Sunday, 18 November 2012

Thank You Mr Bettell

Image Above: Pike on a homemade jig head
Image Below Right: Polyurethane jig heads and spinner bait (note the missing point on the last jig)
Image Bottom: Bungee sacrificed in the pursuit of pike 

Blanking once is bad enough but to blank twice in a row is a bit of a confidence breaker and when it’s your own lures on the end of the line, well it doesn’t get any worse. I have a list of familiar doubts for these occasions but with pike I take comfort in the fact that I have only been fishing for this species since February this year a little less than tenth months. My previous pike experience was a couple of fishing trips to a gravel pit about five years ago; even then I was fishing with homemade lures and enjoyed some success.  I still have a lot to learn and winter is proving to be a harder master than I anticipated.  
I suppose things have slowed down and I have still been fishing as if the sun was still cracking the flags. Pike like most fish get a bit lethargic in the cold and without that extra kick of solar energy heating things up chasing down every plug that rattles past them can not only be costly but just plain impossible.  Most of my lures require some speed to create action or in the case of floating/diving lures to dive down to the fish. Slowing things down requires something else; a lure that has action, depth and moves slowly enough to annoy the pike for a little longer. Looking for a bit of inspiration I turned to the late Charlie Bettell’s book entitled, ‘The Art of Lure Fishing’. Amongst the anecdotes and fisherman’s tales he gives some sound advice on using lures that run a little slower and deeper like spoons trailed behind weights, spinner baits and jig heads (my current favourite).
So last night I got the polyurethane resin out again and cast half a dozen jig heads from some recent moulds I had made. Taking Mr Bettell’s advice I knocked up my first spinner bait with a blade cut from a scrap copper fire surround. To dress the jigs I got the feathers and flash out, added some brass jingle bells (nearly Christmas) before butchering a bungee elastic to make rubber skirts. Finishing touches came by way of my sister who is helping to sort out a friend’s fashion design studio by getting rid of off-cuts. I managed to retrieve to pieces of stretchy fabric one with a glow in the dark coating and another with fine silver scales, these had come from an outfit she made for a guest on ‘Top Of The Pops’ ; a television program I watched almost religiously until its demise.

It was a cold start at the lake but the spinner bait was a revelation the blade turned even on the slowest of retrieves and as it pulsed the feathered tail gave a mesmeric wiggle. Following Mr Bettell’s instruction I bounced it off the bottom and as if by magic its design kept it almost snag free. I worked the lake but nothing was in the mood and not having  brought my wellingtons I didn't fancy dampening my feet to get over to the island and the sunlit shallows to see if anything had come to warm up. I went through all my jig heads giving each a try and retrieving them in slow bounces until I had an almost mental picture of the bottom of the lake. Finally I pulled out my bungee corded friend and sent it across the lake. Within a few casts I had hooked a jack and despite the cold it set off at a pace for a patch of shallow water a little further down the lake.  I was just about to jump into the shallows when I remembered my lack of boots and quickly walked the fish to a place I where the bank was low enough for me to unhook it while it was still in the water.  As if to pour scorn on my lethargic pike theory it bolted like a torpedo.

I moved further up the lake and within five minutes was into something a little larger that set my drag ticking like a bomb. On my knees at the bank I reached down to turn the hook again and release the fish without lifting her but the barb wasn't going to come back through so  I got the snips out closed my eyes and let the point and barb ping over my head. I felt a momentary pang of disappointment realising that was the end of my jig but feeling the pike surge out from my gentle tail pulls more than made up for it. 


  1. Ian in Australia here. Glad I found your blog (from WelshBassGuide on Twitter) - I had a couple of trips with Charlie in 2007/8 I think they were, what a great time he is sorely missed @iansjamieson

    1. You are a lucky man, I have only recently read his book and then found out he is no longer with us. But what a life doing what you love and sharing it with others.

      Cheers Paul