During the autumn and winter, venues that hold a big head of f1s are incredibly popular. Well known for providing plenty of bites in the harshest of winter conditions, these golden beauties are growing fast too, with some venues producing f1s of 10lb in recent years.
The downside of this growth and their increasing age is that they are incredibly clever and the approaches we used to use years ago using big heavy bulked down rigs and feeding plenty of bait, just isn’t going to cut it anymore.
On venues like where we are today at Manor Farm Leisure near Evesham, there is a huge head of f1s which, with the right approach, can provide you with an incredible day’s fishing.
I’ve set up on the Boundary Pool today which is one of my favourite lakes on the complex to run through the hard pellet tactics that have caught me so many fish over the years including a rig that I very much doubt many anglers would have used before, the zero rig!
The Boundary Pool isn’t your typical f1 lake either, it’s an open water venue like all of the lakes here at Manor Farm, and has a good average depth too of about 6ft.
This alone makes the approach different as you may have to draw the fish to you and they move around a lot more than they would on a traditional snake lake style venue.
The Zero Rig
When I fish a venue like where we are today, I always set up two styles of rigs but the main aspect of them both is to give the hook bait as natural fall through the water as possible.
I'm a huge believer that fish are always watching your bait fall through the water, I've had fish tanks and ponds all my life and its clearly obvious fish naturally live and swim mid-depth and never really swim tight to the bottom.
When they do decide to feed on the bottom, they come down nose first, which is why you get bites as soon as your float settles a lot of the time.
The first is the positive rig, a 4x16 MAP SD1 float, I have 6 number 8 shot bulked 24" away from the hook and 2 number 10 droppers spaced evenly from the hook to the bulk shot to give an extended slow fall of the rig in the crucial last 18 inches of the rig, to give myself the best chance of a bite.
The size of your droppers is also important when f1 fishing as they must be big enough to register on the float once the pellet is on the bottom, especially when lifting and dropping is effective.
The second rig is the Zero Rig, now this rig has caught me so many big f1s over the years and I consider it to be a deadly weapon on all f1 venues, but especially where the fish are big and clever!
The float is a custom made WF1 0.1g float, this is pretty much a self cocking float and takes just a single number 12 shot 18” away from the hook, this is the most natural way you can possibly present a hook bait and means that you can intercept fish at all depths too.
The rig is as basic as it can possibly be, and as light as possible too, but is surprising stable and works even in windy conditions.
Both of the rigs are identical in their make up with 0.17mm MAP Optimum Power main line to 0.13 hook lengths.
A size 18 B911 is the ideal hook for the 4mm pellets I’ll be using today and I always use lasso’s, these are the most natural way of mounting the hook bait being invisible to clever fish and on a good day you can catch multiple fish on the same hook bait.
Elastic wise, it’s a super soft MAP TKS Solid Core Hybrid 8-10 on both rigs, combined with a puller kit I can be safe in the knowledge I’m not going to pull the hooks on lethargic f1s but I’ll be able to land any bonus carp too.
Something that really confuses anglers when they’re fishing for f1s on any venue it's plumbing up, and for me it’s very simple. I generally use the same method everywhere I go and it never lets me down.
Today I’ll be fishing at 14.5m, and dropping the plummet on I’ve got around six feet of water which is great on an open water venue – the rig itself will be plumbed up so that I’m about 2 inches over-depth, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go more than this if the conditions were poor, but for ideal conditions 2 inches over is perfect.
My reasoning for this is I want to ensure that my hook bait looks as natural as possible on the lake bed, if you have it just over-depth or just touching it will move around with the tow and won't look natural at all which, makes all the difference when big f1s are the target.
When fishing a bomb with a 12" hook length with a hair rigged pellet your rod will get dragged in off the rest, so fishing a hard pellet 2" over depth with the same hair rigged hook set up, I don't believe 2" over depth is any issue at all, in fact to me it's a great advantage as your presentation looks far more natural.
