Alex Dockerty’s Bait Tips for Shallow Fishing
Shallow fishing is undoubtedly a prolific tactic for catching carp and F1s at this time of year, but knowing what baits to use and how to fish them for each species can be a tricky affair. Below, top matchman Alex Dockerty shares his bait tips for catching more fish shallow this summer…
It’s that time of year again when the warm weather has been well and truly set in for a while, the fish have got spawning out of the way and they’re really on the feed. For me this means one method in particular will be at the forefront of my approach and that is shallow fishing. Be it for carp or F1’s it is without doubt a tactic you need in your armoury to help you get the most of your pegs during the warmer months.
Firstly, we’ll break this down into both carp and F1 fishing and for me, there is a very distinct different in the way the two species feed. With carp loving to watch a bait fall and intercept it, and F1’s feeding at a depth within the peg e.g. 12 inches deep. For this reason rigs contrast greatly and as well as the feeding and baits used for both species. For this piece, I’m going to concentrate on the baits I use and the situations I’d look to use each of them.
The first bait is pellets and its one you definitely cannot go to a commercial fishery without. For me, this is often a safer option which will always catch a few fish. Arguably, other baits are better but all carp and F1’s eat pellets so its a bait that is successful to some extent all year round. I find pellets particularly good for F1’s early in the season when they’re just waking up and beginning to feed shallow, but you might also need to catch a few on the bottom as well. They’re also brilliant when fishing for smaller stocky type F1’s as they have been reared on pellets, and the nature of pellets mean when you’re in a race you can catch numerous fish on the same bait. Where allowed, I’d opt to use the 4mm carp pellets Dynamite produce. The brilliant thing with this pellet is the consistency between batches in both size and shape meaning I can feed them accurately to really group those fish tightly and make the most of them when they’re in my peg. However, if I were fishing for larger carp often I’ll use the 6mm or even at times the 8mm.
The general rule I use for selecting a size of pellet is…how many mouths are there in my peg? If I’m fishing for F1’s or smaller fish I’m trying to keep the number of fish happy and feeding in my peg to allow me to catch quickly and build a weight so a smaller particle bait helps me to feed a larger volume of bait to keep them happy. Whereas if I’m fishing for bigger fish the bigger particles mean I won’t be giving them too much choice as often there’ll only be a few fish in the peg at any one time. Meaning I’m increasing my chances of a bite due to minimal options in my swim. Another nice little tip is to try a contrasting hook bait every now and again as the more pronounced silhouette can often get you an extra bite or two. For me, the Robin Red pellets in 4mm 6mm and 8mm are perfect for this. This tactic is very important in my fishing when trying to eek out those extra bites.
MAGGOTS AND CASTERS
Now that pellets are out of the way, two other baits that are crucial in my shallow fishing are maggots and casters. With these baits, I’ll predominantly be using them for targeting F1’s. Again, I have a couple of rules I follow when selecting which to use. Firstly, how good is the fishing likely to be and will I be looking to catch on the bottom as well as shallow? If so, I would always opt for maggots. The reason being it is much more difficult to overfeed this bait as it is always crawling out of the peg, whereas casters lay dormant until they are eaten. The added bonus of maggots being that on the more difficult days, they fall slower then casters meaning added attraction to nick an odd bite.
However, if the venue is fishing well, casters for F1’s are without doubt my favourite bait. This is because they make a lot of noise when you feed them. You can also feed a large volume of bait and generally be really positive as a whole with the approach, meaning a big weight is usually on the cards. The only drawback to this is occasionally smaller roach can be a problem. And if you find at your venue you suffer with these I’d always revert back to pellets as I feel if you’re spending all day shipping roach back your catch rate will suffer as your bait isn’t in the water long enough for the F1’s to find it.
The last bait in my armoury and this is one exclusively for F1s and that is using slop. Again, this works best when the general stamp of fish is smaller but it also has its place on the warm flat days when nothing really wants to feed. The cloud of bait offers cover for the fish and the fact the food content is so minimal means they stay in your peg very well with no other option but to pick out your hookbait.
For this I always find an expander based ground bait best as it hangs in the water column for much longer then traditional “sinking” pellet based mixes. The F1 Milled Expander or F1 Milled Original would be the two I’d select from. Hookbait-wise, this can completely vary from pellets to worms to bunches of maggots and is one for you to work out on the day, but 9 times out of 10 a pellet or a couple of maggots are generally what I would opt for. Anything too big and I feel you miss out on fish by being too selective or blatant when fishing amongst a cloud of groundbait.
So, there you have a few of my tips and thought processes when choosing baits to fish for both carp and F1’s. Be it early or late in the season when the fish are just thinking about feeding shallow or beginning to slow down, or if it is the height of summer and a colossal weight is on the cards. I hope you find it useful the next time you’re on the bank!