Modern-day commercials are full of fish, but in match conditions, it can be anything but easy to catch them as soon as those nets go in. Des Shipp explains how to maximise your results.
Such is the angling pressure on modern waters, particularly the more heavily fished ones, that the stocks seem to have wised up to sloppy approaches and mundane feeding tactics.
That’s not to say that these fish can’t be caught. Some days they give themselves up far easier, but when the weather conditions are cooler, or overnight temperatures drop, they can be anything but ‘easy’.
I’ve brought the Match Fishing cameras to Ivy House Lakes today, in Wiltshire. It’s a place I have some knowledge of, having fished here a little. One of the recent matches was tough going, but a thoughtful approach to tactics and feeding kept me in touch with the fish on what could have otherwise been a very bleak day – no pun intended.
Many on the match struggled, such were the conditions, so I kept things lighter on the rig front in anticipation of a tougher match.
Having drawn in a corner on the day I thought a long margin line, slightly into the deeper water down the shelf, would be key. It proved to be, so that’s the area I’ll concentrate on explaining in most depth for this feature.
I fed several lines on the day, as I have also done today; the other main one of note being an open-water swim straight in front of me at 14.5 metres.
The rig for this is made using a 0.4g Preston PB Inter 2 on 0.13mm Reflo Power to a 0.11mm hooklength. A strung bulk completes the rig along with a size 16 Preston PR 434.
The rig for fishing towards the margin, in around three and a half feet of water, is a 4x14 Preston PB Inter 8 mounted on the same line and using the same hook. The shotting pattern is taken care of with strung-out No10s to allow a slow fall of the expander pellet hook bait. It’s all about lifting and dropping the relatively light rig and allowing the hook bait to ‘work’ for you as naturally as possible.
Now, this is the key area to success really. I have plumbed two lines across to the right-hand margin, one at 14.5 metres and one at 16 metres, but both the same distance away from the bank so I can use the same rig in two swims.
What I found on the match was that the fish were hanging off the back of the feed. So, I only pot bait in at 14.5 metres and intend to fish on that line to catch ‘mug’ fish, but fish past it at 16 metres when they back off.
Loose feeding is a key part of the strategy, with the aim being to loose feed bait over and just past the 14.5m line. That way I can always work the rig on the 16m line, which will be at the far extreme of the feed area where the ‘crafty’ carp hold back and venture onto the edge of the feed.
These fish have become wise to piles of bait and, as such, hang back with caution. Therefore a few pellets ‘flirted’ over the area with a rig offering a slow fall of the hook bait is THE key way to approach them.
The open-water swim is a key go-to area while you build the margin line as it’s important not to exploit the margin until fish, hopefully, carp, have built in confidence feeding there.
Bites on the margin line are often delicate too, hence I dot my float right down to maximise the rig sensitivity.
Des targeted the skimmers while he built up the margin line.
The open-water line on today’s session proves important for catching the resident skimmers – something that’s crucial on trickier days to help you to keep putting weight in the net while you build your other lines.
I want to briefly cover why I have not put my margin rigs right up against the bank in the shallowest water. This is simply because the fish aren’t wanting to feed there confidently at the time of shooting this feature, so coming away into three feet or so where the water is deeper is a more logical place. Don’t always assume these fish want to be right up in the ‘rat holes’. On many days you will reap better rewards by targeting them where I am today. Plus, it’s all too easy to get distracted by waving tails when you’re fishing in very shallow water – you won’t have this problem in three feet. This also has a knock-on with your feeding: when you can’t see the fish it’s less easy to get carried away with piling too much feed in and destroying your swims.
Des potted in pellets...
After two hours of nurture and with half a dozen good skimmers in the net it’s time for a look up the long margin swims. I have been potting modest amounts of bait on the 14.5m line, consisting of micro pellets and softened expander pellets (the same as I will be using on the hook).
... and pinged a few over the top.
I have regularly been loose feeding softened 4mm pellets over the top too, in frugal quantities to create some noise and keep that all-important bait going through the water column.
My swim-building is rewarded by a small but perfectly formed carp, but the next drop-in reveals no bites, liners or indications. Now the extension goes up the back of my Preston M90 pole to get the rig to the far extremes of the feed area at 16 metres.
The light proves tricky and the reflection on the water from the still bare surrounding trees is doing little to help.
The same rig was used at 14.5 and 16 metres.
The approach is a success, though. The float dips sharply and wham, another carp is stripping my 11H elastic from the pole as it makes its getaway.
Working the swim in this way is exactly the right thing to do. Now it’s a case of try and repeat.
