On waters that allow multiple rods it is wise to start by deploying a mix of combinations e.g. Float fish with a live Roach on one rod whilst ledger fishing with a dead bait on another.

Regardless of the method used, it stands to reason that unless you locate the fish you will not catch no matter what you do. This is one area where the roving lure angler has an advantage. There can be a tendency when coarse fishing to take a large amount of tackle. This habit can easily be transferred to the predator fisherman when live & dead baiting from the bank but should be avoided unless you are absolutely certain that fish will be a particular spot.

By travelling light when bank fishing you will be able to cover more water and hence increase the chances of success. Take an approach whereby you spend no more than 30-60 minutes without catching in a spot. If no luck after this time then a move may be required. It does not necessarily have to be far and even 50 meters or so can reap rewards. A common approach on a river is to leap frog the rods up or down the bank every 30 minutes. This way you constantly have baits in the water and are able to cover large spans of water during the day.

Perch, Pike and Zander can and are caught throughout the day and in large numbers. Early dawn and late dusk hours are often best for many fish species and are no exception here either. Fishing in the late evening and into dark can produce good sport. Zander fishing at dusk and during the early night can be especially productive and more often than not, this is the time that they will actively feed. This is especially true if the day is bright with the Sun high in the sky.

Other Species

Whilst live and dead baiting when targeting Pike, Perch & Zander it is possible that other species will pick up the bait. Europe's waters are home to other predatory fish including Atlantic Salmon, land locked Salmon, Trout, Char, Catfish and many others. All of these prey naturally on fish so it stands to reason that will will be caught from time to time by the angler targeting other species. 

There has been many a Trout and Chub that has fallen to the fish bait served up by the Pike, Zander or Perch angler over the years. This adds to the days sport and can be a welcome catch when the targeted species is not feeding.

In countries such as the England, Scotland and Ireland it was believed for many years that the only effective methods for catching large Pike and Zander was to use live or dead baiting tactics. This has changed over the years with the rise in popularity of lure fishing and methods such as jerk baits, jigging & drop-shotting. This rise in popularity of lure fishing in the UK has partly been due to restrictions on some of the Trout reservoirs that have opened their doors to Pike, Perch and Zander anglers and perhaps also partly due to technology whereby internet access has brought a whole host of web-sites videos, and on-line publications to our living rooms. This has shown first hand the effectiveness of lure fishing from countries where it has been the main approach for decades such as the USA and Scandinavia.

Despite this there are still thousands of anglers in the UK, Germany, Holland and other European countries that will opt for float fishing a live Roach or ledger fished dead Herring over any other method and their results are proof if any are needed that the approach should not be ignored by any means.

Many an angler is happy to spend hours sat watching a Pike float drift down the river from the back of a boat, or relax in the chair sat on the bank waiting to hear the sound of the bite alarm develop from a short blip to a full blown screaming run.

The techniques and bait used for bait fishing vary for each species and here we will cover the main points and differences in this article. It is worth noting that whilst some techniques have been developed for a specific purpose such as fishing with a drift float for Pike, they can also be adapted for other species. You won't catch too many Perch whilst drifting a 6oz Mackerel under an ET or Fox drifter float but a scaled down version made in garage used with a 1oz Roach or small Dace has caught many a good Perch over the years.


There is no real way of knowing if on any given day whether live or dead baits will score more than the other. Similarly the same can be said for the choice of float or ledger fishing. Over time on a particular water at a particular time of year, patterns will emerge that can be noted and used in future but for the travelling angler this is not possible. As a general rule of thumb in warmer weather live baits will often outscore dead baits but on occasions, especially with Pike the bigger specimens will often succumb more to a dead bait.

Live baiting

As the name suggests, live baiting involves the use of a live fish to target the predator. In many countries there are restrictions on the use of live bait and it is actually banned in some. Live baiting in Scandinavia on the Baltic Sea, lakes and many rivers is allowed. There are restrictions on Scandinavian Salmon & Sea Trout rivers regarding the use of live baits which can vary from a total ban to restrictions in certain areas. Typically it is prohibited to use live or dead-baits in the areas of rapid water and this should be checked in advance. The movement of live fish from one water to another should be avoided as not only will it end you up on the wrong side of the law, but there is also a risk of spreading disease inadvertently.

Pike, Perch and Zander will all readily take a well presented live Roach, Dace or Bleak. Scandiavian lakes are full of Whitefish and Vendace which would also catch the predators if used. Both the Whitefish and Vendace will take a small dry fly on a summers evening which can make for a fun day's sport in it's own right.

Dead baiting

Dead baiting is also an effective method for all three species. A static dead bait may not catch as many fish as a roving live bait but it does have a habit of throwing up bigger fish. This is by no means a guarantee but the method should not be ignored. Dead baiting also provides convenience as the bait can be picked up from the super market and frozen for later use as needed. The baits can be the same as those used for live baiting but in addition more exotic offerings can be utilized. Most super markets across Europe will have fresh fish from that region and some occasionally will stock sea fish imported from elsewhere. Sea fish including Smelt, Herring, Mackerel and Sardines all make excellent Pike dead baits.

