Jon Whincup reveals some findings from his winter commercial campaigns!
F1s – Simple Is Best
I spend most of my winter targeting F1-style venues and one thing I have learnt is that simple is by far the best. A simple bait choice with a simple match attack will always beat a complicated multi-bait approach.
There is definitely a need to fish several lines by the end of the day, but on larger F1 venues such as Decoy Lakes, where I am today, three or four lines will often be enough.
I am very happy to be patient and have found success by being far more patient than some of the younger anglers around. I have seen many of the younger lads are often a bit too quick to move and will end up fishing a dozen lines or more in five hours.
Now I don’t know about you, but I find that hard to keep up with and much prefer to work hard on three or four lines.
You just cannot go wrong with pellets. Yes, baits like maggots and bread have their day, but as with all of my fishing I keep it simple and I know pellets will always work!
I like 2mm feed pellets, which I have softened by soaking in lake water for five minutes. I also carry a few 4mm hard pellets and will sometimes fire three or four over the top. It’s amazing how often the rattle of just a few 4mm pellets can get you a bite.
Expanders are the best hook bait and I stick with the old faithful 4mm and 6mm Bait-Tech Xpands. I soak these the night before in a plastic food bag and they will be a lovely spongy texture.
Finally, I have a few 6mm hard pellets. I have found that on open-water lakes that are effected by tow, hard pellets can be very effective even on cold days.
There are some key points to make when presenting pellets. The first is the size of rigs. Most of the lakes here at Decoy are a good five to six feet deep and thanks to the flat land of the area, can be badly affected by wind and tow.
So while I am sure on smaller intimate commercial lakes, light delicate rigs can work. On these lakes I am more interested in presenting the pellet as still as possible and that often means heavier rigs.
Today the wind is quite light but there is still a good bit of tow about. The 6ft deep swim requires a 0.5g Frenzee FO4 to gain decent, still presentation. I like these floats as they are slim in the body and have a nice long bristle. More importantly though, they have a long glass stem that keeps the float nice and stable.
I have always used a bulk and two droppers on my deck rigs, whether that’s roach fishing, carp fishing or F1 fishing. I like to use positive shot and my dropper are No9s to keep the hook bait as stable as possible.
It’s worth noting that while I am not against using light hooklengths, it’s important to balance the kit and give yourself the realistic chance of landing a rogue carp. My bread and butter is 0.12mm Loaded Mono, with the occasional look with a 0.10mm. I don’t doubt that 0.08mm would get me a few more bites, but I prefer to fish with confidence knowing that I can land everything I hook.
The Perfect Hook Pellet
I don’t use a pump when preparing my pellets and there is a good reason for that. I like to use the weight of the hook to sink the pellet. This is a huge advantage as a size 16 0814 will sink a 4mm pellet nicely, meaning I can use a larger hook with no adverse effects.
To get a similar buoyancy with a pumped expander I would need to use a measly size 20 and I don’t like my odds of landing those bonus fish on hooks that small!
It’s good practice to have a bowl of water on your side tray and get into the habit of testing your hooked pellet to make sure it sinks. If it doesn’t a gentle squeeze in the water will see it sinking nicely.
Setting The Trap
I like to think that every time I ship out, I am effectively setting a little trap perfect for catching one fish at a time and not risking overfeeding.
I use the smallest Soft Pot, which I believe holds a nice amount of pellets for a winter session. I am not too concerned about tapping them in with a sprinkle-style lid and prefer to feed a little nugget of pellets as tight as possible and present the hook bait right over it.
Pole pot position is vital and I like to fish with my Soft Pot as close to the tip as I can get it without getting any tangles.
It’s hollow elastics all the way for me. A nice soft Pink 6-10 Stretch Hollow through a full top kit is perfect. This is ideal for those F1s but also gives me the strength and stretch for the bigger fish. This is especially true when combined with the Eeze Glyde system.
Frenzee does two elastics that are even lighter than this, but the Pink is my favourite as it has a little bit of poke that sets the hook well.
I spent years fishing natural venues and that has taught me a lot about where fish live in certain situations, and that is often overlooked on commercials. Learn your venue.
Things to keep an eye out for are where the prevailing winds blow from and look for the quiet calm areas, as fish will sit out of the wind, tucked in behind an island or other types of cover.
Another thing to keep your eye on is the sun’s position. Learn where the sun shines for the majority of the day and try and exploit those areas. Fish love sunny areas in the winter.
Today, for example, I have a lily bed to my left that has had the sun on it for the entire session. I know the fish will be in the lilies anyway, but the fact that the sun is on them all day makes them even more attractive.
I have purposely left this line to settle without feed and with 90 minutes of the session remaining I try it and have a brilliant spell.
It’s pretty common-sense watercraft. Look for areas that provide shelter and warmth and the fish won’t be too far away.
Our resident Irishman Cathal Hughes travels to Cornwall to see what all the fuss is about at White Acres.
Having done very little fishing over the past month, I really thought that I’d be writing about yesterday’s charity match in this month’s magazine. But if it wasn’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all, and in typical fashion I blanked, and in doing so scuppered any chance of scraping a feature about the miserable two hours I stayed on the shores of Lough Garadice playing with my new SLR feeder rod.
Not for the first time in my life I found myself in a bit of a pickle and on my way home I was racking my brain trying to think about what I could write about. With the deadline less than 20 hours away, I needed to think fast.
One thought that kept re-entering my head was a recent conversation I had with a top angler. During our chat he mentioned to me that he was finding it increasingly hard to get motivated and that he felt the buzz he used to get from match fishing was dwindling to the point that he considered giving up! Maybe not to the same extreme, but I’m sure that this is something that many anglers go through at one stage or another and is something that most likely coincides with a bad run of luck in the draw bag or when temperatures plunge into the minuses, and sitting out in the cold becomes a chore rather than being enjoyable.
