As the traditional pike season draws to a close I thought I’d get another pike article in before we start to look at other species.
To be successful on big waters you have to do your homework. Spending time plotting the topography, figuring out where the prey fish are likely to be and understanding feeding patterns.
There is however, a short cut to success – pre-baiting. By pre-baiting you are basically putting regular free offerings into the swim leading up to you fishing it. Done correctly and this will pay off.
A few simple rules you need to follow…
Identify a suitable swim or area
Plan your pre-baiting in advance of your intended fishing date.
Pre-bait with the same bait you intend to fish with
Start pre-baiting a few weeks before with say a dozen or so baits and repeat this each week.
After each fishing session add more pre-bait
Accurate bite indication and hitting runs immediately is essential. Pike will get used to picking up the free offerings and will often gulp your hook bait down just as confidently.
Like most pikers this season, our chocolate-coloured rivers have been rendered un-fishable most of the time so I’ve had to resort to plan ‘B’, large stillwaters and gravel pits.
I’ve had my eye on one for a while that ticks all the boxes but at over 100 acres, it’s a daunting proposition when you don’t know the water.
I opted for a short cut and started to pre-bait a single swim for three weeks prior to casting a line.
I didn’t actually put that much thought into swim selection, just plumbed a few areas and went for a deep channel, which I managed to find more by chance than anything.
Feeding grebes did however give me some idea that there were prey fish in the area.
Deeper areas are usually a safe bet during the depths of winter but this year has been fairly mild so the prey (and pike) have stayed pretty well spread out.
Finding the fish with a mobile approach on such a big water wasn’t really an option. Unfortunately work gets in the way of fishing for most of us.
By pre-baiting a likely swim you’re hoping that the pike will eventually home in on the easy meals and they will either feed till stuffed and sit in the swim or add the swim to their regular patrol route.
This method is unlikely to give instant results but with a bit of thought, effort and plenty of patience, you’re chances of success are greatly improved.
If the water contains a good head of pike, sooner or later, it is inevitable that they will feed in the swim at the same time that you’re fishing it. Offer them the same easy meal and they’ll take it with confidence.
Fortunately my recent efforts were rewarded with a few nice pike during my first visit. I was also lucky enough to land the biggest fish of the season so far, at 26lb.
I’m pretty sure that pre-baiting gave me the edge but if nothing else, it will give you the confidence you need to sit through cold winter sessions.
Tip of the day – Big pike lie up for long periods to digest their meals. This explains why they are often covered in leeches. Hence why dedicated pike anglers often say they are fishing for a non-feeding fish, that’s secret code for ‘a big fish’. If a big pike moves onto your pre-bait it won’t share it with anything smaller so this method is certainly a route to catching big pike.
Tight Lines, Alan Dudhill
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