Jon Arthur takes to a town lake armed with £3 worth of bait, on a mission to catch a quality bag of roach in far from ideal conditions…
In this day and age it’s easy to get lost in the mist of baits and additives, and sometimes I think we forget how simple and cheap fishing can be! I’m taking to the banks of a Furzton Lake armed with a liquidised loaf of bread and a pint of hempseed – two of the simplest, cheapest but also most effective roach baits on the planet…
A Redfin Recipe!
Roach are one of my favourite fish – I love them! There are probably no two baits finer than hemp and bread for catching them too. These two baits complement each other incredibly well. Bread is a very instant bait. You can always tell if there are any roach in the area because you will get a bite almost first drop-in. Whether you’re fishing on a canal, river or lake, this is normally the case. Bread is really visible with its white colour, and liquidised bread makes a fish-attracting cloud as it falls through the water to quickly draw in fish.
Hemp can be quite different, however. Roach often take quite a bit of time to gain confidence in feeding on hemp. Sometimes it’s half an hour before you get a bite on it, while other days it can be two or three hours, or even more! Once the roach do start feeding on it, though, they become addicted and often end up in a ravenous frenzy. The fish you can tempt on hemp are normally a very good stamp too. The key is to maintain a very rhythmic feeding pattern and keep a constant stream of seed falling through the water. Combine hemp and bread together and you have the perfect roach recipe. Bread is great for starting a session on, while hemp can provide you with a fantastic finish to it with quality fish.
Jon only uses the best looking hookers!
I always cook my own hemp for hookinh. There are lots of varieties of tinned hemp out there, which are great for feeding, but this is often too small and split too much to get on the hook.
1. Soak a pint of uncooked hempseed in water overnight.
2. Place this in a saucepan and cover it with water and bring it to the boil.
3. I always add a pinch of salt and sugar at this stage to enhance the flavour.
4. Once boiling, turn the heat down and leave the hemp to simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.
5. Keep watching the hemp so that you can see when it begins to split. Sometimes I take out a few grains early because these are ideal for hooking when they have only just split.
6. I always save the oily water that I cook my hemp in. This is great for mixing groundbait with, and I always keep my hemp in this water when on the bank.
1. I don't have a preference on wich bread to use when liquidising - something cheap and a little bit old is normally good. This kind of bread is normally a little bit dry and when whizzed up in the blender is goes very fine!
2. Leave the crusts intact when liquidising – it’s all goodness and means you get more for your money!
3. Place three or four slices in the blender at a time. I normally cut mine in half so they hit the blades quicker.
4. Hold the lid and bottom of the blender and make sure you give it a controlled shake to make sure all the bread gets chopped evenly.
5. Place the bread in a bag in the freezer. Once frozen, take it out and, while frozen, blend it again. This makes it extre-fine.
6. On arriving at the bank, I place some bread in a maggot tub and add water a bit at a time until I can form a damp ball – not sloppy, but not compressed like groundbait. You need the bread to sink but break up quickly on, or near to the bottom.
I have assembled two rigs offering different kinds of presentation. There’s a fairly strong wind, making things awkward because it’s blowing slightly across and towards me here.
The first rig is quite positive, a 1g Drennan G-Tip 3 float, shotted with an olivette three feet from the hook with three No9 droppers below. Hopefully, this will be the main rig, especially for bread. This is very stable and allows me to accurately present my hook bait right over the feed. This can be very important at the start of a session, when the fish are right on the bread, homing in on your ball of feed.
The second rig offers a very different kind of presentation, intended more for hemp and catching fish on the drop. Because I’m going to be loose feeding hemp, the fish normally intercept it as it falls. This second rig is made to mimic this feed and features a 0.4g float with No10 and No11 shot strung out in the bottom half. Starting six inches away from my hook is the first No 11, and there are four more spread three inches apart going up the rig. Above these, the No10s start strung out the same.
Both rigs are made on 0.117mm Drennan Supplex and feature either a 0.075mm Supplex hooklength, or Supplex fluorocarbon hooklength. Hook-wise, there is only one for me when it comes to roach – a Kamasan B511. I have these tied from a size 18 to a size 22, and they cover nearly all my natural and stillwater roach fishing. My elastic is simply a No5 Preston Slip through my full top kit.
