Fooling large, wary carp on wild waters might be a tall order, but Tom Pickering's advice will help you bank a winter monster.
Big-water carp trap!
“I love taking on big waters” says Tommy, as he pours a drop of Yorkshire tea from his flask. “It really does feel like ‘man against nature’ - and you know you need to get everything right to catch.”
About five minutes later, the tip pulls around, and the former World Champion and England Feeder Team Manager leans into something substantial. You can see the big, slow pulls on the rod, that mean whatever’s on the end, it’s going to be large.
We notice some huge head nods, and the long, powerful movement of a big fish, before Tommy rises to his feet, so as to give himself the maximum ability to exert the pressure.
“You have to be on your guard with big fish,” says Tommy. “Sometimes, they give the impression that they are coming in easy, before going mad under the rod end - and if you are not prepared - they can break you.”
No such luck for this 15lb common - although it does try a couple of big head shakes before netting, it is soon nesting in the Tommy’s net. The smile says it all.
A beast of a carp, and this size of fish is becoming more common on commercial venues.
We join Tommy at the 65-acre Boddington Reservoir not too far from Banbury, in Oxfordshire. Not only a two hour plus run from Tommy’s Doncaster home; he’s also walked for a good fifteen minutes along the bankside to get to the spot where he’s decided to fish.
“Fish location is everything in winter. The fish shoal up tighter and denser than in summer, so you need to find them, and make sure you sit somewhere where you have a chance of getting a bite. The good news is, once you have worked out where they go in colder weather, they rarely move - so you will soon have a few regular hot spots, where you can head for a few bites in winter.”
I was given a helping hand today by looking at recent match results. I could see this area performed very well. This was confirmed too when I arrived at the peg. I could actually see fish moving, which gave me added confidence that I stood a good chance of getting a few bites here today.
Unsurprisingly, all the fish look to be well out in the lake today. With the water temperature well down, the colour drops right out of the water, and so the fish naturally hang further from the bank, especially in daylight hours. So we have to cast to the fish, and I will cover how I do this now.
Go Big Or Go Home!
Big, strong gear is a must when it comes to this kind of work. For one, it gives you the ability to cast as far as you need to, but it also means you can have confidence that you will land what you hook. In terms of rod choice, it’s a 13ft heavy feeder rod. This is matched to a 5,000 size reel, loaded with 5lb line (0.17mm). On the end of this, I have 26 ft shockleader of 10lb (0.26mm) line.
So what is a shockleader? Basically it’s designed to bear the force of the cast and give you confidence while playing fish under the rod end - but still allow you to use a light mainline. Why a light mainline? Because it allows you to cast further. Heavy mainlines are thicker, which means they have a greater surface area and this causes increased resistance on the cast. Plus, when you are fishing, having this greater surface area in the water means you pick up more wind and tow, leading to a bow in the line and sometimes meaning you need a heavier feeder.
So this shockleader set up is a massive advantage. It gives you all the positives of a heavy line on the cast and when playing fish at close quarters, where you need it most, and all the advantages of a lighter line in terms of casting distance and lower resistance in the water.
One other crucial tip here - it is vital that the line is loaded to just below the rim of the reel. This means that it comes off easily on the cast, helping you to achieve maximum possible distance.
"The most important thing to get right for this style of fishing is the baiting and loading of the feeder"
The Right Feeder
I love the Guru Hybrid feeders - and think they are as close as you can get to a perfect commercially available feeder. But they are still not right, and I have to carry out a little alteration myself to get them just how you like it. As supplied, these have open holes in the bottom. I don’t like this, as I believe that as the feeder falls through the water the pressure through these small holes pushes the bait off. So to combat this, I fill up these holes with glue. I simply use a glue gun to do this, so that no water can push up through the holes and push the bait off the feeder.
I know a lot of people favour elasticated feeders for this kind of work, but for me a simple inline feeder does the job fine. I have this free running on the line, going down to a quick change bead.
In terms of hooklength, it’s a four inch length of 0.19mm Reflo Power, running down to a size 14 Preston PR27 hook.
How to load a hybrid feeder
1. Using glue to block feeder holes will stop water pushing off pellets, says Tommy
2. Generously fill the feeder with the micro mix and gently squeeze level with sides
3. Hair rig a couple of the 7mm Neeonz hookbait
4. Place hookbait on top, add a few more micros and squeeze so it holds on the cast
Loaded For Action
The single most important thing to get right when it comes to this style of fishing is the baiting and loading of the feeder. This starts with the hook bait, and for me the Fjuka Neeonz have been standout over the last couple of years. I think there are two key characteristics that set them apart - firstly the hyper-fluorescent colour. If you chuck your feeder in the edge and have a look at it as it breaks down you will see just how much these stand out. I’m sure this plays a key part in pulling inquisitive fish down to the bottom to investigate.