Thankfully (going back to my man) we concluded that his lack of enthusiasm was most likely down to the fact that most of his recent outings resulted in sitting in the cold for five hours catching very little and, let’s face it, this wouldn’t do anyone’s sanity any favours, let alone increase the desire to head out on a regular basis.
Although the conversation obviously finished and we moved on, I couldn’t stop thinking about what was said and in general what keeps my enthusiasm up after what seems a lifetime in the sport. For me I believe it’s about keeping things fresh and mixing it up.
Because of where I’m living, I usually have a minimum of a two-hour drive to most of my matches. Believe it or not, this gives me massive options of where to go and I don’t fall into the trap of fishing a local venue week in week out, just because it’s the handy choice.
It’s clear to see from reading my magazine features that I like to travel and regularly fish different venues. For me this is the key to keeping things fresh. It also keeps me on my toes and gets me mixing with different groups of anglers, which is always a good thing.
This leads me nicely on to a recent trip I made to White Acres to fish the Drennan Silverfish weekend. It was said that I was mad going and that it was a long way to go to get my ass kicked. I never thought of it like that. For me, I was excited about tackling somewhere new and experiencing a completely different style of fishing to what I’m used to. The timing was also perfect as the festivals were over and my year was winding down and coming to an end.
For company on the trip I had Richard Caplice, who had some media engagements regarding a revised Muckno festival calendar and with the journey taking 17 hours from door to door his company was greatly appreciated.
We arrived on Thursday morning with the intention of having two good days’ practice before the main event. However, having driven through the night and been absolutely exhausted, Thursday’s practice was never a starter and instead I walked around the lakes hoping to learn something of value.
Unfortunately there weren’t many anglers about and those that were off work seemed to be all fishing the Match Lake, or Pollawyn as it’s also called. Thankfully those that were fishing were top class and very open with information, which was greatly appreciated as I really hadn’t a clue about the place.
Later that evening our lodge mates Tom Scholey and ‘Boy Wonder’ Jordon Holloway arrived and showed me around the complex. The knowledge they have not only about the individual lakes but about every peg was mind-blowing and made me wonder if I’d made the right decision accepting the invite.
The plan was to fish Jenny’s Lake on Friday, which I was more than happy with as it’s a venue that has played host to some huge, big-money finals, so it’d be nice to say that I’d fished it. After a good breakfast the lads put me on Peg 16, which I was told was the best peg on the lake (so no pressure then), while Jordan and Tom fished Pegs 17 and 18 respectively.
The next 90 minutes were a huge eye-opener and a little humbling, as while Jordan basically caught a fish a chuck beside me, I couldn’t get a bite! Now I’m not sure if it was out of sympathy for me or the fact that I threatened him with two broken arms, but he dropped tools and came to see where I was going wrong.
The first thing he did was take off my 0.10mm hooklength and replace it with one of his 0.08mm versions with a size 16 Gama Green hook. Surely this wouldn’t make that much difference, as to me it was blatantly obvious that there was nothing in the swim? He also felt the need to abandon my carefully fed swims as he believed that I’d probably completely fecked them up and starting new ones would be the best option.
Anyway, after basically changing everything I’d done, he then sat on my box and started to empty it, making me feel like a complete tool. It gets worse, when I evicted him from my box he sat beside me and proceeded to ask me why I wasn’t striking at the bites. What bites? I couldn’t see the float move and finally came to the conclusion that these F1s twist the bristle rather than pull it under and they were doing my head in.
Oh, then he came out with a classic, that the fish in these commercials can sometimes become wary of feed and that if I fed more than a thumbnail-sized ball I could ruin the swim. I was starting to feel homesick.
The good news was that I had learned something and after pinching some slim Mick Wilkinson floats from Tom I felt a little more confident going into the draw on day one of the festival.
As luck would have it, I drew end Peg 19 on Jenny’s, which was close enough to where we practised so at least I would have an idea of what to do. Unfortunately on arrival at the peg there was an angler on Peg 20, which blew my chances of a much-needed advantage.
My plan was rather simple and uncomplicated, I fed two swims at the maximum limit of 13 metres, one to the left and one to the right. I also fed a worm swim straight in front of me at 11 metres and, just in case, a caster swim for roach at four metres.
On the all-in I fed a tiny nugget of groundbait containing a few pinkies on my main swims and a golf-ball-sized ball with lots of chopped worm at 11 metres, which I never had a bite over so forget about that.
It took about 10 minutes to get my first bite, resulting in a small skimmer which, as far as I could see, was the first fish caught in the section. After a steady first hour it looked as if the section was fishing very hard and I was well in front, and if I’m honest was really enjoying myself. I was catching a proper mixed bag, having landed skimmers, tench, goldfish, roach, perch, carrassios and an F1, with every fish falling to either pinkie or maggot.
As the day went on the peg slowed significantly but by alternating between the 4m line and my long line I kept the odd fish going into the net. With an hour to go I knew I was under pressure for the section as the angler on Peg 16 was regularly catching carrassios on the waggler and I knew that it would be tight.
On the arrival of the scalesman, it was revealed that the angler on Peg 20 had fished the wrong peg, therefore giving me a valid excuse of being able to blame him for taking my end-peg advantage should I need to. As it turned out I finished second by 10oz to the angler on 16 with 20lb odd, which deep down was a disappointment as I would have loved to have won the section, but at least I’d held my own and not bombed out.
On day two I think that I was drawing from the blue bag, which contained some of the bigger weight sections. Andy Power had won the match from this zone the day before with over 100lb of big F1s, so I figured that his peg would do me, so I drew it.
