The Tackle Shop

About Lucebaits Pikebaits. - 06-01-2009

It takes some effort to think back to where all this started. It must have been those first smelt given to me by a Norfolk man in 1966. From that day onward I was always on the lookout for smelt. A contact in St Helens got me some in the early1980s, enough for myself and a few Tackle Shop customers. Then came the chance meeting with a professional fisherman in about 1982. That changed everything and for 20 years during the spring I drove 148 miles each way each day for a month collecting as many as 50 stone of smelt to bring back here and freeze for the following winter. Things are different now and the volumes of fish dealt with are much greater. At one time I may have as many as 25 pallets of frozen fish in a cold store as well as a cold store full of fish of my own.

The fish I sell are sourced mainly from the UK with sometimes fish from Holland and Spain. My aim is to provide fresh baits at the right size and price. No fish are plundered from waters UK angler’s fish! I thought I ought to make that plain and I’m always willing wherever possible to reveal the sources of my bait provided it does not compromise my business. Here’s some information on the baits we sell and how to look after them.

SMELT
Most of those we sell are UK caught which means they tend to come in April. If you want Super Smelt, best to buy in May! Bulk smelt usually last until September before we are sold out. (this season was a poor one so it is unlikely they will last long into September) Without doubt a great pike bait, but in recent years I have done well with alternatives such as lamprey and pollan.

RAINBOW TROUT
Obviously these are farmed fish. We try and make sure that they are not fed prior to killing. In this way the baits are firmer and less likely to split. We sell fish of mainly 6 to 7 inches, but do from time to time have bigger baits.

BLUEYS
Now what are these I hear you ask, well they come from the Pacific and are a relative of the garfish. About 11 inches long they are blue/silver in colour. They are tough and oily and are now an established bait. I’ve had pike to 28 on the mini blueys which are about 7 to 8 inches long.

BROWN TROUT
Most of the ones we sell are wild rather than cultivated. They tend to be around 4oz a piece which is a nice casting bait. Tough as old boots these brownies make great trolling baits. Cultivated trout are smaller and though we have them in stock as I write they sometimes run out.

SMALL MACKEREL
These are 7 to 8 inch jobs which are industrially fished on a quota system. They are nice and fresh, but sometimes the mechanical methods used to process the fish can damage the bait. We try and ensure that damaged fish do not get into our packaging. 30 per pack

MACKEREL
8 to 9 inch not too big for a whole bait. 30 per pack.

MACKEREL
These are 9 to 12 inch, the sort you use the heads and tails of for two separate baits. Some people use them whole, I don’t!!! 25 in pack

HALF MACKEREL
For some reason lots of customer like the tail half of mackerel for bait. I admit that a tail is a great casting bait, but heads are good as well. Never mind I am only here to serve!

SMALL HERRING
Years ago all you seem to be able to get were whopping great big Norwegian herrings. These days we have plenty of small herring. We do three sizes, small are 8 to 9 inches while mini are around 6 inches. XL herrings are the biggest we sort from all the others, we try to make sure they are 10 inch plus. All are UK caught, nice and silver and firm.

SPRATS
Not many serious pike anglers use them these days, but they will catch good pike it is a constant struggle to get decent sized sprats. Ours come from down south or Scotland

SARDINES
All these come from Portugal or the UK and size wise they vary. Some are monsters, 7 inch plus, others are smaller. A simple, but highly effective bait with lots of juices and oil.

COARSE FISH
Mostly these will be roach though we do keep some perch in stock. Bream are something we come across from time to time. Just once in a blue moon we get jack pike, but usually sell those instantly!

EELS
The eels we sell are a by product of the eel processing industry. They are the ones that die before they can be exported alive. Because of this they are not being fished for bait. They would be disposed of otherwise if we did not use them. We try to avoid selling eels over a pound but if they are delivered to us bigger we still have to sell them!

LAMPREY
All the ones we sell are legally caught and not obtained by nets men who would net stocks to death and then worry about it later. Lamprey are probably my number one bait at the moment particularly on running waters. The scent trail they give out must enable a pike to home in double quick. All ours are vac packed just after the poor things have expired. In this way none of the blood is lost. Lamprey that have been dead a day start to bleed and lots of the blood is washed off.

SANDEELS
We try and keep in stock the best Cornish sandeel. These are 6 to 7 inches in length. They are great pike baits even though there’s not much to them. We usually have Snake Lance which are real whoppers.

HORSE MACKEREL
A cheap and cheerful bait, though low you could be cheerful in a freezer escapes me……… Usually about 7 to 8 inch.

POLLAN
These whitefish smell differently from other baits though I can never put my finger on what exactly they smell of! Loose packed fish float so no need to pop baits up. A lot of people swear by them these days and I use them as an alternative to smelt.

BAIT CARE
Firstly things not to worry about. We sell our mackerel, sardines and pollan loose usually glazed to protect them Sometimes you’ll get a bit of freezer burn. This disappears once in the water. All it is, is the part of the bait affected is rehydrating. Loose packed bait should be used within 3 months unless you individually wrap them. Vac packed baits last for a couple of years provided the vacuum isn’t broken. Your domestic freezer should be set as low as possible. One of mine operates at minus 24C. Baits keep better at lower temperatures. A freezer running at only minus 12C will see loose packed baits deteriorate quite quickly.

Taking baits to the water requires a small cool box. In this way you keep your baits frozen. I put my baits on the hooks while still frozen, my only concession being to get them out of the box ten minutes before I start fishing. In this way your hooks can be worked into the bait without bending or breaking your hooks.

Finally the Advert! The pike anglers who use my baits include, Matt Hayes, Eddie Turner, Nige Williams, Dave Kelbrick, Alastair Rawlings, Graham Slater and Jason Davis. Thousands of other pike anglers also use them and while I cannot guarantee that you’ll catch anything at all on them, the fact that serious pike anglers choose them ought to offer some encouragement.

Neville Fickling

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