Catch More Silver Fish
Make the most of commercial silver fish at your local venue, as our commercial master Andy Geldart demonstrates a foolproof springtime approach!
On arriving at my chosen swim, I often sit down on my box and look at the water. It’s not because I’m tired from carrying my kit, though; I like to quickly establish a session plan in my head. For commercial silver fish, which I’ll be targeting here at Messingham Sands Fishery, this is absolutely essential. I’m hoping to help you establish the right areas of a swim to target at this time of year, explain the rigs and feeding techniques for each swim and, most importantly, reveal when and why you should rotate swims to keep those fish hitting your net throughout the entire session!
The Short Line
For this swim I like to fish between four and six meters out. I’ve chosen to fish with my top kit plus two sections of pole. There’s a nice depth of around six feet, and I’m also fishing on the nearside slope. I don’t mind that the bottom is still sloping away from me here. This slope is a natural gathering place for quality fish, providing cover and a supply of food that might get wafted down it from the bankside.
My bait choice for this line is casters. At the start of the session I cup in a handful of casters and then feed by hand every few minutes. My aim is to draw in loads of fish. They might be small roach to start with but as the session progresses you often find that you catch more and more bonus fish on this line of attack.
The Long Line
This is often in the deepest water I can find. On tricky days, it’s a banker for catching fish. I look to fish at around 11 metres, and generally skimmers, bream and F1s are my targets. I have found that feeding groundbait is the best ploy for drawing fish to the deck in deep water. I also like to feed this swim with quite a lot of bait at the start and try not to top up at all. This way, fish can gain plenty of confidence by grazing over the feed.
All commercial silver fish are used to eating pellets, so it makes perfect sense to use a pellet-based groundbait. My favourite mix is 50/50 pellet or fishmeal based-mix and normal groundbait. I use Dynamite Milled Expanders and Frenzied Hempseed Match Original.
To hold fish in your swim you need to add particles to the mix and feed quite a lot of bait. At the start I normally cup in eight balls and add dead maggots, casters and a small amount of chopped worms. It’s really important that the particles are evenly distributed throughout the mix to keep fish grubbing around and searching for the particles for a long time. If you were to feed just a couple of balls with this same amount of particles in, the fish would be able to eat the lot much quicker than if it’s contained in eight balls. This would mean you needed to top up sooner and you could easily spook your quarry.
A lot of commercial venues have corners, bays and attractive-looking features in the margins. Now, if you were fishing for carp, these would be areas that you would definitely target. However, such features are great holding areas for silver fish too, and a lot of people ignore them. Species such as tench, chub, big perch and hybrids often lurk under trees or beside reeds.
On this swim my favourite bait combo is chopped worms and casters, but I do have a few extra little tricks that I bring into play. It’s vital not to feed too much here. Normally the water is shallower down the edges and the fish that you are trying to catch are probably already present. On this swim, you are simply aiming to create a little interest and direct the fish to your hook bait. If you were to pile in loads of bait, the chances are that you would spook the fish. However, just a 50p-sized nugget of chopped worms with a few casters is a nice little mouthful for a few fish to move over. I normally feed this just before I try the swim and then I can hopefully catch a couple of quick bonus fish immediately.
"You are simply aiming to create a little interest and direct the fish to your hook bait. If you were to pile in loads of bait, the chances are that you would spook the fish"
I like to use a fairly light rig on this swim, allowing me to present my bait on the drop among the casters that I’ll be loose feeding. The swim is around six feet deep and I’ve opted for a 4x14 Chianti float, shotted with strung-out No10s in the bottom half of the rig. I like to set this rig a few inches overdepth. Because the bottom is sloping away from me, it’s easy for my rig to drift out past where I’ve plumbed up, which would lead to my hook bait being off the bottom. By fishing with a couple of inches of line on the deck, I make sure that these inaccuracies don’t happen. I also think that you catch a bigger stamp of fish with the bait still and on the bottom.
My rig for here is a 1g round-bodied pattern, shotted with a bulk of No8s 20 inches from the hook, with three No8 droppers below. I always use big droppers with skimmers and bream in mind because they give the tiniest of bites. This is because they tilt over to feed and don’t move your last dropper shot far, so it’s important to make sure you use a big shot to show up the bite better.
