I was busy on Wednesday and couldn’t make the White Acres mid week match, by Sunday I was chomping at
Pellets are probably the cheapest and most widely available bait of them all. It will be difficult to cover every aspect of pellet fishing in detail within one article, so what I will try and do is talk through the basics of a few different ways of fishing the pellet with a view to returning to a few of them in more detail at a later date.
I find the term ‘natural bait’ a strange one, as to the majority of fish in Britain’s commercial fisheries pellets will be the most natural bait of all, as these are what they are reared on from birth in the fish farms. A lot of people look at a worm or a maggot and assume that this looks natural to a fish, when in actual fact a pellet may seem far more familiar.
For this reason, there are very few times in the calendar year when pellets won’t work, with anglers who think that they are just a summer bait often losing out. Indeed, at venues such as Tunnel Barn Farm and Garbolino Lindholme Lakes, anglers catch on pellets even in the depths of winter. Being successful with the pellet is largely about confidence, and having the faith to fish with them when other anglers fish far more negative baits.
I can remember Nick Speed winning his section in a Winter League at Hallcroft with 15lb of skimmers on the pellet on a day when the majority of anglers resorted to fishing bloodworm for small roach!
Of course, as an angler you have to adapt your feeding and presentation to suit the quantity and type of fish you are looking to catch. As I mentioned last month, it is best to avoid the ‘one size fits all’ mentality when it comes to rigs, there is no such thing as a dedicated pellet rig, don’t be afraid to adapt you rig to suit the circumstances and the type of fish you are looking to catch.
This is probably the most common way in which pellet is fished, and one of the easiest for beginners to master. If you look on the shelves of your local tackle shop you will see a vast array of pellets of different colours, shapes and sizes. In all honesty these are more to catch anglers than fish, and are no better in my opinion than pellets that you can buy in the bag and soak yourself.
Van Den Eydne RS Elite Expander pellets are a good place to start, with 4mm being a nice size for all round commercial carp fishing. You really can’t go wrong preparing these pellets for the hook, soak them in water for around an hour and they swell up to a perfect size. You can leave them in water once they have swollen, and it is often best to do this especially on a warm day.
When prepared in this way the pellets will float, but the weight of your hook will make them sink and they will fall appetizingly through the water.
Personally, I don’t use expander pellets as feed pellets, but should you want to do this use a pellet pump to make the expanders sink, or let them swell up as as above and then squeeze the air out of them by hand. The times that you can do this are limited in the modern climate however, as the vast majority of commercial fisheries make you use there feed pellets.
The best way to prepare these for feeding is simply to soak them for a while on the bank side. I know a while may sound like a vague term, but it really does depend on the kind of pellets that the fishery is supplying. What you are looking for is a soft pellet which remain single and don’t cling together. A good way of keeping them separate is dusting them with a fishmeal groundbait such as Ringers after they have been soaked, and this can also help create a fish attracting cloud as they drop through the water.
The thing to bear in mind when rigging up to fish with soft pellets is that it is a delicate bait, and therefore your rigs need to be as sensitive as possible. The best way to achieve this is to present your bait as close to dead depth as conditions allow, and have shot as close to your hook as you can. This is why methods such as the ‘hook in the loop’ are so successful, as they provide maximum sensitivity.
I an ideal world, you would present your pellet just touching bottom with a bulk around six inches from your hook with no droppers, as then bites will be really positive. Unfortunately fish won’t always have bait presented as crudely as this however and you often have to compromise sensitivity in order to achieve better presentation and get bites, so as with worm fishing a bulk with two droppers is often a good place to start. Again, I would recommend the use of Preston Stotz, as these allow you to adjust your shotting very easily by simply sliding them about on the line.
This winter I started traveling with fellow Star contributor Matt Godfrey, who is awesome at all types of fishing, and we attended quite a few matches at Kiveton Waters, where pellet is the predominant method. Matt taught me a trick that has proved invaluable to all my fishing, but in particular pellet fishing. It’s to do with how you lower your rig in.
As I say, pellet is a sensitive bait, and where possible it helps if you can read your rig from the moment your pellet touches the water. What Matt showed me (which like all the best ideas in angling seems obvious when you think about it) is to lower your rig to half way down in the water before letting your rig straighten out, i.e. let the droppers fall so the rig is as it would be on the bottom, then inch the rig through the last couple of feet of water. Sometimes the fish will just pull the elastic out before the rig even settles, and when they don’t bites normally come very quickly after the pellet has touched bottom.
