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Wood Lake, Royston

Pele Johnson takes us through the event of his capture of a 21lb 5oz feisty big girl in Cambridgeshire.

Myself and a few colleagues, Neal and Luke from SFHQ turned up at Wood lake, Royston for a few days carp fishing before the winter set in but also had intentions of doing some dead baiting for Pike depending on the circumstances. After setting up on the Thursday we settled down behind our carp rods for the night. It was quiet with a few carp boshing around the lake. Nothing happened that night and on waking we decided to reset our rigs and try a few different spots.

Wood Lake, Royston

A bait boat is allowed at this venue and we had the Waverunner MK3 with Raymarine, Toslon X pilot and Winch camera courtesy of a full setup provided by Fish Eye Camera Kits before the pandemic struck. Life would have been a lot harder if it wasn’t for the boat being with us and unlikely I would of found the big girl so quickly. It also allows you to place with perfect precision and with little issue towards the baits coming off in the cast.

On the Friday morning when we were setting up our rods for the day for carp fishing I sent the bait boat out to the far side of the lake at the bottom of the far steep incline walls, about 60 yards away with my rig and some freebies. As I approached the bottom of the incline I noticed something long hanging about at 17ft in 18ft of water. On stopping the boat to have a better look on the screen I was amazed to see a large pike. Unmistakable, with its crocodilian type snout and it was just behind a ball of small bait fish. In the panic I forgot to press the button to take a pic of the screen. I marked the spot and brought the boat back forthwith in a rendition that Miami vice would of been proud of.

I setup my Pike rig with a 2ft trace to two semi-barbed trebles size 6. I also setup a 2.5ft uptrace. A pike can sometimes take the bait and go straight into the mainline and an uptrace helps alleviate this problem by giving you a length longer than your main trace. Even a small pike would have no trouble chopping 15lb nylon in two and thats what we were using with braid being banned due to the water being predominantly for carp fishing. Really it should be standard practice. I was using Fox Carboflex 30lb trace wire on a running rig with ledger stem to hold everything off the bottom. Wood lake was an old Chalk pit, so the water was very milky and when we sent the camera down it could barely see more than 3 inches even with an HD camera but the bottom was as if the chalk was dug out yesterday. Hard and desolate of plant life but I didn’t want to take any chances and a ledger stem can help a ledger setup be free on any bottom sludge.

I chose a medium size roach deadbait as I know the water holds large shoals of the fish. I also added an oiled bit of PVa string to ensure the top treble stayed connected once I had dropped the Roach in 18ft of water. I didnt want to take any risks and this would ensure the bait got to the bottom safely and connected. I decided on some rigging wire to connect two popup balls to the top treble to ensure it stayed about 3ft off the bottom. Just before it weent in the boat and syringe of GO2 Liquid Red and Liquid Tuna.went into the Roach. That can be a bit messy so I usually do this in the hopper if I am using a boat in case it all comes out. I want it to slowly seep out of the fish while its waiting to be hit.That was my plan.

Roach deadbait and mackerel sliced thinly for chum

When ledgering for Pike I believe its imperative that you use a drop off indicator as this is the first sign of the bait being taken, allowing you precious seconds when the first beeps of the alarm go and setting you up to strike the rod well. You dont want a pike having any time to snaffle a bait and send it down to its stomach. A deep hooked, large Pike is not something any of us want, barbless trebles or not.

I have a 12ft E-Sox pikeflex in 3.25lb test curve and a 10ft version in 3lb test curve but chose the 12ft. There was a large tree to my left in the margin that I had a feeling would be the first place any pike would go once I got it in close and a 12ft just gave me that extra length to stop this. We were also dealing with a lake that 3ft out dropped to 12ft and another 3ft dropped to 18ft deep. When originally scanning swims with the boat we regularly saw places where it dropped from 18ft to 22.5ft. You don’t want to fall in unexpectedly in this weather and cold water with a shorter rod trying to hoof a pike out of the margins.You may not come out !

On setting up the deadbait it went in the bait boat hopper with PVa foam nuggets covering every avenue that could get my rig twisted, caught or anything else while it was released and dropped like the Titanic in nearly 20ft of water. I hate taking any chances with rigs like this.

Once all was done it was sent out to about 60 yards away at the bottom of the incline at 18ft.

