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Playing Big fish - Des Shipp

Preston Innovations and Team England star Des Shipp met us at Woodland View Fisheries to give us a lesson on playing big fish on the pole.

The key to landing big fish on the pole is all about being in control. Getting your setup right, having the correct gear and most importantly knowing what to do once you hook a big fish are all crucial when faced with a battle with these experienced ‘angler antagonists’.

I have brought the lads from Pole Fishing magazine down to Woodland View in Droitwich today, in the hope of catching plenty of big fish so that I can demonstrate how they should be played when using pole tactics.


Big Fish, Heavy Elastic… Right?

Wrong! I see so many anglers fishing with elastic as thick as towrope down their top two sections and wondering why they are losing so many fish. Yes, your elastic has to be durable enough to withstand the pressure you are going to put it under and not be undergunned but you would be amazed how big a fish you can get in with a lighter grade of elastic.

In fact, using a lighter elastic allows you to fish lower diameter lines and actually gives you more control than a heavy one! That may seem like a bold statement, but as you read on you will see exactly what I mean.

An example of this came in a match I had not too long ago at Larford Lakes, a venue known for its monster carp. Another angler and I started catching big fish, the difference being I landed 11 of the 12 carp that I hooked, whereas he only managed one in nine!

He had opted for a heavy setup of 17H elastic and a 0.19mm diameter hooklength and was subsequently snapped off multiple times. My 0.15mm hooklength, teamed up with a Preston Innovations 13H elastic, was by far the better approach and by time he realised that I had already put an extra 100lb plus in my net.


What Setup?

Most importantly, you have to match your elastic to the size of fish and the rate at which you are likely to be catching, and then tailor your rig to this.

If it is going to be a real bag-up session, a slightly heavier elastic will withstand the strain and pressure you put it under better than something too light. If it’s a day when you may have to wait a while for bites a nice light elastic can often prove to be the safer option, as it will reduce the chances of hook-pulls and lost fish.

To give you an example, the heaviest elastic I will use is a number 14 Preston Innovations Dura Hollo; that is my go-to down-the-edge big-fish bagging elastic and can handle big hauls of carp with ease, and without any worry that it is going to let me down.

For open water I would opt for a 13H, which has a bit more stretch than a 14 Dura Hollo.

Today, on a day I expect to catch steadily throughout the session I have opted for an 11H across all of my lines; I am confident this will cope with the biggest fish I am likely to catch and ensure I have control over every one I hook.


Controlled Pressure

This is a term I use a lot when asked to describe how best to approach playing a fish – keeping everything smooth, not pulling excessively hard and generally being efficient from the point of hooking the fish to the moment it is in the net.

To give you an idea of this in action as well as the decisions I make when playing a big fish, follow this step-by-step guide:


1) Hooking The Fish

The first thing I think about once I hook a fish is getting it away from my feed area or any snags in the swim. Today I am fishing into open water so snags are not a problem; however, when fishing up to a snag the general rule would be to have the pole on the snag side of your rig, this tends to trick the fish into swimming in the opposite direction once hooked, away from the potential problem.

Using a nice soft elastic allows the fish to leave the swim causing minimal disturbance; in turn not causing any other fish in the swim to spook, which will hopefully mean they’ll still be waiting for you on your next drop in.

1 Hooking Fish


2) Quick Decisions

Depending on what the fish does next will dictate what you will have to do next.

The goal here is to turn the fish towards you so that you can break down to your top kit once the fish is close enough. This is where you can gain the most control over the fish.

Creating an angle is the best way to help guide the fish; pointing the pole directly at the fish is a big no-no as this can cause expensive sections of pole to dislodge and end up in the lake!

If the fish shoots off to the side or at an angle away from you, simply keeping the pole low and keeping some pressure on will tend to persuade it to come back towards where the pressure is coming from.

If the fish keeps going, by simply putting the tip of your pole under the surface of the water you will tend to confuse it and slow it down.


3) Lifting The Pole Up High

Using the same logic of creating angles I have found that when fish swim off directly in front of me, by lifting the pole up high I am able to create an angle that puts enough pressure on the fish to turn it and make it swim back towards me.

This is something I do a lot when fishing for big fish and have found I have much more success doing it this way than trying to turn my pole to one side!

This is another benefit of using a lighter elastic. If I was using a heavy elastic this would not be possible and I would be risking not only damage to my rig but, more expensively, my pole!

3 lifting pole high


4) Keep Everything Smooth

Once you have the fish swimming back towards you the key here is to keep the momentum coming towards you, and when possible breaking down onto your top section, which is generally where the real power of your pole resides.

It is important to have your pole rollers set up properly so that you can smoothly ship your pole back without any problems, ensuring an angle to the fish is kept throughout to make certain there is always enough pressure to keep the fish on the hook.

4 smooth ship back


TIP – When playing  a really big fish that is likely to have numerous runs, don’t take too many sections off at any one time; it is a lot easier to add one or two sections at a time rather than five or six!


5) Pulla Kits

Pulla Kits have without a doubt revolutionised the way we play fish. Having them is a big reason I am able to get away with using light elastics and helps me gain even more control over the fish at a vital stage of playing them.

However, they are not a necessity, so don’t feel you have to use it just because it is there. I will use it when I feel it is going to be advantageous for me to do so, not so that I can bully the fish into my net for the sake of it.

When a fish is tiring under your feet it is a prime opportunity to assert your dominance over it. This is when the pulla comes into its own and every inch the fish gives you, you can take advantage of.

5b Pulla


6) When To Lift It Up

When you lift your top kit in the air you are putting the most pressure on the fish, and it is inevitably the time that results in the most fish being lost. It is therefore important not to try and lift the fish too soon. Ensure that it is ready – use markers on your rig, your connector, float or shot to see how deep the fish is at any given time and use this as a gauge to determine if the fish is tiring.

At the point you feel the fish is out of gas lift your pole up and try to get the fish to come up with it.


7) In The Net!

Once the fish takes a gulp of air that is usually the end of any fight it was likely to put up. So once you have the fish’s head up it is time to slip your net under it, being careful not to spook it.

Dropping the net just below the surface of the water, slipping it under the fish in a controlled fashion, should ensure there are no last-minute calamities!

7 Netting


8) Simple As That…

8 Des With Fish fade




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