Like last month, the only bait that graces my side tray today is a bag of 4mm fishery pellets, and a few slightly bigger pellets for the hook. This minimal bait menu has won me hundreds of matches at this time of year, especially when I’m planning on fishing shallow. What I want to show you today, however, is a method of fishing shallow that is a little different to the norm.
I often hear anglers refer to shallow fishing as a method that they often try during a match, but if it isn’t a fish-a-chuck pretty much straightaway, they dismiss it quite quickly. What I have learnt, though, is that shallow fishing is a method you need to work at, and on those days when the going is a little tricky, one particular device has transformed my shallow fishing. All hail the pellet basket!
What Is The Basket?
This device is basically an adapted feeder, which fits on to the end of your top kit very much like a pole-mounted pot. The main side parts of the basket consist of fine plastic mesh that will encase 4mm pellets without spilling them. At the base of the basket however, there are two slightly larger holes, which 4mm pellets can just fit through.
The top of the basket is fully open, but can be blocked shut when a piece of foam is closed on to it with an elastic band. There are small holes towards the top of the basket where you can slide it on to your top kit, pretty much like most other pole pots..
How The Basket Works
To fill the basket, you simply open the foam lid, pour in some pellets and close it. Because of the weight and compactness of the pellets, they stay in the basket, despite it having the two slightly larger holes at the base.
However, when you rattle the basket by gently shaking or tapping the base of your pole once you’ve shipped out, pellets will drop out a few at a time. You can therefore control the release of the pellets by gauging how vigorously you shake or tap the pole.
The basket acts as a constant fish feeder, releasing bait right on top of your float!
This is by far the most accurate way of feeding pellets when fishing shallow. It amazes me how people are massively focused on feeding accurately when fishing on the bottom, but as soon as they want to fish shallow they will happily pick up a catapult and spray bait everywhere. When I used to fish on rivers, one thing I always used to try and aim to do was get my hook bait falling through the water with my feed. This was the key to getting positive bites and catching bigger fish than everyone else.
The same kind of theory applies to shallow fishing. If you can get your hook bait falling through the water with the feed, you’re on to a winner. The basket is the perfect device for doing this, as you can rattle out a few pellets into a tight area around your float, before proceeding to place your hook bait right in there with the feed!
On windy days, the basket really comes into its own. It’s hard to feed accurately with a catapult, especially at distance, but with the basket you can ship out and feed right on top of your float consistently.
The baskets that I use hold quite a lot of pellets too. Normally there is enough in them for me to ship out and rattle in pellets until I get a bite.
On windy days, you can fish shallow and still feed accurately with a basket.
The rigs that I use for fishing shallow are simple, and based around achieving a slow, natural-falling hook bait. I use a 4x10 Preston Innovations Black Dibber, which takes just four No10 Stotz. I place three of these under the float, and have another just above my hooklength. This means the hook bait almost free falls down with the loose feed, but I still have some weight below the float to keep it stable and allow me to manoeuvre it if there’s some wind.
I like these dibbers as they’re inline too, as the line comes straight out of the top of the float. This not only makes them strong, but allows me to quickly lift and be in direct contact with fish on the bite – vital when targeting wary F1s.
Don’t be afraid to pull the stem out of your float and re-glue it back in using a strong superglue or Araldite. This way, you know that it will never break or let you down.
Painted Top Kits
Lots of people ask me about the white tip sections on my pole. I actually paint these myself. In my eyes, nature is always right, and the underside of any fish-eating bird is always white. When a fish looks up, it’s always looking at the brightness of the sun or sky, which is often white, so painting my kits white hopefully helps disguise them.
This may only make a tiny difference and catch me an odd extra fish, but if that’s the case I’m happy going the extra mile to take these small advantages. One thing is for certain, painting them white is definitely not a disadvantage – it does zero harm.
You may think that using a basket limits the size of pellets that you can feed, because it’s only 4mms that you place in there. However, after experimenting with lots of different sizes of feed pellets for shallow fishing, I have found 4mms best by far. They make a lovely fish-attracting pitter-patter as they hit the water, and draw in all sizes and kinds of fish. If small fish do become a problem, you can be more selective by simply placing a bigger pellet on the hook.
As I mentioned last month, I generally use some pellets from Bag ‘em that are around 5mm in size. I always use a hair-rigged micro-band, however, which will go around a 4mm if I’m fishing for small F1s, but also stretch to an 8mm pellet if I need to be very selective.
That same wallet-friendly bait tray is there again.
Catty And Basket
I have had a lot of success recently using a combined catty and basket technique for shallow fishing. I’ll happily ping in pellets as accurately as I can with a catapult whenever I’m not fishing shallow. For example, I may be fishing the bomb or short pole, but will happily prime my shallow swim by pinging pellets there all the time with a catapult. However, when I decide to go on this swim, I can use the basket to really pinpoint the fish to where I want them. They may be spread over several metres with the loose-fed pellets, and if there are just a few fish in the swim, there’s a slim chance of one finding your hook bait. By rattling in some pellets with the basket, you have a tight column of feed falling right with your hook bait, and any fish in the swim are likely to home in on this taking the free offerings and your hook bait right among them.
When fishing the basket, try and control when your hook bait falls in relation to the feed. Ideally, you want it to fall with the loose pellets coming out of the pot. To do this, lift your rig so that it’s just out of the water, rattle in a few pellets, and drop or lower your rig right in among them. Sometimes the fish will drag your elastic out!
Today has been brilliant for demonstrating the use of the basket for shallow fishing, as the stiff wind blowing from right to left has made catapulting pellets difficult. I started the session by pinging in pellets with a catapult around 11 metres out and caught well to begin with. After an hour, however, things went quiet, and venturing further out bites were becoming few and far between, although there were fish moving around in the upper layers.
Clipping on a basket feeder and venturing further out to 13 metres, I began to tap the pole and slowly release the pellets. After around a minute, and after lifting and lowering my pellet down, my elastic was pulled out by a 3lb F1. These are the bigger, wary fish that are normally only caught in the margins! For the next hour or so I caught steadily, until bites dried up again.
As I mentioned before, you should never be afraid to rest a shallow swim and keep feeding it with a catapult while you try another method. Sometimes leaving an area where you’ve been catching but still feeding it helps regroup the fish. Today, I’ve done just that, and after catching an odd fish on the bomb, I was soon back out on the shallow swim with the basket, and immediately catching fish.
It’s a simple device that will always have a place in my box, and one that has won me countless matches over the years.
A combination of loose feeding to create a big area, and feeding with a basket to pin the fish down can work well.
Sponsors: Tri-Cast, Bag ‘em Matchbaits
MF says: “A true gent!”
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