaits can be found in the Fox publication – Mick Browns Guide to Pike and Predators. Obtainable from larger tackle shops or Ebay.

Too cold for pike?

Too cold for pike?

With temperatures now plummeting, and signs of even colder weather to come, is it getting too cold to make going pike fishing worthwhile?  I have asked myself this question many times in the last forty years, and now conclude that it’s simply a matter of limiting my expectations.  The fact is that pike do slow down in their feeding, and how much they need to feed depends upon how hungry they are.  In waters where pike are normally difficult to catch, it is often down to them having a very ample and easy to obtain food supply.  In contrast to this, where food is scarce, the pike are usually easy to catch.  In the former example, they will become even harder to catch when it gets cold, but in the latter example, they may well have to carry on feeding to survive.  In other words, you are more likely to get a result from a ‘hungry’ water than a hard water.  This might sound obvious, but I don’t think a lot of anglers see it this way by the fact that they often make poor choices of venue in cold weather.

toocold2Limiting your expectations will limit your frustrations.  After a lifetime of experience, I judge the potential of the day based upon the water temperature and the numbers of pike and preyfish in the venue.  When considering the water temperature, I also consider whether it is falling or rising, or for how long it has remained at its present temperature.  I would prefer the temperature to be rising in cold conditions, but even if it is very cold and has remained that way for some time, I will fish with a degree of confidence.  Taking everything into account, I make a judgement and assess the day’s potential based upon it. I am always honest with clients who come out with me on tuition courses, and give my opinion.  I might, for example, tell them it’s looking like a ‘one fish day’ today, or maybe I’ll suggest it will probably be a ‘three to five fish day’, and on waters I know well, I am usually not too far out.  I have just come in from a day on a very well stocked water. I suggested that current conditions would produce one or two fish to the four rods we were fishing. We landed two but had three dropped runs, typical for very cold water conditions on this venue.

Success will naturally depend upon the skill of the angler, and that can make a massive difference in cold water conditions when pike are lethargic.  This is when all the little tricks learnt over a lifetime pay off, and an experienced angler can often pull something out of the bag that would be almost impossible for a less experienced angler.

If catching fish is not your only reason for going pike fishing and you just enjoy going fishing, then I would suggest that you simply wrap up warm and go for it, for no other reason than Lady Luck often plays her hand and is impartial to the skill of the angler.  Who dares wins!

Pike fishing can be frustrating at the best of times, but especially in very cold weather.  If you can be warm and comfortable and have the right attitude of mind, you can still enjoy the day, and I always consider that fishing in tough conditions will make you a much better angler than fishing easy waters in good weather where you might have fun, but you will not advance yourself.  Whatever you do, consider your own safety and the welfare of the fish above all else!

Planning ahead for big pike

Planning ahead for big pike

Every winter I dream of catching a monster pike. My personal best of 35 lb 2 oz will take some beating, but we all need something to dream about. When that float slides away and something unknown has grabbed your deadbait, your mind wanders to what it might be this time. Whether its a jack, a double, a twenty or bigger doesn’t matter to me, it’s the excitement of what it might be. I appreciate them all, handle them carefully, enjoy the moment, and then try to make it happen again.

Pike fishing for me is just like that, but if you want to catch a big pike, here’s a tip that many pike anglers don’t stop to realise. Big pike mostly come from special waters, and they usually come from waters that have an over abundance of prey fish. Furthermore, those waters need to be neglected by other pike anglers as big pike do not take well to being caught repeatedly.

My planning starts well ahead of the traditional October start. Through the summer I’m getting my gear ready, but above all I’m researching the venues I’m going to tackle. I never believe what I hear from others or read in the press, I go and take a look myself and ask questions. I’ll often fish for the prey fish to get a feel for the venue.By October, I’ll probably have three waters to concentrate my efforts on rather than put all my eggs into one basket. Sometimes I get it wrong and the venue does not have the potential I suspected. Sometimes the fishing may be fraught with problems like unexpected dense weed. Now and again I find that the water has been poached or maybe hammered by other pike anglers. I need a few alternatives in case things start to go wrong. By mid winter, I’ve usually settled on the water that I think will produce the goods. I don’t expect a quick result, but will work at it until it comes.

Most of the big pike you can read about in my books have come through this planning strategy, and if you take time to plan ahead, I am sure you will have a better result yourself. If it doesn’t come this season, you have something to build on for the next. I was going to wish you ‘good luck’ but, as you might now realise, luck has very little to do with success with big pike!!

Scent trails

Scent trails

First glance at the first picture in this article might just look like I’m standing in the water and stirring up the mud. Well that’s what I’m doing, but it can tell you something very important if you are fishing with deadbaits for pike or other predators. The fact is that that undercurrents, formed by wind and temperature variations, on any stillwater, will cause this effect, and it serves to spread the scent emanating from your deadbait around the surrounding water. The mud slick formed by me standing in the margin has spread several metres in just a minute or so. Imagine how far the scent trail from your deadbait could travel in a slightly longer period.

scent2With this in mind I always consider how the prevailing conditions are affecting my chances of success. Windy days tend to be better for deadbaiting as they set up stronger undercurrents. Venues with large variations in depth will warm and cool at different rates in different areas, and this sets up water movement as the temperature tries to equalise. There are other forces at work too, which are too complex to understand, but all we need to know is that this phenomena exists.

How does this affect my approach to deadbaiting for pike then? Well, direction of current is important. It may be going in a direction where there are no pike. That might be why you are not catching! It’s quite difficult to judge direction. For example, at the down wind end of a large body of water, the undercurrent is usually travelling away from the bank and into the wind after the force of water hits the bank and is pushed away by the relentless pressure. Such a situation could see the current moving parallel to the bank if it hits it at a slight angle. Then we have to consider very still days, when minimal undercurrents are forming. How often on such days do the pike never get to smell your bait.

On days when pike are searching for food,  you naturally have a better chance of them finding your deadbait.
They are not always hunting though, and feeding spells can be very infrequent, especially in colder conditions when their feeding spells are short sharp affairs. Pike that are well fed, or those digesting a recent meal, are also unlikely to be searching for food, so a good scent trail can be very beneficial at these times.

So, the point of this article is that I would advise that one should always be aware of scent trails when deadbaiting. I always consider the direction of the trail and it’s strength. You can often judge flow direction by making a cast with the bait set to mid water and see which way it travels. This would lead me to move my bait into different areas if I’m not catching, and to consider tactics that draw pike through a scent trail like groundbaiting and putting additives into my bait that offer a stronger scent than the baits natural properties. In these situations I’ll normally puncture baits or use half baits or sections. I’ll try to use really fresh baits dripping with body fluids like the half herring in the second picture. I’ll get my baits well popped up if the scent is being lost in a muddy or weedy bottom. There is so much more you can do that space forbids me to include which I’ll have to save for another time. Putting more thought into making use of scent trails and experimenting with my tactics has made my pike deadbait fishing far more interesting than a  ‘sit and wait’  approach, and definitely more productive.

Water temperature warning

Water temperature warning

It always worries me when anglers start fishing for pike on the Traditional October 1st starting date. The problem I foresee is with regard to the water temperature that we can expect at this time of year. This is particularly worrying after a very warm back end to the summer.On many waters in the UK, especially in lowland southern areas, I would expect the water temperature to be dangerously high at this time for reasons I will go on to explain. It’s hard to put precise figures to this, but I feel that a water temperature higher than 12/13 degrees Centigrade can raise issues that are detrimental to pike welfare if they are captured at this time. Pike tend to fight like crazy at such elevated temperatures, and cannot get enough oxygen through their gills to aid a safe recovery. This will be the case whatever method you are using, lure or bait, but I think bait fishing raises an even greater additional potential problem. At such water temperatures you can expect pike to bolt baits down extremely quickly, and no matter how good your bite indication and how quickly you react, you may not be able to strike in good time to prevent it.

water2Yesterday (Oct 9th) I spent an afternoon on a local stillwater. I had two runs on average sized baits, and both pike swallowed them out of sight, leaving both trebles in the stomach/throat. Only decades of experience, and the use of semi-barbed trebles, helped get me out of a nasty situation. I checked the water temperature, and wasn’t surprised that this had happened when I found it was 16.5 degrees C. Had I not checked with a very accurate aquarium thermometer, I would have sworn it felt cold enough for safe fishing.

