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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Dai Gribble celebrates the best way to catch tench this spring by sharing his favourite way of catching them
Welcome to the glorious world of tenching on the float, where the angler can be taken on a roller-coaster ride from peaceful reflection to high-octane action in seconds.
One man who simply loves waggler fishing for tench is Korum’s Dai Gribble, a former Drennan Cup champion. We met up with the 49-year-old Staffordshire all-rounder to find out why those anglers who shun floatfishing for tench are missing out.
Simplicity the key
Unlike Dai’s feeder fishing tactics, which dictate the need for specialist rods, floatfishing for tench can be undertaken with a standard commercial float set-up. Any decent float rod combined with a quality 6lb mainline is ideal. This will generally be fished straight through to a size 10-18 hook, depending on the hookbait.
“Gravel pit tench are very simple creatures, so there is no need to tie ludicrously complicated float set-ups with wildly intricate shotting patterns. I think that the ideal mixture is a balance of strength and sensitivity,” said Dai.
This deliberately simple approach extends to Dai’s choice of float – either a straight peacock waggler, or, if the day is very windy, a long-bristled Driftbeater. “Tench anglers collect floats like specimen carpers collect pop-ups,” Dai added, with a chuckle.
“I have loads of floats that I have never, ever used, but that still doesn’t stop me buying more… just in case they might come in!” On the day, Dai’s chosen tool was a 2g Preston Innovations Dura Wag.
The beauty of these floats is that they are modular, allowing you to change tops if required as well as change the loading from maximum to very little by removing the brass weights at the base of the float.
Dai’s float rig was set to fish 1ins overdepth, with just two No4 shot and one No6 down the line. If the wind or tow increased, he could move the float up the line and ‘lay on’ by up to 12ins with the dropper shot being laid on the lakebed to help anchor the rig.
A spread of baits
Float tactics encourage you to chop and change your hookbaits much more than you would otherwise do when using legering techniques to target tench.
“On the feeder, I use red maggots most of the time – in both the feeder itself and on the hook – because I am only recasting every hour or two. They are a bait that I have the utmost confidence in when gravel pit fishing for tench,” explained Dai.
“With floatfishing, I’m recasting every 10 or 20 minutes, so this means I’m more inclined to give a kernel of sweetcorn or a soft hooker pellet a go for that period.”
Dai likes to fish his baits in rotation on the float and often takes quite a selection to try out on the day. Predictably, red maggots still play a big part in his approach, but they are often backed up by other tempting morsels such as casters, worms, hooker pellets, sweetcorn, hemp and bread.
“Tench can be very finicky feeders. Some days they’ll come freely to any hookbait, while on others they will not touch maggots and casters but will hang themselves every cast or put-in on, say, a grain of corn. Having a range of change baits enables you to go through this selection process.
“The fish will often give away their presence by sending up bubbles or knocking the float when you’re fishing close in. This means you can feed very accurately and judge how much to introduce against the number of bites and amount of activity in the swim.”
Sweetly does it
Once the swim has been raked and fed – usually with a handful of red maggots – and the tackle set-up, Dai will kickstart his session on particle baits such as maggots, casters, hemp and sweetcorn.
If there are lots of small rudd and other silverfish in the water, Dai will ball-in snooker ball-sized balls of groundbait containing particles to create a carpet of food and ensure some of the hookbait gets to the lakebed intact.
“Around five or six balls is perfect to start with. I use a mixture of fishmeal crumb, combined with molasses to create a sweet mix,” explained Dai.
He will then top up the swim little-and-often, so there’s always food in the swim – but not so much that it overfeeds the tench or, indeed, too little so they clear the swim and move on. “It’ll be a small ball every 15 minutes or a pouchful of particles, depending upon the action,” explained Dai.
With the sun rising steadily, it wasn’t long before Dai’s tactics paid dividends. His neon-orange float tip wobbled briefly, before burying. He duly swept the rod back and hooked into the fish. Sliding the 5lb male tench into the folds of his net, the look on his face said it all.
1) Method v Hybrid - Which is better?
I’ve lost count of the number of big catches I’ve taken on the feeder in the summer months. Until last season those catches were almost exclusively on the Method feeder, but now I use two styles – the Method and the Hybrid.
Regular readers will know that since the Hybrid feeder came out I have fished with little else, as I feel it offers the best hookbait presentation you can get. Owing to the raised sides your bait is protected on the cast, but once it breaks down there is nothing for the hookbait or loose offerings to get stuck on.
In my opinion the Hybrid is at its best fishing for one fish at a time, whereas a Method is all about building a swim to catch a lot of fish. This is simply down to the fact that it holds a lot more bait than a Hybrid can.
2) In-line or elasticated?
I use both but will usually err towards an elasticated feeder with either Black or White Hydro, elastic, depending on the size of the fish I’m likely to catch. When the fish is under the rod top the elastic does the work and helps to prevent, or at the very least minimise, hook-pulls.
