Deadly Small-Fish Tactics Exposed
Garbolino speed-machine, Rob Wright, uncovers a lethal small-fish attack that has seen him taking silverfish venues apart…
Last year, I discovered a way of feeding that totally changed my outlook on squatt fishing. Squatts have always been a great bait for small fish, but they’re often associated with light strung-out rigs, and loose feeding with a catapult. A few years ago I moved out here into the fens, and started to do a lot of fishing with them. The rivers and drains in this area are teaming with fish, and I soon learned that you had to feed quite a lot of them if you wanted to catch the slightly bigger stamp fish and a finish bigger weight of fish at the end of the session.
Some days, I’d loosefeed up to four pints of squatts, ploughing them in with a catapult a pouch at a time, to try and force to the fish to the bottom and feed-off the tiny ones in the upper layers. The penny then suddenly dropped after I had a day’s bloodworm and joker fishing on a lake that winter. I was feeding balls of groundbait packed with joker, and all the fish that I was catching were a good stamp and stayed on the bottom right where I wanted them. So, if it worked feeding balls of groundbait packed with joker, why wouldn’t it work feeding balls packed with squatts? The following week I ventured out to try it, and it worked a treat – the squatt bomb was born!
How To Make A Squat Bomb
The first thing that you need when making a squatt bomb, is a sticky groundbait mix. Mine consists of a bag of Bait-Tech Pro Natural Dark, and half a bag of Sensas PV1 Binder. The Pro-Natural is sweet and silverfish love it, while the PV1 helps to make the mix incredibly sticky, and holds the balls together when I’ve added a load of squatts to the mix. I make the mix fairly damp, so that I can form a nice, hard-binding ball that will hold plenty of feed.
The next thing to do is add plenty off squatts to the mix. I like to add them as I go so that you can control how many you put in the mix. I simply grab however many squatts I need, mix them into the mix in the corner of the bowl, and make the ball. A good little tip is to add a few casters to the mix too. These help to attract and hold an odd bigger fish in the swim, such as bonus perch or skimmers. I always make the ball as hard as I possibly can, squeezing it with both hands. If you leave a ball for 30 seconds or so, the squatts start to riddle and after a minute it starts the really break down.
I think this is why the tactic is so effective. The ball carries the squatts straight to the bottom, but once it opens up and ‘explodes’ the fish have access to loads of squatts! Rather than having them at all layers like you do when loose feeding, however, they’re all gathered on the deck, and you can select the bigger fish amongst all the competition.
Squatt Bomb Rigs
My main rig for fishing this method is extremely crude, but trust me it works. I’ve tried all kinds of shotting patterns in the past that are very positive; a bulk with a couple of big No8 droppers, a double bulk, and even a strung bulk. However, my favoured rig now when I’m catching well, is simply an olivette just above my four-inch hooklength. This means that all the weight of my rig is just over four inches from the hookbait, and I can bomb the hookbait right down to the bottom as quickly as possible.
Because this rig is so positive, I see a bite instantly, and normally it takes just a matter of seconds before there’s a fish on. Sometimes the float will go under, while other times a fish will lift the olivette causing the float to pop-up. The rig seems to sort out the biggest possible stamp of fish, and gets me a bite as fast as possible.
The float that I use with this method is a slim bodied Garbolino DS14H. This allows me to strike very cleanly when I get a bite, and I also thinks it adds, even more, sensitivity to the already positive rig. These short pencil floats seem much less prone to tangles too, which is important when shipping in and out up to 300 tines during a session!
As always, I cover my options with a more delicate rig, but it's rare I pick this up. It’s a simple round-bodied 1g Drennan Carbo float, shotted with an olivette and three No9 droppers. I use this rig when I’m waiting for bites, as it allows the hookbait to drop-in to the swim slower, and increases the chances of any fish watching the bait fall taking it. Sometimes, it pays to use this rig after you’ve just topped-up with another ball, as the fish are a little ‘scatty’ and darting all over the swim chasing any squatts that break off from the ball.
