Make the most out of every peg that you draw this month with Andrew Mann’s peg planning tactics…
Have you ever fished a perfect match? I often come away from the bank knowing full well that I could have made better decisions and got a better result. More recently however, I have started to plan out my matches. I used to think that fishing was too unpredictable and wild for a strategic plan to be put in place. However, especially on commercial fisheries, implementing a plan for your session will improve your results!
Planning my session begins before I get to the bank. For example, before today’s session here on the Mickey Mouse Lake at Docklow Pools, I knew that I’d be targeting both silver fish and carp. Before even arriving, I had a plan to fish at close range for the silvers in the early part of the session, with the hope of catching some carp in the latter part down the margins.
On The Peg…
It isn’t until after drawing your peg that the detailed planning really begins. I like to place my box down on the swim that I’ve drawn, and sit down to really think about the match ahead. Sometimes, I’ll sit for up to 10 minutes considering options. Today, I’m faced with a luscious swim full of options, but to get the best from it, I need to carefully choose where I fish, when I fish there and what I fish there.
Rule Of Three
The matches when I feel like I’ve done worst are always the ones when I’ve fished too many swims and made things overcomplicated. I stick to having a maximum of three swims. I’ve found this is the right amount to give you scope to catch various species and sizes of fish, without ending up in a muddle!
The first swim that I want to choose is a banker, where I’m going to get plenty of bites and catch efficiently to build up a weight of mixed species. The chances are that I won’t be able to catch big carp all the way through the match, so this swim will be vital in keeping my weight topped up. I need to be able to feed it accurately too, which is why I’m placing this swim just five metres out, straight in front of me, at the base of the nearside shelf.
While sat on the swim thinking about my plan, I also notice that there are quite a lot of fish moving out in open water in front of me. Normally, I would think about fishing on the bottom on the long pole, most likely with pellets. In fact before arriving at the swim, I had in my head that this would be an ideal long-pole attack.
However, after seeing an odd carp cruising about and lots of quality fish topping, I’m now planning on feeding an odd cube of meat, while attempting to ‘mug’ an odd cruising carp when the opportunity comes.
I feel like the best place for me to catch a number of big fish to potentially win the match off this peg, is down the margins. I’m presented with two options for this – one to the left and one to the right. I like to pick what I think is going to be the most favourable margin. I always try and choose the side that has the most fish-pulling potential. Today for example, I have an island to my left that leaves a very narrow gap to draw fish from. The near bank is also very open, with little cover in the way of bankside vegetation. However, to my right, I’m fishing towards the main body of the lake. There are loads of reeds and shade from several big trees growing beside the lake. This is a much more favorable area to target, and I’m certain it will bring the best result.
Pinging just two or three clubs of meat is enough to keep fish hunting on the long-pole swim!
Once set up and ready to fish a match, it’s vital that you remain in control of what you are doing, and that’s where sticking to the plan really helps. Watching anglers around you can be a big advantage in certain situations. For example, if someone starts catching down the edge, it’s a sure sign that fish may be moving in to feed. However, it’s vital that you don’t get sucked into chasing fish. If the guy next door happens to catch a 10lb carp out of the blue on the pellet waggler, the last thing you should do is pick that up and try and fluke one the same. Stick to your plan and you’ll catch him up later.
My basic plan for today is to catch on the short swim for as long as possible, while pinging just on odd piece of meat on the long pole. I am going to leave the margins alone until later in the match. If I feel like there’s an opportunity to catch a cruising fish, I will, and if the short swim needs a rest, I have the option to try the longer meat swim.
Starting The Match
At the off, I’ve simply shipped out to five metres and fed five or six times by hand with around 30 casters. I’ve also pinged three cubes of meat out onto the long line four or five times. Starting on the bottom on this short swim, I’m into fish immediately. I’m feeding as often as I possibly can at the minute to try and draw in lots of fish and already I’ve started getting bites on the drop as my rig is settling. Roach, ide and an odd chub are hitting the net regularly, and picking up my shallow rig, I begin to catch even quicker.
