Deadbaiting is the number one big pike tactic in the UK.
But while deadbaits are easy to buy from your local tackle shop or fishmonger, the more I have fished for pike, the more fussy I have become over the ones that I use.
Not only should they be as fresh as possible, but they also need to be the right size. Smaller is often better in this case, simply because it is easier for even a big pike to pick up a 6ins bait than one twice this size.
Smaller baits are easier to use and lead to fewer dropped runs. So, if I can only get hold of big baits, I will normally halve them to give me a more manageable size. Check out the best deadbaits to use for pike fishing below
Giant sandeels, these long thin fish on their day are up there with the best of baits. Ideal for long-range fishing, but pike find them a little tricky to pick up off the bottom so I always take the head off to make a smaller bait and balance them with a Bait Flipper.
Brown trout are particularly effective, being tough and quite buoyant. Ideal for sink and draw fishing, as well as using under a float. The golden variety is very bright and is worth searching out as a good change bait.
My ‘go-to’ bait on most waters – the white colour stands out well and even a very large smelt is a perfect pike bait. Smelts quite tough and will often withstand several casts. They can be dyed easily and take a flavour well.
I like the small ‘jacks’ of about 8ins. If you can only obtain larger herrings, try chopping them in half. A very oily bait, herrings are effective on most venues. Their flat profile means that they will sit well over light weed and silt.
Much softer than herrings, but of a similar shape and smell. On some venues they out-fish even smelts. Best used whole and cast out frozen, because of their soft flesh. Expect to get just one cast from each bait.
A tough bait that on many venues makes up most of the pike’s diet. Try to buy roach that are in good condition. They will last several casts and are ideal for wobbling or twitching back. Make sure they sink by puncturing the swim bladder and squeezing the air out.
This strange whitefish is very much hit-and-miss on many waters. I like to use them on rivers, where their natural buoyancy makes them ideal for popping up, and they will sway gently in the current. A tough bait, and one that casts well.
Mackerel have caught me a lot of pike over the years, including my personal best. Getting hold of the right size and the freshest baits can be difficult in winter, so stock up when you find some good examples. I like ‘joey’ mackerel that are about 8ins long.
These prehistoric fish have a very chequered track record in my book. They work best on rivers that get a lamprey run each year, such as the Wye, but I have also caught using them on gravel pits. Ideal for long-range fishing, thanks to their shape.