Tommy Pickering's 10-second rule

The vast majority of anglers who fish the pole have a small pot attached to the end of their top kit. They feed a small amount after every fish, as they should, but not always in the correct manner. This week I reveal my 10-second rule that will help you feed and get bites within seconds of your hookbait touching the bottom.

Ship the pole out and line it up with a far-bank marker. This will ensure that you fish to the same point every time and keep the feeding tight.

Once you have shipped out to the right distance, turn the pole cup over and drop the loosefeed into the water. At this point it doesn’t matter how or where the rig is sat. It’s getting that feed in quickly that matters.

With the loosefeed in the water, lift your rig so that it is directly over where you have just fed. Hold the whole pole float out of the water for 10 seconds. The hookbait then falls through the water with the loosefeed, making it harder for the fish to suss out which pellet has a hook in it.

Once you have counted to 10, gently lower the rest of the float into the water. Fish should swarm around your feed in an instant, and because the fall of your hookbait has looked extremely natural, it won’t be long before it is slurped up and the elastic starts to stream out.



What feeder to choose with Tommy Pickering

Take a look around your local tackle shop and you will see that there are dozens of different feeder patterns available. Each one serves a purpose, but you need to pick the right pattern for the job in hand. This week I reveal three feeders that have a proven track record for silver fish on natural and commercial waters.

Maggots are a brilliant bait for a variety of species, especially roach and chub. This type of feeder should be packed with maggots that will slowly crawl out once it hits the bottom, drawing fish into the swim. You can cut extra holes with scissors if you want the bait to escape quicker, or tape up some holes if you want the maggots to get away at a slower pace. Preston Innovations Clik Cap feeders fit the bill, as they cast accurately and release the bait at the ideal rate.

 

When you want to put down a bed of groundbait a completely different feeder is required. It needs to have open ends so that the groundbait can trickle out into the swim. Of the two different kinds of open end feeder – wire and plastic – I prefer the latter. This is because they have fewer holes, and they prevent any of the bait falling out on the way to the bottom. I rarely use less than 30g feeders and these will easily chuck distances up to 50 yards.

On big and open waters where bream dominate you may have to cast a long way to get in touch with the shoals. You could try and hit the mark with a standard open-end feeder but you would probably fall short of your target. The answer is to use a feeder where the lead is mounted at the bottom. This makes the feeder fly better and also improves casting accuracy.



Prepare your pellets with Tommy Pickering

Pellets are without doubt the most effective bait on commercials at this time of the year, but a lot of them float initially when they come out of the bag. They may only stay on the surface for 10 seconds before dropping to the deck, but in even the slightest breeze this will lead to your bait drifting out of the swim,  and sending fish with it. Take a look at this simple trick to make every single pellet sink the second it hits the water.

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Take a handful of 4mm or 6mm pellets and place them in a bait box full of water. You will instantly notice that a proportion of them float. Once you have done this, pour the water and wet pellets away, wipe the box dry and add the rest of the bag of pellets to the tub.

I used to add sunflower oil to my pellets but now use a product that’s even more effective. To every pint of bait I use I add a capful of Sonubaits Clear Pellet Oil. It comes in three flavours – F1, Krill and Scopex – and all three release plenty of attractive scent into the water.

Place the lid back on the bait tub containing the pellets and shake the contents around vigorously for approximately 10 seconds. This will make sure that the oil spreads evenly, and that every single pellet gets a good coating.

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Take the lid off and the pellets are ready for use straight away. The key difference to adding water is that the oil will not make your pellets swell and if you don’t use them all that session, you can take them home and they won’t go mouldy. 



Six easy steps for using corn

There are few cheaper and more effective baits for commercial fishery carp at this time of year than sweetcorn. A large tin from the supermarket will set you back less than a pound, but it can provide enough bait to last the best part of a session. Corn is highly effective for a number of reasons, and high on that list is its bright colour and softness, especially when compared to a 6mm pellet or a cube of meat.

The colour makes corn stand out when fished on its own or over a bed of another feed, while its softness is much loved by all fish. It’s also not particularly filling, as a grain of corn boasts a high water content so carp can trough away for hours without getting full.

And if you take a peek at the match results in Angling Times each week, you’ll see corn accounting for ever more match wins as we head into April.  It’s also brilliant for other species, with bream, tench and even quality roach all loving the yellow stuff!

Try sweetcorn on different colours

In its natural form, corn is bright yellow, and that’s perhaps the main reason for its effectiveness. Even in coloured water, fish can easily pick out a grain, and if the lake is slightly clear, this ‘high-viz’ quality comes even more to the fore. However, you can buy corn in different colours and flavours, and on some waters red corn will outfish yellow. If you’re not sure which colour to use, arm yourself with a variety and keep changing on every cast until you catch – even green corn can have its day!

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Big hooks

Compared to a maggot or a pellet, corn is a big bait, so you need to match the size of the hook accordingly. On the strike, the hook will pull through a soft piece of corn but you’ll need to be able to mount the bait properly so it stays on during the cast. Pick a hook with a wide gape as this will allow the bait to sit comfortably on the bend, while leaving a decent amount of the hookpoint on show. This will aid hooking when the float goes under. In terms of hook size, a 14 or 16 will be just about perfect.

Choose the right floats

Corn is quite a heavy bait, so this means you have to think big when it comes to floats, especially when fishing in open water. If your float is too light then the presentation will be unbalanced, and the fish will sense this. On the pole, pick a float with quite a big body, such as a rugby ball or diamond shaped one of 0.5g to 0.7g, dependent on the depth. When fishing the margins this can be smaller, but certainly no finer than a 4x12 pattern. Shot this with a bulk and one dropper shot and set the rig so that the corn is just resting on the bottom.

Combine it with other baits

Fished on its own, corn is deadly, but it can be improved by feeding it with other baits. Hemp is brilliant when fed to create a bed on the bottom, over which corn hookbaits are fished to really stand out. Cubed 6mm meat is another winner at this time of year, mixed 50/50 with corn as feed. You can also pop a few grains into chopped worm and caster feed and this will give you the option of changing from a worm hookbait to a piece of corn if small fish are a problem.

Hooking Corn

There is a right way to hook corn, and although you can simply nick the hook through the side, it will eventually work loose and be hanging on by a thread. The best way to mount a grain of corn is to pierce it through the rounded end and work the hook down the grain so it comes out of the flattened bottom end. This ensures that all of the shank and most of the bend is inside the grain, leaving just the hookpoint on show. Using double corn also adopts the same principle.

Give it a go in shallow water

Should you be faced with fishing the far side of a snake lake or a shallow margin, corn can be transformed into a superb shallow-water feed. All it needs is a food blender to whizz the corn about for a few seconds to chop it into smaller pieces. When fed, it’ll create a lingering cloud, while the larger pieces will sink that bit slower. You can even go the whole hog and blend the corn into a sloppy soup that’ll put a bigger cloud into the swim. This works particularly well if the fish are feeding off the bottom. 

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Bag up down the edge with Steve Ringer!

With days getting longer and temperatures on the up, carp are waking up and starting to look for food.

It seems they have been looking for shallow water, too, as the margins have already produced some very big weights on several of the venues I fish. That makes sense, as the shallow water warms up first. No wonder the carp are going to be happy feeding there! Fishing the margins at this time of year is a bit different to the summer months, though. Big pots of bait are a no-no. It’s all about feeding for one fish at a time.

While there are carp to be caught in the edge there are loads of them not yet coming in, and so all feeding a lot of bait does is reduce your chances of catching the one or two fish that are there – you can give them too many options other than your hookbait.

The trick is to feed and fish for one carp at a time. That might seem quite negative, but when you realise the carp can weigh 10lb apiece it soon becomes apparent you don’t need many of them for a big weight!

Which baits?