An added bonus when fishing like this and feeding with a toss pot, is that it gives the pellets that you have fed through the pot the chance to settle on the bottom before your hook bait reaches them, reducing the occurance of line bites.
In terms of what floats and hooks to use, I would recommend Kamasan B911 as a good all round pellet hook, with Tubetini 808’s being a good model for winter work and Preston PR28’s being a suitable heavier gauge model. Preston Chianti’s are a good float for pellet work in depths to 5ft, though I would thread a rubber over the bristle instead of using the side eye to avoid the eye pulling out, and in deeper water KC Carpa Porths work well.
The best way to feed pellets is invariably little and often, feeding to your bites. Putting too much bait in when fishing with this bait is the most common mistake that anglers make, as they draw too many fish into their pegs and then proceed to fowl hook them and often spook what are there and lose them.
I would kick start a session on the pellet with a kinder pot full of bait, and wait for an indication, if none were forthcoming I would be reluctant to feed again in that area for at least half an hour. The best way of looking at pellet fishing is that you are trying to catch a fish, then after you have caught one try and catch another one, rather than trying to draw a load of fish into your peg in one go.
If all goes to plan and you go in and get a fish off your first tosspot full of feed I would feed the same amount again, and keep doing this until line bites become a problem, at which point stop cut back on your feed accordingly. A useful tip for feeding pellets when you are really bagging is to fill your pot up, ship out but don’t feed, see if you get a bite straight away, if you do and you hook a fish tap your pole and feed the pellets in the pot . this way, by the time you land the fish and go back out the fish will be nicely settled over the pellets you have just fed.
Another important thing to consider with pellet fishing is the way in which you strike or, to be more specific don’t strike. All you should do is gently lift your pole so your rig comes about a pole float length out of the water, if you don’t get a fish lower it back in, that way your pellet will never come off the hook, unless of course there is a fish on!
As I mentioned in my introduction to this piece there are lots of different ways of fishing pellet in the modern commercial climate, and the way in which hard pellets are often fished is very different to the softly softly approach described above which is required for soft pellets.
On southern match waters, most notably at White Acres, it is very rare to see any anglers fishing with expander pellets, except for silver fish, all carp fishing is done with big, hard pellets, with feeding done either by catapult or by hand.
These can either be attached to the hook by a hair rig, a band or by a lasso, which is effectively a hair rigged slip knot.
In terms of feeding, the emphasis again is on feeding to your bites, with firing a couple of pellets every few seconds being the most common way of doing it, with southerners often referring to this as ‘pinging’.
Rigs used for fishing pellets in this way on the pole generally involve just a bulk a couple of feet away from the hook, with rigs often being set to three or four depths to find where the fish are in the water, with the aim being to catch shallow eventually.
If you have a feature to present bait to, or even plenty of open water to go at, the bomb and pellet waggler really come into there own however, and most of the massive weights you see from southern baggin meccas are taken on one of these two methods.
The real beauty of both these methods is there simplicity, as long as you keep feeding if the fish are there you will catch them. That is not to say that there is no skill in fishing them, as the pellet waggler for example takes a lot of skill to master.
I was fortunate enough to be shown the basics of this method by Spro Sponsored angler Stewart Lister, and though I wouldn’t claim to be an expert there are a few tips that I can pass on that may well be useful to readers.
Firstly, in terms of waggler choice avoid loaded wagglers as these have a tendancy to dive and spook the fish. The best type to go for are the Styrene straight wagglers, they may lack the glossy professional look of some models but have a look at the floats that most top anglers use and you will see that nine times out of ten it is one of these.
Another tip that helps prevent your float from diving is to put the bulk of your shot above the float, with one locking shot underneath. Don’t worry about sinking your line, as the waggler is rarely in the water long enough for skim to become a problem.
As a basic rule of thumb though if you don’t get a bite within a minute cast in again and feed, and keep doing this until you get bites. It is not a method you can sit on and wait for it to go under, you should expect to catch fairly quickly on it, if you don’t go back on the straight lead.
As I mentioned in the early part of this article, selecting which pellets to use can at times seem a daunting task, as there are that many on the market all claiming to be responsible for hundreds of ton up bags.
Don’t be confused or daunted by the different sizes and colours, find a type you are confident with and stick with it. By the same token,, don’t be afraid to experiment, as you would be amazed at the difference a subtle change can make. As a general rule though, the old saying holds true: If it aint broke don’t fix it!