I went again today (Oct 10th) just to see whether I could use tactics that eliminated this problem. After all, many other pike anglers will be out now and I felt the need to experiment and pass on my experience. I first checked the water temperature, and it had fallen half a degree overnight. Still too warm I think. I decided to rig with caution and opted for one size 4 semi barbed treble in the root of the tail instead of two size 6’s in tail and flank as the day before.

Once again, I had just two runs, and striking the first as quickly as I could, the bait was still swallowed almostwater3 out of sight. With the solitary treble lodged just outside the throat, it was a simple unhooking procedure, even though not satisfactory as I aim to hook in the scissors or near the front of the jaw. Nevertheless, a great improvement. Another run an hour later saw a similar situation, but with the treble pulling out of the tail of the bait during the fight and lodging in the scissors, while the bait was still in the throat entrance. I’d got away with it this time, but only just.

So, even after taking all precautions of good bite indication, with no delay and an immediate strike, I know I can still be faced with a tricky and dangerous (for the pike) unhooking problem when fishing at such elevated water temperature. I’m not desperate to catch pike, so I will now leave the deadbaiting alone until the water temperature drops a few more degrees. I can still fish with lures, although larger lures are best just now as smaller ones can be taken deeper at this time. I also need to take care when playing them and ensure they don’t exhaust themselves by prolonging the fight. I hope this practical experience will make you think about your own approach, not just now but at any time, and ensure you are tackle up safely and have all the tools ready to deal with any tricky situations.

Pike fly fishing retrieves

Pike fly fishing retrieves

When fly fishing for pike, I’ve noticed that the way the fly is retrieved can make a big difference to what you catch – or don’t catch! I’ve seen this in practice many times when fishing with other anglers. One often catches more than the other and, although there are other factors, retrieve style is often the only real difference in the approach. For this reason, I will vary my retrieve style until I find something that triggers them. As with fly fishing for any species, there are a few standard retrieve styles. Most pike fly anglers will ‘strip’ the fly by pulling back a certain length of line in a regular pattern, This can be varied by the length of line retrieved in each pull, the speed at which it is pulled back, and pauses of various times between each strip. Then you can use a ‘figure of eight’ style which is a gathering of the line between the thumb and fingers so as to give a constant line speed. Once again it pays to vary the line retrieve speed and make use of pauses during the retrieve. Then there is the ‘roly poly’ retrieve which is performed by holding the rod between ones legs while stripping at high speed with both hands.

There is a lot of variation in these retrieves, and I often mix them up to give a lot of variety to any fish that might be interested. One of my favourite retrieves which I never see others use, although I’m sure there are some that do so, is to make use of my rod tip to accelerate the fly so it really darts at high speed. It simply involves getting into a rhythm of an accelerating strip, followed by a line gathering strip. When making the accelerating strip, I pull line back with my retrieving hand whilst moving the rod tip vigorously to one side. This is quickly followed by a shorter strip that takes up the inevitable slack line. It’s a bit like using the hauling technique when casting to increase line speed except that you are doing so with the fly underwater. Again, you can vary this speed and the distance that the fly darts, and don’t forget those pauses.

Catching pike on the fly is usually not that difficult when they are active. When they are not, the challenge is to find out what is required to make them react, and this, to me, is the most rewarding fly fishing of all.

Braid or mono for pike?

Braid or mono for pike?

The question of whether to use braid or mono line for lure fishing was resolved for me a long time ago.

Without doubt, braid has proved itself to be the far better choice in most pike fishing situations.  Minimal stretch means better bite detection, and it’s low diameter relative to breaking strain makes it very user friendly. For me, one of the other important benefits I get from braid line is it’s reliability. Knots are easy to tie and very reliable, and the line itself takes a lot of abuse. Gone are the days when I’m pulling for breaks inbraid2 snags and loosing my valuable lures. For lure fishing, I will never go back.

So, what about bait fishing? It took me a bit longer to completely change over to braid, but nowadays I would
use nothing else unless forced to do so by fishery rules. For the same reasons as I choose braid for lure fishing, I do so for bait fishing. My biggest problem when bait fishing was that the lack of stretch made the playing process more fraught with the stiffer bait rods. I was afraid of hook pulls, and indeed did suffer a few. Before long though, I simply found that playing pike on braid line required a slightly modified technique that applied less pressure and keeping the rod higher to absorb any sudden lunges.

More benefits were found like the reliability in striking at long range, particularly when drifter float fishing or braid3long trotting baits down a river or flowing drain.And I keep coming back to reliability. When I have a bait caught in a snag or have to haul a pike from thick weed or from tree roots, I have every confidence that the line will not let me down. Power Pro has long been my choice of braid, and for bait fishing I use 15 kg breaking strain. In swims with serious snags you can go much stronger with little increase in diameter, but I would question whether it’s wise to fish such swims where snagging is so likely.

Braid is more expensive than mono but it will last so much longer than mono main line. With average use, I would expect to get at least five years use from my braid. If you are a penny pincher, you can reverse the braid after five years and get a few more from it. In the long run, it’s a choice I don’t think you will ever regret.

How many rods?

How many rods?

The other day I was deadbaiting on a large stillwater where you can count the number of runs you get in a season on one hand.  Some seasons you don’t even get a single run!  The pike are there though, and well worth struggling for.  An angler passing by after fishing a more prolific adjacent lake, expressed his amazement that I was using three rods.  He was even more staggered when I replied that I often use four rods there, one of them usually for lure fishing.  I was well within the law, having four rods covered by two EA licenses, and the rods were never spaced more than three meters apart.

I went on to explain to him why I sometimes used that many rods, and I would like to emphasise the words ‘at times’, as I don’t always use that many.  My philosophy is to use the least number of rods I can without howmany2compromising my results.  My ultimate scenario is to use just one rod.  When exclusively lure fishing, this is obviously the case, but when bait fishing, I have to decide the number of rods that is sensible.  Once again, I would like to use just one bait rod because that normally means I am getting lots of action and need no more.  This is rarely the case though, and I mostly use two rods, giving me options of trying different baits and rigs.  Sometimes the nature or size  of the venue dictates that two rods are the practical limit.

Now we are back to the scenario I opened with.  When I find myself on a water where runs are hard to come by, I will step up to three rods, and where runs are almost unheard of I don’t mind putting out a fourth.  In these latter situations, it is most unlikely that I’ll get multiple runs, although I concede it can happen and I’m ready for it.  Whether it makes any difference to my results I don’t know.  Maybe its a confidence thing, but I feel better by increasing the painfully low odds.

Once the sessions starts, I do have the option of reducing or increasing the number of rods until I am satisfied that I have arrived at a practical number. Where it goes wrong, in my opinion, is when anglers put out too many rods on prolific waters, simply to catch as many pike as they can.  Multiple runs can occur, and runs on other rods come when unhooking a fish on the mat and you have to deal with two (or more) at the same time. We are fortunate at the moment to have laws that permit us to use up to four rods. If we abuse it, it will be to the detriment of the pike and make a case for changing the law. All it needs is a bit of common sense!

All together girls

All together girls

Here’s a quick tip that could save you a lot of disappointment, help you catch more pike and avoid a few blanks.In a nutshell, if you can find one big female pike in the coming months, you may be onto an area that has many more. Whether fishing rivers, drains or lakes, I will always keep on the move unless I know I am onto some fish. The fact is that they will nearly always be grouped quite tightly in the winter. Sometimes it’s because they are close to prey fish, but at other times, they simply take up residence in a particular spot for reasons only known to them. Often they will take up these spots every season.

On some waters though, they locate themselves differently each winter. The more features there are on the venue, the more choices they have. And remember that there are features under the water that you can’t see. I can recall so may instances of moving several times after blanking and then dropping into a swim full of pike where lots of runs come in quick succession. If you regularly sit blanking, think about getting mobile. Cut down on the tackle so you can do this. When you do finally catch a big female pike, get another bait in the same area quickly – there will probably be more!

