Funky title, snazz it up a little and get the youngsters on board! I’m thinking of getting some tattoos and growing a beard too, that should do the trick. Rock on! Stick with me, I’m from up north, I’m a Riverpiker.
I don’t know why everyone is messing about with tiny bits of plastic? My god you are missing out on so much fun. Ok, I know I’m a bit of a strange northern bloke who doesn’t go fishing to catch 5m of wasps on tiny bits of cut off plastic that don’t even look like a lure any more. I’m a guy who goes fishing with stupidly shaped, stupidly coloured lures that will either catch the fish or give them a heart attack and if I’m lucky I manage to catch a pike or two along the way. But when it happens, boy is it seat of the pants stuff. Now I’m not here to rip in to drop shot, jigging or Texas rigging and the rest. Some people are a bit touchy when I go there so I’ll leave that one, I’ve learnt my lesson before. But I’m going to have a bash at getting some cranking and jerking back in to the world of lure fishing, you’ve all gone a bit soft.
So yeah, I’m a piker at heart and not only that I love catching them on proper lures. I love that some days it takes a whole heap of effort just to get that one shadow to follow. That follow that turns away as it realises there’s something not quite right about that fire tiger jerk bait, that wiggling crank making a right rattle. Boy is it hard work sometimes. Cast it out, crank it back. Tap the rod, jerk it pause it speed it up. Over and over again you work that lure, all the time trying to work out where it is in the water and what it is doing. Always trying to make something happen, mix it up and make that pike hit. A kingfisher flies past, one of the finest moments you will witness while you are out. You pause to absorb the special moment as the flash of blue races past. Bloody hell I missed a hit!
It’s not easy at times this cranking ‘n’ jerking. Cranking in a plug isn’t so bad. Cast out, wind in and let the lip of the lure dig in and make that lure wiggle, send out a flash of colour a bit of noise and loads of vibration. Every pike in the swim is on alert and you can bet one of them is coming for a closer look. But do I speed it up or slow it down? I like to do both and throw in a pause. Some days it seems anything will work and another one thing or nothing. I’m always trying though. I’m always twitching and cranking and pausing and I’m trying to work out something to make that pike hit. Those pike aren’t daft and they can work out something is wrong. But they are still very primeval and if you can work that little bit of magic, something inside that predator takes over and they just have to have it. Bingo, fish on!
But that’s part of fishing and it only makes me want to do it all over again. Hit and miss, lots of hard graft and not always the glory we see in magazines, Facebook or those Youtube videos. Not everyone is like this, but it seems these days there are far too many anglers who only want to catch fish and even worse only want to catch 25lb pike and 3lb perch. Wow if only it was that easy. I’d be bored out of my skin. I’m not an old bloke or anything, but I was brought up fishing for anything and everything. My first taste of fishing came from a rod my granddad made out of a Willow branch with a bit of line and a hook tied on. Jigging my tiny maggot for minnows in the shallows of a northern river surrounded by nature and peace. That’s why I still notice that kingfisher and still get as much enjoyment out of every individual sighting. I’ve evolved with my fishing through the years and I’ve turned into pretty much a permanent lure angler. My first taste of lure fishing was chasing pike on local ponds as a kid. I didn’t read any lure magazines, there was no internet and no Youtube. I learnt what I knew by hard graft, lots of blanks and I enjoyed everything about my fishing. I spent years and years working a lure and if I’m honest, I never really caught that much. As a kid, the odd jack every few sessions was a great result and I never once felt like I was doing something wrong or I was failing by not catching that huge pike, I didn’t even realise they existed. Then one late autumn evening as the sun was going down, a brightly lit red sky and a scene from every anglers dreams. Out of this scarcely filled jack pond, out of nowhere came this huge thing. I never knew it was there, no one had sent me to the spot and I’d not read about it in the weeklies. Finally my hours and hours of cranking and jerking had paid off and my tiny little plug had bagged me a fish which still to this day is a personal best pike. Magic!
