Modern-day commercials are full of fish, but in match conditions, it can be anything but easy to catch them as soon as those nets go in. Des Shipp explains how to maximise your results.
Such is the angling pressure on modern waters, particularly the more heavily fished ones, that the stocks seem to have wised up to sloppy approaches and mundane feeding tactics.
That’s not to say that these fish can’t be caught. Some days they give themselves up far easier, but when the weather conditions are cooler, or overnight temperatures drop, they can be anything but ‘easy’.
I’ve brought the Match Fishing cameras to Ivy House Lakes today, in Wiltshire. It’s a place I have some knowledge of, having fished here a little. One of the recent matches was tough going, but a thoughtful approach to tactics and feeding kept me in touch with the fish on what could have otherwise been a very bleak day – no pun intended.
Many on the match struggled, such were the conditions, so I kept things lighter on the rig front in anticipation of a tougher match.
Having drawn in a corner on the day I thought a long margin line, slightly into the deeper water down the shelf, would be key. It proved to be, so that’s the area I’ll concentrate on explaining in most depth for this feature.
I fed several lines on the day, as I have also done today; the other main one of note being an open-water swim straight in front of me at 14.5 metres.
The rig for this is made using a 0.4g Preston PB Inter 2 on 0.13mm Reflo Power to a 0.11mm hooklength. A strung bulk completes the rig along with a size 16 Preston PR 434.
The rig for fishing towards the margin, in around three and a half feet of water, is a 4x14 Preston PB Inter 8 mounted on the same line and using the same hook. The shotting pattern is taken care of with strung-out No10s to allow a slow fall of the expander pellet hook bait. It’s all about lifting and dropping the relatively light rig and allowing the hook bait to ‘work’ for you as naturally as possible.
Now, this is the key area to success really. I have plumbed two lines across to the right-hand margin, one at 14.5 metres and one at 16 metres, but both the same distance away from the bank so I can use the same rig in two swims.
What I found on the match was that the fish were hanging off the back of the feed. So, I only pot bait in at 14.5 metres and intend to fish on that line to catch ‘mug’ fish, but fish past it at 16 metres when they back off.
Loose feeding is a key part of the strategy, with the aim being to loose feed bait over and just past the 14.5m line. That way I can always work the rig on the 16m line, which will be at the far extreme of the feed area where the ‘crafty’ carp hold back and venture onto the edge of the feed.
These fish have become wise to piles of bait and, as such, hang back with caution. Therefore a few pellets ‘flirted’ over the area with a rig offering a slow fall of the hook bait is THE key way to approach them.
The open-water swim is a key go-to area while you build the margin line as it’s important not to exploit the margin until fish, hopefully, carp, have built in confidence feeding there.
Bites on the margin line are often delicate too, hence I dot my float right down to maximise the rig sensitivity.
Des targeted the skimmers while he built up the margin line.
The open-water line on today’s session proves important for catching the resident skimmers – something that’s crucial on trickier days to help you to keep putting weight in the net while you build your other lines.
I want to briefly cover why I have not put my margin rigs right up against the bank in the shallowest water. This is simply because the fish aren’t wanting to feed there confidently at the time of shooting this feature, so coming away into three feet or so where the water is deeper is a more logical place. Don’t always assume these fish want to be right up in the ‘rat holes’. On many days you will reap better rewards by targeting them where I am today. Plus, it’s all too easy to get distracted by waving tails when you’re fishing in very shallow water – you won’t have this problem in three feet. This also has a knock-on with your feeding: when you can’t see the fish it’s less easy to get carried away with piling too much feed in and destroying your swims.
Des potted in pellets...
After two hours of nurture and with half a dozen good skimmers in the net it’s time for a look up the long margin swims. I have been potting modest amounts of bait on the 14.5m line, consisting of micro pellets and softened expander pellets (the same as I will be using on the hook).
... and pinged a few over the top.
I have regularly been loose feeding softened 4mm pellets over the top too, in frugal quantities to create some noise and keep that all-important bait going through the water column.
My swim-building is rewarded by a small but perfectly formed carp, but the next drop-in reveals no bites, liners or indications. Now the extension goes up the back of my Preston M90 pole to get the rig to the far extremes of the feed area at 16 metres.
The light proves tricky and the reflection on the water from the still bare surrounding trees is doing little to help.
The same rig was used at 14.5 and 16 metres.
The approach is a success, though. The float dips sharply and wham, another carp is stripping my 11H elastic from the pole as it makes its getaway.