Whilst Zander and Perch will at times both eat a well presented sea bait, both will be more inclined to take a fresh water fish native to the water being fished. As a rule of thumb with dead-baits for these species, the fresher the better should be remembered. 

Additive fish oils & colours can be used to provide extra scent and attraction if required. These will be hard to find in some countries can can be purchased on-line from fishing tackle stores in the UK or Germany.

Pike Fishing on Finland

Smelt are an effective bait for Pike and can be caught or purchased from many European countries.

The  float is an 18 gram slim line sliding float set at depth with a stop knot.

The trace is a fox semi-barbless size 6 with two treble hooks.

Pike Fishing in Finland

Live & dead baiting for Pike, Perch & Zander


Tackle & Bait

When live and dead bait fishing the size of the tackle and bait is typically selected based on the quarry. When targeting Perch a bait of a few centimeters up to the size of a small Dace or Bleak is ideal. As the Perch does not grow to large sizes (2kg would be an exception Perch) the tackle used does not need to be especially strong. A 10 foot Avon type rod with a test curve of 1.5lb equipped with a fixed spool reel loaded with nylon of 2-3 Kg is ideal. A longer rod up to 12 or 13 foot will provide greater control and quicker setting of the hooks on the strike if fishing at distance. Floats should be big enough to support the weight of the bait so that it is not being constantly pulled under but should be no more than this or bite detection will be difficult.

Hooks for Perch Fishing can be either a single or small treble (size 10) hooked into the fishes back in the area of the dorsal fin. If ledger fishing at distance for Perch I will often mount the dead bait with the hook in the root of the tail as it can give a firmer hold or in the mouth if planning to twitch a dead bait through the water.

When live and dead baiting for Pike, the tackle should be beefed up accordingly to ensure that the fish is actually landed and hopefully released unharmed. Rod lengths are similar to those used for Perch fishing but the test curve of the rod is higher. When fishing for Pike using live & dead bait fishing a rod with test curves in the range of 2.0 – 3.5lb is usually required.

The Greys Prowla Predator range of Pike rods are an excellent rod of choice for all forms of live and dead bait fishing. Built from high quality rod blanks with excellent reel fittings and rod rings, they have become popular throughout the world and are a rod many would not hesitate to recommend. Similar rods are also available from quality fishing tackle companies including Fox, Wychwood, Drennan, DAM and Shimano.

The rods are matched with a fixed spool reel capable of holding a minimum of 300 meters nylon at 7.5 kg breaking strain. If using braid the breaking strain can be increased due to it's lower diameter. Braid gives the advantage of being able to load more line on the reel but also being able to apply higher pressure to stop a large Pike from getting into a snag without the fear of the braid breaking.

Bait-runner reels are ideal for Pike Fishing, which can be fished together with either a rear drop-off bite alarm such as the Fox Pike Swinger or with a front audible alarm and drop off indicator. The bait-runner drag can be set to be almost non-resistant and instantly returned to the pre-set drag when a fish takes the bait at the flick of the switch. Bait-runners such as the Shimano 6000-10000 series serve the needs well and are perhaps the best available.

Hooks used for Pike are snap tackle arrangements with trebles either barbed or semi-barbed in sizes 8 or 6 mounted on to wire traces. If using bigger baits, a step up in hooks size maybe required but it is rare that you would need to go bigger than a size 4 treble hook.

A wire trace is not necessary for Perch fishing but as many European waters contain Pike it is highly recommended to prevent bite-offs.

A single hook arrangement on a wire trace is ideal for Perch and Zander. The bait can be either whole small fish or chopped fish to suit the size of the prey you are after. Despite it's size, the mouth of a Zander is smaller than a Pike and hence a smaller bait is more suitable.

When live and dead baiting for Zander, the tackle would fall in between that used for Perch and Pike fishing. It is of course down to the angler and for sure it is possible to catch Zander on either Perch or Pike tackle. Zander are not the strongest fighting fish and even though can grow large in Europe, a 3.5lb test curve rod is overkill in most Zander fishing situations.

Unhooking tools for Pike

To avoid damage to the fish, the angler should be equipped with the right set of tools to ensure the hooks can be removed quickly and safely. This tool-set consists of long forceps and / or long nose pliers plus a strong set of wire snips to cut the hooks if needed.

For the beginner the prospect of removing hooks from what looks like a snarling toothy monster Pike can be a scary prospect. In reality the Pike regardless of size is not actually looking at your fingers as a potential food source but just wants to get back to it's home as quick as possible. By remaining calm and being confident in your actions, this can be achieved without fuss in most circumstances.

The use of an unhooking mat to protect the fish has become common practice in some countries over recent years. This practice has spread from the Carp fishing scene whereby Carp are stocked and caught repeatedly over their life spans from commercial fisheries. In some European countries Pike, Perch or Zander are rarely caught more than once in their life-time as they end up on the table. Due to this you are not likely to find unhooking mats on sale in many the fishing tackle shops but a self made version can be easily knocked up if required.