Super Chunks for Pike - Mick Brown
Posted at Oct 04, 2010
Angling Journalist Paul Garner spends a session on the bank with Mick Brown as he reveals a deadly tactic for big pike that has seen him take hundreds of fish.
As I made my way across country in my faithful fishing wagon, the fine drizzle gradually became a steady stream of rain that looked like it was set for the day. Despite the weather, I felt the sense of anticipation begin to build for the day as I was going to receive a lesson from one of my fishing hero’s, a man who has probably forgotten more about predator fishing than most of us will ever know: Mick Brown.
Over the previous couple of months Mick and I had talked regularly about getting together, but the big freeze had put paid to our plans. But, with the temperature rising rapidly all week, we now had the green light and, with the lakes now released from their icy covering, Mick was confident of some action. Eventually, after a few unintentional detours, I found the track that lead down to the lake where Mick was waiting for me, albeit with a slightly worried look on his face.
Arriving shortly before me, Mick’s first job had been to record the water temperature. “At this time of year the pike’s activity is going to be heavily influenced by changes in water temperature. Ideally, I am looking for the mercury to be rising, however small the change may be. When I came down yesterday to have a look the temperature was only 4oC. Today it has risen to 4.5oC. Not much of a difference, but more than enough for the pike to notice the change.
“It is though still very cold, and with the melting of the ice the whole lake has coloured up and taken on a really dirty tinge when normally I would expect it to be gin clear. These are certainly testing conditions!”
Actually, the conditions had played right into our hands, as Mick was keen to show me a method that has proven hugely effective for him over recent seasons and one that most anglers simply overlook. Always the innovator, Mick had been increasingly using an incredibly simple rig and twist on the usual deadbait approach to catch large numbers of pike, including some real whoppers, and he was keen to share his ideas and thoughts.
SINGLE HOOKS AND SMALL BAITS
As Mick set about getting the rods out I raided his tackle box to get a closer look at his traces. The rig was incredibly simple, just eighteen inches of 30lb titanium wire finished off with a size 1 Owner carp hook. Over the eye of the hook Mick had pushed a Greys Prowla trace sleeve to extend the shank and help it to catch in the pikes mouth.
Mick explained the thinking behind the rig: “There are times when the pike aren’t really that interested in feeding, particularly when the water temperature is really low, and a large bait fished on a traditional two-hook trace complete with trebles isn’t the best option.
“I started to experiment with much smaller baits, just chunks cut from my deadbaits, and to get the balance right between bait size and trace the single hook made perfect sense. Whilst you might expect more runs to be missed using just one single hook compared to a treble, my results show there is little difference if you rig it right,” he explained.
Above the trace Mick relied on a small float fished slightly overdepth as his primary source of bite indication. With the bait fished hard on the bottom in the relatively weed-free lake a drilled bullet large enough to sink the float was allowed to run freely on the line above the trace with a rubber bead each side to protect the trace knot and float. A slim-line float stop, that could easily be adjusted, was used to stop the float at the required depth and was unobtrusive enough to pass through the rod rings without catching.
As a secondary warning of a take, a swinger indicator was attached below a bite alarm and held the line under tension so any movement would register.
With the rods set up it was time to get the baits prepared. Mick had brought with him a selection of Dynamite Baits Deadbaits still frozen solid in his cool box. Opening a packet of Pollen he took his filleting knife and carefully begun to cut the fish into chunks. Each cut was at about a 45 degree angle, creating a zig-zag pattern down the length of the fish, soon Mick was left with six chunks of Pollen each no bigger than a match box.
“The secret is to cut each bait at an angle so that the hook isn’t impeded when you strike. I hook the baits through the narrowest section, which I ensure is on the tough top of the bait so that they withstand the cast.”
Taking the first rod, Mick deftly baited up with a chunk of Pollen. Now the single hook didn’t look so out of place, in fact it sat perfectly in the chunk of fish ready to find a hook hold should a pike pick it up. Although much less cumbersome than a treble hook, the large gape of the single, coupled with the extended shank meant that it had a very good chance of finding a secure hook hold on the bony mouth of a big pike.
I could also see that the big single coupled with a head section of bait would cast really well and the big hook would hold the bait far more securely than a smaller treble.
MAKE YOUR BAITS GO FURTHER
One of the benefits of fishing with chunks is that you can make your baits go a whole lot further. From an average whole Mackerel or Herring Mick gets two chunks from the body, plus the head, which also makes an excellent bait. Three baits for the price of one!
This leaves the tail section and two pieces from the body that are ideal for using to bait up. Mick has always been a big advocate of baiting up while fishing and pre-baiting for pike and these small pieces are ideal because they create a great flavour trail in the water without introducing much food. Once Mick is happy with the position of his baits, each rod gets three or four pieces of fish around it to pull in any passing predators.
PROOF OF THE PUDDING
Soon, all three rods were baited with chunks, two with Pollen, the third with a similar piece of Mackerel and rod was positioned no more than a couple of rod lengths from the bank at the bottom of the marginal shelf. With everything in place it was time to get the kettle back on to give us a little respite from the grim weather conditions. It was now all down to the pike to play ball...
As we sat clasping the mugs of steaming coffee Mick’s float almost imperceptively began moving against the incessantly lapping waves. Unlike the text-book bobbing followed by the float sliding away, it just held slightly lower in the water and began to tighten the line. Cup of tea hurriedly put down, Mick picked up the rod, checked that the clutch was set as it should be and wound down and struck.
The fight was more dogged than explosive and in the turbid water it was impossible to judge the size of the fish that Mick was attached to until it was on the surface and ready for the net. From my side of the camera lens it looked a decent fish, but as Mick gathered the fish in the net, unclipped the trace and started to lift, it just got bigger and bigger before our eyes! As we struggled up the bank and laid Mick’s prize on the unhooking mat it was obvious that this was a special fish, and when the digital scales registered 24lb 10oz we were blown away. Mission accomplished, and then some!
Lifting the lower jaw to open the pike’s mouth we had a great view of the single hook lodged in the roof, just inside the jaw. A deft flick with the forceps and the hooks were free, much simpler and a lot safer for both pike and pike angler than fishing with a pair of trebles. The combination of single hook and the soft rubber extension to the shank means that the majority of fish are hooked on the edge of the jaw as the hook turns when it passes over the edge of the mouth, giving a great hook-hold.
Whilst there has been quite a lot of talk about pike welfare and the use of single hooks just recently, Mick was keen to stress that he is not advocating that singles are a must for all pike fishing situations. When using chunk baits, and kebab baits for that matter, the single hook just matches the bait size so much better.
Examining the pike on the mat Mick identified it as a fish he had caught a couple of months previously at a weight over 27lb. As is often the case, the fish had lost weight whilst the lakes were frozen over, and was probably on the look out for an easy meal. The huge frame of the fish meant it made a truly impressive sight, and certainly I would not bet against it going over the magical 30lb barrier by next Winter.
As the huge pike regained her composure and gracefully glided down the marginal shelf and out of sight I stood slightly lost for words. That such a big fish would pick up a tiny piece of fish had proven beyond doubt what a fantastic method chunks could be. It would certainly be a method that would find a place in my fishing. With the incessant rain having done its best to soak us to the skin, we decided that it was most definitely ‘a wrap’ and time to beat a hasty retreat.