With no elastic in the feeder, when a fish shakes its head the feeder shoots up the line. When it comes back down the ‘bounce’ can be enough to make the hook fall out. I could use a softer rod, but over the course of a season I just feel elastic causes me to lose less fish. An elasticated feeder permits quick changes so when I’m waiting for bites I can make more feeders up. Then when I catch a fish I can clip the feeder I’m using off and clip a loaded feeder on.
3) Think heavy
Choosing the right weight of feeder is far more important than a lot of anglers realise. It’s absolutely vital that once the feeder hits the bottom it doesn’t move. You have to realise that if the hookbait gets pulled away from the loose offerings, the whole benefit of this style of fishing is wiped out.
The size of your feeder is also important, because this determines the amount of bait you’re putting in. Some days you need to hold back, while on other days you need to get out as much feed as possible in a short period of time to hold the fish in your swim.
I use three sizes of feeder – Mini, Small, and Large – in various weights. When fishing in open water on small lakes, in winter, or when I only want to feed a small amount of bait, a Mini in the 24g size is perfect. The Small version is a more general-sized feeder for year-round use and comes in 24g and 36g weights. I pick the heavier version for longer casts.
A ‘Big Bertha’ Large version, in both 28g and 45g, allows you to get a lot more feed out and it’s the 45g size that I love to use on venues such as Boddington, where 90m-plus casts can be needed to reach the shoals.
4) Easy rigs
There’s nothing difficult about setting either rig up. If I’m clipping my feeders on and off I thread a Method feeder ‘tail rubber’ on to my mainline and tie a 3ins loop in the end of my mainline using a double overhand loop knot. Clip your feeder on and slide the tail rubber down on to the stem of the feeder – job done!
For inline feeders, thread the feeder on to your mainline, tie a 6ins twizzled loop in the end with a Speed Bead trapped inside, slide the feeder back down the line so it sits against the bead and then add your hooklength. Simple!
5) Short hooklengths rule
On both the Hybrid and Method, I find a 4ins hooklength ideal. This gives the hookbait extra movement so it behaves more naturally when a fish sucks it in. Hook size and line diameter depend on the species and size of fish. On venues where I’m looking to catch a mixed bag of skimmers, F1s and carp I will use a size 16 MWG to 0.17mm Guru N-Gauge.
On bigger waters, like Boddington Reservoir – where it’s all about carp and the average fish is 8lb-plus – I’ll set up with a size 12 QM1 hook to 0.19mm line. Both are tied with a knotless knot so I can hair-rig my hookbaits
6) Bright or blend-in hookbaits?
Hookbaits fall into two camps – blend in and stand-out. Blend in baits such as 6mm or 8mm hard coarse pellets are used to match the feed and work well when the fish are proving cagey. You can trick them into eating a hookbait which is masked among the loose offerings.
Stand-out hookbaits such as mini fluoro boilies, bright wafter boilies, and bread discs in winter, work in the opposite way. They give the fish a bait they can really home in on and are great when there are a lot of fish in the peg.
7) Pellets... The must have feed
A question I get asked a lot concerns what to put around the Method. What’s right on one day can be wrong the next, but if I’m in doubt I will opt for 2mm coarse pellets – all fish love them!
I will always have groundbait with me, as if it isn’t happening on pellets I can make the switch. You can also give pellets a dusting in groundbait – I normally use Dynamite’s Swim Stim Sweet Fishmeal. This is something I do if there are a few skimmers mixed in with carp and F1s. On the Hybrid it’s 2mm pellets every time for me!
8) To bury or not?
Going back a long time, I actually used to fish a Method feeder with the hookbait hanging out a couple of inches from the payload. However I noticed that I would sometimes get indications which didn’t result in bites.
This got me thinking. The idea of the Method feeder is to get fish eating the pellets or groundbait that’s on the feeder, so leaving your hookbait out actually made very little sense.I did a bit of experimenting and it seemed I got twice as many bites when burying the hookbait, so that’s what I do!
9) Try a pop-up on the method
The new Method feeder clip I’ve been using allows you to fish popped-up baits. Pop-up are very effective on the feeder but I’ve never felt they were being presented properly. The clip attaches the hookbait to the middle of the feeder in the perfect position amid the feed.
I still use a 4ins hooklength but by varying where I put the line in the clip I can fish with as long or short a hooklength as I want.The hookbait, an 8mm or 10mm orange boilie, pops up around 2ins from the feeder. Once the feeder breaks the hookbait is the first thing a fish will see as it approaches the feeders
10) How often to cast?
On a normal commercial I will cast every 3-5 minutes to start with to get some bait down and hold the carp once they arrive. You may find that you get short bursts of fish, then nothing for 20 minutes, then three more in quick succession.
In the last hour the swim may well be solid with fish as by this time there’s plenty of bait on the bottom and the fish are properly on the feed due to the time of day. This is a very positive way of fishing, and it has caught me a lot of big weights.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.