How to mix your groundbait right with Tommy Pickering

Whether you fish the float or feeder this week there is a very good chance that groundbait will play a part in your attack.

Getting your mix right is a key part of whether you experience a red-letter day or have a session to forget. This week I reveal my five steps on how to perfectly mix your groundbait.


The first thing you should do when you get to your swim is take a large bucket and tip all of your groundbait into it. Two kilos is usually enough for a full day session.


Add one pint of water for every kilo of groundbait you have in the bucket. There is no need to trickle the water in – tip it all into the bucket at once.


Thoroughly mix the groundbait and water with your hands to blend it all together. Keep doing this until all the puddles of water have gone. The groundbait should seep through your fingers when you squeeze it at this point and it now needs to be left to stand for half an hour.


After half an hour add another eighth of a pint of water and mix it in. Allow this to settle for a few minutes and then run the mix through a riddle. You will then be left with light and fluffy groundbait that has the ability to draw lots of fish into your peg without overfeeding them.

Six steps to casting feeders further

here’s little point in having the correct rig, lovingly-prepared bait and groundbait and a good peg to fish if you can’t cast your feeder far enough in the first place.

You may think that you can cast well and put a feeder out a long way, but there are always a few little things that can be added to your technique that’ll put 10 or 20 more yards on the cast. On many waters, where casting further than the anglers around you might be important, these little improvements will mean more fish.

Get the right ‘drop’

This is the length of line between feeder and rod-tip before you cast. If it is too short, then you won’t achieve the force to cast far enough – around 5ft of line is ideal, allowing you to really compress the rod. 

use your other hand

Too many anglers cast using just the hand and arm holding the rod around the reel. This is wrong. Your other hand that’s on the bottom of the handle is just as important, as this should ‘pull’ on the rod as you cast, creating speed on the cast to propel the feeder further.

point where you cast

When the cast is finished, the rod should be pointing directly to the spot where the feeder has gone into the water. This will tell you that you’ve been accurate, and is achieved by following through with the rod in a straight line as the feeder flies through the air.

Release at the right point

When to release line from the spool mid-cast makes a big difference. It should happen when the rod is roughly pointing to 11 o’clock on an imaginary clock – 12 o’clock will be the point immediately above your head. Let go too early and the feeder will go in a more upward direction, while too late and it will crash into the water 20 yards out! 

use the right type of rod

Modern feeder rods are designed for casting a long way, so don’t be afraid to put a lot of force into the chuck and fully compress the rod. It might look as though it’s bending alarmingly, but that’s what it’s built to do – the rod won’t break!

Stand to attention

For really long casts, you’ll have to stand up. This creates more clearance behind you to get the right ‘drop’ between feeder and rod, and also allows you to use the weight of your body to propel the cast.

Six steps to your best ever tench

There’s no better time than now to grab your biggest tench. With water temperatures rising rapidly, big tinca's will be feeding heavily in preparation for their annual spawning.Gravel pits and estate lakes are great venues to try and break your tench pb this summer.

Drennan and Sonubaits-backed Simon Ashton has been making the headlines recently for catching some superb big tench from gravel pits at Oxfordshire’s Linear Fisheries. Here are his six steps to beating your PB...

Even when you’re fishing at range you can still rake a small weedy area out, and this will encourage inquisitive tench to come and investigate. You can buy small castable weed rakes from your local tackle shops. Tie one to your spod rod, clip up to the distance you want to fish at and then you can spod out using the same rod if you wish. 

This sounds like it goes against everything top anglers will tell you, but when I Spomb out I like to create a fairly wide area of bait so that if my hookbait falls slightly short I will still be on some bait. To make this possible I step back a yard after every cast I make.

After you’ve decided what distance to fish by casting to your marker float or using measuring sticks, tie a bit of marker gum to your mainline around three rod rings away from your reel. It allows you to clip up more easily when recasting to the same spot.

