Teaching old dogs new tricks

I’ve known Michael for a number of years. When I was just starting out fishing open matches, he was one of the anglers to beat on my local Grand Union Canal along with his traveling partner Paul Abbott. Since moving away from canal fishing and focusing more on Irish festivals and feeder fishing, he has now made a name for himself as member of the Irish International Feeder Team and for being dangerous on any kind of naturally stocked venue! So, when he phoned me up and said he was heading to Boddington to try to up his carp feeder fishing game, I just had to join him to find out what on earth was going on! With him now attempting to master yet another branch of the sport, I was desperate to find out what he was going to do and how he was going to approach the seemingly impossible task of catching up with an already well versed class field.

But why?

Don’t get me wrong, Michael is not completely new to carp fishing. He used to do quite a bit in his younger years and also previously won the Match Fishing Knockout Cup; an event run over both naturals and commercials with a 2 day final on a commercial. It is something he has turned his back on in more recent years however and with a young family and a hectic full on summer of festivals and feeder fishing, I didn’t ever see him making a return. As it turned out, its these very reasons that ‘Bud’ has returned. Boddington requires very little in the way of preparation and its very cheap in terms of bait. After weeks of buying tonnes of worms and casters and preparing and setting up loads of gear, Bud was simply after a chilled out winter with just a few pellets and a couple of rods.

Time management and cost were also not his only incentives. Boddington is a very sociable venue in the winter. With only a 6 to 12 fish needed to win and long waits between bites, many angler set up their gear by the lake but spend most of the day sat up the bank behind them socialising and making tea and coffee! Apparently, bivvies’ have even been setup in the past and bacon rolls made on small gas stoves mid match!

Age is also a factor. The average age of anglers is also getting older and Bud predicts that in the future, more matches and big finals will be held on commercials due to good access, onsite toilets and comfortable pegs meaning even anglers with poorer health can still compete. Pre-empting this, Bud wants to make sure he keeps his hand in the commercial scene to make sure he doesn’t get left too far behind should things change in the future.

The final incentive is the cold. He obviously puts a lot of time and money into his fishing during the summer and reaps the rewards. With winter fishing being less predictable and often more peggy, the chances of a poor day are greater, but with the minimal kit and bait required its far less of a blow when it does happen… especially when you cant feel your hand!

Your own way

So with a big task in front of him, where was Bud going to start? Well, he already knows a fair bit about Boddingtons recent form as it has been featured in the angling press quite a bit and there are regular social media reports. This has given Michael a very good idea of what the fishing is like and what to expect, but he stressed the importance of finding your own way. By all means, listen to people and try to find out as much as you can about what they’re doing, but trying to copy them will always end in failure. Most successful anglers have worked out their own way of doing things that suits the way they fish. If you copy them, you will always do ok, but you won’t win very much as you’re never going to beat someone by fishing in a personal and tailored way invented by themselves! Michael had armed himself not only with all the popular documented baits and gear for Boddington, but his bag also contained a few surprises..


The first thing Bud wanted to get right was his feeder and pellets. The method feed is all about setting a small perfect trap on the bottom which means it needs to be loaded correctly. If the bait comes off on the cast or as it hits the water, the trap obviously isn’t going to end up correctly set. Squeeze the bait on too hard so it remains on as a tight ball on the bottom will also mean missed opportunities as fish cannot get at the bait. What Michael was looking for was a way of fixing his pellets on firm but not too hard. All this was done in his garage. He has tried several different types of pellets and soaked them in water for varying amounts of time and played around with the loading then dropped the feeder into a bucket of water to see how it breaks down. He felt sure that a very dry pellet would break down fast but found that it had to be squeezed on so hard that it didn’t break down at all! He found soaking his pellets for just a couple of minutes before draining and leaving overnight worked best for him. He wasn’t fully sure which type would be best though so brought both with him to try on the bank.

