There are several species of fish whose main diet is other fish — dead or alive. Pike, zander, perch, eels and catfish all take legered deadbaits without a qualm.
It is a very effective way of catching big fish. The older and bigger a pike becomes, the less it wants to start chasing off after fast, healthy prey. It gives up ‘fast-food’ in favour of slow, wounded fish. If your dead-bait is in view – either on the bottom, suspended or twitched to resemble a stricken fish – the pike and its fellow predators will go into action.
Predatory fish take all types of available deadbaits. The following are the more popular baits.
Freshwater fish Bleak and bream are fished whole. Dace are a bait that will take perch, as well as the larger predators. Eels, fished in segments wherever they are naturally present, make good bait.
Minnows form a large part of the diet of predatory fish. As well as catching the usual species, they are an excellent bait for perch and even the occasional chub. They can be preserved in salt – which may well boost their taste and desirability.
Rainbow trout, if you have the money, are a good bait for pike. Another very successful fish is the roach — they’re quite colourful, and therefore very visible. They form a large natural part of a predator’s diet and are arguably the best of the freshwater fish. Sea fish Herring, either used whole or cut. in half, are a very popular bait. Though not normally part of a pike’s staple diet, they are smelly and oily and can be detected from quite a distance. Bigger herring – cut in half – release more juices, which increases the pike’s chances of locating them by following the potent smell trail.
Mackerel are another highly successful bait for pike. Fished whole, mackerel are more successful in certain waters than herring. They are good for long-range casting because they are firm and so stay on the hook easily. An advantage of casting with half a mackerel is that it is extremely aerodynamic in shape and slips through the air.
Smelt and sprat are both useful baits -sprats have the advantage of being easy to obtain from fishmongers. One last alternative is squid. Chopped into strips they make excellent bait for catfish.
Deadbaits are attached to the line by snap-tackle rigs and are frequently legered. As an alternative, you can sink-and-draw to make the bait imitate a sick fish swimming in an erratic way. Cast the bait in the water and raise the rod top – drawing the bait up through the water. Then lower the rod, reeling in a small amount of line. The bait will sink — wobbling towards the bottom. Keep repeating this sequence, re-casting and retrieving along the bank until you find a fish. You can cover lots of water this way.