A Welcome Boost
After around an hour, I’m confident that I’ve got close to 20lb of silver fish in the net, and action is still thick and fast. However, I have just seen a swirl where I’ve been pinging meat, so I’m making a quick move to try the swim. Baiting up with my favourite ‘banded meat’ and looking at my watch, I’m giving it just five minutes so that I don’t miss out the silver-fish action. It seems that I don’t need to worry however, because as soon as my rig hits the water, there’s a huge swirl and my elastic is dragged out! After a short-lived battle, I’ve bagged a 6lb bonus carp in just two minutes. I see this as a free ticket to have another look out on this long swim, but all the time I’m feeding casters on the short line maintaining the plan of building a weight from there. A chub around 2lb follows on the long swim, before another quick look leaves me biteless for two minutes. This is long enough to urge me to get off this swim and continue putting fish in the net on the short line.
After another good spell of catching well on the short swim, I see a mugging opportunity on the long line, as a couple of large dark shadows cruse into the swim. I have a rig assembled for flicking out to these fish with a long line between float and pole tip, with the float set just six inches deep. My bait choice for this is always meat, a visible bait that sinks incredibly slowly, maximising the chances of a fish seeing your bait. Hard pellets or corn may fall that little bit too quickly for a fish to see it and grab it as it cruises past. A deadly trick when looking to ‘mug’ fish like this is to make sure you have your mugging rig hooked-up and ready to go beside you. I actually hook my hook into my pole sock, and lay the top kit beside me so I can quickly grab it and ship out to mug a lump.
This time, it works a treat and swinging my long line out towards the front of the cruising fish I quite literally watch a lean common engulf my cube of meat, before angrily swirling off like a torpedo, straight between the tree stumps out in the middle of the lake. I manage to turn the fish by lifting the pole high – a great trick if you feel like the fish is about to bottom your elastic out. This sudden change of angle often turns the fish. It certainly works this time for me, and I’m soon shaking a 12lb Docklow common into the landing net.
Areas of scum like this are perfect target areas for mugging fish!
A Free Match Win…
Sticking to my guns, I’m straight back on the short swim and as I’ve continued feeding this throughout, it’s no surprise that the fish are still feeding well here. Having my mugging rig set up and ready to go, I manage to sneak a couple more carp over the next couple of hours, both which have come right over the swim where I’ve been pinging meat all day. I’m sure the fish weren’t keen on feeding, but the noise of an odd cube hitting the water has intrigued them. When I’ve seen them, I’ve simply dropped a bait in front of them and they’ve fallen for it.
I can’t stress enough the importance of catching these ‘free’ fish. At the end of most matches, the result is often tight and those odd fish that cruise past can quite literally be a free match win. The great thing about mugging is that it takes just a few seconds to ship-out and try for a fish. Once it has swam off or you’ve caught it, you can drop back onto the silvers swim and continue putting fish in the net.
The Finish line
With the final hour of the match approaching, I’m planning to set a margin trap to give me a final weight boost. In my opinion, the later you can leave it to feed the margins, the better it will be. I’ve often left it until there is just 50 minutes of a match remaining, and find that fish come straight to this. I’m certain that the fish have modified body clocks based around match hours, which is why they often feed later on when their guard has dropped. The later you leave the margins, the more you’ll catch there!
For today’s feature, I’m feeding this with exactly one-hour of the session remaining. Rather than potting in loads of feed, I’m feeding just half a pole pot of hemp and 6mm cubed meat – enough to draw in a couple of fish and get them competing. Whenever I feed pots and pots of bait down the edge, I seem to foul-hook and loose a lot of fish, so more recently I’ve started feeding less and had great results.
I actually feed this swim another two times before fishing there, to get the fish used to the feed going in, and create plenty of competition for the fish. After the first pot of feed I could see the water colouring up, and now after three feeds and putting a few more silver fish in the net, I’m ultra confidant of catching some there!
One At A Time…
After feeding the next handful of hemp and meat down the edge, I follow this in with my rig baited with a single cube of meat. It’s vital that you pay attention to where you feed when fishing the margins in this way. You are only feeding a small area of bait, so you need to be fishing right over the top of it. Pick a marker, and ensure your top kit and cupping kit are exactly the same length! Quite literally seconds after lowering in my rig, my elastic is dragged out – proof the feeding tactic was right.
After landing a 5lb mirror, I re-feed with the same handful of bait, follow this is with my rig, and I’m immediately into another fish. This way of resetting the margin swim after each fish is devastating in the latter stages of a match, which is proved when I put a run of eight carp together to finish the day. Had I fed the swim earlier, or introduced too much bait, I’m certain I wouldn’t have caught this many.
