Adapt your pellet strategy and catch in the cold

With much colder weather on the way, how you approach a commercial swim and fish with pellets has to change if you are to keep in contact with your quarry.

This applies to both swim selection and the way you fish. For example, if you’re faced with a relatively featureless lake, choose a swim in the middle of the bank.

At this time of year, the fish – carp and F1s – will start to shoal together tighter than in summer, and if you have plenty of water in front of you you’ll have more space to search the swim.

This applies to all types of fishing. I’ll start by targeting three areas – one out long, between 11m and 13m on the pole; a second swim closer in; and a third using an open-end or pellet feeder.

For more great tips from top anglers head to this year’s The Big One Show

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A) Long pole

This will be my main line of attack. Look for underwater features on the pole line. Often there’ll be a deeper area at long-pole distance right in front of the platform you’re sitting on. It might only be a few inches deeper than the surroundings, created by feeding fish, but in the winter things like this can make a massive difference to your catch rate.

However, it’s also worth feeding a second long-pole swim downwind of the first. You may well find that as the session progresses, fish will drift away and they may end up here, especially if the water is clearer that it was in the summer.

On good days, you’ll find you can keep fish coming all day by swapping between these two areas regularly. Mark your pole so that changing depths is quick and easy. 

Feed is simple – slow-sinking micro-pellets – and the best hookbait is likely to be 4mm or 6mm expanders.

B) Close in

You’ll still catch close to the bank when the water cools, but only if it’s 3ft deep or more. Look to fish here later in the day, and expect barbel as well as F1s and carp. 

Maggot and caster can sometimes be the best baits here, although I’ll always feed some pellets and grains of corn as well.

C) Feeder

A small open-end or pellet feeder is my third weapon at this time of year, and a good call if the fish drift away from the long-pole line.

A short hooklength and a banded 6mm pellet will keep things nice and simple.