Martin Bowler gets up early to find the big pike are on the feed

Early-sea­son lure fish­ing for pike is just awe­some!

Angling Times (UK) - - WELCOME -

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!


The suc­cess­ful Esox Zag­tail lure. The first of my six pike went nearly 17lb.

A short-listed jointed lure and plas­tic cray­fish.

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