When it comes to boosting your catches in early-spring, there’s no one more qualified to help than Tommy Pickering. The former world champion andcurrent Preston Innovations England feeder team boss is one of the world’s best all-round anglers, and this week he reveals a boxful of tips that will bring more fish your net.
A light-coloured groundbait mix will always outscore a darker version when roach are the main target. The species tends to feed more confidently over a light blend, and a very fine product that has minimal feed content should be used to prevent overfeeding the shoal. Sonubaits Super Crumb Lake ticks all the boxes.
Pinkies for big fish
Worms, casters and maggots may seem like three deadly baits for skimmers, but pinkies go top of my list when fishing for the species on natural venues. Mix plenty of them into your groundbait, use two or three on the hook and you’ll find you are picking out much bigger stamp fish than other anglers around you.
Try a binding agent
If you are struggling to get your pellets to cling to the Method feeder then add a binding agent. Dampen your 2mm pellets as usual and then add one spoonful of Sonubaits Stiki Pellet to a pint of bait. This will make sure the pellets stick when casting and as the feeder falls, but also ensure they start to break down slowly once the feeder hits the deck.
Which goes first?
Add groundbait to the water when making paste but add water to the groundbait when making groundbait. This subtle change is may seem unimportant but it is essential, and will make sure your bait takes on the consistency that you require for the job
How to hook casters
There are two different ways to hook a caster, and how the day is going will dictate the best way to do it. The first is to bury as much of the hook inside the shell as possible. This produces more action when silvers are cagey. When they drop their guard, have the hookpoint fully exposed so you reduce the number of missed bites
Vary your pellets
Pellets are the staple diet of most commercial fish but the fish can wise up to them at times. In order to give yourself an edge, feed standard coarse pellets but use a flavoured or coloured pellet over the top to fool bites from wary specimens.
Cylinders V Cubes
Punched cylinders of meat are stacks better than cubes when fishing on the feeder. This is because the shape of cubed meat leads to twists occurring in the hooklength when you reel in.
Try pop-up boilies
The bomb and popped-up bread can be fantastic for carp and F1s on commercials right now but don’t neglect boilies. An 8mm or 10mm pop-up can be a better option if you are getting lots of little plucks that you can’t hit – small silverfish are often the culprits. Pop-ups are also better when you are waiting long periods, as you can be a lot more confident that the hookbait is still on the hair and hasn’t disintegrated.
Which float stem
The type of stem that your stick float has should be dictated by the conditions you are fishing in. Cane is best when trying to catch silvers on the drop, alloy versions are more stable in unpredictable, boiling swims and plastic-stemmed floats stand upright as soon as they hit the water. They are therefore real winners in turbulent and pacey swims.
Quick Change Swivel
Always use a snap link swivel with any kind of waggler. This will enable you to quickly change the size or pattern of the float at any stage of the day.
Overcast and windback
Sink the line when using the waggler so that the float stays in the same place for longer. In order to achieve this, cast five yards beyond your target zone, before winding the float back to your spot with the rod tip underwater. A small amount of line may still be floating and this can be sunk by sharply flicking the rod tip upwards.
Dot it right down
Never have any more than half the float bristle showing when pole fishing. When fishing for shy-biting species such as F1s, dot it down so only a few millimetres are showing. This can be done by adding tiny shot such as No12 Stotz to your rig in order to fine-tune it.
Accuracy every time and how to keep a short line
Pick a far-bank marker in order to fish in exactly the same spot all day. Line your swim up with an object that won’t move and make sure you are facing it when the rig goes in. Place your elbow on the same spot to get the same distance every time.
If you want to hit every carp and F1 bite on commercials you must keep a short line between pole-tip and float. Use a 6ins length in still conditions, 9ins if there is a ripple, and a foot if it is a bit windy.
How long a rod?
Too many people don’t pay attention to the length of feeder rod they are using, but your choice will dictate how accurate your casting is. For fishing 30 yards out on a standard commercial, opt for a 10ft version, stepping up to a 12ft or 13ft rod when chucking beyond 50 yards on bigger waters.
Make yourself comfortable
Being comfortable when fishing from a box is incredibly important, or your mind will soon drift off the job. Make sure your side tray is as high as it can be so that you can reach bait with ease. Rig roosts and keepnets should also be easily accessible without having to over extend.
Positioning a pot
The positioning of your pole pot on the top kit will dictate how successful you are. Make sure it is only a few inches from the pole so that any loosefeed you drop in goes directly over the top of your hookbait.
Shotting patterns are rarely given the attention they deserve, and if you are after a mixed bag on commercials then one patterns always works well. Place a bulk of shot around 18ins to 2ft away from the hook and have three smaller dropper shot spread evenly between that and the hooklength loop. This will slow the fall of your hookbait and make it look natural as it nears the bottom.
Keep a short hair
The difference between an effective hair rig and one that doesn’t lead to many fish in the net is literally a few millimetres. The shorter the hair rig, the better and I find that hair rigs where there is only a tiny gap between the bait and the hook are most effective.
Control your area
On a busy commercial, think carefully about where you are going to fish. If all the anglers opposite are casting to the middle then the fish will probably avoid this commotion and go elsewhere. Look to fish in your own patch of water – even if that means coming shorter – and you’ll find more feeding fish.
Try a heavy plummet
We all know that plumbing the depth is important, but using the correct plummet is a must. If it is too light, you won’t be able to work out the contours of the bottom whereas a 20g-30g version will give you the precision that is required when using the pole.
Sensibly strong rigs
If a fishery states that the carp run up to 15lb, don’t set up a rig to catch only fish of that size. Using heavy lines and hooks you’ll miss out on bites from smaller fish, so compromise.
On rivers I find an 18ins to 2ft hooklength best in coloured water. When bream fishing in normal conditions I will step up to 3ft, and 5ft for barbel, as they tend to sit well away from the feeder on big rivers like the Trent.
Don’t move a feeder
Once you have cast a feeder out don’t move it out of place. With a Method or pellet feeder you will only empty the frame and move your hookbait out of the pile of freebies. This will ultimately make the whole rig ineffective. When you cast out, make sure the feeder hits the water with the mainline still slack, so you can put a bend in the tip without moving the feeder.
Give it a chance
If your feeder is in the right place, leave it in the water for a long period of time. At this time of year you may only be fishing for 10 fish so don’t be afraid of leaving it be for up to 20 minutes.
Why plastic is best
I prefer a plastic open-end feeder to wire. This is because I am much more confident that all the bait stays in it until it gets to the bottom, and it also retrieves easier and doesn’t vibrate as much in the water.
To find the depth on bomb or feeder cast out a 1oz bomb. Once it hits the water start counting. A bomb of this size falls at a rate of a foot every half second, so you can work it out from there.
Fishing a light bomb
When fishing the bomb, the lightest lead you can get away with should be used at this time of year. Any excess commotion will spook any fish you have landed on and when fishing on commercials, a 3/8oz to ½oz bomb is about right.
Match feed to venue
Feeder groundbait when targeting bream depends on the water I am on. If it is a commercial that sees a lot of pellets than I will use a fishmeal-based product such as Sonubaits Bream Feeder, but if I am on a natural water I’ll turn to a cereal recipe such as Sonubaits Super Crumb Bream.
Half- Filled feeder
Half-filling a Banjo feeder is a fantastic way of getting extra bites in the cold. The reduced amount of food around the feeder forces the fish into taking the hookbait and it is often the bigger specimens that fall for this trick.