Before the days of the drop shot became popular, many long time lure anglers were already bagging twenty plus perch in an hour on a spot and having some good sport, and they were proper perch. Those ten ounce plus perch that are like angry little teenagers. They come at you in numbers and the fun you can have is really great. But for me, eventually after an hour or so of teenage perch after teenage perch I’m bored again. I love the little fellows, what a stunning fish they are but even on a tiny rod it gets a little bit tedious for me. So I pull out the cranks and the jerks and I go off in search of one or two fish. That huge stripy figure ghosting towards my jointed crank. Time is standing still as my lure sits suspended in the water. If those ten ounce perch were little teenagers, this is the big meat head who spends all his days pumping iron at the gym. This guy has some shoulders on it and it’s going to smack that lure of mine. Wow that is a magic moment and that really does get me excited about my lure fishing.
I’m not in it for numbers and though it might sound as though I’m only wanting to catch the big ones, it’s far from that. Yes they do put a really great icing on the cake, but I’m more interested in the art and skill of working a lure. While I can appreciate a top lure angler and his ability to switch methods and work out how to catch those ever so picky perch that we have now after the recent lure craze, most of the methods really just don’t do it for me. We all have to have our own ideas of fun, there’s some great rewards to be had by having a tinker and even going to crazy extremes as to use a static lure suspended from a pole. While some guy is having his own fun doing that and others are drop shotting tiny bits of rubber, for me though that is not what I class as lure fishing. I’m not in it to catch numbers, I’m not doing it to catch specimen fish. For me you can’t beat that rush of a pike taking right at the rod tip after you have been getting your jerks timed to perfection. A big perch following in right to the edge and turning away when you know it was one of those fish that would make any top angler a happy man. That thump of a hit and having to hang on to your favourite bit of kit as an angry pike finally smacks your rod round after hours and hours of working that lure.
It’s not the easiest thing to try to explain and probably one of those things where you have to have been there or had it happen to understand it. I think that’s why a few years ago I turned to the GoPro video camera. Mounted on my cap, I might look a bit stupid, but after a few weeks of taking it off my head every time I saw a dog walker out of embarrassment, I now don’t really care how much of a nugget I look. Before someone says it, yes I know I look a nugget without the camera on my head! Anyway, finally I was able to capture some of those special moments on film and the next thing I find myself cutting and editing clips and knocking out videos for Youtube. The timing I suppose couldn’t have been better with the surge in lure anglers and I now find myself helping a whole heap of anglers learn the basics, lose less tackle or go that next step and start turning blank sessions in to fish on the bank. Seeing some of the results people are getting off the back of a few words or a video and a few tips is just fantastic and something I never thought I would end up doing or getting so much enjoyment from. I now find myself beaming when a lad 200 miles away that I have never met goes and catches a pb pike off the back of something I said. I get old guys sat bored in retirement saying they no longer sit on their backside watching day time TV, they got themselves a lure set up and off they go. They get out, enjoy the countryside and catch a few fish. It really is great to keep reading these little stories of success and it makes all the stuff I do worthwhile.
Unfortunately I am still left with one or two who just want it easy. They want to know the spot, the easiest method and they are not happy unless they are bagging the specimens every single time the go fishing. To be honest, most of them don’t get too much back from me. It’s not my thing and I know I’m not going to be able to change the way they go about their fishing, but then who am I to say that what they want to do is wrong anyway? Each to their own and all that. But I’m from Yorkshire so I’ll say it how it is, it’s just wrong, get a grip pal. I am a little stubborn at times and while I might write off some of those guys as no hoper’s I’m still here to try and spread my words to those of you who I do think I have a chance with, or at least one or two of you anyway, because you are after all lure anglers. Come back from the dark side.
So I go right back to my hard lures v soft lures. I’m not saying I never use a soft shad. We all know a simple soft shad approach on the right day can be as deadly a lure as any ever made. Now add all these fancy techniques and a million variations in soft plastics and you can probably guarantee you will never have another blank session in your life especially if you scale right down and slow it right down. Even in the worst of conditions you will catch something. But then what? Do you claim a 3cm perch as a successful day out? In the scale of things, in abysmal conditions to catch that fish is in my book, some top angling and I will give credit for it because it takes some doing. What about when you get out in good conditions and it all goes well? You bag up on schoolies or teenage stripys and you come home a champion. Well done pal. For me it gets a bit stale catching fish over and over again and I want to do something different. For me I’m back throwing plugs and jerk-baits and while I might not catch no where near as many in numbers as I could, I feel like I’m lure fishing again.
