Steve Ringer's autumn margin fishing masterclass

Now's the time of year I love on commercials – it’s margin time! The fish are well aware that colder weather is on its way, and September is when they really start to get their heads down and try to pack on a bit of weight.

This makes margin fishing, with its heavy feeding regime, one of the best tactics for a big catch right now.


Q. When should I try fishing the margins?

Steve says: I won’t feed down the edge until at least three hours into a session because there’s no point until the carp are starting to move closer to the bank looking for food.

If you feed any earlier, small silver fish will eat everything and the initial impact of feeding the swim will be lost. What you have to remember about edge fishing is that when the carp arrive you can catch very quickly, so a big weight will still be possible even in the last hour.


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Q. What depth do I need to have to be able to fish down the edge?

Steve says: Ideally I like to have between 10ins and 18ins of water down the edge. If the water is shallower than 10ins, big carp can be very spooky and difficult to catch, even though you can see them!

Equally, if it’s too deep, it can be tricky to keep the fish on the bottom and line bites then become a problem.

When plumbing up, try to find a relatively flat area to both feed and fish on. What you don’t really want is a spot where the bottom is all over the place, as it makes it hard to settle the fish if this is the case.

You also need to be fishing as tight to the bank as possible to stop fish swimming the wrong side of the float, as this can lead to line bites and foul-hookers.


Q. Do I need a particular type of float?

Steve says: The best margin floats are not only tough, but have a decent bristle, and will take a bit of shot.

A 0.2g or 0.3g MW Margin Diamond is perfect, even when fishing in just inches of water. 

The Margin Diamond has a big, thick bristle which allows me to read what’s happening in the swim a lot easier, especially in helping me tell the difference between liners and proper bites. For this reason I like to leave a good half-inch of bristle showing when edge fishing.


Q. What rig do you use? Do you fish straight through or use hooklengths?

Steve says: I fish heavy for big fish... 0.22mm N-Gauge mainline to a 4ins hooklength of 0.19mm and a size 14 Guru XS spade-end hook.

Hooklengths make my rigs more adaptable and save loads of time, should I need to change the hook size or pattern on the bank.

Shotting is a strung bulk of No10s with the bottom shot 6ins from the hook and the rest spaced at one-inch intervals above this. 

I don’t like the bottom shot too close to the hook, as I find when big fish are in the swim it can lead to line bites and fish spooking.


Q. Which elastic is best?

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Steve says: Nine times out of 10 it’s Red Hydro, on lakes where the carp average 8lb-plus.

Red is powerful enough to quickly steer the carp out of the swim once hooked, but at the same time it’s still soft enough to absorb that first run.

On waters with smaller fish I will use White Hydro on a puller kit, giving me that all-important softness on the strike but then the ability to get fish in by using the puller.


Q. How much bait do I need to feed, and how do I feed it?

Steve says: Really attack the swim. I kick off by feeding between eight and 10 large, 250ml pots of bait.

There are two reasons – first, to try and hold the fish in the swim for as long as possible and second, to give the impression to any fish in the area that I’m packing up and have thrown all my leftover bait in.


Q. What bait should I put on the hook?

Steve says: Big hookbaits! You need to give the carp something they can really home in on among all the loose offerings.

My favourites are bunches of 8-10 maggots, or even double corn if small nuisance silver fish are still a problem.

Always have the same bait on the hook that you are feeding. Edge carp can be clever, and it makes no sense to feed one bait and fish another!


Q. Should I feed again after catching a fish?

Steve says: I always try to ‘fish out’ my initial feed first. Once this is done there are several ways you go about feeding the swim and it’s simply a case of working out which one is right on the day.

You can try putting a big pot in and catching a fish and then feeding another big pot – alternatively you can repeat the big hit of bait and try and catch several fish off that. There are no golden rules, so experimentation is the key!


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Q. Do you still use groundbait as feed?

Steve says: Groundbait is brilliant in shallow water, but if the swim is too deep, even a heavy overwetted mix can prove to be a recipe for disaster.

The problem with groundbait in deep water is that once there are carp in the swim it gets wafted about all over the place. In deep water this leads to carp feeding off the bottom.

