Squatts may have gained a reputation as the bait to use when ‘scratching around’, but match fishing star Mark Pollard reckons they are the key to bagging a big net of silvers right now.
The Shimano-backed ace has racked up an impressive winning streak on a variety of natural waterways this winter, and has proved the true pulling power of the offering with numerous nets over the 25lb mark.
While most of his competitors have taken a negative approach to their sport, Polly has adopted an aggressive baiting regime which has seen him take glory from pegs that had been considered ‘no hopers’ at the draw bag.
One water which has responded to his squatt attack is Factory Bank drain on the outskirts of the Cambridgeshire town of Ramsey, and Mark met up with the Angling Times cameras to display his simple yet unbeatable methods.
Although getting bites on the stretch isn’t difficult, getting among the better stamp roach and perch is vital if you want to outwit your rivals.
“There are thousands of fish in here around the 1oz mark, but if you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to eventually get among the stocks of silvers that are three or four times bigger,” explained Mark.
“To do this I constantly feed squatts throughout the match. Feeding every five minutes isn’t enough, you need to introduce a small pouchful every 30 seconds.”
Such a bold method helps catch everything that swims to begin with, but the constant rain of bait eventually draws in those all-important bonus larger silverfish.
A couple of balls of groundbait were introduced on the 10m line to begin with, but the mix used would dictate whether Mark would have a red letter day or one to forget.
“Use the wrong blend and you’ll ruin your swim instantly as the fish will move off and you’ll struggle to get them back,” he said.
“I use Dynamite Baits Frenzied Hemp Match Black, Silver X Roach for added flavouring, and brown crumb to help bind it all together,” added Mark, who was using 0.09mm Shimano Silk Shock mainline and a 0.07mm hooklink to a size 24 Kamasan B511 hook.
Action was instant, with tiny roach and perch willing feeders in the early stages, but he was confident that a patient mind-set would soon see the stamp of fish increase. In a bid to recognise even the shyest of indications, the 4x10 float had been dotted down to a pimple, but it was a matter of looking for two different types of bite to make the most of the session.
On several occasions the float would fail to settle, with most of the bristle remaining visible, and this signalled that a fish had taken the bait on the drop and it was time to strike. The rest of the bites saw the float sail away traditionally.
After an hour of action, small fish were still coming thick and fast, but to try and find those better stamp silvers Mark fired in a generous pouch of hemp over the target zone.
“I won’t fish hemp on the hook as it is too selective and you will miss out on the small fish early on that will be crucial at the weigh-in. That said, firing an occasional dose over the top usually entices those bigger roach into the peg.”
Shortly after taking that decision it paid dividends, with a series of 3oz specimens coming to the net. While they may not have seemed like monsters, they were three times bigger than what he had been catching, and would certainly help him pull away from his rivals in a competition.
Every now and then he would add an extra section and fish beyond the main zone or to the right or left of it.
“When you are feeding by a catapult a few freebies will go slightly beyond where you want them too. Quite often the bigger fish will sit back and eat these squatts, and this helps fool them into taking your hookbait.”
Winning weights on the section had been relatively low in recent weeks, but Mark had put together around 12lb of silvers in just a few hours’ sport and used less than a pint of bait despite his almost constant feeding regime.
“In cold conditions you need to offer the fish a bait that is easy to digest, and squatts are small and easy to locate in clear or slightly coloured water.
“They are the perfect choice to keep the silverfish coming this week,” concluded Mark.
Mark’s squatt tips
1 Work out what you want your groundbait to do. If you want it to create a cloud and feed fish up in the water, then lightly squeeze balls of groundbait together. But if you want to concentrate the shoals of silvers on the bottom, make sure your feed is tightly packed together.
2 Squatt fishing requires catching a fish every drop-in and, as a result, it is essential to get into a rhythm. Make sure your pole rollers are positioned well and essential accessories such as a disgorger, shot and bait are all within easy reach.
3 A soft elastic is essential to prevent bumping fish and spooking the shoal. I use a softly-set solid No3 that will net fish from half-an-ounce to 1lb with ease.
4 When fishing with squatts you need to find the shallowest water that the fish will feed in, and 3ft to 4ft is usually ideal. If you fish any deeper it will take a second more for the bait to get to the bottom, and when the difference between winning and losing is ounces, such tiny issues are worth consideration.
5 If fish are feeding at all levels it is best to use a strung-out shotting pattern. This will slow the fall of the hookbait and make it easier for fish to intercept it on-the-drop.