The new year is now upon us and with it comes a time to reflect on what I have learn't over the past 12 months. Every time we reach that point where we think we’ve got everything worked out, someone comes up with something new in terms of tackle or tactics. So here are my top ten fishing tips for you to take in and use during 2018.
1) Feel the power
Last year I worked with Daiwa on a new range of rods. Two of these have very quickly become favourites for floatfishing for barbel and big chub.
Too many so-called ‘power’ rods are far too stiff for big fish, particularly when you’re using small hooks, but the Tournament RS 13PF and 14PF are perfect big-fish tools. I use them with 6lb (0.20mm) to 8lb (0.24mm) Pro Float lines and strong size 14 to 10 hooks, and have landed loads of big fish with them.
2) Step it up
Over the course of this series, I’ve written many times about ‘feeding to response’ and most of the time it’s good advice to heed.
If you’re getting loads of bites, keep the feed going in – but if bites are slow in coming, ease back and try not to overfeed.
This is always my advice when you’re fishing for roach, dace and chub, but I had to do it differently to catch barbel in the Severn Float Championship. On four of the six matches I was in trouble going into the latter stages. Bites were at a premium and light feeding was producing very little.
I took the gamble to feed heavily for the last 90 minutes in all four matches and it paid off for me, with barbel boosting my catches each time. Some called it lucky, but is it luck when you’re fishing for barbel in a certain way and it works?
3) Cup it in!
If you’re on a venue where bleak can be a problem, give plenty of thought to how you are going to put your groundbait in, as it can attract bleak from miles around! They home in on the splash of the balls going in and quite often you can’t get rid of them once they arrive in your swim.
The answer? Cup the groundbait balls in instead of throwing them. It’s a trick the regulars on the Thames circuit do, and it works!
4) Go hollow
For years I used solid elastics, but over the past 12 months I’ve got into the lighter grades of hollow Hydrolastic. I now use it for all my river work, including yellow for all my light hooklength and small hook work. It’s been much better than the elastics I used to fish with.
5) Go long
I used to think that 14ft feeder rods were a gimmick, but in situations where you need to cast a feeder a long way and keep as much line as possible out of the water, they’re well worth investing in.
The extra length allows you to position the rod so that there’s less drag on the line from the current than you get with shorter rods.
6) Fill it up
Here’s a tip that will save you money! When you’re filling a reel spool, either use a whole 300m spool to fill it or use backing line and just wind 100m on.
After a couple of months of use, reverse the line on to a second spool and the line that ends up on the top is brand new!
7) Tare it up
Hemp and tares have probably accounted for more big weights of roach than any other baits over the past few summer and autumn seasons.
I’d never go to a roach venue without at least half-a-pint of tares and a pint or two of hemp. You can loosefeed plenty of hemp but only feed a few tares every two or three put-ins.
Slip one on the hook after an hour of using other baits and don’t be surprised if you get a big roach straight away!
8) Put on a lob
I never used to have much confidence in lobworms as hookbait but all that has changed. For the past few seasons lobs have been my ‘go-to’ bait when a river is carrying colour. I use them whole or in different length pieces. When a perch or chub grabs hold, you very rarely miss them!
9) Don't ignore meat
Luncheon meat fell out of favour after pellets were introduced to our main rivers more than 15 years ago, but it’s now making a big comeback.
I’ve found Bait-Tech Poloni meat to be perfect for barbel and chub in coloured, and sometimes clear, water.
10) Halibut surprise
ONE bait that has been accounting for loads of big roach everywhere is 4mm halibut pellets – two-pounders love them.
It’s not uncommon to catch big redfins on quite crude gear once they’ve switched on to the loosefeed.
The best way to attach halibut pellets is to lasso them.