By that I mean try the 14.5m line again and if no bites occur then I pot a modest amount of feed in (see image) and continue to loose feed just six to 10 softened 4mm feed pellets over the top between the 14.5m and 16m lines without feeding past where the rig will be when presented at 16 metres.
This approach has helped me to secure many a match win either in trickier conditions, or when fishing heavily pressured fish, or both.
Small but perfectly formed
I’ve ended the session with several carp and a handsome net of fine skimmers. These skimmers are so important to build weight elsewhere (usually in open water) while you nurture other swims. I haven’t truly exploited these silvers today as the nature of the shoot was to demonstrate the margin approach first and foremost. However, with my considered approach, you will be conquering crafty commercial-water carp in no time!
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Inside Out Method
Fishing with my hookbait outside of the feeder has been very effective over the past couple of months. It can be a deadly way of fishing the method feeder when the fish aren’t attacking the feeder confidently.
Light Is Best
I always try and use the lightest float and line I can get away with at this time of year, it definitely catches me more fish. As the water starts to warm up I will step up my tackle, but using light lines, floats and smaller hooks works best for me in the winter/spring months.
Less is More
It’s amazing how little bait you can feed on commercials, but still catch loads of fish. F1’s in particular respond to the tiniest amount of bait at this time of the year. Literally, three maggots or five micro pellets is enough bait to get an initial response from a fish, then you have to be patient and wait for a proper bite. I see far too many anglers feeding with massive CAD pots and ruining their pegs. I use a small sprinkle pot, this holds more than enough bait! The ‘less is more’ statement couldn’t be more applicable at this time of the year.
Make Some Noise
Making noise is very important in fishing, even at this time of year. Fish are inquisitive and they’re attracted to noise so I always have a line up my sleeve where I catapult or throw bait. You’ll be shocked at the difference making noise can make.
This is an area that lots of anglers get confused about but I think it’s simple. I fish 1 to 2” over depth on commercials, to the bottom of the body of my float. I’ve found this to be the most effective way to plumb up, no matter what bait I’m using or what fish I’m targeting. I’ve been using a Line Safe Plummet for the past six months and it’s essential for gaining pin point accuracy.s’ 5 Commercial Tips
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Des Shipp’s Commercial Edges
Who better to give you 10 top tips for catching carp on the short pole this month than England superstar, Des Shipp!
1 - Keep Quiet
One of the most important things to do when you’re planning to catch at close range is to remain as quiet as possible.
Wise fish in today’s commercials are very wary of bankside disturbance, so try to keep any banging and movements on the bank to a minimum while setting up, and more importantly, when fishing.
2 - The Magic Depth
Fishing in the right depth of water is essential if you plan on catching on the short pole, and I often see people fishing far too close for my liking, in too shallower water.
Where possible, the minimum depth that I like to target is four feet. I have found that big carp feel comfortable feeding with more water over their heads. If they want to come into water shallower than this, the chances are you will catch the same fish down the edge.
3 - Elbow Accuracy
Fishing the short pole often means that you’re fishing on the near slope of a commercial, which means that there is lots of scope to be inaccurate. If you’re fishing on a slope and place your rig a few inches further out than where you’ve plumbed up, you will be fishing off the bottom, where you probably won’t catch fish! Come a few inches closer, and you’ll have line laid on the deck, which may cause you to foul hook fish.
I always try and make sure I plumb up, feed and fish right on the end of a section and place my rig in line with a far-bank marker. I believe it’s essential to make a conscious effort to check you’re in the right spot every time you ship out.
4 - Float Choice
The float that you use for fishing short is very important. I like a float with a thick, hollow plastic tip. This is very buoyant, and will allow me to spot the difference between line bites and proper indications when a carp takes my hook bait.
If you use too thin a bristle, you will end up striking at false indications and in turn foul hook fish. Try and ignore small wobbles and little drag-under indications, and only strike at very sharp, fast dinks. The float doesn’t necessarily have to zoom under, but you will find proper bites are much faster indications than liners.
5 - The Big Lift
I often get asked why I lift the pole up high after hooking a fish on the short pole. I often lift into the bite and, once I connect with a fish, lift the pole right up several metres high!
Firstly, I do this to make sure that my hook is in properly. Secondly, when fishing short for big carp, you often find that fish power off like a train, and can easily break your hooklength. By lifting the pole high after hooking them, however, they seem to stay at close range, and if they do power off you have lots of extra ‘give’ as you can drop the pole to allow them some more running space.
6 - Play And Feed
When fishing at close range, you’re often looking for an early or late run of fish, and to make the most of a short swim you ideally need to catch several quick fish on the bounce.
