Top Drennan-backed matchman, Jon Arthur, offers some valuable tips for avoiding a dreaded dry net this winter!
1 Half A Pinkie
The first hook bait I always immediately think of for avoiding a blank has to be half a pinkie. This is probably the first trick I ever learnt as a youngster and it works equally well on canals, lakes and rivers. A red or bright flouro pinkie seem most effective and I find the best method is to hook a whole pinkie normally and then snip the bottom half off with scissors. This tiny slither with it’s innards oozing out can often magic up a gudgeon, perch, daddy ruffe, bleak or tiny roach from nowhere!
2 Chop It Up
Following on from the chopped-pinkie idea, you can also try chopping up pinkies or maggots and potting them in. After all, most people never feed worms without giving them the scissor treatment, so why shouldn’t that also apply to maggots? A similar ploy my old Tipton team once devised, which has since spread through the Midlands match circuit, was to chop some joker and then add a pinch of red or black dye to it. This works particularly well for tiny roach and perch potted right across the far bank of a canal in the shallowest water.
3 No Feed Ploy
On really hard days I’m sure many anglers can kill a peg within minutes of starting because they have fed too much bait and too many swims all at once. Instead, try starting cautiously close in and not feeding any bait anywhere else. That way you can see what’s going on around you before committing bait elsewhere. This also helps to create ‘safe areas’ where the fish can back off to that are still within the confines of your own peg.
4 Dobbing Delight
Carp will often sulk and swim away from any amount of bait fed on top of them. This is where ‘dobbing’ comes into play and basically involves dropping a single hook bait into likely looking spots. A single grain of corn, two maggots or a piece of punched bread are all great hook baits to try. Don’t ignore fishing these baits several inches off the deck, either. Think of it like a game of Battleships for carp!
5 Keepnet King
Your own keepnet can act as vital cover on rock-hard winter days, especially for perch. A dark keepnet with thick, carp-sack mesh is best. Put it in the water as soon as possible to give the fish time to settle next to it. On flooded rivers, the slack created immediately below your keepnet could also be the only place small fish can get out of the main current, so never ever ignore dropping a hook bait under your feet!
6 Plummet Push
I have had a couple of sessions where I was convinced fish were in front of me yet I couldn’t get a bite. My guess was that a big predator was sat in the middle of the swim, guarding my bait and keeping everything at bay! The solution was to pop on a heavy plummet and drag it around to scare it off! It might sound daft, but it has worked several times for me! I suppose, even if there was no predator about it could also be helping to actually stir up the bottom…
7 Drag Line
I have seen first hand how tightly a shoal of carp can pack together, so a related theory that works particularly well on snake lakes is to carefully drag a plummet around to see if you can bump into anything. This is usually a last resort, as it could just as easily scare the fish away, but you could be pleasantly surprised where a ‘ball of carp’ is sulking on a rock-hard winter day.
8 Pinch Perfect
A tiny pinch of groundbait the size of a penny can often kick a barren swim into life. For carp and skimmers on commercials I would use crushed pellets. For silverfish, try a fine, sweet, black groundbait. A sloppy mix will cloud and linger up in the water, whereas a dryer mix fed as a squeezed pinch will be slightly more active and flutter enticingly as it falls.
9 Go Light
Even in really deep water, try using the lightest float you have in your box so the hook bait falls as slow as possible through the water. I once avoided a blank on the Stainforth & Keadby Canal after fishing a single joker on a tiny 0.1g pole rig in 8ft of water over a tiny pinch of joker. That tempted me a single valuable perch for mega section points while almost everyone around me dry netted – including a certain five-time World champion on the next peg!
10 Never Give Up!
It’s all too easy to give up when the chips are down, but the last few minutes of a match are always your best chance of catching in winter. On really cold and harsh winter days, species like chub and roach might not open their mouths until the light begins to fade, so the dying seconds might be your only chance of avoiding a dry net. Remember, it’s never over til that whistle blows!
11 And Finally…
There has never ever been a scientific explanation for this final trick, but it has worked for generations of anglers and cannot possibly be ignored. Simply cast out and leave your rig in the water, then grab your flask. The simple act of pouring yourself a cuppa will often miraculously conjure up a bite completely out of the blue!