My bait isn’t that different to what it would be in the summer, I just tend to use less of it. To start off I have 1kg of groundbait, and I’ve had a lot of success over the years with a Sweet Fishmeal mix I created with Dynamite a few years back. That’s my ‘go-to’ mix for the margins.

I like to prepare it slightly on the wet side. This makes it heavier, so it sits on the bottom a lot better, something I believe is very important when fishing in the margins. I also have two tins of meat and a tin of corn. The meat is chopped into 6mm cubes, and while some will say meat is better when the weather is a bit warmer, I would argue that big carp can’t get enough of it, and that there’s no better time to use it than now, providing it’s fed in moderation.

Corn is one of those baits that carp go for in a big way, and I like it for edge fishing as it’s heavy and doesn’t waft about once the fish are feeding. Its bright colour also stands out well, as the water in most commercials hasn’t properly coloured up yet. 

Rig choice

In terms of floats I have very quickly become a fan of Drennan Margin Crystals. These are relatively small floats, yet they take plenty of shot. If there are a couple of big carp in the swim I find that a heavier float gives me that little bit more stability and my hookbait won’t be wafted about all over the place by feeding fish.

Bearing in mind that today I’m fishing in 2ft of water I have opted for one taking 0.3g. As I’m targeting carp from 8lb to 10lb-plus, my mainline is 0.19mm Guru N-Gauge and my hooklength is 4ins of 0.17mm. Hook is a size 14 Guru XS spade, which is a strong, wide gape pattern that lends itself perfectly to big baits such as meat or corn.

It will come as no surprise to regular readers of this column to learn that my shotting pattern is a strung bulk of No9s with the bottom shot 5ins from the hook and the rest of the droppers spaced at 1ins intervals above this.

Go longer above the float

If possible, try and use a slightly longer than usual length of line between pole float and pole-tip, say 24ins minimum. This way, with the water still quite clear, there is less chance of fish spooking off the shadow of the pole. Better still, hide the pole using the bank or even a platform, as I have done today.

With big fish the target my elastic choice is Red Hydro – yes it’s thick and powerful but once bedded in it’s quite forgiving. 

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depth is crucial

In relatively clear water, when I’m looking to catch big carp, depth is very important. In the summer I would be happy fishing in just 12ins of water, but at the moment I feel a lot more confident fishing in 2ft-3ft, and ideally close to some sort of cover.

Today I’m on the big lake at Meadowlands, and with blank pegs either side of me the empty platforms are ideal to target. They offer the right depth and give cover too. If that wasn’t enough, carp get used to finding food around these platforms so they become a natural feeding area.

How and when to feed

I see no point in feeding the edges until around two hours to go in a match situation. Feeding earlier than this is just wasting bait and could actually lead to overfeeding later in the match. To kick the edge line off I initially feed half a 250ml pot of bait made up of two-thirds groundbait and the rest meat and corn.

Then, unless I see signs of fish colouring up the water, or tail patterns, I will leave the swim to settle for 15-20 minutes. When it’s time to fish the spot I feed two-thirds of a large Guru pole pot of bait, a 50:50 mix of meat and corn with a cap of groundbait to keep the bait in place and prevent the loss of any of it when shipping out. Once the rig is in place I will turn the pole over and tap out the contents of the pot.

Lift the rig out

As soon as I’ve fed, I lift the rig clear of the water for five seconds before slowly lowering it back in again, right on top of the bait I’ve just fed. I remove the float from the swim straight after feeding in order to minimise the chances of line bites and foul-hooking, which is something that tends to happen when feeding over the top of the float.

Once your rig is in place it’s then just a case of waiting for a bite. If there is a carp present in the swim then generally you will get an indication in the first minute to tell you. If, however, there are no signs after five minutes I prefer to look elsewhere to keep my catch rate ticking over.

Resetting the trap

If I do catch a fish, though, it’s simply a case of resetting the trap by feeding with the pole-mounted pot and then waiting. What I am trying to do is feed for just one or two fish, catch one and then repeat the process.

Because I am feeding when I go in, I always know I am fishing on top of bait, even though in terms of margin fishing it’s a relatively small amount. This stops me from worrying about whether I have been cleaned out – I can fish safe in the knowledge that there is definitely some bait on the bottom. 

Vary your hookbaits

As far as hookbaits go I like to keep it to just two. The first is my secret ‘cube-and-a-half’ of meat. My meat cutter is getting a bit worn and the end row is slightly bigger than the rest, which is actually something I like because it creates these slightly larger cubes which are great to use on the hook. 

My second hookbait is double corn. This is a big, stand-out bait that has caught me an awful lot of carp over the years and often produces a quick response.

Are you sitting comfortably?

You arrive at your chosen peg and the excitement of bagging up soon takes over. The kit is hauled out of the car, the box is placed on the platform, and it’s then on to getting the pole and rods ready for a busy session.

Positioning your box properly could make all the difference between getting a fish-a-chuck in comfort or waking up the morning after racked with aches and pains. So this week I show you how to correctly set your seat box up...

If your seatbox is too low and tilting back slightly you’ll have to tuck your knees in and you’ll become uncomfortable in no time at all. Shipping back your pole will be really tricky if you are in this position, and there is no doubt that it will lead to you missing bites and losing fish.

Sitting too high is also a recipe for disaster and will mean you have to extend your legs a lot more to have your feet flat on your footplate. This will result in you holding your pole at an awkward angle which will again lead to you putting fewer fish in your net. Over-extending for hours on end will also lead to a lot of aches and pains once the session is over.

The height at which you set your seatbox has a big impact on your balance and comfort. A 90-degree bend from your knee to the footplate will allow you to lay the pole across your knees and keep your back straight. Pole fishing can be tiresome at times, especially at longer lengths, so having your seatbox properly positioned will help no end.



Hit the same spot every time with these catapult tips!

The fish have started to have a real go on a lot of the waters I fish, and so I’ve started to feed with a catapult a lot more. One of the biggest benefits of feeding this way is the noise that is creates. Carp and F1s associate that commotion with food entering the water, and as a result will be attracted into your swim by it. But accuracy is still very important – this week Tommy Pickering will show you how to catapult pellets into the same spot every single time. 

Step 1) 

The positioning of the bait box from which you are taking feed is very important. It needs to be located on your bait tray in a place where you can reach into it and pick out a few pellets without looking. If your bait tray is on the left side of your box, the best spot to put your tub is in the top right-hand corner of it. 

Your hand will naturally wander to this area, and you’ll be able to pick up the quantity of pellets you need while still looking at your float.

 

Step 2) 

While still looking at your float, fill the pouch of the catapult with the required loading of pellets. I use a Preston Innovations PelletPult as the flat-bottomed pouch makes sure the feed is all tightly packed together.

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Step 3) 

By this stage you still haven’t taken your eyes off the float. To gain pinpoint accuracy, line the catapult elastic up along your pole. If it is lined up even a fraction to the left or right, your bait will miss your target zone. Release the pouch and note how far back you stretched the elastic. If the feed goes right over the float, pull it back the same distance next time. If it falls short, extend it slightly further and if it goes too far, reduce the tension next time



Never spill bait again with Tommy Pickering!

The vast majority of anglers use a small pot on the end of their pole to feed their swim, but can you honestly say that every morsel of bait reaches the target zone? I often see anglers shipping out, with bait falling out of the pot at regular intervals as they do this. By the time they reach their target zone, the cup is almost empty!

This week I reveal the secret to making sure that every drop of feed stays in the cup until you are ready to introduce it.

Step 1) 

The single most important factor in getting all your feed to the desired spot is positioning your pole rollers correctly – otherwise your pole will bounce all over the place and cause bait to spill out too early. When your pole is unshipped and all your sections are behind you, the first roller should be a third of the way up the pole, with the second two-thirds away. This will make sure you can ship out fluidly without needing to concentrate too much.

