How to fish a bulk shot float rig on rivers with Dave Harrell

There are days when fishing a float shotted with a group of shot or an olivette close to the hook will catch you a lot more fish than a strung-out, lightly shotted rig. Even in water as shallow as 2ft, a bulk shotted rig can work wonders particualrly for species like chub and barbel.

Years ago, there were very few float choices for these approaches but, in more recent times, there are plenty of choices to suit a large number of situations.

Bolo and Avon style floats are ideal for fishing bulk shot rigs on rivers

Bolo and Avon style floats are ideal for fishing bulk shot rigs on rivers

All my bulk fishing is based around three types of float patterns, and while there are different designs within these families, the basic approach is the same with a bulk and sometimes (but not always) a drop shot.

I carry a big selection of floats for this sort of work and they range in size from 2g all the way up to a 10g. Add to this equation a mix of thicknesses in the hollow bristles or balsa tops and you will quickly realise that it’s a type of fishing that requires plenty of options if you’re going to cover all situations.

A variety of different pegs suit fishing a bulk shot float rig

A variety of different pegs suit fishing a bulk shot float rig

Olivettes or shot?

Olivettes can be slid up or down the line

Olivettes can be slid up or down the line

For bulk-shotted rigs I prefer to use olivettes over shot. They are neater and less prone to tangling. The ones I use can be fixed to the line by pulling a small piece of tight-fitting pole elastic through the hole and trimming it flush with the lead.

This fixes the olivette in place and stops it moving, unless you actually want to slide it yourself.

 I use these in sizes from 0.40g all the way up to 10g.


Cut down Avon and Bolo floats are great in shallow water

Cut down Avon and Bolo floats are great in shallow water

SHALLOW SWIMS (2ft - 4ft deep)

There was a time when I only used to attack these sorts of depths with a short, stubby balsa float but in recent years I’ve had a lot of success by cutting down the stems of small 2g and 3g Avon and Bolo floats.

As there isn’t much depth to play with on this sort of swim, you’re better off not using a drop shot and instead fixing an olivette or a bulk of shot about 1ft to 18ins above the hook.

When I’m fishing in this way I’m usually targeting barbel or chub, so there isn’t a need for too much finesse as the water will be fast. I use 5lb or 6lb line in these situations and tie the hook direct to the mainline.

Because these swims aren’t very deep I would always sway towards loosefeeding with maggots, casters and hemp or fishmeal pellets.


MEDIUM DEPTH (4ft - 8ft deep)

This depth is where bulk rigs are ideal for a wide variety of species. The choice of float is determined by the species that you are fishing for. If the target fish are roach and dace and the flow is slight then the No4 and No5 Bolos are perfect.

For faster moving water, I use the No1 and No2 models with thicker hollow bristles and for very fast water, the choice is either a No3 Bolo for fishing out in the river or an Avon float for close in work.

Left to right: No.4 Bolo, no.1 Bolo, no.2 Bolo, no.3 Bolo, no.1 Avon, no. 2 Avon

Left to right: No.4 Bolo, no.1 Bolo, no.2 Bolo, no.3 Bolo, no.1 Avon, no. 2 Avon

To choose the right size float, always plumb the depth carefully before you actually put a float on the line.

Check the depth close in and well out as there could be a big difference and once you’re happy that you know what the depths are at different points in the river, use 1g to 2g of float capacity for every 2ft of water. Depending on the flow, this could mean a 4g or an 8g float in 8ft of water.

Position an olivette or a bulk of shot around 18in to 2ft from the hook with a single No6 drop shot about 10in from the hook.
Most of the time I would use loose feed for this depth range but there are times when groundbait can work well in conjunction with a bulk rig. This would usually be mixed with soil to a ration of 75per cent groundbait and 25per cent soil, with a small ball every cast.


DEEP SWIMS (8ft - 14ft deep)

Left to right: no.1 Bolo, no.2 Bolo, no.3 Bolo, no.4 Bolo, no.5 Bolo, no.2 Alloy Avon

Left to right: no.1 Bolo, no.2 Bolo, no.3 Bolo, no.4 Bolo, no.5 Bolo, no.2 Alloy Avon

Bulk rigs really come into their own in very deep water, and it was this sort of situation that first alerted me to the effectiveness of the approach way back in 1992, when I watched the Italian National team practising for the World Championships in Ireland.

I learned a lot that day, and ever since then Bolo floats have played a big part in my fishing.

For slow-moving water, the choice is a larger size of No4 or No5 Bolo, and as the speed of the flow picks up, the choice is either a big No1 or No2 Bolo or a big Avon. As a general guide, 1g to 2g of float capacity for every 3ft of depth is about right so a 10ft deep swim would demand a float taking from 5g to10g, depending on flow speed.

