Fishing with bloodworm and joker isn’t as difficult nor as mysterious as many anglers think. You don’t need masses of specialist fishing tackle to use these baits – if you’ve got a pole, a riddle and a good tackle shop nearby that sells a wide variety of groundbaits you’re on to a winner.
In this short but informative feature we’ll show you how to prepare bloodworm and joker, how to hook it, the best groundbaits for the job and the ideal pole rigs for fishing with these blood-red baits…
If there’s one angler who knows how to get the best from bloodworm and joker it has to be triple world champion, Alan Scotthorne. The canals he regularly fishes in his home county of South Yorkshire allow bloodworm and joker to be used, so therefore he maximises his catch potential by utilising these deadly, blood-red baits as often as he can.
There cannot be a more natural bait than bloodworm or joker as both these larvae can be found buried in the silt of slow moving waterways.
And although Alan, and many more experienced match anglers, collect their own bloodworm and joker (often referred to as ‘scraping’) it is far easier and much safer to buy them. They are available to order from most good tackle shops and come supplied in what’s called a Match Pack. For between £8.50 and £12, depending upon the shop, you will receive plenty of joker for feeding and a good quantity of bloodworm hook baits. They will be supplied separately, wrapped in damp newspaper.
“I always riddle my baits first, just as I would with maggots, to remove any dead or dying bait and store them separately in buckets of water,” explains Alan. “I simply place a maggot riddle over a tray of water and tip the baits on top. Soon all the active worms wriggle through to the bottom tray to leave dead bait and debris on the riddle. That is discarded and the live baits tipped into the bucket. As I might need to keep my bloodworm and joker for some time I also pump air into the water using an ordinary aquarium pump and change the water once a week.”
This all sounds a little time consuming and expensive, but Alan has to look after his baits if he wants to remain at the very top of the match fishing league, but if you intend using your baits within a couple of days you will not require the pump.
“On the morning of the match I will tip the water and bait into a fine, soft fish net - the kind available from any pet store - and tip the baits over a few sheets of newspaper and neatly fold them up. The newspaper helps retain moisture and keeps the bait alive,” adds Alan.
PREPARING BLOODWORM AND JOKER
1 – Your bloodworm and joker will be supplied within damp newspaper. They will survive like this for a couple of days.
2 – When it’s time to use the baits pour them onto a riddle and allow the live baits to wriggle through the mesh. Discard the dead baits.
3 – If you’re intending to keep the baits for some time, use an aquarium net to transfer them between buckets when changing the water.
4 – When it comes to separating the joker use a sprinkling of damp leam. Make sure the leam is riddled first to remove any lumps.
5 – Gently spread the damp leam through the joker using your fingertips. You will coat the joker with leam and separate them from the clump.
6 – Once the joker is separated it can now be added to your groundbait, formed into balls and introduced to the swim.
“Preparation is key when bloodworm and joker fishing. Your rigs need to be right, your groundbait needs to be right and you need a clear view of how you intend using your bait,” says Alan.
On the banks of the New Junction Canal, in the shadow of an impressive, disused power station at Barnby Dun, near Doncaster, Alan explains how best to introduce joker to a deep swim.
“I will fish two lines today; a close-in line for perch and a far-line for roach. Because the canal here is some 11ft deep I’m going to have to mix the joker with something that will force the feed down to the bottom quickly and keep it there for the fish to feed over. Perch aren’t too keen on groundbait so therefore I intend mixing some joker with a little damp leam for the inside line.
Damp leam is nothing more than a finely ground clay mud – there’s nothing more to is than that. As you would expect it’s heavy and unscented, therefore it’s perfect for holding masses of bloodworm together to introduce in a ball that will drop to the bottom where perch can happily feed without the scent of groundbait putting them off.
Roach do have a liking for groundbait, but I have to be careful as I don’t want to introduce a groundbait which feeds the roach,” explains Alan.