Hard plastic lures come in many shapes and styles and the colours range from natural to stupidly bright. There’s deep divers, medium divers, shallow plugs and jointed plugs. Jerk baits, glide baits, tail baits and surface baits. What about some of the hybrid lures with hard bodies and curly tails or strange surface crawlers. Add in some truly awesome custom creations from the likes of Matt Holmes, Craig Beverley or Mark Houghton and why would anyone want to fish with anything else? We’ve now gone from steady jigging a dull tiny morsel of rubber to figuring out just how in the hell am I supposed to work this thing let alone catch on it? Yeah I’ll admit, some of these hard baits are not the best, my own favourite the Musky Mania Squirrelly Burt is notoriously crap out of the box and you have to not only tinker about with it in the tackle shed to get it to work right, but you also have to learn it, get to know it and even name the damn thing. Mines called Burt by the way. This is all starting to get a little bit weird now and even sounds more hard work than actually catching fish. But for me, if you are in this lure fishing game for the long haul you need to have something more than just going out and catching fish. After all, why is it so many have turned to lure fishing? If we simply wanted to catch fish, sit yourself next to an old bloke with a flat cap and watch him catch fish after fish on the pole, he’s been doing years and he’s a master. I watched a bloke at the recent Wye championships cast a maggot on a float 40 yard with pinpoint precision accuracy and catch 6cm silvers faster than anyone could ever dream about. If it’s numbers you want, these lads have been racking them up faster and a lot longer than any drop shotter no matter how big in the game they are.
So I’m back casting about cranks and jerk baits. I’m watching the sun come up and go down and I’m enjoying the wildlife around me. Not only that I’m chucking lures and enjoying having to get to know them, really tune in to what is happening and really think about which lure will cover the bit of water better or which will help trigger a hit by it’s noise or its movement. Let’s go fish a small flowing river, two foot deep with the chance of a huge wild brown trout if you are lucky, Forget the soft lure they just don’t work this bit of water right, but which crank, how do I make the most out of it? They come with big diving vanes and small diving vanes and they float, suspend or sink. The deep diver is no good it’ll smack the bottom in less than a single crank of the handle. But then you could use that as your method. As it smacks the bottom kicking up a commotion it is spotted by a fish. What about the super shallow floating lure? Drift it down further than you could cast or under a bush you would never ever reach with anything else and slowly work it right back up your swim. Pausing it and twitching it and using the flow to take it right back down again. One cast can last you an age if you use that lure and the flow of the water to your advantage. Stick on a suspending plug and cast it across the pools, slowly twitch it back and then let it slowly drift around the stagnant pool left in the wake of a huge boulder. What about a tiny jerk bait? Cast it out and jerk it through the flow using the current to make it dart across or glide under a bush even using the flow to keep it zigzagging on the spot. There’s so much to do and so much to chose from, you actually forget about catching fish. You start to relax, you begin to start lure fishing and your rod is now truly an extension of your arm. Every tiny twitch of your hand is transferred along to the tip, down the line and to that little dancing lure. You can feel every tiny vibration as the nose fights against the flow or the jerk moves against it and then eases as it turns to move with it. Watching your lure moving through the pools, light flickering off the fast flowing water you see something else catch your eye and before you know it every nerve in your body jumps up on alert as adrenaline shoots through your body and a huge brown trout slams in to the tiny lure. Yes that fish is an absolute joy to catch and a real fishing trophy but the way you did it, that was the enjoyment. You’re a lure angler and you lured that fish.
