There will be 5 instalments in this series. This instalment, number 3 in the series, focuses on bait. The next one will concentrate on alternative approaches to the SM Silvers Festival that we think may have merit, and the last instalment will focus upon you, and specifically upon how best to evolve your own winning approach.
This blog on bait is unquestionably the hardest to write. This is because this area ultimately depends a lot on instinct, guesswork, personal preferences, or what you might call ‘watercraft’. Nevertheless, I will try to distil out the key principles that underpin our bait decisions.
Most of the time How much bait? is a much more important question that Which Bait? Get this wrong and your match can be over within the first 15 minutes. Below are the factors that should decide how much feed you plan to use in a match.
|< ———— Feed ———— >||More|
|Cold||< ————- Temperature ——— >||Mild|
|Cloudless||< ————– Brightness ———– >||Overcast, grey|
|Dead calm, glass surface||< —————- Wind ————– >||Blustery, ripple|
|Clear, can see bottom||< ————- Water Clarity ——– >||Coloured|
The above table is a slight over-simplification, but serves as a useful rule of thumb. If you want the extra detail, here it is: the temperature that is actually the most important is the water temperature and not the air temperature – these two correlate but are obviously not the same. Wind is generally a good thing, but East winds are the least helpful (“The fish bite least when the wind is in the East”). And another reason is the recent stability of the weather ie. a cold-snap the night before is usually a bad thing, but after a few days of sustained cold the fish can acclimatize and bites can pick up. Ultimately it’s as much art as science, but hopefully the above steers will help.
Ok, let’s turn this into some specifics. When the silvers fishing is good at SM expect to get through, in a day, 2 kilos of ground-bait, plus one pint of dead reds and 0.5 kilo of worms on your long (skimmer) lines, and 3 pints of caster on your 5 metre (roach) line.
By contrast, when it is very cold expect to get through less than half a bag (ie 0.5 kilo) of ground-bait, less than a pint of worms and dead reds combined, and maybe only a quarter of a pint of casters at 5 metres.
Just to put this in context. One year on the festival the weather was wet and gloomy. Chris Martin won his section with 76lb of skimmers (hence his site name 76 Trombones, lol). Another year when it was very cold I won the same section (far side of Tanners) with 3lb 7 oz. You don’t have to be a genius to realise you need a lot more bait for the former than you do for the latter.
Below are some real examples to illustrate how your match plan needs to change to take account of the conditions, whilst still after the overall principles in instalment one.
Scenario 1: The weather is bang on: grey, overcast, mild, gusty with a good chop and colour. I’d start with 4 big jaffas fed in a diamond with the far point of the diamond at 12.5 metres, and the near point of the diamond a metre closer to me. I’d also then cup in a pot of loose ground-bait containing dead reds and chopped worm in the middle of the diamond. (I always prefer to be fishing my rig at the back of the feed and not in the middle of the feed table). Be aware that some people do take the mick of me with my diamond formation, but its my peg and I’ll do it how I want lol. So that is how you might start when you are confident of a good day. Meanwhile you will be feeding maybe 20 casters every two minutes at 5 metres to prime your roach swim.
Scenario 2: Its cold, bright and clear, no ripple, the water is ice-fringed, and you can see the bottom in even 2 foot of water when you put your net out. Expect a hard day. These were the exact conditions for the festival last year, and Pete (who won it) fed only one long line most days, putting in only 3 golf balls of feed to start, and leaving it for 2.5 hrs before going on it. (He topped up with an extra golf ball after 1 hour, and then again after 2 hours). So, the same ‘feed and leave’ principle, but much meaner with the quantities of feed. Interestingly the caster at 5 metres failed to produce in the first two matches for him this year, so he switched to feeding little pinches of red maggots at 5 metres which worked better. Again, the same principle of ‘little and often’ for the roach, but with scaled down quantities and the more ‘accessible’ maggot instead of caster.
So, how much bait is all about feeling your way into it, tweaking different things to find out what they want on the day. As you know, you can put more in but you can’t take it out, so err on the side of caution.
My hookbait by the way is nearly always (95% of time) red maggot, both on the skimmer and roach lines. Usually single, but sometimes double on the skimmer rig. Occasionally I will try a piece of worm on the skimmer line, or a caster on the roach line, but I have supreme confidence in red maggot, and confidence is what it’s all about – yours and the fishes.
ground-bait: Any fine fish meal will do. The first time I won it was using Ringers Dark (Green) cut 50/50 with brown crumb. The second time was with Ringers Crushed Expander ground-bait (yellow packet) on its own. Obviously you don’t want a ‘crunchy’ fishmeal with loads of big bits in it. Pete and I always mix it the morning before we have breakfast, because I believe strongly in an inert, dead mix, and it can take several hours for a mix to soak up water into every particle. Riddling it twice after mixing is essential. Steve thinks mixing it in advance is a waste of effort and does his on the bank before the match. Mind you, he also fishes paste with snow on the ground.
Worms: these worked well for the first few years of the festival, chopped and mixed into the ground-bait. Then one year they seemed to be the kiss of death. So much so that the following year I did not even bring any. Cue massive weights on worm. Jim had to get some sent to us midway through the week, lol. 2 kilos will be enough for most weeks.
Red Maggots: These must be dead for the skimmers. The movement of live maggots in your ground-bait will attract unwelcome roach. Prepare your reds in half pint freezer bags. Note that a few drops of water in the bag straight before you put them in the freezer will produce brighter, more rubbery deads. You will also need live reds for when it is hard and you wish to feed them at 5 metres. I also like a few whites in the mix as using them on the hook can sometimes get quicker/bigger fish.
Casters: a couple of pints a day for your 5 metre line is usually adequate. You are probably aware of this but the old trick of putting paper over the top of your casters overnight to turn them all the same colour is no longer regarded as a good idea. You want different coloured casters as the variable fall rates make it harder for the fish to distinguish the one with the hook in.
Pinkies: I always take two pints of mixed colour pinkies, as a ‘get out of jail card’. Hopefully they will sit in the corner of the tackle room unused all week. But if you gave me 5 minutes to catch a fish on a cold day, and my life depended on it, I would spend the 5 minutes fishing with flouro pinkie.
Pellets: I am going to cover these in the next blog instalment when I talk about alternative methods, because I believe if you are going to fish pellet you need to commit to it fully. If things are going well for me at the SM festival, I won’t put a pellet on the hook all week.
One observation we have made is that the fishing for silver fish tends to deteriorate as the week goes by. Basically, silver fish don’t like fishing pressure will shut-up shop much more quickly that will, for example, carp. If a lake has been fished every day, other things being equal, the day five weights may be only half of the day one weights. Feed accordingly.
Charting new territory – flavourings and additives
We promised in this blog series to share every detail, and indeed we are doing. There is one new area that we have started to explore in the last 12 months, and that is bait flavourings and additives. Fortunately I was one of the people who won the MFS trip to see GOT Baits flavourings being produced, and it opened my eyes. I hooked up with Trev subsequently and he has provided some prototypes for us to try. It is too early to share any of our thoughts here yet – as I said in another blog the only way to evaluate flavourings and additives is over the medium to long term. That said, some of the results we are getting have made us think. To be clear, our current thinking is that they won’t transform an empty swim into an aquarium, but they can definitely give you an edge. We’ll post more on this when we have firmed up our views.
Ok, that’s it for now. Next time I’ll talk about some alternative approaches that could easily win the SM silvers festival including pellet fishing, tip fishing, and waggler fishing (with Tonkin Tommy). See you then.