James Dornom explains his deadly attack for getting the best from his two favourite commercial bait combinations!
It is a quandary faced by anglers who tackle mixed venues almost every time they go fishing. When a venue is rammed with carp, skimmers, ide, roach, perch and F1s – like Queensberry Lake here at Broom Fishery – the hardest decision that you often have to make is which bait to feed to get the best results.
Here, as at a lot of places, the standout weights are often caught on pellets. They appeal to the bigger carp, F1s and skimmers. However, there’s also a hell of a lot of fish to be caught on worms. Importantly, though, they are often different fish to those that you catch on pellets, such as ide, barbel, chub and big roach. These are the fish that you can use to scratch out a result when you maybe haven’t drawn so favourably.
So if you rule out pellets or worms, you can often be limiting the fish that you catch straightaway, which is why I like to fish both baits where I can. The most important edge that I have, though, is where and how I fish them.
The first thing to consider is where the bulk of the fish are likely to be in this early part of the year – and the answer is out in the middle of the lake in the deepest water. This is probably truer here in Scotland, where I fish, than it is for many because it does take a good while longer to warm up than the rest of the country!
That said, after a cold night the lesson holds true at most places – especially after the disturbance of anglers setting up in a match situation. So it is certainly logical to expect to have to start your day on the long pole.
For sure, worms are better for generating an instant response than pellets are. The amino acids within them naturally help to kick-start your swim, and the fact that there are so many small particles of bait means that you can keep fish grubbing around for a long period.
Pellets, by contrast, are often more of a slow burner. This is partially because of the species that they appeal to – F1s and carp in particular become increasingly active as the day progresses and the water warms up.
So the ideal scenario in my mind is to fish worms in the early part of the session and pellets later. This way you are playing to the natural strengths of the two baits.
The Broom Fisheries ide give a very good account of themselves!
Another clever little trick that I have learnt that helps when fishing with a bait combination like this is to give careful thought to where you locate your lines. Because I believe that worms have a greater power of attraction to small fish, I put this line closer to me at 13 metres and locate my pellet line a couple of sections past this at 16 metres. Another advantage to doing this is that any fish that may back off my worm line as I am fishing it naturally sit back and graze over my pellet line. So when I go on this line they are queuing up and ready to be caught!
James uses the slim pattern for pellets and the bodied float for worms
One thing to be wary of when it comes to fishing with chopped worm in water deeper than about four feet is how you feed it. For example, if you feed it loose you might find it spreads out as it falls through the water, which stops you being accurate.
Also, chopped worm fed neat is very rich in feed content, so for both these reasons, I like to mix my worm and caster with peat and a little groundbait before introducing it to the peg.
My groundbait choice is Ringers Dark, a nice rich fishmeal mix that is dark in colour. I mix this 50/50 with the peat from my worms and this forms the carrier for my chopped worm and caster. I like to mince my worms to a reasonably fine consistency and add one part chopped worm to two parts of my peat and groundbait mixture. I also add a handful of casters to this, which gives me the option of slipping one on the hook and trying it over the top of my mix.
Pelletwise, I use a mixture of dampened Skrettings micro pellets and 4mm pellets. Generally, I kick-start the long line with half a pot containing 125ml of mixed pellets. If action is hectic on my worm line, this would suggest to me that action will also be good when I move on my pellet swim, so I will top it up every half an hour or so to try and ensure that when I move onto the line some fish are queuing up for me. If, by contrast, I am struggling to catch on worms, I will be more hesitant to top up the long-pole line because I expect the going to be more difficult.
Today, the fish have been very obliging, though, and after starting on my long-pole swim I soon find that I am into a procession of small skimmers, with the occasional big ide thrown in for good measure.
Rigwise, I opt for two patterns to do two jobs. For worms, it is a 4x16 bodied Colmic Freedoom pattern. I fish with my bulk around two feet from my hook on this rig, with two No10 droppers. The idea is to get my hook bait down to the area directly above my bait and then my dropper shot aid a slow fall through the ‘killing zone’.
For pellets, a Malman Dolphin is my choice. This is shotted with a strung bulk of No10s starting just above my hooklength. These have a nice visible hollow bristle, which is very stable but also super-sensitive and helps me catch any shy-biting carp or F1s!
The Bait Tray
Soaked 4mm and micro pellets are James' choice of feed on the long line.
This peat and groundbait mix helps the worm and caster to the bottom.
A single caster can be a great bait for ide when the fishing is tough...
... but a chuck of worm like this is normally best
Making The Change
Of course, the key to really getting the most of this two-bait tactic is making sure that you move from your worm line onto your pellet swim at the right time. After all, there is no point in sitting and catching small skimmers and ide on worms if there are bigger F1s and carp ready to be caught on pellets!
Again, I tend to use the quality of fishing on my worm line as the gauge as to when to move. If the smaller skimmers and ide are feeding very well on worms, I might be tempted to have a look on pellets after an hour of the session just to see if any better fish are there to be caught.
When I drop on this line, I simply wait five minutes and see if I have a response. If I get one, I will fish the swim until bites dry up before topping up. If I don’t, I will top up the swim with a handful of pellets and move back to the short line. I will then repeat the process sometime later.
On the toughest days, it might be that the long-pole pellet line doesn’t properly get going until the last hour, and even then you might only nick a couple of quality carp or F1s from it.
The cool Scottish water does nothing to calm the temper of the carp.
In a match situation, these fish can often prove invaluable, though, especially if you already have an amount in your net from your early exploits on your chopped-worm line.
On the flip side, if your pellet line is really good, you might find that you don’t go back on your worm line once you make the change and move onto the pellet swim. The key point is that you have your options covered and have somewhere to go should things not go to plan.
Today has perhaps been typical of how a day on my two-bait combo normally pans out. After plenty of bites on worm in the early part of the day, I have ventured out onto the pellet swim and only managed a couple of small skimmers. So I topped it up and kept putting some smaller silvers in the net. An hour later, when I moved back on to the line for another try, the fish were more obliging and two F1s and a small carp came in quick succession. Again, bites dried up so I topped up and dropped back short to keep some fish going in the net, before once again returning to the long line later in the day.
I finished the session with a lovely 30lb mixed bag on one of my favourite springtime tactics. If you fish mixed venues regularly and want a day to remember, you simply have to get out and give this tactic a try.