Getting that rod to be an extension of your arm, getting your senses tuned in to what your lure is doing and working out what you do and how you do it has a positive or negative effect on what happens out there and is the difference between success and failure. A young lad who was looking for a bit of help from me went and made the step up from small lures to bigger jerk baits and not only that, his first bait-caster set up. Now I taught myself how yo use one but the intentions were to get out with him and show him how to do it. Unfortunately work got in the way and his eagerness to get out and play with his new toy meant he was out alone learning the basics the hard way. No big problem that can be a good thing, learn from your mistakes and all that, it never did me any harm. Yes he had a few birds nests and a few other teething problems but he started to get to grips with it after a few more words and tips exchanged. However no fish were caught and it was starting to get harder to keep throwing that heavy jerk bait over and over for not a single bit of reward. Another chat and I explained that catching fish was not important at all right now. What was important was he learnt to use that new rod and reel. It was important that he learnt to do everything as if he had always done it. That extension of your arm is so important and I explained he needed to get so in tune with his lure that he knew what it was doing when it was 30ft out and 4ft down in murky water. It is you that is making that lure dance and it is you who needs to feel that it is dancing. You need to sense and feel everything and be on high alert for the slightest tightening up or slackening of the line. Another half dozen or so sessions under his belt and a bit of confidence that he was comfortable casting, retrieving and working every single lure he had and he was ready for those pike and guess what? One day, he went out and he was so in tune with all his gear that when he actually found those pike, yes he went and found them with his own hard graft, that little dance he created just had them mesmerised. I forget exactly but something like twenty seven pike in three small sessions is a fantastic result and when you add in a pb mid double pike on a jerk bait, he’s a proper lure angler, he lured that fish.
So anyway, after all that don’t take this as a bash at any method you enjoy doing. It might not be for me just like twitching a crank or working a jerk might not be for you. We have to suit our own fishing to our own styles and our own version of fun. On top of that, some anglers only get out once or twice a month and when they do they want to catch fish not struggle like made for a single follow. For someone like me who usually fishes loads I’m not so fussed about always catching plenty and that’s probably a big reason why I might think differently to others or have needs different to others. But I encourage you to not forget these lures and get out and always have at least one or two of them in your collection. On days where I have been using both hard and soft lures there have been occasions where not only were the hard baits the difference and actually caught some fish but they pulled out some proper whackers. Just as the lure craze kicked off me and my pal Ady were out on a canal that in the past had produced lots of big perch. We were using the usually trusted soft lures but after a while we found that for what ever reasons it simply wasn’t working that day. Was it a bit of extra pressure with the soft lures, had the big perch seen it all? There were a few other good lure anglers out who we bumped in to and their efforts on drop shot and the rest weren’t producing for them either. We decided we needed to move off a little and try to find some perch. A great way to do this is with noisy, bright lures. Make some noise, let them see the lure and see if you can at least get a follow. After that it’s down to tactics and method changes if you do find some. We didn’t need to change anything, within no time they were showing and not only that they were hammering the cranks. Rapala jointed shad rap for me and Rapala X rap Shad for Ady. Lots of two’s and some big three’s but had we gone for the soft approach it probably would not have happened. Always make sure you have something to totally change it up a bit. I know especially with pike that is often even more so the case.
Recently we got the chance to fish one of the countries iconic waters. Llandegfedd reservoir in Wales is/was (delete as applicable) home to the British pike record and last year it re-opened for a few trial days. An email sent off more in hope than any form of expectation turned out to be a winner and we got our date with one hell of a tough water. There’s monsters in that place but anyone who thinks they would come out easily is in for one hell of a tough time. I think most know it will be one hard slog, we knew that but worse still for us (and probably a few others) was the fact it wasn’t the kind of water we usually fish. I’d only ever fished Chew once and that was on the fly rod and worse still that was my first ever time with a fly rod. So I was hardly an experienced reservoir dog and Ady had fished a few in the lakes and a few more elsewhere but to be honest he too wasn’t that wise when it comes to fishing 40ft plus of water. Anyway, to start off we went the soft lure approach. Big heavy weights, get them down and see if we can find a fish. Some days soft lures just work and you just cast it out, wind it in and get ready to hang on. Other days an angler such as myself is left thinking of ways to make it happen. With the lighter soft plastics there’s loads of ways to fish them and you might be able to work out a method to pick up some fish. There’s a few things you can do with big softies, jigging them up off the bottom and back down again. Slowly bouncing them across the bottom, kicking up dust or even shallowing up with lighter jigs and trying to work some layers because after-all, the pike might not be sat right down on the bottom. That last change worked and I picked up my first fish but it proved to be a false hope as no more came and I was left thinking about my trusty Burt, those hard baits, internal rattles, vibrating bodies and flashes of colour. I know when I use those I am doing my best to make something happen. Something to trigger that primeval instinct I talked of before.
