I had one of the most frustrating three hours’ fishing of my life a few years ago, during the fourth day of a White Acres festival. Sitting on the renowned High Bank of the venue’s main Match Lake, my long-pole swim was bubbling and fizzing like a jacuzzi with fish activity, but I had nothing in my net!
I was suffering from missed bites and false indications every drop in. I did manage to catch a carp and a handful of skimmers, but had foul hooked and lost far more. Despite trying several different ways of feeding, I sat sulking with a peg full of fish that I couldn’t catch!
The new Preston Inter Change Dura system allows you to swap between a bomb, banjo and Method feeder in seconds.
After pulling out of another foul-hooked fish, my rig got stuck in the tree above my head. That was me finished… I’d had enough! Picking up my banjo feeder, I filled it up with pellets and gave it an underarm lob into the mass of bubbles that were erupting some 14 metres out. As I leaned back to pick up my spangled pole rig, the rod was pulled off my keepnet and I just managed to grab the handle as an angry fish stripped line from my clutch.
Next cast I did the same, and was rewarded just minutes later with a great big bream around 4lb, then a carp five minutes later, and another! I ended up with over 100lb to clearly win the lake, and never lost a single fish.
This one match made me realise just how effective a short-range Method attack can be. Since then, I’ve brought the attack into play on many occasions, and I don’t only use it when line bites and foul-hooked fish are a problem, as it can often be the fastest way of catching quality fish.
You know that the setup and presentation is correct on the banjo when you’re hooking fish like this!
I’ve found the Method is especially effective on venues where the fish respond to positive feeding. By feeding regularly and heavily, you draw a lot of fish into your swim. Where possible I like to use a catapult to feed, as I get the added attraction of the noise of bait hitting the water to attract fish. You can also feed very regularly with a catapult compared to a pole pot.
Feeding in this way gives you quite a wide area of feed on the bottom, which I believe is a very big advantage. Commercial fish get pressured by anglers a lot, and are very easily spooked.
When you feed a small area of bait, such as with a Kinder pot, or a small handful of bait in a pole pot, fish have to compete closely together to eat it. If you hook one, the chances are that it will dash out of the swim in panic and scare all the others away that were feeding beside it.
However, when you get the fish feeding over a bigger area, say two metres square, when you hook one the others are so spread out and far away from the other fish that they don’t notice the hooked fish, therefore they stay in the swim feeding for you to catch next time.
Feeding with a catapult is particularly advantageous for drawing new fish into your swim. Unlike with a pole pot, the catapult sends odd particles of bait flying everywhere; some go past the pole tip, some short, left and right.
These odd particles are very important, however, and they guide fish towards the baited area. A fish swimming two metres beyond the pole tip, for example, may see a couple of pellets falling through the water, and come to investigate. As it gets closer, it senses fish feeding over the main baited area, and can’t help but join the buffet. If it wasn’t for the stray particles, though, it wouldn’t have come into the swim.
The Match Lake at Docklow is home to some big, very old carp like this.
The Dinner Plate
The great thing about this tactic is that you have absolutely no limitations as to what baits you can use. In my experience, pellets are the most effective. You can experiment with different sizes depending on the size and kinds of fish you are targeting, and filling the banjo feeder with pellets means you’re presenting a little rich area of micro pellets with your hook bait right among them. This stands out from the scattering of loose particles, and acts as a little hotspot that fish are drawn to – a light treat of bait, with your hook bait right in there.
I have had quite a lot of success using different variations of baits with this attack at times. Sometimes, the fish simply don’t respond well to pellets. This is often the case at this time of year when the fish have been targeted with pellets for months and months on end.
Casters are a fantastic bait to feed to create a bed of bait at this time of year. Feeding big pouches of casters will get all kinds of fish feeding in your swim, especially silver fish at the start of a session. This is great for building competition in the swim, and species like carp and F1s will quickly home in on the action.
Rather than using pellets in the banjo and on the hook, I’ve found that a feed of groundbait on the feeder, and just one or two dead red maggots on the hook are more effective in conjunction with casters. My mix for this is always very simple – Sonubaits Match Method Mix.