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Step 2)

It is important that you don’t overfill your pot with bait. If it is overflowing with maggots, pellets or corn, some of it is bound to fall out. Not only will this leave you with less bait to drop into your target zone, but it will also be feeding the places where you aren’t fishing, and drawing the shoals into an area that will never see a rig.

 

Step 3) 

 

A lot of anglers will feed 4mm pellets at this time of year as they attract a wide range of species. When they are dry, though, they are liable to bounce around the pot. To prevent this, I use a Prestons Monster Pellet Wetter. I place the required amount of bait in the pellet bag and briefly submerge it in the EVA bowl that is filled with water. This gives the pellets a soft coating that stops them bouncing around as you ship out.

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Tommy Pickering's greatest tips revealed!

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When it comes to boosting your catches in early-spring, there’s no one more qualified to help than Tommy Pickering.   The former world champion andcurrent Preston Innovations England feeder team boss is one of the world’s best all-round anglers, and this week he reveals a boxful of tips that will bring more fish your net.

Bait

LIght Groundbait

A light-coloured groundbait mix will always outscore a darker version when roach are the main target. The species tends to feed more confidently over a light blend, and a very fine product that has minimal feed content should be used to prevent overfeeding the shoal. Sonubaits Super Crumb Lake ticks all the boxes.

Pinkies for big fish

Worms, casters and maggots may seem like three deadly baits for skimmers, but pinkies go top of my list when fishing for the species on natural venues. Mix plenty of them into your groundbait, use two or three on the hook and you’ll find you are picking out much bigger stamp fish than other anglers around you.

Try a binding agent

If you are struggling to get your pellets to cling to the Method feeder then add a binding agent. Dampen your 2mm pellets as usual and then add one spoonful of Sonubaits Stiki Pellet to a pint of bait. This will make sure the pellets stick when casting and as the feeder falls, but also ensure they start to break down slowly once the feeder hits the deck.

Which goes first?

Add groundbait to the water when making paste but add water to the groundbait when making groundbait. This subtle change is may seem unimportant but it is essential, and will make sure your bait takes on the consistency that you require for the job

How to hook casters

There are two different ways to hook a caster, and how the day is going will dictate the best way to do it. The first is to bury as much of the hook inside the shell as possible. This produces more action when silvers are cagey. When they drop their guard, have the hookpoint fully exposed so you reduce the number of missed bites

Vary your pellets

Pellets are the staple diet of most commercial fish but the fish can wise up to them at times. In order to give yourself an edge, feed standard coarse pellets but use a flavoured or coloured pellet over the top to fool bites from wary specimens.

Cylinders V Cubes

Punched cylinders of meat are stacks better than cubes when fishing on the feeder. This is because the shape of cubed meat leads to twists occurring in the hooklength when you reel in.

Try pop-up boilies

The bomb and popped-up bread can be fantastic for carp and F1s on commercials right now but don’t neglect boilies. An 8mm or 10mm pop-up can be a better option if you are getting lots of little plucks that you can’t hit – small silverfish are often the culprits. Pop-ups are also better when you are waiting long periods, as you can be a lot more confident that the hookbait is still on the hair and hasn’t disintegrated.

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Floats

Which float stem

The type of stem that your stick float has should be dictated by the conditions you are fishing in. Cane is best when trying to catch silvers on the drop, alloy versions are more stable in unpredictable, boiling swims and plastic-stemmed floats stand upright as soon as they hit the water. They are therefore real winners in turbulent and pacey swims. 

Quick Change Swivel

Always use a snap link swivel with any kind of waggler. This will enable you to quickly change the size or pattern of the float at any stage of the day. 

Overcast and windback

Sink the line when using the waggler so that the float stays in the same place for longer. In order to achieve this, cast five yards beyond your target zone, before winding the float back to your spot with the rod tip underwater. A small amount of line may still be floating and this can be sunk by sharply flicking the rod tip upwards.

Dot it right down

Never have any more than half the float bristle showing when pole fishing. When fishing for shy-biting species such as F1s, dot it down so only a few millimetres are showing. This can be done by adding tiny shot such as No12 Stotz to your rig in order to fine-tune it. 

Accuracy every time and how to keep a short line

Pick a far-bank marker in order to fish in exactly the same spot all day. Line your swim up with an object that won’t move and make sure you are facing it when the rig goes in. Place your elbow on the same spot to get the same distance every time.

If you want to hit every carp and F1 bite on commercials you must keep a short line between pole-tip and float. Use a 6ins length in still conditions, 9ins if there is a ripple, and a foot if it is a bit windy. 

Tackle

How long a rod? 

Too many people don’t pay attention to the length of feeder rod they are using, but your choice will dictate how accurate your casting is. For fishing 30 yards out on a standard commercial, opt for a 10ft version, stepping up to a 12ft or 13ft rod when chucking beyond 50 yards on bigger waters. 

Make yourself comfortable

Being comfortable when fishing from a box is incredibly important, or your mind will soon drift off the job. Make sure your side tray is as high as it can be so that you can reach bait with ease. Rig roosts and keepnets should also be easily accessible without having to over extend.

Positioning a pot 

The positioning of your pole pot on the top kit will dictate how successful you are. Make sure it is only a few inches from the pole so that any loosefeed you drop in goes directly over the top of your hookbait.

Fail-safe shotting

Shotting patterns are rarely given the attention they deserve, and if you are after a mixed bag on commercials then one patterns always works well. Place a bulk of shot around 18ins to 2ft away from the hook and have three smaller dropper shot spread evenly between that and the hooklength loop. This will slow the fall of your hookbait and make it look natural as it nears the bottom.

Keep a short hair

The difference between an effective hair rig and one that doesn’t lead to many fish in the net is literally a few millimetres. The shorter the hair rig, the better and I find that hair rigs where there is only a tiny gap between the bait and the hook are most effective. 

Control your area

On a busy commercial, think carefully about where you are going to fish. If all the anglers opposite are casting to the middle then the fish will probably avoid this commotion and go elsewhere. Look to fish in your own patch of water – even if that means coming shorter – and you’ll find more feeding fish.

Try a heavy plummet

We all know that plumbing the depth is important, but using the correct plummet is a must. If it is too light, you won’t be able to work out the contours of the bottom whereas a 20g-30g version will give you the precision that is required when using the pole.

Sensibly strong rigs

If a fishery states that the carp run up to 15lb, don’t set up a rig to catch only fish of that size. Using heavy lines and hooks you’ll miss out on bites from smaller fish, so compromise.

Feeder

longer hooklengths

On rivers I find an 18ins to 2ft hooklength best in coloured water. When bream fishing in normal conditions I will step up to 3ft, and 5ft for barbel, as they tend to sit well away from the feeder on big rivers like the Trent. 

Don’t move a feeder

Once you have cast a feeder out don’t move it out of place. With a Method or pellet feeder you will only empty the frame and move your hookbait out of the pile of freebies. This will ultimately make the whole rig ineffective. When you cast out, make sure the feeder hits the water with the mainline still slack, so you can put a bend in the tip without moving the feeder.

Give it a chance

If your feeder is in the right place, leave it in the water for a long period of time. At this time of year you may only be fishing for 10 fish so don’t be afraid of leaving it be for up to 20 minutes.

Why plastic is best

I prefer a plastic open-end feeder to wire. This is because I am much more confident that all the bait stays in it until it gets to the bottom, and it also retrieves easier and doesn’t vibrate as much in the water. 

Depth-Finder

To find the depth on bomb or feeder cast out a 1oz bomb. Once it hits the water start counting. A bomb of this size falls at a rate of a foot every half second, so you can work it out from there.

Fishing a light bomb

When fishing the bomb, the lightest lead you can get away with should be used at this time of year. Any excess commotion will spook any fish you have landed on and when fishing on commercials, a 3/8oz to ½oz bomb is about right. 