A quick chat with Andy about how to fish the peg left me a little confused. He caught over 100lb by feeding two maggots at a time and used 0.09mm lines – the world’s gone bloody mad! Anyway, with his advice on board I headed off through the back roads trying to find Twin Oaks.
As most of Andy’s catch came from the margins that’s where I based my attack. I also plumbed up two lines at 11 metres both left and right, just in case things weren’t working close in. At the back of my mind I was aware that it was unlikely that the fish would be still in the mood after receiving a hammering the day before, but all I could do was hope.
At the start I fed one of my long lines with groundbait and pinkies as I’d done the day before, while I fed the other with chopped worm and groundbait. The close-in margin swims were fed with only a few maggots.
It took an age to get a bite but I finally caught a F1 in the margin and a bloody big one at that. At about 4½lb it gave me a proper scrap on the light hooklength and yellow Hydro, and it didn’t take long before F1 number two was added to the net. Unfortunately that small burst of fish was the only real action in the first two hours, and regardless of what line I tried the float would not go under.
Finally out of the blue I got a bite on my pinkie line, which resulted in another big F1 and by alternating between my long lines I started to put a few fish together. The worm line seemed the most productive and I found that by feeding a tiny ball of chopped worms and leaving it for 10 minutes I could usually go over it and catch.
I have to say that I really was enjoying the fight these boys put up and was amazed how such powerful fish could be landed on such light, delicate tackle. I even managed to land one that was hooked in the tail! I did catch a couple more in the margins late in the match and finished with 12, which although was way off what Andy had caught, was pretty good for the day.
Grant Albutt easily won the section with over 60lb from the end and I finished second again by the skin of my teeth, only pipping Tom Potter who was on the next peg by 8oz.
Well done to Andy Power on another brilliant performance, winning the festival with two section wins beating Jordan and Steve Hutter into second and third place on weight.
All in all, I enjoyed the weekend so much that I can’t wait to get back. The company was excellent, Dick and I were treated like kings and made feel extremely welcome. While the fishing was challenging and completely different from what I’m used to, it was enjoyable and I learnt loads. Whether or not my new-found knowledge will work in Ireland remains to be seen, but hopefully it will be of benefit next time around.
Even though I enjoy the wild, natural fishing I usually do, I find mixing it up a bit and fishing new venues creates new challenges and that’s what it’s all about for me. As some wise man once said: “Variety is the spice of life”, and I tend to agree.
David Haynes continues his conversation with the genial big guy, Des Shipp.
DH: You’ve been a regular in the England setup for how long now?
DS: About 13 years, I think it is.
DH: How did that come about?
DS: I was fishing for Dorking and those people that fish for England basically come through Starlets, Barnsley and Dorking – they’re the three teams from which the England team normally gets chosen.
I had good success with Dorking, then I started fishing the Sensas Challenge matches, which are really important with Mark Downes there, the England captain, and I did well in some of them. Then I had a phone call from Mark Addy, and he said: “We want you to come and fish the Home International at Port Talbot Dock in Wales.” We went there and did a bit of practising; it was mega deep – 11 metres to hand deep – so it wasn’t the greatest of venues to go on for your first England appearance.
To be fair the fishing was quite good and I won my section on the Saturday, I can’t remember what weight, around 12lb I think. You’d got the French internationals there too and I actually had Alain Dewimille in my section who now fishes for the French national team and I beat him by a couple of pounds, but my nerves were just ridiculous.
But what happened then was we had a massive storm overnight and the river that runs into Port Talbot Dock turned it from gin-clear to chocolate brown. We won it on the first day and all did terribly on the second day, the French absolutely annihilated it. I came last in my section, so I’ve gone from hero to zero in 12 hours and I thought I’d blown it. But the rest of the team didn’t do any good either and we just got it wrong on the day, and I was gutted, absolutely devastated and thought that was the end of it.
It dwelled on me for weeks and weeks, and I didn’t know what to do because when you’ve got your sponsors they probably think you’ve got a chance of fishing for your country. I’ve never told anybody this but in the end I actually phoned Mark Addy up after a month or so because it was doing my head in and said: “I have to ask you, tell me the truth, do you think I’ll ever fish for England again after what happened?” He basically said they didn’t know yet because I’d just fished my first Home International so see how it goes. I put the phone down and still wasn’t clear what was going to happen.
The following year I got a call from Mark Downes saying they wanted me to come to the European Champs in Holland (or was it Belgium?) on a canal. He wasn’t saying I was going to fish but they wanted me to see how it was all done. I went there and I actually fished both days – I think I came something like eighth or ninth individually. The fishing was really hard and I came fifth in my section on the Saturday and won my section on the Sunday. And that was it, the following year I fished both the European and the World Champs.
DH: Have you ever been close to winning it individually?
DS: You’re always close, David, there’s always one bite here, there or anywhere, but whether it happens or not is a different matter. You never think about that when you’re fishing, you’re fishing as a team. You’re never fishing individually, unless the team might have done really badly and say if one of us has won their section the management might turn round and say: “Look, we’re never going to win so fish for your section or fish for a big fish.” But that hasn’t happened, we go there as a team and that’s what it’s all about.
I don’t even think about it; it’s not until after the match when you’ve actually finished and you find out the results that you think: “If I’d have just had that one bite on that long pole fishing for a bream I could have had an individual medal.” It just doesn’t compute until after the match, because in the match you’re fishing for the points, you’re fishing to win as a team.
I’ve always looked at individual medals like this; you’ve only won an individual medal because the rest of the team has helped you win it. If it wasn’t for the rest of the team sorting out the tactics, how to catch the fish, you wouldn’t have won that medal anyway. You’ve still got ability and you’ve got to have that little bit of luck on the day, but that’s the way I look at it.
