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.

With 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.