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what is the best dead bait for pike?

What is The Best Dead Bait for Pike?

When it comes to fishing for pike there aren’t many other tactics that work as well as dead baiting. Dead baiting can often pick out the pike in the colder months when the lures just aren’t working as well. Why chase a meal when you can eat a bite-sized motionless chunk of fishy goodness? 

With the drop in temperatures looming on the horizon, many pike anglers will be readying their dead baiting outfits ready to hit the bank just as soon as the frosts appear. It’s personally one of my favourite times of the year for pike fishing.

best dead bait for pike?

We’re a fan of dead baiting for pike too and often ask ourselves is there a best dead bait for pike? I suspect many of you will have your own favourite either due to previous form or simply down to convenience. 

Below we’ve listed our favourites and the typical deadbaits you can expect to pick up from your local tackle shop and do well on this winter. 

smelt best dead bait for pike
A pack of smelt dead baits from the freezer – allow to thaw and hook on!


This is by far a firm favourite of ours to use, not only is smelt often a good-sized dead bait to use straight from the packet, but they don’t smell as bad as some dead baits and the light skin colour stands out well on most river or lake beds. They are tough meaning they can withstand multiple casts and they take on flavour well too. 


Roach are an excellent dead bait to use for pike. On most waters, roach make a large proportion of a pike’s diet so you’ll be offering them a good food source they’re used to seeing. Roach can be bought at tackle shops or if your water allows, caught on a previous session and used once dead. Of course, you could always catch them and use them as live bait too.

what is the best dead bait for mackerel
A frozen pack of Mackerel with added attraction.


Mackerel are a firm staple in the deadbaiting game. You can get these in a lot of sizes, from the smaller joey mackerel right up to adult mackerel. When using mackerel for dead baiting for pike if we only have larger options to hand we’ll cut them in half. This allows the pike to swallow the dead bait with ease and also allows a higher attraction due to the oily content leak because of the cut. 

Tip 1: When dead baiting for pike whether under a float or ledgering it’s easy to fall into the trap of fishing statically. If you’re experiencing quieter periods try wobbling or jigging the deadbait back one or two times. This can often entice a bite from a wary pike. 

what is the best dead bait for sand eel
Sand Eels – we’d normally cut these in half before we use them.

Sand eels

Don’t let this slender dead bait fool you into thinking it might not be as effective as a mackerel or smelt. There have been some very large pike caught on sections of sand eel in the past and even today they’re used by many pike anglers. These are relatively small dead baits so we think they’re best suited for a twin treble trace with size 8 hooks.


Similar to mackerel in that these are available in a wider variety of sizes too. The smaller jack herrings are great straight from the packet but the larger ones we’d recommend cutting down. Herring are a very oily bait and have good form on use across many waters. 

Tip 2: there’s a huge variety of flavours and additives you can use with dead baits to give them extra attraction. Once the dead baits have slightly thawed you can inject many of these into the body using a syringe kit. Be careful to keep the syringe away from your body. We know from experience how quickly this can end a session! 

Here’s a great video from The Ginger Fisherman exploring how Pike assess and eat a dead bait

In summary

If you’re new to dead baiting our advice would be to try a selection of dead baits and have them with you on your next fishing trip. You’ll soon find a firm favourite and make that a staple in your own dead bait fishing for pike. We like to take a few varieties on the day allowing us to switch up when things just aren’t happening. 

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Steve Evans
Steve Evans

Founder & Chief Editor of Predator Fishing World. Steve has been predator fishing for well over a decade and has amassed a deep knowledge base to share with you.