Working the swim in this way is exactly the right thing to do. Now it’s a case of try and repeat.
By that I mean try the 14.5m line again and if no bites occur then I pot a modest amount of feed in (see image) and continue to loose feed just six to 10 softened 4mm feed pellets over the top between the 14.5m and 16m lines without feeding past where the rig will be when presented at 16 metres.
This approach has helped me to secure many a match win either in trickier conditions, or when fishing heavily pressured fish, or both.
Small but perfectly formed
I’ve ended the session with several carp and a handsome net of fine skimmers. These skimmers are so important to build weight elsewhere (usually in open water) while you nurture other swims. I haven’t truly exploited these silvers today as the nature of the shoot was to demonstrate the margin approach first and foremost. However, with my considered approach, you will be conquering crafty commercial-water carp in no time!
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Top Kamasan Starlets team man, and Preston Innovations brand manager Scott Geens explains how the key to consistency often lies in targeting multiple species…
Good anglers win matches, but great anglers win leagues. I have always really enjoyed league and team matches as you always have something to fish for – whether it be one point or ten the incentive is always there for you to keep going.
As much as I enjoy the occasional open match too, they are often very predictable, with certain boss pegs or fliers dominating proceedings, if a good angler happens to draw them. There are also ways that you can turn average pegs into winners, but often these involve fishing in a feast or famine type way – which isn’t conducive to consistency.
Whether it be a team match or a league, the key to scoring good points is almost always keeping busy, and keeping some small fish going in the net – and this is going to be the focus of my feature today.
To illustrate how I like to approach this type of ‘points based’ match I have brought the Match Fishing cameras to the beautiful Packington Somers Fishery near Meriden, a former host of big matches including the Sensas Challenge, and also a venue that runs a lot of its own league matches.
Alongside a big head of hard fighting carp, Geary’s Level where you join me today is rammed with silver fish. These include some real quality skimmers, crucians, tench and roach. A stocking that lends itself perfectly to the catch-everything attack that I am going to employ today.
So let me clarify first what I mean by ‘catching everything.’ After all, there is little point having a busy day putting together 30lb of silver fish if you need 100lb of carp to score good points. You must bare this in mind too – and always look to cover your options. If you think there is a chance of a good weight of carp, make sure that you feed lines for them and crucially fish for them when and if you think that they are feeding.
How many times do you see anglers targeting carp, but not actually catching them though? This is wasted time – especially given the fact that so many of our commercials have such a big head of other fish that these guys could be using to build a weight, and give themselves a better chance of coming away with valuable points at the end of the match.
My golden rule is almost always to try fishing for carp if you think they will figure, but set yourself a keen time frame and stick to it. Don’t ever fall into the trap of sitting and waiting too long for something to happen when there are other, albeit smaller, fish to catch.
The Right Bait
Let's talk about baits first and there are two key things that you need to think about before deciding what baits to fish. Firstly, the size of fish that you are targeting. If, for example, you know that you are targeting a large number of small silver fish, but you need to catch a big weight of them, you should be looking to fish the short pole so that you can catch quickly. You also need to fish a bait that will get you a bite relatively quickly, something like maggots, pinkies or small pieces of worm.
Double caster often sorts out the better fish.
By contrast, you might find yourself in a situation where you are looking to catch quality fish, and again you have to tailor your approach accordingly. This is the situation that I am in today. The lake is relatively shallow and I feel that these quality silver fish will feed more confidently further out from the bank – so this is where I target them, on the long pole at 13m. If you are shipping a long way and targeting good stamp fish, you don’t want a bait that will attract the attentions of small fish, so a decent sized piece of worm, a piece of corn, pellet, or caster will most probably be the choice of bait.
The second consideration when it comes to bait selection is the temperature and wind. Warm weather and more importantly high water temperature means that the fish will feed aggressively, so you should be prepared to be positive. To me, this means feeding fishmeal groundbait (I use Sonubaits Match Method) rich with worms. I will pot in a fair amount of bait at the start (six balls rich with bait today) and top up aggressively when bites subside to hopefully bring more fish into the swim.
Scott is the man behind the Preston inline plummets
By contrast, colder weather might see me more inclined to feed less bait, and if the water temperature was really low, I might even introduce a sweeter mix (Sonubaits Lake) without any fishmeal in there at all.
