Float Fishing for Pike: The Setup and How to Get Going

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The Pike is quite an incredible creature. It can grow to extraordinary proportions, its markings are intricate, and its fierce appearance makes it a rather intriguing species. So, there’s no wonder that the Pike is a very popular quarry for many anglers. We can employ various methods and tactics to capture this toothy predator. Still, in this article, we’re going to focus closely on float fishing for Pike, including the setup and everything you need to venture out onto the bank in pursuit of this fantastic fish.

Float fishing is a popular technique used to catch many different fish species and involves using a buoyant indicator placed on the line and above the baited hooks. The float will move or completely submerge under the water’s surface when a fish picks up the bait.

Why Float Fishing for Pike Is So Effective

Float fishing for Pike is particularly effective because using the rigs described below, you have the option to fish on the bottom, shallow up or even let the float drift, therefore searching out fish as it moves across the water. This range isn’t possible with most other methods, such as ledgering.

An overcast but mild winter’s day. Ideal conditions to target Pike.

Float Fishing Conditions for Pike

An overcast day in the cooler months would be the perfect weather condition to fish for Pike. Many anglers will target them from late Autumn through the end of winter; indeed, fishing for them through the summer months in the UK is often met with controversy. Pike do not like being on the bank in warm conditions, and it’s often felt that deep hooking is more likely to occur in summer, as the fish are more active and ravenous. So, a mild, overcast winters day would be perfect for a bit of Pike fishing.

Best Locations to Float Fish for Pike

As mentioned, you’ll find Pike almost everywhere and float fishing for Pike will work effectively on lakes, reservoirs, rivers and canals. It’s a rig that lends itself very well to searching out fish.

Moving the float rigs around every 45 mins is a great way to help locate fish, and drifting will carry the bait around until you encounter them.

Pike Float Setup

The Rod

A reasonably stiff 12ft rod would be ideal for this style of fishing. A carp rod with a 2.75 test curve or above would also be fine. You can even invest in dedicated dead bait rods like these Snapper Cult Deadbait rods by Korum. These are 12ft and have a 3.25lb test curve.

A strong rod is recommended, not because of the size of the Pike, but because you’ll be trying to cast out large, heavy dead baits, and you’ll need a rod that can cope with this.

A strong rod is recommended, as this will assist with casting out large, heavy dead baits.

The Reel and Mainline

Again, to assist with casting, I recommend at least a 4000-size reel, like this Zelos Mini Pit 6000. The large spool will help, should you want to cast at range. Load this with a strong braid as opposed to monofilament. A strong mainline will help you cast and set hooks at range, as there is zero stretch in the braid.

Using a 55lb braid might sound excessive; however, this will allow you to straighten out the treble hooks should you get snagged up on something. The last thing we want to do is leave baited hooks out in the lake, so a strong braid is a precaution to avoid this.

String 55lb+ b/s braid will straighten out the treble hooks should you get snagged up.

My Simple Float Fishing Rig for Pike – Step by Step Guide

Step 1: Thread on the float

There’s are a whole range of floats available to pike anglers. A good option is an inline float that lets the line pass through the centre. You can adjust the float size depending on casting range, but I find a 15 – 20g works best. This size is the perfect float for fishing large dead baits slightly over depth, offering enhanced sensitivity and early bite indication. Thread the mainline through the top of the float, and it will appear out of the bottom.

Snapper 15g inline floats, a very visual float to assist with bite indication.

Step 2: Add a quick-change weight

Add a weight; this is required to help with casting and balancing the float. Interchangeable inline weights work well as they enable you to change weights quickly and easily without tackling down. These are available in 15g, 20g and 40g, making them the perfect option to balance with the floats recommended above.

Quick change weights used in conjunction with the float.

Step 3: Use a large bead

Thread on a large 8mm hard bead. The bead will protect your knot from being damaged by the weight.

A simple 8mm hard bead to protect the knots.

Step 4: Tie on the wire trace

I suggest using a twin treble trace, size 6 or 8, with at least 28lb breaking strain and 60cm in length. Fishing two trebles is an excellent option for securing the bait, especially when fishing slightly over depth.

A size 6 Twin Treble Trace to secure the bait.

Step 5: Add a Stop knot above the float

Finally, you need to add a stop knot above the float; for this, I use Powergum. This type of knot can slide up and down the mainline, so adjusting the position will allow you to vary the depth at which you present the bait.

If you want to fish slightly over depth with the bait on the bottom, perform a series of casts, moving the stop knot away from the float until the float is half-cocked in the water. At this point, you know that you’re fishing slightly over-depth.

Setting the rod

Place the rod in the rests. It’s essential to open the bail arm on the reel. Pike are very sensitive to resistance, so avoid engaging bait runners or similar reel styles. It is best to open the bail arm. Many rods come with line clips to avoid line spilling all over the floor. Lightly clip the braided mainline into the line clip. Sit back, observe the float and be patient.

Always open the bail arm on the reel. Pike will often drop the bait should they feel resistance.

Drifting the Float Rig

Drifting the float can sometimes help locate fish. Firstly, it’s best to swap the float for a specifically designed float with veins. This float style will help catch the wind and facilitate the drift.

Obviously, you need to bring the bait off the bottom; to do so, simply bring the stop knot closer to the float. This adjustment will result in you fishing shallower. Finally, switch to a trace with just a single treble hook as an option. Place the single treble hook through the dorsal fin area of the dead bait. Positioning the hooks in this way will set the dead bait in a more natural, horizontal position.

Fox Rage Predator Float catch the wind to slowly drift baits off the bottom

Now it’s time to cast out the rig. You should now notice that it’s drifting across the water in front of you. You can, of course, regularly recast and move the stop knot up and down the mainline as you go to explore various depths of water.

The usual baits work well when float fishing for pike, both coarse and sea dead baits. If you decide to use sea fish, popular baits include Smelt, Sardines, Herring and Mackerel.

The smelt is a very popular choice of dead bait for Pike

I have found that when Pike are not responding to these recommended sea baits, choosing a more natural coarse fish as a dead bait can bring results. In this scenario, I recommend using Roach.

A roach is hooked, ensuring the hook points are facing away from the head of the dead bait

Simply place the bottom treble hook through the rear of the head, making sure the hook points face in the direction shown. The other treble hook can be placed either in the wrist of the tail or the flank, depending on the size of your deadbait. The hooks must face in this direction, as once in their mouth, Pike will turn the bait to digest the head first.

Other Things You’ll Need

Fish care is critical when it comes to Pike fishing. Although they look pretty ferocious, they are, in fact, quite delicate. So, you must be prepared to deal with the Pike once you’ve landed your prize.

Essential fish care items you’ll need:

  • A large landing net, at least 40′ net. Below is a specifically designed Pike Spoon net.
  • Large unhooking mat
  • Long nose forceps
  • Pliers and wire cutters

If you are new to Pike fishing, consider fishing with someone who already has experience handling them.

Make sure you have the right items of tackle to deal with Pike before you go fishing for them


Pike are such a fantastic fish to catch, and fishing with dead baits under a float effectively targets these fish. Be sure to move the rigs outlined in this article around the swim regularly, and certainly try drifting baits to help locate those fish. Prepare to look after these fish with the appropriate fish care equipment and enjoy your fishing.