Match feed to venue

Feeder groundbait when targeting bream depends on the water I am on. If it is a commercial that sees a lot of pellets than I will use a fishmeal-based product such as Sonubaits Bream Feeder, but if I am on a natural water I’ll turn to a cereal recipe such as Sonubaits Super Crumb Bream. 

Half- Filled feeder

Half-filling a Banjo feeder is a fantastic way of getting extra bites in the cold. The reduced amount of food around the feeder forces the fish into taking the hookbait and it is often the bigger specimens that fall for this trick. 

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Six brilliant tips for fishing for big perch

There’s no better time than right now to catch your biggest ever perch! 

Unlike many species, perch begin to spawn in the next few weeks and because of this, they are hungry, looking to pack on weight before they begin to breed. So whatever the weather is doing, they’ll be feeding at some point during the day.

So where should you head to target a specimen stripey? Well, you can find them in almost any water but over the last decade or so, the commercial carp fishery has proved to be a happy hunting ground for the angler in search of a big perch.

The fish aren’t as pressured as perch in rivers and canals, and carp lakes are home to a plentiful supply of small silverfish to hunt.However, finding the biggest fish isn’t as easy as simply turning up and casting out a rod with a couple of maggots on the hook. 

In fact, perch fishing on commercials has seen unique tactics evolve alongside baits that you wouldn’t normally use anywhere else.In the first of our new ‘six steps to...’ series, Angling Times pinpoints six ‘musts’ for the angler looking to bag a big perch on the carp lakes. 

You don’t need to alter tackle radically, and sourcing the bait and feed takes little more than a trip down to the supermarket or into the garden.

Step 1.  Find your quarry

Find the small fish and you’ll find the perch – it’s that simple on a commercial. Any match angler will tell you that around 5m out on the pole is a great area for catching roach, so it makes sense to put much of your effort into fishing here around two rodlengths out, especially if there is a natural drop-off in depth – a classic perch ambush point. However, as on rivers, any sort of cover will also be used by perch. That means rushes, overhanging trees or bushes, islands and even the pallet on an empty peg next door – essentially, anywhere that a perch can lurk in wait to ambush prey fish.

Step 2. Get your timing right

Early and late are great times for catching perch on natural waters, when low light levels make it easy for a fish to stalk its prey. On commercial fisheries it is no different, so to stack the odds in your favour, set the alarm early and try to be the first on to the lake in the morning, or hold on until the very end of the day when the sun begins to set. The difference in sport can be astounding.

Set your alarm early and try to be the first one on the lake in the morning.

Set your alarm early and try to be the first one on the lake in the morning.

Step 3. Go for a float 

Float or leger will catch plenty of perch but the float does offer more sensitivity, as well as letting you cover more of the swim. A standard waggler works well but because you are often fishing at short range, a pole float may well serve you better. Many top specimen hunters slide a delicate float of around 0.5g on to the line as there’s no real casting involved, and the pay-off is that there’s minimal effort needed on the part of the perch to produce a positive bite.

A float offers more sensitivity, as well as letting you cover more of the swim

A float offers more sensitivity, as well as letting you cover more of the swim

Step 4. Hair-rig your worms

Perch, whether they live in a canal or commercial fishery, love worms, and lobworms are a good starting point, especially the soft tail end – which perch seem to take without a trace of caution. Don’t ignore smaller dendrobaenas as they make a super change bait. Try a couple impaled on a bait spike or even hair-rigged if you have the patience. Dendras are very lively and keep on wriggling, drawing in curious perch. Hair-rigging will create minimal resistance when a fish takes the bait.

Step 5. Dye your prawns

Specific to commercial fisheries has been the use of prawns on the hook – although carp love them just as much as perch! However, a soft raw king prawn impaled on a size 12 hook is just the job if little fish are proving troublesome with maggots and worms. A great trick is to pep up a prawn in clear water by changing its colour, and that’s easily done by leaving a handful of prawns in a little water to which a bright red bait dye has been added. The resulting vivid hookbait will soon be sniffed out by a perch.

Leave prawns in water to which bright red bait dye has been added.

Leave prawns in water to which bright red bait dye has been added.

Step 6. Get the scissors out

AS well as making great hookbaits, prawns can be used as loosefeed when broken in half and either catapulted out or thrown in by hand. To fully maximise the fishy scent of prawns, though, set about them with a pair of scissors, chopping them into fine pieces, almost the consistency of a mush. These can then be fed using a bait dropper alongside maggots or chopped worms, or added to some soil out of the garden when you are fishing deeper water.


TACKLE FOR BIG PERCH

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Commercial/Stillwater waggler float set
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Fox Rage Prism Micro Fused braid
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Korum Snapper KDS 2000 reel
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Darren Cox's five top tips for float fishing for big roach

A lot of species almost switch off the feed when the temperatures plummet but, for some strange reason, roach seem to do the complete opposite. On days when ice is lining the margins or worse, you can still rely on those redfins to provide a bite every chuck.

The shoals can consist of literally hundreds of fish, so how do you go about picking off the biggest ones in it? This week England international and Garbolino-backed Darren Cox shows you how to keep quality roach coming thick and fast.

 

1) Light rigs

“The biggest of the roach in the shoal are going to the oldest and wisest, and they will ignore a bait that isn’t presented properly. “Light rigs play an important part in this process so you should go no heavier than 0.12mm mainline and an 0.10mm hooklength to a size 18 hook. “Pay special attention to your shotting pattern, making sure it allows your hookbait to enter the feeding zone at a slow pace.”

2) Finiky Feeding

Roach will change the way they feed almost every day. “It is important to work out early in the day whether the redfins are intercepting the bait as it falls through the water or picking it up off the bottom. “If they are plucking at the bait as it sinks, it’s time to use a strung-out shotting pattern to really slow the fall of the hookbait.”                 

3) Unbeatable Baits

“If there are two baits that will guarantee big roach they are hemp and tares. “A size 16 or 18 Kamasan B511 is a light pattern of hook that is perfect for a tare or a grain of hemp. Float choice is also important. and a Garbolino DC12H provides the slow fall of the hookbait that is required. “Feed regularly, firing in 20 grains every few minutes.”

4) Waggler Winner

When the water is clear a waggler can often outscore the pole. “Cast out the float and then count how long it takes for the hookbait to hit the bottom. “You can work out when the bait has touched the deck by placing a small shot just above the hooklength – this will register and make your float sit how you want it once the hookbait has touched bottom.

“If you find that it takes a count to 10 before it hits the deck but the bites are coming by the time you count to five it means the fish are sat at half-depth and it is time to shallow up.”

5) Keep on feeding

“Make sure the feed is going in little and often and you will get the stamp of fish you wish for at some point. “Keep a few maggots trickling through the water column, not letting this rhythm stop at any point during the day. If you do, your chances of bringing specimen roach into the peg will quickly diminish. “If small fish refuse to back away, switch to feeding casters and use two on the hook.”


IDEAL FOR FLOAT FISHING FOR ROACH

10 brilliant bait tricks from Steve Ringer

Looking for an edge on commercials? Match ace Steve Ringer shows how to boost your baits.

 

1. Margins – big baits means more bites

When fishing in the edge, one of the hardest things is getting a carp to pick up your hookbait, especially when a lot of them are feeding, .

I would go as far as to say there is nothing more frustrating than being able to see carp in the edge and then not be able to catch them.

This is where a big ‘target bait’ such as 10-12 dead red maggots really comes into its own.

If you think about it there are going to be lots of maggots on the bottom so if I fish just two or three on the hook it’s going to take a while for a carp to find them. Fish a bunch, however, and bites can be instant! That’s how much of a difference it can make.

