James Dornom explains his deadly attack for getting the best from his two favourite commercial bait combinations!
It is a quandary faced by anglers who tackle mixed venues almost every time they go fishing. When a venue is rammed with carp, skimmers, ide, roach, perch and F1s – like Queensberry Lake here at Broom Fishery – the hardest decision that you often have to make is which bait to feed to get the best results.
Here, as at a lot of places, the standout weights are often caught on pellets. They appeal to the bigger carp, F1s and skimmers. However, there’s also a hell of a lot of fish to be caught on worms. Importantly, though, they are often different fish to those that you catch on pellets, such as ide, barbel, chub and big roach. These are the fish that you can use to scratch out a result when you maybe haven’t drawn so favourably.
So if you rule out pellets or worms, you can often be limiting the fish that you catch straightaway, which is why I like to fish both baits where I can. The most important edge that I have, though, is where and how I fish them.
The first thing to consider is where the bulk of the fish are likely to be in this early part of the year – and the answer is out in the middle of the lake in the deepest water. This is probably truer here in Scotland, where I fish, than it is for many because it does take a good while longer to warm up than the rest of the country!
That said, after a cold night the lesson holds true at most places – especially after the disturbance of anglers setting up in a match situation. So it is certainly logical to expect to have to start your day on the long pole.
For sure, worms are better for generating an instant response than pellets are. The amino acids within them naturally help to kick-start your swim, and the fact that there are so many small particles of bait means that you can keep fish grubbing around for a long period.
Pellets, by contrast, are often more of a slow burner. This is partially because of the species that they appeal to – F1s and carp in particular become increasingly active as the day progresses and the water warms up.
So the ideal scenario in my mind is to fish worms in the early part of the session and pellets later. This way you are playing to the natural strengths of the two baits.
The Broom Fisheries ide give a very good account of themselves!
Another clever little trick that I have learnt that helps when fishing with a bait combination like this is to give careful thought to where you locate your lines. Because I believe that worms have a greater power of attraction to small fish, I put this line closer to me at 13 metres and locate my pellet line a couple of sections past this at 16 metres. Another advantage to doing this is that any fish that may back off my worm line as I am fishing it naturally sit back and graze over my pellet line. So when I go on this line they are queuing up and ready to be caught!
James uses the slim pattern for pellets and the bodied float for worms
One thing to be wary of when it comes to fishing with chopped worm in water deeper than about four feet is how you feed it. For example, if you feed it loose you might find it spreads out as it falls through the water, which stops you being accurate.
Also, chopped worm fed neat is very rich in feed content, so for both these reasons, I like to mix my worm and caster with peat and a little groundbait before introducing it to the peg.
My groundbait choice is Ringers Dark, a nice rich fishmeal mix that is dark in colour. I mix this 50/50 with the peat from my worms and this forms the carrier for my chopped worm and caster. I like to mince my worms to a reasonably fine consistency and add one part chopped worm to two parts of my peat and groundbait mixture. I also add a handful of casters to this, which gives me the option of slipping one on the hook and trying it over the top of my mix.
Pelletwise, I use a mixture of dampened Skrettings micro pellets and 4mm pellets. Generally, I kick-start the long line with half a pot containing 125ml of mixed pellets. If action is hectic on my worm line, this would suggest to me that action will also be good when I move on my pellet swim, so I will top it up every half an hour or so to try and ensure that when I move onto the line some fish are queuing up for me. If, by contrast, I am struggling to catch on worms, I will be more hesitant to top up the long-pole line because I expect the going to be more difficult.
Today, the fish have been very obliging, though, and after starting on my long-pole swim I soon find that I am into a procession of small skimmers, with the occasional big ide thrown in for good measure.
Rigwise, I opt for two patterns to do two jobs. For worms, it is a 4x16 bodied Colmic Freedoom pattern. I fish with my bulk around two feet from my hook on this rig, with two No10 droppers. The idea is to get my hook bait down to the area directly above my bait and then my dropper shot aid a slow fall through the ‘killing zone’.
