Lee Wright explains why margin fishing needn’t always be about big baits and piling the particles in!
Do you ever find yourself fishing a certain method or tactic without putting much thought into it? Do you fish it the same way every time and then if you don’t catch simply put it down to there being no fish in the swim? Well, Lee Wright gives us an interesting insight into thinking more about your fishing.
I guess I’m what you’d call a thinking angler. I’m super critical and always looking to rationalise my fishing and work out why some things work and others don’t.
One area that I’ve put a lot of thought into recently is my margin fishing. Now it’s no secret that I’m possibly best known for my exploits on natural waters, rivers like the Soar, but I think a lot of the things you learn on natural waters can be transferred to commercials.
The one big thing I always think about is how and why fish feed and this is one area a lot of anglers fishing commercials could improve on. This style of thinking is not exclusive to margin work but that’s the area I want to look at.
So how do YOU fish the margins? I’d guess that, were allowed, it would normally involve potting in big pots of groundbait or bait and then fishing over it. Is this wrong? No! After all, go to most big matches and the majority of people will be fishing the same way. However, just because everyone does it doesn’t make it the best way of fishing.
One in the net!
I like to alter my feeding depending on the type of venue I’m fishing. On big, large, open-water venues potting in big pots of bait does work. On these venues, the fish are out in open water and only move in at certain times. If you don’t have the volume of bait to hold them then they can eat and quickly move on.
On smaller venues, especially snake lakes such as here at Makins, the fish are never going to be too far away and I think they naturally patrol the margins much more than the fish in larger lakes. In this instance, I don’t think huge piles of bait are needed. In fact, I think they actually put the fish off. On this type of venue I’ve found that feeding smaller particles and less quantity will actually produce more fish.
The baits I use are pretty similar to those I use on the rivers – maggots, casters, hemp and worms. I always carry a few pellets but I find that natural baits always work better for margin fish. Although I don’t feed masses of bait through a big cup I do still carry quite a bit for two reasons.
Attractive, yes? The ultimate bait when all else fails.
Firstly, when the fish arrive in numbers I’ll feed a small amount after everyone to keep them in the peg. This can result in getting through a decent amount in a five or six-hour session.
Secondly, I love feeding casters regularly by hand. I believe the noise of them hitting the water draws fish in better than any other bait and it also creates a larger area of bait for the fish to graze over. Potting in small amounts over this area helps the fish to home in on one area and find your hook bait.
I mentioned earlier that I don’t like to feed big pots of groundbait on smaller venues, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feed groundbait. I still have faith in it but I think that it’s always best to feed small balls that will go down and quickly break up, leaving a very neat pile of bait rather than a big area of loose groundbait. The mix you use is down to personal preference but one aspect of groundbait that is massively overlooked is colour.
Fish in snake lakes can be hard to catch and can spook easily and I like my feed to attract them but not ring any alarm bells.
Small baits don't mean small fish.
My thinking is that a pile of bright, obvious groundbait will spook some fish. So, much like we do on rivers in winter, I try to match the colour of my bait to the lake bottom. I do this by grabbing silt or clay from the margins, either with a pole cup or my hand if it’s fairly shallow, and then use various colours of groundbait to match the colour of the bottom. Using dark mixes, greens and bright orange I can match most bottoms and I also have an extra little trick. Most banks have molehills and I like to grab a few handfuls of the soil and add it to my mix. This not only helps match the colour of the bottom but also adds weight, getting it down to the bottom and keeping it there while the fish feed.
I also mix up a bag of Old Ghost Specimen Mix but I keep this separate and will often feed it with a bit of hemp and casters when I feel I need to kick a swim into life.