2. Blow up your pellets

A few years back I was doing a lot of straight lead and pellet fishing but always felt I was missing an edge over other anglers who were fishing the same tactic.

Then one day when I was packing up I noticed a few pellets had fallen under my seatbox. What struck me was the size of the pellets – they had taken on water and were almost twice the size.

This got me thinking as the same thing had to be happening in the water once the pellets had been on the bottom a while. I therefore decided to pump some hard 8mm pellets and leave them in water so that they ‘blew up’ into massive, soft pellets.

Once I got the process of prepping the pellets rightthe results were staggering and I was getting more bites than ever before on my ‘new’ blown pellets!

I had found the edge I had been looking for and ever since that day when lead and pellet fishing I always have a few ‘blown’ pellets with me. 

3. Hard pellets - noise is the key

When the fishing is hard and there isn’t a lot happening I am big believer in trying to draw a few fish into the swim and the best way to do so is to make a noise with hard pellets.

I pick up my catapult and ping just 3-4 pellets on top of the float every 20 seconds.

The reason this works is that carp home in on the noise of the pellets hitting the water but at the same time I’m not putting lots of bait on the bottom and risking killing the swim.

Size-wise this tactic works best with either 6mm or 8mm pellets because anything smaller doesn’t make enough noise to help pull a fish or two into the swim. 

4. Coloured water equals red meat

I love fishing meat but it loses its effectiveness when the water is extremely coloured.

When this is the case I will take a handful of my 6mm cubes and dye them red. The reason being when the water is very coloured red offers a strong silhouette and gives the carp a bait they can really home in on.

I was always sceptical about red meat in the past but I’ve had good results using it too many times in coloured water conditions for it to be coincidence.

I use Ringers Red Liquid to dye my cubes and will only dye my hookbait meat and not the cubes used for feeding.

5. Foul-hooking? Hemp is the answer

I’m often asked how to prevent foul-hooking carp when fishing meat close in?

My answer is to use hemp. But, and it’s a big but, it has to be used in the right way. If you feed it little and often along with the meat then there is a danger the carp can get preoccupied on it and you won’t be able to catch them.

It’s much better to use hemp purely as settling bait. So at the start I will pot in two thirds of a large 250ml Drennan pot of just hemp to form a bed. Then if I start to catch a few and then start to suffer from foul hooking, I will simply introduce another big pot of hemp to settle them back down again.

6. Feed heavy close in to get out of jail

Every now and again in a match you need a get- out-of-jail card and, while most people use the margins for this, I prefer to fish short on a top kit straight in front of me.

I mix hemp, corn and meat and simply lash it in to create the impression of someone packing up and throwing all their bait in.

I normally kick the swim off with three big handfuls of bait and go straight in over the top because quite often I will get a quick response from a fish within seconds. 

From that point on I will keep lashing the bait.It’s an approach that doesn’t always work but it has paid off on many occasions for it to be my ‘go to’ line when things aren’t going to plan. 

7. Pack in the particles for bream

The secret to building a big weight of bream is particles particles – casters, pellets, worms etc.

I pile in the particles in the first hour to put a bed of bait on the bottom. To do thisuse a bigger feeder and cast more often.

Then when the bream turn up, perhaps 90 minutes in, I have a lot more bait on the bottom to hold the bream for longer. 

8. Corn – two grains are better than one

Sweetcorn is a fantastic bait all year round but it’s particularly effective at this time of year.

The interesting part about corn is that when it comes to fishing it on the hook then I always tend to find that two grains are without doubt better than one.

Loads of times I have caught on corn and alternated between single and double on the hook only to find two grains constantly produced quicker bites and bigger fish.

There are two possible reasons for this, firstly the bigger bait stands out more over the loose offerings so the carp spot it that bit quicker, or it could be that everyone tends to fish a single grain of corn so two grains gets treated with less suspicion.

9. Stand out or blend in?

When fishing the Method or Hybrid feeder there are loads of different hookbaits you can use but I like to simplify things by dividing them into two camps, blend-in and stand-out.

Blend-in baits are those such as hard pellets that match the pellets on the feeder. When the fishing is hard this type of bait takes some beating.

The reason for this is that when the fishing is hard there aren’t many fish in the swim so those that are there can afford to be picky about what they pick up. Hence a blend-in bait works well as it can trick even the wariest of carp.

If, however, there are loads of fish in the swim then stand-out baits such as mini fluoro boilies or bread really come into their own. These work because they are highly visible and give the carp something they can really home in on.  

10. Give your meat a double cut

A couple of years back I spent a lot of time at Tunnel Barn Farm fishing meat into the shallow water across to far banks and islands. The problem was I struggled to hold the fish in the swim for long periods when feeding 6mm cubes.

What I needed, of course, was to create a cloud to firstly draw the fish in and then hold them in the swim once they arrived. To achieve this I decided to create a meaty mush by passing around a third of my 6mm meat cubes back through the cutter again, giving myself a feed made up of different sizes which almost exploded on the surface of the water.

This was added to 8-10 6mm cubes in my pot so when it was fed the cloudy mush pulled the fish into the swim and once they arrived they followed the 6mm cubes down to the bottom so I could catch them!

Steve Ringer's 101 greatest stillwater tips

1 How often to cast when fishing the Method is a question I get asked a lot. Every day is different and it pays to vary it during the day anyway. Start by leaving the feeder out for 5 mins at a time and then time how long it takes to get a bite.

If you’re getting bites within a minute then there’s no point leaving the feeder out there. This may change later in the day so have a few longer casts later on.

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2 When it comes to fishing for F1 hybrids there are times when your swim might only be 18ins deep, especially against an island but such shallow water can holds lots of fish. When this is the case you want to be getting positive bites and the key to this is to use a heavier than normal float.

I wouldn’t think twice about using a 10 x No11 Mick Wilkinson F1 float shotted with strung out No11 shot with the bottom shot 5ins from the hook and the others spaced at half-centimetre intervals above. This then allows me to get the hookbait straight to the bottom where the better fish are located

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3 Regulating the amount of bait you wrap around a Method feeder is an important part of feeder fishing, but one that most anglers don’t even consider. ‘Double skinning’ is something I’ve been doing a lot of in recent years and allows me to pile in more bait per cast, perfect for when the fish are having it. Basically I fill the feeder up as normal then instead of casting out I put another layer of pellets on. This is done by putting more pellets into the mould and pressing the already loaded feeder back into the mould to give it a second skin of pellets and so double the amount of bait on the feeder.

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4 To kick off a swim for skimmers and carp I will start by casting at least 10 medium cage feeders full of groundbait and micros to put a bed of bait down on the bottom and get the fish feeding. I’ll then drop down to a small cage feeder to begin fishing because bream don’t like big feeders on their heads while they’re eating.

5 When it comes to using micro pellets on the Method feeder, don’t be afraid to mould them really hard with lots of pressure as you’ll be surprised how quickly they come off once in the water.

6 Commercial fisheries hold such a range of fish nowadays and skimmers and crucians can be just as important as carp. So you need to have the right balance when it comes to elastic. Provided I’m not going to hook any huge carp and am fishing a good mixed fishery then I’d use doubled up No5 elastic set on the soft side in conjunction with a side puller kit so I can tighten the elastic on bigger fish.

7 Paste consistency is one of the most important parts of paste fishing in that the softer you have your paste the more bites you will get. The problem, of course, is that the softer the paste the harder it can be to keep it on the hook. To help with this I mix my paste to a relatively stiff consistency to start with and then tweak it as required throughout the session by dipping the paste in a tub of water before putting it on the hook.

8 It's a simple tip, but make sure you carry a whole range of sizes and weights of Method, blockend, and groundbait feeders ranging from tiny feeders that hold just a pinch of maggots to much bigger versions to get more bait in. This allows you to tailor the amount of bait you feed and also covers you for hitting the spot should the weather conditions change.