For pellets, a Malman Dolphin is my choice. This is shotted with a strung bulk of No10s starting just above my hooklength. These have a nice visible hollow bristle, which is very stable but also super-sensitive and helps me catch any shy-biting carp or F1s!
The Bait Tray
Soaked 4mm and micro pellets are James' choice of feed on the long line.
This peat and groundbait mix helps the worm and caster to the bottom.
A single caster can be a great bait for ide when the fishing is tough...
... but a chuck of worm like this is normally best
Making The Change
Of course, the key to really getting the most of this two-bait tactic is making sure that you move from your worm line onto your pellet swim at the right time. After all, there is no point in sitting and catching small skimmers and ide on worms if there are bigger F1s and carp ready to be caught on pellets!
Again, I tend to use the quality of fishing on my worm line as the gauge as to when to move. If the smaller skimmers and ide are feeding very well on worms, I might be tempted to have a look on pellets after an hour of the session just to see if any better fish are there to be caught.
When I drop on this line, I simply wait five minutes and see if I have a response. If I get one, I will fish the swim until bites dry up before topping up. If I don’t, I will top up the swim with a handful of pellets and move back to the short line. I will then repeat the process sometime later.
On the toughest days, it might be that the long-pole pellet line doesn’t properly get going until the last hour, and even then you might only nick a couple of quality carp or F1s from it.
The cool Scottish water does nothing to calm the temper of the carp.
In a match situation, these fish can often prove invaluable, though, especially if you already have an amount in your net from your early exploits on your chopped-worm line.
On the flip side, if your pellet line is really good, you might find that you don’t go back on your worm line once you make the change and move onto the pellet swim. The key point is that you have your options covered and have somewhere to go should things not go to plan.
Today has perhaps been typical of how a day on my two-bait combo normally pans out. After plenty of bites on worm in the early part of the day, I have ventured out onto the pellet swim and only managed a couple of small skimmers. So I topped it up and kept putting some smaller silvers in the net. An hour later, when I moved back on to the line for another try, the fish were more obliging and two F1s and a small carp came in quick succession. Again, bites dried up so I topped up and dropped back short to keep some fish going in the net, before once again returning to the long line later in the day.
I finished the session with a lovely 30lb mixed bag on one of my favourite springtime tactics. If you fish mixed venues regularly and want a day to remember, you simply have to get out and give this tactic a try.
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Winter Groundbait Tricks Revealed
Matt Godfrey explains what’s happening beneath the surface as he explores the fishes’ feeding habits and describes how to adapt your groundbaiting tactics to make the most of every swim.
A conversation with Des Shipp almost five years ago totally changed how I think about using groundbait. I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to draw next to him in the Sensas Challenge Final at Packington Somers Fishery. We both fed our pole swims and started the day by catching a few fish on a waggler. After an hour it was time to try the pole swim. I dropped in and caught three big skimmers immediately. Des only caught one in this time.
However, my bites stopped, while Des proceeded to catch another and then another. In fact, he caught at a steady rate for the rest of the match. I caught an odd quick spurt of fish before my bites stopped for long periods.
At the end of the day, I was convinced that Des had fed some sort of special groundbait. Perhaps he fed fishmeal compared to my Lake and leam mix? Walking over to have a chat, he kindly showed me exactly what he had fed. It was identical to mine. Our mixes had the same feed in them and they were the same colour, made from exactly the same ingredients. So what had he done differently?
I found out when he told me how he had fed the mix. At the start, he simply potted in five full pots of the loose Lake and leam mixture. I had potted in five traditionally ‘squeezed’ balls of the stuff. He explained how he once watched fish feeding in clear water on the River Nene after he had thrown in a bucket of leftover groundbait. Obviously, this was loose and settled on the bottom in a huge carpet effect. Des then explained that the fish suddenly settled over this and stayed there for hours. This is where his strategy of feeding this loose groundbait originated.