I’ve been catching a lot of tench to over 9lb by hair-rigging pieces of worm on to the hook using a bait bayonet. You can either use a few pieces of a dendrobaena worm or half a lobworm – tench absolutely love them. Tie a bayonet on to a small hair rig and thread it through the sections of your broken-up worm using a bayonet needle. 

Very few specimen anglers do this, and I’m not sure why. As any matchman will tell you, tench love chopped worms. I add it to my Spomb mix with hemp and pellets, and use it in my feeder too.

I like to add Sonubaits F1 Pellet flavouring to my pellets for the feeder, while I use Sonubaits 24/7 oil in my spod mix. Carp anglers have been raving about this flavouring for a long while now and they catch big tench and bream all the time by accident, so it stands to reason it will work.



Five top tips for your best-ever roach!

It’s well known that specifically targeting big stillwater roach can be tricky. As water temperatures rise, ravenous small fish are quick to clean up a baited area and attack a carefully presented hookbait.

So what can you do to make sure you bank the biggest roach in your swim? Here, exclusively,  are Phil Spink's best tips and tactics to help you beat your personal best this season…

try open-water swims

Big gravel-pit roach tend to hang out in open water, and this is where I’ve had the most success. You won’t get as many bites as you would fishing closer in, but the fish will be bigger.

Bait up regularly 

Keep the bait going in. I recast my feeders regularly and also use a Spomb or a spod to introduce baits such as corn, maggots and casters over the top.

Use marker sticks 

Be accurate. I use marker sticks to measure out both the rods that I’m fishing with and the ones I’m feeding with. Time doing this is well spent.

The short fluoro hooklinks

A 6lb fluorocarbon hooklink will minimise tangles. I tie mine as short as I can, which usually turn out at around 3ins.

Feed little and often

Don’t pile all the bait in at the start. Feeding little-and-often, as you would in a match, is the key to success.

Tommy's guide to the perfect hooklength

There aren’t many anglers who set a rig up without a hooklength on it these days, but very little attention appears to be paid to the length of it.

Over the years I have found that certain lengths complement different types of fishing and getting it wrong can lead to fewer fish going in the net.

This week I reveal my ultimate guide to hooklengths...


This length gets a lot of use on commercials in different scenarios. The obvious one is the Method feeder. It needs to be short so that the fish takes the bait, attempts to move, and instantly feels the weight of the feeder before it hooks itself and bolts off. You wouldn’t get that deadly effect if you used a longer hooklength.

This is also perfect for fishing down the margins and up in the water on the long pole. There are times when you might need to set your rig as shallow as 9ins, so if you have a long hooklength you won’t be able to run the float down the line to that depth.


If I am fishing the pole on the bottom, this is the length I will use. The bulk shot will sit a couple of feet away from the hook and a couple of smaller dropper shot to slow the fall of the bait will be sat below. Where the hooklength knot is located is often the best place to put your bottom dropper shot – far enough away from the bait so the fish don’t detect it but close enough to help it register bites.


One of the problems with short hooklengths is that there is less line so it comes under more pressure when you hook a big fish. When fishing the waggler or bomb you won’t have the cushion of pole elastic so you need to use a slightly longer hooklength to avoid breakages on fairly light lines.


This is my starting point when fishing for bream on the feeder. The species will sometimes refuse to feed close to the feeder and this length makes sure the hookbait is sat slightly off it, but close enough to still be noticed by the shoal. 

If you are getting indications on the tip but no proper bites then shorten it to 12ins. If you aren’t getting any signs of fish at all then lengthen it to 2ft because the fish could be sat further away from the main bed of feed.

Six steps to the perfect hair rig

The hair rig is usually accredited to carp fishing pioneers Kevin Maddocks and the late Len Middleton in the late 1970s as a solution to fish ejecting a conventionally-hooked bait.

As the bait is ejected the hook, free from the hindrance of a side-hooked bait, penetrates the inside of the fish’s mouth. 

