To get the best out of the flatbed feeder you need to nail the basics. Rob Wootton answers questions on the 10 areas many anglers struggle with.
Since it first burst on to the scene in the 1990s the flatbed Method feeder has swiftly evolved into the ultimate carp-catching device on commercial venues.
Fishing a hookbait tucked in the middle of a frame filled with loosefeed has helped to improve presentation, increase catch rates and make casting tangle-free. It’s one of the simplest techniques to master, yet too many anglers still fail to get the fundamentals right, says match star and IYCF regular Rob Wootton.
Judging by the number of questions Rob gets asked on the bank, there are plenty of areas of confusion: What size of feeder should I use? Should I fill the frame with pellets or groundbait? How long should my hooklink be?
All these small details make a big difference, so Rob’s mission during a recent visit to Boddington Reservoir was to address the 10 questions he gets asked most often. With the tactic coming into its own from spring onwards, his answers are sure to help you put more fish on the bank.
Q What size of feeder should I use?
A common mistake is to use a feeder which is too light, for example 15g or 20g. I don’t use anything less than 30g because this weight allows you to cast easily and more accurately. If you’re casting to an island slope it anchors in place and doesn’t roll down the slope like a lighter version will.
So, up to 40 yards range I like a 30g feeder. For ranges of between 40 and 60 yards I step up to the 36g Guru X-Safe model, and for very long casts over 70 yards I use the same feeder in the 45g version. Some large venues, like this reservoir, are subject to strong undertows so sometimes you may need a 45g feeder just to hold bottom even at short to medium range.
With regard to the size of the frame, most companies do a small and large feeder. At least 80% of the time I use the smaller one because it’s surprising how much feed goes around it in one go. In open water in the height of summer I would use the larger feeder to introduce more bait.
Q What bait should I put around my feeder?
“This choice can ultimately make or break your session at this time of year, because you can quite easily overfeed carp. It isn’t quite as important in the height of summer when fish are feeding aggressively on all kinds of baits. You have three options – neat micro pellets, groundbait or a combination of the two.
Plain 2mm and 3mm micro pellets are my main choice at this time of year (I think groundbait puts too many particles in the water in spring). Pellets break down quickly, even in cold water, so your hookbait is soon exposed and ‘fishing’. In deep, open- water lakes pellets are far better because you need a high food content to hold fish in such a wide area. Soak micropellets for a couple of minutes, use a fine net as a riddle, and they will soon be ready to pack on a feeder.
When the water really begins to warm up in May or June, I make the switch to groundbait. This creates a lot of activity in the peg, and you want a heavy groundbait that will sit on the bottom and not waft around all over the place. I pick two fishmeal versions and mix them in even parts – Dynamite Swim Stim Green and Dynamite Marine Halibut. If you’re just fishing for carp you could increase the percentage of the Halibut.
GROUNDBAIT AND PELLET MIX
Groundbait on its own is good when the fishing is harder because there is nothing for fish to eat except the hookbait. But usually I mix soaked micro pellets and groundbait together, 50:50. This gives the best of both worlds – the attraction of groundbait and the holding power of pellets, so carp don’t become preoccupied with one bait or the other. When it gets to October and the water starts to go clearer again, switch back to pellets.
Q Are inline or elasticated feeders best?
Elasticated Method feeders are generally better because the elastic cushions the fish’s lunges and results in fewer hook-pulls. Inline feeders bounce about up and down the line and can lead to lost fish. However, because standard elasticated feeders are fixed on the line I would only recommend them for advanced anglers who are confident they won’t crack off on the cast and leave a fixed feeder in the lake for a fish to pick up. If in doubt, it’s better to use the Guru X-Safe system feeders which are elasticated through an inline tube in the middle. If your line does snap above it, the feeder itself will run up the line. Always check fishery rules first because many smaller commercial waters only permit the use of true inline feeders.
Rob is a big fan of the Guru X-Safe flatbed feeders.
Q Where do I cast?
The colder and clearer the water is, the further out from the bank carp will sit. So on a large venue, I’d cast a good 50 or 60 yards, unless there’s an underwater feature such as a deep hole or sunken island somewhere in the peg.
As it gets warmer, fish come closer to the bank looking for food. I’d catapult 6mm or 8mm pellets in at 30 to 40 yards, and try fishing over the top of that.
When you have an island in front of you it’s the obvious place to cast to. On a shallower featureless far bank, the warmer it is, the tighter to the island you should cast. In the height of summer fish will come into inches of water to feed!
However in cold weather fish further down the shelf in the deeper water. I would only cast tight to an island at this time of year if there was a reasonable depth (3ft-plus) and reed cover.
Q Do I need a powerful rod?
There is a misconception that you need a powerful rod for fishing the Method.
Times have changed – it’s more important to have a light to medium rod which is soft enough to avoid pulling the hook out. This kind of rod can quite easily beat hard-fighting carp in no time at all. Generally, the medium-rated tip of your rod is best with the Method.
Here’s a very brief guide to the rods I like to use:
Short casts up to 20 yards: Shimano 9ft Speedmaster Commercial Feeder
Medium casts up to 50 yards: Shimano 11ft Speedmaster Commercial
Long casts of 60 yards-plus: Shimano 12ft 6in Beastmaster BX Commercial Distance
You don't need a powerful rod to beat fish such as this. An 11ft version is fine!
Q What selection of hookbaits should I take with me on a session?