After playing around with how the feeder is loaded, Bud had settled upon a sort of two part process. His hookbait is laid into a mould then filled with pellets. The first layer of pellets is then squeezed on really hard so they almost become like a paste. This ensured they gripped the feeder well and wouldn’t come off. The bait can then be seen poking out from the pellets. After that, a second layer is added using the mould but is then squeezed on much softer as the pellets grip to the first layer of pellets better than they do the actual feeder. The result in water is the top layer softens and falls away within seconds exposing the hookbait. As the second layer softens, the hookbait then falls out of the feeder, so in under a minute, the feeder is fishing. The harder layer then slowly breaks down leaving a carpet of pellets over the feeder within 3 to 5 minutes. Interestingly, Bud had also tried loading the feeder without a mould but found it hard to get it loaded right. Sometimes it almost fell off in the water so wouldn’t have survived a cast whilst other times the feeder remained forever in the bucket as hard ball of pellets! The mould took all of the chance out of it and resulted in a perfectly loaded feeder every time.


With so many colours, sizes, buoyancy and flavours of boilie available, this was going to be a big task! Bud had loads with him. His aim was to keep trying them to try to work out a pattern. Was a certain size or colour better than another. This might not be the same every day, but if he was able to gain confidence in a certain bait, then this would be his starting gambit in matches. With so few fish to go at and casts of up to 20 minutes, there isn’t much time to play around with hookbaits in a match so if his opening offering works, he will stick to it! If he doesn’t catch, he can then start experimenting. Interestingly on the day, a Sonu yellow Pineapple Wafter seemed to be the most consistent. The trouble is, the more he caught on the yellow the more inclined he was to try it so in return the more he caught! At least he was gaining that all-important confidence though.


Bud also had some Sonu Lava Rocks and Lava liquid. With everyone casting out pellets and wafters, he wanted to try something different. Adding Lava rocks to his pellets as he loaded the feeder caught fish, but so did plain pellets so it was very difficult to know if they were making a difference or not. The Lava in a bottle had very noticeable results though and in particular the yellow sweetcorn one! Bud was just squeezing a blob onto his feeder and smearing it on with the nozel before casting. As his feeder hit the water, we could see the splash coming up yellow! We also watched what a Lava’d up feeder did in a bowl of water and we could see the sticky substance oozing off the feeder and creeping along the bottom. Bud tried several flavours but the sweetcorn one just kept producing fish. I had also been fishing on the next peg but due to trying to take notes and pictures for the feature, had neglected to keep casting my feeder. I’d caught 2 carp, but nothing like as many as Bud had. First cast I tried some of the sweetcorn Lava in resulted in 2 fish with 3 minutes of casting! Going back out with no lava did produce a fish after 8 minutes, but then bites tailed right off. First cast with Lava back on caught another fish though! The wild cards Going back to what Bud had said about finding his own way, he had two unusual things to try. The first was groundbait. Everyone fished pellets on the feeder and have done so for so long, groundbait could have become effective again without anyone realising it. Bud tried grounbait throughout the day, but it didn’t produce. After that, Bud produced a Pepperami. Feeling peckish, I was delighted but Bud ripped a chunck off, punched the middle out with a 6mm punch then hair rigged it! Back when he used to fish Drayton, Pepperami used to be a brilliant bait and used to out fish everything else by miles! Low and behold, first cast he caught a carp on it! The excitement was short lived however as it didn’t produce again, where the yellow wafters did. All the same, it was a big lesson into how experimentation and finding your own way can be so important. I couldn’t help but wonder how many little tricks Bud had stumbled upon with his other fishing that had helped make him so successful.

Going all the way

One other thing Bud was doing was adding distance to his casts from time to time. On a previous match he had fished at Boddington, he has spotted anglers unclipping and adding a few meters to their casts. Although Bud didn’t do this all the time as he was catching, he did keep adding distance every time bites slowed up. The effect wasn’t huge, but he was sure it was getting him more bites and thought doing this would be more important in a match situation when there are lots more people on the lake


There wasn’t any shortage of fish with around 15 carp with some nearing 20lb hitting the net. The day was certainly a great insight into how top anglers practice and the sort of mind set they have that has made them get so good. Even though Bud already had a lot of good information about Boddington it was great to see him trying things out and finding his own way. Some of what he was doing was just pure trial and error but other things were due to gut instinct. I suppose that’s what makes top anglers so good: natural ability combined with a desire to learn.