We join MAP-backed Tony Curd on one of the smaller lakes at the fantastic Barston Lakes complex, Solihull, for a close look at capitalising on F1s.
Shallow fishing for F1s in the summer months is one of the most popular methods with anglers who are pole fishing on commercial venues. It’s a tactic that accounts for many big weights and match wins and is a ‘must have’ method in your armoury.
One of the key things to remember when targeting a number of fish shallow is to select the best areas of your peg to execute it. More often than not it is all about the depth that your peg offers in different areas that defines these choices on where to position your main line for shallow success!
Fishing is all about being at one with nature!
On snake (canalised) lakes with a deeper central track and shallow water against the far banks or island, the middle of the lake where you have the deepest water is often one of the best areas to target. Most of the feeding fish are usually in two feet or less during these times so fishing on the bottom in five or six feet isn’t what you’re looking for at all and is largely unsuccessful, so utilising this area as your main shallow line is the best policy.
Owing to the width of a lot of these lakes this line can usually be fed by hand too, which makes it easy and simple to fish with great efficiency, should the fish turn up in numbers!
Standard rig (bottom) and bagging rig floats
Along similar lines, on some venues you can find three feet or more of depth against an island or far bank and again in the summer months when the fish want to be in shallow water, fishing on the deck would be a recipe for disaster and frustration. In these situations a shallow attack would always be the number-one choice – some of the best in the business at F1 fishing simply base their tactics around the depth that they’re faced with at any time of the year and these decisions are typical of what you need to be following.
Bait options for fishing shallow are extremely varied on F1-dominated fisheries and a lot of it comes down to personal preference and fishing to your strengths. I break this down into two categories, which depend on the amount of fish I expect to catch, and the size of them.
Some venues are full of smaller ‘stockie’ F1s that have been reared on pellets, so it’s no surprise that on such venues a pellet attack will be the number-one choice, as in these situations you’re looking to catch a large number of fish during a match or session. What you will need, though, is to fish with smaller versions than you would when fishing for carp – 4mm Bait-Tech Carp & Coarse pellets are the best I’ve found for both feeding and hook bait. Should the fishing be really hectic, lassoing the pellet onto the hook is definitely a big advantage as you can catch 10/20 fish on the same pellet, which enables you to just get on with it without rebaiting constantly.
F1's are suckers for this sloppy approach
If I’m expecting good-sized F1s but maybe not in as large numbers then my number-one bait choice without any doubt at all is worms and casters shallow – fed in a sloppy soil and groundbait mix. This leaves a lingering cloud, and with loose-fed casters over the top it really does have a knack of selecting the larger fish in the peg. Hook baits fishing this style can vary from worm heads or hair-rigged bigger pieces of worm up to an inch long, but more often than not a banded caster is king when employing this method.
Preparing my bait for this session was a straightforward process and for shallow fishing using a soil-based mix the main thing to get right is the consistency, so that the cloud you need to create hangs in the peg for the longest amount of time possible. To get to this point is quite simple – I like to use a pure sedge peat for the main part of my feed in a 75:25 ratio of soil to groundbait. The groundbait mix I like to add is Bait-Tech Kult Sweet Fishmeal. Put all of this in a bait tub and simply add water to it little by little – keep trying it in a separate tub until you have it so that it ‘splats’ on impact with the water, leaving that lingering cloud that will keep the fish in the upper layers for long enough to get a bite.
To the soil mix I like to add half a pint of casters and a quarter of a kilo of chopped worms that, as a rough guide, have been cut to the size of casters, to two pints of soil mix. This is a great way of bulking your bait out when using more expensive baits like casters and worms and is stupendously effective.
Rigs and tackle are always best kept very simple when fishing for F1s shallow as on most venues you’re looking for a large number of fish to do well, so there is little place for fancy rigs. In my experience, this is best broken down into two styles – a standard rig and a bagging rig.
Tony likes his worm and caster mush... Mushy!
The standard rig is what most of us are most familiar with and incorporates a 4x10 MAP S3 float set up on 0.15mm MAP Power Optex main line and a 0.10mm hook length. The hook is a size 18 B911 eyed with either a band or a bait spike attached, depending on whether I’m fishing worm, casters or pellets on the hook.
Hair rigging is definitely my number-one choice with any bait as it leaves that hook exposed ready to catch hold on even the smallest of dips on the float.
My bagging rig features the same line setup but is different altogether with the float, this time being a short dibber-style MAP SF3 4x10 float. These take a lot of shot and can be superb for those days where the fish are really feeding aggressively – fished on a very short line slapped into the feed and held on a tight line you effectively have a bolt rig that can really speed things up on those days where big weights can be possible and a more standard rig just isn’t quick enough!
Elastic is also a massive part of F1 fishing to get right and without a doubt soft is better in most situations, particularly when shallow fishing, and the best I have found is a 5-8 MAP TKS Twin Core Hollow.
To put these methods to the test I visited the fantastic Barston Lakes near Solihull and got set up on the smaller Match Pool, which contains a great mix of fish but is dominated by small stockie carp and F1s. Having never fished the pool before it would be a good test for the methods I have explained!
Setting up, the first thing I found was that the deepest part of the peg was around seven metres from the bank, right down the middle of the 13.5m-wide lake, which is typical of the types of venues that these methods work well on. Against the far bank I only had around 18 inches of depth, which wouldn’t be enough to fish shallow in – had it been two-and-a-half feet or more then fishing shallow across would have been a great option to employ.
Adding a good dose of Bait-Tech Juice to my sloppy mud and groundbait mix I filled a large MAP Flexi Pot with the mix and slapped the rig over into the cloud
Tony likes to add Bait-Tech Juice to his slippoy mix!
– by fishing the cloud out and then refeeding more of the mud mix on a regular basis I soon started to get some bites on a banded caster. Initially, I only caught small fish, with plenty of small skimmers and the odd small mirror finding their way to the net, but it wasn’t too long before a good amount of F1s were drawn into the fed area. By loose feeding casters as an addition to the soil I was able to catch steadily throughout my session.
Interestingly, though (and it can often be the case when fishing with a slop shallow), the fish can be a bit up and down in the water column as they follow the bait – by switching between a foot and 20 inches deep I was able to catch consistently.
It just goes to show that even if you’re not getting bites at a particular time it doesn’t necessarily mean that the swim is devoid of fish, and by adjusting your rigs regularly you’ll be able to keep in touch with what is happening.
Fishing shallow is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a day on our commercial venues and whether you’re using natural baits or modern baits like pellets, loads of bites are guaranteed – get out on the bank and give it a try!
Tony's session proved there's more than one way to fish shallow