Although I’ve caught really well, I’ve kept feeding the short swim. On some days, you can drop in down the margins and catch a couple of quick fish before they spook and bites stop. If you can quickly drop back in on the short swim and continue putting fish in the net, it makes the margin fish a real bonus. However, if you continue to sit down the edge catching nothing, you may actually end up catching a lower weight than you would do if you had continued to fish and catch in open water.
As you can see from the catch shot, having a clear plan has helped me put together this stunning net of fish today. By basing my day around putting fish in the net on the short swim, talking any free big-fish opportunities during the day, and attacking the margins late, I’ve ended with well over that magical 100lb mark. Plan your match carefully, stick to the plan, and those brown envelopes are sure to find their way into your pocket.
Name: Andrew Mann
Pole: Daiwa Tournament
Name: Docklow Pools Fishery
Location: Docklow, Leominster HR6 0RU
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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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Match Fishing catches up with MAP-backed star Tony Curd for a lesson in tackling the sometimes avoided, but fish-filled areas of a swim – the silt traps.
We have all been there – that fizzing cauldron of wasted match time and effort trying to catch from what can only be described as a Jacuzzi, which gives the illusion of being black with fish but often delivers so little.
As our commercial fisheries mature all of them have areas in each lake where silt settles; whether it is in open water or down the track on a snake-style lake it’s a common area that many avoid due to foul hooking, the Jacuzzi effect or just simply because you cannot catch despite the deceiving signs of fish present. Up until recently I joined this train of thought and almost wrote it off as a bad job, only utilising these areas as a shallow line during the warmer months.
As more and more venues stock F1s on a regular basis, this has forced anglers to keep catching consistently throughout a five-hour match to build a winning weight, and this means having more swim options available to use. For this feature, I have come back to the very peg at Coleman’s Cottage Fishery, in Essex, where fishing on the silt line became clear to me as a true winner during the winter and spring months before the fish move into the shallower water properly.
That particular match I was experiencing one of those matches where I was doing reasonably well fishing my other lines, but I was having lots of quiet spells that usually spell ‘game over’ for winning or even framing on most matches, and I needed a good run of bites to see me over the line.
In a moment of madness, I plumbed up my short line on a swim at around 10 metres down the middle of the lake, tapped in a few pellets and left it alone. Five minutes later a single bubble followed by a cluster meant it was time for a look – dropping in I had a bite immediately and a run of fish followed.
Not only were the fish more settled over the silt, where they felt happy to stick around for longer, they were of a much bigger stamp that I couldn’t catch anywhere else. That match was a success thanks to the change to the silt line and the following matches saw me set it up each time with plenty of success along the way.
A light plummet shows the swin depth, the heavy one shows how deep the silt is.
What struck me as the biggest advantages for cold-water fishing was that it was not only the deepest part of my peg but it was the one area of my peg where I could be a little bit more positive and it was noticeable that once the fish turned up, I could have a prolonged spell without having to move very often. For that reason it became the line I’d leave late and more often than not enjoy a strong finish to most of the matches I was fishing.
While fishing this line is not revolutionary I did come across several stumbling blocks during my initial forays and getting these right made the world of difference to the amount of bites I got and more importantly bites converted into fish in the net.
The first issue I discovered was actually plumbing up in the first place – I like to use heavy plummets as a matter of course and my 30g version saw my rig coming back covered in black silt up to quite a depth, often covering my shot! While this helped me to gauge the depth of the silt it was nigh on useless to get a rig set properly, so some very light 10g plummets were the best bet to get it right initially, ensuring my rig was plumbed up to the bottom of the body of the float. This I feel was quite important, as once the fish started to dig around it gave me that little bit of leeway left or right of my intended area if any silt got moved or gouged out as the fish rooted around.
That leads me nicely into the next alteration I needed to make to my rigs for fishing in the softest areas of my swim – as mentioned, by plunging a heavy plummet into the swim you can get a rough idea of the depth of the softest part of the silt that is most likely to be disturbed as your match progresses. What I like to do is take the depth of this into account and add it to the line above my float. On more than one occasion I have been catching well and suddenly I’m biteless, with plumes of bubbles still appearing. I was fairly sure that the fish were still there, and checking the depth with a plummet revealed the problem. Half an hour before, I had been fishing perfectly plumbed up; now I was six inches off the bottom and on course for foul hookers, frustration or perhaps no bites. So, going forward it became a matter of habit to keep a check on whether the bottom had been scoured out by the feeding fish should my bites suddenly subside – it’s very rare that there isn’t an explanation for everything in fishing and by thinking constantly you’ll soon be ahead of the game!