Quick-Fire Groundbaiting Tips!
In cold weather; try using 50/50 leam and groundbait mix, Wary fish seem to feed much more confidently over this than standalone groundbait mix
Try having different bowls of your mix with various amounts of feed in to experiment with.
Try adding dead fluoro pinkies to the mix. These attract and hold fish and make a great hook bait!
In deep water, topping up with walnut-sized balls full of feed helps draw fish to the bottom.
After creating an area with the loose mix, set a trap to catch the fish over by feeding feed-rich balls like this.
It is absolutely vital that your top kits and cupping kit are exactly the same length.
When feeding loose groundbait, lightly press it into the pot to prevent any wanted spillages!
What Is Loose Groundbait?
Loose groundbait is basically your mixed-up groundbait, as it is in your bowl. To feed it loose, you can simply scoop it up into your pole pot and feed it in the lake!
Why Make A Carpet?
Thinking into the theory deeper, why would the fish settle over loose groundbait rather than balls of it? The answer is very simple – because both offer totally different effects on the bottom. The carpet effect of the loose groundbait spreads out over a wider area and totally covers the bottom. Balls stay together and break up over small round areas on the bottom, depending on how compact you make them.
The important thing to understand is how fish feed over loose groundbait compared with balls of it. As Des had explained, over a carpet created from feeding a loose mix, fish graze. They seem to hover around over it, picking up an odd particle, and almost treat the even bed of feed like the natural lake bed. When feeding over a ball of groundbait, fish seem to dart in, take a mouthful of bait, and swim off with it. Because there is an obvious ball of feed on the bottom it’s much more unnatural and any fish that are not in an aggressive feeding mood might shy away from it. When targeting quality fish, you can also fit more of them over a carpet of feed than you can a ball. Imagine how much more room 10 1lb skimmers take up when feeding on the bottom compared with 10 2oz roach?
Always pick a far-bank marker to line up with when you're cupping in bait.
The Theory In Action
Reflecting on the day I drew next to Des, this was a textbook example of the fish feeding differently over two different mixes. The fact that I caught in spurts and baited for long periods without bites fully backs up the theory that fish were darting into the swim before I would catch a couple and they quickly spooked.
Conversely, Des had spread his feed over a larger, carpeted area and had the fish grazing, spread over a wider area. It may have taken a fish slightly longer to find his hook bait, but when they did and he hooked one the other fish weren’t spooked. You can relate the theory very much like you would to humans. If you were in a huge restaurant and someone was dragged out a long way from you, you’d probably not notice. However, if you were all eating off a single packed table, the chances are it would disturb you and you’d leave!
The Right Mix
Since that day with Des, I’ve enjoyed a lot of success by feeding loose groundbait. There are a few little pointers that can make a difference too. The first is all about how you mix the groundbait. I get it as wet as possible without making the mix sloppy or stodgy. I want it to remain as groundbait but having fully absorbed as much water as possible. This way the mix is as heavy as possible and goes to the bottom, lying dormant as a carpet. For a very similar reason, I also like to make up at least 50 per cent of the mix with leam.
Leam is very fine and helps achieve a carpet effect. It’s also heavy and means you can even feed it loose in deep water. I also think that fish feel more confident when grazing over leam than groundbait. When you think about it, leam is simply clay and that is a very similar material to what the natural bottom of the lake is made of. When fish are really feeding in the height of summer, loose groundbait is great because it offers a lot of feed content for the fish. However, in the winter months, feeding just groundbait might put the fish off. Making half the mix up with leam means the bed of bait on the bottom seems natural but still has the smell of some groundbait in there too.
My mix for today consists of a bag of Sensas Terre De Riviere and half a bag of Sonubaits Supercrush Expander and a handful of Ringers Dark to give the mix a green tinge. This is because the fishery pellets here at Makins Fishery are green and the stocks of skimmers are used to munching green baits!
"Making half the mix up with leam means the bed of bait on the bottom seems natural but still has the smell of some groundbait in the too."