DH: And how long before the young guns in the team are pushing you for your place?
DS: You don’t know; it could be next year, it could be 10 years. I try not to think about it; every time I get selected I just go and do my thing and that’s it.
DH: Do you think those coming through the Under 21s setup have the all-round ability needed?
DS: I think now, and I’ve always said it, that I will probably be the last person ever to fish for England who hasn’t gone through the junior setup. Everyone else now will have to go through the junior selection process.
DH: It used to be said that match fishing was one of the few sports where ordinary people could compete next to world champions. Do you think that’s still true, or is there a big gulf now between club anglers and semi-pro or pro anglers?
DS: There are lots of individual things now, because team fishing, while it hasn’t died, is definitely a lot smaller than it was. Some of that is to do with age; take my river for example, it’s a brilliant river, and if you could drive to your peg I’m sure it would revive the whole river scene. Some clubs have already tried doing it and it is working, because it’s all about convenience. It doesn’t matter what you do nowadays convenience is important, where you can drive your vehicle near to where you’re fishing, you don’t have to carry loads of gear – people just don’t want to do it.
I look at Evesham as the perfect example of it; if you had to walk a mile to go and fish Evesham would you bother? Probably not. But because you can drive to every peg there, you’re sat on a little platform, it’s sold out every week.
I look at that and I can’t believe that a lot more clubs haven’t said to the farmer, right, let’s sit round the table and come up with a deal where you put a track in so we can drive to the pegs and we’ll pay you so much a year for it, or we’ll pay you so much per match to let us use your track as an access. It needs to happen, because if it doesn’t happen I honestly think the rivers will just dwindle.
DH: Do you think it’s any coincidence that the ‘glory days’ of river fishing happened when everything was much simpler and you just had a basket or box and two or three rods and you could easily walk to the pegs.
DS: Exactly. And, to be honest, there weren’t all these other fisheries about, ‘diluting’ the river fishing, because people don’t have to go on rivers any more. As soon as you put things in their way, like walking or not being able to get in their pegs because the banks are terrible, people say: “I tell you what, I’ll just go on the lakes.”
But if you give them the opportunity to drive to their pegs, and sit on a platform – if you have a bad day you have a bad day, at least you haven’t got to walk a mile, and you haven’t got to wear chest waders, people will do it. Evesham is a classic example that it can happen; clubs need to change their ways. It’s not easy but there is a way of doing it.
DH: As an all-rounder, do you have any favourite methods? What would be your ideal match?
DS: My ideal match… I’m not fussed really, I just love a mixed fishery where I’m catching skimmers, roach, using natural baits like casters, maggots, groundbait, I just love that style of fishing. I’m not really fussed about baits though, a bait’s a bait and if you’re catching fish on it it works, that’s what it’s about.
But I love river fishing, I love going on the rivers where you can ball it in, chuck 10 balls of groundbait in and catch on maggots over it. I love that way of fishing, I think it’s great.
DH: How much prep do you do?
DS: Loads. I remember Steve Gardener, when I first went to Port Talbot Dock in the Home International, came up to me – I actually had a Boss box at the time and I don’t know if you remember but Boss boxes had these little tiny metal balling arms – and he said: “Des, you cannot fish like that. You have to get your setup right, you can’t fish like you are, it’s just not right – you’ve got top kits on the floor! You’ve got to think about your prep!” And this is how it’s progressed over 10 years, it’s amazing how it’s gone on. Ever since that day I’ve got into a system where I just do it.
I don’t confuse things, I’ve got a selection of floats – obviously floats change and everything moves on – and once I’ve got a few that I’m happy with, like the ones I’m using now, I’ll tie those on three different lines so I can go to an F1 lake, or a roach lake, whatever; I don’t have millions of different floats, I just have a few different floats on different main lines. And that’s my prep. I don’t go overboard, some weeks I do none, some weeks I do loads, but I do try and stay on top of it.
Last night, for example, I tied six rigs in my garage, because I’ve got a festival coming up and I’ll do maybe three or four rigs a night. Sometimes I spend a long time in the garage but I try and do an hour here, an hour there, so I do quite a bit. Just stay on top of it. I try and do the right prep, I’m not doing it for the sake of it. I do the right floats or the right hooks for what I’ve got coming up.
DH: In our last Big Interview Jamie Hughes commented that fishing is a very selfish sport. How do you strike a balance with your life outside of fishing?
DS: I think it’s selfish to your family, and I’ve said to my missus about that, I’ve been totally straight with her, saying I’m sorry and I’ve not spent enough time with her and the kids but for me, the same as Jamie, when it’s your life, your job and you’re earning money from it what can you do? You need money to survive, and I think it is selfish in that respect to your family. It’s like any sport, if you get good at it you have to put time into it.
It’s an evil circle, because if you’re being paid to go fishing by your sponsor you need to stay on top of your game, stay at the top, for them to keep sponsoring you.
And I’ve always had that thing about it where with Preston I want to do as much as I can so they’ll never have an excuse to turn round to me and say: “Actually Des, we think time’s up now, you’re not doing enough.” I don’t want that. I want to do my job the best I can so I don’t get that phone call.
But every sport is selfish like that.
DH: What would you say was your best match win or your finest moment if your match fishing career?
DS: Winning my first match, I’ll never forget that. Obviously getting my first gold medal with the England team, in… now you’re asking… I never remember dates, I just keep putting them on the mantelpiece… 2007 was it? (It was actually 2005, in Finland – DH)
DH: Have you any idea how many medals you’ve won in all?
DS: I’ve got five World gold team medals, a few silvers and bronze, I can’t remember how many, a few. There’s only been two years when we’ve not won a medal, so we’ve got quite a few. And the Europeans too.
