Whatever happened to hailing in bait? Is there no fun in fishing any more? Dan Webb delves into the art of frugal-feeding F1ers.
I’m an angler that likes to feed. Yes, I fish a lot of canal matches and smaller venues but I love nothing more than turning up at great big wild venues with a baby bath full of groundbait and filling it in!
Maybe it’s just my inner child, which got me into fishing at a very early age. It’s not just the catching of fish and being outdoors, it’s the casting a long way and using big catapults! To me, that’s an important part of fishing. The trouble is, that’s all changing and I think there is one man to blame – the F1 hero.
The F1 hero is the guy who puts a miniscule amount of bait in a tiny pot, carefully ships out a fiddly rig with six inches of line to the float and taps out six pellets. He then spends time lifting and dropping at little ‘dibs’ of the float. There isn’t even a big Zorro strike to please the inner child.
We are now producing a breed of anglers who idolise the frugal feeder. After winter matches, people even boast how few pellets they could feed and still catch! What happened to the fantasy of being able to chuck a waggler 40 metres then drop a ball of groundbait bang on top? Every now and again, though, the F1 hero catches us out. He bags up by feeding a lot of bait. But how does he do it? By hand? By catapult? Please make it by spod! No, it’s by big potting. Zzzzzzzz, you’re the man, F1 hero – your accurate feeding with a big pot puts us all to shame. Your majestic ship and drop shows both skill and trailblazing bravery that us mere mortals can only dream of.
Don’t get me wrong, I do like to catch an F1 or two. It’s another part of the great diversity that is match fishing. Go back a few years and I used to spend all my free time, that wasn’t taken up by team matches, at Lake View, F1 fishing. During my time there I experienced plenty of precise pellet plopping, but then there was also the maggot!
Even in the spring and autumn, a proper heap of maggots would catch a lot of fish. I used to happily ping my way through four to six pints of them down the track of the snake lake and enjoy an odd brown envelope or two.
Although Lake View did have its frugal feeders, my heroes were Steve Draper and Monty Hornet. They were always there or thereabouts and caught a hell of a lot of fish, and most importantly, they used to feed masses of bait too! Twelve pints of maggots and casters would often get slung at those F1s. Trouble is, the catty just wouldn’t cut it with that amount of bait and Steve even used to have home-made bucket cups attached to his top kits just for dropping big handfuls of maggots on top of his float! Not exactly the pinnacle of feeding skill, but at least he gave them some grub!
Of course, I’m not blinkered enough to believe that feeding is always right. A lot of matches are won up and down the country on the straight lead cast around the peg with a single hook bait. There are a lot of people who bash this sort of fishing, saying it’s unskillful, but I totally disagree. There is a massive amount to it and a lot of tricks to be learnt to be the best.
That doesn’t change the fact, however, that it’s the most boring, miserable, mind-numbing excuse for a day’s fishing imaginable. I just want to shake them and shout “For god’s sake man, feed something you corn-hoarding creeps!” And before you ask, NO, glugging does not count as loose feed!
Notice how I haven’t even mentioned dobbing bread? There is very good reason for that. I’ve tried and tried, but it’s no good – I just can’t keep awake long enough to write it!
As you might have guessed, I’m in a bad mood and it’s made me a bit irritable. I’ve just fished the Angling Trust Winter League Final where my team, Black Horse, finished sixth out of some of the best teams in the country (result drop, CLANG!). My time was spent at Decoy with half of the team pellet plopping and straight lead snoozing while the other half were bread chucking, squatt blasting and tench snaring on the drains. Yes, I enjoyed myself and caught a few fish, but as I was netting carp I was dreaming of catching roach. Even when fishing the straight lead I sat pinging my catapult pretending I was feeding something, just to try and make the experience more interesting.
With a couple of weeks spare I’m now dusting off the big boy’s gear ready to spend some time down my favourite reservoir filling it in. A bit of casting as far as I can, blasting bait to the horizon and maybe a bit of big wag and slider fishing will keep my inner child at bay for a while.
Dan Webb lets some of the England Feeder team's cats out of the championship bag...
There seems to be this idea flying around that this little piece I'm writing each month might not be entirely serious. Someone even said to me they thought it was funny! Understandably, I haven't taken this very well, so I'm trying my best this month to write a hard-hitting technical feature to really put those ghosts to rest. I'm also probably going to have to keep my head down after this goes out because I'm sure the England Feeder team will have beef with me for giving away a big secret of theirs. What am I talking about? Murphy's Law!
Now, Murphy was an exceptional angler in his own right in the 1940s, but his career was dogged by tragedy. His law, which was passed by Parliament in April 1956, states: “If anything can go wrong, it will.” The following spring the Sod amendment clarified that this should only happen to the person who needs it least.