The Killing Zone
When you feed four or five pots of loose groundbait it might spread out over an area of a couple of metres or so. With fish spread out over this area it could take them quite a while to find your hook bait. To get quicker bites I like to create a small killing zone. This is basically a small, feed-rich area of bait in the middle of the big carpet. I simply do this by feeding small, feed-rich balls. Any more aggressive fish hovering over the carpet of bait are highly likely to move over this zone. By being accurate when feeding, picking a far-bank marker, and making sure your cupping kit and top kits are identical lengths, you can present your hook bait right on this small area and get bites much quicker.
After hooking a skimmer guide it out of the swim gently to try and prevent it spooking the others that are feeding over the bait!
The great thing about feeding small walnut-sized balls is that you never end up with too much feed in the swim. This means that when you do feed a top-up ball, the fish are competing to get at it. Feeding the regular small nuggets is a great way to maintain the swim throughout the day too. When you’re catching fish like skimmers, bream and big roach, they often sit off the bottom, especially after you’ve caught a few at the start of a session. You regularly hear about people foul hooking fish just off the deck. I believe that if these fish become spooky, they simply rise off the bottom for a while. Nevertheless, a top up with a small feed-rich ball is normally enough to pull a couple of fish back to the deck. Be prepared to top up and then quickly dash out with your pole rig and drop your bait right on the feed nugget that the fish have followed down.
"A really effective way of creating a feed-rich nugget to top up is to finely chop up some worms and add groundbait to them until you can make a ball."
Do You Need Joker?
Joker has absolutely nothing to do with this method. You can use it with all kinds of baits! It just so happens that we shot this feature in winter and I was using it at the time. Most of the time I’ll add baits such as dead pinkies or maggots, casters, and chopped worms to a mix. In fact, a really effective way of creating a feed-rich nugget to top up is to finely chop up some worms and add groundbait to them until you can make a ball. This is full of scent and juicy particles and skimmers love it.
When Not To Feed An Area…
I definitely think that the carpet effect and creating a big feed area with loose groundbait is best for catching quality fish. So in what situation would you do the opposite and feed a small, tight area of feed?
One venue that I fish regularly is the Stainforth & Keadby Canal at Thorne, where anglers regularly catch 200 roach or more in a session. The venue is absolutely teeming with small fish from 1/2oz to 4oz, and to compete in the matches there you need to get a bite as quickly as possible from as big a fish as possible. Lee Kerry and I spend ages chatting and trying different feeding techniques but now seem to settle for the same style.
If you feed a large area of bait on this venue, you undoubtedly draw loads of fish into the swim. However, because they would be whizzing around over the feed and spread over a large area, it takes too long to get a bite in the first place. You also miss a lot of bites due to the scatty nature of the fish, and those you catch are often a very small stamp. When you think about it, why would a big, clever roach eat your hook bait when there’s a huge area of feed to pick his meal from?
However, when you feed just two very feed-rich balls in a tiny area, the fish are fighting to get at the bait because there are so many of them there. Because the roach are relatively small, you may have 20 mouths eating off the feed area. If the fish were bigger bream or skimmers, there is no way you could fit 20 into such a small area. This means there’s a huge amount of competition among the smaller fish and the bigger ones are happy to grab at any feed they can get to. When you lower your rig in, the hungry fish fighting to get at the feed will take your hook bait almost instantly and the bigger fish will normally get there before the smaller stamp ones.
Thinking about what fish you are targeting, understanding how they act and feed underwater and adapting your feeding to this will put more quality fish in your net!
With Matt's advice about feeding groundbait, you'll be bagging nets of silvers like this on your local venue!
Quality Bait -
Having excellent bait is a big advantage in any fishing. Matt got his bait for the feature from W.H. Lane & Son's Of Coventry. The shop's own bait farm means maggots and casters are absolutely top-notch week after week!