Since the early days when the ‘hair’ was literally that, there have been dozens of improvements and it is now universally used, and not just for specimen carp. 

Hair rigs are easy to create yourself with a knotless knot and an eyed hook (see diagram below). To make things easier still, you can buy ready-tied hair-rigged hooklengths from tackle shops. 

There’s never been a better time to give the hair rig a go…

Band your pellets


A popular way of using a hard pellet hookbait on commercial fisheries is to use a small elastic band to attach it to the hook. The band is tied into a loop at the end of the hair and slipped over the pellet to secure it. 

This leaves the hook clear, and even if the bait is ejected by the fish, it will nearly always catch in the inside of the fish’s mouth.

An alternative way of hair-rigging a pellet is to use what is known as a ‘lasso’ – a loop tied in the end of the line which can be adjusted to secure different sizes of pellet. 

Try a corn stack

A great way of using a hair rig is with a Method feeder. A side-hooked bait will soon be ejected as a fish roots around the feed on a Method, but one that’s hair-rigged will be taken in without suspicion.

Try three grains of sweetcorn – known as a ‘corn stack’ – when fishing for carp and bream on the Method. You’ll need a longer-than-normal hair to accommodate this bait.

Build a snowman 


A hair-rigged combination of a sinking boilie and a buoyant pop-up boilie is known as a ‘snowman’, and is a great way fooling big, wary carp. The hair is threaded on to the sinking boilie first, followed by the pop-up, so that the hookbait wafts up off the bottom.

It’s a great bait to use on silty lakes, and don’t forget to experiment with colours too!

Hair-rig your worms

In recent years, top match anglers such as Steve Ringer have taken to hair-rigging worms when feeder fishing for bream. 

They have done this not so much because of the extra hooking potential of a hair-rigged bait (although this helps, of course) but more to avoid the possibility of active worms working their way over the point of the hook. 

The hair is threaded through two pieces of worm and secured in place by a bait stop – or a small section of rubber band. Simple!

Don't forget to fake it

Imitation baits lend themselves very well to hair-rigging. Designed to avoid the unwanted attentions of small fish, these plastic baits won’t be nibbled to oblivion, meaning you’ll only catch the bigger fish in the swim.

Imitation baits come in many types, colours and flavours and they can also be buoyant, so you can create a hair-rigged bait that sits off the lakebed if you are fishing over silt. 

Go for an alternative

The sky’s the limit when it comes to hair-rigging baits, and the choice is limited only by your imagination.

For example, try hair-rigging a mussel for tench, a string of casters for a big roach, or even several dead maggots secured in a band. 

Eight steps to pellet waggler success with Steve Ringer

Get Feeding!

The secret to pellet waggler success lies in the feeding. As a guide I like to kick off feeding on a little-and-often basis, say 4-6 pellets virtually constantly.

The constant noise of the pellets landing on the surface helps to pull fish into the swim. Carp on most commercials are totally tuned into the noise of bait hitting the water, and feeding the way I recommend takes advantage of this fact.

Of course, if I start to get a good response to this initial feeding I will look to increase the amount of pellets to try and pull even more fish into the swim.

Big Float, Little Float

For the pellet waggler I often set one rod up with a big float and heavy mainline and another with a small float and light mainline.

Early in a session carp tend to be easier to catch, so a big float and heavy mainline are perfect. Once a few carp have been caught, a little more refinement is required. Now a light float comes into its own.

It goes in a lot quieter on the cast, which helps in terms of not spooking any feeding fish in the swim. Effective as a big float can be in causing a splash which the carp come to, on pressured waters this can spook fish – but two set-ups will cover all the bases. 

Get a double 'plop'

One of the most important aspects of pellet waggler fishing is what I call getting the ‘double plop’ on the cast – separate splashes from float and hookbait.

With a good separation between the two, not only are you fishing more effectively but there is no chance of a tangle either.