Moving hot spots

Moving hot spots

For decades now, experienced pike anglers have recognised the phenomena of ‘Hot Spots’. These are places where larger pike are always present whilst surrounding areas are almost devoid of their kind. They are sometimes associated with a particular feature, such as an area where there is decaying weed or where a river or drain narrows down, or they could be places where prey fish are always present. The precise reason for a ‘Hot Spot’ may never be known, but all I need to know is that they can exist, and they are what I am always seeking out, particularly in winter time.

There’s nothing new in this revelation, but in recent seasons I’ve noticed a slight variation on the theme – ‘moving’ hot spots. On some waters I fish, the ‘Hot Spot’ tends to change every season. One winter the big moving2pike will be gathered on a drop off that is easy to cast to from the bank, another season they will be up against a drop off well out into the lake where I need a drifter float to reach them, and this year I found them in a relatively shallow area adjacent to very dense underwater weed.

The point I’m trying to make is that I could easily have missed out on some good sport had I not searched for the new ‘Hot Spot’. I could have sat in the swims that produced last winter, or the winter before, and blanked, blaming my lack of success on the weather or my bait and rigs. The fact is that all I was doing wrong was fishing in the wrong place. As soon as I found the new ‘Hot’ area, it was runs galore, using simple rigs and cheap bait. There was nothing clever about it, I just tried different areas until I stumbled across it. Since my first discovery of the swim, I have tried all the old ‘Hot Spots’ and had just one run. The pike were all holed up in this tight area which they have chosen to be in for the winter.

I treat these ‘Hot’ areas as I would pre baited swims. I just catch one or two fish each session and then leave them along for a week. If you overdo it, they will simply move away and you have to find them again. As there are other lakes in the vicinity, I spend the rest of my days exploring them – looking for, and hoping to find new ‘Hot’ areas! When you have several ‘Hot’ swims to fish through a day, you’ve really got your act together!!

Twitch it!

Twitch it!

I learnt a little trick many years ago that has caught me so many pike that I’ve lost count. I’ve written about it many times and yet, going by observations made on my travels, it does not seem widely practised at all. It simply involves twitching your deadbait to give it a little movement. Sometimes pike need to see movement in a potential meal to tempt them to attack it. Lets face it, a deadbait that moves does imitate a dying prey fish taking it’s last gasps of life and is therefore a prime meal that might get away if the pike doesn’t nail it.The best way of fishing a deadbait to make twitching easy is with a float rig. Leger rigs can be twitched, but you can never be sure whether you have pulled the bait into weed or snags. With a float set up, you can feel the bait pick up from the bottom and glide through the water.The take is more obvious with a float rig too as you do not have the resistance of a heavy weight pulling back as with a leger rig. This ploy works just as well with a popped up deadbait. In.In fact I think that the bait looks even more enticing when it’s popped up and made to bounce along just off bottom.

Nowadays, it’s my normal practice to twitch the float fished deadbaits by a couple of metres or so every ten minutes, re-casting them when I’m back to the rod. Actually, many of the takes come on the last part of the retrieve, and occasionally as I’m lifting the bait from the water. When you haven’t got the option to use livebaits, this is a very good next choice. Don’t take my word for it – try it and see for yourself!

Trolling with lures

by Mick Brown 0 Comments
Trolling with lures

As I pulled my boat into the dock the other day, another boat angler, who had also been lure fishing, asked how I had got on, writes Mick Brown. He was surprised when I told him I’d caught a dozen pike up to double figures as he had only had two small ones. When I mentioned that I had taken them by trolling, he became quite dismissive, and suggested that trolled pike were not as worthy as pike caught by casting.

I asked him if he had ever been trolling, and his answer was that dragging a lure behind a boat would not interest him in the slightest. The discussion moved on to the skill involved in trolling, and he could not see that there was any, and it was too risky snagging up and losing his precious lures.

I left the conversation there. He had closed his mind to the opportunities offered by trolling, and would be consigned to missing some of the most exciting sport available with a lure. I could see that he was someone who would catch very little and lose lots of lures in the process. In my book, trolling is an art, and is so much more than just pulling a lure behind a boat.

The picture on the left shows the lures I had caught pike on during that day. There’s a couple of Storm Thundersticks and Rapala Tail Dancers, a Rapala DT 20, a Rapala X-Rap Deep and a Rapala X-Rap Magnum. In this instance, the swims I fished were from 12 to 20 feet deep and the water was cold with quite a lot of colour, and these are the lures that caught after a lot of trial and error. There were plenty of snags too, but I didn’t lose a single lure. On another day and on another venue, I would probably use different lures. You need to work out exactly what is required for each session, and I hope this article will point you in the right direction.

All the variables involved in lure fishing need to be taken into account when trolling. First and foremost is to run the lure at the optimum depth. This can range from dragging the bottom to ripping the lure through the surface layers. Every type of lure can be pressed into service and apart from regular floating divers which are used more than any other lures, I will troll jigs, spoons, spinners, spinner baits, jerk baits and surface lures.

Choosing the depth to run the lure is best determined by using an echo sounder. In deeper swims, and in warm water conditions, you can take a chance without knowing the depth, as predators like pike, perch and chub will come high in the water for prey. By trial and error you can work down the water column to find the fish, but you will also find the snags too! An echo sounder takes out all the guess work as you can see the depth of the water beneath you and also spot any major lure-pinching snags. You will also see shoals of prey fish too, which indicate areas to concentrate on, as predators will surely be close to them.

Having a good indication of depth allows accurate choice of lure, and you should choose your lure to suit local conditions. Primarily, water temperature will dictate running depth. When the water is cold, I start by running my lure as close to the bottom as possible, and then gradually work my lures higher in the water column if I’m not catching. The picture on the right shows a 34 pound pike which was caught by doing just that. I started by trolling along the bottom at 25 feet and caught nothing. Working shallower, I finally had a hit by running a Rapala Super Shad Rap at about ten feet. The picture below shows the Super Shad Rap which the big pike took. It is in the now discontinued Crawdad Crawfish pattern. With it is a battle-scarred veteran in Red Head pattern which is one of my all-time favourites for clear water fishing.

In milder conditions I do the reverse with regard to running depth, and start with a surface lure and progressively work deeper. Some species, like zander, rarely come up off the bottom at any time and others – like chub – tend to spend a lot of time higher in the water. You really do need to study and understand the species you are after.

The speed of the trolled lure can be vital and can be anything from a snail’s pace, for a jig that is being inched along the bottom, to a fast walking pace for hungry spring feeders. There’s more to it than that though, and amongst other skills you need to learn, are tricks to vary the speed and action of the lure as you travel along, sometimes by varying the motor speed but mostly by rod action. Dropping the lure back suddenly or ripping it forward, are just some of the things you can do to provoke a following predator to make its attack.

Lure colour choice can be particularly important, especially in very clear water. No-one will ever second guess what colour they will want on any day, but a good starting point is to use natural colours in clear water and bright attractor colours in stained or coloured water. In very coloured water or at night (yes, trolling is very viable in the dark!), any colour will catch. Most predators, such as pike, do not need to see a lure as their lateral line sensors will detect its movement. I have found that most lures catch at night, but when I’m fishing bigger waters or where I might have to draw predators from weed or snags, I prefer a lure that makes a lot of commotion, and this is where rattling lures offer an advantage.

I have only skimmed over the basics of trolling with lures, and have barely gone into any detail at all. There is so much more to say, but I hope that I have said enough to tempt anyone who has not yet tried trolling to make a start. If you apply yourself, you will be rewarded with some of the most interesting and productive fishing you will ever come across. Good luck!

When large lures are essential

by Mick Brown 0 Comments
When large lures are essential

A question I am often asked is with regard to lure size for pike. After all, Rapala offer a wide range of sizes, and less experienced anglers can be confused when faced with making a choice.

I could dismiss this very simply and say that pike will often take lures of any size unless circumstances are such that they become choosy. At some times of year for example, often in warmer conditions, they prefer larger baits and in cold water conditions, smaller lures often score better. As I said though, you need to keep a very open mind about this and offer a selection of sizes and see what works best.