But I’m not the sort of person to look back like that, I just want to go out and compete, win a medal and bring it home, I don’t keep any records.
DH: Anything you might consider your worst moment?
DS: (Laughs) Yea, it was last year, in the World Champs in Bulgaria. I actually lost a carp. I was doing really well in my section and Mark Addy said: “Look, you’re walking the section, just see if you can catch a carp. I hooked a carp on the slider, it was a good one about 4 to 5lb, most of the others were much smaller than that, played it all the way back to the net, lifted my rod up and I could see this carp because it was quite clear, then it’s nodded its head so quick that it snapped the 0.14mm hooklength. I felt physically sick – if I’d got that out I could have sat in the car for the rest of the match, and I didn’t find this out until later, but if I’d got that out I would have had the silver individual.
But the team got a bronze medal. As I said, it’s the little things, it’s not until you start looking at things afterwards that you think: “If I’d have just done that…”
DH: Do you have a favourite venue?
DS: On natural venues I like the Bristol Avon in September time, I just go down there on my own when I’ve got some free time. I just love it, love running water. But I like loads of places; Bitterwell Lake, that’s where I started fishing on my own, going down in winter when it’s rock hard I just love that, it’s a challenge.
DH: As we’ve discussed, you’ve won all colours of team medals for England, you’ve been at the top with Dorking for a long time and won many big-money top matches individually, including our very own David Hall Trophy match…
DS: That was obviously the best…
DH: … so what ambitions do you have left?
DS: I don’t have ambitions, really. I just go along, I like fishing all sorts of different matches. Obviously like everybody I would like to win the big matches, like the Maver Match This. I walked the bank at a lot of the feeder matches this year doing some promotional work and that looks a really good competition, but I just enjoy doing what I do.
I just want to keep fishing for England as long as I can and just keep enjoying what I’m doing. I enjoy fishing matches whether they’re 100 pegs or 20 pegs. Any match to me is a match.
DH: Is that what drives you on to keep on match fishing, the feeling of winning?
DS: When you turn up at a match, no matter what match it is, or what venue, you’re under more pressure because of who you are, so to many of the others if they beat you that’s their day.
DH: You’re now the target.
DS: Of course. If you beat them it’s “well we knew that was going to happen,” but if they beat you that makes their day… and I try and stop that from happening.
DH: Are the big-money matches a pull for you? Do you think the money is a good thing?
DS: I think you’ve got to have it; it’s so obvious it works, it gets people out there fishing. For me personally I don’t chase them, never have done. If I didn’t fish for England and I didn’t have other commitments I would probably have more of a go at them.
But I’ve seen a lot of the bad things about some of the finals, I’m not going to mention which they are but I go to some venues and they cannot take the amount of people on it. And that’s the turn-off for me. They put in areas on lakes that are not capable of competing, and I know that can happen on all lakes on all venues, but they have to think about it. People travel a long way for them.
I remember one guy came up to me once and told me which peg he’d drawn, and I knew the venue very well and just told him he might as well go home.
He said: “What do you mean? I’ve travelled five hours to get here.” I said: “Listen, you’re not going to catch anything because they never put it in matches.” And I thought that isn’t right, and I wish they would just limit the pegs. I know they’re trying to collect a load of money but just limit the pegs so everyone has a day’s fishing and that competition will go on forever.
But I think it’s getting to a stage where people get peeved with it, and they don’t turn up, so someone gets a spare couple of pegs and ends up winning. It’s all gone a little bit funny and just needs sorting out.
DH: Do you still go in for it?
DS: No, not really. Very rare. I’m not the sort of bloke who does his diary at the start of the year and says I’m going to do this and do that, I normally just run along and get in a right mess with it. I don’t know what’s going on – I’m sort of a two-week person, a fortnight in front not a year ahead. And obviously there are England commitments, and I’m committed to stuff with Preston, and I’m quite reluctant to go into things full-on when I have other commitments.
DH: Does it ever stop being enjoyable and become just another job?
DS: It hasn’t for me, not yet. No. I’m doing my hobby as my job – it doesn’t get better than that, does it? The thing with me is I’ve worked for 20-odd years of my life, and I look back on clocking in and clocking out, with a set of rules you have to abide by, and that’s when you think: “I’m actually very lucky. Extremely lucky.”
DH: Finally, if you only had one day left to go fishing, where would you go, what would you like to catch and who would you like to beat off the next peg?
DS: (Laughs) Erm, I’d like to just catch a great big net of quality roach on the river, and I’d give Will Raison a bit of a tanning – I catch 40lb of big dog roach and he catches 3lb!
DH: Des Shipp, thank you very much, it’s been a pleasure listening to you.
Words and pics: Steve Haywood
River master Joe Oakes visits the River Soar to demonstrate how to put together a match-winning weight of perch.
Perch are abundant in natural venues and regularly take part in the weighing-in ceremony, sometimes in the starring role or maybe a bit part in a well-rehearsed silvers’ onslaught, but on some days they can be the saviour of a very difficult day.
But how much attention do we give the perch? The role they play is definitely forced by the matchman’s hand and it’s the specifics of the venue and a careful nod to the conditions that will determine their appearance.
Today we are on the River Soar in Leicestershire and here the perch will always figure to some extent in match weights, and Middy’s Joe Oakes is certainly a fan. Over to Joe…
I’m sat on a probably not-so-typical Soar peg today in respect of its geography above the water; it’s wide to my right and there are boats in front, but under the water I think the quarry will be very similar to that in many pegs along this river. For this session I am going to solely target the perchy residents that from experience I know are in here.