To achieve it, all you have to do is feather the float into the water and the way to do that is to lightly place your finger on the spool of the reel just before the float hits the water.

This has the effect of slowing the float’s progress through the air, so not only does it land more quietly on the water – it also gives that separation between the hookbait and the float which is so important for a successful cast. 

Try a wafter

Without doubt the number one hookbaits in the last 12 months have been wafter-type baits – for waggler work a Pellet Wafter really does take some beating.

The beauty of a Pellet Wafter is that it sinks ever so slowly under the weight of the hook, so your hookbait spends far more time in the ‘bite zone’.For example, an 8mm Ringers Pellet Wafter just sinks under the weight of a size 14 Guru Super MWG hook.

If you’re in doubt, keep a tub of water on your side tray so you can drop the baited rig into it before casting. This way you can check that it’s fishing correctly with the bait just sinking under the weight of the hook, neither floating nor sinking like a stone.

Don't rule out hard pellets

As well as using wafters on the hook when pellet waggler fishing, I like to carry a selection of different hard pellets too.

To begin with I will look to ‘match the hatch’ and fish the type of pellets on the hair to what I’m feeding. If the carp are already eating these baits, why not use them on the hook?

That said, I will also carry a few different shades of hard pellet, normally light and dark.I’ve always found that when the water is clear a light coloured hookbait tends to produce more bites, while when its coloured a dark pellet does the business.

The secret is, if you think there are carp in the swim and you aren’t catching them, be prepared to change your hookbait colour.

Give it a twitch

When fishing the pellet waggler there is nothing more unnatural than a hookbait just sitting there static under a float. For this reason I like to keep my hookbait on the move by giving the float a twitch.

Twitching the float has the effect of causing the hookbait to rise and fall in the water, which makes it appear far more natural to feeding fish. All you need to do is give the reel handle one quick turn. Don’t make any more than one turn, though, or you’ll pull the float out of the feed area.

Go deeper


When fishing the pellet waggler I’ve always been a big believer in starting deep and then looking to shallow up as the match progresses – this way I can cover a lot more water.

With a longer hooklength, even if the fish are sitting higher you will still know about it – you’ll either get bites on the drop or, alternatively, indications that tell you to come shallow.

If you start with a short hooklength, though, and the fish are sitting down in the water you’ll never know they are there.

As a guide, if I’m fishing in (say) 9ft of water I will look to kick off fishing at 4ft-5ft depth just to see what’s there.

Go further

Lots of pellet waggler anglers always fish right on top of their feed. This will catch fish, but they will miss out on a lot more. I would say I catch at least 50 per cent of my fish off the back of my feed, often up to 5m past.

I’m convinced that a lot of carp sit off the back of the feed and then dart into the loose offerings to feed. By casting past the loosefeed I can pick these fish off. Better still, I get two bites of the cherry. I will cast past the feed and then, if no bites are forthcoming, I feed and twitch the float into the loose offerings.

Correct way to position a pole roost with Tommy Pickering

Most pole anglers use a roost to keep their spare top kits safe from breakages, but could you be using yours in the wrong manner?

This week I show you how switching the side you have it on could make a huge difference to how effective you are on the bank.

 I fish a wide range of commercials and natural waters and always see anglers overloading the left-hand side of their box.

A bait tray is an essential item on this side if, like most anglers, you’re right-handed, but there’s no need for anything else to be piled on this left-hand side.

With your roost to the left you have to swivel uncomfortably and maybe move items out of the way to pick up a top kit with your right hand. 

Having it on the left could also lead to breakages. I have lost count of the number of anglers I have seen go to net a fish, only for it to come off at the very last second. Their landing net handle flies back in frustration and they end up with expensive top kits being smashed by the pressure.

As mentioned above, the left-hand side of most seatboxes is overloaded, but the right-hand side is the complete opposite.

There’s always a huge gap and for some reason anglers don’t put it to good use. This is the ideal place to put your top kit roost.

