Pike are predators, but they are also opportunists, eating dead fish whenever they find them. Even if that dead fish is from the sea and a species the Pike has never seen, they will still try to eat it. For the angler this opportunistic attitude, means we have plenty of dead baits to choose from.
The problem with choice is actually choosing. When you are standing in the tackle shop with the freezer door open, what do you choose? The shop will not stock dead baits that the Pike won’t eat. So, any of the baits in front of you will catch a Pike.
Sardines have very soft skin. They can come off on the cast and will often disintegrate underwater. Roach on the other hand, have a much tougher skin and can stay on the hook for ages. You can hook a sea fish through the tail or skull, for a better hook hold. So, depending on how you hook the bait, you could still have a wide choice.
Some Pike anglers swear by small baits, Sprats for example. It is true that many a good Pike have been caught on a Sprat, but for me, I like Sprats as feed. I cut one or two of them in half and throw them in the swim to attract the Pike, I don’t tend to use them on the hook.
Recently I spoke to an angler who was using a large half Mackerel. It was ten inches long and very thick in the body. He told me that a bait needs to be big, so the Pike regard it as a proper meal and worth eating. I can see his point, but it completely contradicts the use of Sprats.
These two extremes of large and small only go to prove that Pike will eat anything. Not very helpful when standing in front of an open freezer.
Pike super bait
Do Pike have a preference or is there a Pike super bait?
Short answer, no. Pike are dustbins, they will eat just about anything in the way of live fish, dead fish and small animals.
Some claim Pike can become wary of a bait that is used too much. I have not seen this myself, but it does make sense. This could give you a reason to avoid a particular bait.
A queue is forming
The freezer door has been open so long that your feet are getting cold and a queue is forming. Tuts and sighs from behind spur you on to make your choice.
A good choice
This is what I would pick from the freezer.
Two packs of Mackerel.
A tried and tested bait, with a reasonably tough skin. If you need to cast any distance, hook through the tail bone and body. Mackerel is a good safe bet in the bait stakes.
Two packs of Smelt.
Smelt has a unusual scent, I believe this is why Pike find them so attractive. I said earlier that Pike don’t have a preference, but if they did, then Smelt would be high on the list. Use whole, hook through the skull and body.
Two packs of Sardines.
Six to eight inches long, Sardines are an ideal size and can be used whole. A very soft skinned bait, they will slowly disintegrate underwater, leaching out an oily scent that the Pike will follow.
One pack of Roach.
For those occasions when a tough skinned fish is needed. Casting a distance, wobbling or twitching for example, these are the times when having a few Roach is handy. The Roach is also a familiar prey fish and is part of the Pikes usual diet.
One pack of something exotic.
An exotic bait can land you a fish when all else fails.
Mackerel, Smelt, Sardines and Roach, these are the dead baits I buy in October for a winter of pike fishing. Between them, they cover all variations of size, taste and skin, add in the “something exotic” and the Pike don’t stand a chance.
Best of luck.