It is unlikely that this sort of blinkered tactic would be a stand-alone match plan, but by doing this today it will give me the opportunity to pull apart the tactics and apply some logic and hopefully get a better understanding of this popular species.
I’ve got plenty of water to go at today but a good initial hunt around with the plummet reveals the options may not be as plentiful as at first seemed. We have had a few frosts to date but temperatures haven’t really plummeted for any length of time and this means there is still weed present on the bottom of the river, so the mission is on to find some clear, weed-free areas.
For me these clear areas are important in all respects when presenting a bait, even a great big worm, and if you can do this on a clean river bed you will get more bites. As I bounce the plummet around I can feel the soft impact revealing the weedy areas, and after a good search around I’ve got three main areas to target. The water is clear as there hasn’t been any rain for a while and the other effect of this lack of rain is the absence of any real pull on the water, so this will make fishing and feeding in the chosen areas much easier.
My lines are at 14 metres in front of me over to the boats, 14 metres to my left in the deep water and 11 metres to my right, and with an occasional drop in on a 5m line that’s got most of the swim covered. Then it’s just a case of rotating around these areas and getting a feel for what’s on offer.
With the short 5m line, if I’m catching on the others I won’t touch this until the last half an hour, when this line is renowned for throwing up some bigger fish. I think this is always more likely if it’s not been fished throughout the day. In normal match conditions it’s unlikely you will adopt an approach like this in its entirety, at the expense of other species, but certainly a couple of viable perch areas need to be identified depending on the venue, conditions and form.
Baitwise its obviously worms, with a few worms, and of course some more worms just in case! These will be in the form of both lobworms and dendrabaenas, and I will have some casters to add to my loose feed as well. For my hook baits it’s normally a section of dendrabaena as this will catch me not only the bigger specimens but hopefully keep a steady stream of smaller perch coming as well. The option to go bigger with the lobworm is there and I normally leave this until later in the session when I’ve got a better idea of the sort of stamp of fish that are about.
With the worms I am a fan of giving the worm a nice clean cut with scissors to get my section and then hooking them like a maggot, as this is neater and leaves the hook showing nicely. Feedwise I will start each line with a pot of chopped worms, mainly lobworms with a few dendrabaenas and casters, and the reason for the pot as opposed to a baitdropper is mainly down to the lack of flow here today. The water is also quite shallow at about five feet, so no need for a baitdropper to deliver the worms to the riverbed as you would with more flow to stop them littering all over the swim.
The routine is simple: pot and fish. As a line starts to fade, pot a second line to get some interest before you switch and you are aiming to rotate between these lines. Once I think a line is fading I will make that switch rather than re-feed that line, and this gives it time to settle without forcing, as a forced line can often be counterproductive. You need to strike a nice balance with this feeding; just enough to keep catching and not too much so as to completely destroy an area.
This sort of regime is very specific to each peg you fish and every day is different, and experience does play its part, especially in knowing when to switch. That’s the simple bit really and I think other factors play their part as well, namely things like air pressures and light levels are the prominent ones.
Perch fishing, as with all species I suppose, can be a very moody affair; just as bream feed better with colour in the water the perch will favour the light conditions and with the water being clear and moderately shallow the light penetration dictates mood, and this has been very obvious today. On more than one occasion as some cloud cover moved over a succession of small perch were finding the net, and this happens too frequently to ignore so for me it’s a big consideration.
With regards to my rigs for perch it’s very basic and I think that’s all it needs to be, the only consideration being to nail the bait down. Here a 1g float shotted with an olivette and a couple of droppers is fine, and also a reasonably big float helps when lifting and dropping the bait. Giving the worm some movement will often arouse the fishes’ predatory instinct and promote a bite when the swim appears to be empty, and today a good number of fish have fallen to this tactic.
Likewise for hooks and lines, there’s no real need for stealth so Middy Lo-Viz 0.16mm to a 0.14mm hooklength and a size 16 hook is fine, and this gives a bit of a cushion if a bigger fish turns up.
I’ve had a good, productive day and ended up with double figures of perch; no specimens however, but on the matches here these would be very welcome and it’s highlighted a few things along the way, mainly to stay busy moving around your lines and pay an unusual amount of attention to the light levels.
Today’s session is pertinent in respect of the matches on here at the moment, and when you look at this net of perch it would nearly always be well up in sections so you have to pose the question: is this a viable method for a full match?
Also, when I factor in some of the frustrations on clear rivers in respect of pike activity, and the problems they are causing when I’m fishing for silver fish, this perch approach starts to make even more sense. I think you have to give reasoned consideration in a match when deciding when to have a go for perch – that is if you can fit it in with all the other considerations needed to get the most from a peg – but it is all in the timing. A switch in tactics at the right time will always trump a move at the wrong time anyway.
Rob Wootton discusses the lessons learnt from a tremendous week in Ireland.
I’ve just returned from another really enjoyable trip to Ireland; this time my destination was Inniscara lake down in the south of the country and the competition was the annual FeederFest, sponsored by ale giant Guinness.
As the name suggests this event is a feeder-only affair and given the lake’s vast stocks of roach and skimmers, fishing at short range is normally the name of the game. Last year’s event saw me finish in fifth place, not bad considering 100 top feeder anglers were in attendance, but even so I was still keen to improve on this result.
The week started off a little disjointed as our Saturday ferry was cancelled due to bad weather, meaning that we had to travel a day earlier than expected on Friday. This wouldn’t normally cause an issue but I was due to land back in the UK from a family holiday late on Thursday night. The initial plan was to use Friday as a prep day but that was out of the window, and I’d have to just chuck all the gear in the van and sort it out on the other side of the Irish Sea.