It will be much easier to reach the top kits, and there is absolutely no chance at all of smashing them with a stray landing net handle!

Set the roost so that it is a foot or two off the ground and doesn’t get in the way of you shipping back but at the same time is reachable without having to bend over too much.

All of this advice is for right-handed anglers – reverse the process if you are left-handed.

Top 10 pellet waggler tips

If you look out over your chosen venue and a series of swirls appear out of pole fishing range, it’s time to pick up the pellet waggler.

Warming waters and more hours of sunshine are leading to large numbers of carp basking on the surface and this month we reveal the top 10 tips to making the most of the deadly approach that is capable of outscoring everything else this month!

1. Light Mainline

The pellet waggler is a great tactic for catching carp well into double figures, but heavy mainline plays no part in this method. Fishing heavy mainline will make casting more difficult and 4lb Maxima is more than strong enough to beat even the biggest fish in your chosen water. Set your clutch so that fish can strip line when they make a sudden surge and you’ll never suffer a mainline breakage.

2. Loaded Floats

You can expect to catch fish in the top couple of feet of water now that the water has warmed up, but your hookbait needs to look natural if the carp are going to intercept it as it falls. Use a loaded pellet waggler that is locked in place by float stops so that you don’t have to put any shot on the line, enabling the hookbait to drop through the layers at a very slow pace. If your loaded float doesn’t quite sit as you want it, wrap a little solder wire around the base to address the balance.

3. Don't Feed Past Your Float

Spraying in bait with a catapult at regular intervals is vital if you want to get the carp competing, but where the loosefeed enters the water is important. Make sure all of your pellets land just short of the float. If they go beyond it, you will push the fish out and be forced to cast further to get back in touch with the shoal.

4. Feed Dry Pellets

Dampening your pellets is one of the first things that a lot of anglers do, however, they are much more effective used straight from the bag. Dry and untreated pellets will sink at a much slower rate which is important when you are trying to catch shallow.

5. Use a soft rod

Hook a fish just a couple of feet deep and it will instantly charge off, testing your tackle from the very first second of the battle. In order to prevent hook-pulls, a soft-tipped rod is crucial. An 11ft version is ample for fishing commercials where you don’t need to cast any further than 30-40 yards.

6. Find The Depth

If you are fishing a water that is 8ft deep, the fish could be sat anywhere in the column. A good starting depth at this time of year is 2ft, but this should be adjusted by a foot every 10 minutes until you start getting bites. If you begin to miss bites, shallow up as the fish are sat above your hookbait.

7. Bait Bands

There are two ways in which you can use a bait band – both directly on the hook or on a hair rig. Hooking the bait bands means that it is tight to the hook itself but make sure that the point is fully visible or you will lose fish. A hair rig is best when fish are slightly cagey and you are just trying to catch a few carp as opposed to 100lb.

8. Get Into A Routine

A pellet waggler is at its most effective seconds after it has landed because it is the splash that attracts the fish into the swim. If the float doesn’t shoot under within 15 seconds, twitch it by turning the reel once and wait another 15 seconds. If you don’t get a reaction, reel in and repeat the process.

9. Wide Gape Hooks

Narrow gaped hooks tend to lead to a lot of bumped fish when using the pellet waggler and a wide gape version will lead to a much better return because the point will penentrate the mouth much easier. A size 14 or 16 Guru Pellet Waggler or Preston Innovations PR36 will complement your rig perfectly.

10. Quick Changes

If conditions change you may need to make rig changes and certain adaptors will enable you to do that in seconds without tackling down. A Preston Innovations Waggler Adaptor will enable you to change the float quickly, while a Cralusso Match Quick Swivel will make changing hooklengths a simple process.

How to pick the right quivertip with Tommy Pickering.

Feeder fishing has stepped up in popularity in recent months as more people cotton on to the fact that it’s just as exciting as watching a float disappear.