9 Meat and hemp is a great combo throughout the summer for margin fishing, but some anglers get it wrong when it comes to the ratio of each bait to feed. You don’t want to feed much meat as this is going on the hook, so to kick off a margin swim I feed three large 250ml pots full of hemp with an odd cube of meat mixed in and because this is normally a swim for the last two hours of a session I’ll then look to top it up with another full pot every 30 minutes, using the same ratio of meat to hemp.

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10 I first got my hands on a little bottle of Kiana Carp Goo Almond Smoke Bait Spray this winter and it’s awesome on bread. Fluoro pink in colour with a strong almond-based flavour that leaks off a fish attracting cloud, it also changes the colour of the bread which allows me to offer the carp something different  to everyone else casting out standard white bread.

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11 When potting in a lot of hemp I want a hookbait that really stands out for the fish to come into the swim and home in on. Meat is best but don’t go down the route of fishing the same-sized cube as you’re feeding. Sometimes a ridiculous-sized bait can catch well and a large 10mm cube is my first choice.

12 On mixed waters with both skimmers and carp I use an 8ins hooklength of 0.17 (6lb) Guru N Gauge on my groundbait feeder rigs. This might seem slightly on the heavy side for skimmers, but it ensures I’ll be able to land carp if I hook one. Hook choice is a size 18 or 20 Guru MWG – light, but tough for both species.

13 Most anglers like to clean their worms off but when fishing shallow water or up in the water I’ve found it better to keep the soil and peat on the worms as this helps to form a cloud which in turn attracts fish.

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14 When I fished canals for roach I was always taught to completely bury the hook in a caster but where commercial fisheries are concerned, whether fishing for roach or carp, I like to thread the bait on the hook leaving the point showing as I find I hit more bites this way. If I can’t catch leaving the hook point showing, as can happen, then in my opinion there aren’t enough fish in the swim to make fishing for them viable.

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15 Dead maggots are a great bait for margin carp or fishing on the Method feeder and to prepare them I put the cleaned maggots in a large bowl and add cold water until they’re just covered. I then slowly pour boiling water on the maggots while stirring them and once all of the maggots are dead I then add more cold water to prevent them scalding. Drain them and seal them in a plastic bag until needed.

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16 When faced with a typical swim, rather than fishing straight out in front I like to fish at a slight angle of either 10 o’clock or two o’clock if we take 12 o’clock as being central. This way when I hook a fish I can steer it away from the baited area and keep disturbance to a minimum. This is important when trying to catch a lot of fish from one spot because playing fish on top of where you are trying to fish is not conducive to a quick bite once the fish has been landed.

17 My running loop feeder rig is a set up that’s caught me lots of fish where allowed and tying it couldn’t be easier. Firstly take a snap link swivel and thread it on to the mainline, then tie a 6ins loop with the snap link swivel trapped inside.

Push the snap link up to the knot and tie three small loops in the big loop below the snap link swivel, trapping the snap link swivel in a 2ins loop.

The series of small loops creates a stiff boom and stops the rig from tangling on the cast. My hooklength attaches to the bottom loop via the loop-to-loop method.

18 Most anglers put the hookbait on the outside of the Method ball believing the fish will come to the hookbait first – don’t! Once the pellets fall off the feeder, so does your hookbait. Put a layer of pellets on first so the bait is in the middle of the feed.

19 When fishing big baits for big fish you need to use strong, wide gape hooks. The wide gape is especially important as this helps you hook bigger baits like catmeat or multiple baits such as double corn or luncheon meat. Even though the bait may fill the hook you can leave plenty of hookpoint showing.

20 You can catch fish from anywhere in a commercial peg, but I like to look for a particular spot in my swim at the bottom of the near slope, where the bottom levels out and the depth is constant – this is a natural holding spot for fish where food gathers. This is typically around 5m or 6m out and is especially good in the latter part of the session provided you feed it regularly by hand from the word go.

21 When pole fishing, sometimes resting a swim can give it a new lease of life. It’s difficult to come off a swim that you are nicking an odd fish on, so you can drop on one where you know you might not get a bite, but over the course of five hours it’s something that can be worth doing just to keep the one good swim going.

22 Maggots can be a brilliant bait but you can’t fish the same sort of rig that you’d use for pellets as you’ll miss out on a lot of bites. I bin the bulked shotting pattern on my pellet rigs. Instead I use a finer, strung out pattern that you’d normally see on rivers or canals, as even in coloured water I think the fish watch the maggots fall through the water.

23 The obvious place to cast when faced with an island is as tight as possible to the overhanging grass. But it can pay to cast 2ft short to start with before going tight to the bank as this will give you the chance of catching for longer later in the day.

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24 Big baits are great on the Method when there are a lot of fish in the swim as they appeal to a fish’s greedy nature.

When there are fewer fish about and they can afford to be picky, a large hookbait can often go ignored. This is when you need to scale down and use small baits that almost blend in with your feed, such as a single dead maggot fished on a small size 18 hook.

25 When bites are few and far between there are still things you can do in order to draw a few more fish into the swim. One such thing is to pile finely chopped worm through the feeder and nothing else other than groundbait to hold it in place. The finely chopped worm releases loads of attraction into your swim without putting in too much feed that could soon fill up the fish.

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26 It might look daft but there will be times when fishing with meat that I thread three or four cubes on the hook. It looks like a type of ‘stringer’ that big carp anglers use but I think that its bizarreness means it can actually throw the fish off guard, especially early in a session when they’re not that wary.

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27 When maggot fishing I like to fish as short a line as possible between pole tip and float and depending on fishery rules this is often as short as 6ins. The shorter line means I am much more direct on the float – in other words I can hold a short tight line to the float and once I get a bite I’m on it instantly.

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28 It might sound odd but when I’m using big baits for proper carp then I like to fish with a strung bulk shotting pattern, even in shallow water. This gives the bait a slow fall and also gives the rig increased stability. This pattern is also extremely versatile and due to the number of shots on the line I can quickly change should I need to put line on the bottom and drag a couple of shots should the need arise.

29 Flavouring dead maggots is something I’ve started to do a lot more of recently.

This is done by firstly killing the maggots and then once they are dead and have cooled I give them a squirt of Mainline Activ-8 liquid flavouring, a real favourite with big carp anglers, which helps to give them a boost.

30 Believe it or not reel choice is important for feeder fishing because a bigger than normal reel will increase your casting distance. Bigger reels have bigger spools in comparison to standard match reels, which allows for better line lay as the coils aren’t so tightly packed. This can put as much as an extra 10 yards on your cast.

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31 I catch loads of carp on boilies so that got me thinking why not try crushing a few up and using them in a PVA bag? The great thing about boilies is that there are so many colours available, meaning that the combinations I can use are endless. I will feed them with other baits like pellet.

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32 When fishing corn on the pole the best bit of advice I can give is to make sure you always fish at dead depth, provided conditions allow you to do so. The reason for this is so that if a carp sucks the bait in it will register on the float as either a dip or sometimes a slight lift, either of which should be struck at.

33 Often only thought of as a winter bait, worms can actually be best in warm weather and on venues where you’re looking to catch skimmers, F1s, small barbel and carp. A chopped worm feeder cast tight to an island can be lethal.

34 Once your Method feeder has moved for any reason, whether knocked by a fish or moved by a liner, then you need to reel it in. For the Method to work properly you are reliant on a fish feeding on the groundbait/pellets around the feeder and once the feeder has moved your hookbait is no longer in the right place.

35 Slapping your rig on the surface is a deadly way of catching fish shallow.As a rule I ship out, loosefeed three times over the float and then slap the rig in three times in succession. On the third slap let it fish. If the float doesn’t bury I lift the rig and slap it again three times.