I also lay nearly all of my 6in hooklength on the bottom, so that my last dropper is just off. Simply plumb up to dead depth and move the float up five inches. This way, your hook bait is dead still and when a fish picks it up and lifts that dropper you get a clear lift bite.
In such shallow, clear water down the margins, I like a light rig. The bigger fish that live here will sit and watch a hook bait fall. My float is a tiny 4x10 Matrix Series Five pencil float, with No11 shot strung out throughout the whole rig.
I like a long length of line between float and pole tip here too. I’ve left around three and a half feet. This means there’s less risk of spooking the fish by waving the pole above their heads, especially with this lake being clear. To trick that odd bonus fish on this swim, I like to ship out and then flick the rig past the pole tip to my baited area so that the pole isn’t over the heads of the fish at all. The rig and bait then drops in nice and slowly with the tight line – hard for any fish to resist!
When And Where?
To get the most from any swim I have one very simple aim – to keep catching throughout the session. At certain times, and on certain lines, the fish may be small, but I’ll happily take them while bites are coming. At some point, or hopefully several points during the day, I know that I will enjoy a run of bonus fish.
At the start of this session I fed all three lines as I’ve detailed, before proceeding to start on the short swim with casters. You normally get a good guide as to how many fish are feeding.
As soon as you feel a swim slowing, change lines!
It took a good five minutes before I had a bite. A couple of small roach were the first fish to show and all the bites came as the bait was falling. This told me that the fish weren’t settled and feeding confidently over the bait, therefore I was reluctant to feed too much in the early stages.
Already, I was thinking about my other swims. The fact that the fish were temperamental on the short swim gave me lots of confidence to leave the long-pole swim alone for a while. There was plenty of bait out there with the eight balls I cupped in and I was sure it would take a long while for fish to settle and gain confidence in feeding over it.
I spent the fish 40 minutes of the session on the short-pole swim, catching an odd quality roach. To maintain the interest, I fed a dozen casters by hand every few minutes – enough to attract fish and keep them hunting around in the water column without overfeeding the swim. A small perch then jumped in on the act before a run of missed bites and a lost fish told me the fish had become unsettled.
I was still reluctant to touch the long line at this early stage but had the option of trying to nick a bonus fish on the edge line against the trees to my right.
Having only fed the nugget of worms there some 40 minutes before, I was reluctant to feed it again with the fishing been so hard. Instead, I decided to ping in a few casters down the edge with a catapult before baiting up to try this swim.
Shipping out, I flicked my light rig over the top past the pole tip and, just as the hook bait settled, the float dinked under… clunk! A couple of yards of yellow Matrix elastic juddered from the pole tip and I was soon netting a lovely 14oz hybrid.
Next drop-in a much bigger roach followed, before I had to wait a while for my next bite, which came from a 10oz perch.
The Resting Game
With the water being so shallow, and after the three bigger fish in quick succession, I decided to come off the margin swim and have another drop-in on the short line. I’d much rather come off a swim where I know there are still fish feeding than try and catch all the fish that are present. This way you keep an element of competition on the swim; if there’s one feeding fish, it’s likely to attract others.
I had constantly been dripping in casters short and remained reluctant to try the long line yet. I had seen the odd angler catch a skimmer or two on the long pole, but action wasn’t hectic for them. Hopefully the fish would be grazing and settling over my feed out long, gaining confidence by the minute!
The roach sport on the short pole had definitely improved too. All my bites were coming once the bait had settled on the bottom, suggesting the fish had their heads down and were settled over the feed.
"Like the other swims, it was vital to read if the fish shied away slightly"
A dozen quality roach came to the net in quick succession, but as soon as I sensed these fish getting a little wary, I was straight off the swim and had another look down the edge. A shoal of chunky little roach had obviously settled here and by pinging a few casters over the top I enjoyed a nice run of these.
Keen to try and nick a bigger fish, however, I snipped up a few more worms and potted these in, going in straight over the top to see if I’d captured the attention of a bigger resident from under the trees. It worked a treat, with another good hybrid and chunky perch hitting the net.
