Go big or go home - BIG BAITS
I believe all of us dream of catching a big fish on a lure, especially new anglers. Thanks to swimbaits and the Line Thru concept, I think catching big fish is easier than it has been before. All you must do, is cast them out and reel them back high in the water column, they will do all the job for you! Almost sounds too easy but let me explain.
In the past few years my approach to pike fishing has changed a lot. I have grown up fishing smaller lakes from the bank and most of us fished smaller 10-12 cm soft plastics, spinners and spinnerbaits close to the bottom. No doubt these lures will catch pike of all sizes including trophy fish, but this is sort of a “safe” way to fish for pike in which you are the one searching for pike. What I mean by this is that you pick up all pike including small jacks and getting attention of a really big fish is probably a thing of presenting in the right micro location, not really lure attraction.
After having some amazing strikes near the surface in the middle of winter with my favorite Deviator jerkbait, I started realising that biggest pike in the lake will rise from two, three or even four meters deep to get the bait if conditions, size and action of the lure is right. After achieving full confidence in jerkbaits, it was time to move on to swimbaits and big soft plastic that have the same preference of drawing pike to it from great distance, not the other way around. Big baits have a drawing power.
19 cm Herring shad and a big one from Slovenia. This shad is awesome because it has the right profile and it will kick and body roll on really light jig heads and super slow retrieve speeds. 7-10 gram jig head is already enough to keep it moving on slow speeds.
My first ever 30 cm LT Trout fish caught trolling in 2014. I still remember the excitement; I could not believe pike could inhale such a big lure.
Just watch how effortlessly 40 cm lure that weighs almost a kilo disappears in pike throat!
Pike does not feed when it wants to, it feeds when the conditions are right
Though there are certain times in the day when pike are active because of the moon position or some other factor beyond our grasp, but generally pike like low light conditions like most predators out there. Windy, rainy days with barometric pressure on the fall are the days when pike get on the prowl. On sunny days a trigger for feeding action can be just a breeze that chops the water surface and reduces light penetration. Pike needs low light in conjunction with cover to feed effectively. Stories I heard as a kid about big pike being hard to catch because it will eat a big meal when hungry, then not eat for another week I find quite funny these days. I found that a lot of pike in carp lakes that are cleaned from grass due to grass carp can be really skinny and in bad shape, though such waters are usually full of small fish as well – with no grass and murky water pike simply cannot feed effectively!
If conditions are right, pike will feed! Predators are opportunistic creatures, so in periods of low light and nasty weather, pike simply cannot afford not to feed, even if their stomach is full. They cannot be sure when such opportunity will occur again. How many times have you caught a pike with a prey fish sticking out of its girth, or you could feel it inside the belly? This argument is just my point.
When fishing a big bait in such conditions, we have a much better chance of attracting a big fish, much better than fishing a conservative smaller bait anyways.
Line Thru concept definitely changed “go big or go home “ game, because it allowed big lures to become strike-to-landing effective. Trebles on this 40 cm LT trout were so deep down the throat!
My first swimbait fish - 17 cm Rattle Trout.
Big bait concept
What I really like about swimbaits such as 3D Rattle Trout, 4D Line Thru pike, Pulse Tail trout, 40 cm Real Eel etc. is they are super simple to use! With many other lures there are issues with retrieve technique or lure tweaking, but swimbaits are simple – just cast them out and reel them in – Or go trolling with them!
A steady retrieve higher in the water column is all a swimbait needs to provoke pike into biting, and this is how I work them most of the time. With its super realistic look and a rocking body this bait triggers pike to go for it with no questions asked. It simply looks real and presents a great opportunity for pike to get a mouthful. Hard swimbaits such as 19 cm 4play Liplure or the Lipster are a perfect stop-and go bait, with most of the strikes coming on the pause. Usually I will combine swimbaits, jerkbaits and hard swimbaits for different presentations on the same spot or on the very same fish, because you never know what will work.
What you do need for this sort of fishing is somewhat clear water for pike to see the bait from a long distance and low light in terms of wind or overcast skies to make them active and willing to chase baits. When all this aligns, you have a superb opportunity to capitalize on the “big bait” bite.
