Pike plugs are artificial lures, usually made of plastic, wood or metal, that ‘swim’ or wobble upright through the water – unlike spoons and spinners which spin or wobble about an axis. They are usually single-piece but some are jointed to give them a more pronounced wobble.
Most plugs are designed to mimic sick or injured fish. Some are vividly coloured, vaguely fish-like shapes not designed to look like anything in particular but just to provoke an instinctive strike. Others are realistic imitations of frogs or mice.
Try to buy a complete range of plugs, each for a specific job, rather than just collect them at random.
Colour You need some silver plugs to imitate such fish as roach, dace and skimmer bream; some with stripey patterns, to mimic perch and small jack pike ; and some in really garish colours such as bright red and yellow. Even plain black plugs have their days. Finally, trout-patterned phigs are worth trying in waters holding trout – a favourite food of pike.
Size Pike do take large plugs, but as a rule 5-10cm ones work best.
Action Most plugs are shallow-diving floaters; they have sharply angled vanes on their heads which, on retrieve, cause them to dive a few inches or feet.
Deep-diving floaters have low-angled vanes which make them dive very steeply when you retrieve them.
Some floating plugs have adjustable vanes, allowing you to vary the diving depth from one cast to the next.
Finally, there are sinkers, which sink when first cast in, rising higher in the water the faster you retrieve them.
Which, when and where
Generally speaking, plugs work best in summer and autumn, when pike and prey are most active. Unfortunately there is no way of predicting which will work on any particular day. Many anglers believe trial and error is the only way to find out, but certain guidelines apply.
On hot, sunny days, pike often lie up near the surface in weedy, shallow water and may be tempted with a slowly retrieved shallow-diving floater.
When you can see pike feeding on fry in the shallows, try fast-retrieving a small, silver shallow-diving floater.
On cooler autumn days, when pike are likely to be in slightly deeper water, try a sinker or deep-diving floater.
But never just ‘plug away’ if you aren’t catching. Keep changing plug colour, size and type, and keep varying the rate and depth of retrieve, until you discover what’s best on the day.
Always use a 30-45cm wire trace when pike fishing because pike can bite through any nylon line, however thick. If you want to cast a small, light plug a long way, attach a Wye lead at the top of the trace to provide the extra casting weight.