Triple caster - Andy's secret bait for big perch
The Witching Hour
Over halfway through the session the wind dropped and I noticed an odd small bubble pimpling on the long line. I felt this was the perfect time to nip out there and have a look. With two dead red maggots on the hook I had indications immediately – sure to be skimmers. A minute or so later, the float lifted an inch all of a sudden and I whacked into a lovely 1lb-plus skimmer. A run of these followed, as well as some clonking roach, all right on top of the feed!
Leaving the swim alone definitely paid dividends. Like the other swims, it was vital to read if the fish shied away slightly. After setting the bed of bait at the start I was reluctant to re-feed here. Instead, when it took longer to get a bite or I caught a smaller-stamp fish, I simply came off the swim and kept putting a small fish in the net from on the short swim, and nicked an odd bigger fish from my margin.
Working the three areas of the swim has resulted in a stunning 25lb-plus bag of silvers on a very harsh day. Picking these areas means you catch fish that live in different depths and areas of the swim. The chances are, there will always be fish feeding at some point on one of the lines. This means you can work around the swims, and by using the right rigs and fishing and feeding the right baits and amounts, you will constantly keep putting fish in your net!
Follow Andy's swim plans to bank stunning nets of commercial silvers like this!
Name: Andy Geldart
Sponsors: Matrix, Dynamite
Pole: Matrix Nemesis
Venue: Messingham Sands Fishery
Location: Butterwick Road, Scunthorpe DN17 3PP
Day tickets: On the bank
Contact: 01724 763647
Feeding a swim correctly is a vital aspect of angling. Jordan Hall manages King’s Pools near Wolverhampton, where we caught up with him to gain his insight into when to use a pole pot or a catapult.
The seasons are changing now and it will become more and more difficult to tempt the fish we pursue. Feeding patterns and feed quantities must be reduced and it’s important to bear in mind just how we deliver feed to a swim. Should it be catapulted out, or deposited with a pole pot?
Making the correct decision can make or break a day’s fishing or cost you a match, so first of all, let’s examine some of the advantages of using a pole pot.
Pots and catties both have their place.
A great advantage of using a pole pot is that they allow you to feed all manner of bait, from micro pellets and single grains of corn to maggots or even pinkies. Some baits, like pinkies, you would struggle to catapult, especially on windy days, so a pot is certainly a winner in such circumstances.
Following on from that thinking, of course leads me to suggest that pole pots offer far greater accuracy when it comes to grouping bait in a tight spot. A pot allows you to feed right over the top of your float, whether you are dripping feed or simply dumping one large hit of bait to the fish.
When fishing awkward swims, particularly tight over towards the far bank, or fishing a very long pole out the range of a catapult where you need to be able to place your rig in small cutouts on the far side, a pot allows you to precisely deliver and place feed right over the top of where your float is.
Potting can be better when fishing close to the island.
In the colder months, especially when trying to concentrate fish in one or two spots, a pole pot will ensure that you don’t spread the bait out too much, keeping the feed, and the fish, much tighter.
Using a much larger pot will of course, allow you to introduce a large volume of bait all in one go to draw fish into your peg, whether that may be on along the far bank or down the edge.
Jordan's record is simply phenomenal.
On the face of it, it sounds like feeding with a pole pot is totally advantageous. However, using a ‘traditional’ catapult still offers its own benefits. For example, using a catapult creates a larger area of feed for fish to come graze over. If you have a lot of fish in the swim the spreading the feed ensures that once hooked a fish does not tend to spook other feeding fish, which can happen if you have them concentrated in a very tight area, when using a pot.
Baiting frequency can be increased when using a catapult. It allows you to keep an almost constant trickle of bait falling through the water to help draw and attract fish, often hopefully resulting in more bites and landed fish.
The noise factor of pinging bait over the top of the float will once again draw fish into a feed area. I’d suggest that all fish respond to noise so it’s always worth pinging some bait over the top if nothing seems to be happening. It’s amazing how many times you can go from catching nothing to gaining a bite every put-in just from the noise of bait hitting the water!
Of course, using a catapult can also save you a lot of time! Rather than shipping in and out to refill your pot, simply pinging some bait over with a catty will definitely save you time during a match and that’s something well worth thinking about when a lot of fish are to be caught.
