Pike fishing is an art that requires not just skill but also the right choice of bait. In this article, we delve into the fascinating world of deadbaits, exploring the different types for catching pike. From the shimmering smelt, known for its irresistible aroma, to the oily mackerel, creating a potent scent trail, each bait is scrutinized for its unique advantages. We also cover choices such as lamprey and sardines, and even delve into the use of local fish species, offering a comprehensive view of the diverse options available to anglers.

The article doesn’t just list bait types; it provides practical advice on how to use them effectively, including tips on freezing and rigging, as well as innovative techniques like the ‘Kebab rig’. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or new to pike fishing, this guide is packed with insights and tips to enhance your fishing experience and increase your chances of a successful catch.

3 Mackerel deadbaits for pike fishing
Mackerel are a popular deadbait among pike anglers

What Are The Best Types of Deadbait For Pike?

Selecting the right deadbait is a critical decision in pike fishing. Each type of bait offers unique advantages and can be more effective in different fishing conditions. Here, we explore some of the most popular ones used by pike anglers.


Description: Mackerel are oily, high-fat fish with a robust and enticing scent. Their flesh is durable, making them a popular choice for anglers.
Advantages: The high oil content of mackerel creates a potent scent trail in the water, which is ideal for attracting pike. Their durability also means they can withstand more aggressive bites and longer casting.
Best Used: Mackerel are especially effective in colder waters, where their scent can travel further, drawing pike from greater distances.


Description: Smelt are small, silvery fish, known for their distinct aroma that pike find irresistible. They are often a top choice in colder waters due to their high visibility and appealing scent.
Advantages: Their bright, reflective bodies are excellent for attracting pike, especially in clear waters. The strong smell of smelt is also beneficial in murky conditions, helping pike locate the bait.
Best Used: Smelt are particularly effective in clear and slightly tinted waters. Their reflective bodies shimmer attractively, making them visible and enticing to pike from a distance.


Description: Herring, like mackerel, are oily fish with a strong smell. They are a bit larger, making them suitable for targeting bigger pike.
Advantages: Their size and oiliness make them an excellent choice for attracting larger pike. The scent trail left by herring is also a significant attractant.
Best Used: Herring are most effective in deep waters and during winter months when pike are drawn to the strong scent and larger profile of the bait.


Description: Roach are a common freshwater fish and a natural prey for pike, making them an ideal deadbait choice.
Advantages: Their familiarity to pike in many water systems makes them an effective and natural choice. Roach closely mimic the pike’s natural prey, which can trigger more aggressive strikes.
Best Used: Roach are particularly effective in lakes and rivers where they are native, as pike are already accustomed to preying on them.

Several herring ready to be pike bait
Herring are a good oily fish, perfect for pike bait

Other Options

Lamprey: Lampreys are a distinctive choice due to their high blood content and unique texture, which can be particularly appealing to pike. Their slippery, elongated bodies and strong scent make them an excellent option for creating a noticeable scent trail in the water. Lampreys are often used in situations where a strong scent is necessary to attract pike from a distance or in murky water conditions.

Sardines: Small yet versatile, sardines are an excellent choice for pike fishing in various conditions. Their oily nature ensures a consistent scent trail, crucial in attracting pike. Sardines are particularly useful when smaller baits are required, such as in areas with smaller pike or when fishing in waters with a high population of small to medium-sized fish. Their size also makes them ideal for anglers looking to use multiple baits or for those who prefer a more subtle presentation.

Pollan: Pollan is a freshwater fish that is quite often available from your local tackle dealers. These fish are actually native to Ireland and apparently taste a bit like cod. No wonder the pike like them. Pollan is another deadbait that is quite tough and will stay on the hook relatively well.

Trout: Dead trout can be a truly productive bait when it comes to winter pike fishing. I do a fair bit of reservoir fishing in the winter and these reservoirs hold plenty of trout of all sizes. This is the main venue where I Like to use trout deadbaits for obvious reasons. Although I would happily use trout on a river as well.

Custom Choices: Utilizing local fish species as deadbaits can be highly effective. Species such as bream, perch, or even chub, when used as deadbaits, can yield impressive results, especially in waters where these are part of the pike’s regular diet. This approach not only aligns with the pike’s natural feeding habits but also supports the ecological balance by using locally available resources. Additionally, experimenting with various local fish can uncover hidden gems that might be particularly enticing to pike in specific waters.

Combination Baits: Some anglers find success in using a combination of different deadbaits to create a more complex scent and visual profile. This can involve using two different types of fish or combining a fish with another attractant, such as a fish oil or scent additive. This strategy can be particularly effective in challenging conditions or when targeting larger, more experienced pike.

In summary, while traditional deadbaits like smelt, mackerel, and herring are popular for good reasons, exploring a variety of other options, including local fish species and less conventional choices, can enhance your pike fishing experience.

2 smelt ready to use for pike fishing
Smelt are another top deadbait for pike fishing

Can You Freeze Deadbait?

Yes, freezing deadbait is not only possible but also highly recommended for pike fishing. This method is the most efficient way to store your bait, ensuring it remains fresh and effective for longer periods. Freezing deadbait has the added advantage of making it more durable during casting, as it tends to stay on the hook better when used while still frozen.

Anglers often mix different types of baits before freezing, creating varied selections in each pack. This variety allows for flexibility during fishing trips, as different conditions might require different baits to attract pike effectively.

Sometimes you just won’t know which bait they want on the day until you mix it up a bit.

Some frozen fish ready for bait
Freezing your bait is a good way to keep them fresh

If you fancy something a bit different why not have a go at Mick Browns ‘Kebab rig’. This is an awesome little rig that may catch you fish when all else is failing.