With the bigger float I change from a No6 dropper to a No4 and it works in just the same way.

In these depths, groundbait plays much more of a part in my approaches and if the river is flowing fast I use a 50/50 mix of groundbait and soil.

The extra weight helps to get the balls of groundbait down to the bottom quickly but the balls break up fast when they’re on the riverbed, allowing loose particles like casters and hemp to attract fish into the swim.

A nice chub caught on a bulk-shotted float rig

A nice chub caught on a bulk-shotted float rig

Dave Harrell is recognised as one of the country’s best-ever river anglers. He has fished for England at World and European level and now runs his own tackle company. For more information go to:  

Jamie Hughes guide to using popped-up bread to catch more carp in winter

There aren’t many tactics that will tempt bites from sluggish commercial carp at the moment, but popped-up bread is one that can bring a response says Jamie Hughes..

Carp like this just love bread in winter.

Carp like this just love bread in winter.

With their appetites hit by the freezing conditions, mirrors and commons are proving hard to fool – but Jamie Hughes has kept the rod-tip hooping round by combining rod and line tactics and this supermarket favourite.

There’s more to it than just chucking out a bit of bread and hoping for the best, and this week the MAP-backed star reveals his winning approach with winter carp.


Big baits

“It’s understandable why people would instantly go for a small hookbait but something big is much better,” said Jamie.

Discs of bread presented on hair

Discs of bread presented on hair

“It will stand out a mile in the clear water and a big carp or F1 can slurp up a big mouthful of bread with minimal effort.

“I punch out discs of bread and then thread them on to a hair rig. I will have no hesitation in using up to six discs at once to make a really obvious bait.

“The buoyancy of the bread will pop it up off the bottom. The lead will sink to the lakebed, taking the bread with it, and the bait will then pop up.

“If you use a foot-long hooklength, that is how far off bottom your bait will be presented.

“Sometimes I will place half a 6mm Bag ‘Em Matchbaits pop-up boilie on the hair rig as well to make it even more buoyant.”


Vary the depth

“The coldest water in the lake will sometimes sink to the bottom and with this in mind, fish could be sat up in the water in the warmer layers. It’s a matter of trial and error to find out where they are.

“I will start popping the bait up six inches and will keep increasing the length of my hooklength until I start getting indications.

“Don’t be surprised if you end up catching with the bread popped up three foot off the deck.”

Click on the image for more on how Jamie fishes with bread for carp


No-nonsense tackle

“You might only get a handful of bites so you need to have faith that your tackle is up to landing every single fish.

A sliding olivette creates less disturbance than a tradtional bomb or feeder.

A sliding olivette creates less disturbance than a tradtional bomb or feeder.

“Mainline is 5lb MAP Optimum to 0.15mm Power Optex for F1s and small carp or 0.19mm for proper carp, finished off with a size 16 eyed PR36 hook.

“I also use an inline olivette instead of a traditional leger, stopped at the hooklength by a quick-change bead. . It creates less disturbance when hitting the water but is just as aerodynamic as a bomb for casting.

“I carry a range of sizes, from 4g up to 12g, but on a typical commercial fishery where you’ll only be casting 30 yards or so, an 8g olivette will do nicely.”

Steve Ringer's guide to fishing for skimmer bream

Feeding loose micros into deep water can be the kiss of death when you’re fishing for F1s and carp, as it leads to lots of line bites and foul-hooked fish.

But for skimmers it’s a very different story. This is a method that I first came across a few years ago after making a trip up to Hayfield Lakes for a silverfish match.

My plan was to target skimmers over groundbait and dead maggots and pinkies. In theory it was a good plan, but despite trying lots of different ways of feeding the swim, after two-and-a-half hours I’d managed just one small skimmer.

With time running out I knew I had to try something different to pull fish into the swim. I’d been told that Kinder potting 2mm micro pellets worked well for the skimmers on there, but I had dismissed it – frankly, feeding loose micros into 10ft of water seemed like madness to me.

But with nothing to lose I decided to give it a go so I quickly attached a Kinder pot and filled it with micros. Two feeds later I had a bite, then another and another, and within 20 minutes I was getting a bite every put-in from small skimmers. The difference was quite simply amazing. I can only think that the micros falling through the water were pulling fish into the swim.

Since that day it’s an approach I’ve used a lot and it’s rarely let me down. Right now, on waters with a silverfish bias, it’s definitely worth trying. I have to admit, it still doesn’t seem right, but it certainly works!


Wetted-down 2mm coarse pellets and expanders for the hookbait

Wetted-down 2mm coarse pellets and expanders for the hookbait

How many pellets?

When it comes to bait it really doesn’t get any simpler - all you need is a pint or so of wetted-down 2mm coarse pellets and a few expanders for the hook.