36 Too many anglers think that expander pellets are only to be used on the hook but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Waters such as Barston Lakes respond to mashed expanders, which are basically pellets given a blast with a cordless mixing drill to create a rough ‘hash’ of pellet that can be fed either as a ball or loose in a pole cup.

37 When fishing with sweetcorn for carp most anglers tend to fish only a single grain of corn on the hook, but I have caught an awful lot of fish using double hookbaits too. Maybe it’s to do with the colour or simply the sheer size that looks completely different to anything you might be feeding.

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38 A good little tip when fishing shallow is to use a Dacron connector. This helps stop your rig from tangling around your pole tip, something which can happen a lot when slapping your rig.

39 Ever thought about fishing a feeder in the margins? This is a great tactic on some waters where the fish can spook away from a pole over their heads. It’s best done with a Method and if you’ve got a platform next to you, cast your baited feeder to the deep hole in front of the peg that has been scoured out by keepnets.

40 Maggots are a great F1 bait and surprisingly for these delicate feeders, a double bait often outscores a single offering so if you’re struggling, try increasing the bait size.

41 Always look at the weather conditions and your target weight to decide how much you need to feed. If conditions are good (overcast with a good ripple on) then I will attack it with more bait. Equally if it’s flat calm and bright sunshine then a more cautious approach normally pays dividends.

42 So many anglers fish with one small pot on the end of their pole but have you ever thought of fishing with two? As a match progresses and more and more fish move into the swim then I will often switch to double potting. This is done to increase the amount of bait I’m introducing into the swim and really push my catch rate up a notch or two.

43 When I’m getting lots of indications on a plastic cage feeder but not many bites I put my hooklength through the middle of my feeder, leaving the bait protruding about an inch below the bottom of the feeder. This way when the contents of the feeder break out my hookbait is in among them.

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44 A key part to catching well is to fish a float that offers perfect stability and I reckon the fibre glass-stemmed Mick Wilkinson Diamond is the best all-round pattern for fishing depths between 4ft and 7ft.

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45 Groundbait in the margins has become popular in recent years, but feed the mix loose as opposed to in a ball so it spreads out and coats the bottom in the shallow water rather than going down in a solid ball.

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46 Wetting your line before casting also helps you to cast further as dry line never casts particularly well. The ‘wetting’ can be done by spraying the line or alternatively soaking the spool to make sure all the line comes into contact with the water.

47 Straight from the tin, luncheon meat is very fatty and can be like handling a bar of wet soap when putting it on the hook. A top tip is to pop the cubed meat in a bait tub of water, which will dissolve the excess fat and make the cubes easier to use.

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48 Try giving your paste mix a bit of extra oomph. Crushed hemp can be good to put a bit of activity into the swim, while finely crushed pellets create a bit of added crunch.

49 One trick I have been using to good effect is to pick an out of the way area of the swim but still in the deep water of my peg and then trickle maggots into it. Fish it in the last hour and you’ll often catch some big F1s.

50 Lift, drop, and drag your pole rig around your swim. To do this I simply lift the float around 8ins to 12ins clear of the water before slowly lowering it back in again while for dragging, move your float slowly to the left or right.

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51 When skimmers are grubbing around on the bottom picking up small offerings such as micro pellets, they seem to pick up a smaller hookbait far more readily so in this situation I’ll scale right down and use two 4mm expanders on a hair-rig.

52 If you want to cast a long way, give it some welly. Hold your rod properly with one hand on the bottom of the handle and the other around the reel and really punch the feeder out by compressing the rod fully on the backward swing.

53 Just lately I’ve found laying my rig in to be far more effective and to do this I flick the rig out to the side and then hold a tight line between float and tip. This causes the hookbait to fall in an arc and bites come as the float settles.

54 The weight of your feeder is crucial for ensuring fish hook themselves when using short hooklengths so make sure your empty feeder has enough weight.

55 If I'm in doubt as to how I should feed at a new venue I always work two swims – one I feed negatively and the other positively. This way I can quickly work out which is best on the day.

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56 I never go fishing on a commercial where bream and skimmers are likely to show without 2mm or micro pellets. They are perfect for adding to a groundbait mix or for wrapping around a Method feeder, but they must be dampened beforehand to make sure they all sink as from the bag they tend to float about.

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57 When suffering from lost fish through hookpulls don’t change to a bigger hook. You want the fish to suck in your hookbait in a confident manner and the way to achieve this is to use a small hook so your hookbait behaves in a more natural manner.

58 When feeding baits like meat I’m a big believer in using different-sized pieces so that the fish are hunting around continually. I’ll cube up 4mm and 6mm pieces using a meat cutter and then feed them with finely minced bits for a real ‘Bombay mix’ style of meat.

59 A great trick to try in the last hour of your match is to unclip your feeder and cast as far as you can past your main baited feed area. Big carp can sit back from any disturbance sometimes and you can often pick up a few big fish.

60 Keep your groundbait covered. Dried out crumb can reduce your catch rate as a session goes on, so always keep an eye on your mix and if it dries out add more water or, better still, cover the bowl with damp towel to retain the moisture.

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61 Target hookbaits are a must when fishing the Method feeder to create a bait that stands out in terms of colour. For example, an 8mm white bread disc fished in combination with dyed red micro pellets is something that the fish can easily home in on.

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62 If bream, skimmers, and F1s are the target, then I add wetted down, 2mm micro pellets to my groundbait mix to increase the food content and give the fish something to grub  around on.

63 Don't just think cage feeders are only for groundbait. I use them for feeding 6mm cubes of meat, mushed meat, softened micro pellets, and expanders too. The key for me is their rapid release of the bait when you’ve got fish feeding in your swim.

64 For bream fishing on the feeder at range I now like to feed via a spod rather than making a dozen casts with an open-end feeder. Particles are key for keeping bream in your swim for long periods and I use a mixture of baits that give both attraction and hold the fish. Micro pellets keep bream grubbing around for ages and we all know that they love casters, while chopped worm helps to put a scent in the water. Hemp is an underused feed for bream but they love the oils it gives off.

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65 Sweet or fishmeal? That’s the choice we have to make when picking a groundbait for commercial waters and today most bait companies make a specific sweet fishmeal groundbait for the job. Being coarse textured they’re the perfect choice for piling in a big carpet of feed.

66 Any hookbait that has extra attraction will catch more fish and dusting baits is a great option. A sticky liquid additive coats the hookbait, to which you can pour on your chosen groundbait or powdered additive. Give them a good shake to disperse the crumb and the baits are good to go.

67 The biggest mistake anglers make when trying to cast a long way is that they try to cast off a line that is too short. On a 13ft rod look to cast with at least 5ft of line between feeder and rod tip, swing the feeder in front and then as it swings back take the rod back as well. Once the feeder pulls on the rod tip behind me I know it’s in the optimum position for casting. This fluid motion helps with distance.

68 When bites are few and far between there are still things you can do to draw a few more fish into the swim. One tip is to pile finely chopped worm through a feeder with nothing else other than groundbait to hold it in place. The worm, prepared almost to a mush, then releases loads of attraction into the water without putting that much feed into the peg.

69 Bread and maggots, worm and caster – both great, old school cocktails of bait and ones that still work and can give you a very different presentation to what other anglers are using. If I can make my bait stand out from the crowd then I’ll always have an advantage.

70 One of my favourite lines to fish is known as the ‘5m meat line’ and it’s an area where you’ll find big fish patrolling later on in the day. As the name suggests it’s a swim I like fishing with cubes of meat but bizarrely it’s not always at 5m out. Instead I will plumb out from the bank until I find the spot where the bottom levels out and aim to fish here which can be 5m, 6m, or even 7m out.

71 A neat little trick when adding sloped lead weights to your maggot feeders is to reverse the lead so that its bulk is at the top of the feeder. This helps the feeder to fly much better when casting into the wind and also cuts down on tangles.