There are times though when I will mostly use larger lures. This is not for the benefit of catching more pike,when-2 but because of my concern for the pike’s welfare. In high water temperatures, and I am thinking about those above approx 13/14 degrees Centigrade, the pike has a very voracious appetite, and has the capacity and intent to swallow food as quickly as possible. Deadbaits and livebaits disappear in a flash and unhooking problems can occur. The same applies with lures, although to a lesser extent as the strike is made very quickly after the lure is grabbed. Nevertheless, there will be times when even lures are inhaled deeply.

Here is the reason for this article. The larger the lure you are using, the less likely it will be taken down deeply. My first illustration shows a pike that has taken a 6cm BX Jointed Shad quite a way back in it’s mouth. An experienced lure angler will find it’s removal to be no problem, at other times, even skilled anglers can be faced with more difficult unhooking situations. My way around this is to use larger lures at times when the pike are behaving in this way.

when-3What do I mean by large? Well, if you use lures of 13cm or longer, a Floating Magnum14 or Super Shad Rap for example, you stand a better chance of the pike ‘grabbing’ the lure rather than swallowing it. Rapala supply lures much longer than this, such as the 18cm CountDown Magnum or larger X-Rap Magnum. When very big pike are possible, you would do well to consider their use at any time.

Unhooking lure caught pike will never be all that easy, but you can take measures, as I have described, to make your life easier and more importantly, benefit the welfare of the pike you catch. May I also remind you that a good pair of unhooking pliers makes the job of removing lures so much easier as you can get a firmer grip on the hooks (see Rapala Pliers).

Lure fishing in milder weather conditions can be very productive. Follow my advice and use larger lures at this time, it can make the fishing more productive and also a lot more enjoyable by making unhooking simpler.

How deep should you work your lure

by Mick Brown 0 Comments
How deep should you work your lure

A prime consideration when working any lure, at any time of year and on any type of venue, is the depth that the lure is being run at – whether you’re casting or trolling. Sometimes this is not so critical, but most times it will be, and getting it wrong can adversely affect your catch rate. The days when predators will hit any lure, regardless of the depth it is being fished, are few and far between, so getting it right has to be a basic but important consideration.

Various factors will affect where in the water column the predators will be lying ready to ambush their prey. This is where your lure also needs to be. It’s no good fishing a lure well above the prey fish, or worse still, below them. Predators might make extra effort to come a little higher in the water for prey, but rarely do they consider foraging deeper where they do not expect to find them. I am considering common UK freshwater predators here, but this principle applies whatever predator you fish for around the world.

The depth of the water column you are casting into needs to be understood first of all. From a boat, an echo sounder offers a massive advantage in determining the depth, and it will also help you to pinpoint prey shoals and show what depth they are swimming at. Throughout the day (and night), you may often see prey shoals change depth, and predators will following them accordingly, or sometimes they might wait for them at the depth they prefer to attack them. From the bank, it takes a lot of trial and error to build a similar picture, but working progressively deeper with the correct lure eventually builds a basic understanding.

Having determined a basic knowledge of the depths, you then need to find at which depth the predators are feeding. It takes time to understand patterns of behaviour of predators in any venue, and the way in which they move up and down in the water column, but it is essential to do so. Waters of shallow to medium depth (down to approx 20ft) are easiest to come to terms with, whereas deeper waters can have quite complicated prey and predator movement. For example, some predators move from deep to shallow water at feeding time, whereas others might wait for deep water prey shoals to rise in the water before attacking them. Once determined though, it makes choosing the right lure much easier.

Feeding depth goes hand-in-hand with feeding times. Your best chance to catch a predator is to fish at its feeding time, and of course fish your lure at the correct depth. Feeding spells can often be very short, sharp affairs, but if you miss them you still have the chance to catch predators that are digesting prey, and they often drop into deeper water to do so. Zander and perch are typical of this behaviour, but pike will do so too at times. Those that are digesting prey can be harder to tempt and are often quite challenging, but nevertheless are worthy of your attention, especially if they offer the only chance during the session.

While understanding the feeding depth equation is vitally important, it should be apparent that it is never that straightforward. Clearly this points to a searching approach which covers the depth column until a result occurs. The Rapala Countdown was one of the first lures designed to search in this way, and since its introduction there have been many other lures that fit this bill and cover a whole range of species and venues. In water down to about 10ft, I would also recommend the Scatter Rap CountdownBX SwimmerClackin’ MinnowMax Rap and  X-Rap Countdown. For depths down to 20ft I recommend theClackin’ RapJointed Clackin’ Rap and Rippin’ Rap.

Spinners, like the Blue Fox Vibrax range are also useful for working at various depths, and there are many soft plastics in the Storm range that can be worked in all depths. The Knock’R Minnow has been very effective for finding pike in all depths, and the Wildeye Swim Shads have been useful for scraping the bottom for both pike and zander.

There are so many lures to choose from in the Rapala/Storm ranges; they cater for sea and game fish too. It’s up to you to find the ones that meet your requirements, and you will find a considered approach much more productive and satisfying than a ‘chuck it and chance it’ approach which will only lead to frustration and lost lures. Good fishing!

Time to catch with surface lures

by Mick Brown 0 Comments
Time to catch with surface lures

A few weeks ago, I wrote about an early success with a surface lure when a cold spring day produced a surprise hit on a Storm Chug Bug. In shallower waters which warm up more quickly, it can always be worth trying surface lures long before doing so in colder and deeper waters.

As I write, in mid May, it is prime time for casting a surface bait. Now is the time to throw surface poppers, chuggers and sliders! On most venues, at this time, you will see proud mother ducks and geese parading their young behind them and, sad as it seems, nature tells pike that these delicacies are now on the menu. Even where there are no surface birds to attack, other surface swimming mammals like voles and frogs will attract the pikes attention, not to mention surface feeding prey fish. There are plenty of easy pickings now, and this is what your surface lure is replicating.

On a recent tench session, I also took a lure rod with me, along with a couple of favourite surface lures that I have every confidence in – the good old Storm Saltwater Chug Bug 11 cm and the Rapala Saltwater Skitterpop 12 cm. The smaller freshwater versions are very effective too, but in the springtime I find a bigger bait frequently works better. I also had a X-Rap SubWalk 15 cm too. It’s designed to work just under the surface, which is sometimes required when they won’t take lures off the top. You can make it work on the top though if you keep the rod high and work it fast. It then has the benefit that when you stop the retrieve now and again it will start to sink, and this can sometimes be the better approach.

After packing away my tench tackle at mid day, I spent an hour or so walking around the lake with my lure tackle. The action that followed soon made up for the uneventful tench session and was as good as it could be as half a dozen fighting mad pike launched themselves at the lures and proceeded to thrash the water to foam.

They weren’t big pike, but that hardly matters when it’s action and excitement that floats your boat. All packed into an hour session as well, which suits my preference for shorter sessions nowadays. For the next few weeks, I’ll have my surface lures in the van wherever I go, and while I’m waiting or baiting for a carp or tench, I’ll be so looking forward to my special hour of surface lure fishing to finish off with!

The first Rapala lure

by Mick Brown 0 Comments
The first Rapala lure

Every time I cast a Rapala Original minnow lure, I can’t help thinking about the history behind it. It’s a remarkable story that starts back in Finland in the 1930’s which tells how poverty and hunger drove a simple fisherman named Laurie Rapala to find a more efficient way of catching fish for the table.

Carved from a piece of cork, he came up with a substitute for using real fish for bait after studying what provoked predatory fish into attacking. He built it using a principle which is the basis of every Rapala lure that has been developed since. Each and every lure has to have a movement that predators find hard to ignore.

The story is long and complex, and runs through the war years and afterwards when sport fishing started to become popular. It tells of how Laurie’s idea was commercialised on a large scale and laid the foundations for the most successful lure manufacturing company on the planet. The Rapala Original lure just grew and grew in popularity and it found great acceptance as a top lure for catching many sport fish including pike, perch, zander, trout, sea trout, salmon, black bass and so many more species. Hardly changing much from the original shape, but later made from balsa wood, it gradually became manufactured in more sizes and many different colours and finishes.

