Joe Watson’s view is that simplicity is what counts in catching pike. A couple of simple float rigs are all you need to cover almost every baitfishing situation effectively. only basic rigs and end gear, and the number of big pike he’s caught over the years speaks for itself. Avoid complication for its own sake and you not only cut down on tangles, you land more fish too!
Many of the ready-made sliding floats, self-cockers and floats with transparent bodies can work very well, but not significantly better than the simple poly ball in a variety of sizes. For most forms of pike float fishing except drifting over long distances, a plain poly ball is simplest and is often all you need.
Take a look at the pike tackle in any tackle shop and you cannot fail to be impressed by the sheer number and variety of pike floats. Some of these are of Uttle or no use, being more of a trap for the angler than the pike.
For Joe Watson, Norfolk specimen hunter, simplicity is the key to pike fishing.
Why use a float?
A pike float serves two main purposes – as an indicator and as a controller. As a controller, a float can help you position the bait accurately by allowing you to see where it is and letting you drift it into position. It also acts as a buoyancy aid, whether it’s out of sight or being used as an indicator.
As an indicator, it shows you where the bait is and when a fish has taken it. Float fishing is a highly sensitive method of bite detection, and is probably the best way of avoiding gut-hooked pike.
However, the indicator is only as sensitive as the technique involved. For the float to work, your rig and methods must work well too.
Floating pike baits
Apart from drift float fishing there are two main methods of fishing with a float. You can either fish a bait that’s free to move, or use some form of weighted float rig to anchor the bait in a certain area. A free-swimming bait can, to a certain extent, be guided to where you want it to fish. Use the current on a river to drift the bait past various features. Or, on still waters, use the drag caused by the wind to move the bait over a wide area.
The rig is simple. The bait and trace are suspended by a sliding poly ball, held at the right depth with a bead and stop knot. The line must be greased to keep it on top of the water, and you can add a weight if the bait keeps rising to the surface. A float paternoster is best if you need to anchor the bait in a certain spot. It keeps the bait in a pikey-looking area, while allowing it as much movement as possible, especially with a livebait. The float can be used as a visual indicator, or merely to keep the bait off the bottom (in which case the float fishes below the surface).
Livebaits and deadbaits
You can use these techniques with success either livebaiting or deadbaiting. With only slight modifications, the rigs are effective under almost all circumstances. With a livebait on a roving rig, make sure that the poly ball you choose is big enough. Otherwise the bait pulls the float under and keeps it there. The odd brief dip below the surface is fine, but you don’t want the float staying out of sight for half a minute at a time, or you won’t know when you’ve got a run.
With baits up to 3-4oz (85-115g), a 25mm (lin) diameter float has enough buoyancy to keep the bait afloat. For bigger baits -there’s rarely need to go over 6oz (170g) – a ;>’- swivel 38mm diameter float is right. Tethering a livebait in a good looking spot calls for a float paternoster. It stops the bait from simply lying doggo on the bottom, while allowing it a great deal of freedom to move. Since it is the struggles of the bait which attract the pike, the more movement the better.
A roving deadbait rig can easily be set up using the simple float rig described earlier. This allows you to search the water with your bait, rather than just relying on the smell of the bait to attract the fish. You can fish the deadbait horizontally or vertically -pike don’t seem to mind. For ease of casting you should hook it head down. For a static deadbait you can use either the float paternoster rig, or a modified roving float. Fish the paternoster exactly as you would with the livebait. Like the roving deadbait, it can have the advantage over legering and freelining that the bait is off the bottom – visible to any pike cruising around. The bait therefore appeals to two senses – sight and smell – and not just to smell.
You can easily modify the roving or free-swimming rig to keep a deadbait static on the bottom. The deadbait is attached at the end of the trace as before. But instead of fishing underdepth with the bait suspended, the float is set overdepth.
The optional weight or swan shot that you may need to keep a livebait from rising to the water’s surface now becomes essential to keep the deadbait in one place. Plumb the depth carefully, and set the weight so it sits on the bottom.
This float leger rig uses the float as a bite detector. Provided you keep the line tight between rod and float, it will remain close to the surface – away from the wind but above any heavy weed or snags. Keeping the line tight also prevents pike from swallowing the bait without your seeing the bite – and so reduces the chance that they might gut-hook themselves.
With these basic float rigs you can cope with almost every situation. You don’t need to invest in expensive floats unless you want to – all you really need is the good old poly ball. So stick to the basics and enjoy your piking!