A slim pencil float is Rob's choice for the rig...
... where the olivette is just four inches from the hook!
Rob also assembles a 'nicer' rig with a bulk and three droppers
A bright pinkie hook bait is quickly picked out by fish!
Presenting The Rig
When using the ultra-positive rig, you can make yourself even more efficient by presenting it in a certain way. For me, it’s important that the hookbait is right over the feed as quickly as possible. I simply ship out, and at the end of the ship aim to have my pole bang in line with a far-bank marker where I’ve fed the squatt bomb. I then lift the pole just enough so that the olivette is just out of the water. This means it skims across the surface until its right under the pole tip, which is of course right over my feed. I then lower the olivette down as quickly as possible and stop when my float body is just out of the water. This gives the four-inch hook link a second or two to settle before I drop the float in fully. In real time, this whole process of shipping out and presenting the rig takes just 12 seconds and ensures I’m fishing right over my bait all the time. With such a positive rig, I see a bite instantly, and it’s fish-on!
Don't fish too far out with the squatt bomb attack; effiviency is key!
The drain that I’m fishing today is around 25 metres wide, and the depth slopes away to the deepest part in the middle, which is around twelve feet. Because I’m expecting to catch a lot of small fish, I don’t want to fish too far out, and I’ve found a sensible depth of eight feet which is around seven metres from the bank. When choosing where to fish, you need to find a place where you’re guaranteed to get a lot of bites from fish that are feeding confidently. If you fish in too shallower water or too close in, the fish won’t settle properly. If you fish too far out, you can’t be as efficient. Every swim is different, but make sure you think carefully and chose an area of the swim where you’ll consistently get bites!
There are two ways that I like to feed once I’ve started fishing. The first, is small regular top-ups with little squatt-filled nuggets of groundbait every drop-in. This is a great feeding technique to pull fish into the swim and keep them there. It works particularly well in deeper swims like where we are today. The fish home-in on the sound of the ball hitting the water, and then follow the small nugget to the deck, where it opens up to release the squatts.
The second way of feeding is more effective on shallow venues, when the fish aren’t as inclined to sit off the bottom. It simply involves fishing the swim until bites dry up, and then topping-up with a large pot-sized ball full of squatts. This simply re-sets the swim, and fish settle over the top of the feed again, staying there until the squatts are all eaten.
There are many signs of when the swim needs feeding again. For example, bites will slow down as fish move out of the swim searching for more bait. The stamp of fish may also decrease, as the smaller runts move over the scraps of feed that are left over. On a lot of venues, catching small perch or species like tommy ruff are sure signs that you need to top up.
Lowering the last few inches of the rig into the water helps trick slightly bigger fish.
The final thing that I wanted to mention is that I often have a back-up swim when fishing this method, which is always fed with hemp. I always feed this swim a section past, or a section short of the line I’m fishing with the squatt bomb. I simply loose feed some hemp there with a catapult whenever I remember, and set up a lighter rig with strung out shots to fish there. The reason I like doing this is because the squatt bomb is devastating at drawing-in large numbers of fish. However, the smaller samples aren’t interested in hemp, while the bigger fish sitting on the edge of the squatt bomb will drift over the hemp. Sometimes, you can drop on the hemp swim and enjoy a run of much better quality fish, which in a match situation give you a great weight boost!
Today’s session has been perfect for demonstrating the effectiveness of this method, and on lifting the net out I’ve managed a lot more weight than I first thought! Luckily, the camera man had some scales, and the bag of fish tipped them to just under 23lb in a four hour session. If you’re tackling a venue where you need to catch numbers of small fish, give the squatt bomb a go!
Over 22lb in four hours. Not bad fishing, hey?
Name: Rob Wright
Pole: Garbolino Power Legion
Venue: The Twenty Foot Drain
Location: Elm Road, March
Day Tickets: On the bank
Controlling Club: March & District AA
Contact: 01354 653 223
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