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.
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?
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!
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
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.
Slide two Preston Innovations Method Feeder Stops on to your mainline, followed by a snap-link swivel.
Add another two Feeder Stops to the other side of the swivel, and then attach your chosen float to the swivel.
Tie a large double-overhand loop in the end of your mainline.
Attach your hooklength by threading the mainline loop through the hooklength loop, then thread the hook through the main line loop.
Commercial fisheries are packed with roach and rudd that have learned to feed on baits we used to think they would ignore – pellets, meat and paste.
They also sit happily alongside massive carp in the margins and show no fear when it comes to nipping in front of the big boys to grab a meal.
The question is, how do you overcome these nuisance fish? It’s all down to big baits and timing…
Why big hookbaits work
When you fish with any bait elsewhere in the swim you tend to feed small particles but actually fish with a big target bait over the top, and so the margins should be no different.
I may be feeding 6mm hard pellets but using a hair-rigged 8mm or even an 11mm pellet on the hook. Not only are these easy for carp to find but they’re also harder for small fish to get hold of.
Other baits to use are 8mm or 10mm cubes of meat, a bunch of dead red maggots or a couple of whole worms.
All in the timing
With a warm wind blowing into the margins I’ll be confident of catching hald-way through the session, but if the peg is flat calm it may take much longer for the carp to gain confidence and move in.
depth and feeding
The perfect depth is 18ins to 2ft with a flat bottom. Cover helps – even just a single branch hanging into the water. The only word of warning I’d have for locating your margin swim is to steer clear of a lot of cover such as brambles or trees, as these are too snaggy.
Feeding is always done with hard 6mm pellets fed via a pot on the pole, introducing 20 or 25 pellets every 45 minutes to give the carp a taste of what’s to come. There always needs to be something on the bottom for them to get hold of.
Feeding when catching
When I’m catching, I’ll try to keep the fish interested by using a small pot, but there are days when the fish need a fair amount of bait dumping in between bites.
If I catch a fish, drop in again but not much happens, this tells me that the feed going in via the pot isn’t enough. This is when I’ll pick up the cupping kit and give them half a large pole pot of bait.
Playing big fish
Don’t ever bully a big margin carp or it will be sure to see you off. I’ll strike and then let the fish tear off – they’ll always run into the lake because they’ve only got one direction in which to swim.
Follow the fish out, adding extra pole sections if you need to, and always keep an angle between fish and pole.
When the fish stops, and only then, I begin unshipping – I like to get down to the top kit as soon as I can.
I then apply maximum pressure to the fish, which will make it ‘work’ and hopefully tire it out ready for netting.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
1) Carp: Don’t be afraid to fish big baits. Smaller fish like bream and chub will take boilies so if your specifically targeting this species try two 20mm boilies.
2) Chub: If you’re hair-rigging your bait don’t tie it too long. Chub are notoriously finicky and fishing a short hair will maximise your chances of hooking one.
3) Roach: Look for the slack areas in the river as this is where they love to hang out.
Try hemp and casters either in the feeder or in conjunction with a stickfloat.
4) Bream: Use a sticky groundbait mix especially in a powerful river such as the Trent because it’s surprising how quickly your mix will break up and carry your bait downstream.
5) Barbel: So many anglers use boilies and pellets for them these days so those who mix it up as regards to bait often reap the rewards. Try meat or even worms as it could be something the barbel in your river haven’t seen in ages.
Take a look at this new take on an old method from Steve Ringer that is guaranteed to get you more bites when fishing on your next match. Steve has managed to give his fishing that extra edge in the last few weeks by fishing this new method as it has allowed him to faster carp bites on the feeder take a look at this devastating new method and let us know what you think!
The straight lead and pellet has long been a deadly combination, but recently I’ve had a great run of results by feeding as if I was on the bomb, but fishing a huge, pellet-packed Hybrid feeder instead!
This way I have been getting much quicker bites. I can only think this is down to the carp finding the bait that bit quicker, as there’s a lot more to home in than just a single hookbait.
The other secret to this tactic has been to fish right on top of my loosefeed.
In the past I have caught lots of carp just off the back of the feed but just lately they have been bang on the loosefed pellets. Putting my feeder in the right place has made all the difference.
Here’s how to do it…
Feeding your swim
I like to feed as far out as I possibly can. If I can feed past those around me this gives me my own bit of water out of which to pull fish.
The next thing to consider is that I want the carp to stay on the bottom. The way I feed the swim has to reflect this.
Instead of feeding little and often, as I would normally do, I have had a lot more success by what I call ‘double pouching’. As the name suggests, this involves feeding two big pouchfuls of bait one after the other.
My theory is that the carp are tuned into noise. They hear the first pouchful of pellets hitting the water and then, when the second lot hit, they follow them down to the bottom where the feeder is.
Feeding double pouchfuls also means you’re putting a lot of bait in. This helps to keep the fish on the bottom, which is obviously where you need them when you’re fishing the feeder.
One key element when fishing in this manner is to keep feeding. I’ll fire out a double pouchful over the feeder every two minutes to try and draw more and more carp into the swim.
