Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thoughts on deadbaits for pike fishing

I heave a sigh of relief as I shut the lid of the freezer in my study. Got 'em all in - just. I'm surprised what £61.75 worth of mackerel and lamprey actually looks like, in terms of the amount of space it takes up. For now, the freezer is full.

Then I remember I was going to take out all the fish at the bottom and stick the new arrivals there, so I used the oldest baits first. Instead of doing this, I will now use all the shiny new fish, before I encounter last season's leftovers.

In years gone by, when I bought most of my bait on my then weekly trip to Geoff Baker's shop in King's Lynn, I only kept enough bait for the next few sessions. Apart from the fact I got through more bait in those days, because I was catching a lot more pike, this meant I always had fresh bait. Geoff didn't keep more than a couple of weeks' worth of stock, because he had a more or less weekly delivery from Neville Fickling.

I'm not sure frozen fish become that less attractive to the pike as they age, but they do deteriorate. If the seals go on the vaccuum pack, they get freezer burn and gradually dry out, losing a lot of their oils in the process.

Even where vac-packs remain intact, year-old mackerel is a duller-looking fish than a fresh one. Domestic freezers don't get down to the -20C or whatever temperature you need to get below to stop fish going off - albeit slowly.

Who knows whether this means less runs. Like a lot of things, we'll probably never know unless pike learn to talk. But I'm going out for a few more days' fishing and I know I'll fish a lot more confidently with the fresh, just-in bait than last year's vintage.

This is probably as daft as the old mackerel vs herring debate. A few years back, a well-known angler and I were fishing on some pits and I offered him a joey after landing my second or third fish on one. No thanks Bish, the chap said - I've hardly ever caught anything on mackerel, never had a twenty on one, seem to catch more on herring in the Fens.

I'd always had the opposite view when it came to baits. I had so much faith in mackerel at one point I rarely used anything else. When blueys came along, I went mad on them for a while. Last winter, lamprey produced more fish than anything else. This time around, who knows.

Here's a little tip, whatever deadbaits you use. Chop the tails off. There are two reasons for this. One, it stops the tail fouling the hooks when you pull into a fish - not a regular occurrence, but it did happen to me a few times, meaning bumped off pike because the hook failed to engage.

Two, it stops the bait spinning on the retrieve, which can cause tangles like lead links wrapped around the trace when legering, or every now and then, a kinked-up trace.

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