Friday, 11 April 2008

Balling in and Fishing Shallow at Monks Lake

I had a bad experience a few years back at my local Monks Lakes, I fished a match where I caught a fish cast for the duration of the match and got beaten both sides! The problem was the other guys were catching at exactly the same speed as me but my fish were a smaller average size, There seemed no way to sort out the bigger carp and F1s, I tried a selection of baits and it made little difference.

Like nearly everybody on the lake that day I was fishing around 6 meters at the bottom of the shelf, I’m not saying fishing this way doesn’t win matches at the lake, but you end up playing the fish lottery hoping to get amongst the higher average sized samples which I was not happy doing. I was looking for a method to tip the odds in my favour and sort out the bigger fish and while tackling up at a match on Monks Match Lake 1 I had a brainwave!

Monk lakes like many commercials are “fish soup”, they contain good numbers of F1s & carp that average around the 1-3lb mark with the odd bigger sample, the problem is the lakes also contain hoards of smaller silverfish that will swallow the biggest pellets or lump of paste. The idea I had was at the start to put in 4-6 large balls of active groundbait to draw in a huge amount of fish, then I figured I could lose feed 6mm pellet over the top to get the carp feeding shallow, while the groundbait kept the smaller tench, barbel & skimmers rooting around on the bottom. All this small fish activity should continually attract more carp in.

I adopted this tactic the next match and won easily from an un-fancied area and during the warmer months have been doing well ever since.

I will now run you through the tackle, rigs and elastic set up I use for this method.

Firstly pole rollers, I always use two even when fishing relatively short, I have a V roller directly behind me and Boss type double roller further back, keeping them level this will eliminates the need to use a tulip or pole sock, you need to get the positioning so that you can locate the first roller without looking behind you then it is possible to ship the pole back to the breaking down point without even thinking about it. I can’t stress enough how important the roller set up is and I see many anglers struggling with one roller and a tulip or pole sock, doing this is far too slow. At Monks and similar venues you are looking to catch 20-30 carp an hour putting up to 200lb in the net, so practice shipping the pole in and out till you get the roller positioning spot on and everything is smooth!

My elastic choice may surprise you; I use a doubled no8 Preston Slip, This will easily handle fish to 6lb and over if needed and you have greater control, no problems with yards of elastic out that you get with hollow or hydro. With a gentle lift into bites it is possible to ship the pole back smoothly and have the fish within netting range before it even realises it is hooked. Another advantage of using lighter solid elastic is that it take far less of a “pull” to get the elastic working compared with a hollow and because of the you will find carp are far less likely to bolt off when you lift into them.

The rig is very simple and I set up 2, they will have a NG XT Inline Dibber. One will be a 0.2g for fishing a short line between pole tip and float, not too short though and you will need to keep it at least 12 inches between the tip and float to allow you to slap the rig down on the water (more about this later). The other will be a 0.3g this will have a longer line so it can be swung out beyond the pole tip if the fish get a bit wary, this can also be used as a deeper rig, all shots will be under the float so the bait can fall slowly through the water. All of these will have a 0.20mm Fortex main line, 0.16-0.18mm Fortex trace with an size 14 eyed Drennan carp hook attached with a knotless knot and a hair rigged bait band. I like to hair rig the bait even on the pole as I find it results in very few missed bites particularly when it comes to F1s.

You can buy the floats and line I use from my shop

We now go on to the bait needed, I will carry with me plenty of 6mm Skrettings coarse pellets these sink nice and slow. A good alternative from your local tackle shop if you don’t want to buy in bulk is the Dynamite Coarse Pellet. This size is ideal as they can be thrown 11 meters or more by hand, although this takes practice, use a catty if you can’t!! The other advantage of 6mm is the extra noise they make compared to 4mm which the majority of anglers seem to use. Avoid any high oil pellet like halibuts as they sink far too fast for shallow fishing. I will also have a couple of pints of 6mm expanders cos they make a different sort of noise when hitting the water and you can control the speed they sink by altering the amount of air you pump out of them. I will also mix up some paste on the wet side but not too soft it will need to grip onto a pellet while shipping out. Now onto the groundbait for the initial feed. I have found any fishmeal type groundbait will do so just use one you have confidence in. I have been using ground pellet!

Remember this is an attacking method, shit or bust!

I will now describe how I fish a match using the method and take you through a days fishing I had recently at a midweek open downMonk Lakes.

As there is good colour and a chop on the water I decided it wasn’t necessary to go out too long and decided on a distance of 8 meters to ball in the groundbait, this was beyond the marginal shelf where the bottom flattened out. I’ve never found it necessary to go out any further than 11 meters.