Angler File -
Name: Matt Godfrey
Pole: Drennan Acolyte
Venue File -
Venue: Makins Fishery
Location: Wolvey, Leicestershire CV11 6QJ
Day tickets: On the bank
Contact: 01455 220877
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Ringer On Hooks!
Steve Ringer reveals the patterns of hooks that he uses for different kinds of fishing, explaining when and why he uses them.
I am always playing around with hook patterns. For me, a hook is one of the most important parts of fishing. It hosts the bait that you are trying to get the fish to eat, and actually catches the fish for you, taking all the strain of the fight. Here are most of the patterns that I use for pole fishing.
Sizes: 16 and 18
Line diameters: 0.10mm, 0.11mm and 0.13mm
These are great when you’re catching mixed fish. They’re very strong, without being overly heavy in the wire. This is important when you’re looking to catch quality silver fish and the occasional big F1 that can sometimes be wary. On a lot of commercials there is a big head of mixed fish to catch, such as at White Acres, where I fish a lot of festivals. To get consistent results in leagues and festivals it’s important that you target this mixture of fish. Fishing with chopped worms and casters is a brilliant ploy – you catch plenty of roach, perch, skimmers, and maybe a tench or two, but mixed in with these will be the odd carp and F1. The Gama Pellet is the perfect hook for this when fishing with baits like a worm head, or single and double caster.
On tricky days, when a smaller hook bait is better, I like to use a size 18 to 0.10mm or 0.11mm line, while on good days when I’m really catching well, I’ll step up to a size 16 and 0.13mm line.
LWG Barbless Spade
Sizes: 14 to 18
Line diameters: 0.11mm, 0.13mm and 0.15mm
This is my general carp and F1 hook when I’m fishing with baits that I put straight on the hook, such as pellets, meat and corn. These are very strong and very sharp, without being overgunned. This is vital when catching big weights of fish because you need to get bites but also have the confidence to get the fish in quickly.
On a lot of venues I fish, a great swim is the short pole with meat or corn, where I normally put the bait straight on the hook. These hooks are always my choice for this. The most popular pin that I have in the hook box is a size 16 in these hooks to 0.13mm or 0.15mm line. Matched with white or black Hydro elastic, I’ll happily target fish to double figures with them. When really bagging, I’ll also use these hooks for F1s.
LWG Barbless Eyed
Sizes: 18 and 16
Line diameters: 0.11mm, 0.13mm and 0.15mm
This is the same hook as above but with an eye rather than a spade. I use this when I want to fish with a hair-rigged band or spike. Fishing with a hair-rigged band plays a major role in my fishing these days, allowing me to place a hard pellet in the band and have the hook free to hook the fish. I simply tie the band in a tiny loop and whip a knotless knot around this so that the band and pellet are sat just off the bend of the hook. I sometimes use a little bait spike too when I’m fishing with meat on the hook on the long pole, or fishing shallow with it. In these instances, I’m regularly lifting the bait and laying the rig in to keep it falling through the water. Using the bait stop on a small hair rig means the meat stays on much better and you also seem to avoid nuisance silver fish with this arrangement. I’ve even had a lot of success using a small chunk of worm on a bait stop and hair rig. It helps the worm stay on and you can catch five or six fish on the same bit! I have these hooks tied in sizes 16 and 18 on line diameters from 0.11mm for wary F1s, to 0.13mm for general F1 fishing in summer, and 0.15mm for carp and catching well.
Kamasan B911 F1
Sizes: 20, 18 and 16
Line diameters: 0.10mm, 0.12mm and 0.14mm fluorocarbon
I love this hook for winter F1 fishing. It is my main pattern throughout the cooler months at places such as Tunnel Barn Farm, and I even use it occasionally for commercial silvefish. The hook is quite fine, but the round bend and wide gape means that you get a good hook-hold. Balanced with the right elastic, such as pink or blue Hydro with a puller kit, you can land big carp on them too, which you do occasionally hook.
