It seems that when it comes to many anglers’ bait choices today there’s a simple option… pellets.
These uniform little parcels of goodness seem to dominate many venues up and down the country and it’s not just commercial fisheries where pellets rule supreme – many of the fish that live in our country’s rivers and canals seem to have developed a liking for them too.
In fact, I’m sure that the results departments of the weekly fishing magazines must get somewhat bored with the standard pellet-and-pole combo that seems to win so many matches every week.
Now if you are a pellet tapper and that’s all you do every session, I reckon you could be missing out on some pretty decent action – after all, fish can soon become wary when they see the same bait week in, week out. My solution is to mix it up a little and give the fish something that they love and used to gorge themselves on in pre-pellet times… groundbait!
Many of you will say: “So what, he’s using groundbait, that’s easy to fish!” Yes it is, very easy in fact, yet it still surprises me that very few choose to fish with the bait, and I’m pretty sure it’s down to the user-friendly nature of pellets that has created a slightly lazy generation of anglers.
What I’d like you to do next time you’re out on the banks of a busy commercial is have a quick look around at what others are doing, and then ask yourself how you can stand out from those other anglers in what you’re feeding. I guarantee you will notice a pattern that most will be using pellets as feed and very few will be using groundbait – there’s your edge!
I’ve brought the Pole Fishing cameras to Holmes Farm Fishery, just outside Market Harborough in Leicestershire. This place is very typical when it comes to commercial fisheries – a depth of about four feet, with three feet of that being fish!
The conditions for our session today could be better, though, as a horrendous wind is whipping up, meaning that holding a pole past seven or so metres is a non-starter. On plumbing up I soon realise that the wind on the surface is also creating a vicious undertow, meaning that a heavier rig that the original 4x14 float I selected will be required.
I end up settling on a 4x16 Malman Dusty, shotted with a strung bulk close to the hook as I want to try and keep the hook bait as still as possible. I set the rig three inches overdepth, which when using live baits like maggots and casters doesn’t cause an issue with bite detection.
Rob had to step up a float size and add back shot to combat the wind.
The float sits on a 0.14mm main line and my starting hook is a size 16 Gama Green to a 0.09mm hooklength; quite a light setup but with the water temperature still cold I think the fish will ‘appreciate’ it, and coupled with a solid Preston No8 elastic I should be able to take my time and land most of what I hook.
On to the bait for today, and one of my favourite groundbait mixes is Swim Stim Re-Loaded. I use this as a base for loads of my fishing and simply add different amounts of other ingredients to suit certain situations. For instance, today I’ve added around half a bag of Swim Stim Green to half a bag of Re-Loaded; not only does this addition give the mix a nice subtle green colour but I think the addition of the SS Green makes it more appealing to F1s, one of the species I’m targeting today.
Add plenty of hook-bait samples to your groundbait to give the fish a taste for them.
Mixing the bait is pretty easy and I like to add plenty of water to the mix, to make the groundbait very heavy. This will keep the feed pinned to the deck, which in turn will encourage the fish to stay in the same place.
When adding water to pellet-based mixes I don’t bother doing things in little-and-often stages, I simply add a load of water in one go to take the mix to an almost sloppy state. Then after around 20 minutes or so I’ll push it through a riddle. The 20-minute rest will be plenty long enough for the water to soak in and for the groundbait to become a workable mix.
To kick-start the session I feed just one ball of groundbait filled with a few dead red maggots, as this will no doubt be my favoured hook bait for the day. It takes me around five minutes for my first bite on a single maggot, which turns out to be a small rudd. Even in these early stages of the session it becomes obvious that the wind is going to hamper presentation more than I expected, so I add a couple of back shot above the float to help stabilise things as best I can.
Second bite, on a now much more stable rig, results in the outcome we all want to see – plenty of elastic streaming from the pole tip, and after a spirited but brief fight an F1 of about 1lb sits in the net. To be fair the fishing gets easier as the day wears on and becomes a fish a chuck; if at any point the fish back away then simply potting in another small ball of groundbait soon has them lining up again.
This bruiser fell for Rob’s old-fashioned charm… and groundbait.
I work out that I am feeding a satsuma-sized ball of feed for every three or four fish, and as more feed goes into the swim the stamp of fish seems to increase, with a couple of nice carp making an appearance late in the day.
The best bait is double maggot and feeding via the pole is definitely right, as every time I flick a few casters in the fish seemed to become harder to catch. I’m certain that’s because the groundbait is concentrating the fish, making them far easier to catch.
I end up with way too many fish to fit in my tiny landing-net head so I put a few back to take the catch shot; the fishery has come up trumps and so has the groundbait attack.
Now that’s what you call a traditional bait tray. Why not give it a try on your fishery?
Five Things To Take From The Day
• Get as much water into your groundbait as possible – pellet-based mixes work well when they are overwetted.
• Feed your hook bait with your groundbait – remember, you can’t put groundbait on the hook so you’ll have to give the fish a taste of what you are using as hook bait.
• Work out a feeding routine – the fish will tell you on the day but this could be anything from a small ball after every fish to feeding a Jaffa-sized ball and fishing it out.
• Lay some line on the bottom – undertow and windy conditions make keeping a bait still hard work, but by putting some line on the deck you’ll make it a lot easier for yourself.
• Try loose feeding over the top – this didn’t work on the day, but a great way of keeping a groundbait swim going is to loose feed a bit of bait over it.
Rob’s little net could only hold a tiny selection of his massive catch.
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