A big bream sliding towards the landing net is one the most impressive sights in angling.
Targeting them can seem daunting, partly because of the time and effort involved in fishing large stillwaters, but also because ‘going’ venues for the species are few and far between. However, there are plenty of specimen bream out there, and catching them is easier than you might think.
CHOOSING YOUR VENUE
The most important decision is choosing the right water. If you don’t already know of one, you will find that tackle shops and carp anglers are usually mines of information.
Double-figure bream are present in a number of stillwaters, but fish of 15lb or more can be difficult to track down.
However, relatively little is known about our big bream stocks, and most never get caught, so that lonely gravel pit near you could easily contain the bream of your dreams. Pioneering new waters can take time, but the satisfaction of finding your own fish is worthwhile.
FINDING THE FISH
Bream shoals are inherently nomadic, and they can travel huge distances. On large low-stock waters, location is everything. Fortunately, bream often give away their position by rolling, particularly at dawn and on humid evenings. Splashy rolls or ‘head and tailing’ are excellent signs and usually indicate feeding fish.
You may also see ‘porpoising’, which tends to mean travelling fish, and fish milling around on the surface on hot days. While neither mean feeding fish, both are vital clues to location.
If you can’t see them, then it can pay to focus on deeper areas of the lake in spring and autumn, and shallower areas in summer. Find out where the fish spawn – usually the same areas as carp and tench – and fish there when it warms up in April or May. Also, follow warm winds, especially in autumn, and look for weed-free areas because bream won’t feed among weed.
Don’t concentrate on bar systems in lakes. They are useful to know about, but areas of light silt and steady depth are better for sustained feeding.
Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t necessary to fish at huge range. I have had most success within 60yds.
Above all, don’t allow your tactics to be ruled by theories. Each water is different, and there is no substitute for getting in tune with your venue by looking, experimenting and learning.
FEEDING THE SHOALS
It’s well known that bream shoals can consume a huge amount of bait. As with carp fishing, heavy baiting is not essential, but can help hold fish long enough for multiple catches to be made.
The good news is that it doesn’t need to be expensive. A mix of Vitalin and trout pellets flavoured with molasses and corn steep liquor is extremely effective. And 15kg of Vitalin, 10kg of pellets, five litres of molasses and a litre of CSL can be bought for as little as £50 – that could be a whole season’s supply!
This can all be mixed with lake water to the required consistency, and boated out, spodded, or moulded into balls.
While boilies, pellets, maggots, casters and worms are all effective hookbaits, sweetcorn has established itself as an outstanding bream bait over the years. It’s cheap, easily available and fishes exceptionally well over Vitalin (which contains sweetcorn).
While ‘real’ corn is great, I have found that when fished with plastic alternatives, it is almost always the fake kernel that gets taken first. There are theories about fish oils in plastic attracting bream, but I feel it is more to do with the increased visibility.
Popped-up baits also work well. When faced with a bed of bait, bream will often take the most visible item first. In the spring of 2009 I fished a tough gravel pit with popped-up plastic corn on one rod, and boilie and maggot on the other. At the end of spring I had caught more than 30 double-figure fish on the popped-up corn, and only one on the bottom baits. Popped-up baits can also be presented over the silty bloodworm-rich areas that bream love.
MAKING THE CONNECTION
Bream are not adept at ejecting rigs, so there is no need to be clever. My favourite set-up consists of two grains of buoyant plastic corn on a hair rig, with a size 12 curve shank hook and 3ins of 12lb fluorocarbon. This is presented helicopter style. The angle created by the fluorocarbon exiting the eye, together with the weight of the leader results in reliable hookholds.
I fix the hooklink close to the lead when fishing a clean lakebed, and further up the leader if there is weed or deep silt. On waters with poor water clarity, I opt for a bottom bait fished on clear areas with critically-balanced real and artificial corn.
I hope this provides some motivation to get out there this spring and target a new personal best. There is little more exciting than big bream rolling at dusk, indicators rising and falling to liners, sitting on the edge of your chair, then seeing the bobbin finally creep up to the butt. Good luck, I hope your next bream is a monster!