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DVD – Deadbait Sessions

DVD – Deadbait Sessions

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.

Sold out, sometimes found on eBay.

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.

Sold out, but sometimes found on eBay.

Book – Professional Pike Angler

by Mick Brown
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.

Price £28.00

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 mick37@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.

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.

Sometimes found on eBay.

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!

Footnote: The plan went wrong when we lost the fishing on the lake. At the time of writing, November 2018, we might get back on there in the next 6 months or so. I’ll let you know if I get a result.

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!

This article was written when Mick was working with the Rapala and Storm brands. Technical details may change so check out their websites for latest information. 

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!!

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!

This article was written when Mick was working with the Rapala and Storm brands. Technical details may change so check out their websites for latest information. 

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!

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.

water2I once 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 the next day 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.

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!

Correct at time of writing. Rod laws have since been updated so please check.

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!

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.

This article was written when Mick was working with the Rapala and Storm brands. Technical details may change so check out their websites for latest information. 

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