I always like to prepare my micros the night before, slightly overwetting them so they soak up as much water as possible and expand to their maximum size. In fact, if you have the right micro pellet it’s even possible to use them on the hook!

Coarse pellets are best for this type of fishing as they are light in colour and skimmers can spot them easily as they fall through the water. As I’ve said many times before, I’m convinced that when the water is clear fish feed by sight rather than by smell, so these falling pellets offer a high degree of attraction.



Steve starts by sprinkling half a pot of pellets

Steve starts by sprinkling half a pot of pellets

To kick the swim off I like to feed a quarter of a small 100ml Drennan pot of loose micros.

After the initial feed I like to let the swim settle for at least 30 minutes – I’m not a fan of going straight in when fishing for skimmers as I feel they need time to feel confident enough to feed. When I do decide to have a look, though, I will first load up a small Guru pole pot full of wetted-down micro pellets.

I’ll sprinkle half out straight away and wait for a bite. If I don’t get one within two minutes I’ll sprinkle in the other half of the pellets. I’m totally convinced the reason this method works is bait falling through the water, hence even if I’m not getting bites I like to keep a bit of bait going in.

From this point on I’ll feed to bites, and once I start getting a few fish I will feed again. This is a busier than usual way of feeding for skimmers, but it works, believe me!


Start on an expander

Starting hookbait: A 4mm expander

Starting hookbait: A 4mm expander

When it comes to what to fish on the hook I will always start with a 4.5mm Ringers Coolwater Expander. Skimmers love a soft pellet, and an expander stands out well over a bed of micro pellets, giving the skimmers something they can easily home in on.

I also carry a variety of sizes and colours of expander, just so I can mix it up throughout a session. You’ll often find, for example, that you’ll catch well on a standard 4mm expander to begin with and then bites will go a little bit funny, even though there are still fish in your swim.

I think what happens is that the fish get used to feeding on the micros and start to ignore the bigger baits. When this happens I switch to a 3.5mm F1 Light expander pellet to match the feed and keep catching.

My Rig (click to open in full)

Follow my advice for a catch like this..

Follow my advice for a catch like this..

Feed the right way to catch more silverfish

FEEDING a swim correctly at the start of a winter roach fishing session can make or break your catch, according to match ace Mark Pollard.

You need to think how you are going to deliver it to the swim. The Dynamite and Matrix-backed star uses five different methods of feeding, and here he reveals where and when each one comes into play.

Using a catapult will allow you to feed steadily and fish at range.

Using a catapult will allow you to feed steadily and fish at range.


“If you are fishing at a range that can’t be fed easily by hand, but a steady trickle of bait is required, then a catapult will play a big part in your strategy.

“If you have a fairly deep swim and you are targeting roach, it is far better to try to get them feeding shallow, as it will then take a lot less time for the float to go under once the rig has settled.

“Keeping a regular trickle of bait going through the water column will eventually bring the silvers shallow – even on really cold days – and introducing 10 maggots or casters every minute is ample.”



“Bigger species such as carp and F1s will be sat well away from the bank now, but you can guarantee silverfish will be at close quarters.

“A regular trickle of maggots and casters is needed to get roach shoals competing, and the easiest way to do that is by hand. As a rule of thumb I will feed 10 maggots or casters every minute or so.

“Feeding by hand also works on a ‘throwaway line’ close to the bank for bonus fish later on. Trickle in a few grains of corn or pellets throughout the session and it could produce a few key bites in the dying stages.”


Using a big cup allows you to feed accurately

Using a big cup allows you to feed accurately


“Feeding with a big cup provides pinpoint accuracy and more often than not that is key to getting a few bites.

“Make sure you don’t overdo it at the beginning – too much bait can kill a swim in an instant. Introduce something like 50-60 pellets or maggots over each line at the start and don’t add this amount again unless bites completely tail off.

“A big cup is also ideal for feeding balls of groundbait when you want the pile of feed to be concentrated tightly.”





“There’s no better way of guaranteeing that your bait gets to the bottom in flowing water than using a bait dropper.

“It is particularly useful when fishing worm and caster for big perch or chub, when you feed a decent quantity from time to time, as opposed to styles where a little and often approach is required.

“Use a bait dropper in very deep swims on stillwaters to get every morsel to the bottom where the bigger fish are.”



A small cup allows you to re-feed after every fish

A small cup allows you to re-feed after every fish

“Almost every top kit I have set up will have a small pole cup on the end, and I will usually add bait to the swim with it after every fish.

“The amount needed to top up at this time of year when fishing for carp and F1s is minimal – five to 10 pellets, maggots or grains of corn is more than ample to help get that next bite.

“Make sure your cup is as close to the pole tip as it can be so that you are feeding directly over the top of where your rig is sitting.”