Bait & Feeding
When it comes to bait it’s very straight forward for me – pellets and more pellets! But the important thing is how you feed to use everything to your advantage.
I’m a huge believer that my tactics that rely on a naturally falling hook bait works much better with a catapult-based feeding approach. Firstly, you can ship in and out much quicker than if you have a pole pot on and this will give you more fishing time over the duration of a match.
Secondly, I'm convinced that f1s feed more confidently over a wider area of catapulted bait than over a tightly potted pile of bait where their guard goes up much quicker as they have the opportunity to graze around the area a bit more rather than everything being focussed on a 50p sized area.
Lastly going back to the fish being mid water, with a catapult you can keep feeding very little and often, lifting and dropping your rig to mimic your hook bait falling through the water and lots of your bites will come as soon as the pellets hits the bottom.
I always feed and lasso Coppens pellets (if the fishery allows it). They are denser and more uniformed in shape to catapult which can only increase your accuracy.
I feed 4mm’s as you can catapult this with ease to 16m even in the wind, on the hook I will have a rig set up for a 4mm pellet that we are feeding and one for a bigger sight bait like a 4.5 or 6mm pellet.
All my hook pellets for the lasso pellets are soaked in Bait-Tech Polony oil this gives the pellets an added attraction of flavour to give you an edge over people who are not, and also stops the pellet breaking down so they stay on the lasso for even longer.
At the start of a session, I will always tend to start small potting between 10-30 pellets, I will repeat this whilst it works fishing the 4x16 bulk rig. If I start to get line bites or feel nothing is happening in the peg, I’ll switch to the zero rig.
At that point, I will start catapulting 3 pellets every minute and every time my pellets hit the water I will lift and drop my rig 2ft out of the water as I'm looking to mimic the fall of my feed pellets.
It’s important to feed again as soon as I feel my feed pellets are on the bottom, to me the pellets are dead as soon as they are on the bottom, as the fish I'm looking catch are sat mid depth following the feed down.
By fishing this way you're causing the fish to be active and 99% of the time and you’ll be surprised how confident the fish feed and bite when fishing this way as it’s that natural. Often you will also get a bite and strike and connect into the fish half depth, I used to think like most anglers that these are foul hookers, but most of the time they’re nailed in the top lip! This proves my point that the fish are following the bait down eating your pellets, and swimming straight back up in the water.
We’ve had an unbelievable day’s fishing today! After kicking off by potting in some pellets on the 14.5m line and I’ve had to wait a little while for bites following a chilly night, but I was soon into f1s averaging 3lb! All of my fish today have fallen to a 4mm pellet fished on the lasso, but it wasn’t until I picked up the catapult that my catch rate has soared. With the pot I felt I was having to wait for the fish to come and find the bait rather than me drawing them in with regular loose feeding.
Once I started to get bites loose feeding it was time to get on the zero rig, flicking the rig around my feed and lifting and dropping the hook bait every time I fed. I was getting a bite a cast – many of which I doubt I’d have been catching on the bulk rig as the presentation is that good, and with the calm conditions we’ve had for the feature it was textbook for this approach. With plenty of fish being caught on the same pellet a few missed bites prompted me to change the hook bait for a fresh pellet, when you’re fishing with a lasso it’s important to keep an eye on the distance between the bait and the hook, if the pellet starts to break down the distance between these can increase as the lasso beds into the pellet, and this can lead to missed bites. I managed to catch steadily throughout the day, searching around my loose feed and feeding no more than 4 to 5 pellets each time so the amount of bait I’ve used has been minimal, but by fishing through the water with an extremely light rig I’ve put together a huge weight of big, crafty f1s to over 5lb.So, if you’re heading out to an f1 venue this winter, make sure you give my tactics a try, I’m sure they’ll help you to put more and bigger f1s in your net and you too could be going from zero to hero!