Today, after many millions have been sold around the world, it is still one of Rapala’s best sellers. In the UK it is a first choice amongst salmon and trout anglers, and despite the flooding of the market with hundreds of new lures, Rapala Originals can be found in the boxes of many discerning pike anglers who appreciate the tradition that is still built into them.

The Original is a floating diver intended for freshwater fishing, and it works well in both stillwaters and rivers. Nowadays I mostly use the larger models (11, 13 and 18cm) for pike in water down to about ten feet. If you want to get them deeper, you can use weight up the line and salmon and trout anglers in particular often do this with the smaller models.

It is almost 80 years since Laurie Rapala carved his prototypes, and their successors are still in mass production. That must speak volumes about the effectiveness of the Original for predators around the world. Next time you cast one out, I hope you will have a better understanding of this wonderful story that has led so many anglers to enjoy sport fishing at its very best.

Grab your lure rod and go!

by Mick Brown 0 Comments
Grab your lure rod and go!

When spring arrives, predatory fish will be stepping up their feeding efforts for the next few months after their winter lethargy and spawning. For lure anglers, the difficult cold water fishing will be replaced with some hectic hot action. Our rivers have a close season, but stillwaters all over the country are ready to be targeted with lures at this key feeding time. And now’s the time to do it before sport slows down once the water temperature gets too high. You really do need to make the most of the next two months to get your share of the potential sport available!

The days are now getting quite long, and casting lures throughout the whole day can become tiring and tedious, so short sessions can be a lot more comfortable and practical. A lure approach can cover smaller waters very quickly, and they are often fished in a short period anyway, and that’s how I tend to operate at this time of year. I’ll either nip out for a few hours of lure action on a local water, or take a few hours out from a longer coarse fishing session, after carp or tench for example, to add variety to my fishing.

The short sessions are my favourite approach. It’s a way of life in some countries to have a couple of lure rods propped up in the garage or tackle room, and when I visit relatives in the USA, that’s the way we proceed. If the weather looks good, we grab the rods, some drink and food, and we are off for a few hours at the prime time of day for whatever species we are after. You can do so by yourself, but I find the best fun is when I take a family member with me and we share the fun. The fish don’t have to be big; you can have tremendous fun with predators of all sizes.

Pike offer the best prospect on my local venues as they tend to have wider feeding windows and are more reliable. Perch and zander can be fun too, but this usually means being there at low light or at dusk. Knowing I’ll only be out for a few hours means I can travel light with just a few tried and tested lures, some food and drink, and the basic tools and equipment for fish safety. A camera is great to record the fun, and modern digital cameras are so light to carry in your pocket.

I normally have two rods set up for me and my partner for the session. They are different set ups so we can use different types of lures and we take turns with them. One will be a regular 20 – 60 gram rod with a reel loaded with 30lb braid, and this is suitable for the middle-sized lures ranging from spoons and floating divers to surface lures that fall within that weight range. You will find that most popular sized pike lures come in that 20 to 60 gram weight range and can be used with good effect on just one rod, and it will also handle lures a little either side of that range if used sensibly. The other set up I take with me is to cater for smaller, lighter lures like spinners, smallershads and soft plastics. This utilises a 15 – 30 gram rated rod and a smaller reel loaded with 20lb braid. This set-up enables much crisper casting of lighter lures and is more sporting when smaller pike and perch are hooked.

There are so many rods and reels in the Shimano range, so let me suggest two good mid-priced set ups that won’t break the bank and will be a joy to use.

RODS AND REELS

Regular set up (20 – 60 gram)

Shimano Exage Spin rod and Shimano Stradic ST2500FJ reel loaded with Powerpro 30lb braid

Light set up (15-30 gram)

Shimano Speedmaster BX Spin rod and Shimano Exage EXG10000FD reel loaded with Powerpro 20lb braid

THE LURES

What about the lures? They will depend to a larger extent on where you are fishing and for what species, but here’s a few I would take anywhere in the spring period.

For the 20 – 60 gram set up

Rapala Supershad Rap 14cm

Rapala Max Rap 15cm

Rapala Jointed 13cm

Rapala X-Rap Jointed Shad 13cm

Storm Doom Bell Shallow 13cm

Storm Saltwater Chug Bug 11cm

 

For the 15 – 30 gram set up

Blue Fox Vibrax Original size 5 Spinner

Rapala BX Minnow 10cm

Rapala Scatter Rap Shad 7cm

Rapala X-Rap Subwalk 9cm

Storm Live Kickin’ Shad 12cm

 

There are so many fantastic lures to choose from in the Rapala/Storm and Vibrax ranges. I would recommend that you buy just a handful to start with, and pay careful attention to choosing those that fish at the correct depth for the venues you fish. Choose colours to suit the water clarity. Natural colours are ideal for clear water, and brighter colours for stained or murky water. Trial and error, and a lot of practice, will soon tell you what to buy next. When you realise that it is not so difficult to catch predators with lures, especially in the spring months, you will soon be able to choose wisely and take advantage of the many special features which all of the lures from these manufacturers offer to help catch in all water conditions.

But above all, lure fishing is fun. So what are you waiting for? GRAB YOUR ROD AND GO!

Is it too early to fish with surface lures?

by Mick Brown 0 Comments
Is it too early to fish with surface lures?

I expect most pike anglers start to think about using surface lures when the weather really starts to warm up and the water temperature starts to climb rapidly. I’ve always felt very much that way myself, but a recent session started me thinking that, even thought it was still mid-March, I stood a very good chance of catching off the top. To catch a pike on a surface lure must be the ultimate thrill as you not only feel the attack, but see it as well.

Fishing a Vibrax spinner through the straw-coloured stems of last year’s reed beds, I noticed a few pike chasing and breaking the surface as I lifted the spinner over the more thickly weeded areas. My thoughts turned to surface fishing, and I challenged myself to break with tradition and change to a surface lure, even though it was five or six weeks earlier than I would normally bother to try.

I hadn’t got my full complement of surface lures with me, but found an old favourite, an 8cm Storm Rattlin’ Chug Bug in the bottom of my box. I quickly clipped it on, and felt very confident as I twitched it slowly through the reed stems. On that very first cast, a nice pike casually whipped it off the surface in a very efficient attack. It just seemed too easy!

I’ve had great success with the Chug Bugs, both the freshwater version and the larger saltwater version. You can make them spit, dart and walk-the-dog by applying different rod actions to them. Any regular 20-60 gram rod with a medium action is ideal for working them. I was using a Technium DF 240M and a Technium 4000FC reel, loaded with 30lb Powerpro braid, a set up that will last a lifetime if treated with respect.

I’ve caught hundreds of pike on surface lures, but this one felt quite special. I’d dared to challenge my long-held belief that it was too early to even try the surface lures, and then proved myself wrong! I dare say that surface lure fishing may not work everywhere until later in the spring, but in shallow water which warms up more quickly, I now consider it very viable to include it in my plan of attack.

Next trip out, I’ll have all my favourite surface lures with me. I’ll pack the bigger 11cm Saltwater Chug Bug, a 13cm Rapala X-Rap Walk and a 12cm Rapala Saltwater Skitter Pop. I’ll also put in a 15 cm Rapala X-Rap Sub Walk in case they are taking just below the surface. As the water gets warmer, and the pike’s demand for food increases, these bigger lures will score well. Can’t wait!

Five steps to pike and perch lure fishing success

by Mick Brown 0 Comments
Five steps to pike and perch lure fishing success

Fishing with lures for pike and perch can be viable around the calendar, but for reliable sport, autumn and early winter take some beating. The water temperature is ideal to get them chasing and much of the summer’s weed growth will have died back, making snagging less likely. It can be a frustrating method though because simply casting and retrieving any old lure is rarely going to produce much success.

You do need to come up with the ideal lure for the swim you are tackling and must work it in an appropriate manner. Over several decades of lure fishing for these species, I have come up with my own magic formula, which I work to religiously whenever, and wherever I fish. My five simple rules are derived from a logical approach that rarely lets me down. First of all, I would advise any newcomer to lure fishing not to think that lure fishing is a simple method just requiring casting and retrieving. Any degree of success can only come from extensive experience and experimentation.