Secondly, its texture. These are super soft, and in water they actually start to break down. The plus point of this is when a carp sucks them in, it tends to actually eat them, as oppose to a harder offering which is easier to spit out.
Although the Neeonz are often directly hooked, as you might do with an expander pellet, I like to mount mine on hair rig for this sort of fishing. Why? Because it leaves the maximum amount of hook and point exposed, so when a fish sucks the bait in, it is hooked.
In terms of what I put around the feeder, I like a Coppins micro pellet. These are easily prepared by soaking. I do this just until the water in the tub starts to discolour, and then I drain off the excess and let the pellets stand to swell. What you are after is a soft pellet with a hard core, so the pellets can be compacted around the feeder, but when they are in the water they will swell up and push off to form an attractant rich pile of bait.
Speaking of attraction - I boost my Coppins by adding a sprinkling of Fjuka micros in white, red and yellow. These add a nice essence of Sensei ™ attractant to the pellets, and also a fleck of colour, to make my trap seem all the more appealing when sat on the bottom.
It is important that you really take your time when loading your feeder, so your trap works as effectively as it possibly can when you’re in the reservoir.
First, I take a handful of my micros mix, and press it firmly onto the feeder. The idea is, that after a firm squeeze, the bait is level with the rim. Next, I add my hookbait, so the hook is pointing down, and the Neeonz hookbait is lying on top of the feeder. Finally, I add another couple of sprinklings of micros, and softly squeeze these into position so that the hookbait is covered, but not damaged. The end product should be streamlined, so it flies through the air, and then sinks, as aerodynamically as possible.
"It is vital that the line is loaded to just below the rim of the reel. This means that it comes off easily on the cast, helping you to achieve the maximum possible distance."
Go The Distance…
As I mentioned, the fish can clearly be seen today between 50 and 70m from the bank. My first move is to have a quick cast around with a bomb, to check that there are no snags present, and also set my line clip. Today, this is at 60m to start with. I always like to start slightly shorter, to give myself the option of following fish out if they back off.
With the right tackle and technique, achieving distances of 60m or more should be easy. If you see the panel below, there is a link to a YouTube video that I made where I demonstrate my technique, and it really is easier to watch how it is is done, than have it explained to you.
In short though, the key is to use your right hand to bring the rod over your head, then look bang at your target as you face it. So your right hand gives you the direction. Then, your left hand is used to give the power. So you bring this in to play once you are lined up with your target. Pull down hard on the butt of the rod, creating a lever effect with your right hand and firing your feeder out towards its target.
What is really important is how you hit the clip. This defines how your feeder enters the water, and one of my trademark feeder fishing tips is that you want your feeder to ‘plop’ not ‘splash.’ A ‘plop’ means your feeder has hit the water weight down, and your bait is in tact, and you can begin the second part of the process…. The waiting game.
"Neeonz are an incredibly visual hookbait."
"Using different coloured micros makes the trap more appealing."
Don’t Move The Feeder!
With your feeder in place on the bottom, you need to put it in your rest, and gently take in any slack line so there is a slight amount of tension in your tip. This is a gradual process, and great care must be taken not to move the feeder, which might cause bait to fall off, and mess up your carefully laid trap.
It’s then a case of sitting and waiting for a bite…
On today’s session, I have had a great time as I was in to fish from the start. I always like to make my first cast count, as on really tough days this is one of the most likely times for a bite to materialise. My plan was to leave it for 30 minutes if necessary, but fortunately after just twenty minutes the tip pulled round and I was in! It was a good fish too, 15lb of prime Boddingtons common.
I cast back to the same spot, and my next fish came after fifteen minutes. This was a smaller 8lb sample.
All the time, I was building information about how the fish were feeding, so when after 25 minutes on my third cast no bits had materialised, I was happy to wind in and cast in a slightly different position, as I knew that generally bites were coming between 15 and 20 minutes after casting.
Sure enough, my third fish, a mirror of about 13lb came 18 minutes after casting slightly to the right of my original spot.
Tommys tackle :
Rod 13ft heavy feeder rod
Reddl 5000 size
Mainline 5lb. 0.17mm
Shockleader 10lb. 0.26mm mono 26ft
Feeder Guru Hybrid
Hooklink Preston innovations Reflo Power 0.19mm
Hool Preston Innovation PR27 Size 14
The Big One!
The session had one final surprise in store for me. With five good fish in the bag, I had a quiet hour, so I decided to take off my clip and chuck ten metres past my original line. This time, I decided to wait a while longer, as we had some close up shots to get. Forty minutes into the cast, and the tip lurched round - something big was hooked!
When it finally came to the top, it looked MASSIVE! A big, muscular mirror. Sure enough, the scales pulled around to 23lb making it a new PB for me!
What a way to end the session! It just goes to prove that although winter might not be the easiest time to go fishing, the rewards are there if you chase them. Hopefully a few of these cold water feeder fishing tips will help you bank a special fish too.