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Natural-Bait Masterclass

The Pole Fishing cameras join Kerry Kirkwood at Weston Pools Fishery for a lesson in bagging up with natural baits!

Over the past few years Kerry Kirkwood has gained quite the reputation for producing the goods in big-money matches such as Maver Match This and Fish ’O’ Mania qualifiers. In the past two years he has appeared in the Fisho final twice, this year finishing as runner-up to eventual winner Andy May, and he also qualified for last year’s Maver Match This final!

It is no coincidence that Kerry is regularly making appearances in big events such as these, and his approach to fishing is by no means complicated at all! Instead a ‘just keep putting fish in the net’, numbers-dominated approach serves him well, and this largely revolves around the use of natural baits that are non-selective and therefore when bigger fish are not in the area there is no disregarding the smaller species.

 

Over to Kerry…

 

The Venue

I have invited the Pole Fishing cameras to join me at the simply wonderful Tri-Cast-sponsored Weston Pools Fishery in Oswestry, Shropshire. Weston is not a venue I have visited a lot due to its location, but one that I jump at the opportunity of visiting whenever I get the chance. The fishery is home to six well-stocked lakes, all of which have a mixed stocking of F1s, carp, barbel, ide and general silver fish, and all of which I expect to catch throughout the day’s session. 

From the available lakes I have decided to fish Belvedere, a 33-peg pool with a good mix of species including some real lumps – the barbel have been known to reach double figures, so that should make things exciting!

The Weston Pools site is second to none in terms of its facilities. The on-site tackle shop is well stocked with gear from leading manufacturers, as well as selling snacks and refreshments and fresh bait should you need it. 

Further to this there is also a large clubhouse that has beer on tap (something I am likely to take advantage of later), shows live sport and regularly puts up hot food as well as having the option of accommodation… an angler’s heaven, some would say!

 

Bait Of Choice

I have settled on Peg 22 on Belvedere Pool today; this puts me almost dead centre of the lake, giving me plenty of room to draw fish from. My main swim is going to be situated at six metres, which is a comfortable distance for me to throw maggots by hand but also gives me the option of adding a section or two should I need to follow the fish out, if they back off from my initial starting point. 

It is important to understand my thinking behind choosing to fish maggots rather than casters in certain situations. Today I have opted to fish maggots over casters for the simple reason that I feel maggots are a superior bait when targeting fish on the bottom of the lake. 

If I was going to try and catch shallow from the off I would veer towards using casters, which I feel make more noise as they hit the water and draw the fish into the upper layers. However, I believe that species like F1s struggle to locate a similarly coloured caster on the lake bed due to them feeding by sight rather than using mouth barbels because, unlike other species, they don’t have any.

Today I aim to catch both up and down in the water column so I feel maggots will give me much more chance of doing just that. I have set up two rigs for targeting this area of my swim. 

 

Rig Talk 

Firstly, I have a 0.4g diamond-bodied float for fishing in the 5½ ft depth that I have straight in front of me. The float features a relatively thick bristle, spring eye and glass stem, making it a really durable pattern that I have ultimate confidence in. 

This is tied up on 0.15mm diameter main line and a 0.13mm diameter hooklength, which gives me every chance of landing a bonus carp or barbel should I hook one, yet isn’t too crude that I am going to reduce my chances of catching valuable silver fish. 

Shotting is a simple strung bulk above a 4in hooklength and my hook, as it is for all of my rigs today, is a size 16 B911 F1. Elastic for this rig is a Matrix Hollow Yellow, rated as a No8.

This may seem like a really positive setup, and that is mainly because it is! When I am fishing on the deck that is exactly where I want my rig to be. If I am getting indications on the drop, such as liners, that is telling me I either need to do something to pin the fish back on the bottom, or alternatively pick up a shallow rig that I also have set up.

For this I use a really short pattern; again it features a diamond-shaped body, glass stem and spring eye, but this time a solid bristle that makes it very sensitive and importantly not too buoyant. I tend to overshot my float and after a couple of slaps of my rig I will lower the float down against the weight of the shot; if there are fish feeding in my swim shallow then nine times out of 10 they will hook themselves!