In deep margins you are better off looking at heavier baits such as sweetcorn or big hard pellets that will stay on the bottom.

With the right depth, though, there’s no better edge combination than groundbait and dead maggots.

My favourite mix is Dynamite Baits Sweet Fishmeal, slightly over-wetted so it will stay put on the bottom. 


Q. How do I stop fish from spooking?

Steve says: Quite often you will look down the edge to see tails everywhere, only to quickly ship your rig out and discover they have all vanished.

You ship back in and then they are back again. It’s so frustrating, and the reason they do it is that they have been spooked by the shadow of the pole over their heads. To try and prevent this I hide my pole by keeping it over the bank rather than over the water. A longer-than-normal length of line between pole float and pole-tip can help too. 


Q. How long should I give it?

Steve says: You need to be patient. Provided you know there are carp in the swim, just sit and wait. ‘Chasing’ will only spook them out of the swim and lead to foul-hookers.

The only moving of the float I like to do is to occasionally lift and lower it, just to make sure the rig is sitting straight. Lifting and lowering can also help a feeding fish spot the hookbait.

By Steve Ringer


How to attach a pellet waggler

I attach all my pellet wagglers the same way so I can chop and change easily during the course of a session. The arrangement I use is designed for loaded floats that require no extra shot to lock them in place on the line – it’s very simple to alter the depth just by sliding the stops up and down. 

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Slide two Preston Innovations Method Feeder Stops on to your mainline, followed by a snap-link swivel.

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Add another two Feeder Stops to the other side of the swivel, and then attach your chosen float to the swivel.

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Tie a large double-overhand loop in the end of your mainline.

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Attach your hooklength by threading the mainline loop through the hooklength loop, then thread the hook through the main line loop. 



What to put in your groundbait

Some anglers remain confused about which groundbait to use in their open-end feeder.

I fish sweet crumb on natural waters and fishmeal on commercials or lakes that see pellets and boilies fed regularly.

If I’m on a venue where anglers tend to feed a lot of pellets then I always go for fishmeal such as Sonubaits Maggot Fishmeal, whereas if it’s a more natural venue that doesn’t see too many carp anglers, such as a fishery in Ireland for example, I’ll go for a cereal groundbait – try Sonu’s Super Crumb Bream. 

Some anglers like very dry mixes when fishing the feeder but I normally mix my groundbait slightly on the damp side, just enough so it holds together when formed into a ball.

So, with the groundbait sorted, what do you add to it? There are plenty of options, so here’s my quick and easy guide…


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Maggots 

Deads are best for bream, live maggots are better for roach and perch. A single bait is ideal for use with small hooks but use multiples for bigger bream.


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Pinkies

My No 1 choice for skimmers on natural venues. I’ll put dead fluoro pinkies (freeze them) in my groundbait and have two or three on the hook.


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Casters

For bream I’ll feed these with some finely chopped worm in a 30:70 worm to caster ratio. They’re also a good change bait when fished as a double.


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Worms

Bream love these all year round, not just in summer. Your groundbait must be dry when adding choppy, otherwise the juices will turn the mix into a mush.


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Pellets

I add 2mm or 4mm soaked pellets to fishmeal groundbait on ‘pellet-heavy’ waters. They also form the base of my feeder mix when fishing the Method.


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Sweetcorn

This works on natural and non-natural venues and sorts out the bigger bream. You don’t need much in the groundbait, maybe a good handful but no more.



Best way to catch a big bream

Gravel pit bream use patrol routes like underwater highways, every so often stopping to graze on beds of tiny invertebrates, driven by the need to find more food to fuel their huge bodies.

A tempting bed of particles carefully placed in the right place with an effective rig ready and waiting, will see you catching every time – says Dynamite Baits specialist Paul Elt. 

By following his three-point plan, you too can catch bream you thought were the stuff of dreams…

Step one – Location

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After spawning, bream will be looking to fatten up, but this in itself isn’t enough to guarantee success. First you need to locate the shoals.

Paul recommends talking to the locals on the water you’re targeting. Carp anglers in particular – who spend a lot of time on a water – are a great source of information as to where they have been catching bream or seen them rolling.