Catapulting bait is also a great way to get fish to compete shallow for feed, and be able to keep a steady fall of bait through the water that will entice the fish to come shallow. This can be a deadly tactic in the summer months when the fish tend to want to feed higher up in the water column. Pinging is the number-one way to get the fish up and feeding strongly.
There's a time and a place for both methods of feeding
A Time And A Place
Here at King’s Pools I recently weighed in 192lb of F1s to win a match. They were caught shallow, by pinging maggots across to some lily pads. The fall of maggots all day through the water managed to draw the fish up and compete against each other for food. I think this approach was a lot better than if I had just decided to pot a few samples in.
Also, because the bait was spread over a fairly broad area, the fish kept coming since I wasn’t spooking them as much, allowing me to catch more and for longer. Definitely, something that wouldn’t have happened if I had fed via a pot!
By contrast, I can recall a match I won at Heronbrook. Now for those of you who know this venue it’s notorious for being very windy at times, so the option of using a catapult was out of the window because the bait was going all over the shop! So a simple approach of dripping in maggots and pellets from a pot, keeping things neat and tidy, proved best on the day and was enough to bag me 33 F1s for 78lb. The pot was essential that day because the wind was too strong for anything else. It allowed me to place my lose feed directly over me hook bait.
There is no one 'ultimate' way to feed. Both styles have their day.
As you can now understand, there is a time and a place for both methods of feeding, and picking the correct one, or even combining both is essential to winning, or having a productive pleasure session.
On The Day
Today’s session for the cameras got off to a slow start, to be honest. I opted to begin by potting down the middle and pinging to a tree on the far side. I’d suggest that this two-pronged approach to feeding is always a good tip if you don’t know what to expect. I like to start off keeping everything neat and tidy with a pot, then you can feel your way into the day. There’s nothing worse that blasting in loads of bait and destroying the peg, so I play a cautious game, especially in colder months.
After a while I swapped from potting to pinging just to see the response, but it proved no more productive. I think the bright sun, time of day and a chilly breeze weren’t helping my cause either! I kept experimenting with shotting and depth, and soon the fish started to respond best to a small hit of micro pellets tapped in on the far-bank line, feeding for just one fish at a time.
In the end, the best feeding approach proved to revolve around keeping things neat and the use of a pot was best. The pinging line produced some fish, but not enough and of no better quality.
A two-pronged feeding approach can pay off
In conclusion, I would have to say that there is no ultimate right or wrong way to feed. Both pinging and potting have their merits and can be as effective on their day, so keep an open mind and learn from your experiences and those of fellow anglers.
King’s Pools, Shareshill, Wolverhampton, West Midlands WV10 7JP.
Name: Jordan Hall
I listened to an interesting discussion on Matchfishing TV recently concerning ‘Veterans’ festivals and what constitutes a veteran, leading the discussion was Roger Mortimer aided by Tom Scholey and Joe Carrass. Incidentally, the latter twos combined age would not allow qualification to the recent inaugural Spring Veterans festival held at White Acres, which is currently 55 years of age. The discussion centred around 55 not been considered old enough to be called a veteran. I must admit that when I reached the age of 50 I certainly didn’t consider it old, but I have to be honest and remember back when I was 25 thinking my parents aged over 50 were ancient. I guess my kids think the same, as long as they keep their thoughts to themselves that’s fine with me. Certainly one of the best thing about our sport is the simple fact that whatever our age we can still compete at a high level and there is no reason why it cannot continue to a ripe old age. We may have to use some discretion on the venues and methods that we fish as these days wielding 16 metres of carbon all day catching F1’s maybe fine for one match but two in a weekend would be pushing it.
My view is that veteran festivals are great events and I hope that I can fish them for many more years to come. Personally I can see them becoming more popular, I have spoken to several anglers recently who will be attaining veteran status, and they simply cannot wait.
The question posed by Roger and his team is subjective, I base my feelings on the definition of veteran which in my book is ‘A person who has had a lot of experience of a particular activity’ Like myself the majority of the competitors that fished the festival have been match fishing since their teens, which at the age of qualification means over 40 years of match fishing, in my book that fulfils the definition. Long may these festivals continue and it certainly gives the youngsters something to look forward to. Hopefully they will remain in the sport long enough to achieve the veteran status!
