Winter feederfishing for bream can so often revolve around tiny little changes making a big difference and nowhere more so is this true than in the distance you fish at.
Plug away on one line and you will catch to begin with but when the bites die off, too many anglers keep at it more in hope than anything else that the bream will return. The truth is that they rarely do but nor is it the case that they have stopped feeding. Very often, the fish will simply have moved a few yards further out or even closer to the bank.
This can be down to clarity of the water and the pressure that’s being put on the fish when a few of their mates get caught but when the tip stops moving, don’t just sit there. Wind in, take a few turns off the reel or add a few and get back in. The change is often immediate!
The Main Lake at Barston Lakes is a typical example of this change. I’ve fished plenty of matches when the bites have stopped and you have to follow those bream around. It’s common at Barston for the bream to move closer onto a long pole line that pole anglers commonly fish and you almost need to have two separate lines on the go at once, allowing you to chop and change.
The right distance
To kick off with and provided the water has a bit of colour in it, I will begin fishing at around 26 turns on the reel. This is a comfortable distance to cast but far enough out to encourage a number of fish into the swim. When it all goes quiet, it simply needs line adding or taking off the cast and I firstly go longer, only by four or five turns. If this doesn’t work then the fish may be closer in so I drop the cast to around 20 turns. Again, if this draws a blank then I may need to throw even further than I did. At some point though, you will find the fish and catch them.
Two feeders for two jobs
Although Method feeders catch a lot of bream in the summer at Barston, in winter I think the fish want groundbait at opposed to pellets so the cage feeder is the answer. The Main Lake is relatively shallow so a cage or plastic open end works well and my favourite is the Preston Innovations Plug It in the small 20g side, heavy enough to reach the spot but without putting in too much bait.
I will have a second rod set up though and this uses an in-line Cage feeder with a shorter hooklink. The reason for this is that because the bream are used to seeing Method feeders with the bait close by, they often attack the feeder to get the bait - the short tail puts the hookbait nearby. You’ll know if this is happening when using the Plug It feeder and longer tail because you will get a sharp knock on the tip very quickly after casting and then nothing. Then it’s time to change!
Things are relatively simple on this front with 4lb Power Max mainline to a 50cm link of 0.11mm Powerline (shortened to 8-10 inches for the inline Cage) and a size 16 PR412 hook. I do use a shockleader though, even with mono as it gives me a bit more poke when playing a bonus carp or F1 under the rod tip. This is several metres of 8lb Korum reel line. The rig itself runs on the mainline with the feeder on one of my home-made feeder links above a six inch length of twisted line to eliminate tangles. Needless to say I clip up to make sure I’m on the right spot each time.
It is easy to get an old favourite rod out of the bag every time but different lengths will make fishing so much easier. I have three of the new Preston Innovations Equis rods ready to go in my bag and for relatively short range, the 11ft model, a classic bream rod will do. However, if I need to cast beyond say 30 turns, then you will struggle to be super accurate unless you scale up to the 11ft 6in rod – that extra six inches really does make all the difference! There’s also a 12ft rod for really long casts when the water is clear and cold. Winter bream fishing in my experience is about distance and not depth – find the range that the fish are feeding at. The depth is irrelevant really.
Bloodworm and joker
These are baits that can stop a lot of anglers in their tracks. They think it’s too expensive and difficult to use but both are simply not true. A match pack of worm and joker is cheaper than buying half a kilo of worms and two pints of casters and you don’t have to faff around with leam to use it. Both are so natural to fish compared to casters or maggots and in winter when every bite counts, this is crucial.
The joker goes into my groundbait while bloodworm is used in bunches on the hook alongside dead maggots and pinkies. You don’t need to be packing the feeder with lots of goodies at this time of year so there’s no place for micro pellets, chopped worm or casters!
Three types of groundbait
Plain groundbait is okay to use when you are catching but in clearing water, I find that you need to put something in the feeder that makes something happen. Damp leam is the answer as this will put a bit of a cloud into the water that the fish can’t help but investigate.
So on my tray I have a bowl of just Sonubaits F1 Dark groundbait, a second bowl that is 50/50 F1 Dark and damp leam and finally a bowl of just leam. I’ll switch to leam when the swim seems dead or if I am changing lines and want to get things going quickly. When I’m catching again, I go back to just groundbait. To these feeds I will add a good helping of joker, not loads of the stuff but certainly enough to hold the fish when they arrive.
Dead maggots and fluoro pinkies are my starting bait as a single maggot or double pinkie but as soon as I can, I want to get onto bloodworm. When I am catching well, I then make the change to five or six worms crammed onto the hook, perhaps tipped with a dead pinkie. Bream love bloodworm and once they find it, they can very rarely resist it!
Feel your way in
How long should you leave the feeder out there for? Surprisingly, the answer is not too long as I think that if the fish have been drawn in, a bite shouldn’t be long in coming. I don’t bosh in several feeders of bait at the start, preferring to build the swim simply with what’s in the feeder on each cast and I wait 10 minutes between chucks. If you are catching though, this will be much quicker and so you will be getting the feed in faster.