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72 Something you hear anglers talk about is how many turns they have fished, for instance 80 turns. This refers to how many turns of the reel handle it takes to wind the feeder back from the swim. This is useful if I have to unclip as I know exactly how far out I was actually fishing.

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73 Ever been caught without a paste on the bank? Mixed correctly, you can form a perfectly usable paste from groundbait and I liberally over-wet the groundbait so it has the consistency of a slop, then after a minute or two the groundbait will absorb the excess water and you’ll be left with virtually perfect paste.

74 You might think that the Method feeder is a positive approach for big weights but there will be times when the fish are finicky and you need a more refined attack. I’d scale down to small baits, such as a single dead maggot or a 4mm pellet fished on a size 18 hook.

75 Most anglers will tell you that the Method feeder is at its best fished either at long range or against an island. It’s just as effective at short range, in fact just off the end of the rod top. Feed a particle-rich groundbait at the bottom of the near shelf and underarm a small Method over the top using use a big bait like corn.

76 Never chop all of your worms in one go at the start. Not only will this tempt you to overfeed the swim but also will see the worms dry out as the day progresses, meaning those

all-important fish-catching juices are lost.

77 Until a few years ago corn skins were something I’d read a lot about but never got round to trying. When I used them they were a revelation, especially for F1s. To make a corn skin simply squeeze the insides out so you are left with just the skin.

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78 Carp love spicy baits so it makes sense to use chilli hemp to try and get an edge. If there are 10 anglers in a line all feeding the same bait and I’m feeding something different then my bait will stand out and I’ll catch more.

79 I've lost count of the times when I’ve been fishing the open-end feeder with no sign of a carp only to switch to the Method and get a 10lb-plus fish first drop. Next time you’re faced with a big, mixed venue, start on the open end, and be prepared to switch to a Method feeder later in the day, it can make a massive difference to your final weight.

80 Using a shockleader can make a difference to the distance you can cast. Load your reel with 4lb mainline and tie a 2ins overhand loop in the end. Then take a heavier line, around 8lb, and tie it to the loop using a bloodknot. Wind the 8lb line through the rod rings so you have just one or two turns on the reel once the end of the line is in the casting position. This way you are casting off the 8lb line but once the cast is made you have less friction going through the rings.

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81 One problem with fishing worms is that they can fold over the hook point and lead to bumped fish. I find it much better to hair-rig my worms as this means that not only is the hook point always clear but it also means I can get away with using a smaller hook than would normally be the case. This in turn leads to better presentation which should lead to more bites.

82 Bream can become preoccupied with groundbait and pellets and ignore your hookbaits after a while on the open-end feeder, so it can then pay to put on a Method feeder and bury your hookbait into the ball of feed. The fish will suck it in without even realising.

83 On big waters the further out I can fish the more I’m likely to catch, but it’s no good fishing at range if you can’t reach it with your feed. Most anglers feed 8mm pellets but I prefer 11mm hard pellets, which can be fired out that bit further and that gives me a real edge over those around me as I’m always going to be first on the fish. If I feed it well I can keep the fish out of range of my neighbouring anglers too.

84 Think carefully about the type of feeder you’re using because different types give you different bait presentations. Method and pellet feeders are great when fish are feeding tight and coming to the feeder quickly, but if you want to spread out your bait to keep a shoal of fish in the area then you should opt for blocke

85 If you're fishing in shallow water use cage feeders with large holes so your bait can come out of the feeder quickly – the larger the holes the better, in my opinion.

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86 Carp can often be attracted to a bait that looks different and my ‘capped’ pellets have caught fish when all else has failed. They are dead simple to prepare and are effectively a hair-rigged hard pellet ‘capped’ off with the end of a dumbbell-shaped high-visibility boilie.

87 When it comes to getting the distance then long rods definitely reign supreme. A 12ft rod will cast a long way but not as far as 13 footers – the longer the rod, the longer the potential cast.

88 Dobbing bread has been very much the ‘in’ method on a lot of snake lakes this winter and that won’t change in spring. One thing I have noticed is that the sloppier your bread is, the quicker you get bites so I carry an atomiser to spray the bread before I punch a piece for the hook. Bread can take quite a bit of time to go soggy once in the water so by spraying it before hooking I am just speeding up this process.

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89 Hard pellets are a great bait but I like to take them that extra level and let them swell up even further to what I call ‘blown up’ pellets. I’ll take normal 8mm hard pellets and double pump them in a pellet pump before leaving them overnight in a sealed bag of water. This creates massive, but super soft hookbaits. Here’s how to make them...

A) To prepare the hard pellets put the required amount in a pellet pump and then fill the pump with water.

B) I like to pump the pellets twice, as this will quickly make them take on water and become super-soft.

C) Drain the water off and put the pellets in a plastic bag with enough covering water to keep them wet.

D) Place in the fridge overnight, and in the morning they will have blown up and are ready for the hook.

90 Soft expander pellets can catch picky carp and F1 hybrids on most commercials, but when roach descend on your peg then these baits are pretty much useless. One trick is to punch meat out to the size of the pellet and leave to dry a little in the open air.

They’ll develop a thick outer skin and will then become small-fish-proof while looking like a pellet.

91 Looking for a cheap but effective addition to a groundbait mix for filling it in at the start? Corn is the answer and I’ll often add two whole tins of corn to my crumb when fishing places like Larford Lakes where the carp like a bit of bait. The beauty of corn is that it’s a very visual, large-sized particle bait the carp can easily spot and because it offers a decent reward it will hold bigger carp in the swim for longer. It’s also heavy so stays on the bottom well and won’t be picked off by little fish while you’re waiting for the big fish to appear.

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92 Adding extra lead to your feeders is vital for distance and I’ve found one large lead is much better than a couple of smaller ones as it is much more aerodynamic.

93 The question I get asked the most is why do I fish with red groundbait at times? Well, carp seem to love feeding over red mixes in heavily coloured water. It’s also very visible and I can easily spot a red cloud of crumb being kicked up when a carp starts feeding close in over the groundbait.

94 There's only one way to feed pellets on the far bank of snake lakes and that’s with a Kinder pot but I’ve found that tipping them in loose can produce a lot of line bites as the bait fans out as it sinks. By pressing the pellets tightly into the cup the end result is a ball that will ‘plop’ into the water, sink quickly and break up in a relatively tight spot, thus keeping the fish in one spot.

95 When striving for distance I find carbon quivertips are better than glass as they don’t flex as much on the cast as glass and a 2oz or 3oz tip is best.

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96 There are times when the fish come straight to groundbait in an open-end feeder and often ignore a hookbait as close as four inches away. The solution to this is to fish it like a Method version, tucking the hookbait in the feeder on a short tail so that when the groundbait is released from the feeder the bait will be in among it.

97 Look in my bag of feeders and you’ll see some Methods that are what I like to call double leaded, weighing the best part of 50g. These are ideal for extra casting distance and keeping the feeder static when fishing on a slope.

98 Even though I may be feeding big 11mm pellets I actually still prefer to use an 8mm pellet on the hook because they’re taken more readily by a feeding carp and fewer fish get hooked outside the mouth, something which can be a real problem on the pellet waggler when using big baits.

99 Light baits, such as pellets and meat, can get churned up all over the place when fishing down the edge. For that reason I always like to use hemp as it is a heavy bait and when fed in bulk creates a great carpet that pulls in the fish quickly.

100 Some Method feeders have long stems attached to them and this helps them to fly through the air with accuracy on long casts. Opt for short stems for fishing tight to features and shorter range.

101 While visibility is no doubt sweetcorn’s key characteristic, it doesn’t give off much in terms of flavour attraction. When the water is coloured after rain I feel it can lose its effectiveness somewhat. A quick squirt of liquid Scopex before letting the grains stand for 30 minutes to fully absorb it all will do the trick.

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