Lots of attention is paid to the size and type of feeder that will be used and the baits that will complement it best, but there is one vital element that doesn’t get the consideration it needs. The type of tip that you use in your rod will play a big part in how successful your session is, and this week I reveal what you should be using.

Top all-rounder

I have tried all manner of different tips over the years but I am convinced that a 1oz version will cover the vast majority of commercial venues I visit.

This size tip allows me to work out what is going on under the water as it shows little knocks and line bites that will help me see whether there are many fish in the swim.

If I went any heavier, the tip would only go round whenever I got a bite and I wouldn’t know if the fish was a loner that had turned up or part of a shoal that had been grubbing around my feeder for a while.

Big waters

There are times when you do need to step up the size of tip, usually when long-distance casting is involved.

If you need to chuck over 60 yards you’ll struggle to get the required accuracy with a 1oz tip, as it won’t be very stiff. I’d go to 1.5oz or even 2oz to help me hit the spot consistently.

Glass or carbon?

Until a few years ago I always advocated glass tips. I believed that unlike carbon they bent right from the very end and helped give the rod a good action. This led to more fish going in the net because the rod performed how it should when big fish were hooked.

Recently I have switched to carbon tips, which have come on leaps and bounds and now bend from the very end rather than a few inches down the tip. Carbon tips also allow you to use thinner, lighter rods, which are far more manageable. 

Tommy Pickering's essentials for catching bream


Bream are one of my favourite species and you can catch them from springtime onwards with the sport just getting better and better as the year goes on. So here are my tips to help you take a catch of bream you’d previously only dreamed about. Try out these great tips for bream at a lake near you and watch that tip go round!


There are two types of groundbait that I use for bream fishing, either a fishmeal or a cereal version.When deciding which to use I have one simple rule – If the venue sees anglers feeding pellets I always go for fishmeal, a mix of Sonu F1 Natural and Dark. 

However, if it’s a more natural venue which doesn’t see carp anglers, such as one in Ireland, I’ll go for a cereal groundbait in Super Crumb Bream. Some anglers like very dry mixes but I mix my groundbait slightly on the damp side, just enough so that it holds together, in fact.


The rods I use for breaming arethe Preston 11ft 8ins and 12ft 8ins Dutch Master Method feeder rods. 

I use the 11ft 8ins rod for casting up to 50m, then the 12ft 8ins model for going further than this. If you don’t use a long or powerful enough rod you simply won’t be able to cast as far as you need to to catch bream – this is no place for 10ft bomb rods. 

Likewise there is a danger of being over-gunned and using rods which are too beefy, which will see hook pulls on small hooks. I find the Dutch Masters have a great through action for silver fish and bream, but are still very good for long casting. 


I use the Preston PR333 for small skimmers, the PR344 for normal skimmers and bream and the PR3555 for bigger bream and aggressive fishing. 

It’s important to match the hook size to the size of the bait, for example, maggots go on size 18 and 20 hooks and worms on size 16 and 14. I fish what I can get away with, what the fish will accept on the day. In an ideal world I’d like to fish a size 14 every time, but it doesn’t work like that! 

Line Clip

I’ve not always been the biggest fan of line clips on reels for bream fishing, as I’m confident I can cast in the same area and sometimes I like to spread the bait around a bit for bigger slabs. However, there are times when I need to use them and I’d say they are definitely beneficial. They make it easy to cast in the same spot every time, especially if you have a longer and a shorter line, so make full use of them. 


Bream are usually absolute suckers for chopped dendrobaena worms so I always take plenty with me to put through the feeder. Very rarely do I start off feeding them, however, because if bream don’t want them they can kill the peg. 

It’s better to start more cautiously, putting maggots and casters through the feeder rather than worms. Then you can start introducing them and gauge the response. You tend to get bigger weights feeding worms and with worms on the hook, bites are more aggressive. I’d chop worms into big pieces for bream and ‘mince’ them up for skimmers.