Going Soft on Pike


Dave Lumb

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Soft plastic lures, grubs, worms and so forth, are usually associated in the UK with sea fishing. However, over the last three or four years pike anglers have come to realise just how effective this type of lure can be for their chosen freshwater predator. The big difference, if you will pardon the pun, is the size of soft plastic lures that pike anglers are throwing around these days. Most are in the seven to twelve inch range, when stretched out fully, and can weigh up to six ounces! 

European predator anglers were already switched on to this type of lure, using large shad bodies and curly tail grubs in the main. It was probably the success of the Bull Dawg, a lure originally intended for the pike's American cousin the musky, that sparked off the widespread interest in soft plastic lures in the UK. It seems like the British pike angler has gone  Bull Dawg crazy over the last two or three years, and the capture of many thirty pound pike on Bull Dawgs has been the spur. 

Not everyone gets on with this kind of lure, or perhaps too many expect instant results, but those anglers who have become Dawg-lovers are branching out and are more than willing to try any large soft plastic baits they can lay their hands on. It has to be said that it is simply not enough to clip a Bull Dawg on the end of your line, cast it out and wait for a thirty to hang itself! Like any lure it requires: angler input. And while a straightforward steady retrieve does catch plenty of pike, breaking things up will pay off big style. 

Although the majority of these soft baits look nothing like a pike's natural prey, they do mimic fish in one crucial manner. They don't wiggle violently, and they don't rattle - unlike a lot of hard plastic lures do. This is, I am convinced, the major reason for the success of soft plastic lures. There is another reason that obviously plays a part, they sink. Some sink faster than others, but those which can be worked along the bottom in depths of thirty feet or more effectively fish a depth band that had previously been difficult to exploit. Especially with lures that had a big underwater presence, and which displace a lot of water - key elements in the success that jerkbaits enjoy over other hard bodied lures. 

Bull Dawgs are essentially large gobs of plastic with curly tails, moulded in weight and hook harnesses. Other, similar lures are also available, and there is also the option to rig yourself some large grubs on jig heads, with a couple of flying trebles on the very big grubs. This gives you added flexibility as varying the weight of the jig head allows differing depth bands to be readily fished. You can also rig large shad bodies in this way, and lizards and other weird soft baits like reaper tails (a sort of leech imitation). They all catch pike. Rigging a soft body without a jig head to weight it, gives you the option to fish the surface layers, and this can be deadly at times. Smaller grubs and reapers, around six to eight inches in length, have proved to be real blank savers on those dour days when the pike don't want to play. Hopping or crawling one of these lures slowly along the bottom on a jig head will very often result in a fish or two. Sometimes these small, seemingly insignificant, baits will produce the biggest fish of the day. Again it is their proximity to the pike that accounts for their success, I am sure. Combined with their subtle action, which is less likely to alarm a wary or semi-dormant pike, than a rattling and crazily wiggling plug.

While pike that are not really in feeding mood might take a slowly fished soft plastic in such a gentle manner that all you feel is a light "tick" on the line, at other times they will hit fast moving soft baits so hard that the entire lure is engulfed as the pike tries to pull the rod out of your hand! Sure these baits take a slashing from the pike's razor sharp teeth, and as a result require replacing far more frequently than hard baits - although careful welding with a cigarette lighter will repair many cuts.But they are such good fish catchers that the price should not be considered. Just as jerkbaits revolutionised pike fishing in the UK in the early nineties, so soft plastics are taking things one step beyond today.