Go Soft For Skimmers!

Go Soft For Skimmers!

We catch up with Ben Lawrence on the bank at Castle Ashby to find out more about the waggler approach that skimmers and bream simply can’t resist!
Fine Margins! Reading Go Soft For Skimmers! 7 minutes Next Skimming To Success!
There isn’t many more satisfying sights in angling than a well dotted-down waggler dipping from sight! No matter what species you’re targeting, a day on the waggler is always an enjoyable way to fish and on its day it can out-perform pole tactics too. One man who has been enjoying plenty of success on waggler tactics over the last few years is MAP backed Ben Lawrence, having heard plenty about his very different bait choices on the waggler which most anglers wouldn’t even attempt, we had to find out more, so we met up with Ben on the banks of Castle Ashby’s Scotland Pond for a day on the wag.
Go Soft!

I fish this venue a lot during the winter months and as the Scotland Pond here at Castle Ashby is pretty much an old-style estate lake, the water is very shallow as the venue has silted up over the years. The lake is stuffed with silver fish and carp and provides brilliant year-round sport. During the winter, I’ve found the fishing the waggler and feeding and fishing expander pellets is a brilliant way of catching the skimmers without spooking them like a feeder would if the fishing is harder than normal. This tactic doesn’t just work in the winter, and through the spring and summer it can be deadly too. I think this works well because expanders are a light, soft bait which sit on the silt rather than burying into it, plus the texture of the bait is soft which as you will know, skimmers love! Lots of anglers are put off by expander pellets on rod and line tactics as they feel the bait will come off on the cast but with the right set up, this isn’t an issue at all.
The Set Up!Whether I’m fishing a match here in the winter months or I’m fishing in the summer, the set up remains the same and it’s super simple.

The rod is a soft actioned 13ft Parabolix Black Edition Light Float teamed up with a 3500x Parabolix Reel loaded with 2lb Maxima.

The lighter main line allows me to use the lightest float possible and still achieve the distance I require on the day, it’s also important to select a line which sinks well but if there’s a bit of tricky skim on the surface, I always apply a bit of washing up liquid to the spool to aid sinking the line.Float choice is a 3AAA Insert Crystal, with a bulk of shot around the float, as the depth is only around 2.5ft where I’m fishing, I’ve only got two number 8 droppers down the line to keep the rig steady in any tow.

The hook length is six inches of 0.11 MAP Optimum Power down to a size 14 808 hook, as I mentioned. When you’re fishing with expanders on the waggler, keeping them on the hook when casting can be a problem so by using a big hook and rolling the pellet onto the bend of the hook hiding the hook within the bait, it stays on perfectly and allows you to present a soft bait at distance.


Feeding is important in all forms of fishing, but what may surprise you about this approach is how little I actually feed. I like to feed exclusively pellets for most of my session, no groundbait or maggots or any other baits that you’d usually associate with fishing on a semi-natural venue like this. To start the session I just start to drip in 4-5 pellets regularly, feeding twice every time to draw the fish in from the surrounding water. It’s then simply about feeding like this each cast until I get a response.

I like to use 6mm Dynamite Pro Expanders mainly as these are heavier and get me greater distance, I do bring some 4mm’s too in case the fishing is hard but usually it’s just 6mm pellets for hook baits and feed.

The only other bait I bring with me is sweetcorn, I don’t feed this all day though, in the matches on this venue I start feeding the odd grain around half way through the day and look to slip a grain on the hook in the last hour. It’s amazing how often it can get a few bites from some bigger bream which are in the peg that seem to feed late on, and a bait like corn which is going to be left alone more by the smaller fish, is perfect for picking them out.

The Session

After plumbing the depth with a large shot on the hook it revealed that my swim was barely 2.5ft deep! This may put a lot of anglers off, but having fished here a lot, the fish seem to like the shallower water, and as the carp anglers like to feed heavily at this end, the bream follow the bait!

With a tricky skim on the water some washing up liquid was applied to the main line before I baited up with a 6mm expander, having been feeding a few pellets at 20 metres range, I was expecting a quick response and on the first cast a quality roach was a welcome start. Over the next few hours, it was a case of casting and feeding regularly, and the fish responded well. Initially I caught plenty of rudd and roach with the odd skimmer mixed in but as the session evolved those bigger fish started to put in an appearance including a big rudd-bream hybrid which was a stunning fish to catch on the wag! With an hour or so left of the day, it was time to put the corn trick to test, having been feeding a few grains over the last hour, the time was right to give it a go.

A missed bite on the first cast was a positive sign, and it wasn’t long before the float slipped away and that tell-tale nod of a decent bream was transmitted down the rod blank. It’s at this point you really appreciate a soft rod as pulling the hook, on quality fish like these can cost you a good weight in a match situation. A bream of close to 3lb was netted and on the following casts several more followed too to bolster the net of smaller fish I’d put together throughout the session. With over 20lb of prime silver fish in the net, it was time for a quick catch shot and to get the fish back. I always enjoy a day on the waggler, and in the right situation and using the right baits, it can compete with feeder and pole tactics all year round. Don’t be afraid to give these tactics a go on your local venue, I’m sure they’ll put plenty in your net.