To be able to experiment with lures, one will obviously need a good selection to choose from. Buying wisely, by only purchasing suitable lures for the venue you are tackling, is essential to cut down costs and to have any chance of success. Many anglers do this the wrong way round. They buy a box full of lures and then try to find somewhere to use them. Not surprisingly they find that many of them are totally unsuitable, and many are prone to getting snagged and lost because they work too deep.

A better approach is to consider the venue you are about to tackle with regard to its depth, clarity, the type of prey fish it contains and the water temperature. This will be quite bewildering to newcomers, but my five steps to success with lures will prepare them to not only choose the best lure for the swim, but also to buy wisely in the future when fishing different types of venues. Let’s look at what the five steps are.

 

DEPTH

Without doubt, the depth that the lure is worked is the most important factor. Get this wrong and you could be totally wasting your time. You need to present your lure within in the strike zone and, at the same time, not snag up on any underwater features or weed. In milder conditions, predators will often come up from quite a depth to attack lures but as the water temperature falls, the distance they are prepared to travel is reduced considerably and you will need to work a lure very close to the bottom where they tend to lie at this time.

Knowing precisely how deep your lure will run will avoid snagging, and a degree of trial and error will be needed to assess each swim. Spoons and spinners can be useful at any time and can be worked at different depths by counting them down progressively deeper with successive casts until contact is made with the bottom. The negative side to them is that they snag easily and they work too fast for colder conditions when predators are less likely to chase. Crankbaits are then a better option as they can be retrieved very slowly at a predictable depth.

The floating diver type of crankbaits are a good choice in snaggy swims as they will return towards the surface when you stop reeling, something you would do if feeling a snag during the retrieve. This type of lure will have its own inbuilt maximum working depth as specified by the manufacturer and can be reliably used in water of a known depth. When the fish are tight to the bottom, a jig would be another good choice if there are no snags or weed present.

 

SPEED

Although I rate speed after depth, it can still be a vitally important factor, especially in cold water when predators do everything very slowly. As a general rule, the lower the water temperature, the slower you need to work the lure. In mild conditions, it often takes a fast-moving lure to get the predator’s attention and, within reason, it’s unlikely at this time that you can work a lure too fast. When working lures fast, it’s important to ensure they run true and don’t start spinning round or loose their action. For fast retrieving, I’ve always liked the Rapala Magnum crankbait range, which is specially balanced to run true at high speed.

When minimal speed is required, I use suspending crankbaits like the Rapala Down Deep Husky Jerk which has close to neutral buoyancy. When cranked to their working depth, they suspend momentarily before attempting to return to the surface at a snail’s pace. This means they can be inched along at a fairly constant depth. This keeps them in the predators’ strike zone for long periods of time and gives them plenty of time to make their minds up.

If suspending lures do not work in this way and they sink when paused, it is likely that your wire trace is too heavy and will need fine-tuning. Jigs can be worked very slowly too and can be brought to a halt on the bottom if it is snag free, where predators are likely to scoop them up if skilfully inched along. Once again, there is great scope for experimentation.

 

COLOUR

With the lure working at the ideal depth and speed, success may still not come if the angler has not chosen an appropriate colour. It would be a very wise angler who could tackle a new water and get it right first time and I would never try to ‘second guess’ what colour will work unless I know the venue intimately. I have so many times seen a particular colour turn the predators on that I work through a good selection of colours before giving up. With this in mind, it is a good idea to have several colours to try out ranging from natural looking patterns to bold attractor colours. As a rule of thumb, I start with naturals in clear water and bright attractors where clarity is not so good. I stress though that this is only a starting point and the outcome is never clear. I do know though that there will often be a colour which is better than all the others in my tackle box.

 

ACTION

Lure action can range from very subtle to extremely wild and it all depends upon the mood of the predator as to what will make it react. There are times when a very gentle action is appropriate, typical of cold water fishing conditions. Then there are other times when the lure needs much more movement to get a response from uninterested fish. Sometimes it is provided by the action built into the design of the lure, but any lure can be worked aggressively using rod action to make it dart and keel. Whichever lure you are using, and at any time, it pays to vary its action during a retrieve to see whether working it in a particular way brings success. For example,floating diving lures can be speeded up and then slowed down almost to a halt, making them work with more action for a while and then rising slowly with little action. There are endless permutations to how a lure can be worked to vary its action, and the same lure in different hands can see totally different results, confirming to me that the skill that comes from experimentation and experience is invaluable.

PROFILE/SIZE

Although I’ve mentioned this point last, the profile and size of the lure is still extremely important. When all of the other factors have been taken into consideration, the size and profile of the lure can and does make a difference. Fortunately predators are opportunists and will snap at anything they think they can get easily. This I’ve proven many times by taking very large fish with small lures and had small ones attempt to take very large lures. It’s just in their nature to attack anything that they think they can eat or find threatening.

There will be times though when they are fixated on a particular size of prey and I’ve found this especially applicable to perch. It is not necessarily a smaller lure either and they will sometimes show a preference for lures that would seem impossible for them to swallow. Conversely, pike will often respond better to small lures for no apparent reason. There is no family of lures with such a variety of profiles than the crankbaits.

Crankbaits can cause some confusion to beginners as they come in so many shapes. A simple overview finds that there are three main shapes: minnows, shads and fat bodies. They are intended to represent different prey fish profiles which makes it possible to ‘match the hatch’ where required, but once again it is never that straight forward and you need to offer different shapes to see whether there is a preference.


It is quite likely that at this stage your head is spinning with confusion. Even if you work through these steps, there is a lot of trial and error involved. I can’t stress enough the need to experiment and practice. To be a successful lure angler on a variety of waters and under different water and weather conditions requires logical thinking and dedication.

I don’t mind admitting that I’m still learning after 40 years of casting lures. It’s a wonderful journey of discovery though as your success and skill grows. This can only come through an approach which starts with selecting the ideal lures for the venue and continues with chopping and changing them to work out which one in your collection will get the best result from the day. You do need a large collection to have the best chance of success, but this can be built up over time. Wise buying means not wasting money on lures you won’t use, and understanding how deep they work will avoid losses through snagging. In the long term it is a lot cheaper than bait fishing too!

I would suggest that you start with half-a-dozen lures and get to know them well, their shortcomings as well as their benefits. When purchasing another handful of lures, you will have that experience and knowledge to build upon. It takes time, and there are no shortcuts to success with lures for pike and perch, but you will have great fun along the way!

The best lure has just got even better!

by Mick Brown 0 Comments
The best lure has just got even better!

There are many cheap lures on the market today. They might look very similar to a Rapala, but I can tell you that this is only in their appearance. In terms of their fish-catching capabilities, they are often worlds apart. It’s true that when predators are in a carefree mood, they will attack any lure, but when the going is tough, you need a lure that has the technical properties built into it which will tempt them to strike. This is where a Rapala will catch you more fish!

Widely misunderstood types of lure are the ‘suspenders’ and ‘slow risers’. They are perfect for difficult-to-tempt predators which need plenty of time to inspect a potential meal before attacking it. This is typical behaviour when water temperatures are low or when they are very well fed (or both!). Suspenders and slow risers stay in the strike zone much longer than a regular lure which will either sink or rise quickly to the surface. These types of lures have their uses too, but not on the situations described.

Amongst my favourites is the X-Rap Jointed Shad 13 cm. A new colour for 2014 is Walleye, and I have had one for a few months for testing. It is perfect for working down to approx 6 to 7 feet, but can be cranked slowly to shallower depths. Since I was first introduced to the X-Rap Jointed two years ago, it has been a great pike catcher but, in a recent cold spell, even this great lure would not catch. No other lures were producing either with water temperature around 4 degrees centigrade. It looked perfect in the water, but could I make it even better?

When I cranked it to the margin, I could see that it rose from the depths of about 5 feet in about 8 seconds. That’s very slow compared to a regular floating diver. The rise rate cannot be predicted with total precision because of the weight of the trace being used. This means that the Rapala engineers have to get it balanced for an average weight of trace. Could I fine tune it to allow for this?