Interestingly, I have these hooks tied on Gamakatsu fluorocarbon line. I have a lot of confidence in this for F1 fishing because the line is supposed to be almost invisible underwater. It is also very stiff and you don’t get any tangles. When fishing with a short hooklength and a bulk close to the hook, I really like the idea of the hooklength being stiff and straight bcause this means that I am fishing very direct to the bait. When a wary F1 takes the bait, I see a bite immediately. I’m happy to use these hooks for maggots and expander pellets.
Sizes: 14, 16, and 18
Line diameters: 0.10mm and 0.11mm
This is my ultimate all-round barbed hook. I use it on natural venues when targeting roach, perch and skimmers, and have caught big bags of fish on it both in the UK and in Ireland. Last year I enjoyed some brilliant matches fishing at Furzton Lake in Milton Keynes, catching numerous 40lb-plus bags of roach. A size 16 B560 was my hook choice for this.
You can use all kinds of baits with them – maggots, casters and worms are my most popular choices. The wide gape and round bend gives you a great hook-hold, and even when you mount a chunky worm head or double maggot, there’s plenty of hook point showing. Although the hooks are barbed, it’s only a small barb that’s just enough to keep your bait and the fish on, but not too big that it slows you down when unhooking fish! The main sizes that I use are 16 and 18. The 16 is my bagging hook and I’ll happily use just a single maggot or caster when I’m catching well. On trickier days a size 18 is usually my choice. I normally match these with 0.10mm or 0.11mm line, and a doubled-up No4 Preston Slip Elastic.
Sizes: 12, 14, 16 and 18
Line diameters: 0.10mm, 0.11mm and 0.13mm
This is the hook that I use when I want to step up a gear into bagging mode on natural venues. It often comes into play when there are a lot of skimmers around and I need a hook that is a little bit bigger and stronger than the B560. The barb on these is also quite viscous, which helps keep fish on the hook when fishing in deep water. I’ve used it quite a lot in Ireland when targeting skimmers, where I’ll place two or three red worms on a size 12 or 14. Bream and skimmers can be a nightmare for coming off in deep water, but I have a lot of confidence to administer a firm strike and guide the fish out of the swim and into the net with this hook. If I were to target bigger bonus fish such as perch or chub on a canal with the pole with lobworms, this would definitely be the one I’d reach for.
Sizes: 16 and 18
Line diameters: 0.10mm, 0.12mm and 0.14mm fluorocarbon, and 0.11mm and 0.13mm N-Gauge
This is a new hook that I’m still trying out and looking forward to using a lot more. It’s specifically designed for pellet fishing with F1s in mind. The wide gape but rather straight point means that you can roll a soft pellet onto the bend perfectly and still have plenty of hook point showing. It is medium in wire, which is important for good presentation to fish like big F1s. I’m yet to have any issues with the hook straightening and have hooked and landed plenty of big carp while testing them. For me, this pattern fills a lovely gap between the B911 F1s and the LWG Spades – it’s the perfect spring and autumn F1 pattern. Despite the packet saying ‘pellet’, I’ve also used these with maggots and worms. I’ll happily use these on light elastics such as yellow and pink Hydro and would step up to white if needed when I’m catching well.
X-Strong Carp Spade
Sizes: 12, 14 and 16
Line diameters: 0.17mm and 0.19mm
The ultimate margin and big-fish hook! I love getting these beauties out and use them for all my big-carp and margin work. They’re incredibly strong and sharp and have a very wide gape with a long point to give you a reassuring hook-hold. For margin fishing, there’s little scope for messing around, in my book. You may only have a short spell at the end of the match to catch big fish quickly and you need strong and reliable gear. My typical margin gear is a size 12 Carp Spade, matched to 0.19mm N-Gauge and red Hydro, for fishing big bunches of maggots or two full worms down the edge. The huge gape means that you can mount these multiple baits with ease and still have loads of hook point exposed. On tricky days, or in clear water, it can pay to scale down a little, so I always have a few size 16s tied on 0.17mm line too. Sometimes I’ll use these on the short pole with meat when the fish are really having it!