Once this homework is done you have to get down on the water, have a good look around and seek out signs of fish rolling, bubbling or kicking up silt. 

The final stage involves a marker rod. This is one of the most essential elements of an angler’s armoury when fishing large gravel pits and lakes. 

Bream follow various patrol routes, following the bottoms of bars and cruising the plateaux like highways. By finding these underwater features and baiting heavily around them, you’re looking to give yourself the best chance of stopping one of the shoals as they move through.

Gravel pits aren’t dug out flat. The diggers exploit the richest seams of gravel in certain areas of the pit. This means that the lakebed resembles a moonscape – holes and depressions, plateaux, bars and gullies – and by using a marker set-up, you can quickly locate these areas and put yourself in a position to take full advantage of them. 

It also allows you to locate the ‘clean’ areas. Bream hate weed, and won’t feed over it.

Step two – Feed ’em

A double-figure bream will soon engulf a kilo of pellets, so you need to give them plenty to eat.

Paul’s preferred mix is a bag each of 4mm and 6mm Dynamite Halibut pellets, half a jar of hemp, two or three tins of corn, a bag of Dynamite CSL Spod Mix, and a few crushed Complex-T boilies with a good glug of CSL Liquid.

To kick off his swim, Paul puts in 20-25 Spombs, topping up after every few fish to ensure there is enough food to hold a large shoal.

Then he will place three baited rigs over the loosefeed, ensuring accuracy by measuring the cast with marker sticks. 

Over a 10-yard feed area, he will place a rod in the centre and the other two on the edges, so all bases are covered.

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Step three – The rig

Bream aren’t rig-shy, and they don’t tend to bolt like carp – so Paul uses a simple helicopter
set-up with a 6ins hooklink. 

The heli rig is virtually tangle-free, perfect when casting reasonable distances. The short hooklink means the bream feel the feeder when they right themselves, and self-hook.

It’s really a scaled-down carp rig, with a 2oz open-ended feeder packed with Marine halibut and Frenzied Hemp groundbait, and a 10lb Supplex hooklink to a size 11 hook. Hookbait is either use a trimmed-down Complex-T boilie or a worm and sweetcorn cocktail.

Having Spombed this out, Paul recasts the feeder every 30-40 minutes to refresh the swim without too much disturbance.

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How to catch more bream on a feeder

The basic principles of groundbait feeder fishing for bream were laid down decades ago, but numerous tweaks have made it even more effective on the modern-day match circuit.

Mark Pollard was a big fan of the groundbait feeder ‘back in the day’ and has rekindled his love for it recently. This week he reveals exactly how he uses it to keep the slabs coming.

Versatile rig

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“If you set a Method or pellet feeder rig up there is very little you can change without having to start from scratch. But that isn’t the case with a groundbait feeder – it can be adjusted to stay in touch with the fish.

“I will always use a feeder bead with a quick-change swivel so I can change the feeder whenever I like. Start the day with a bigger feeder to get some bait down and then switch to a smaller one for topping up as you fish.

“A lot of commercial fishing these days requires regular casting but I will leave the feeder in for at least 15 minutes before winding in and re-chucking it.

“I start with an 18ins hooklength but will extend this by 6ins if I’m not getting bites. I’ll keep doing this until I find the fish. On the flip side, I will shorten it if I am getting line bites that tell me the fish are near the feeder.

“I go with a 3.8m Matrix Horizon S-Class rod that will reach the required distance with ease when combined with a Matrix Super Feeder 5500 reel. Mainline is 4lb with a 30g Matrix Dome feeder run on it to a 0.12mm Matrix Power Micron hooklength and a size 18 Matrix SW Feeder hook.”

Bait choice

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“The groundbait mix is very important. The wrong blend will not appeal to bream and you’ll struggle to put together the big catches that could be possible.

“I use three different products mixed together. Dynamite Baits Silver X Roach is packed with attractants, Frenzied Hemp Black Match darkens it off and brown crumb binds it all together. 

“Cocktail baits are brilliant for bream fishing and I always have worms, red maggots, casters and pinkies on my side tray. 

“Any combination of these can work, and it is a matter of trial and error on the day to see which is the most effective. 