The festival itself was competed in great spirits, everyone seems to enjoy their week. The fishing was challenging due to the very cold start to the week but it certainly improved as the week progressed. It is a four day event with each day counting, a sell out field of 60 experienced anglers divided into four main sections. Each day 15 anglers were divided by the daily draw into sub sections of 7 or 8 the winner of each daily section receiving 8 points.
My draw put me in A section starting on the Match Lake, I was more than happy with my rotation around the lakes. A dip in the bag of dreams on the first day saw peg 19 in my hand, a flyer! I was more than happy with the draw but with only 15 anglers on the whole lake there were lot of good pegs available, I did however march to my peg with some added zest in my old legs! Before I got there I was given a word of warning from my mate Andy ‘End Peg’ Dare who has been on great form for the last couple of years. I had apparently parked in his lucky parking space and the old boy was not happy, it was a double whammy as I had also not asked his permission to fish on ‘Dare point’ I promised not to do it again and told him I would pick his mail up from the peg.
I had Joe Roberts for company on peg 20 so I was certainly not going to get it all my own way. There is so much that you can do on this peg and the last thing I wanted was to attempt too much so keeping it simple was uppermost in my mind. I could not ignore the feeder to the point of the island so along with that were several pole rigs to cover the 5 and 13 metre lines directly in front of me. A 16 metre rig to fish towards the island to my left and an edge rig to fish down to the empty pallet on my left. I was going to set up a swing rig to fish to the island but the wind was getting stronger and decided that I would forget that idea.
I also made the decision not to introduce groundbait and fish hemp and meat, it was a bit of a gamble but felt it was right, the water looked clear to me and I wanted to follow my instinct. The match started and I fed the pole lines with hemp and 6mm cubed meat and went straight on the pellet feeder. Nothing happened, no bites or liners and after around 10 minutes I was getting twitchy so reached for the pole. I had a skimmer first drop at 16 metres and lost another the next put in, surprisingly I could not get any more bites. The 13 metre line produced a skimmer and a foul hooked fish that was lost and the 5 metre line the same! A theme was developing and it looked like it was going to be hard work! Joe was getting the odd small carp and F1 but it did not look promising.
With around three hours left it was obvious that the fish were definitely not feeding on the bottom so I decided to fish long ‘deep shallow’ feeding meat by catapult. I had a go down the edge whilst I primed my long line. I found a couple of big VIP’s (Very Important Perch) down the edge which were welcome as they were over 2ln each, bites were few and far between though.
I spent the last half of the match fishing shallow and the swim got stronger as the match progressed. In the end I had a nice net of skimmers, a couple of F1’s and some big dog roach which went 45lb 10oz which was good enough to win the lake. Dave Gibbs was second with 40lb from peg 26 The lake fished hard no doubt the hard frost we experienced had taken its toll.
Day two saw me draw peg 18 on Trelawney. I had real mixed feelings about this peg as I have drawn it several times in the past and struggled. It really is a feast or famine peg at this time of year. As we move more into spring and the water warms the peg can be unbeatable. However, my mate Mike O’Gorman fished it the day previously and told me that it was a struggle.
It was pole only for me and I set up a 4 x 8 rig to fish meat tight to the island on the long pole. One rig to fish the margins especially towards peg 19 to my left and a rig to fish corn at 6 joints of my pole. I wanted to be away from the slope in the deeper part of my peg. At the start I cupped some corn in on the shorter pole lines and dobbed a piece of meat at around 15 metres tight to the island. I guess I had a bit of luck here as I saw what looked like a F1 swirl a metre to the left of where I chose to fish so shipped towards the fish using an old saying of ‘cast on a rise, get a surprise’ I had a bite immediately and my surprise was a skimmer of 10 oz.! Knowing there were some fish there I put on a pole pot and fed 6mm meat, next put in and a bite fairly quickly saw a lot of J Range Green elastic shoot from the pole. It was a common of around 5lb that just did not want to spend the next five hours in my keepnet! Nice start and to be honest this was an easy match as I had around 30lb in the first hour. After that it slowed a little but I managed to keep the odd fish coming and had a nice little spell catching F1’s at 6 metres to finish the match with 63lb which I am pleased to say was top weight on the day. Paul Jones was second on Trelawney with around 55lb and there were several weights of just under 50lb so it was close. Thinking about the match I feel I should have fished the long line a little more positively when it slowed down, but fortunately it didn’t matter on the day.