Drawing power of swimbaits
When I started using swimbaits, I was amazed by the drawing power these baits have for pike of all sizes.
My first session on the Bled lake in Slovenia was with 27,5 cm and 200+ gram Rattle trout prototype I lobbed for the whole day and had at least 15 follows from relatively small pike in 50-80 cm range! Compare that to my buddy fishing standard spinners who had only 3 fish follow or attacking lure (pike in that lake are notorious for following lures and not biting).
They simply had to check it out. Though, it is a super realistic trout replica, it works in waters with no trout as well, the swimming action is just so realistic! I went back with a monster 40cm sized Line Thru trout and caught a 96 cm zander and 106 cm pike in my first 45 minutes of trolling!
My first fish on 40 cm LT Trout on lake bled in Slovenia was a - 96 cm zander!
Jacks do not mind going for 40 cm Real Eel.
15 minutes into testing my first 40 cm LT trout I got my first giant bait fish – 96 cm zander! Even zander will eat large meals…
With all steady moving baits I feel that stretch quality of mono on the strike will improve hookup ratio lot because it will allow pike to turn with a lure and also it will be a lot more silent which can be important for a following fish...
40 cm Real Eel is my favorite casting “Go big or go home” lure. It has big profile, yet it is not that heavy and the attraction to pike with that seductive tail kicking at extremely slow pace is amazing!
Personally, I consider swimbaits, jerkbaits and large soft plastic as “big” lures in range of 20-40 cm and up to 200 grams in weight (trolling lures are different category). Once you cross into the “big” side, it is hard to go back. Though I have caught a lot of big fish on the smaller baits in the past, now I simply have no confidence in ability of attracting a large fish when fishing 10-12 cm lures. With that being said, there are times when pike will eat small baits almost exclusively.
Line thru rigging, which you get with most of Savage Gear big swimbaits, is the key for fishing big baits. It will dramatically increase strike to landing ratio compared to fixed hooks. When your big lure slides away from the rig and fish cannot use its weight for leverage to shed the hook.
Savage Gear Custom Predator 250 gr 258 cm is my perfect swimbait rod for casting because it will handle everything from 60 up to 250 grams effortlessly. A longer rod is better for fishing steady moving baits like swimbaits for more precise and slower presentation, while a shorter rod is better for fishing jerkbaits or stop and go baits due to rod pulling technique.
Wide body baitcaster reels like Okuma Komodo 376 LX are perfect swimbait casting reels because they have a lot of cranking power and will not burn out your thumb. The line I prefer with casting big lures is actually 0,45 -0,55mm mono. I feel that the stretch from mono on the strike, will improve hookup ratio lot and also it will be a lot more silent which can be important for a following fish.
Modern big lures on line thru rigs changed pike fishing in a big way and make catching big fish seemingly too easy on some venues. However, there is one aspect of big lure fishing worth being aware of; on some lakes after being caught and released multiple times, pike will learn about big baits and will become very finicky towards them. After my first Water Wolf videos with 40 cm LT trout on lake Bled in 2015, a lot of anglers started trolling 30 and 40 cm LT trouts catching (and releasing) big fish one after another. After some time pike learned about LT trout and become really hard to catch, just following lures without striking.
40 cm Line Thru trout (780gr) and 106 cm pike on Bled lake in Slovenia – no problem! It completely inhaled almost a kilo bait on the initial strike!
Even on pressured lakes, go big or go home approach will pay off with dividends! Actually, I had many days where big lures absolutely out fished standard 10-15 cm pike shads fished by my buddies…
I had amazing “pelagic” session with my buddy Igor Vučenić in Netherlands last year. 19 cm Herring shad and softbaits up to 25 cm range are standard baits for dropping on pelagic fish you see on the screen – it gets their attention!
My home-made release rig on 40 cm Real Eel. Any pike that swipes at the lure will get caught. Free swinging hooks on split rings will dramatically improve hookup ratio. Keep this in mind even with LT Trout which I also modify for a better hookup ratio…
40 cm real Eel is my favorite casting big bait
40 cm real Eel is my favorite casting big bait. It is not that heavy but offers a large profile and amazing action at incredibly slow retrieve pace. Also, line thru custom rig is incredibly effective…