To book a day of professional tuition with Mark visit:

Get your feeding right and you can enjoy catches like this.

Get your feeding right and you can enjoy catches like this.

How to rove for chub on your local river

Keeping mobile and scouring miles of river in a day is the best way to keep warm this winter and chub are the ultimate species to target when adopting this proactive approach.

Tiny rivers that weave through stunning countryside settings are often the perfect place to employ a roving attack, with many enthusiasts of this style often visiting over a dozen swims in a session. A short spurt in one spot will soon provide indications as to whether a greedy chub inhabits the peg and if it does, you can bet your bottom dollar that a carefully presented hookbait will soon be engulfed.



Chub can be found in almost every English, Welsh and lower-Scottish rivers and streams. They have bred well and many numbers of chub of decent sizes are targetable across the country with hundreds of waters giving up 5lb specimens, and many prime rivers providing the angler with chub to over 6lb.

Even tiny rivers and backwaters hold big chub.

Even tiny rivers and backwaters hold big chub.

They can be found in deep and powerful rivers such as the Trent, Severn, Thames and Wye, through to tiny little backwaters that you could wade or even jump across. So there’s a high chance that you can find chub a short drive away from your home. A good start is to ask at your local tackle shop or keep an eye out in our 'where to fish' section of the Angling Times each week to help you find venues.



It is no secret that chub love to lie close to cover and there is no shortage of it on the river, with stacks of swims home to sunken trees, overhanging branches and clumps of brambles. Add to that a mixture of fast glides and gentle slacks and you potentially have hundreds of little areas that look incredibly inviting. The diagram below shows you some classic chub holding features. Click on it to enlarge..

Locating chub on a river is so important in winter


Cheesepaste is a top chub bait in winter

Cheesepaste is a top chub bait in winter

The good news is chub are one of the least fussy species in our waterways. However, there are some days when one bait out of five is the only one they want so taking a few change baits with you on the bank is a good idea. The top baits for chub in winter are generally, cheesepaste, meat, bread flake, maggots, lobworms, boilies and paste but thats not to say other homemade and natural varieties such as a big black slug are not worth trying on the day. When the river is coloured cheesepaste is tough to beat and has accounted for some monster fish in the past.  Find out how to roll your own here.



Travelling light will make it easier to find the chub.

Travelling light will make it easier to find the chub.

Minimal tackle is required for the ambush to end in success, with a rod, landing net, unhooking mat and a small bag of terminal tackle all that you need to carry. Bogging yourself down with too much gear will only discourage you from moving swims which will in turn mean you get less bites. On some stretches where there is bankside vegetation to rest your rod on you may not even need to take a bank stick! Travelling light will also mean you are more stealthy and less likely to spook shy fish.



Keeping things simple is the key to success with chub. Having too complicated a rig can also make it difficult to re-tie another in cold weather should you experience a breakage or tangle.  A simple link leger rig is all you need to catch a few chub and some of the sport's top anglers still use this tradtional setup to catch fish in excess of 8lb. Tie a small loop in some strong mono and cut the other end to around two inches in length before pinching two or three SSG onto it. Thread the loop end up the line and prevent it from sliding down to the hook using a float stop or small swivel (see rig diagram below). A float stop will also allow you to alter the length of your hooklength at any time if you are fishing straight through with your reel line. This setup also makes it easy to change to another hook pattern if you decide to dramtically change hookbaits during a session. If you are planning to fish with baits like cheesepaste and bread a large hook say an 6 or 8 is perfect for burying the hook in the bait. Just make sure you fish a fairly powerful carp style variety with a thick wire gauge as chub are powerful creatures and can easily bend a hook shank. As for your line, this depends on how snaggy the river is and also the size of chub in it. Generally a line of around 6-8lb mono is more than beefy enough to cope with the biggest of chub you'll encounter on UK rivers.


A simple link leger rig is all you need for chub success.


A bread feeder and breadflake hookbait are a great combo for chub.

There are many different options on offer here. A small cage feeder with liquidised or mashed bread in it can prove deadly during the winter. On days where the fish are more easily spooked than sticking to the link leger and feeding by hand is sometimes better. In this scenario a handful of mashed bread, created by soaking some cut slices heavily in water, or some small nail size blobs of cheesepaste fed into the likely areas should bring you success. A great tactic especially when there are few anglers on the water is to walk away from your car, feeding all the likely looking spots as described above. When you've fed enough areas, say 10, you can then walk back on yourself fishing all the spots you have baited. If you dont get a bite within half an hour, move on. If you prefer to use maggots or worms than feeding regularly by hand or a baitdropper is better.

Continue down for our top ten chub fishing tips...

Get it right and you can enjoy chub catches like this one.

Get it right and you can enjoy chub catches like this one.