I can’t talk about margin fishing without mentioning rigs. For some reason, a lot of anglers fish with rigs that they wouldn’t dream of using in other areas of their swim. You’re fishing for the same fish but just in a different area of your peg, so why do people fish with massively overgunned tackle? I’m confident that I can land anything I hook on 0.14mm Matrix Power Micron and a size 18 or 16 Carp Bagger hook. You’ll get far more bites than you would on 0.18mm and a size 12 hook. I also balance my tackle and use a fairly light size 10 Stay Fresh Hollow elastic and a puller kit, which still gives me the control to land everything I could hook on a snake lake.
I’ve picked a peg in the middle of the bank on Phase 3. It’s nothing spectacular but it does have an attractive looking margin. I stake out my nets as I always do when margin fishing and prepare my bait and rigs.
I’m fishing to my right, and after potting in a small amount of maggots, casters and a ball of groundbait I have my first look with a bunch of maggots.
This mix should kick-start any swim into life!
As expected, the first half an hour is pretty slow, mainly due to the disturbance of setting up. I keep feeding casters by hand and top up with a very small amount of bait every 15 minutes.
I get my first bite after 40 minutes. A quick lift of the pole sees several feet of bright orange elastic stream from the pole as a carp makes a bid for freedom. It doesn’t take long to get it under control, though, and a nice 4lb carp is soon beaten.
I top up my swim and keep the casters going in. I like to feed a decent amount every five minutes; feed too regularly and the fish will start to come off the bottom, making them difficult to catch.
It takes around an hour and 15 minutes to get the fish coming regularly but I’m soon catching well and I manage a couple of big fish over 5lb. Unfortunately, the swim dies off around three hours into the session and I’m not sure exactly why. It could be something to do with a clumsy, heavy-footed photographer trying to sit next to my float!
Following a biteless 20 minutes, I decide to pot in some of the Old Ghost mix. It’s a really strong flavour and with a few casters added and some hemp I’m sure I can draw a few fish back.
I’ve also switched to fishing the head of two worms. They’re not much bigger than a couple of casters but I’ve found it to be a bait that works when all else fails.
It takes just 10 minutes to start getting a few indications and pretty soon I’m back into the fish. Worm seems to be working well but a switch to just two maggots on a size 18 ups my catch rate even further and I end the session with a flurry of activity.
Lee has learnt not to follow the crowds. Feeding casters by hand creates a lot of fish-attracting noise.
I’ve had close to 75lb and it’s been a great session. Feeding the smaller particles has certainly worked and with additional attraction of the casters fed by hand I’ve managed to get bites most of the day from just one swim, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
I think this has shown that if you put thought into your feeding and don’t just follow the crowd some great fishing can be on offer.
Feeding Tips -
- Use old dead maggots; they stink but fish love them
- Add a few casters
- Smaller particles are Lee's first choice when margin fishing on snake lakes
Groundbait Tips -
- A selection of different colour baits will give you the versatility when altering the colour of your mix
- Lee always takes a sample from the bottom of the lake
- Mix the dry ingredients
- Add the water while mixing vigorously
- Find a molehill on the bank or bring some soil with you
- A couple of handfuls is usually enough for 2kg of groundbait
- Add the soil to the mix
- Mix in evenly and add more water if required
- The groundbait should now be close to the colour of the lake bed
Hook-Bait Tips -
- Lee always starts on a big bunch of maggots...
- ... but if he's struggling, two worm heads can be devastating
- You don't always have to fish big baits; small hooks and small baits work
- Try matching your feed with two or three casters
- Towards the end of the session when it goes quiet the Specimen mix can be called upon
- A third of a pot is enough to kick-start the swim
- Balance your tackle to the size of fish in the venue
Mixing Tips -
- Add half a bag of the Specimen mix to a container
- Add water until it's completely covered
- Leave to soak for 15 to 20 minutes
- Place another tub on top and push down to expel any trapped air that could make it float
Name: Lee Wright
Sponsor: Matrix Nemesis
Lake: Makins Fishery
Location: Wolvey, Warwickshire
Day Tickets: £7.50; concessions £5.50
Contact: 01455 220877