Use small baits for BIG catches!

Former World Champ Tommy Pickering explains why bigger isn’t best when it comes to winter feeding

Use small baits for BIG catches!

by Angling Times |

One of the most important things to get right in any type of fishing is the feeding – do it wrong, and you’ll struggle, but master it quickly and a proper net of fish is on the cards. The old saying ‘you can always put more in but you can’t take it out’ may be a cliché, but it’s 100 per cent true at any time of year on commercials, more so now that winter is starting to bite.

But how do you work things out quickly enough to catch well? To my mind, the old ‘little and often’ path is the one to tread, introducing only tiny amounts of bait on a regular basis. I’ll then let the fish tell me if they want any more bait, or, in some instances, less, by how quickly I’m catching or the number of indications I’m getting.

Take today’s session, for example. I’m on a venue that’s a new one for me, Aston Park Fisheries near Sheffield. The Lanta Pool is a snake-type lake with a central island, and holds a great stock of F1s and carp.

The Lanta Pool is a snake-type lake with a central island, and holds a great stock of F1s and carp
The Lanta Pool is a snake-type lake with a central island, and holds a great stock of F1s and carp

On lakes like this, I like to keep things dead simple at this time of year. That means using a ‘one rig, one line’ approach and keeping an open mind so I can let the fish tell me how and where they want to feed.

First job is to find the right depth on the pole which, in the cold, sees around 4ft being ideal. That’s down the central track at around 9m – the swim then shallows up as you move towards the far bank.

Interestingly, I have seen the odd fish topping, and they almost all seem to be three-quarters of the way across the lake, slightly past where I am plumbing up. This tells me that fishing at 9m will be the best place to start.

Opening feed is, as I’ve already said, little and often and, if things go well, I might stay fishing at 9m for the whole session. If I’m struggling, though, I have the room to push further across to find the fish, or follow them out if bites dry up as the day goes on.

Now let’s look at bait and feed. Being a tight Yorkshireman I love a cheap bait bill, so today I have brought with me just a packet of the fishery feed pellets, and a packet of Fjuka 2in1 Micros, plus a few other Fjuka micros of different colours, which I have left over from previous sessions.

I love a cheap bait bill
I love a cheap bait bill

To be honest, I’m over the moon with these little pellet-coloured hookbaits. I’ve been pestering Fjuka boss David Preston for a good few months to bring out a natural-coloured micro, and it’s this time of year that I had in mind for this bait. Fishery micro pellets are among the most potent winter baits, and finally there’s a hookbait that matches them almost perfectly!

I’m over the moon with these little pellet-coloured hookbaits
I’m over the moon with these little pellet-coloured hookbaits

What, though, is little and often feeding? How many pellets are needed? Are 10 at a time too many? So many questions, the answer lying in how the weather is, and has been. On a mild day, you may be able to feed a little more, but today, that’s not the case. It’s freezing cold, and with a sharp overnight frost it would be a brave (or foolish) angler who decided to pile in the bait.

For me, feeding with a pot no bigger than my thumbnail holding fishery micro pellets, with a few Fjuka 2in1 Micros mixed in, is the way to go. I can then gauge how the fish respond to them.

Feed small amounts on a regular basis
Feed small amounts on a regular basis

Rig-wise, it’s a 4x12 float tied to 0.14mm mainline, matched to a 0.10mm hooklength and a size 20 Kamasan B911 hook. Importantly, I use my ‘666’ shotting pattern, a dropper shot set 6ins from the hook, another 6ins above this, and then a bulk 6ins above that. Elastic is a size 6-8 NuFish Zipp.

I plumb up so there is no more than an inch of line on the bottom, which is important, as I want to be able to read my float and work out when a fish has picked up my bait before it has time to eject it.

With this little and often feeding approach, I don’t have to wait too long before I’m into my first fish, a nice F1, probably about 1lb in weight. The bite is really tentative, which is why it’s so important to have your float shotted properly at this time of year.

I’m soon catching regularly, nice little F1s
I’m soon catching regularly, nice little F1s

I’m soon catching regularly, nice little F1s with the occasional slightly bigger fish thrown in too. I even manage a nice ornamental for a splash of winter colour! Fishing with a soft elastic means the fish swim away from where I hook them with little disturbance, and I’m able to use the puller kit to easily bring them under control when it comes to netting time.

As it happens, today I’m able to catch from one swim all day, and it surprises me how well the fish respond to feed. Often, I have to cut back on the feed and move lines to keep fish coming at this time of year, but there’s no such trouble today with my double micro combo!

Today I’m able to catch from one swim all day
Today I’m able to catch from one swim all day

I fish for four hours in total and lift the net out to reveal 30 fish for a weight of about 25lb. Despite the owner being an old friend of mine, I have never visited Aston Park before. Alex Mitchell and his team have created something really special here though.

Fish-filled lakes, plus a great well-stocked shop, and a café with a breakfast to die for! It won’t be long before I’m back here for another go!

A decent mixed net from Aston Park’s Lanta Pool
A decent mixed net from Aston Park’s Lanta Pool
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