We have all experienced Murphy's Law at some point in our fishing: The day you forget your tip rod is the day you draw the peg with the island chuck. On the windiest day of the year, it's you that draws the widest peg. The morning of the first frost and the bream have shut up shop is when you finally draw the bream peg.
But what if I told you that you could use Murphy's Law to your advantage?
This law was used to great effect by the England Feeder team in Ireland in 2014. During practice the team realised that you got most bites when you were least ready for them. If you watch YouTube footage you can clearly see our boys occasionally glance away from their rod tips. A watched tip never moves and on a fish-filled venue such as Inniscarra, a quick check of the time was often enough to get a bite. The biggest master of this was Steve Ringer because on his way to winning the World Championship he used combinations of looks at the crowd and taking his hand from his rod to scratch his ear to keep bites coming.
This year, however, the venue in the Netherlands was so poor, just mere glances away from the rod tip wasn't enough to induce bites. During practice, reigning World Champion Steve had to visit a 24-hour pharmacy to buy cream for his severely damaged ear from all of the intense scratching.
It was Dean Barlow, however, who came up with the solution. Thanks to the team sponsor, Preston Innovations, each angler was presented with their own white embroidered yoga mat. To keep the other teams off the scent of what they were doing, they were referred to as ‘casting mats’. The first session that they were used, Dean ran out clear winner with a good run of skimmers that all took his bait while he was on his mat, behind his box in the Lotus Position. Dean mastered an incredible leap from his mat to grab his rod and strike in time.
The tactic worked a treat but after Day One of the World Champs, the team were joint first with France and Hungary. Things were going alright for the team on the second day, except for Adam Wakelin. With little in the net, Adam needed a bream. But with just minutes of the match left, it didn't look like it was going to happen. Then next thing he did was utter genius. He left his peg to use the Portaloo three pegs away, leaving Tom Pickering to watch his rod from behind the ropes. Sure enough, mid-flow, the rod tip ripped round and Tommy shouted: “Fish on.” Adam burst out of the toilet and sprinted back to his peg. The rest, as they say, is history as Adam landed the fish with five seconds to go and England won their second consecutive world championship by a narrow half-point margin.
Remember where you heard it first. Shhhhh, Mum’s the word!
Dan Webb recalls the recent Northamptonshire County Cup, and a less than profitable trip to Ireland…
Well, there it is… 12 months have passed since I started writing these, er, chronicles. Yes, chronicles, I like that! Much has changed in that time, although I am a little disappointed that my two-page spread has now dropped to only one page and hasn’t in fact taken over at least 12 pages.
To try and remedy this, I’ve sent Tom 300 photos from my recent trip to Ireland, so he has no excuse for short changing me again! I’m sure at least one of them will be good enough for a cover shot. I may not be an Andy Geldart, but if Des Shipp is handsome enough to get on the cover then I’m sure I am!
Anyway, as I’m writing this I’ve just competed in the nationally prized and prestigious Northamptonshire County cup. No, you’re thinking of Warwickshire, I’m talking about Northamptonshire, the county famed for its… well, that’s not important. Anyway, the Northamptonshire County Cup this year was on the Grand Union Canal in Leicestershire. (I thought that too, don’t ask!)
As I was walking along the bank I could see an angler giving me the eye. As I passed he stopped me to ask if I was the lad who wrote for Match Fishing magazine. With a little pride and a cheeky smile I said I was. After explaining that I was actually 32, yet didn’t mind being called a lad, we had a good chat about the mag. I found it a little strange that he didn’t actually mention any of the things I’d written… and then the penny dropped. He thought I was Matt Godfrey! (I notice you haven’t mentioned how you got on – I take it you didn’t win anything then? Ed.)
Also in the last 12 months, I hope I’ve managed to provide a service to the people. Rob Perkins for sure must see me as some kind of good luck charm, as days after I named him as one of the worst drawers ever in this very mag he only went and won the Division One national. Even Alanis Morissette would be stunned by the irony of that one!
Just how big were the waves?
Well, after all this hard work writing 800 words a month, I decided to go on holiday. I’d already been on a family holiday, so I wanted a bit of ‘man time’ and could think of no better destination than the magnificent Lough Muckno in Co Monaghan, Ireland, along with 50 other like-minded individuals.
I thought seven days of late nights, early starts and fighting the elements wading out in an Irish lough would be the perfect rest! Couple that with the town council donating several thousand euros (a better investment than our pitiful pound) in prize money and free evening meals for every competitor provided by The Old Coach Inn and you suddenly have a very special event!