You join me at the lovely Furzton Lake at Milton Keynes. This is a very big lake that I’ve fished quite a few times over the years. Normally, however, anglers fish with maggots, casters or groundbait on the pole and I’ve always wondered if bread and hemp would work. I’ve got set up nice and comfortably, with my box placed in the shallow margins. When it’s windy like today, getting nice and low to the water is a big help – you get out of the wind, are more comfortable and can present your rig much better. Getting in the water gives you a little more distance too on lakes with shallow margins, meaning you don’t need to fish as far out on the pole.
Top Tip: Cheeky Pinkies…
One little trick that I like to do is place a pinch of fluoro pinkies in my bread mix. You only need a pinch to add loads of colour to the bait and give you another hook bait option. It’s surprising how many big perch, skimmers and hybrids you can catch by fishing with a pinkie over the top of your bread!
To start, I’ve cupped in a large ball of liquidised bread mix and sprinkled half a pot of hempseed over the top. I don’t think the fish will really eat the hemp but it spreads out as it falls and creates a little bit of a grazing area around by feed. I’m going to start loose feeding immediately too; a dozen grains every few minutes.
Baiting up with a 4mm punch of bread and starting on the heavy rig, I get my first bite after just five minutes! The wind is getting really bad already but catching is a real reward! Half a dozen quick fish in the first 15 minutes prove just how instant bread is – even on a vast expanse of water like this, the fish have homed straight in on it!
Jon stores his hemp in a milk bottle, along with all the lovely jucies it is cooked in!
It’s incredibly difficult to present the rig and, as well as the wind, the lake is towing from left to right really strongly. Most of my bites, however, seem to be coming right on my feed. To make the most of this, I need to place my rig in the water well above the feed, some two metres uptow of it to the right. This way, the rig settles just above where I think my bread is on the deck and I can control the rig over this area and just below it, where it’s likely that some of my loose-fed hemp is landing.
The fishing is very steady but really rewarding too. After three or four chunky fish, bites dry up and I’ve been re-feeding with a small nugget of the wetted-up bread mix, containing a few pinkies and pinch of hemp. Slipping a pinkie on every now and again has worked well too, bringing an odd extra bite, but I’m two hours into the session and I’m yet to get a bite on hemp.
Ringing the changes is really important whenever you’re catching chunky roach like this. To keep them coming you can’t afford to be lazy, and after three or four bites you normally need to change something to bring another run of fish. I’m alternating between 4mm and 5mm punches of bread on the hook and I’ve also played around with the depth quite a lot.
Immediately after re-feeding, it seems better to fish about eight inches off the bottom. This is probably because there are quite a few bits of bread floating up and off my feed. After a few fish here, I simply drop back down to dead depth and enjoy another little run of fish there once the swim has settled.
With around an hour of the session left bites really slow down. Picking up my lighter rig for hemp, I’m surprised to get a sudden bite out of the blue to the far left of my feed area. It’s a better fish too at 8oz – a perfect hemp specimen. This prompts me to try presenting this lighter rig slightly downtow and I manage a good run of these better fish in the closing stages. Eight quality redfins on the seed make for a perfect finish to the session and prove just how important it is to persevere when feeding hemp. It’s also interesting how these were sat right at the extreme left of the swim. They were most likely picking off the odd bit of loose feed and bread crust that pops-up and wafts down to them in the tow. With over double figures of roach in the net on literally £3 worth of bait, it’s been a lovely few hours. Find a local lake, keep your bait cheap and simple and enjoy some budget bagging when you get a few spare hours this month!
Hemp And Bread Secrets
1. The perfect hooker! The grain is still intact with just a small amount of kernel showing
2. Jon generally finds that 5mm and 4mm punches prove the best when good-stamp roach are the target
3. Hemp pinkies and bread - the downfall of many a roach over the years
4. Note how the point of the hook is exposed. This helps Jon convert more bites into roach in the net!
Name: Jon Arthur
Pole: Drennan Acolyte
Venue: Furzton Lake
Location: Milton Keynes MK1 4GA
Day tickets: £7 on the bank
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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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