Martin Bowler gets up early to find the big pike are on the feed
Early-season lure fishing for pike is just awesome!
SOME might call me impatient – but I’m convinced all committed pike anglers feel a strong urge to wet a line once the leaves are off the trees and the nights begin to have a bite to them.
Hence my arrival at the waterside at an unearthly hour, well before the first fingers of dawn caressed the eastern sky.
I loaded a minimal amount of
tackle into the boat while darkness still held sway, for this would be the time the pike came on the feed. Once the sun took full control, its rays would burn deeply into the clear water of the pit and, for its predators, early breakfast would come off the menu.
The first hard frosts had yet to arrive, so I knew the weed would still be dense in places. The water temperature was still relatively high, so with the pike still actively chasing their food it was only lure equipment that found a place in the boat. A 9ft Piker Lure rod teamed with a Series 7 reel and 60lb Esox braid would cope with everything I intended to try over the next couple of hours.
With time at a premium I just popped a few favourite lures into a maggot container. Included were a couple of soft imitations that would need to bounce over the bottom to work properly, but I strongly suspected the weed would prevent this.
With no more than 5ft of clear water to pull them through, floating and slow-sinking hard lures would do the job, and a few spare traces – plus scissors, forceps, landing net, scales, weigh sling and mat – made up the rest of my fishing kit.
An electric motor and leisure battery would propel the boat silently, and I was already wearing the two other items essential to success. A baseball cap and polarised glasses would tell me if I was having any follows, and the life jacket… well, I never go afloat without one.
In the half-light the time to fish had come, so clicking the handle of the motor into reverse
Gently I spun the boat around in the direction I needed to go. I had nothing but a hunch where to start, although the shallows, with their small fish population, seemed a logical place to try. The weed would render a pike’s mottled green back almost invisible, allowing the pit’s apex predator to lie in ambush, cold eyes glaring skywards ready to intercept any prey-shaped silhouette passing above.
The pike’s attack would be swift and lethal, with a high success rate in less than 4ft of water. I needed to tap into this situation and exploit it. With not so much as a breath of wind rippling the surface I needed neither anchor nor drogue, and when I reached the suspected killing zone I simply cut the motor. The drift would carry me the final few feet in stealthy silence.
Unclipping the trace from the eye in the rod butt, it was time to make a selection. Even with so few lures to choose from, my hand hovered over the box like a kid deciding which pick ’n mix sweets to buy. In the clear water I didn’t want anything too gaudy.
What I did require was a good vibrating action, and my Esox Zagtail in a perch pattern seemed to tick all the boxes. Clipping it on with no further delay I made the first cast, launching the lure away from the boat. It landed with a splash, and the ripples didn’t have a chance to dissipate before I cranked the reel handle to give the plastic body a life of its own.
I made an erratic retrieve, and another, and another, fanning my casts to cover all the available water. On the fifth cast, which landed the lure above a dense bed of Canadian pond weed, it caught the eye of my intended quarry.
The lure was marked by the underwater equivalent of a heatseeking missile, and the pike below bristled, never once taking its eyes off what it took to be an easy meal.
Maybe I retrieved the lure with too much vigour, or perhaps the pike had already dined – but rather than launch an immediate onslaught it decided to follow like a U-boat stalking an Atlantic convoy! Three rodlengths away I spotted the predator, but I knew that slowing the lure down would abort any attack.
I maintained the lure’s speed and course but, sure enough, the pike veered away from me at the last moment.
Maybe a second cast from a different direction would be enough to flick its switch, so I allowed the electric motor to kick the boat forward 12ft. Once again I punched out the Zagtail towards the ever-strengthening light that was now right in my eyes.
Four turns of the reel handle and the braid snapped taut as a set of jaws did the same around the lure’s pair of trebles. For me, the shock element of surprise was short-lived and as the rod hooped over the predator became the prey. In an attempt to spit out the lure the pike rose into the sunlight
in a spectacular tailwalk. Twice more this happened before the fight settled down into a more dour encounter – still great fun with a fish of around 17lb, the first of half-a-dozen epic battles I would enjoy that morning.
The early bird may get the worm, but it’s the early angler who gets the pike!
TAILWALKING TITAN IN THE DAWN LIGHT continued
The successful Esox Zagtail lure. The first of my six pike went nearly 17lb.
A short-listed jointed lure and plastic crayfish.