Day three and we moved onto Jenny’s I was last to draw and was surprised to feel three pegs still in the bag. I plucked peg 14 only to discover that 15 and 17 were left. It gave me a load of room but it also made 16 which is a tremendous peg even better. I went to my peg wishing I had drawn any of the other two but snapped out of those thoughts when I realised that two anglers had to go home as they were ill. At least I was still fishing!
I had planned my main attack to be the waggler but there was only one peg where I thought this would not work and I was sitting on it. I was in the narrowest part of the lake so the rod stayed in my bag. I plumbed for a feeder, a long corn line and a 5 metre meat line. I didn’t bother with the edge mainly due to all the fantastic work that has recently been done on this lake, I think it is going to need a short time to mature around the margins.
Starting on the feeder and I lasted all of 10 minutes, no bites and I felt if I was going to do well on the pole I needed as much time as possible. I started to catch small Carrassio at 14 metres on corn which was great as it allowed me to feed by hand two 5 metre lines. I initially cupped meat to my right and casters by hand to the left. After an hour things were slowing so it was time to look short. Disappointingly I could not get a bite on the meat. It was a different story on the caster with some nice roach showing. Before long I was missing bites and that was the signal to shallow up which kept the fish coming. I decided to introduce some meat with the casters and 10 minutes later slipped a piece on the hook which resulted in a 12 oz skimmer, happy days! The rest of the match can only be described as fantastic fishing, I had one of the most enjoyable days fishing I have had in a long time, finishing with 52lb 10oz even been beaten by less than four pound for the section was not too disappointing. The section was won by Dave Phillips from peg 16 who had 56lb of feeder fish. Incidentally the lake was won by Paul Jones with 59lb who fished the waggler.
The last day and it was Python for me which was proving to be a tricky section I could do with a nice draw especially as it was tight at the top of the leader board myself and Malcolm Johnson were leading with 23 points each so it could go either way and with a couple of anglers on 22 points another good day was needed!
I ended up on peg 33 not exactly where I would have chosen as the end pegs on the Python narrows really dominate and I was three from the end. Unbelievably the two spare pegs that we had in our group were both in the other section so there was no help on that front.
I had made my mind up that I had to fish the match with a least one positive line, most I knew had fished negatively on this lake so it was a gamble but my thinking was that if I fished positively down the middle of the track as far to my right as I could, it still left me with a lot of options if it all went pear shaped! Feeding three 250ml cups of Spro Cresta Dark Roach ground bait containing a good helping of chopped worms and dead reds to my right I said a little prayer to Lord Pices as the last ball went in! I fed some loose particles of meat and a few grains of corn to my left and one ball of GB on my short line. Starting at 14 metres with corn against the island resulted in no bites, the same with meat! Changing to double red maggot produced a bite that was a very welcome brown fan tailed goldfish of around a pound, a couple of roach followed but it was hard. I couldn’t see much being caught around me. A look on the left particle line produced nothing. Time to try the groundbait line with worm on the hook. It was great to see the float disappear after a couple of minutes and a skimmer was soon in the net. A few more followed before it died. There was nothing much happening on any of my other lines so decided to feed another ball of groundbait and importantly a couple of balls where I had initially just fed particles. I caught a few more fish on all three lines that I had fed groundbait on and felt that I had around 10lb in the net at the end, which is what everyone around me was admitting to! The scales arrived and my net went 13lb which I could not believe was leading with two to weigh Les Moody next to me had 11lb which left Gary Bell on end peg 36 as soon as he lifted his net from the water I knew he had won the section the scales proved that recording 16lb 1 oz
As soon as I got to the car park I heard that Malcolm had also come second in his section on Jenny’s but with a great weight of 75lb which was going to be enough to secure him the title. I have to take my hat of and congratulate him as he fished really well all week and the last two days he came second on his lakes with big weights, he recorded an 80lb on Trelawney to go with his effort on Jenny’s my mate Andy Dare beating him on both of the last two days. As you may have guessed Andy managed to get his lucky parking space back!
Well done to the fishery team at White Acres for providing the old boys and gals with a fantastic festival which I am sure is going to become a big hit in the future.