Anyone who has fished any of the big festivals in Ireland will know just how well run the events are: food is organised, there are signposts to each venue and bait deliveries during the week just help take a weight off the anglers’ shoulders during the week. I’ve got to say the bait is always top-notch too.
My week went brilliantly on all but the last day; I had some really favourable draws and earlier on in the festival I managed to avoid some really tough areas, something you need to do in a weight-based festival. Things ticked along nicely with me adding sizeable chunks to my total each day, and after day four I was leading the festival by a couple of kilos. Then it happened… my run of good draws ended with a final day on the dreaded Pump House section, a bottomless area that threw a spanner in the works for quite a few people during the week. My return of just over a kilo meant I crept over the line and finished in fifth place again!
Much of the fishing during the week revolved around catching numbers of small fish short, so I’ve brought editor Smokey Joe out to Naseby for a bit of a recap of the tactics I and many others used during the week.
Catching lots of small fish should always be done at the shortest distance possible; during the week in Ireland much of the fishing was carried out at distances of around 20 metres. Obviously, the shorter distance means that everything happens quicker – fish are retrieved quicker, the feeder sinks quicker and you are also more likely to be more active and not become lazy when you’re fishing at such close quarters. Just picking a line and fishing it without thinking isn’t the way to go though, as so many factors come into where you choose to fish, and just like many natural venues Inniscara needed some careful thinking.
The Right Line
Finding the right depth is vitally important and fishing in water that is just a couple of feet too deep or too shallow can see your results really suffer. Something to bear in mind is that skimmers and bream tend to prefer deeper water while roach want to feed a little bit shallower; if you can find a depth in between where both species are happy to feed then that’s when you’re on to a winner.
Holding the rod can be important for roach
I reckon that a 1oz square bomb sinks at roughly two feet per second at these short distances, so by having a cast around at the start of the session and getting a feel for the swim I can try and find that ideal depth where both species feel happy.
It’s a tricky thing to master though, as in my experience the bream like water of 20 feet or more while the roach often feed happily in just four feet! Every week we fish Inniscarra the magic depth changes, but trying to find a depth somewhere in between these two points is essential and will give you the chance to catch both species.
Small-fish work on the feeder is very rewarding. Take time to plumb the swim with a 1oz lead.
The other critical factor that comes into swim placement, especially on shallow venues or when the pegging is tight, is where your neighbours are fishing. I always want my own line and if that means that I have to go a couple of metres further than those around me then I will. On the other hand, if I feel that it’d be better to come closer than those around then I don’t mind doing that either; a line at 15 metres can often outfish one at 20 metres, especially if it’s the correct depth.
I’ve already mentioned that the quality of the bait is fantastic when you’re over in Ireland and to every peg you need to take casters, worms, hemp and red maggots to complement your groundbait. There are no hard-and-fast rules for what to put through the feeder, as each day and venue is different; for instance, some days you might need to cram as many casters in the feeder as possible whereas on others you might not feed a single caster.
I like to be prepared though, so I take plenty of bait to my peg and if needed it’ll get fed. My groundbait mix for this sort of fishing hasn’t changed much for several years: brown crumb, Dynamite Bream Original and Match Black Frenzied Hemp to help darken the mix works really well and can be mixed to different consistencies, which again can help on days when you need to change things around regularly.
Mixing the groundbait to a wet consistency can work very well for roach. The wet mix and its extra cloud can really pull fish into the swim. Always have a spare bowl on your side tray so that you can try tweaking a small handful of mix. This way you don’t ruin the whole mix.
Short, responsive rods are the name of the game and 11-footers are most people’s choices, mine too. The tips need to be nice and fine to show up the bites, and to help bite detection even more I use braid direct from the reel to the feeder. To catch big weights of small fish you need everything as direct as possible and a light tip and braid direct combo means that you see the bites as quickly as possible.
By using heavy feeders I can cast in and quickly tighten up to the feeder and see bites as soon as the feeder settles. A long mono shockleader is great when targeting larger fish but for these fast-biting roach you need to be seeing every little flicker on the tip.
The rig I use is also very simple; the last thing you want in a speed race is a load of tangles so my standard running rig is all that I use, and coupled with a robust hooklength of 0.17mm there’s very rarely a problem with any tangles. A Tubertini Series 18 or a B512 in a size 12 completes my setup.
A standard Nisa Cage works well and I carry these in all sizes and weights, with the small 28g feeder getting more use than the others. Cage feeders work brilliantly even in deep water and the small plume of bait that exits the cage as it sinks definitely helps draw fish into the peg. This is always my starting feeder but more and more often I’m finding myself chucking window feeders.
These feeders are far more versatile than I first realised and while they are great for getting loads of particles into the swim they are also very useful when you’d like to cut back on the feed and feed neat groundbait. Window feeders cast like a dart and also sink a bit quicker, so the whole fishing process is speeded up. I find myself using the two smallest sizes of Dennett Rapid Feeders and by swapping to a cage whenever you feel the peg needs a boost you can really get the most out of your swim.
Interestingly I rarely fed a volume of bait at the beginning of the session. I find in Ireland it’s often better to just fish from the start rather than filling it in at the start.
Rob's Irish Mix
1. One part Frenzeid Hemp. Match Black
2. One part brown crumb
3. Mix it on the dry side to start with
4. The dark andcrumb is perfect for Ireland
If you would like to find out more about fishing in Ireland visit Ireland Travel Plus
Or call Helen Rainsford on 07711607200
Is there a better feeling than sitting by a large natural water early on a summer’s morning, as you wait for the tip to pull round with yet another bream? Unfortunately, this idyllic scenario doesn’t last all year…
As winter begins to roll in, the water cools and the fishing becomes more difficult. This doesn’t have to mean the end to the bream fishing, though. If you follow Shaun Little’s advice you can enjoy year-round success on the feeder…
It’s no secret that feeder fishing is becoming hugely popular in the UK and Europe and it seems that more people are now looking at it as a year-round option for their fishing rather than just something to do in the warmer months. The problem is that on large expanses of water, like Kingsbury Water Park where we are today, the fishing can become difficult as the water cools – 100lb bags are rare and it soon becomes apparent that it’s the anglers who work hard that get the results.