The weather was pretty good for October and the fishing was amazing, which lulled me into a false sense of security. I thought I’d fished in some wild weather until I drew on the point of White Island on the Wednesday. Gale-force wind is something most anglers have experienced, but fishing on a big open water adds a further dimension!
The vast expanse of water generates really big waves and being sat out in the water, laying gear down on the grass to stop it blowing away just isn’t an option! I also made the schoolboy error of setting my footplate level with the water. At that height the biggest waves crashed over the canopy on my side tray and the spray and foam went over the cushion on my box, filling the trays with water! The waves would hit with such force that my platform would shake and I feared it would buckle underneath me. I had to keep checking on mini Mark Pollard on the next peg, because I was sure he was going to drown! I did say it was a man’s holiday!
Luckily I got away unscathed from that one but it didn’t stop the festival organisers from presenting me with a life jacket for the next day. I wasn’t feeling my best, however. I’m sure it was the bag of crisps I had after last night’s Guinness, as I felt fine before that!
In a state of slight disorientation while setting up in the morning, I tripped on a rock in the water and ended up sitting down in Lough Muckno. Luckily my waders survived but my leg was left battered and bleeding. Despite it being October I wore shorts for the rest of the week so that everyone could see my Muckno scars! I’m not very good with Greek mythology but I’m sure I must have also damaged my Achilles elbow, as try as I might I just couldn’t win the festival and had to watch that Simon Willsmore drink all the prize money!
Plenty of fish but no prizes...
I even tried to sabotage his groundbait by weeing in it on the last day, but it looks like I actually relieved myself in Lee Klimczuk’s by mistake as he got beaten both sides, something many thought was impossible! It upset him so much that he even went home early (not to the hotel, to England!), leaving poor Polly with the unenviable task of dealing with the winnings. Unfortunately Matrix hasn’t designed a winnings trolley yet!
So here I am, home, exhausted and limping but boy was that a great trip. I love the place and can’t wait until next year! I just hope I’ve got round to telling the wife I’m going before this goes to print!
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Excuse making is Dan Webb’s topic this month, an art he is particularly accomplished in…
You’ve just got home in a foul mood. You chuck your kit in the garage and kick the dog. The kids run away scared. As you crack open a cold one from the fridge the wife asks: “How did you get on today?” Why did she ask? She never asks! She finds talking about fishing as interesting as you find listening to her recall what Sharon from number 26 said to Tanya about Clare’s new hair! She most probably knows you’ve had a bad day and just wants to wind you up. “No good, bad draw,” you say.
How often do we use that excuse? It’s a very easy one isn’t it? Over time we become more and more skilled at finding justification as to why our peg just isn’t as good as everyone else’s. When we win a match, of course, the draw only plays a small part and our overwhelming skill and mastery of fishy science has allowed us to beat all the mere mortals around us. Bad days, though, are definitely down to the draw!
Then there is Baz, the guy with the individual sponsorship from Cloud 9 tackle and has not paid full price for casters since 1996! Baz draws like Picasso and puts more fish on the scales than Captain Birdseye! The man is always on fish, he doesn’t know what a bad peg looks like! Even when he does draw average he moans like crazy and still frames!
The trouble is, can it all be down to luck? I once accused both Mark Pollard and Matt Godfrey of drawing well and while Matt gave me a series of verbals that I couldn’t possibly repeat, Mark just simply said: “I make bad pegs look good!” Although he said it as a joke it did actually get me thinking. It’s very easy for a draw to look quite good on the weigh board when a big weight has been recorded among a few good ones. Take that weight away and put a poor result among those average weights and suddenly the draw doesn’t look very good at all. Was it the angler or the peg? Can we ever be sure? Maybe we should be looking at ourselves before we blame the draw?!
As with every rule, there are always exceptions. I do know a few anglers who can almost pick their pegs before the draw. If there is a peg that everyone wants to be on, they are there. The incredible thing, though, is that even when they do draw a bad section, it will be the one day that the section fishes its nuts off and everyone there catches loads more than normal! I’m sure I’d increase my chances of drawing better if I studied the pegs less, because these guys don’t even have a clue that they are draw bags! They just naturally assume they are god’s gift to fishing and that’s what makes the whole thing worse!
As with everything in life there is always cause and effect, and in order to bring balance back to the universe there are also those poor souls who are condemned to a life of horrific draws! If ever there is a shallow, narrow, featureless arm with hardly a bite to be had, everyone knows an angler who is bound to draw it! The day a boat crashes and gets stuck in a peg you can guarantee it’s theirs. The day they draw the bush peg is sure to be the day after it’s been cut back to a stump. No matter how bad a day you’ve had or how bad you think your draw has been, spare a thought for Rob Perkins, who draws like that every week!