Accuracy is crucial
A little trick I use to ensure my feeder is right in among my loosefed pellets is to feed first and then cast right on top of the loose offerings.
I like to clip my loaded feeder on so it’s ready to cast, feed twice in quick succession, and cast right into the rings the loosefed pellets have made.
I’m not a fan of casting and leaving the feeder out for ages, as most bites will come within two minutes when the carp are really having it. There’s no point sitting waiting for the tip to go round.
Fish a slack line
I like to fish a slack line with virtually no bend in the quivertip. This helps to reduce line bites, which lessens the chance of spooking fish out of the swim.
When a fish bumps into the mainline there’s every chance it will leave the swim, especially if that line is bowstring-taut.
Don’t worry about fishing slack and not spotting bites. When you get a fish the rod will bend in half!
Of course, if you get a drop-back bite, which is unlikely at such short range, you can still tell. The line falls totally slack between the tip and where it meets the water.
My Hybrid rig for big fish
My set-up couldn’t be much simpler. For waters like Barston and Boddington, feeder choice is the large, 28g Hybrid – I’m targeting decent-sized carp, and what better way to do it than with a big feeder?
The only change I make to the feeder is to remove the inline stem and replace it with the long, X-Safe stem loaded with black elastic.
I feel I lose fewer fish when using elastic, and when the hooked carp are 8lb-10lb this can make a huge difference to my final weight.
Moving down, the hooklength is 4ins of 0.19mm N-Gauge and the hook is a size 10 QM1.
Just recently I have been using size 10s for all my big-carp work and I haven’t found anything not to like about them. It might look like a big hook, but if you look at the size of an 8lb carp’s mouth then it suddenly begins to seem somewhat small by comparison!
Washed out hookbaits
It will be no surprise to anyone reading this to find that hookbaits are all about my favourite 10mm Wafters. The two colours I favour are the trusty orange and the washed-out yellow.
Over the last two years I’ve caught more carp on the Chocolate Orange Wafter than any other bait, so I’d be silly not to have it in my armoury.
However, when fishing the Hybrid feeder over loosefed pellets I have to admit if I had to choose just one colour it would be washed-out yellow.
Once in the water, this shade of Wafter actually looks very much like a loosefed pellet, and I think that’s why it has caught me so many carp on this tactic.
Are you struggling catch or even land bigger fish while out on the bank? Then you may want to check out these very simple steps that will increase your chance of catching a much bigger carp, bream or tench next time you are out fishing
One of the best places to start when looking to target bigger fish is the canals as every canal in the land is now home to a good head of quality bream, carp and tench.
Preston Innovations-backed Graham West has spent a lot of time this summer searching for big fish on his local stretches, and has found they can be put in the net on a baiting approach very similar to what would be used on a commercial fishery…
“Most pegs on commercials will hold a head of big fish, but that isn’t the case on canals and you’ll need to be sitting in the right area to succeed.
“But it isn’t hard to find these lumps. At this time of year, when boat traffic is heavy, they will hide up in cover and any peg with lots of overhanging trees or bushes is sure to hold these big fish.
“Try to find a fairly large snag that will hold good numbers of fish as opposed to a little bush that might look appealing but doesn’t actually offer much underwater shelter for the fish.”
“Anglers thinking of big canal fish are put off going after them as they think they need to use an expensive worm and caster attack to catch them.
“These baits will work but I have found that pellets, corn and a little groundbait is just as effective.
“A lot of canals are now regularly fished by specimen carp anglers who feed pellets and boilies. As a result the fish are used to feeding on more commercial-orientated products.
“As you will have already located the fish by picking the right peg, you won’t have to feed much. It’s really just about stimulating a response and bringing fish to the edge of any snags to the point where you can get them out.
“Fish a line to the left and right of the feature and feed a couple of balls of Sonubaits Worm Fishmeal groundbait and a handful of pellet and corn to get things underway.
“The best three hookbaits are banded hard pellets, expander pellets and corn.”
“As you are fishing tight up to snags you are going to have your tackle tested the moment you hook into a fish.
“It’ll be no surprise to you that big carp will charge straight for the branches and tree roots, but it will surprise you to know that canal bream very often do the very same!
“I have no hesitation in using 0.21mm Preston Innovations Powerline mainline to an 0.19mm hooklength of the same material and a strong size 14 hook. Elastic is a tightly set 17H or 19H, but make sure you have a pole that can handle such heavy hauling.
“After all, there’s no point getting a bite on light tackle and knowing for a fact you are going to lose it.
“You also need to fight your instincts to strike normally when you get a bite. Missed bites will often end up with your rig going straight into a snag and you’ll give the fish a vital split second more to win the battle.
“As soon as the float goes, ship back as quickly as you can. This motion will set the hook and the fish won’t know what has happened for a few seconds, giving you vital time to get it away from the danger zone and give you the upper hand.”
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
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.
The Hybrid is perfect for using micro pellets. Fill the frame, compress the pellets, add your hookbait, and cover with more pellets – simple!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.