Rigs My Way - Part Three

My overriding principle when considering the make-up of a pike rig, and its attendant indication, is that pike drop baits when they feel a change in resistance. A running lead will offer constant (low) resistance so long as it is heavy enough to stay put when a pike moves off with the bait. On a clean bottom, sand for example, a light running bomb can be dragged along if a pike moves off at an angle to the line. This is not a big deal if it doesn't encounter any obstructions, but if it does there will probably be a decrease in resistance if the line is coming off an open spool. When the bomb stops moving its weight will stop being applied to the line and the pike will feel less drag. This might result in a dropped take. I realise this isn't going to be an everyday occurrence, but it is worthy of some consideration.

Of course the same can happen with a semi-fixed weight, but I believe that a weight fixed to the trace swivel is less likely to encounter obstructions for a couple of reasons. If the trace is not too long then the weight could actually be hanging above the lake bed, dangling from the pike's mouth. If not, then the chances are it will be getting dragged along at an angle to the vertical, so it should have a better chance of sliding over obstacles.

Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but having now used semi-fixed leads for a few years I am becoming more and more convinced of their effectiveness. I have a couple of mates who have been using semi-fixed leads for much longer than I - so as usual, I have been late in realising how good something can be!

One reason I think semi-fixed leads are successful at avoiding dropped runs, which do seem to be a rarity when using them, is that they operate as anti-eject rigs. At least this is how I read things. If the pike has lifted the bomb off the bottom, then that will constantly be creating a downward force on the end of the trace which the pike will have to overcome in order to eject the bait. If the bomb is being dragged along the bottom, the trace will, if the bait is right inside the pike's mouth, be coming out at the scissors. At least I think this is what is going on. In order to eject a bait the pike must open its mouth, at which point the weight pulling or dragging on the trace could possibly lodge a hook in one side of the lower jaw or the scissors.

If you accept this premise, the effectiveness of the rig's anti-ejection properties can be improved. Firstly use big, super sharp, hooks. Forget those size ten or eight trebles, and step up to sixes at least, and better still fours. The pike won't know how big the hooks are until it has the bait in its mouth, by which time it is too late. While you are at it make sure the bomb is at least an ounce and a half in weight. The combination of a heavyish lead and sharp hook points standing proud of the bait could even (in theory) make the hooks take an initial penetration as soon as the pike moves the bait.

One interesting factor that is becoming apparent with the use of semi-fixed leads, but of which I am not certain yet, is that the incidence of deep hooked pike is much reduced. If, as I suspect, the set-up is a self-hooking one, that would explain this. I am reluctant to suggest that stepping up to four ounce bombs and size two trebles would completely eliminate deep hooked pike on legered deadbaits - but I have a sneaking suspicion it might go a long way towards that ideal. I'd welcome any feedback on this from other users of semi-fixed lead rigs.

A semi-fixed lead leger rig is simplicity itself to rig up. All you need is a trace and a semi-fixed lead. There are a number of quick change devices that push over the trace swivel on the market these days - one good thing to come out of carp fishing, I guess. These have the advantage that the bomb is readily interchangeable and can pull off the line if the fish drags it into a snag, leaving the line still attached to the trace. You could attach the bomb via a weak link to one of these devices, giving you the best of all worlds - a bomb that will release if the fish snags it up, and one that will release if it snags on the retrieve. However, so far, I have had very few snagging problems using inline leads, my preference being for the flat pear shaped ones which I feel tend to plane up on the retrieve.

More often than not when fishing a semi-fixed lead I also have a small sunk float on the line. I set the stop knot for this float at least ten feet from the trace. You don't want it too close to the bait as its purpose is to keep the line off the bottom while a run is in progress. A one inch poly ball, or similar sized streamline slider is sufficiently large to do the job, and small enough to not cause problems with undertow and so on.

It goes without saying that the fixed lead approach has been standard practice when legering deadbaits using a float for bite indication pretty much since the method was invented. Indeed, this was partly the inspiration for my conversion to their more widespread use. I had been using one and a half ounce in-line bombs (and heavier) on my boat fishing rigs for some time before it finally clicked with me that they would work without the float. I told you I am slow on the uptake!

I use surface floats in conjunction with semi-fixed leads when fishing from boats, when fishing over rough or weedy ground, and on flowing water where I want to keep as much of the line off the surface as I can. I hardly ever use them when fishing stillwaters, largely because the waters I have fished most over the years have been fairly large and exposed requiring fishing at distance, and float rigs are not best suited to these circumstances. Floats cut down casting distance, and drag under when the wind gets up. If I fished small sheltered stillwaters, then I might well find a use for surface floats there.

The main drawback with using a float rig is that it is impossible to get the line from rod to bait super-tight as the presence of the float puts an angle in the line. When boat fishing this is not too big a deal. The line is kept from spilling off the spool either by a line clip taped to the rod above the spool, by setting the Baitrunner on, or putting the clicker on a multiplier. By keeping a watch on your floats you will generally see the take before there is any movement of the line at the rod and be able to free the line from the spool before the line tightens. Quite a number of runs are towards the boat in any case.

