Boat Fishing for Pike Part 2 :- Artificial Baits

In part 1, I covered the methods and tactics I use when boat fishing with natural baits on big waters in England, Scotland and Ireland. I promised then to cover "in depth" the methods and tactics I use when fishing these same waters with artificial baits i.e. lures.

Certain principles remain the same, as with bait methods locating prey fish and pike is essential if you're going to be successful. Search methods are the first tactic employed assuming you have no prior knowledge of the water you are fishing. While scrutinizing the fish finder/echo sounder looking for those all important features I would recommend you troll, no point wasting valuable fishing time while you explore the water. Time of year will have a bearing on what features I'm looking for.

We will assume the pike have already spawned, they will be actively feeding in the shallows in order to recover condition after the rigors of spawning, they stay in the shallows while digesting their food, the warmer water in the shallows heats the pike up, this speeds up their metabolism and their ability to digest food quickly shortening the time needed between meals, these fish are on a mission to regain their strength quickly. The most likely location is going to be close to their spawning bays, these will usually be stream feed with extensive shallows possibly with weed but not always. If there are several bays that fit this description choose the one that has the warmest water!

Once the shallows become uncomfortably hot for the pike they will relocate to deep "cool" water immediately adjacent to the shallows. Look for the marginal shelf that drops off into deep water, look for the pike at the bottom of the drop off as it levels off, finding baitfish around this feature is great for confidence but do not dismiss an area if baitfish are not present, the pike will be laying up waiting in ambush for any unsuspecting fish that swims out over the drop off.

A time of change the pike have got their feeding heads on again, they can be anywhere so searching methods should be employed, be impatient don't stay too long in any one area unless you've found pike, don't forget to use fast and or erratic retrieves. The feature to look for is food i.e. shoals of bait size fish! If baitfish are present near any features such as weed beds, underwater stream beds, reefs or plateaus then concentrate on them, also note the depth that the shoal fish are showing at "on screen" as this could be vital when choosing the method or style of lures you will use to catch the pike.

As the water cools the distribution of the bait fish changes and the pike follow them closely. The pike are less active with the colder water so lures must be fished slowly and close to the bottom. Prey fish are likely to concentrate near underwater structures.

The depth you present your lures very much depends on time of year, water temperature and how active the pike are. I'll repeat the same advice as my previous article. The warmer the water the shallower I would fish, pike attack from below and will take baits fished overhead during the spring, summer and autumn but this changes once the water temperature drops with the first frosts of winter.

Locating the depth at which the pike will be feeding becomes more complex the deeper the water gets. The depth that baitfish are regularly shown "on screen" is a good indication of a comfortable water temperature, this thermal zone could be the vital depth to search on that day!

Mobile? Or Static? There are the two methods of lure fishing from boats:

Search, find and catch! This is a very effective way to searching large expanses of water while catching active fish. Trolling works very well if you adopt a strategy that searches different depth at the same time as working particularly if the pike are in open water or holding close to features such as weed lines or bottom contours features that can be worked with the baits running parallel.

An important thing to mention is speed. When trolling trout waters for pike, run the boat as slowly as possible, when ever possible steer into the wind, this slows the boat and helps steerage. Keep lures fishing deep at least 8-10' this will avoid the trout, select large baits which match the size of the prey fish (trout) remember these fish do not get big by ignoring large meals!

I will explain now how to start trolling.
First stop the boat and cast your lure 30-40' behind the boat and spill line from reel until your lure hits the bottom if using spoons or spinnerbaits, plugs will float until you start trolling. Start rowing slowly or put engine into gear and keep it on tick over (if using a petrol engine), keep to a steady speed, try to follow the contours of the bank, do not go too fast! When trolling the rod should be held at right angles to the boat this keeps the lures apart (if two anglers are fishing) and prevents line from fouling the propeller.

Trolling boat rod rests are essential if two rods are being used while rowing, as one angler cannot control both rods when the other is rowing. The rod top will nod slowly showing the lure is working. Takes will snatch the rod round and fish usually hook themselves.

