For more great tips from top anglers head to this year’s The Big One Show
• Sprinkle in the feed
Pole fishing in the cold is all about trying to get fish to drop down onto the bottom to feed and there is no better way to do so than with a sprinkle pot.
The beauty of a sprinkle pot is that you can feed very small amounts of bait on a regular basis without having to keep shipping back in and out to do so.
The idea with feeding just one or two maggots or five or six micro pellets is that any fish in the area see the bait falling through the water and then follow it down to feed.
F1s in particular respond really well to this approach. Quite often if the fishing is hard I will fill the pot full of micros and just keep tapping a few out every 60 seconds or so. This is a great way of making something happen as opposed to waiting for it to do so.
• Feed with accuracy
Pole pot position is, without doubt, one of the most important things to get right when fishing for F1s.
It never ceases to amaze me when I see anglers who just slide a pot on and start fishing.
F1 fishing is all about feeding small amounts of bait and keeping everything tight, something you can’t do if your pole pot is 6ins back from your tip!
If your pot is 6ins back then every time you feed your hookbait is at least 6ins away from the loosefeed. While you might get away with this when carp fishing, you won’t when targeting F1s.
The optimum position for a pole-mounted pot is right on the pole tip. This way you know you are feeding right on top of your float and concentrating the fish where you want them.
• Use a ‘half-ex’
When targeting carp and F1s in the cold a really effective trick is to start new swims away from my initial area.
Often I’ll catch five or six fish from a spot before it dies, usually because the fish have spooked and moved. The problem is that they rarely come back and so you need to go chasing around your swim to find them. This is where half-extensions, or dolly butts as they’re also known, come into their own.
When fish move they don’t go far, so moving just 0.5m is more often than not far enough to put you back in touch with the shoal.
A half-ex allows you to move quickly, efficiently and accurately.
• Keep your rig moving
Winter polefishing is all about making the fish ‘have it’ as opposed to sitting and waiting for a bite.
If you sat behind me polefishing I think you would be staggered at how much I move the hookbait. I do this primarily by lifting and dropping the rig.
Lifting and dropping basically involves lifting the float anything from 3ins to 12ins clear of the water and lowering it back down again slowly. This movement causes the hookbait to rise and fall in the water, something which fish often find impossible to resist, and bites tend to come just as the float settles again.
Quite often you can sit without a sign with a motionless float, only to lift and drop and get a bite immediately, that’s how effective that little bit of movement can be.
• Look for cover
One thing is for sure, when the water goes cold and clear, any sort of cover – especially rush beds, aerators, or even structures like bridges – will hold carp and F1s.
When it comes to targeting them, I always fish just off the cover to start with and try and pick up a couple of ‘easy’ fish.
Once the early bites stop I simply move closer and closer to the cover, picking fish off as I go.
When I say you have to go tight to the cover, I do mean tight – this often means resting your float against an aerator for instance.
• Consider colour
After spending a lot of time maggot fishing for F1s it became really apparent was that hookbait choice made a big difference, and two maggots on the hook always seemed to be better than one.
Most anglers, however, tended to just fish two red maggots whereas I always found adding a little bit of colour made a huge difference, and seemed to get more bites fishing a red and a white maggot.
I’m sure that in the clear water the white maggot stood out that little bit better than the red but by combining the two I was getting the best of both worlds so don’t be afraid to mix it up with your bait colours in the winter.
• Maggots & pellets
A trick which has served me well when F1 fishing is to take both pellets and maggots, and always start by fishing with pellets.
Pellets are very much an instant bait for F1s and will give you a fast start. I’ll usually stick with them for chasing fish around up to the three hour mark, before making the important switch to maggots.
The difference with maggots is that the fish always seem to feed properly on them, as in they get their heads down and you won’t need to move around your swim.
It therefore makes sense to fish maggots late as that’s when the F1s tend to want to feed, normally as the light starts to drop.
• Try going long
As far as open water pole fishing goes, the best bit of advice I can give you is that if you’re struggling for bites then ‘go long’!
When the water is cold and clear and the carp don’t really want to feed they will push out from the bank to where they feel safe.
When I used to fish Makins Phase One in the winter when it was rock hard the best way to catch a carp or two was always on the long pole, normally 16m if the wind allowed.
When I went long, I’d feed just enough bait to catch one fish and wait, then repeat the process.
• Always feed a short line
A line I always like to put in at this time of the year is a short pole corn line. In the warmer months this would be a meat line, but at this time of year it is all about corn.
With the water being clear I feel that corn offers that bit more visibility, making it a lot more effective.
The secret to the short corn line is the feeding and I won’t start putting any bait in until two hours to go. Even then I will feed it purely by hand if possible.
Little and often is the key and I’ll flick four to six grains out every two minutes, working on the same principle as the sprinkle pot, banking on the bait falling through the water drawing the fish in.
Most people make the mistake of dump-potting corn in, and this just isn’t as effective once the water goes clear keep it dripping in.
• Use fluoro
Over the last few years I’ve become a massive fan of fluorocarbon in cold, clear water as I believe it gives me an edge, especially when I am targeting notoriously clever fish such as F1s.
I use a 4ins hooklength of 0.10mm Pure Fluorocarbon and this is attached loop to loop to my mainline of 0.13mm Guru N-Gauge.
Hook choice for maggot fishing is a size 18 Guru F1 maggot hook which is a lightweight pattern perfect for this type of fishing.