When it comes to catching predators by design, watercraft is king.
Thinking about what you’re doing and, more importantly, what the fish are doing, will not only save you precious time, but also deliver the kind of sport you’re after.
One angler who understands watercraft only too well is Fox Rage expert Gary Edmonds. Gary has been lure fishing for decades, and seems to have a sixth sense for tuning in to what predators are getting up to.
“There are no hard and fast rules to it,” smiles Gary as he steps on to the banks of his local Rib Valley Lakes, ready to cast for perch. “But in general, if you apply the right thinking, you can usually work out where they’ll be – and from there you can work out what it’s going to take to catch them.”
Get out of bed early for the best chance of catching perch, which will usually be very active just as the sun rises. “It can be hard work, but it’s usually worth it,” Gary explains.
“Depending on conditions, you’ll usually get a good hour or two of activity.” This early morning action is based on light levels. The predators make use of the cover of shade and this, combined with their superior eyesight, gives them an advantage over prey fish.
“The same is true of dusk but,
in my experience, it’s first light when you really have the best chance, especially with perch,” says Gary.
Light, and the amount of it, has a big impact on the activity levels of predators. But that’s not just confined to first and last light.
“Realistically, the best days are dull, with a good ripple on the water which breaks up the light under the surface even further,” Gary explains.
“Even when the sun is up high and bright overhead, some of the worst conditions, you can still use light levels to your advantage.
“I look for a number of things. First off, natural shade from trees and bushes always works well. That contrast between the dark and bright water areas will attract predators which will hang in the cover of the shadows. Areas such as the margins of islands that are in shade are always great to try if you can reach them.”
3) lake topography
The underwater make-up of a lake has a huge impact on where you will find your target species.
It’s easy to just think of the bottom of the water in front of you as sloping off and then being fairly uniform, but that is hardly ever the case.
“It’s crucial to get a good idea of what is happening in front of you so you can fish for the predators in the most likely spots and make your fishing more likely to result in bites,” Says Gary.
“If you don’t know a water, it’s worth taking the time to cast your lure around and count it down on a tight line, waiting for it to touch bottom, at which point the line will go slack. You’re looking for variations in the time it takes for your lure to reach bottom. That will indicate changes of depth.”
These changes of depth are the areas that Gary will spend his time fishing, be that a steep drop off, a hole, a bar in open water, or in a fairly uniform area, even just a slight dip – all can be enough to hold fish, especially perch.
“Predators will be looking for areas where they can sit and gain a tactical advantage over their prey,” says Gary, casting out his lure.
“That could just be light cover as they sit lower down on a slope, or lurk on the far side of a bar.”
“In the winter, as the temperature drops the fish will be slow but still need to feed, although this can be in small windows of time during the day,” explains Gary,
“They will also look to have a more stable temperature that is less affected by sudden drops caused by overnight frosts and the like. They look to go to deeper water which is more temperature-stable, and that’s where you will most likely find them.
“On days when the temperature lifts, prey fish will move to shallower water which will warm up more quickly, and the predators will follow. On those warmer winter days I will quite often target the slightly deeper water behind shallows where I can see prey fish. This can result in some great sport.”
5) Man-made areas
Although they are always talked about in terms of fish-holding spots, man-made structures such as pontoons, walls or anywhere that will give fish cover will attract prey and therefore predators, and so they are definitely worth covering.
“If the water you’re on is fished a lot these will normally be the spots that get the most pressure, as they are the most obvious,” says Gary. “But they are still worth your attention. Structure in depth of water is what you really want. Something offering shade and cover ticks a lot of boxes with all fish – all you need to do is approach it differently to other anglers, whether that’s getting there earlier, fishing it later, using different sized or actioned lures or trying different techniques like weedless deadsticking.”
“Man-made structures really come into their own on what appear to be uniform, barren waters, such as canals and drains.
“If you have no discernible features and then suddenly find an outlet pipe or even a shopping trolley in the water, there will normally be fish around it.”
In cold weather, cold water will result in cold fish that are less active, so you need to adapt to catch them. “One of the best techniques for lethargic fish is drop shotting,” explains Gary.
“In these conditions, working a jig slowly enough to get them to bite properly can be very difficult, but if you know where the fish are, a drop shot approach will allow you to present a lure effectively in the same place for as long as you like.
“This will get their attention, hold it and tease them into striking, especially if you have a shoal of perch in front of you. They will become competitive, and it puts them under pressure to hit a free meal before another fish does.”