Angler’s Mail features editor Richard Howard reveals some of his top big fish tips - they could help you catch a personal best fish!

‘SO how many barbel have you had out of the weir pool?’ a fishing pal said to me the other day, referring to a local river. ‘Over the years about a dozen – three doubles to just over 14 lb,’ I replied.

‘Well I’ve had about 19 fish now, but up to only half that size. How do you get those bigger fish?’ he asked. And he had a good point.

There’s big fish still there to mid-doubles, not to mention back up eight and nine-pounders, so why hadn’t he been a bit luckier – plenty had.

Can you actually be selective for the bigger fish in front of you, in this type of scenario, especially if you can’t see them to target them independently?

I bounced the ‘big fish tips’ question off some experts…

This giant River Wensum barbel, reported at the time at 21 lb 2 oz, sits at the top of the barbel Top 50. It is not however the official British barbel record!

Big fish tips that barbel hunters use

Former British Record Barbel holder Ray Walton, known for his deadly roving, rolling meat technique, who’s had fish to 18 lb 13 oz 8 dr commented:

‘It’s hard to be selective, when you can’t see the fish. In the case of a weir pool, I’d simply search all parts of it for fish – the white water, the tail end, under the sill, eddies and dead water, where any surface debris has built up.

‘You will catch barbel on all types of baits as they are scavengers, but I always use luncheon meat. They love it and it’s very successful if used properly. If you use bigger chunks, it can be more selective and deter smaller fish but not always,’ commented Ray.

Duncan Charman also threw in an interesting suggestion about possibly trying the tail end of weir pools, in case the bigger fish were holding back from the others, which they can be known to do.

The other suggestion was to try fishing different times of the day or night if you’re  just catching the ‘smaller fish’. The theory being that by fishing when the smaller fish are ‘less active’ it would give more time for the slower, bigger fish to find the bait.

leather carp

The big carp boys’ bait tricks

Widening the picture to big fish generally, on other waters, Anglere’s Mail magazine contributor Col Davidson told me:

‘Although it’s not the way to get the most bites in winter, I reckon a boilie approach remains the most selective for big carp. It’s relatively crude compared to bags, sticks and titbits but steadily feeding a quality, nutritious boilie will give you as good a chance of connecting with big fish.

‘Some boilies have definite cold water form and some have definite big fish form – CC Moore Live System is a good example or Mainline Grange. In reality getting a bite from any carp can be hard work in winter.

‘On the brighter side many big fish actually have more of a tendency to get caught than their smaller cousins in the colder months, so the odds of connecting with a big fish are slightly improved anyway,’ he added.

‘If you aren’t fishing week in, week out heavy baiting with maggots – a gallon or more at a time can be a great method., Col confirmed.

record pike

And what about catching those mega pike?

‘If you’re on a water with big pike, my advice is to try and find out where it or they have been caught from, to give you an idea of the area they patrol,’ advised Gloucestershire Specialist Steve Rowley who has a string of  30-plussers to 39 lb under his belt.

‘I would then choose my spot and fish with a big half-mackerel with chopped mackerel bits around the hook bait.

‘There are no guarantees but half-mackerel is a proven big pike bait that does do well on the majority of waters.

‘I would then fish as often as I could, and always an hour into dark, a very good big pike feeding time,’ commented Steve who also admitted a big livebait can also do the business.

So there you have it, a few tips on how to pick off those heavyweights…GOOD LUCK!


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