“On some waters where a lot of pellets are fed I will try a 6mm banded pellet or maybe even a mini boilie.”

Explore the swim

“You might start catching really well and think you’ve cracked it, but then bites could suddenly stop, leading you to think the bream have gone.

“But it is highly likely they have backed off ever so slightly. Unclip and go a few metres further out and your tip will often go round on the very next chuck.

“Although you want to keep the bait fairly tight, don’t be afraid of covering an area perhaps a metre across, as you want to create a table of feed that a big shoal of bream can graze over.”



Hybrid vs Method which is better?

One of the questions I’m asked the most is ‘which is better – a Hybrid or a Method feeder?’ It’s no secret to regular readers of this column that I am a massive Hybrid feeder fan, but that doesn’t mean I will dismiss the Method. Both have a role to play on commercials…

Hybrid feeder benefits

The design of a Hybrid feeder means the contents of the feeder are better protected when compared to the Method. 

With a Hybrid the vast majority of your pellet payload will get to the bottom still attached to the feeder.

For those not familiar with the Hybrid feeder, it’s more enclosed than a Method and features raised sides, whereas a Method feeder is more open and the pellets stick to the prongs.

This basically means that even if a Hybrid feeder doesn’t land quite right on the cast, a percentage of pellets will remain intact, whereas with a Method feeder the chances are they will all be knocked off on impact with the water.

I would also argue that the Hybrid feeder offers a much tighter bait presentation, because everything is kept much closer to the feeder once it hits the bottom.

I actually prefer a tighter bait presentation as this increases the chances of a fish picking up the hookbait. If it’s in a feeding mood it has to eat in a very small area.

Check out Steve Ringer as he puts the Hybrid method to work in his latest Skills School episode. 

When the Method rules

I’ve talked fondly about how good a Hybrid feeder is, but there is one area where I feel the Method can out-fish it – when you really need to attack a peg for a big weight.

The only downside to a Hybrid is that it doesn’t carry as much bait as a Method, so if I need to get a lot more bait down quickly I’ll use the latter.

If you are wondering how to get more bait on to a Method, a great way of doing this is what we call ‘double skinning’. 

This basically means loading the feeder in the normal manner with a mould and then adding another layer of pellets to the mould and applying that to the feeder too.


Elasticated Hybrid feeder rig

1) MAINLINE

When carp are the target you can’t beat 8lb Guru Pulse line. For elasticated feeders I simply thread a feeder tail rubber on to the line and then tie a 6ins double overhand loop in the end of it. The X-Safe connector then clips to this loop and the tail rubber slides on to the feeder stem.

2) FEED

The Hybrid is perfect for using micro pellets. Fill the frame, compress the pellets, add your hookbait, and cover with more pellets – simple!

3) FEEDER

Whenever possible I use elasticated feeders as I feel they give you a little bit of extra insurance when you get fish around the net. The stretch helps to prevent hook-pulls. I use 36g feeders in three sizes – depending on how much I need to feed.

4) HOOKLENGTH

For mixed bags of skimmers, F1s and carp I’ll use a size 16 MWG hook to 0.17mm line, but I will go as heavy as a size 12 QM1 hook to 0.19mm line for big waters and big fish. A Speed Bead allows me to quickly switch over to different hooklengths with different baits.


Inline Method feeder rig

1) MAINLINE

I use Guru Pulse line in 8lb – a tough line is needed when fishing for big weights and frequent casting. To fish the feeder inline, start by threading it on to your mainline and tie a 6ins twizzled loop in the end of the line, trapping a Guru Speed Bead into the bottom of the loop.

2) FEEDER

The size of feeder is determined by the amount of bait you need to feed. I tend to use the 36g size most often, but will go heavier at long range on big waters.

3) FEED

To me it’s all about using softened micro pellets on the Method. I always give mine a boost with liquid flavourings and colours to make them stand out.

4) SPEED BEAD

A great little gadget that acts as a buffer for the feeder and also lets me change hooklengths quickly.

5) HOOKLENGTH

Four inches is the optimal length for Method hooklengths. I use 0.17mm line to a size 14 or 16 Guru QM1 hook tied with a knotless knot for hair-rigging or banding 6mm pellets and mini boilies.