He decides upon a groundbait mix of two bags of Van den Eynde Secret (roach love Secret) and one bag of Van den Eynde Superblack. He mixes them together thoroughly, adds a little water and mixes again. More water is added until the groundbait just holds together with a squeeze. He riddles the groundbait thoroughly to remove any lumps that the roach could find and eat. The lumps remaining on the riddle are just tipped onto the grass for the robins to find the next day.
Alan's roach groundbait consists of Van den Eynde Secret and Superblack, while his perch 'groundbait' was simply balls of damp leam. Both were laced with plenty of joker.
“My next job is to separate the joker so that it does not stick together in a tight ball on the bottom. A little sprinking of damp leam over the top of the neat joker does the trick,” explains Alan.
He spreads the leam over the joker, rubbing the fine powder into the baits. Within seconds the writhing mass of red separates and every single joker is covered in dust.
Next he tips around a kilo of damp leam into a spare groundbait bowl, scoops up a small amount of joker and mixes it into the leam - this will be his perch ‘groundbait’. Alan squeezes five orange sized balls and places them in the bowl, on top of his bait tray.
A really good helping of joker is mixed into the groundbait and 12 balls are made, of a similar size. Again, the balls are placed on his bait tray, alongside his seatbox.
You’ve got to be quick when introducing groundbait containing joker. Most groundbait nowadays contains salt and salt kills joker, so the sooner you throw the balls into the swim the better,” advises Alan.
He had already plumbed the swim before we actually arrived, so he shipped out the close-in rig, placed the pole in a pair of rests and picked up the first ball of damp leam.
“Jokers are great as you can give them a really good squeeze when forming a ball of groundbait holding them and they don’t burst, plus they haven’t the strength to wriggle and break up the balls, so you can form all the balls first before balling in,” explains Alan.
He threw the five balls of leam right on top of his pole tip. Two hit the water just to the right, two just to the left, and the remaining one just passed the tip.
“We’ve got a strong back wind today that is sure to drag the rig away from the tip of my pole, that’s the reason why I’ve introduced one ball just out from the pole tip,” adds Alan.
He shipped back and switched rigs. After shipping out and placing the pole in the rests he quickly threw in the 12 groundbait balls. If you watched from overhead the splashes would form a diamond pattern around his pole tip. Some landed to the right, some to the left and some in front of the pole tip. But this time a couple landed just short of the pole tip.
Alan made up his balls of groundbait first, placed them on his side tray, then shipped out and placed his pole in rests to provide a target to throw the groundbait towards.
TAKE CARE WHEN TOPPING UP
“I doubt that the groundbaited swim will need any further feed, but the perch swim might. You’ve got to be very careful when topping up a swim when using any form of groundbait. Sometimes the fish respond, sometimes they don’t. So with this in mind I’ll make up a mix which contains a huge amount of joker but very little leam. This should not scare the fish too much, and at the same time give them plenty of feed to come back to,” explains Alan.
He scooped up a good handful of leamed joker and spread it over a little damp leam placed in a plastic tray. He also added a little Kryptonite binder which helps hold the balls together. Joker, as they are an aquatic larvae, will quickly die if they are given the chance to dry out. Alan prevents this by placing a damp towel over the tray.
“It’s great! Anglers see your covered up tray and think you’ve some secret bait hidden away!” he says.
After adding damp leam to his joker - for the perch - Alan sprinkles a good helping of Kryptonite binder over the leam and joker mix to help create balls that hold together as they fall through the depths.
With both swims fed Alan is anxious to bait the hook and see what effect the groundbait and leam has upon the fish, but before doing so he sets out his stall ready for the session. He tips a good helping of bloodworm into a clean bait box and half fills it with water. He does the same with a handful of joker, as joker can also be used as hook baits if the going’s hard. With the close-in rig in hand he reaches down to his bait tray and scoops up a few bloodworm hook baits.
“Some anglers struggle to hook bloodworm. It’s easy really; just scoop up a mass of the bait and thumb through it to find a healthy, wriggling bait. Once you’ve found one simply hold it between finger and thumb and work the hook into the bait. Aim for the dark end of the bloodworm and pass the hook through the third segment,” advises Alan.
