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Last year I met Trev Price of GOT baits when he fished the October Festival at Stafford Moor and he was quite intrigued at the way in which the waggler and pellet fished shallow had dominated a high percentage of the local matches.
A lot of anglers will think well what's so special about that and the truth is nothing really, because at the end of the day it's just another method, however in the right hands when fished properly, this method can annihilate almost any other method. It isn't the be all and end all of all methods and it's certainly not unbeatable, however on its day it can be absolutely devastating.
On first impressions, if you watch a good pellet angler it looks easy. You can go away thinking, it looks easy and he's not doing anything that I wouldn't do. Unfortunately if we're honest that's a comment that we have all been guilty of at some time or other during our match fishing career, when we've watched a good angler doing something that they are particularly good at.
There are some very good anglers in the South West who excel at fishing the waggler shallow. Anglers like Andy Lloyd, Alex Murray, Tony Rixon, Brian Shanks and Des Ship are always hard to beat. Our approaches and thinking may differ however the end result is generally the same in that when we fish the waggler and pellet, we will generally put good weights of fish together and easily beat the pole anglers around us.
Tackle and set up
I prefer the Maver Reactolites and Carbonactive rods, however any parabolic action rod with a similar action should be suitable. Reel wise you need something with a fast retrieve and plenty of winding power and my personal preference is the Shimano 4000M GT-RA. They may look slightly oversized but they are perfect for the job.
For main line I use 3lb or 4lb Maxima. 3lb line for when the wind is awkward or the fish are being cagey and 4lb line when I'm on a flier or bagging.
Floats are very important and I prefer the Drake Waggler's or my own floats. Andy Seery also sells some very good waggler's made by Topper Haskins at Stafford Moor, which are perfect for the job.
Wagglers for the job!
The Drennan Crystal 3.5gm as shown on the left used to be very popular however these have no place in shallow pellet fishing as they can't compete with the short dumpy wagglers.
Hook lengths are where a lot of anglers go wrong. Thin low diameter hook lengths will not take the shock of a carp hitting a bait at speed and will snap like cotton. For this reason I use 0.18 hook length. I know that you are probably thinking 3lb or 4lb Maxima and a 7lb hook length, where's the logic in that? The logic is that the hook length needs to be able to take a substantial amount of abuse, both in the landing net and when the fish takes the bait. If you are using a parabolic action rod it is almost impossible to snap 3lb Maxima. Try thinking about when you've overcast and got caught in the vegetation on an island and pulled for a break, 4lb is even worse, however if you are going to put 200lb in the net the line has to be up to it and you will find that the hook length will go every time despite its higher breaking strain. This is an attacking method and your gear needs to be able to take the punishment.
Set up is very important and I've found the best method for attaching the float is to put the float on your main line, pushing it down the line out of the way and then form a 6in loop at the end of your main line and tie it off using a double overhand knot. Use a small swivel and tie it on using a blood knot so you end up with a 2-inch loop to the swivel.
Attaching the Waggler and Hook Length.
The main line is to the left and the hook length is looped through the swivel. The shot and float would normally be tight against the swivel knot. I have moved them slightly to the left for illustration purposes, which is also why I have used Maxima as the hook length.
The reason for the loop is that it prevents the shot damaging the line and it also helps to keep the shot from falling off. It's best to knot the swivel into place because if you simply loop it over the swivel as I used to, you'll find that at some point it will snap on a fish and you'll lose the float and the fish.
I always have my hook lengths made up before a match and I prefer the eyed Fox Match Series in sizes from 20-16, with an 18 being the hook that I use for most of my fishing. These are big sized hooks but are perfect when using hair rigged or banded 8mm pellet.
The way in which the bait is presented is very important and can make a huge difference. If you look at the picture of the hair rig shown below, it is quite self-explanatory. The length of the hair does make a difference and sometimes you will need to lengthen it or shorten it depending on your bites. If you find that you are loosing a few fish off and some are hooked inside the mouth in the soft flesh, shorten the hair off by wrapping it around the shank of the hook several times. If you find you are still loosing them off shallow up a little bit. Two inches of depth can make all the difference when fishing shallow and this is something that I can't stress enough.
The Top pellet is simply banded, whilst on the bottom the band is pulled into the drilled pellet using a baiting needle.
Paste can be very effective when molded around a pellet on this rig, fished on or off the bottom.
You can see by the above pictures that there are two ways in which I use the band to attach my pellets. When the fish are cagey, I'll pull the band through the pellet using a baiting needle. Unfortunately after several casts the pellets tend to split as they absorb water and fall off, hence the second method of simply banding the pellet. If I'm bagging I simply band the pellet.
It's a very versatile hook rig, which I use for all of my fishing including meat and corn. It is also a very good way to fish paste as you simply mould it around the pellet which ensures that you always have a bait on the hook. It is far more efficient than fiddling about with bait stops, cocktail sticks and bits of elastic, once you try it I doubt that you'll use anything else, however we all have our own preferences. Incidentally I use the Gardner 3.2mm/ 1/8th in super strong bands supplied in a little plastic tube. These are thicker and better than any other band that I have tried. With cheaper bands you sometimes have to use double bands, (i.e. two instead of one), to grip the bait properly so my advice is to get the Gardner bait bands.
Hopefully I've covered everything set up wise so now we'll take a look at preparation. You will need at least three good catapults because you can destroy them on piece. I prefer the Drennan blue elastic match catapults, however I wish that they would sort the pouches out because they don't last. They are the perfect size and shape however they could do with being more robust. They have introduced a black mesh cup type catty however it doesn't give quite the same spread of bait as the other pouches, although the black elastic is better. The only problem is that if you fit the black elastic to the match catapults the pouch falls to bits, as it can't take the abuse. If you're reading Mr Drennan, please take note and sort it out.