It would take a long time to explain the procedure, but basically I needed to add just two-thirds of a gram to the lure to obtain the optimum rise rate. By adding a couple of turns of copper wire to the front treble, I increased the rise time to no less than 22 seconds! That’s how finely-balanced these lures are, and such balance would be impossible in production when the weight of the trace (and also the type of mainline being used) would affect them.

Now imagine the weapon I had on the end of my line. I had a lure that I could crank down to about five feet and, with the very slowest of retrieves, it would stay there. Even on the pause, I could see in the clear water that it seemed to be totally suspended. I could give it gentle taps and twitches or just leave it hanging on the spot with the knowledge that it wouldn’t sink into weed or rise too quickly if a pike came to inspect it.

To test it, I had to take it to a ‘hard’ water as it would be a real test rather than an easy water where catching may have been down to other factors. On a water where I had not caught a pike on a lure for three months due to the low water temperature, and it was not through lack of trying, I had two double figure fish in a four-hour session. Both hit the lure while it was stationary and I was not turning the reel handle.

Imagine my excitement knowing that I can apply this ‘extreme tuning’ to other Rapala suspenders like the Flat Rap and Husky Jerk.

Straight from the box, the X-Rap Jointed is one of my first ‘go to’ choices, but in extreme conditions, a little experimentation can make the best even better!

Why lure fishing is so much fun

by Mick Brown 0 Comments
Why lure fishing is so much fun

I’ve been fishing with lures since I was a teenager, says Mick Brown. I caught my first pike on a spinner and my first double figure pike on a Jointed Rapala. Since then I’ve caught thousands of pike and other predators with lure fishing tactics including fish of all sizes. I like the fact that fish of all sizes attack lures because you never know what will take your lure next. I hope for a big one, but am never disappointed with a small one because you get the excitement from the ‘hit’ no matter how big or small the culprit!

And to me, that’s what lure fishing is all about – fun! It can be taken very seriously, of course, as trying to catch predators in difficult or challenging situations will always be very interesting, but when the rod responds to the fish grabbing the lure, the magic is just the same.

If you have never tried lure fishing, I suggest you start in a modest way with a 15 – 30 gram casting weight rod and a few spinners and smaller soft plastic lures which are very easy to use and very universal in their use. Such lures, which normally have just one hook, are ideal for newcomers who are not used to handling fish that have lures in their mouths. Once you feel confident, move on to smaller hard baits with multiple hooks and always ensure you have the correctunhooking tools with you.

You’ll need some long-nosed forceps to help remove the hooks, and a quality set of wire cutters will be invaluable too, should you ever need to cut the hook in order to release the predator quickly, and let it swim away to fight again another day.

But fishing with a small lure does not mean you will not catch a bigger fish as very big fish very often take them. To be ready for a bigger fish, I would always advise not to skimp on a decent reel – you’ll never go wrong with a Shimano reel – and load it with at least 20lb breaking strain braid line and use a strong wire trace. Always! In future articles I will look at this in more detail, but for now why not browse this website for useful info and links.

Lure fishing is never boring, and being so active keeps you warm and excited too, through those colder days. Whether casting or trolling the lure, you are always filled with anticipation. A word of warning though – it can become addictive. I know, I’ve been an addict for the whole of my life!

Leatherbound edition of my book

by Mick Brown 0 Comments
Leatherbound edition of my book

I still have a few copies left.

Leather bound copies of Mick Brown: Professional Pike Angler

I have commissioned Ludlow Bookbinders, the renowned Shropshire craftsmen, to produce a Limited Edition of 50 leather bound copies of my latest book. They have been produced to the highest quality as detailed in the specification below. Please indicate your interest by email.

Specification & pricing for leather bound copies:

246mm x 186mm portrait format  –  260 pages in full colour including over 200 photographs  –  3mm case board covered in finest quality dark brown Nigerian goatskin leather  –  Spine and front face blocked in gold  –  Hand made marbled end papers from Jemma Lewis range :: – : Gilded on three edges  –  Round back with raised bands  –  Head-tail band in complimentary colour  –  Ribbon marker  –  Cloth paper lined slip case  –  Individually numbered  –  Signed by author if requested  –  Price: £150 + £9.85 post

My book can save you money!

by Mick Brown 0 Comments
My book can save you money!

My latest book, Professional Pike Angler, has now sold over 2000 copies. Naturally I get a lot of feedback from readers, and one thing that stands out in our discussions is that, by reading it, they are catching a lot more pike. More than that though, they are not wasting time and money like they used to, having realised mistakes that the book has highlighted to them. I emphasise the need to avoid becoming a ‘busy fool’, rushing around all over the place, spending lots of unnecessary money on fuel, tackle and bait, and simply making the wrong moves. The book is about how I made a living from pike fishing for over 20 years before I retired from the trade, and an important part of running my business was about saving money as well as earning money from the sport.chaseme

My biggest expenditure was on travel and it’s very easy to rack up huge expenses. A typical trip might need four gallons of diesel in the tank and that’s about £25 out of my account, so I need to earn at least that much to break even. I might have spent £10 on bait and as much again on a few bits and bobs of tackle. It soon mounts up without one realising it. Shorter, closer to home sessions work out cheaper but long distance sessions for several   days work out a lot more expensive.
I hope you are starting to see my point. Yes, go on your pike fishing sessions by all means, but don’t waste your hard eared cash by blanking or getting a poor result through being unprepared. Having good bait and expensive tackle and arriving at dawn on a nice looking venue is no guarantee of success. There’s a lot more to consider. My book looks at catching pike from all angles and gives an insight into the things that matter, and those that don’t! These are lessons learnt from over 40 years of pike fishing and can save you a lot of heartache, not to mention money.

It’s an expensive book at £28, I agree, but I’ve reduced my profit margin to produce it to the highest quality in
terms of presentation and content, cutting no corners on my production costs.  You can ‘waste’ at least that much on just one blank session if you are approaching your pike fishing in the wrong way. Follow the advice I offer and you will actually save money in the future. Catching more pike for less expenditure has been the essence of my fishing. It makes sense!

Just click on ‘SHOP‘ in the top menu to see more details and how to order.

Video – catch your first catfish!

by Mick Brown 0 Comments
Video – catch your first catfish!

Catfish now grow to over 100 lb in the UK. My biggest went 115 lb 5 oz! The one pictured above weighed 67 lb and was caught on a kebab rig.They are real animals that will test you and your tackle to the limit. I suggest you start with a few smaller ones! This film will give you a few tips to get started.

 

Finding the ideal lure retrieve speed

Finding the ideal lure retrieve speed

The speed that you retrieve your lure is important, although not always critical. That’s the great thing about lure fishing, as anyone can cast a lure and have a chance of catching a predatory fish, because it’s in their nature for predatory fish to chase prey fish – and things that look like prey fish, says Mick Brown.

Some days though they are simply not in a chasing mood, and it’s at such times when they show great reluctance to chase that results can be affected dramatically in a negative way, particularly to the less experienced angler.

Those anglers who pay close attention to detail can, however, reap the rewards if they attempt to come close to finding a speed of retrieve that will make predators react. Other factors, such as finding the critical depth or creating a response ‘trigger’ by imparting a particular type of action to the lure, are just as important. They must be taken into account in the complex equation that attempts to present the perfect retrieve. Get it right and you will undoubtedly catch more fish.

So, what is the ideal retrieve speed? It will naturally vary for different species at different times of year; water temperature plays a major part here. It’s up to you to experiment to find the optimum speed of retrieve for success, unfortunately!

As a basic rule though, I retrieve faster in warm water and slower in cold water. That’s only a very basic starting point, but changing speed can often change a difficult day into a ‘red letter’ one. It’s easy to understand the basic principle of starting very slow and building up speed, and vice-versa by starting very fast and gradually slowing down. There’s every chance of finding the right speed by doing exactly that.

What is less known amongst lure anglers is bringing the lure to almost a dead stop, and this can apply when fishing in any water temperature. Doing this keeps the lure in the strike zone for as long as possible and allows predators much more time to make up their minds. But you cannot do this with every style of lure pattern.

This is where suspending lures, slow-rising lures and slow-sinking lures come into play. They can be retrieved at their working depth at a very slow speed and then paused for quite a while. Just how long this is can be determined by testing them in the margins if the water is clear and deep enough.