I get loads of enjoyment from working the big lures, the big plugs and the big jerk baits. I have a mess around with other stuff like the Savage Gear Hard eels or the 3D trout. Great lures and both picked me up fish when I started to test them out. But I often find myself trying to travel light and only taking three or four lures. I dig in to my set of drawers full of must have lures and after a rummage around I find myself covering the options. I can’t leave without a Burt so that’s already in my bag. A jerk-bait for different movement and if its a Buster jerk I also have that extra rattle for added attraction. I’ve always had fish on the Savage Gear Hard 4play series and now tend to take along a 19cm Low-rider. Noisy, great movement and you can fish it in a constant retrieve and get that wiggle and rattle going or put in a kind off stop-go retrieve which on some days is just a killer method especially if you need to try and force a pike to hit. That lip digs in, you lift the rod and it vibrates like mad and they just have to smack it. A good option then is to go for a softie. Great for getting down in the deeper water or working a little quieter and slower. The Real eel or Hard eel are great for that and have picked me up fish when the pike just didn’t want anything hard. The 3D trout is just so lifelike it’s almost like cheating. But do you know what I end up doing these days? The softie goes back and I pull out a nice jerk bait instead. I’m back to wanting to catch a pike on a certain lure with a bit of craft and skill rather than just catch a pike. Not a big headed thing here, but I can catch a pike. I’m not one of the big boys banging out huge fish every week, I’m not in and never will be in Nev’s list, but I’m happy enough that I catch plenty of pike and can be a bit choosy how I do it. I’d much prefer throwing a Matt Holmes jerk through the depths of winter in the hope I can get one of those pike up off the bottom than slowly running a softy right down there right by it’s nose. In fact I don’t always agree that is the answer on seriously cold days. A common theory is while the pike are lazy, saving energy and not wasting those hard earned calories the method is to fish it slow as possible and get it right in their faces. It probably does work for much of the time, but yeah I get bored with that. So I’m back throwing a Buster jerk. “Wake up you lot!” Buster shouts as the dinner bell rings out. I just love catching pike right through the coldest months like that and the way they hit a lure, they’re not lethargic or conserving any calories. They are bloody mental and they hit that lure so hard it’s a good job I’ve been working so hard to make the lure dance that I’ve still got a bit of warm feeling left in my fingers to hold on to that rod.
I now spend my fishing days with a mate or two, having a laugh and sharing the successes and failures of lure fishing. We go out with the hopes of catching a whopper but it doesn’t really matter that much. Let’s get some action first, let’s catch some fish and enjoy lure fishing. A hard week at work is bad enough with chasing fish that might not even be there, adding more pressure to yourself and meaning that anything short of spectacular is a crap day. Forget that, just get out and throw some lures about and catch whatever comes up. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to fish when you are not chasing dreams or targets. Years ago I remember chasing my first ever river twenty. Double after double after double were landed. Up early, fishing late, hour here hour there it was a constant chase. While I still enjoyed the nice doubles the other pike just got chucked back. Pesky jacks I want a proper fish! Then one day I went fishing and I caught a good one. It was about seventeen or eighteen pound I can’t quite remember but I looked at it, and boy what a fish it was. To think these things swim up and down our rivers and to think I could trick one of them in to hitting a wooden lure was enough for me. I’d found my pleasure, to hell with catching twenty pound pike. I started to just go fishing again, no more chasing anything, no targets no dreams just chasing the next bit of lure fishing and a bit of fun. A pike would come, I knew that, so long as I worked at enjoying my fishing and enjoying using my lures. I was right, the fish kept coming and I forgot all about that stupid target and then yeah you already know it. Bang, not too long after my rod smacked round and I bent in to something different. My first river twenty was bagged and I enjoyed it so much more because I enjoyed it for what it actually was. A truly inspiring creature, a product of millions of years of evolutionary awesomeness. It wasn’t just a twenty, it wasn’t a target, a number or a notch on my bed post or anyone else’s bed post, it was just awesome. I just love pike!