“It’s important to use a very fine wire hook when fishing with bloodworm as the baits are prone to bursting. I use Mustad size 22 Wide Gape Canal/Seed. They’ve never let me down,” states Alan.
Three different ways of hooking bloodworm. From left: double bloodworm, single bloodworm hooked in the third segment, and single bloodworm hooked in the centre. Experimentation with the three different styles will indicate which is best on any given day.
He ships the rig out to 9m and lifts the pole high. Then, in a controlled manner, it is dropped vertically into the swim. This allows the olivette to fall naturally and the float to cock almost instantaneously.
“Lowering the bloodworm bait into the swim in this manner ensures it drops vertically; the dropper shot fall straight below the olivette and the bait follows. It makes the bait drop more naturally than if you were to swing the olivette in,” advises Alan.
It’s hardly surprising that the triple-world champion’s float goes under first chuck. A five-ounce perch is swung to hand.
“I’m fishing with a slack number four elastic, a 0.08mm mainline and a 0.06mm hooklength and I can still swing the fish to hand. If the fish is flapping when you lift it from the water you’re more likely to break the fine hooklength, so I always wait until the fish stops moving and then lift it straight out of the water,” states Alan.
He continues to catch perch after perch from the inside line. His float is dropped in right over the five balls of damp leam and joker, and the float continues to duck under.
“It’s easy to read bites when using fibre-tipped floats, especially when they are dotted right down. You can easily see lift bites as well as ordinary bites. But the main reason why I like these highly sensitive, fibre-tipped pole floats is that the light penetrates right through the sight tips making them really easy to see against the water,” adds Alan.
Alan much prefers to use wire stemmed pole floats having plastic or fibre bristles for his bloodworm and joker fishing.
FISH BLOODWORM OVERDEPTH
He has his bait set some two inches overdepth, and much prefers fishing bloodworm on the bottom.
“Some anglers think that bloodworm and joker dance around off the bottom. That’s a myth. They just lie there in the groundbait or leam. Occasionally one may wriggle off the bottom, but that’s pretty rare. So it makes sense to present the bait on the bottom where it will look natural. I’ve found that you catch larger fish when fishing in this way,” explains Alan.
“There’s also no real need to use red hooks when fishing with bloodworm and joker. I’ve found that ordinary chrome hooks are just as good, if not better than red versions as the shiny hook sparkles a little in the clear water and this draws attention to the bait.”
His float goes under again and another perch is added to the net. In fact it goes under regularly! Alan has at least 2lb in his net within the first hour.
He decides to switch over to the far line and try for a few roach. Bites were a little harder to come by, but the roach were larger and definitely worth waiting for.
Alan soon finds that the roach were holding back from the groundbait. The majority of bites came when he presented the hook bait around two feet away from the groundbait.
More roach and the occasional perch follow. Alan tinkers around with his rig, moving the dropper shot around to see if the roach want the bait presented in any other way.
“When the going’s tough it certainly pays to try different presentations and different sizes of hook bait. Sometimes large bloodworm work, sometimes small baits work. Occasionally jokers on the hook are best,” advises Alan.
A decent stamp of roach can quite easily be caught on bloodworm, but skimmer bream, bronze bream and perch will all show if they are in your swim.
TIME TO TOP-UP
Some three hours later Alan decides to top-up the perch swim with a single ball of leam laced with joker via a pole cup. It did the trick too, with more perch coming to the net.
“Once the swims are fed at the start of the session there’s very little to do other than catch fish!” says Alan. “You may need to top-up a swim later in the day, so judge how fast you are catching and only feed again if you find it extremely difficult to get bites.”
Alan amassed a double figure catch quite easily during his five-hour session and was more than pleased with the weight considering the conditions; strong back winds can make presenting a delicate pole rig awkward.
As the session progressed it became clearly obvious that bloodworm and joker fishing is easy! There’s no need to concentrate on loosefeeding - you simply feed the swims at the start and wait until the fish arrive. So long as your bait is presented overdepth and your float is set to detect the slightest bites you should catch a good weight. Try it and see!
A fine double-figure bag all taken on single and double bloodworm.