To make sure that there’s a fish waiting for you next time you ship out, try and learn to feed while you are actually playing a fish. When you initially hook a fish, others in the swim will spook, but once you get back to your top kit and the hooked fish is away from the swim, you can throw some free offerings accurately on to your short swim by hand, to get the fish back for when you ship out after landing the fish.
7 - Keep It Tight
I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping your feed in a small, tight area when you’re fishing short. Especially when fishing on a shelf, fish will hear your feed enter the water, home in on the bait and quickly mop it up as it lands on the bottom.
If your hook bait is falling right among the feed, the chances are that fish will take that too, and you’ll catch them very quickly. Try and make sure you’re ultra accurate when throwing in your feed, and if you’re not accurate, use a small pole-mounted Cad Pot!
8 - Light Rigs
This tip sits alongside the tip above. My favourite shotting pattern to use on a short-pole swim is a strung-out pattern, with Stotz evenly strung in the bottom third to half of the rig depending on the depth.
Experience has taught me that carp in particular cruise into the near shelf and then dip down to feed when they hear and see bait enter and fall through the water. Presenting a hook bait that falls into the swim like the loose feed may catch you some extra fish on the drop. I like to combine the slow-falling strung-out rig with the accurate throwing mentioned above. I often throw in some feed, and then flick my rig over the top so my hook bait falls with the feed.
9 - Push The Peg
There are some days when a steady, regular feeding pattern on the short swim just doesn’t work. When this happens you can sometimes pull fish into the swim by feeding more than everyone else.
If I’m not getting any bites on the short swim going into the last 90 minutes of a match, I won’t hesitate to feed a big amount of bait with a large pole pot. You can sometimes catch two or three very big fish by doing this with baits like corn or meat, and give yourself a last-gasp weight boost in a match.
10 - Timing
It is very rare that you will catch on the short pole throughout a match. It’s a great method to start the match on, as there are often some fish hanging around the near shelf before the pressure of the match starting hits them.
Spending the first 20 minutes of a match on the short pole while priming your other swims will often get you off to a good start. Finally, you need to be patient later in the day too, as fish may not venture in to feed on the short pole swim until the late stages in a match.
I like to prime it throughout the day, and will wait until the last two hours to try it. If there are no fish there, don’t give up! They may arrive with 90 minutes to go, an hour to go, or even less!
At White Acres fishery, you can prime a short swim all day to catch two or three big carp on it in the final 15 minutes of a match!
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Des Shipp’s Pellet Waggler Masterclass
Des Shipp explains when fishing the waggler can give you the edge over other methods…
Fishing the waggler is a tactic that requires almost unparalleled hard work and perseverance. However, done correctly, in the right situation it can prove to be devastating, just as I proved in a recent Maver Match This qualifier at Gold Valley Lakes, where I qualified for the £65,000 grand final!
Why The Waggler?
The first and probably most obvious reason for choosing to fish a waggler over the pole is its versatility and range. You can simply fish much further out using a waggler than you can the pole; it is therefore suited perfectly for large lakes or up to features where the pole cannot reach or using a feeder isn’t suitable.
It also thrives on tightly pegged venues where fishing the waggler can create space for yourself by fishing an area of the lake nobody else is venturing into.
In modern commercial fishing, when somebody refers to the waggler, nine times out of 10 the pellet waggler is what is being referred to. However, I would be perfectly happy to reach for an insert or straight waggler should the conditions suit.
To help, here is a quick run through of what each variety is useful for:
My number-one choice for carp in the upper layers and arguably the busiest method out there, but hard work definitely pays dividends!
A nice dumpy pattern helps with hooking fish; the buoyancy of the float can aid with self-hooking – don’t go too big, though, you are looking for a plop that imitates that of a pellet landing in the water when casting!
A sensitive pattern of waggler, perfect when a degree of finesse is needed, this is my go-to float of choice when fishing for roach, skimmers and even F1s on commercial fisheries using baits such as maggots, casters or worms.
The tip is thinner than the rest of the float and this aids sensitivity and bite indication.
A more buoyant alternative to the insert waggler, this has a multitude of uses.
The straight waggler comes into its own when there is a tow on the lake; its buoyancy means you are able to lay line on the bottom of the lake without the float being dragged under by the tow.
It also makes a brilliant float for fishing shallow for carp using baits such as meat or pellets; its structure means it has a dibber effect.
A Simple Hook bait!
Got It In The Locker?
Having the ability to fish with any type of waggler, and being completely comfortable in getting it out of the bag whenever I feel it’s suitable, puts me on the front foot at a lot of venues.
