How to Make a Wire Trace for Pike Fishing
There are two main, commonly practised methods of making wire traces for pike fishing. The first is a method called “twisting” or “twiddling“. Whilst some anglers swear by this technique, I find it to be unnecessarily fiddly, untidy and unreliable. The other common method is called “crimping“, which is the method I shall describe here. Whilst no hooklength can ever be 100% reliable, I have refined my crimping techniques over the years and nowadays it is very, very rare that one of my home-made pike traces lets me down.
Remember, if you’re unsure about tying your own traces, or you don’t have the time or patience, many of the big manufacturers sell ready-tied traces which are good value. The bonus with making your own is that you can customise them to suit your bait size, hook size, rigs, conditions, etc. Plus, if one of your traces becomes unusable through kinking or other damage, you can re-use expensive components such as hooks and swivels. Remember – whether you buy traces or make your own, never fish with a damaged wire trace. A kinked trace will snap under far less pressure than a perfect trace will. Always carry spares ready-tied in a rig bin, and if you run out of good-conditioned traces, go home. This is for the safety of the pike, which must always be a pikers number one priority.
Okay, lecture over! Now let me explain a little about the equipment you’ll need. There are a couple of specialist tools which aren’t 100% necessary to make a trace, but I would strongly recommend you buy them because they will not only make your trace construction easier, they will also result in better quality traces which are stronger and neater. The tools I refer to are trace blades and crimping pliers. I have tried different brands of both tools, and by a long, long way, the best tools on the market are made by Fox. They are designed specifically for making pike traces, they do the job well and are simply better designed and better made than any other brands I have seen.
Besides these tools, you’ll need your trace materials, which consist of: wire, crimps, hooks, swivels, trace bin, silicone tail-cone rubbers & silicone tubing (both optional) and a cigarette lighter.
Wire: The brand of trace wire I prefer is Drennan Soft Strand. It is a fine multi-strand wire which is extremely soft and supple. I use the 28lb breaking strain, which is the heaviest breaking strain Drennan make. There are other similar wires on the market from different manufacturers, such as Fox, but most spools contain only 5 metres of wire, compared to Drennan’s more generous 10 metres. Despite getting twice as many traces out of a spool of Drennan wire, it is no more expensive than other brands and just as good! This fact alone makes Drennan my choice every time. I also use small pieces of Drennan 7 Strand for holding on the second hook, which I will come to later.
Crimps: I use crimps made by QED, available via Harris Sportsmail. These have been reliable for me since I started using them 4 years ago. They are available in several different bore sizes and can be bought in bulk packs. Go for the copper-type crimps, rather than the harder, chromed crimps, which can be unreliable and difficult to crimp. Other crimps to consider are Drennan Slim Crimps, which are designed to fit their range of wires. You’ll need 2 sizes of crimp to make a trace my way – two smaller bore and one larger bore (I generally use 2 x 0.8 mm and 1 x 1mm or 2 x 1 mm and 1 x 1.2 mm).
Hooks: Always use the best quality trebles you can afford. Pike have very bony mouths, so hooks need to be very strong and need to stay sharp. Avoid the fine-wired versions made by Kamasan and Drennan, as from my own experience, they will let you down. A really great budget treble is made by Gamakatsu. Expect to pay around £2.50 for a packet of ten. My first choice however, would have to be the Owner ST36 pike treble, available in red or black finish. If you can’t find semi-barbless trebles, make sure that you crush the barbs on two points of every treble you use. The one remaining barb is kept simply to help keep the bait on your hook.
Swivels: There are many good quality swivels out there, and brands I’ve used with no complaints are Fox, Berkeley, Nash, Stonze, Gardner and Korda.
Silicone Tubing: As a personal preference, I like to cover all of my crimps with a short length of dull green or brown, 2 mm diameter silicone tubing. This has two main purposes: Anti-tangle and camouflage. The mainline can occasionally get caught on the trace crimps, especially when using braid, causing tangles or breakages. Crimps can also be quite reflective, so the use of a silicone sleeve cures both of these inconveniences.
Tail-cone rubbers: These are small, conical rubbers which carp anglers use for attaching silicone tubing to in-line leads. I put one of these over the crimp that holds on my swivel, then push it right onto the swivel eye. Besides helping minimise tangles, this gives me something soft to bite onto when I am unhooking a pike. It allows me to use both hands to handle the pike and forceps, whilst keeping tension on the trace with my mouth. With practice, this method speeds up unhooking of pike like you wouldn’t believe! I purchase all of my tail cone rubbers from an online store called Frank’s Leads.
Trace Bin: Whether you buy one or make one with some pipe cladding, a comb and a tub; these are invaluable items for safely storing your traces ready for use.
Okay, so let’s get started with making the trace…
First, take a length of your chosen wire trace material. Aim for a length of between 24 and 36 inches. Find the spot you wish to cut and carefully hold a cigarette lighter beneath this spot, until the wire glows red. This softens the wire, allowing it to be cut with less chance of fraying.
Thread the first crimp sleeve onto the wire, followed by your swivel. Then pass the tag end of the wire back into the crimp sleeve, ensuring it is pushed right through to the other end. Adjust the size of the loop which is now holding your swivel in place, and carefully crimp the sleeve with your crimping pliers. From the other end of the trace, thread on the tail-cone rubber, thick-end first, and carefully push it over the crimp and the swivel eye.
Next thread (in this exact order) a piece of silicone, followed by the large-bore crimp, then another piece of silicone, then the final crimp and lastly, a treble hook. Repeat the steps used to crimp the swivel in place to secure this hook and cover the crimp with the silicone.
To fix the final “top” hook in place, you will need to cut a 2 inch length of 7-strand wire, using the cigarette lighter method described above. Position the final crimp where you would like it fixing. This can vary depending on hook size and bait size. I generally use size 6 trebles, with a gap of around 3 inches (7.5 cm) between the hooks. For larger baits such as whole herring or half mackerel, I will occasionally widen this gap to 4 inches (10 cm). Hold the crimp in position and push one end of the 7-strand wire into the bottom of the crimp. Thread your hook onto the wire, as the diagram below shows:
Next, loop the wire over, pushing the free end into the bottom of the crimp sleeve. Keep feeding the wire into the crimp until the hook hangs on a small loop, which will just allow the hook to swing freely. Squeeze the crimp in position with your crimping pliers and trim off any excess 7 strand protruding from the top of the crimp.
Slide down the last piece of silicone tubing over the crimp and voila!
Your trace is finished. Either end should hopefully now resemble this:
Zander wire traces
When making up traces for zander fishing, I use exactly the same methods and very similar materials. The main differences are: Wire breaking strain – I use 20lb wire instead of 28lb (with slightly smaller crimps to fit); Hook size – I use size 8 or 10 trebles instead of sixes; Distance between the hooks – I generally only leave a gap of between 2 and 3 inches on zander traces because of using smaller baits, along with zander having smaller mouths.
UPDATE – YouTube Video of Wire Trace Tying
Since I wrote this article, I’ve updated my technique slightly. I explain it all in this YouTube video.
How to unhook pike safely
If you are relatively new to pike fishing, you should also view my video to show you how to unhook pike. These fragile predators need good fish care and handling skills to ensure they are not damaged in the process. Approaching the unhooking process with confidence is a key part of this, and hopefully my short video will help with this.