Elastic for this rig is a yellow Hydrolastic through a short kit. I am a big fan of using short kits for shallow work as I feel the reduced amount of lighter elastic allows the fish to leave the swim without causing any commotion, but lets me land them a lot quicker without having to rely on using the puller kit too much.

I will also use my shallow rig in my margin, where I will be throwing little balls of worm slop and hoping to catch on either a worm head or a caster hook bait. The mix is made by simply chopping up a few worms into small segments and adding them, along with some casters, to the soil the worms come in. Then add a small amount of water to the mix until you can make little sloppy nuggets that are easily thrown.

 

The Session

I start the session off by feeding approximately 50 maggots via my cupping kit; this creates a nice area for the fish to home in on and should help to get their heads down among the bait. It doesn’t take long before I get my first indication of the day and an ide of around a pound is the culprit. 

The next five put-ins produce similar fish, all taken on a single maggot hook bait. To maintain competition in the peg I keep the feed going in, and by loose feeding around 15 to 20 maggots when I hook each fish I feel they are settling on the bottom as I ship back out after landing each fish.

It doesn’t take long for a few F1s to show up and it seems that whenever they arrive the ide back off out of my swim and wait until the F1s have had a root around before moving back in to have a feast themselves. In fact, a pattern is emerging and I am clearly catching groups of ide, then solely F1s and back again to ide. I feel that if I was fishing with more selective baits like pellets I may find myself suffering quiet spells in the periods when I am currently catching the ide. 

After an hour of catching ide and F1s regularly I hook my first carp of the day, but it is clearly one of the wise occupants of the lake and makes its way over to the aerator between me and the next peg and is successful in snagging me up on it! 

After attaching a new hooklength I am straight back in and the commotion doesn’t seem to have put the fish off; as soon as my rig settles the float dips and I am back among a few ide. After 90 minutes I have had 30 ide, 10 F1s and a small crucian, so not a bad start to the day.

Another hour passes and my catch rate has been pretty constant since the start of the session up to this point. I have continued to loose feed maggots by hand and have also been feeding a small nugget of worm slop to my left every few minutes. 

An iffy spell in which I miss a few bites and notice a few bubbles coming up triggers me to re-attach my plummet to see if anything has changed in the swim. Luckily, I find that the depth has changed by around an inch, something that can often happen when there are lots of feeding fish rooting through the silt in your swim. A quick change puts me back where I want to be.

 

Shallow Signs

Another good run of fish, including a big barbel that puts up a typical tough fight, find their way into my net. Having seen a few swirls down to my left-hand margin I decide to pick up my shallow rig and slip a small piece of worm on to my hook. Within seconds my float shoots under with a small ide, and again on my second drop in; these fish are a smaller stamp than I have been catching at six metres but rather than put my shallow rig away I decide to lower it in on my 6m line with a single maggot hook bait. 

Almost instantly an F1 hooks itself and I am able to slip my net under a lovely three-pounder! I have my rig set at around two feet deep and just as I lower my rig to my float I am getting bites that result in the fish hooking themselves against tiny bulk of shot and soft elastic.

The next two hours right up to the point I need to start packing up see a flurry of big F1s along with a couple of bonus carp falling for my maggot hook bait, and it is looking very much like one of those red-letter days where everything I do seems to work!

Strong Finish

The session has proved a fruitful one with very little time during the full five hours where I haven’t been putting at least something in the net. During spells where F1s didn’t seem to be about I have caught some lovely ide, most of which have been upwards of a pound in weight so well worth catching! 

By using natural baits such as maggots, worms and casters I feel I have been able to target everything in the swim, rather than limiting myself to catching just carp or just F1s. It was clear that these fish were coming in and out of the peg in the early stages of the session and it is during this time I have caught lots of ide, which have probably given me an extra 50lb of fish.

On lifting my nets out I am pleased to see a near 200lb haul across my four keepnets, the majority of which were caught on maggots alone, proving the effectiveness of natural baits. Why don’t you go out and give it a try yourself, you won’t be disappointed! 

Other titlesmf magfeedermatch livepf plusthink fishing