A shorter line above the float could see your rig rendered useless so I’d always advise using a lash of at least a foot to enable you to adjust your rig as you go on. It also became a great indicator to me when to check for these changes to the bottom of my swim by using very well-dotted-down floats – to the point that if my hook bait became suspended off the deck my float would almost sink from sight and a sure sign that changes needed to be made.
A soft elastic is important to prevent hook-pulls...
... leading to more fish in the net!
I feel the bait choices you make when fishing in these conditions is a very important one to get right and the last thing I ever want is something that magnifies the need for the fish to disturb the bottom any more than is necessary so baits like maggots are out of my approach. Pellets, being dormant, give the perfect effect for these soft-bottomed lakes.
More important than that, though, is how you actually feed your peg, and the best way I have found to start this line is to pot in a very small amount of 2mm Bait-Tech Carp & Coarse Pellets – roughly two small Kinder pots – around 10 minutes before I intend moving onto it. For me, micros are only ever about drawing some fish and continuing to feed them can see you end up in a mess with fizzing and preoccupied fish, so as a matter, of course, I like to change over to feeding 4mm hard pellets instead. These give me fewer items per feed, which are easily picked up by the fish with minimal disturbance and therefore more proper bites! My choice hook bait is always 4mm and 6mm Bait-Tech Xpand pellets, which sit nicely on the bottom complementing the feed perfectly.
What I have found to be a real edge, though, is dosing my Xpands in the new Bait-Tech Juice; once pumped and stored in water certain batches of expanders are prone to breaking down during the match but adding this to them it gives a glaze that prevents them drying out as quickly. I also have no problems with pellets splitting later in the day, and it seems that F1s love the stuff
Setting my tackle up for the session on Pathfield Lake I kept it simple, with positive rigs of 4x16 MAP WD1 floats on 0.15mm MAP Power Optex to an 0.12mm hooklength, finished off with a size 18 B911 F1 hook – I set two duplicates up but they were both fished in the same (5ft) depth on two lines: one at the bottom of the near slope at six metres and one at the base of the far slope at 10 metres. These lines see me on the softest part of the lake bed, which is perfect for early springtime fishing. My shotting pattern was a simple spread bulk of No8 shot spread out at 1in intervals from my hooklength connection. I really do feel the bigger shot give me more positive bites in these situations and also help to cut down on any foul-hooked fish.
Elastic on both rigs was a very soft yellow 5-8 MAP TKS Twin Core; I feel this is very important as we often find ourselves fishing for a mixture of fish on modern commercials and, especially where F1s are concerned, it’s important to use a soft enough elastic to ensure none of these pull off unnecessarily, while still being able to land any carp you may run into.
To kick off I started on the nearer line, which I fed with a big pot initially containing the equivalent of two medium Flexi-Pots of micros with a few 4mms added. Dropping in over the top with a 4mm expander, feeding a small amount of micros with an odd 4mm each put-in, I only had to wait around five minutes before an odd bubble started to appear and it wasn’t too long before the float shot under and the first of an initial flurry of F1s up to 2lb was on its way to the net!
Action was brisk on the short line and I was soon thinking about trying to single out a few better carp. Picking up the potting kit again I cupped around 20 4mm pellets in on the 10m line and went on it 10 minutes later after spying a single bubble – these usually mean carp.
Use one of these to regulate the amount of pellets you feed
Slowly lowering the float into the swim and tapping in a few more 4mms over the top of it the float sharply shot straight under and my yellow elastic was soon stretched across the lake – this was no F1! Sure enough, a 7lb ghostie popped up, which would be a real bonus in a match. This was soon followed up with a 5lb F1!
By switching between both of my lines according to what activity I could see and being careful with the bait I introduced into my peg. This was not only the amount but the size of the pellets, depending on whether there were fish present or not. If there weren’t then introducing micros for a period to draw a few in and feeding larger, 4mm pellets when they were there I didn’t suffer any of the stereotypical issue commonly experienced when fishing a silty venue – I managed to catch consistently throughout my five-hour session, putting around 120lb into my nets on two lines that not many would even bother to give a thought to.
Different? Definitely! Winner? No doubt!
More fish than you could shake a silty stick at!
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