This particular blog is going to be about how you can go and catch big pike from rivers. I’m going to talk through the locations to find them and in particular, a specific rig that we like to use when pike fishing on rivers.

Catching pike on a lure

Tip 1.

When pike fishing on rivers, I really like to start off with a lure the reason I like to lure fish initially is that you can pack very light. When lure fishing, you can literally have a net, rucksack, 1 rod and you can rove the river, cover a lot of ground and fish in lots of different areas. Make one cast to each good-looking area and then keep on the move. This enables you to find where the pike likes to be and you’ll quickly locate areas that potentially don’t hold many fish and other areas that do. Once you’ve found the pike in a certain area of the river, potentially it’s a nice slack or a deep hole where you often get a bite on the lure, you then might want to try and catch something bigger. Now, I’m not saying that lures don’t catch big pike, but in general, we tend to find that we catch smaller, more active and aggressive pike on lures. When you switch over to fishing bait, you catch the bigger, more lazy pike.

Unhooking a pike

Tip 2.

Unhooking a pike can be tricky at first, so we’d suggest going with a friend or another angler who has experience with unhooking them. Alternatively, you can check out the video here so you can learn exactly where to and where not to put your hands:

Makerel deadbait

Tip 3.

When it comes to bait I quite like mackerel, dead bait. That works really well for me, they’re quite tough, they stay on the hooks well and they let out a lot of oils and scents into the water, which I’m sure attracts the pike. Another good alternative, particularly if your local river is full of roach, then give a roach a try. Quite a lot of anglers that we know use roach on our local river and do quite well on that, Alternatively in your local tackle shop you’ll see lampreys, smelt, sprouts, all sorts. Those smaller baits have worked very well for me in the past, particularly if I fish them off the bottom, so they sort of wobble in the flow. If you’re going to be using live baits, then just make sure you follow your local rules and regulations.

Pike float on a lake

Tip 4.

On a Lake, you can use your float and suspend your bait directly underneath it, with no weight or any complications. You can chuck that out and it sits where you cast it, a little bit of drift might pull it off course and it might drift it around the lake, but on a river it’s very different.


Paternoster rig

Tip 5.

If you want to keep you bait anchored in one particular area, you’re going to have to use something called a Paternoster rig. The patternoster rig includes your float up on the surface and a weight down on the bottom, this is normally a 1 to 3 or 4 ounce lead, depending on how much flow there is. It basically means that you can set your dead or live bait at any depth within the water column and you can anchor it on the bottom and the flow won’t wash it downstream. 

30lb braid for a pike rig

Step 1.

Firstly, you’ll need some mainline for pike, I like to use 30lb braid as a minimum. This is to ensure that you never snap up on a fish and if the hooks get snagged in something on the bottom, you can straighten them out and get your rig back.


Tackle for the paternoster rig

Step 2.

You will also need:

  • A pike float -The bigger and deeper the river, the bigger float you’ll need for it to stay on the surface.
  • Some lead free carp fishing leader material.
  • A couple of standard size eight swivels.
  • A rubber bead.
  • A solid bag tail rubber or large anti-tangle sleeve.
  • Some pike trace material.
  • Two treble hooks – I like to go with size 6.
  • Light line such as 6lb monofilament.
  • A lead – your lead size depends on the depth and pace of the river. You’ll need a lead large enough to hold the bottom.
  • Forceps
  • Scissors
  • Wire cutters
  • And a splicing needle 


Attaching a hook to a trace

Step 3.

The first thing you’ll need to do is make a trace. Cut off around 40 centimetres of wire trace material and attach your first hook by passing the end of the trace material through the hook eye twice. 


Twisting forceps around a trace

Step 4.

Clip on your forceps to the tag end and spin them around the wire, providing you twist it tightly. This will hold stronger than any knot or crimp and only requires the forceps that you have for pike fishing anyway, then trim the tag end.


Putting a second hook onto a trace

Step 5.

Take your second hook and pass this onto the trace. Set the hooks apart so they will match up to the size of your bait. Then wrap the wire around the hook six or seven times before passing it back through the hook eye and pulling tight. 


Debarbing a hook

Tip 6.

I like to debarb most of my hooks just leaving one barbed hook so that the bait doesn’t fall off so easily. Having fewer barbed hooks makes unhooking so much easier and stops the hooks from getting caught up in your net so easily. 



Sliding on a solid tail rubber

Step 6.

Slide on the anti-tangle sleeve or the solid bag tail rubber. The reason I like the solid bag tail rubber is that they’re very stiff and they kick the trace away from the main line


Attaching a swivel onto a wire trace

Step 7.

At the end of the trace, attach the swivel in the same way you attached the first hook and trim the tag end.


Splicing a loop for a paternoster rig

Step 8.

Take off 60cm or so of lead free leader material and use your splicing needle to create a loop in one end. We have a full video about how to splice leader material in case you want to learn this in more detail:


Splicing a swivel

Step 9.

On the other end of the leader begin to create a loop, but slip on the trace swivel and attach it to the leader. Now you should have your trace with a leader above it.


Sliding on a rubber bead

Step 10.

Slide down a rubber bead onto the leader so it sits up against the swivel. 


half blood knot onto a lead

Step 11.

Next, take a length of lighter line and tie the end to your lead, for this we use a half blood knot.


Tying a swivel onto your weak link

Step 12.

At the other end of this length of line, tie on a swivel using the same knot previously, this will be your weak link.


Passing swivel over your leader

Step 13.

Take the swivel and pass it over your leader, your setup should look like this.


Paternoster float

Step 14.

Pass a float stop onto your mainline. Followed by your float and another float stop.


Half blood knot onto your mainline

Step 15.

Finally tie your mainline to the top loop of your leader you tied earlier, for this I use a half-blood knot.


Half blood knot onto your mainline

Step 16.

Finally tie your mainline to the top loop of your leader you tied earlier, for this I use a half-blood knot. Make sure you check all your knots are tied correctly and won’t come loose and your rig is complete.


Paternoster rig

Tip 7.

The line between the lead and float should be relatively tight and therefore the trace should kick out to the side, the lead will hold bottom enabling you to fish static. The leader material ensures a pike can’t take the bait and the mainline resulting in biting you off.


Short weaklink

Tip 8.

The length of your weak link dictates how far off the bottom your bait is suspended, if you want your bait to be laying on the bottom then you will just need to use a short weak link.


Long weak link

Tip 9.

If the bottom is really weedy, there’s loads of snags or if you want to use a live bait or small deadbait and fish it mid water, all you need to do is use a longer weak link.


Pike locations

Tip 10.

When it comes to casting your rig out I like to look for relatively deep water, often slack areas in the margins of the river. Pike like to sit in areas where they don’t have to constantly swim against the flow.


Pike bite

Tip 11.

Once you have seen a pike signalled by the float bobbing a little bit, pulling it right under or drifting slowly off into the distance you will want to strike relatively quickly to ensure you get a good hook hold of the fish and it doesn’t swallow your bait.



Catch a biggen.

I hope you can now use the Paternoster rig effectively and go out and catch a monster pike 🙂


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