IT’S time for our must-read Sunday blog. Every Sunday we welcome coarse fishing all-rounder Colin Mitchell.

For many years Colin was a senior Angler’s Mail magazine staff man and he has enjoyed a long, interesting journalism career. He understands match fishing, pleasure fishing, carp fishing – the lot.

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How important is the length of your hook length or trace?


A LOT of anglers on commercial fisheries might admit to not using weaker links between their main line and hooks so as to avoid weak spots.

But the distance between their last shot and the hook or between the hook and a ledger or feeder is then the vital distance.

The length of trace was hammered home to me last week during a trip to Ireland when I discussed it with England Feeder squad anglers Dean Barlow and Adam Rooney. They had been practicing for next year’s World Feeder Championships on Inniscarra Reservoir and one of the very important things they were looking at was hook lengths. In that event they are restricted on how short they can go and during their days of practice they picked up quite a few pointers. And no, I am not going to give away any of the bits they learned!

What I will do though is reveal just how my own fishing went, especially on the length of trace. There is always an optimum length and it will differ by the day.

Using a trace of around three feet I was missing bites – usually on the drop, despite fishing a heavy feeder. I reduced this to around 18 inches but then got a few fish that were deeply hooked. When I took it down to 14 inches I hit a lot more bites and every one of the fish was neatly hooked in the top lip. Amazing isn’t it how just a small adjustment can make so much difference?

Length of hook links matter on all sorts of feeder rigs.

Think of it a bit like shotting down your float so that a fish can pull it under easily. Just because a fish takes a feeder-fished bait doesn’t mean it is any more stupid than one caught on a waggler or pole rig. Adjustments must always be made to get the best bite detection. You have to remember about keeping your hook bait close to the free feed coming out of the feeder. But at the same time you want to pick off fish that see the bait falling naturally.

Obviously, if the fish are feeding on the bottom it doesn’t matter so much about seeing it drop slowly through the water – but you still need to see bites quickly and as positively as possible.

Feeder fishing doesn’t mean tying on a method rig. And in my book there should be no fixed rigs or self-hooking rigs – and certainly not when there are big fish about, unless you have taken precautions with weaker traces and/or links to weights and feeders.

If you are not sure about the best length of trace, start long and reduce by a few inches until you get or hit bites properly. Likewise, it pays to experiment sometimes with the size of hook. As always, match hooks to baits but be prepared to step up a hook size or two. Small hooks do not always give you the same hooking power, especially at distance.

I always used to start with a small hook and go bigger the more bites I got. Now I do it the other way around – safe in the knowledge that if I do get a bite I will probably hit it and then land the fish on the bigger hook.

The same rules apply when float fishing…get that last small shot on your line as near to the hook as you possibly can. Quite often in recent weeks my last shot has been just three inches from the hook – and if the fish will accept that without ejecting the bait immediately, then you are on a winner and will hit bites fast and efficiently.



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