There is now available a vast array of rods suitable for pike fishing. You can walk into almost any decent tackle shop and find rods that will fit the bill. As a general purpose pike rod I would recommend a rod of twelve foot with a test curve of around three pounds. This would be suitable for all bait fishing with dead or live baits of a reasonable size. Nearly all the major tackle manufactures such as Shimano, Daiwa and Fox produce rods of this description. Bear in mind that a rod does not have to be described as a 'pike' rod as most carp rods will also be perfectly adequate for pike!
If given a choice I would opt for a rod with a test curve of at least three pounds as opposed to a lighter model of say two and a half pounds test curve. A heavier rod will allow you to cast a wider range of bait / lead sizes and yet will still feel fine when playing a pike.
My own choice of all round pike rod is for a thirteen foot, three and a quarter pound test curve Simpson Eclipse. I have owned three of these rods for around four years now and they are in my opinion unbeatable. I find the extra foot gives me added control when playing a pike and also helps with distance casting. The Eclipses have got one major drawback though and that is cost, retailing as they do at over £200! In a more reasonable price bracket the Daiwa Dictator and Powermesh rods come well recommended. Many anglers prefer a twelve foot rod and that would be my recommendation to start off with.
There are now also a number of rod builders around who offer a custom built service. This allows flexibility in choice of finishes, rod rings and handles. Some such as Dave Lumb will also freely offer advice as to what rod is most suitable for your requirements.
As an all round pike reel, the ubiquitous Shimano Baitrunner takes some beating. The free spool feature is very useful when tackling up and can also be used for bite indication when boat fishing. Shimano have recently brought out some new models resulting in some massive discounts on the earlier versions. The Aero 6010 and 8010 Baitrunners can now be found for as little as £49.99. These reels will take more than enough 15lb mono for our requirements. Shimano also offer an excellent and reasonably priced repair and service facility.
The vital link! I would urge anyone to use a line of at least 15 lbs breaking strain when pike fishing. Line of any lesser breaking strain will eventually let you down when it most matters! Personally I now use Sufix Synergy of 18 lbs BS for nearly all my bait fishing. Pro Gold and Berkley Big Game are other good brands.
The most important quality for a pike fishing line is abrasion resistance. All of the above named lines are very good in this regard. Braid does have uses in certain circumstances, but bear in mind that it has nothing like the abrasion resistance quality of a good mono. If choosing braid I would go for one of at least 50 lbs BS. No, that isn't a misprint! The 100 lb test Power Pro that I use for my lure fishing has a diameter equivalent to standard 20 lbs BS mono.
Braid is in my opinion best left for certain situations such as drifting or trolling. For an all round piking line I think that mono wins hands down. It is also a lot cheaper!
Like most pike anglers I use treble hooks exclusively for all my bait fishing. Treble hooks have two main requirements. Firstly they should be sharp and secondly, not bend out under pressure. Unfortunately, I have found that most of the common brands are far too prone to straightening out and that means lost fish!
The very best trebles I have ever used are Owner trebles. Astonishingly sharp and very strong! Owners are, to the best of my knowledge, available only from Harris Angling in this country. Also useful are the Partridge Z3 model and the very strong CS9PK. Sizes I use are two size sixes for all deadbaiting and two size fours for livebaits. Treble hooks are always semi barbless, that is two of the barbs are crushed with pliers if required and one is left to aid bait holding. Semi barbless trebles are far easier to remove from a pike and will not in my opinion lose you any more fish that a barbed treble.
Don't even think about using anything other than wire for a trace material! Pike can bite through mono like the proverbial knife through butter! There are two main types of trace wire around, these being 7 strand wires and 49 strand wires. The 49 strand wires are usually much suppler than 7 strand varieties. This though in my opinion makes absolutely no difference to a pike! As the 7 strand wires are much less tangle prone it is those that I choose. Drennan 7 strand in 28 lb BS is an excellent wire that has been around for years. An even better wire is the harder-to-find Eustace Crocodile Cable in 30 lb BS.
The only other wire I use is the Kevlar coated Middy Tec Core. A superb wire for paternostered livebaits. This wire has just become available in 30 lbs BS as opposed to the 20 lbs version which I did find to be a little on the fine side.
An absolutely vital part of pike angling and an area where many newcomers struggle. Efficient bite indication is of course essential to avoid deep hooking of pike. When bank fishing I always use an audible as well as a visual form of indication. This in my case is provided by an ET Backbiter drop off alarm. I have converted mine by adding Solar adjustable clips and extra weight on the arm to aid indication of drop back takes. If choosing a front rest indicator make sure it is a type that works well with an open bail arm. The best front type indictors that I have seen are Delkims which can also be used with a remote sounder box. The visual indication in this case is best provided with a simple drop off indicator. Look for one with an adjustable line clip and extra weight on the arm.
Where to buy
Most of us should have a decent tackle shop within easy reach. In my area I use several shops including Eric's Angling Centre in Leeds, Paul Chambers in Featherstone and The Tackle Shop in Gainsborough. All of these outlets have a good selection of gear, offer advice and, in the event of faulty kit, a refund or replacement is not a problem. If you live out in the sticks or are after specialised items of tackle then mail order is the answer. The following mail order suppliers are the ones that I use and are all well recommended.
The Friendly Fisherman. 25 Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Tel 01892 528677.
Vast selection of piking gear. Efficient mail order service and a dedicated 'Predator' catalogue available. No website as yet.
The Tackle Shop. Bridge Road, Gainsborough, Lincs. Tel 01427 613002.
Run by well known pike angler Neville Fickling. A great selection of pike tackle, a catalogue is available and the mail order service is first class. The Tackle Shop are also the leaders in mail order supply of deadbaits.
Harris Angling. Tel 01692 581208. Website: www.harrisangling.co.uk
Huge selection of mostly lures, but also offer a good selection of terminal tackle including Owner trebles. The website service is fantastic, you can browse at your leisure, a few clicks and the goods are on the way!
DL Specialist Tackle. 12 Wilson Close, Tarleton, Preston. Tel 01772 812036 and mobile 07971 254577
Proprietor Dave Lumb. Small, but growing range of specialist piking gear. Dave‚s custom rod building service is second to none for both bait and lure rods. Advice also freely given.
In the third part of this series I am going to look at the rigs and terminal tackle that I use for bait fishing for pike. Until then, enjoy your piking!