Carp aren’t used to being caught on bread on the feeder so it’s treated with less suspicion. It’s great in cold weather because the fish suck up the loose pellets without realising there’s a hookbait in there. I like to fish two or three punched 8mm pieces.
Boilies are great when fish are feeding hard. Go for an 8mm or 10mm version, and my favourite colours are red or yellow. White boilies also work very well for bream. Use pop-up boilies or dumbells – a great choice when there is weed or snags on the bottom.
My number one choice in summer, when softer baits can get destroyed by silverfish. I like a 6mm pellet for small carp and F1s and an 8mm one for bigger carp. Pellets are best on the hook when you’re using pellets around the feeder as well.
Cut into strips and then use a bait punch to create tubed sections. These can then be hair-rigged. Just like bread, carp aren’t used to being caught on meat on the Method and it is a very effective way of picking out the bigger commons and mirrors in summer.
A great hookbait for F1 carp and skimmers. For some reason two dead reds nicked on to the hook get the best response. Always use dead maggots with groundbait, or a groundbait and pellet mix. You must kill the maggots first or they will crawl into the silt!
Q What length and strength of hooklink is best?
To answer this, you have to consider how carp feed on the Method. Generally, they sit a few inches above it and suck bait directly upwards. If your hooklength is too short there won’t be enough leeway in the line to allow a carp to take your bait without feeling something suspicious. Likewise, if your hooklength is too long the line will be too slack and a carp might be able to ‘get away with it’, spitting the bait out without being hooked.
With this in mind I consider four inches to be the optimum hooklength for the Method, especially for F1 carp and small to medium-sized mirrors and commons. Bigger double-figure fish are more cautious and will sit further above the feeder so to target them I use a longer (6in) hooklength, as I do for bream.
As far as line strength is concerned, err on the side of caution by using slightly heavier than you would do on the float. There’s a lot of pressure on the tackle with this technique so it needs to be up to the task. Normally, a 6lb or 8lb mainline is ideal.
Hooklength Fish size/species
4lb (0.14mm) F1 carp, other carp to 3lb
5lb (0.16mm) Carp to 4lb, bream
6lb (0.18mm) Carp to 8lb
8lb (0.20mm) Carp to 10lb from open water
10lb (0.22mm) Carp to 10lb-plus, snaggy swims
Q How do I use my mould to position my hookbait?
Method moulds are great for loading your feeder with bait and they let you put your hookbait exactly where you want it. If you want it to sit right on top of the pile of bait, put it in the mould first, then add your pellets or groundbait. This is a good ploy when fish are attacking the feeder and bites are coming straight away.
If you have to wait for bites, or if silverfish are pestering you, bury the hookbait. Add a layer of pellets or groundbait to the mould first, then put your hookbait on top, before finishing it off with the main consignment of loose bait. With groundbait you only need to press the feeder into the mould a couple of times – any more and it won’t break down quickly enough. Pellets break down quickly no matter how hard they are squeezed!
Filling it up when bagging...
If bites are coming quickly, place the bait at the base of the mould before the feed goes in.
Your hookbait sits right on top of the feeder, so it will quickly come free for a fish to suck in.
Filling it up when waiting a long time for a bite...
In deep water or when waiting a long time for a bite, add a layer of feed before the hookbait.
It will be contained in the feeder but will soon become exposed as the bait breaks down.
Q How long should I leave it between casts?
This really depends on how the fish are responding on the day, so in winter and early spring I tend to leave it out for much longer than in summer. Because presentation is so good with a flatbed Method feeder, you can be confident leaving it out for longer periods. A really good tip is to keep an eye on your watch for how long it takes to get a bite after casting out. If you notice that it takes at least 15 minutes after casting to get a bite, it’s no good becoming impatient and reeling in after 10 minutes! In summer I cast a lot more regularly, especially when fishing up to islands. Fish come to the noise and I’m looking to build the peg up with plenty of feed so I might cast every two minutes or so.
What a result! Five cracking carp fell to Rob's Method tactics at Boddington Reservoir.
Q How should I attach my bait to the hair?
There are various types of bait stops and bands to keep your hookbait on the hair but I stick to just two. For hooking hard pellets I use a small bait band. Just open the band up with your fingers or with a specialist banding tool, and insert the pellet. For softer baits I tie the hair-rig with a Korum Quick Stop. This has a spike at one end and a hollow opening at the other, meaning you can push it from the hollow end, through a soft bait, and use it as a stop once it pokes out the other side. This is great with bread and meat. For boilies I use a thin bait drill to put a hole through the centre, and then I push the Quick Stop through. I think normal hair stops which fit into loops are too fiddly.
Bait bands (left) and Quick Stops (right) are used on the hair.
Rod: 11ft Shimano Speedmaster Commercial Feeder – “With the medium tip fitted this rod has a lovely through-action which today has helped me to beat carp to 12lb with ease. There was no danger of pulling the hook out”
Reel: Shimano X Aero Baitrunner 4000FA
Mainline: 6lb Shimano Technium – “I use this for most of my Method feeder work, unless I’m fishing to a snaggy island, in which case I’ll step up to 8lb”
Hooklength: 6lb Aspire Silk Shock
Hook: Guru QM1 – “These circle hooks are perfect for the Method. I use size 14 for large baits such as bread, meat and boilies, and a size 16 for pellets”
Hookbaits: bread, pellets, boilies, meat and dead maggots z Loosefeed: micro pellets and Dynamite Baits’ groundbait