Also, pay careful attention to the wind. Remember, if you are to catch the biggest fish you will have to present your bait well, so if you think that the wind could hamper your presentation, don’t fish too far out. A breeze or slight wind can actually be a really good thing when you are looking for a big mixed bag, so never be reticent about coming closer in these conditions. Secondly, make sure you take the wind into account when deciding on your rigs, which is the area that I will look at next.
The Right Rig For The Job.
I have already mentioned the importance of good bait presentation when it comes to putting a big weight of mixed fish together, and 90 per cent of this is down to the rigs that you choose to use.
One of two distinct patterns invariably works for me. We will call the first one the ‘ligger’ and as the name suggests, this is for presenting a bait hard on the bottom. If there is a breeze or a wind on the water, this will be your main attack and the key thing to be sure of is that the weight of your rig is heavy enough to hold your bait still against any wind movement or tow. Use a pole support if necessary and fish up to 12 inches of line on the bottom if you think you need to. The key thing is your bait is presented still and where you want it.
My second mode of presentation, which I think will be important today is what I call an ‘on-the-drop rig.’ This doesn’t necessarily mean that the fish will eat your bait on the drop by the way, more that they will often watch it as it falls through the water, then follow it down and eat it off the bottom.
Light floats generally work well when it comes to this kind of rig although it is important again to think about how quickly you need to catch. If you are looking for a few very crafty fish then fishing super light floats (3x8 or 4x10) can be devastating. If however, you think that the fishing will be relatively good as I do today and so need to catch a lot of fish, you need to fish a float size that allows you to do this. This means a 4x12 for me today, with a string of seven No11 shot.
Finally elastics, this can be one of the most difficult things to get right when targeting a wide variety of species. Today, I am using a Preston No7 Hollo elastic in conjunction with a Rolla Pulla Kit. Importantly, this means that even the smaller fish that I hook don’t splash on the surface when I hook them, but any better quality specimens can be brought under control at the netting stage thanks to the Rolla Puller Kit.
Reading The Peg
After cupping in my initial balls of groundbait, I go straight in with my ligging rig and a piece of worm to see what has come to the party!
This ball is going striahgt to the bottom
A couple of small roach, a stockie carp and a small skimmer come in quick succession, before my swim goes quiet. This can often be a good sign, as it means something bigger has moved into your swim and pushed the small fish out of the way.
I sit biteless for around three minutes, before my float slides away and my first big skimmer of the day is hooked. At a little over 2lb, it’s a welcome bonus, and is soon greeted by the waiting net.
The next thing for me to try and work out is how to top the peg up. Sometimes, a ball after every fish is required to keep better fish coming. Other times, simply loose feeding casters over where you are fishing is all you need to do to keep catching. Most commonly though, something between the two extremes is best.
The only potential drawback with loose feeding if you are not careful is that it can cause fish to come up in the water. No problem if you plan on fishing shallow – but when you don’t have a great amount of depth like today, and with a multitude of species present, I would rather try to keep the fish on the bottom where I can catch them easily.
The best tactics today seem to be to introduce a large pouch of casters after every couple of fish, and top up with groundbait only when I go a long spell without any better quality skimmers making an appearance.
After around four hours fishing, we call time on the session, and I pull out my net to reveal almost 40lb of mixed silver fish, with a few of the venue’s small stockie carp thrown in for good measure. Interestingly, as we drive off the lake I notice that the arm to the right of where I have sat is absolutely heaving with carp, which are shoaled up together ready for spawning. No doubt in a match situation, the pegs in this area would have beaten me. But my catch-everything approach would almost definitely have won me some coin and eked out a result from an area where I don’t think there were a lot of carp to catch.
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England ace, and Preston Innovations & Sonubaits backed rod Lee Kerry stormed to victory in the latest round of the Lindholme Natural Baits League with a 42-2-0 net of skimmers and F1s. Drawn on peg 29 on Bonsai Lake, Lee caught skimmers early fishing maggots over groundbait, before adding some quality F1s to his net on maggots later.
Runner up on the day was Lee’s Barnsley teammate, James Dent, who caught 35-13-0 fishing maggots over groundbait from Beeches Pool. In third place was Joe Goulding, also on Bonsai, who caught a lovely 34-10-0 net of F1s again on maggots.
In the league stakes, things are really hotting up, with league leader Craig Butterfield dropping a point this week, finishing second in his section on Loco Lake. With every angler able to drop their worsed result at the end of the series, well over half the field is still in contention of a money place – and the race for the title is wide open.
See the table below for the overall standings:
• Use on the pole or feeder