Choosing the right hooks and traces saves both you and the pike a lot of trouble. Experienced pike angler Perry Dodds can’t believe there are still some anglers who don’t use a wire trace – condemning fish to a slow death.
The pike hasn’t gained its reputation as the freshwater shark for nothing. To combat those sharp teeth you need proper equipment. Fortunately, pike anglers today are in the excellent position of having a good choice of hooks and trace wires from which to make up their various rigs.
Never – ever – fish without a wire trace for pike. Just don’t do it. Incredibly, even some experienced anglers try without on occasion. It is grossly unfair to risk leaving hooks in pike.
The wire for traces comes in two basic forms, single strand and cabled. Single strand wire is rather stiff and cannot be used for spinning – but it is fine for bait fishing. Alasticum is the brand usually recommended, but various piano wires can be used.
Cabled wire is the alternative, and this is the type of wire used by most pike anglers. There are two kinds: seven strand types, which are very fine; and thicker types such as PDQ and Alasticum. Perry’s preference is for PDQ — despite the fact it has a greater diameter than seven strand wire. He finds it rarely kinks, does not get ‘the bends’ when hooks are moved along it, and is very easy to work with the fingers. Kevlar and steel is a new type of cabled ‘wire’ that has recently appeared. Perry has started using it extensively and has found it superb for all forms of piking. One of its good features is that you can tie half blood knots in it! These should be fixed with instant glue – though unglued ones don’t usually give trouble. Perry is currently using both PDQ and Kevlar wires as a comparative exercise, though he believes it is rare to find that either kink without it being obvious at an early stage.
There are times during baitfishing when, during a cast, a deadbait may flick backwards so the hooks catch the reel line. In the event of a take, the pike mouths the reel line and – bite-off. This means you have a pike swimming around with hooks in its jaws.
For this reason many anglers now consider two traces are better than one. The lower trace, the one at the business end, carries the hook or hooks. The trace above merely has a link swivel on the bottom and an ordinary swivel on the top.
It might appear that one long wire trace would do the job just as well. But for some reason the wire still seems to flick back – a separate trace stops this.
The purpose of the upper trace is both simple and important – it prevents bite- offs. An upper trace prevents these completely and Perry now always uses one in all forms of bait fishing for pike. Make the hook trace length around 30cm (12in) and the upper trace length from 30-45cm (12-18in).
Both traces need a swivel at the top end. If you are using PDQ you won’t need to crimp the wire. Because of its relative flexibility an inch of PDQ can be threaded through the swivel and then twisted back a number of times around the trace. With Kevlar it’s even easier. Simply tie a half blood knot. Attach a link swivel to the bottom of the upper trace.
Perry’s personal preferences are for small treble hooks, from size 10 to 6. Most of today’s ‘fish-friendly’ anglers use barbless hooks because they are much easier to remove from a pike when it has been deep-hooked.
However Perry, who has fished barbless hooks for many years, is not convinced. Very occasionally, he thinks, they harm fish by coming adrift during playing – tearing at the pike as they do so. But he shares the view of other anglers that barbed hooks are all too likely to damage fish.
As a solution Perry would like to see micro-barbed hooks. These won’t come loose during playing, yet are easier to unhook than barbed ones. Currently there are no genuine micro-barbed hooks on the market, so Perry fishes small treble hooks with the smallest barbs he can find, or presses part of the barbs down with pliers until they are little more than whisker barbs. These give a securer hold than barbless hooks but are easier to unhook than barbed ones.
Usually snap tackle has two sets of treble hooks fixed in position. This is perfectly effective.
Anglers have also developed other rigs -often ‘fish-friendly’ ones. One such rig sets the snap tackle closer to the tail, so that a pike swallowing a bait head-first won’t take the hooks so deeply. Another rig uses just a single hook at the base to avoid more hooks snagging pike than are necessary to catch.
However, as an alternative, Perry says that there’s no reason for the upper treble in a snap tackle rig to be fixed in position. Using a snap tackle rig is much easier if the upper treble is easily moved. With PDQ wire or Kevlar this is possible without introducing bends into the wire.
To prepare such a rig, first fix your upper swivel. Next attach a Ryder treble to the rig (a Ryder treble is like a normal treble hook but with two eyes, one at the top and one at the bottom). Thread the wire through the top eye, giving just one turn or even half a turn of the trace wire around the shank, and then thread the wire through the other eye.
Move the hook 15cm (6in) up the wire and finally tie in the tail treble with either a 2.5cm (lin) twist of wire or, when using Kevlar, a half blood knot. Now move the Ryder hook carefully along the trace to suit the size of the bait. A moveable snap tackle rig offers greater flexibility in bait size.
In addition, the moveable Ryder has a great advantage over a fixed hook. If both your hooks are fixed in position, and one of them fetches up against bone in the pike’s mouth, the other hook is stuck in the same relative position – probably dangling uselessly. No matter how hard you pull, if the first hook is lodged the other won’t move. As soon as the pike opens its mouth, out they both fall.
If the Ryder can slide on strike, then -even if the Ryder catches in the bone – the fixed hook is still free to move towards the Ryder. This is because the fixed hook is attached directly to the line – which slips straight through the eyes of the caught Ryder. It can be pulled through, until, the angler hopes, it finds a softer part of the pike’s mouth to catch.
Experimenting with rigs
The above rig is recommended by Perry as the best basic rig. But he is currently experimenting with an idea thought of by two friends, Archie Braddocks and Colin Dyson. It uses a large (size 4 or 2) VB (Vic Bellars) hook. A VB hook is basically two singles back-to-back – one being smaller than the other. This is attached by elasticated cotton so that the hooking hook stands proud of the bait.
The advantage of this is that the hook seems to lodge – almost invariably – in the scissors of the pike’s jaws. This aids unhooking – freeing pike from single hooks in the jaw is easy if you use forceps. Perry is now comparing VB hooks with kevlar traces. Traces are still evolving! Whichever he chooses, he knows both are good rigs.