What Is Mick Brown’s Kebab Rig?

The Kebab rig, a brainchild of renowned pike fishing expert Mick Brown (often referred to as ‘The Duke’), is a unique setup that utilizes multiple slices of deadbait. These slices are arranged on a hook in a manner that is exceptionally attractive to pike, making it a highly effective technique in pike fishing.

What makes Mick Brown’s kebab rig effective for pike fishing?

Mick Brown’s kebab rig is effective due to its unique presentation of multiple bait sections, which creates an enhanced scent trail and visual appeal. The spacing of the bait with rig foam and the addition of bait flags also make the rig more attractive and noticeable to pike.

Can I use any type of deadbait with this rig?

Yes, you can use a variety of deadbaits with this rig. Common choices include roach, smelt, mackerel, and other fish that are naturally part of the pike’s diet. The key is to ensure the bait is fresh or properly thawed for maximum effectiveness.

Is special equipment needed to set up Mick Brown’s kebab rig?

While specialized kebab rig kits are available, you can also set it up with basic components like rig foam, bait flags, a bait needle, a wire trace, and a treble hook. The rig is versatile and can be adapted with materials you have on hand.

How do I ensure the rig is properly balanced in the water?

Balancing the rig involves evenly spacing the bait sections and adding rig foam for buoyancy. Adjust the placement of the foam and bait sections until the rig sits in the water as intended. The rig should be stable and present the bait in a natural, appealing manner.

What should I do if the pike are biting but not getting hooked?

If pike are biting but not getting hooked, consider adjusting the position of the hook. Ensure the hook is well-exposed and not overly obscured by the bait. Sometimes, slightly changing the rig setup or the size of the bait sections can make a significant difference in hook-up rates.

When all else is failing, or you just fancy something different why not have a go at Mick Brown’s kebab rig?

My Top 5 Tips for Deadbaiting

  • The Strike – The strike whilst deadbaiting is vital. Pike will quite often engulf the bait straight down to their stomach if they are left too long. (this is particularly common with summer pike fishing). To combat this problem simply strike as soon as you get an indication that the pike has picked up your deadbait. You may miss the odd fish but surely that is better than a distressed fish.
  • Drop Off Indicators – If you are ledgering your deadbaits it is a very good idea to use drop off indicators. One end of these will be attached to your bank stick. The other end will probably be a small ball-type bobbin in a bright colour. This will have a small clip on the end that gets clipped onto your line. Bring the bobbin end down to about 9 o’clock. This can then indicate if the pike goes off with your bait by lifting up in the air. It will also indicate if the fish comes towards you by dropping down. Pike don’t like resistance on the line so be sure to set it up so it is sensitive and has no resistance.
  • Inject Some Flavours – To add some extra bite to your baits you can always try injecting them. Most of the baits I have featured are naturaly oily. But If you add some extra flavour you can also add some extra colour. DO NOT just use any type of syringe as this can be extremely dangerous. Instead get yourself a deadbait injecting kit. This really can give you the upper hand when conditions are tough.
  • Use a Wire Trace – A wire trace is a must when using different deadbaits for pike fishing. In fact, a wire trace should be used for ALL pike fishing. When using deadbaits I use a trace of 18 inches in length. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry. There are plenty of supple traces on the market nowadays that won’t kink. A decent brand of 49 strands is advisable.
  • Treble Hooks – If you are using a standard ‘snap tackle’ type rig the chances are it will be made up of two treble hooks. If this is the case I would suggest flattening off two of the barbs on each treble hook. This will leave one barbed hook for hooking the actual bait. By doing this, you will save yourself no end of hassle when it comes to unhooking the pike.
A big treble hook for deadbait fishing
It’s always worth flattening two barbs on a treble hook

To Conclude

In conclusion, the strategic use of various deadbaits plays a pivotal role in the success of pike fishing. From the classic choices like smelt and mackerel to options such as lamprey and local fish species, each type of deadbait offers unique advantages that can be leveraged in different fishing scenarios.

The art of deadbaiting extends beyond mere selection; it involves proper storage, like freezing, and innovative rigging techniques to maximize effectiveness. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced angler, experimenting with a range of deadbaits and honing your approach can significantly enhance your fishing experience. Remember, the key to successful pike fishing lies in understanding the preferences of these elusive predators and adapting your strategy accordingly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most effective deadbaits for catching pike?

The effectiveness of deadbaits can vary based on local conditions, but generally, smelt, mackerel, herring, and roach are considered top choices. Their size, scent, and visibility make them particularly appealing to pike.

How do I store and prepare deadbaits for fishing?

Fresh deadbaits should be kept cool and moist, while frozen baits need proper thawing before use. It’s important to maintain their natural scent and texture for maximum effectiveness. For preparation, baits can be cut or used whole, depending on the size of the pike you’re targeting.

Is it necessary to use a wire trace when fishing for pike with deadbaits?

Yes, using a wire trace is crucial when fishing for pike. Pike have sharp teeth that can easily cut through standard fishing lines, so a wire trace prevents your line from being severed during a catch.

Can I use deadbaits in any type of water body?

Deadbaits can be used in various water bodies, including lakes, rivers, and canals. However, the choice of deadbait and the method of presentation might need to be adjusted based on water clarity, depth, and current.

What are some key considerations when selecting the right deadbait for pike?

Key considerations include the size of the bait (matching the size of natural prey in the area), the freshness and quality of the bait (fresher baits are more effective), and the type of local fish species available (using baits that mimic local fish can be highly effective). Additionally, water conditions like visibility and depth, as well as seasonal variations, should also be taken into account.

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