Jon Whincup reveals some findings from his winter commercial campaigns!
F1s – Simple Is Best
I spend most of my winter targeting F1-style venues and one thing I have learnt is that simple is by far the best. A simple bait choice with a simple match attack will always beat a complicated multi-bait approach.
There is definitely a need to fish several lines by the end of the day, but on larger F1 venues such as Decoy Lakes, where I am today, three or four lines will often be enough.
I am very happy to be patient and have found success by being far more patient than some of the younger anglers around. I have seen many of the younger lads are often a bit too quick to move and will end up fishing a dozen lines or more in five hours.
Now I don’t know about you, but I find that hard to keep up with and much prefer to work hard on three or four lines.
You just cannot go wrong with pellets. Yes, baits like maggots and bread have their day, but as with all of my fishing I keep it simple and I know pellets will always work!
I like 2mm feed pellets, which I have softened by soaking in lake water for five minutes. I also carry a few 4mm hard pellets and will sometimes fire three or four over the top. It’s amazing how often the rattle of just a few 4mm pellets can get you a bite.
Expanders are the best hook bait and I stick with the old faithful 4mm and 6mm Bait-Tech Xpands. I soak these the night before in a plastic food bag and they will be a lovely spongy texture.
Finally, I have a few 6mm hard pellets. I have found that on open-water lakes that are effected by tow, hard pellets can be very effective even on cold days.
There are some key points to make when presenting pellets. The first is the size of rigs. Most of the lakes here at Decoy are a good five to six feet deep and thanks to the flat land of the area, can be badly affected by wind and tow.
So while I am sure on smaller intimate commercial lakes, light delicate rigs can work. On these lakes I am more interested in presenting the pellet as still as possible and that often means heavier rigs.
Today the wind is quite light but there is still a good bit of tow about. The 6ft deep swim requires a 0.5g Frenzee FO4 to gain decent, still presentation. I like these floats as they are slim in the body and have a nice long bristle. More importantly though, they have a long glass stem that keeps the float nice and stable.
I have always used a bulk and two droppers on my deck rigs, whether that’s roach fishing, carp fishing or F1 fishing. I like to use positive shot and my dropper are No9s to keep the hook bait as stable as possible.
It’s worth noting that while I am not against using light hooklengths, it’s important to balance the kit and give yourself the realistic chance of landing a rogue carp. My bread and butter is 0.12mm Loaded Mono, with the occasional look with a 0.10mm. I don’t doubt that 0.08mm would get me a few more bites, but I prefer to fish with confidence knowing that I can land everything I hook.
The Perfect Hook Pellet
I don’t use a pump when preparing my pellets and there is a good reason for that. I like to use the weight of the hook to sink the pellet. This is a huge advantage as a size 16 0814 will sink a 4mm pellet nicely, meaning I can use a larger hook with no adverse effects.
To get a similar buoyancy with a pumped expander I would need to use a measly size 20 and I don’t like my odds of landing those bonus fish on hooks that small!
It’s good practice to have a bowl of water on your side tray and get into the habit of testing your hooked pellet to make sure it sinks. If it doesn’t a gentle squeeze in the water will see it sinking nicely.
Setting The Trap
I like to think that every time I ship out, I am effectively setting a little trap perfect for catching one fish at a time and not risking overfeeding.
I use the smallest Soft Pot, which I believe holds a nice amount of pellets for a winter session. I am not too concerned about tapping them in with a sprinkle-style lid and prefer to feed a little nugget of pellets as tight as possible and present the hook bait right over it.
Pole pot position is vital and I like to fish with my Soft Pot as close to the tip as I can get it without getting any tangles.
It’s hollow elastics all the way for me. A nice soft Pink 6-10 Stretch Hollow through a full top kit is perfect. This is ideal for those F1s but also gives me the strength and stretch for the bigger fish. This is especially true when combined with the Eeze Glyde system.
Frenzee does two elastics that are even lighter than this, but the Pink is my favourite as it has a little bit of poke that sets the hook well.
I spent years fishing natural venues and that has taught me a lot about where fish live in certain situations, and that is often overlooked on commercials. Learn your venue.
Things to keep an eye out for are where the prevailing winds blow from and look for the quiet calm areas, as fish will sit out of the wind, tucked in behind an island or other types of cover.
Another thing to keep your eye on is the sun’s position. Learn where the sun shines for the majority of the day and try and exploit those areas. Fish love sunny areas in the winter.
Today, for example, I have a lily bed to my left that has had the sun on it for the entire session. I know the fish will be in the lilies anyway, but the fact that the sun is on them all day makes them even more attractive.
I have purposely left this line to settle without feed and with 90 minutes of the session remaining I try it and have a brilliant spell.
It’s pretty common-sense watercraft. Look for areas that provide shelter and warmth and the fish won’t be too far away.