I dropped the hopper with my rig, bait and chum where X marks the spot and I had seen the leviathan the first time around. I brought the boat back and sat behind my rod with a cuppa waiting for something to happen.

About 30 minutes in I saw the drop off indicator arm, well, drop I guess and the line slowly moved through the alarm beeping twice. I grabbed the rod and tightened the drag and struck into what I first thought was a big log. there was a large bend in the rod. I didn’t move a muscle and then a few seconds later I got three big head shakes and I was in! Well so I thought. A second or two later the line went limp and the fish was gone. Had I done something wrong? Neil from SFHQ was in the swim next to me and had run over at the sign of ‘fish on’ and we both looked bewildered at it all. I shook my head and thought I’m not having that and reeled in quickly sat down and prepared the rig with another new roach deadbait and some mackerel slices and got it back in the bait boat. I sent the boat out about 30mins later all prepared as per the first time. The boat sonar saw nothing on the bottom at the spot, it was bare and I thought I had lost the opportunity.

Again I brought the bait boat back and setup behind my rod. This time with a coffee with Neil and we waited anxiously. Nothing happened for what seemed an eternity but I was confident that big girl would be hanging around all that smell of mackerel and as she had already had her starters I was determined to ensure she had her main coarse as well.

Again about 30 minutes later the drop off indicator dropped down as line slowly pulled and the alarm beeped twice again ..slowly.. as if it was a deja vu of the first bite indication.

I grabbed the rod, tightened the clutch and struck into the fish. This time she pulled hard but I wasn’t having any of it and with barbless trebles I wanted this one on the bank quickly before something untoward happened again.

I had a fight on my hands or as I now refer to it, it was more like a bar brawl, over before it even began so to speak. Pike haven’t got the energy to be played for too long, they fight hard and play dirty but I was ready for her. She tried to get into the tree on my left which I knew was going to be where she wanted to be, in the deep snags. The 12ft did its job and I got her out in front of me in clear water.

Neal was standing ready with my carp landing net which of course had more than enough capacity to deal with Mrs pike.

After a few more deep runs we finally got her close to the net. About a minute after the usual – ‘I’m not going in there’ routine and she was over the line.

Just as she went over the edge of the net and Neil had ensured she was safely captured and held, the hooks popped out of the side of her mouth.

I put the rod down. It was now ours but we had to get this beautiful if not quite large mouthful of teeth into a weigh sling and carp cot for weighing and pictures but we needed to ensure it was done safely for the fish. She had paid a price of taking the bait but we were now custodians of this wonderful creature and it needed to go back the way it came in. Full of energy and unharmed.

Its always wise to ensure your sling and cot are ready when fishing for anything but especially Pike as they don’t have long to give you before they need to replenish their oxygen supply. So Neal and I got our carefully practiced routine sorted out and the Pike was brought in and the net placed in the open weigh sling.

I leaned over the net, heart pumping a little, as I knew this was no Jack Pike and took a look at her. My god, I was so grateful those hooks had popped out themselves. She looked like something out of a nature documentary series on Sky of what not to put your hands near if you happened to encounter one in the street.

Having not caught a 20+ pike before I wasn’t quite used to the site but she was something to behold. Long, thick and round with a large head althugh something had happened to her tail in a previous life. A hit from a larger pike when she was small maybe? We got her to the weigh scales which brought up 24lb 5oz. With 3lb of wet net and sling wrapped around her I finally knew what I had brought in from the deep. A 21lb 5oz beauty. I was over the moon. A new personal best on deadbaits for me.

We put her back in the water to ensure she was always getting the oxygen she needed and got ready for pics. The camera was ready on a tripod in case any of us caught and setup perfectly to capture the money shot. After 4 or 5 shots we got her straight back into the water in the cot of all things as she did like a good flap about and the fox cot has a lid you can zip over to keep fish calm. She started taking in oxygen as we lowered her into the water and within 30 seconds she realised she didn’t really want to be our friend anymore and before we knew it she was off into the deep to rest and recuperate. Which for a pike probalby means ‘what happened there, now where is dinner’. After thanking Neil for his help in taking pictures and netting the fish as well as a deserved fist bump for us both, it was all over.

Me ? I was sat there, just realising what we had got hold of. We went to catch carp with a chance we may do some piking and ended up with the apex predator in the lake. A great day and just in time for the next brew and a sit down to resume business as usual behind the rods.

Female Pike weighing in at 21lb 5oz