Another variation that works very well when fishing a venue with lots of big carp is to loose feed meat. Sometimes, fish are very switched on to meat, but when fishing in open water on a soft bottom you can have a nightmare missing bites and foul hooking fish when fishing the pole.
Flicking a little banjo over the top can transform this. You can basically wait for your rod to get dragged in, knowing full well that a fish is hooked and on! When feeding meat, I again like to use groundbait, but always fish with meat on the hook.
Getting An Edge
A great advantage of this method compared to the pole is that you can fish it in any conditions. One thing that I often like to do is fish it a little bit further out than I’d normally fish with a pole. You don’t have to worry about holding a pole in the wind, so why not get that little bit of an advantage by fishing and feeding just a metre or two further than the anglers using a pole around you? You seem to hold the fish out there for longer, and steal fish off the anglers around you by doing this.
There’s nothing stopping you using these same tactics in other areas of your swim too. A short-pole swim is often the best place to catch late in the day, after you’ve been priming it throughout a match. Fishing with a small banjo feeder there can be much more efficient than using the pole in many cases, enabling you to get a quicker bite from a quality fish.
By the same token, there’s nothing stopping you casting a banjo over your margin swim, or towards an island within pole range. Quite often, you’ll be shocked at just how effective it can be!
Often, casting to the outer edge of your feed area will result in a run of fish on the short-range banjo.
Why Play The Banjo?
I prefer a banjo feeder to a Method for a lot of my commercial work these days, simply because it’s a foolproof tactic. No matter how you prepare your pellets or groundbait, or how deep the water is, you can be very sure that your bait remains on the feeder when it hits the bottom.
Another little trick that I sometimes bring into play when the weather starts to cool down is to try flicking a bomb over your feed. This is more effective when you’re feeding fewer particles. I particularly like doing it with 8mm cubes of meat, or 8mm pellets. Pinging just six or eight and flicking a bomb over the top is really effective when the cold snaps arrive.
When there are fewer fish coming into your swim, you don’t risk striking at line bites and false indications. When a fish takes your bait, it’s on, and pulls the rod around! The new quick-change system from Preston Innovations allows you to change between a Method, banjo or bomb in seconds, all on the same rod.
Frankie uses PR 27 hooks with a hair rigged band when using pellet hook baits.
Today’s session has been perfect for showing the effectiveness of the banjo over the pole swim. I came to the stunning Docklow Pools Fishery in Herefordshire, as this is one of the oldest commercials in the country and the carp in the Match Pool are very big, and very wise. Combine this with the fact that the bottom is very soft, and you have a recipe for foul-hooked fish.
I actually started the session fishing at 14.5 metres on the pole, to see just what I could catch. Starting by pinging in 6mm pellets and fishing a rig on the drop at full depth, I was soon into a lovely 8lb common. After netting the fish, I looked up only to see that my swim was fizzing already! Back out, I missed the next three bites then hooked a fish a foot off the bottom that jumped out and came off… definitely foul hooked.
An F1 nicely hooked fell next cast, before again I missed a series of bites, and clearly foul-hooked a big carp that tore off to the island and straightened my hook out!
Picking up the banjo feeder, I baited up and flicked it over the same line with an underarm lob. Putting the rod down, it rattled immediately, and I had a small skimmer on the end! Not what I expected, to be honest.
Next cast, however, it all settled, and placing the rod comfortably on two rests I fed two lots of pellets over the top. As the pellets settled, I had a few small indications on the tip.
After a minute or two, a bigger liner confirmed there was a big fish or two there. Any slow or small movements on the tip can be ignored. After around four minutes however, the rod positively folded in half, and clicking the back wind off it was carp on!
After a dogged battle, I shuffled a pristine double-figure Docklow mirror into the pan. I ended a short three-hour workout with well over 100lb of fish, all great big carp falling to my patient attack, involving one rod cast over the pole swim. Would I have caught the same on a pole there? Most definitely not!
Fish like this could be causing you line-bite frustration, and you’re just an underarm throw away from catching them!
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