To use the Gold Valley Lakes Maver Match This qualifier as an example, I opted for a pellet-waggler approach to the match. On the day I drew Peg 50 on Gold Lake, which gave me plenty of room to go at and draw fish from. I knew that I stood a good chance of the match win from there!
It was a particularly hot day with plenty of fish cruising around the lake. I therefore expected to catch in the upper layers of the lake, an area where the pellet waggler is particularly prolific.
Gold Lake is large in size and is occupied by some big, wary carp. These tackle dodgers have seen it all before and are often the wisest occupants of a lake, so will back off from the hustle and bustle of anglers on the banks towards the middle of the lake… prime waggler territory. Due to the size of the fish often caught on this method, between 20 and 25 fish was almost certainly going to be good enough to do the business on the day.
I found having the rig set at three feet deep worked best, although ordinarily I would fish anywhere between 12 inches and two feet. The lakes at Gold Valley are quite deep so I felt that this extra depth meant I had given myself more of an area to target while still focusing on the upper layers of the swim.
My 23 fish on the day weighed in at 172lb which was just over 20lb clear of the runner-up; averaging just over four fish an hour but each of those weighing on average 7½lb it is clear to see how a weight can be built up quickly.
The key is to not stop working. Feed, cast (past feed area), feed, reel into feed area, feed, reel in and repeat. You should never have your rod or catapult out of your hand!
This could not get any simpler!
Float size depends on how far I am likely to be casting, and on the day a 4g Preston Innovations Dura Pellet Wag was just about perfect. It features a small, interchangeable disk that stops the waggler from diving on landing, and being a small, dumpy float that is extremely buoyant helps with the hooking of fish as they can often hook themselves against the resistance of the float.
How the waggler enters the water will be the difference between getting a bite or not in the majority of cases. The float should enter the water with a nice ‘plop’ (similar to the noise of an 8mm pellet landing in the swim) and sit upright instantly. Not crash into the water, dive two feet down and slowly rise back to the surface! Like I said, this can be the difference between getting a bite and not and you would be surprised how far a little bit of practice goes.
The float is then attached using the Preston Innovations Float Stop Kit, which comes supplied ready to slide straight onto your reel line and each setup comprises four float stops and a link swivel.
One float stop sits above the float and the remaining three sit below the float and act as a boom to keep the rig from wrapping around itself, reducing the risk of getting tangled or running into any problems throughout the match. This is vitally important when casting and reeling in on a near constant basis.
You don't need locking shot with these!
My rod of choice depends on how I want it to perform. I have two main options, either an 11ft 6in Power Float, which has an all-through action that I like to use when bigger carp are on the cards, or a 12ft Super Float rod that I see as more of an all-rounder and its action is very ‘tippy’.
Both of these rods allow me to fish with relatively low-diameter lines as the action of the rods cushion any darts the fish may make. A 4 or 5lb Power Max reel line is as heavy as I would fish even when targeting big fish in this manner. You would be surprised how much stick it takes to have this snap.
To finish off the setup either a PR 36 or PR 38 hook tied to 0.15/0.17mm diameter Reflo Power will handle anything I am likely to come up against. A band in a hair and an 8mm pellet is my number-one bait of choice.
Work Hard, Reap The Rewards
Fishing the pellet waggler is all about hard work and getting into a rhythm. It is a method that needs your full attention in order to get it right on the day. Although you are only feeding on average three pellets at any one time you may do this three times every minute during the match and in between this you will either be casting, reeling in or playing a fish!
Similar to fishing shallow on the pole, finding the depth at which the fish want to feed will help with catch rate. A good starting point for the pellet waggler would be two feet. You then also need to work out whether the fish want to feed inside the feed area or off the back of the feed. It is therefore important to cast two metres or so past your feed area, feed, then reel into the feed; this will give you two opportunities to get a bite.
The key is to keep busy. If you are sat there impersonating a garden gnome you are doing something wrong. If nothing is happening then you need to make it happen. What you have got to remember is that when this method works, the size of the fish you are catching is generally big.
This is where match management comes into play; if the fish that you are catching are averaging 5lb a piece you only need four fish an hour to finish a standard five-hour match with 100lb. Breaking your session up in this way will help you to work out whether something needs to change or you are on the right track. However, it is those who keep working that will consistently produce weights capable of winning matches…
Venue File -
Woodland View Fishery
Location: Hay Lane, Droitwich, WR9 0AU.
Day ticket: £8
Contact: 01905 620872
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Sponsors: Preston Innovations, Sonubaits