Pick Your Swim
Deciding where to fish in winter can make or break your session; obviously every venue is different so it’s hard to give a “one distance works for all” piece of advice. What I would say though, is stick to the distances that worked in the summer as the fish are used to feeding at these ranges.
On most venues in summer you’ll feed a couple of swims, one at a reasonable distance and a closer swim. I’ve found that in winter it’s rare for this closer swim to produce and I prefer to stick to my distance swim. I like to really work one swim rather than try to split my time and effort between two. I know some people won’t agree with this theory but when bites are few and far between I don’t like to come off a swim and risk missing a feeding fish turning up.
This would be different if I was targeting a venue with a good head of small fish like roach, but to keep things simple today I’m sticking to my approach when targeting decent skimmers and bream.
Fish like this make the hard work worth it.
Today I’m fishing at around 45 metres and I’ve set up one of the new 3.6m Matrix Horizon XC Class rods. This is designed for casting feeders up to 60g, which will be plenty for today – even if the wind gets up I’ll have no problem hitting the spot with this rod.
I’ve an Aquos 5000 reel loaded with braid, which helps you to spot the tiny skimmer bites in winter, but it is really important to fish with a shockleader – 8lb mono in my case – especially when fishing lighter hooks and hooklengths in cool water as it helps to reduce breakages.
On the line I’ve got a 30g medium cage feeder and this is fixed in place with a float stop either side, and below this I have a twisted loop and a quick-change swivel. The important part though, is the hooklength.
This is 0.12mm Power Micron to a size 18 SW feeder hook and the key point is the length. As a minimum in cool water I’ll use a 1m hooklength. This gives the bait a slow fall as I’m convinced a lot of the fish watch the bait fall through the water and the more natural the fall the more bites you’ll get. The other reason a long hooklength is important is down to the way I feed my swim, which I will cover next.
Shaun used the 3.6m Horizon XC Class rod to hit the 45m swim!
Change The Way You Feed
Your feeding needs to reflect the weights you expect to catch – putting in 1kg of worm and three pints of casters for a 10lb return doesn’t really add up. You can’t approach every session wanting to catch 100lb of bream, so as the water cools you really need to cut down the feed in the peg.
I’m covering the time between summer and the deepest depths of winter and if it’s freezing then you’d feed tiny amounts, possibly in a three-hole cage feeder, but in this transitional period you can still feed some bait… but groundbait.
The particles on the outside will be released on impact with the water creating a large feed area.
As I mentioned I still use a medium size feeder that actually holds a fair amount of groundbait. The mix I’m using is 80 per cent Bait-Tech Special ‘G’ and 20 per cent Karma, and this is mixed on the dry side as I want it to explode out the feeder very quickly in the shallow water and spread over a bigger area. Fishing in this way can be brilliant when used in conjunction with a long hooklength as the fish get used to seeing bait falling through the water.
One thing I must point out is how I load my loose offerings into my feeder. The conventional way is to load any loose particles into the feeder and then plug either end so the ‘feed’ is right in the centre and gets down to the bottom. As I’m looking to create a larger feed area and I want to encourage the fish to feed away from the feeder, which may spook them, I ensure that my loose offerings are just part of the plug at the end of the feeder. Loading it in this way results in the bait – a few maggots and casters in my case today – coming out on impact and fluttering down to the bottom.
Have A Little Patience
The session I’ve had today is the perfect example of how important it is to have patience and belief in your tactics. I’ve started the session casting every five minutes for the first half-hour to slowly build up the swim and then I increased it to 10-minute casts. I don’t think you need to keep bait going in all the time if you’re not getting bites, as it’s usually a sign there aren’t actually any fish there.
If I start getting bites then I’ll go back to five-minute casts and keep the bait falling through the water.
It takes an hour and 20 minutes to get my first bite, and it’s a lovely skimmer of just over 1lb. It was actually a switch to a bigger bait that rewarded me with the bite. Switching from double red maggot to two worms and a maggot saw the tip pull round just a minute after casting in. This again emphasises the point that the fish see the bait falling through the water, as the bite must have come just as the bait settled.
Now I feel there is a fish or two about I try to cast every five minutes and in the next hour I catch a further five skimmers, with the biggest over 2lb. Bites then tail right off and I feel like I’ve had my golden hour, something that will often happen at this time of year, where the fish will feed for a while before switching off or moving. This is why I feel it’s important to concentrate on just one swim as it can be too easy to miss your chance.
For the rest of the session it’s a case of really working to try to get a bite; I regularly switch hook baits and even fine down my hook size and try a single maggot but eventually I step back up to a bigger hook and bait and I’m rewarded with two more fish in a quick burst.
My last fish comes right at the end of the session when I had five quick casts five metres past where my swim was. I don’t like to do this too early in the session as it can be detrimental to the fishing, but it can be worth an extra fish or two at the end of a match.
I’ve finished the session with nine fish for around 16lb, which would be a really good weight for this time of year. I’ve kept my tactics simple and made a real effort not to feed too much bait, and this in conjunction with the long hooklength has really worked well today.
Despite the weather turning and fishing becoming increasingly difficult it’s well worth sticking with the feeder, and if you can follow some of my advice the rewards are there to be had, and the end result can be even more satisfying when the hard work pays off.
Hard earned but very satisfying.