Of course, you cannot make a lure stop perfectly still, but you can slow its ascent or descent down to such a rate that it is very nearly at a standstill.

Check out such lures from Rapala as the X-RapX-Rap DeepX-Rap Jointed Shad,Husky JerkBX SwimmerClackin’ MinnowMax Rap and Flat Rap. From Storm Lures you should also look at the Swimmin’ Stick, Flat Stick Glider, Twitch Stick, Flutter Stick Mad Flash and Sea Bass Thunder Minnow. Each has some quite unique properties, and amongst them you are sure to find a lure that will tempt the most wary predator.

They are all worth getting to know, and can take you into a different league of lure fishing when compared to similar-looking lures that do not have such capabilities built into them.

On a recent day, when I went out with Matt Rand to demonstrate the use of various Rapala lures, it was clear that the pike were not in a chasing mood. So, it was time to bring out a suitable lure in the form of a 10cm Rapala X-Rap Shallow.

Eventually, after working the lure very slowly and using regular pauses, I got a pike to follow, and as it came into sight it was obviously not going to grab it. I paused and allowed the lure to settle and then rise at such a rate that it looked suspended.

The weight of my trace was perfect, and not too heavy to cause the lure to sink or too light to allow the lure to rise more quickly. Ten seconds or more passed and the pike just stared at the lure. I held my breath to see who would back down first.

Without warning, the pike inhaled the lure and turned away with it. To me it was plastic and metal, but I had convinced the pike it was edible, and it felt very satisfying.

So don’t forget that you need to consider the speed of retrieve on EVERY cast, and if you don’t get any hits as the fish aren’t chasing, switch to the lures that can provoke them.

Lure fishing videos

Lure fishing videos

8f53295a73878494e9bc8dd6c3c7104fHere’s s few links to YouTube films I made for Shimano and Rapala when I was predator fishing consultant for those companies. Although I may not still use some of the products nowadays, the comments are honest and genuine. Be sure to return to this page after viewing by clicking the back button.

Choosing the correct lure fishing set up

Upgrading your lure set up

Fishing a gravel pit with lures

Using the Rapala Max Rap

Using the Rapala X Rap Jointed

Using the Rapala Super Shad

Using the Rapala Angry Birds lures

Soft plastic lures

A big perch takes a Rapala BX Minnow

Using a floating diver as a surface lure

Using the Storm Doombell crankbait

Big lures

Lure caught pike with massive eel in throat!

Signature lure and book set (sold out now)

Shad profile lures

Deep bodied lures

Minnow bodied lures

Using the Storm Salwater Chug Bug surface lure

Pike Deadbaiting videos

Pike Deadbaiting videos

07e1cd7dca89a1678042477183b7ac3fHere’s s few links to YouTube films I made for Shimano and Dynamite Baits and others when I was predator fishing consultant for those companies. Although I may not still use some of the products nowadays, the comments are honest and genuine. Be sure to return to this page after viewing by clicking the back button.

My predator groundbait mix

A big pike caught while testing a new reel

Predator tips and tactics

Choosing a deadbaiting rod

Underwater pike footage

Suspended deadbaits

Legered deadbaits

The Kebab deadbait rig

Tackling weedy gravel pits

Trolling with Surface Lures

by Mick Brown 0 Comments
Trolling with Surface Lures

The visual aspect of fishing with surface baits is probably as exciting as lure fishing gets.  It’s a method of spectacular chases and attacks, often ending in eruptions of foam and spray. In the waters in my local area, surface fishing for pike is particularly successful in the spring and autumn months and each year I look forward to those times.

There are many other species in both fresh and salt water that will attack surface baits too. You need to try surface lures on your own waters to find the best seasonal times to use them. As with any style of lure fishing, you first of all need to locate fish that are prepared to make a surface attack. This naturally means covering the water until you find willing predators.
The boat angler has a huge advantage, and can not only cover the water more quickly, but also cover water that is out of reach of the bank caster. Even so, finding areas with active predators can still be tedious, especially on1 bigger expanses of water. For me, the answer is simple – I troll my surface lures! In this way, large areas of water can be covered quickly and efficiently. I prefer to troll using an electric motor, although on bigger waters I have not found using a petrol motor to be a handicap. I must admit that I have a mental issue about trolling the lure in the propeller wake, and for this reason, tend to troll further back when using a petrol engine. I’ll also ‘snake troll’, zig zagging rather than running in a straight line, so that the lure runs back and forth over the prop wash rather than in it.
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Ideally, I use one rod and hold it rather than putting it in a rod holder. The main reason for doing so is that I can work the lure to it’s best advantage. Lures like the X-Rap Propchug along nicely without any angler input, but others like the X-Rap Pop and Skitter Popbenefit from sharp jerks of the rod to raise a plume of water and make an attractive sound. The X-Rap SubWalk can be worked just as one would from the bank using up strokes of the rod to make it ‘Walk the Dog’ and glide enticingly from side to side. I tend to vary the boat speed, often coming to a complete halt if fish are seen chasing. If I find a good area, then I’ll anchor up and exploit it before moving on again.

Here’s a point about surface lure fishing that many seem to overlook. ANY lure that floats can be used as a surface lure! Instead of cranking it down to it’s working depth, just work it along the surface up to the point when it wants to naturally dive due to it’s diving lip, then slow the retrieve to keep it at the surface. Rapala’s surface lures are very enticing to predators but some of the diving lures are remarkable surface catchers too. One of my favourites is the Super Shad Rap, but I have caught well from the surface using lures like the Floating MagnumJointedShallow Shad Rap and Original Floater to name but a few. Their obvious benefit is that they can also be cranked down to see whether there are predators that are unwilling to attack at the surface but will do so further down the water column. There is much to experiment with, making the fishing very interesting.

Rapala have dedicated surface lures and other lures that can be worked on the surface when required. The choice is vast and you have the great pleasure of trying them out on your chosen water to find which work best.

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Rapala BX Minnow lure trials

by Mick Brown 1 Comment
Rapala BX Minnow lure trials

(From the Rapala news page)..

Mick Brown has become a big fan of the recently introduced Rapala BX Minnow after a series of superb sport fishing sessions on gravel pits in the East of England.

“I had no pre-conceptions about the BX,” said Mick. “I just put one on the trace and started fishing with it as I knew it would run at the correct depth for the 5ft deep swim I’d chosen to start at.”

“A fish pulled back on the very first cast, and to my surprise it was a quality perch of over 2lb, and from a lake where pike predominate and perch are rare, I was very pleased. A few swims further along, I had another perch that was slightly smaller and then another followed.”

The ‘dual’ construction of the BX lures is the secret behind their success all across Europe. An inner balsa core creates a responsive action that responds to slow retrieves and delicate twitches. The outer co-polymer body shell gives great durability from the beating it takes from predator’s teeth.

Mick’s tip is to practice in the margin to see how you can make it respond to rod tip action BEFORE you cast it any distance, and in doing so you will be confident that it is working exactly as you want it to when it is out of sight.

“Small pike started to take an interest in it for the next hour or so, and I was in no hurry to change lures,” explained Mick, on his first session using the BX Minnow.

“I’d put the perch to the back of my mind until I missed a few hits that started me thinking about them again. Finally, after a little frustration, one did hook-up and I knew from the way it fought that it was a perch. And what a perch it was too!”

“Matt Rand was fishing with me. He recorded the whole capture on video. I won’t make wild guesses at the weight, and with no scales in my bag I will never know. You just don’t catch perch that big on this lake so I hadn’t even thought of packing them. It’s there on film though for you to judge for yourself.”

Watch the video of Mick Brown catching a big perch on a Rapala BX Minnow lure here.

In other sessions Mick has been bagging-up with pike into double figures with the BX Minnow. At 10cm long, it is ideal for both pike and perch and there are colours to suit all types of water clarity.

Mick favours the Blue Back Herring pattern for clear water but has found the Smelt and Silver patterns very effective in clear water too. In darker water, the Gold Shiner is the one Mick reaches for and the Perch and Firetiger patterns seem a good choice at any time.