At the start I throw in 5 balls laced with plenty or 6mm hard and expander pellets, you don’t need to put these all “down the same hole” spread them out a bit over about a square meter. Within 5 minutes the swim was like a Jacuzzi, with a large number of fish present. I will then feed 6-10 pellets every 10-15 seconds over the top to try to tempt the carp shallow, it is important to keep feeding frequently to draw fish in. This is why I prefer to feed by hand it is far quicker than using the catty and you can keep a constant stream of bait going in. I will do this for 15-20 minutes before fishing over the feed to allow the carp to gain confidence. You can just pick off a few smaller fish down the margins while priming the main swim but it is important to keep feeding the main line even when catching and netting fish.

When it is time to go out with the shallow rig I will use the lighter 0.2 float to start with. This will be baited with a 6mm hair rigged pellet set at 12 inches deep. I start at this depth because the frequency of feeding encourages the fish up high in the water. Hopefully there will be signs of fish but I never worry if there isn’t because the F1 carp will feed inches below the surface and you won’t see a swirl or ripple on the water. To start with I will ship out and hold the rig just out of the water, feed then immediately drop the rig in the middle of the pellets. This will often result in an instant bite. When I say bite don’t expect it to pull the float under hitting the elastic. You may get just a slight dip in the float or even lift. It is important to lift into every slight movement of the float. Never strikes just keep a tight line and just lift a few inches.

This is what happened and I lift into my first carp of the day, once hooked just wait a second to see where it is going not shipping the pole back and more often than not the fish will just sit there not even realising it is hook. I will now start to ship back the pole and at the same time feed the swim. Remember you should not need to look behind you if the roller position is right! Don’t forget to feed as it will be attracting more carp ready for when you ship out again. When the fish is within netting rang and I have broken the pole down to just the top kit I will then feed again. All you do now is continue the hold the pole tip low until the elastic retracts back then lift slowly and scoop the fish into the net. If the fish does bolt and you can’t net it first time just lower the pole again and repeat the process. Don’t let it turn into a tug of war or try to land fish with several sections in the air! While doing this don’t forget to keep feeding, about every 15 seconds. Fishing this way is hard work you will never be sitting there just holding the pole waiting for a bite.

Once you have a fish in the net you start again by feeding then dropping the rig on top. I had a good start fishing this way and had a run of several fish. You need to constantly work the rig. By this I mean wait for it to settle at full depth leave it for a few seconds then lift and drop in again. Think about what your feed is doing and try to simulate this with you rig. Too many people I see just go through the motions and don’t do this.

Inevitably bites will slow and you need to employ a few tricks to get them back again without altering your rig. A good tactic is to feed once and then repeatedly slap the rig on the water to make the noise of pellet going in but when the carp arrive they will only find yours. Pole tapping has the same effect and you can also try this. What I do is feed then slap the rig down on the water and if no bite comes tap 4-5 times in quick succession then drop the rig in again. A word of warning here, don’t stop feeding for too long or the fish will drift away. I have found at Monks the stocking levels are so high you have to keep some bait going in all the time to keep fish in your swim.

There are several other tactics to keep fish coming it the above fails and you can quite often read the swim and decide on the best one, but this will only come with experience and practice. Quite often the fish will back off and this is where the 0.4g rig comes into play. Having up to 4 foot between the float and pole tip can be useful if the fish back off a little or are spooking off the pole tip. You will be surprised the number of times a switch to this rig has produced a run of several fish particularly when it is calm. Keep a tight line to the float and still lift gently into bites, do not strike! The other rig I uses is the heavy float that is intended to be used with paste. Some days this can be devastating, you use the normal hair rigged 6mm pellet then wrap it in soft paste. This will then melt of the hook making an attractive trail in the water drawing fish to the hook bait. This can be a very good tactic early on in the session when the fish are a bit cagey.

I have not mentioned the depth fished yet and you can control the depth at what the fish are feeding by the frequency of the feed. Feeding little and very often keeps them high in the water. There is no need to go shallower than a foot deep either as you are always lifting the rig out to keep the pellet moving through the water. Having said that if you are not catching you can experiment and alter the depth a little to see if you start catching again. When you think about it fish will not be sitting at say 1ft deep waiting for a pellet to drop in front of them they will be moving up and down in the water, darting about grabbing pellets at all depths.

Now back to the days fishing. After the first hour when I picked up a dozen carp at around the 8 meter mark things started to slow. Employing all the tactics that I mentioned I managed to catch consistently for the majority of the match having a very good last hour adding another section to the pole going out to 9 meters putting over 35 carp in the net. I ended the match winning with well over 100 carp putting 170lb 1oz in the net from peg 48. On the day 157lb was second and third 137lb from flyer peg 45.

Don’t forget these tactics will work on any lake with a high stocking level. So what are you waiting for get out and catch some fish!!!