Throwing a wobbly deadbait

Top predator expert Joe Dixon can’t understand why more people don’t wobble deadbaits. It’s a hugely successful roving technique for pike, so stop just waiting for your buzzer and start wobbling!


Deadbait wobbling, also known as fishing sink-and-draw, is one of the most effective — yet unpopular — ways to catch pike. This simple method involves casting and retrieving a deadbait through areas which you suspect might hold pike. It is called wobbling because the way you mount the deadbait on the trace makes it wobble on the retrieve like a sick prey fish.

It’s effective because it allows you optimum opportunity to present a bait to numbers of pike. As to why it is unpopular, it seems that most of today’s pike anglers pre- fer to fish static, waiting for buzzer to sound or float to slide under. This has less to do with results than with laziness.

Deadbait wobbling is about keeping on the move, continually casting and recasting. You cover as much water, and therefore pike, as possible. That, in a nutshell, is the secret of its success. If one pike doesn’t want a bait, you don’t waste time fishing fruitlessly in front of it. After a short while you’re off to find a pike that is interested.

When to wobble

There is no specific time or place to wobble -the method works at any time and in any kind of swim. However, there are a few situations where it can be especially effective. From a boat you can cast 360° around you, exploring a section of water completely before moving on.

In an awkward swim wobbling allows you to get a bait near fish that are otherwise inaccessible. If, for example, on a river, the productive area is upstream of a snag, the current might push a static bait into the snag. That’s when a wobbled bait can score. Cast the bait set-up for wobbling downstream of the snag and work it upstream, over and through it. With any luck a pike lurking in its snaggy lair won’t be able to resist the sight of an apparently injured fish limping past its nose.

On new waters wobbling keeps you on the move, allowing you to fish more swims and so learn more about the venue and the habits of the pike that live there. Fishing a new swim where you aren’t sure of the behaviour of the resident pike provides one of the best opportunities to wobble a deadbait. Put out a floatfished bait, or two if the local regulations permit, and cast a bait set up for wobbling around and between the static ones.

Pike are attracted by the smell of the floatfished deadbaits and may take the wobbler as it whizzes past. This is particularly true in shallow water. Fishing like this is one of the most exciting methods at your disposal. A take from just below the surface in shallow water is enough to get even the most jaundiced angler’s nerves jangling.

Baits to wobble with

Any fish about 10-20cm (4-8in) long is fine for wobbling. Both freshwater and sea fish can have their day. The simplest way of setting up the bait is the best. Use two semi-barbless trebles on a wire trace. The end treble is hooked about half way along the fish’s flank, while the other one goes through the lips.

Give the fish some life by putting a slight bend in it as you hook it up. This produces the wobble on the retrieve which gives this technique its name. The bigger the bend the more pronounced the wobble. Experiment with the amount of bend to see which produces the most takes.

It’s usually a good idea to add some weight by putting a few swan shot on the line above the wire trace. The number of shot depends on the size of the bait, the depth at which you want to fish, and how far you’re casting.

A buoyant bait is best for this type of fishing. This has two advantages. If you’re fishing a water with weeds, snags or litter on the bottom, make sure the distance between the swan shot and the bait is greater than the depth of the snags. That way you can let the whole set-up sink to the bottom, secure in the knowledge that the bait is floating above the snags. ‘X /

The second advantage is that if you lose a bait, either on a fish, or by casting it off, it usually floats to the surface. A bait on the surface is less likely to be taken by the pike you’re trying to catch. If you’re in a boat you can recover it for re-use. Either way it usually prevents a pike from getting a free meal — and a hungry pike is a catchable pike.

Some freshwater baits have the advantage of being naturally buoyant, but it’s easy enough to insert polystyrene rods down the fish’s throat with a pair of forceps to give a sinking bait a little help in floating. Put in a little at a time and test it after each addition. It’s set correctly when it just begins to float upwards if you push it under.


Wobbling has two chief virtues apart from its ability to take plenty of fish – it is simple and it adapts well to all types of water and conditions. At its most basic it consists of casting and retrieving the bait, but with a little more thought and effort, you can improve its effectiveness dramatically.

Try to imagine how the bait is behaving in the water, and aim to make it as appealing and as helpless-seeming (to pike) as possible. Its effectiveness depends on how enticing you can make it.

Vary the speed and the depth of retrieve for best results. You should also try an erratic retrieve — remember that you are trying to simulate the behaviour of a sick or wounded bait fish.

Generally baits tend to rise to the surface as you retrieve them because you are above the water. If you pause in your retrieve, the bait sinks again, giving an erratic motion to the bait. And if you vary the length of time you pause, you can get your bait to search through the depths for the fish. This is known as a sink-and-draw retrieve.

Hitting the takes

Takes vary when wobbling, but they are generally fairly gentle. Often the line simply goes solid.

It can sometimes feel as though you’ve run into some weed, but don’t just heave to get free. Always assume it’s a fish. Pull off some line and wait about five seconds. If it is a pike, the line tightens as the fish moves off. That’s when you wind into it.

If it is weed, you haven’t lost anything through making sure. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as getting a bait back all chewed up, knowing that if only you’d been a bit more careful, it could have been a fish on the bank.

All in all, wobbling a deadbait is a very easy method, requiring no special tackle over and above your usual pike gear. It gives you the opportunity to out-think your quarry, puts fish on the bank when static fishing is ineffective and keeps you warm on those cold winter days on the bankside. Give it a go -you won’t be disappointed!