For efficiency, everything needs to be hand, especially your bait and while we are on the subject of bait I generally use 8mm coarse pellet for my waggler work, 6mm pellet is fine if you can get the fish close enough to feed it, however 8mm is my preferred bait. High oil pellets should be avoided at all cost as they sink far to quickly. The idea is to have relatively slow falling bait that will bring the fish up in the water quite easily and coarse pellet is ideal.
Feeding and presentation
You can go through a lot of bait and I'd expect to use around 10-14 pints to put 150lb + in the net. You don't always need this much bait as I've had some good weights using 3-6 pints of bait however it all depends on how the fish are feeding on the day.
The worst thing that you can do is simply start and fire bait in as if it is going out of fashion and continue to do so for the duration of the match. You need to feel your way into the match and build your peg up gradually, the same as with any other method. You often find that early in the year when it just start to warm up because the fish are still shoaled up you don't have to feed much bait at all and if you just trickle the bait in they'll hit it as soon as it hit the water.
Different feeding patterns work on different days and what may work one day may not work the next and it is the same with depths. I know a lot of anglers who will fish 8ins deep however I prefer to try and get the fish feeding at 1ft deep for the simple reason that the bigger fish often sit below the smaller fish letting them intercept the bait. You often find that the bigger fish come in easier whereas the smaller ones go ballistic under the rod tip.
For a general match if I draw a decent peg and the conditions are right, warm, preferably overcast but most importantly you want a ripple on the water, (I don't even mind a good breeze as long as it's not gusting), I will fish the waggler. I'll set up three rods, two with 3lb main line and one with 4lb. One of the 3lb rods will be set at 18ins deep and the other two rods will be set 1ft deep, (I always have plenty of hook lengths tied all at 18ins so that I can shorten them to length as required).
I will start be feeding 2 pouch fulls, of 8mm pellet at a comfortable distance which gives me a nice spread pattern. This will be topped up every thirty seconds with 10-12 pellets. Sometimes you can catch from the off, however I like to feed the waggler for at least half an hour without fishing it, to let the fish settle and for this reason I will often set up a feeder rod or margin pole to nick a few early fish before I try the waggler line. If I am on a very good peg and I know I will catch from the off I'll start on the waggler, however if you can catch a few fish on another line early and leave the waggler slightly longer, (I've left it for up to two hours) when you go on to the waggler line, the fish will be more confident. It's the last three hours when you will capitalise on this line and if you can keep up with the rest of the field fishing another line for the first two hours, do it but make sure that you keep the feed going in.
Casting, Casting, Casting
Lets say that your other line hasn't worked and after ½ an hour you're itching to go on the wag. Use the deeper rig, feed and cast to the far side of your feed. Feather the line as the float hits the water and don't whatever you do attempt to sink the line. I very rarely sink the line because you are looking for a bite within 30 seconds of the bait hitting the water. When they are having it, the float will hit the water and the fish will hit the pellet before it has sunk six inches. The key to this method is that the bigger fish will often only take a bait that is falling through the water so you will be constantly casting and feeding. If you don't get a bite within thirty seconds feed short of the float and pull your float into the feed. Leave it thirty seconds and feed and twitch your bait again. Generally I will twitch twice and then cast out and feed again. If you are not, twitching, feeding, casting or playing fish or you spend more than a minute doing nothing you are not fishing this method properly. Your work rate will dictate what you put in the net.
If anybody tells you to wait for the rod to go round or just keep on lashing the bait in until the rod goes round, laugh at them because they don't know how to fish this method properly. On established fisheries where the carp have wised up they are crafty as anything and can suck a bait in and blow it out without giving you any indication at all. You should get positive bites on this method but you need to strike at every bite. It shouldn't take you long to suss out the difference between liners and proper bites.
Unfortunately I can't teach you how to feed and this is one of the key elements of this method. You need to experiment throughout the match to establish how the fish want the bait on the day. I've given a brief outline however sometimes you will need to feed once a minute and on other occasions you will need to feed four times a minute. It is the same with bait. Sometimes 4-6 pellets, (especially early in the year) is enough, however on other days you will need to feed 10-20 pellets. I never feed more than 20 pellets, as I'd rather feed more often to keep the fish in the top 18ins of water.
You also need to constantly change your depths through out the match as I stated earlier two inches makes all the difference. If you keep on getting little dips chances are that you are to shallow. If you are foul hooking fish or loosing them off the hook you are to deep. These are all general guidelines, which will help to point you in the right direction. What you need to consider is that you will not always have the same amount of fish in front of you at any given time in the match and you need to adapt your tactics accordingly. I know that somebody might tell you that you have to give it large and fish 8ins deep.
IMO nothing could be further form the truth and these are the anglers who I don't like drawing beside because they pile the bait in without thinking about what they are trying to achieve and will generally ruin their chances and your chances of putting a good weight together. This method is at it's best when the anglers either side of you fish the pole. It can also be devastating when fished up tight against an island although you may have to fish very shallow to avoid foul hookers, (2-6 ins is not uncommon).
How good a method is it?
Andy Lloyd took one of the Whiteacres festivals apart last year, winning three of the matches individually, a feat which to the best of my knowledge has never been accomplished in any other festival. He has gone on to win countless matches setting several venue records in the process, all fishing the waggler shallow.
In 18 matches fished in a row between August and October of last year at Stafford Moor and Viaduct, I put over 2200lbs on the scales, with 4 wins, 6 seconds, 3 thirds and two section wins. All of these results with the exception on one second were caught on the waggler.
Dave Brittain (Team Sillybait)
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