If you are sat right by your rods when bank fishing the same procedure applies. But mostly this is not the case. So, when using a surface float from the bank a compromise has to be reached as far as clip tightness is concerned. The situation to aim for is tight enough to keep the indicator on the line against the action of wind or waves, but light enough to drop off as soon as a pike moves the bait. As always, a drop-back indicator should not be able to move upwards before the line pulls out of the clip. Using floats demonstrates how heavy bobbins can be counterproductive to good bite detection. Heavy bobbins always have to be set up in such a way that the pike has to raise them before it can pull the line out of the clip. So for surface float fishing a light bobbin is preferable.

There are alternatives to drop-back indicators for float fishing. A clip taped to the rod handle will allow you to get the line as tight to the float as any method, and still give you the open bale arm presentation. Slack line takes can be shown by a bobbin hanging on the line. For many years I used plastic tubes with a lengthways slit cut in them for this kind of indication. The trouble with indicators hanging on the line is that they can spin and tangle the line when it pulls free of the line clip. At the worst they can jam in the butt ring, causing either a dropped take, or worse still a dragged in rod! I suppose going carp style and using swinger type indicators is another option, even using a Baitrunner or a multiplier to give line. But this is not an approach I have adopted myself.

You may well ask why you need an indicator at the rod when using a surface float. Quite so, in most cases the indicator (drop-back) serves mainly to keep the line from coming off the reel, but if using a front alarm as audible back up indication, you also have to have some means of making the alarm sound if the line goes slack, which means a bobbin of some type on the line. There are also situations where you are unable to see the float. Fishing under the rod tip from a high river bank, while sitting back to keep off the skyline, being one such. Or when fishing a gap in the reeds with baits cast to either side of the gap.

The choice of float styles is worthy of some consideration. For boat fishing, and when fishing flowing water with the rod beachcaster' style to keep the line off the water, I prefer a tubed slider. A fairly dumpy float of this type holds up well and resists being pulled under by drag on the line. The alternative is to use a longer, but not too slim, tubed slider. I don't feel that the pike are affected a great deal either way, as far as resistance goes, so tend to opt for the dumpy shape.

The other option is a bottom end, unloaded, waggler style, float. These are great for bite indication as they fall flat when a pike moves the bait. However, they can drag under quite easily if there is a lot of flow or strong wind. Also when fishing from a boat that is not completely stationary they will continually fall and rise as the boat swings. In severe conditions they can be replaced by a bottom end dumpy design which lacks the positive indication of falling flat, but holds up better. When it comes to size of float I always err on the side of larger rather than smaller if it is being used on the surface as a visual indicator.

Inline sliders are easy to rig on the line. You simply put a bead either side of them, and tie the stop knot at the desired depth. Bottom end floats are attached to a small link swivel between two beads, with a second stop knot added a foot or so above the weight. This lower stop knot prevents the float sliding down to the lead and tangling with it on the cast. An alternative to the second stop knot is to add a length of rig tube above the bomb. Both methods work equally well. While the rig tube has the added advantage of tangle prevention as mentioned in an earlier part of this series, the stop knot method has the advantage that should you remove the trace the float and beads won't slide off the line into the grass. Another advantage of using bottom end floats is that they can be quickly removed (leaving the snap link and beads on the line), turning the rig into a straight leger if conditions alter - say when a drain starts running off causing the float to drag under or collect floating weed.

When setting the stop knot, no matter what type of float you are using, the knot should be set somewhat deeper than the actual depth of the water being fished. I usually set inline sliders less over depth than I do bottom end floats. Quite why I can't say, but it seems to work. Because of the way bottom end floats register a take they can be set around half as deep again as the water depth without any lack of sensitivity of the rig. This will make the angle of the line from bait to float shallower, so the chances of a pike approaching the bait brushing the line are reduced - although I doubt this is likely to worry the pike. However, as the more dumpy inline floats don't give as positive indication of a take as wagglers do, unless they go under, I prefer to set them just a couple of feet or so deeper than the water depth. Longer inline sliders, on the other hand, sit at an angle in the water, and will fall flat when a pike picks up the bait.

One thing that you have to be aware of when float fishing with a fixed lead rig, and I have noticed this a lot on drains over the years, is that pike can pick baits up and move off with them without any immediate indication at all at the rod. I think this is a combination of the close range being fished, the effect of wind and/or flow, and the movement of the pike. I have noticed that pike often pick up baits from the far side of a drain and swim around in a circle, towards the near bank and back to the point they picked the bait up. Swimming in an arc like this keeps the line tight to the rod, but allows a fair amount of distance to be covered by the fish before the line goes slack enough to produce a drop-back indication. Whenever using a float rig an audible alarm shouldn't be relied on as the primary indicator. As I said earlier, the float puts slack line in the system which cannot be eliminated, and so makes any rod end indicator less than 100% effective.

In part four I look at some rigs that are suitable four using with livebaits.

(This article first appeared on in Pike and Predators - August 2004 on this site April 2006)