Trolling Vane
To troll deep-water with spoons a trolling vane is used, this device holds the lure down at the required depth. There are different sizes of vanes to balance with various sized spoons. For instance the 33g vane balances with spoons around the 5"- 30g size, while the larger 90g vane matches up perfectly with the 7 1/2"- 60g "Professor". The diving vane is attached 4' in front of the spoon; a stop knot is attached to the line 20' above the "vane", and acts as a line marker. The diving vane is lowered down to the desired depth, use the line marker in conjunction with your echo sounder to achieve this, let out more line to fish deeper, shorten the line and the lure fishes shallower. When you get a take the jolt will trip the split ring attachment on the diving vane, this will slide forward tilting the vane upward causing it to plane to the surface, where the fish can be played out normally. When trolling if you snag the bottom, do not panic, reverse and wind in slack line as you move towards your lure. When you have the boat the other side of the snag get your boat partner to hand line your lure free. It's that easy, you will be surprised how often this will save your lure and without any chance of breaking your rod. Professor 00 and 1H spoons are the best producers, try heavy spinnerbaits in any snaggy areas and deep diving plugs where a constant depth allows long un-interrupted trolling runs.

Another interesting ploy is to leger a shallow running plug using a "trolling stem".

The advantage of this presentation is that the plug is held down by the weight of the "trolling stem" while being worked very slowly through the swim even pausing at times to break up the retrieve.

The stop knot above the trolling stem makes the rig semi-fixed, this ensures that the floating plug is taken to the bottom with the leger weight. Without the stop knot the plug will remain on the surface while the trolling stem slides down the line.

This is a very good way of covering known holding areas efficiently. The maxim of fishing slow and deep holds well when using this method for pike. Far too often I've seen anglers retrieving their lures too shallow and fast which normally only produces trout. By moving position ever 3/4-1 hour and working gradually from the margin out to 15' depth you will find the day passes very quickly. Ideal places worth attention are creeks, bays and points, these offer lots of features within a small area concentrating baitfish and pike.

Now, let’s start fishing!!

Cast your spoon into the margin; let it fall through the water on a tight line until it hits the bottom. Expect takes on the drop, lift lure off the bottom using the rod then wind in the slack line while dropping the rod tip back towards the lure allowing it to flutter back down again. Repeat this retrieve all the way back to the boat, with this sink and draw action you will keep your lure working near the bottom even in deep water.

Spinnerbaits are a new style of lure; they are devastatingly effective because they are virtually snag free. This is the lure for fishing around sunken trees or any other snaggy areas, it has a single upside down weighted hook dressed with a coloured skirt attached to a wire frame, off of which is the spinner blade, the wire frame protects the hook from any snags in front while the upside down hook prevents any hook ups on the bottom. The Spinnerbait can be worked sink and draw as the spoon or bumped along the bottom kicking up clouds of silt and bouncing off of snags.

Plugs should be used in the creeks and bays where the shallower water and weed make sinking lures (spoons & spinnerbaits) harder to use.

Deep running floating plugs give you the opportunity to fish bait differently through the same depth as the spoons and spinnerbaits. But when you pause the plug will rise up in the water, commence the retrieve and the plug dives again giving a wriggle, this is very provocative!

Andy Lush


Top Ten Reservoir Lures
  1. Kuusamo Professor - Spoons
  2. Westin Monster Vibe - Spinnerbaits
  3. Fox Replicant - Shads
  4. Savage Line Thru Trout – Shads
  5. Strike Pro Buster Jerk - Jerkbaits
  6. Strike Pro X-Buster - Jerkbaits
  7. Koppers Blue Back Herring - Swimbaits
  8. Koppers Yellow Perch – Crankbaits [Shallow & Deep]
  9. Rapala Super Shads – Crankbaits [Shallow]
  10. Sebile Koolie Minnows – Crankbaits [Shallow & Deep]
Reservoirs have the potential to produce very big pike indeed, pike that could shake the British record! With this in mind I would like to recommend the following tackle as a guide.

Any carp or pike rod of at least 2.5lb test curve or spinning rod capable of casting 2oz.

Large fixed spool with a capacity of at least 200m x 12lb.

12lb as a minimum, 15-20lb for trolling!

Wire Trace
At least 20lb breaking strain, personally I never use lighter than 28lb!