Get a bite every cast with these waggler tactics

Learn how to get a bite every cast when reaching for a waggler with Steve Ringer. 

In early spring when the water is cold and clear and not quite warm enough, the fish tend to back away from the bank. 

Because of this, there is no better way of picking them off than by using a waggler! The beauty of the waggler is that you can fish further out than those using 13m-16m of pole. While they’re doing that, you can fish at 20-25m on the waggler. This obviously gives you a real edge, as you are fishing a line that you have all to yourself.

Additionally, you have the benefit of no pole waving about over the heads of the fish. Despite all these advantages, I see hardly anybody fishing with rod and line in the cold. however, here’s how I do it…


On commercials there is no better bait than pellets. All species eat them, from carp and skimmers right through to roach. Today I’m on Warren Pool at Meadowlands, near Coventry, where you are allowed to feed pellets only to a maximum size of 4mm. As it happens I wanted to feed 4mm pellets anyway, so this suits me. I wet my pellets before fishing. The reason behind this is that they become heavier, which allows me to loosefeed them further than would normally be possible. 

The second benefit to wetting my feed pellets is that soaking them starts the breakdown process within the pellet, which means they release a lot more attraction into the water. 

Alongside my 4mm feed pellets I’m also carrying some expanders. I have two different types today – 4.5mm Ringers Cool Water pellets and standard 4mm Bag Up pellets. This gives me a couple of different colour hookbait options, with the Cool Waters being slightly lighter in colour than the Bag Ups. 

Plumbing the depth

Plumbing the depth with a waggler is a lot easier than a lot of anglers think. Whatever you do, don’t cast a big plummet out into the lake. You’ll scare every fish in the vicinity. Instead, squeeze an SSG shot on to the hook and then cast that out to get the depth. This creates a lot less disturbance and at the same time gives a very accurate reading. 



Little and often is the key. I don’t like to put a bed of bait on the bottom straight away, but prefer to build the swim up gradually.

As a guide I will kick off feeding 8-12 pellets every cast. In fact I normally get into a rhythm of ‘cast out, sink the line, feed and then wait for the bite’. It’s then simply a case of repeating the process throughout the session. 

Of course, sessions rarely go perfectly – you need to vary your feed rate and frequency to take into account how many fish are in the swim. For instance, if the fishing is very hard I will keep up the regularity, as I believe the noise of pellets hitting the water attracts fish, but at the same time I will drop the amount down to 4-6 pellets at a time. You just have to think about what’s happening under the water and adjust your feeding accordingly. 

On the subject of feeding, I’m not too worried about keeping my bait in a really tight area. One of the great things about the waggler is that it allows you to cover a lot of water, so I don’t mind feeding a decent area as opposed to a really tight spot. 


This is a usually a single 4mm expander, which pretty much matches a soaked 4mm feed pellet in size so it blends in nicely with the loose offerings. 

I could, of course, fish a banded hard pellet on the hook but when looking for a mixed bag I always feel a soft pellet has the edge. In the cold I do feel a soft expander pellet leads to more bites anyway. 

One little tip regarding hooking an expander for waggler fishing is to make sure the hook has as much purchase inside the pellet at possible. In other words, don’t just nick it on, but instead thread it on. This just gives that little bit of extra security on the cast. 

The second hookbait I like to have with me is sweetcorn. A single grain of corn often produces a bonus fish, so every now and again I will slip a grain on, even though I haven’t actually fed any. 

Hookbait (left) and feed – wetted 4mms. 

Hookbait (left) and feed – wetted 4mms. 


Expanders are a very soft hookbait so if you cast with a really fast action then chances are they are going to fly off the hook. The secret to fishing expanders on the waggler is to keep the cast nice and smooth. This ensures that your hookbait is still on once the float hits the water. 

It’s also important to sink the line slowly once the float has landed on the surface. Winding the float under the water at 100mph is again going to tear the hookbait off. So instead I give the rod-tip a quick flick and then a slow but firm wind to sink the line. 

This way I can be sure that the bait is still on the hook. Of course if it’s flat calm then there is no need to sink the line.

The Set-Up

Warren Pool at Meadowlands Fishery in the West Midlands lends itself perfectly to waggler fishing. It’s shallow, with just 2ft 6ins of water at around 25m. With this in mind, my float is a 5BB Drennan Glow Tip Antenna. 

I love these for pellet fishing as they have a very fine tip which is very sensitive, and are easy to see in even the poorest of light. 

To fix the float in place I use two AAAs and a BB, but rather than put them straight on to the 4lb mainline, which could potentially damage it and lead to a breakage, I thread some fine silicone on to the mainline first, then squeeze the shot on to that. This prevents the shot damaging the line. A 4lb Guru Pulse mainline makes a massive difference when waggler fishing. Not only does it make casting a lot easier, it also aids presentation as a light mainline isn’t picked up as readily as a heavier one by wind or tow. 

I have recently started using size 14 Cralusso Fine Quick Snap Swivels to connect my waggler mainline to hooklength. These allow me to change my hooklength fast, should I need to, and are no heavier than a No9 shot. The swivel acts as my bottom dropper and above this, at 6ins intervals, I have two No9s. 

For waggler fishing I like an 8ins hooklength of 0.14mm Pure fluorocarbon, with a size 16 Guru F1 Pellet hook, fast becoming my favourite in the cold! On Warren Lake I am fishing for skimmers, small stockie carp and the odd big carp, so 0.14mm is perfect. If the fish were all ‘proper’ carp, I would step up both hook and hooklength.