If something is too big it won’t fit and likewise if it’s too small it won’t perform to its full capacity.
Vauxhall Vectra’s don’t win off-road rallies and you don’t buy forty foot artic’s as the family run-around. All things are designed with a purpose. Similarly, some fishing rods are six feet long and others can be fifteen feet, some reels hold 100yds (excuse-moi, Senor, I meant metres!) of line but aren’t much kop for sailfishing. Try trotting down a river and landing a dace with a deep-sea multiplier and you will experience dissimilar difficulties.
To put it simply, size does matter; it matters a lot.
One instance of this happened to me at a time I was pursuing my first love (no, not Myrtle Slackbottom!!) the pike.
A new syndicate was being formed, limited to fifty members, starting on the 1st. October on a new water that reputedly held some monster green backs. I booked a week off work with the intention of giving it a good hammering whilst the big girls were still naďve to wire and leads. One rule was ‘no live baiting’ due to the far bank being a footpath open to the public, ramblers, rapists and others who might be offended by the sight of an ‘ickle’ fish being speared with treble hooks.
A week is a long time to deploy a roving approach with plugs and spinners, especially with my lungs. Deadbaits seemed the obvious selection. With confidence being so paramount in my fishing it just had to be smelts. They epitomise the perfect pike bait to me; the size, shape, smell and castability of them put them head and shoulders above any other deadbait. Despite this build up I still rate them a poor second to anything that is still moving, except at night, but night-piking is another article on its own.
I managed to get a supply of the biggest fresh smelt I have ever come across. Armed with a bag full of these babies I set forth with eager anticipation. I set about an approach of seven days fishing rather than a weeks, a subtle difference but one that works for me.
After day four and not even a run to show for my efforts, disillusionment was starting to creep in; sure, no one else had caught either but I mean, four days…! That evening when the missus turned up with the obligatory kebab and pointed out I was humming worse than the smelt I thought she may be right and asked her to get me some more fresh bait!
Day five resulted in the usual inactivity, either someone was lying about this lake or all the pike were vegetarian.
It was not the bait I knew, as all manner of sprat, mackerel and dead freshwater fish were cast around me to similar discontent.
I thought it maybe a preoccupation with live fish available maybe the cause - until an afternoon spent blanking with a maggot discounted this theory.
That evenings ‘kebab run’ coincided with the wife turning up in a short skirt asking why I didn’t give it a rest for the night. Bloody women; they just don’t understand, do they?
It was only when I looked at the new baits did I momentarily consider a warm bed, all the smelt she had bought were miniscule, an inch and a half at best (pardon Françoise – 38mm). My confidence plummeted lower than a submarines toilet. It was only my annoyance at the paltry smelt (and no chilli sauce on the doner) that made me stay. I’d have been grumpy at home and in no mood to respond to her sexual advances, blanking in the bitterness seemed to be the coward's way out.
This is where the ‘size matters’ equation comes into play, I slung out the tiny bait, pissed off, cold, tired and confidence free and laid back on my bed-chair for another undisturbed nights sleep. My eyes had barely got heavy before the optonic let out a couple of short bursts; unusual for a deadbait I thought…
It was about a quarter to ten and had been dark and still and eerie for some hours, the full moon illuminating the lakes calm surface, making conditions as uninspiring as they could be. Suddenly a huge swirl erupted over my bait, I opted for a quick strike bearing in mind the size of my smelt; but absolutely nothing. First chance of the week and I’d fluffed it, I reeled in and looked at the bare hooks, cursing my over excitement. All the usual questions of ‘why didn’t I wait’ and ‘how big was that swirl’ played through my mind as I impaled another petite little offering; how did these ever get caught up in a net, were trawler men now using micromesh?
I recast to the same spot and tried to take up the slack line but there wasn’t any! In fact the line was very tight and being pulled through my thumb and forefinger quite doggedly, the bait must have been taken quite literally ‘on the drop’. I’ve said before that I don’t believe in any kind of God but for a brief second I looked up and shouted ‘thank-you!’ - weird eh!
The strike resulted in a satisfying thud, followed by an amazing scrap of some twenty minutes in the top 150mms (got it now Herr Champeau!) of water. With the netting going as smoothly as a pint of John Smiths, I looked down at my prize; it looked BIG.
Lifting the net clear I thought it felt light; the weighing resulted in a pike of 19lbs. 3ozs. The measuring resulted in a fish of forty-two inches (I don’t know the metric for that one) but I know I had caught fatter eels! Normally it should have been mid-twenties, spawned up it was a good thirty but here it weighed nineteen pounds.
I began to realize why I had blanked with a maggot; food fish at this lake were scarce. The following morning at around seven the bite alarm burst into life again, this time sixteen and a half pounds of anorexic toothy fighter, a little ‘jack’ followed at eleven that morning before a seventeen-pounder graced the net later in the evening.
Over fifty pounds of pike in twenty-four hours left me a happy man as I headed for home ready to face the real world again. I left my remaining infantile smelt with a friend who was still fishless, he ‘phoned me later on to tell me he had a brace of eighteen-pounders that evening.
Because of the confidence angle to my angling subsequent trips left me fishing 12" and 1" baits (you can piss off now Brussels) side by side; guess what bait the pike took?
Whatever your wife says, size matters believe me!