John Bailey: 10 steps to heaven for Norfolk pike anglers

PUBLISHED: 15:21 20 December 2017 | UPDATED: 15:21 20 December 2017

‘No wonder huge pike like this keep every angler in thrall - John Bailey helps support a monster.’ Picture: John Bailey

'No wonder huge pike like this keep every angler in thrall - John Bailey helps support a monster.' Picture: John Bailey


We really are in the midst of the pike season now and as far as my guiding goes, at least 75pc of the calls are from people wanting big predators.

I can understand that because I love pike, adore them, especially big ones. Jacks up to 10lbs don’t move me, but once pike get to 20lb and more, there is something awesome, forbidding, primeval about them. And if we’re talking 30s then I’ll never, ever tire of seeing those. I’ve been lucky to net many over a long angling career and they never fail to take my breath away. Pike, though, contrary to angling lore, aren’t easy. They are as clever as any other fish and woe betide you if you don’t realise that.

One: Above all other things realise that pike are vulnerable, too. We anglers are the main cause of pike deaths so make sure you know exactly how to unhook them. Go on a Pike Anglers’ Club course or book a day out with an expert. Make sure you’ve got the unhooking tools, soft unhooking mats and you treat pike quickly and with confidence and get them back. Strike quickly, too, so deep hooking isn’t an issue.

Two: Location is essential, just like fishing for any species. Try to choose the right water that holds the sort of fish you are after. When you’re on the water, if you can locate prey fish you’re at least halfway to locating the pike. It’s like wolves following sheep.

Three: Stealth is essential. Pike are as aware as any other species when it comes to bankside disturbance. Don’t destroy your chances before you cast it.

Four: Take as much care of your baits as you would using boilies for carp. Make sure they’re fresh and ring the changes. There are scores of dead baits to choose from and sometimes one bait will work over all others. Think about dyeing baits, injecting them with oil and flavours and don’t just sit back using rank-smelling, old favourites.

Five: If you’re fishing deads, it certainly pays to lure fish around them. What you are trying to do is draw a pike from further afield into your dead bait zone, or rouse a torpid pike into feeding. Throwing a lure about can change a session.

Six: Work hard. You get out what you put in and over the years, I’ve seen hardworking pikers always rise to the top. Twitch baits, change baits, think about your rigs. Don’t just sit back and doze.

Seven: Keep mobile. Don’t ignore what the water is telling you. Look for pike rolling; they’re very obvious at this time of the year when other species are off the surface. Look for big flats underneath the water where a fish is turning. Look for big sheets of bubble where the bottom is disturbed by a feeding pike. Get a bait out as soon as possible.

Eight: Do something different. Pike learn. Perhaps you could try smaller floats, smaller leads or smaller hooks, providing always that you don’t jeopardise the safety of the fish. Perhaps you should fish into a dark or get to a water pre-dawn, if rules allow. Think where pike might be finding sanctuary. Perhaps a drifter float will get a bait a hundred yards out where nobody generally fishes. Dare I add, a bait boat can have its uses!

Nine: Ensure your bite detection is absolutely spot-on. Very often, the biggest, most cautious pike will just pick a bait up, test it and put it down again. If you’re right on the rods and if your detection is spot-on, you can often hit a big pike that’s just about to move on.

10: In the end, there is always that element of luck. What you always want to do is put a perfectly acceptable bait in front of the teeth of a really hungry pike. Sometimes you can over-think things and the important thing is to be in it to win it.

And, of course, respect and admire every single pike you catch and realise that they are a huge privilege to behold. A big pike, especially, is a thing of absolute wonder, a jewel of natural creation.

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