There are very few types of bait that give you complete versatility, targeting small fish or big, long lasting and with little preparation required. Worms, however, are definitely an extremely versatile bait that all species of fish love eating.
They are full of proteins and amino acids that not only fulfil a fish’s dietary needs but act as a fish attractant – dropping them into your swim is sure to have fish searching around for them. In fact, the attractants they give off will have fish investigating in next to no time.
This quality makes worms the perfect bait for short sessions where you either want to get to a venue and catch fish instantly, or kick-start a swim that had previously seemed devoid of life. The first of these is what I am faced with today as you join me at the stunning Barston Lakes Fishery, in the West Midlands.
Daisy’s was originally a stock pond here at Barston Lakes, but in 2013 was opened as a day-ticket water and is named after club manager Mark Harrhy’s daughter. The lake holds 18 pegs, making it a perfect pleasure lake but also a brilliant venue for a knock-up between a few anglers.
Daisy’s Pool has a good head of silver fish, F1s and carp, with my main target for the day being the skimmers that not just Daisy’s but all of the lakes at Barston are known for.
Feeding The Swim
Ordinarily when targeting skimmers/bream on natural waters I would tend to put out a bed of bait for the fish to feed over. Skimmers are naturally a grazing species, which means they will settle over a bed of feed and feed over a prolonged period (unlike the hectic feeding style of carp, which tend to slurp up everything in sight before moving on).
However, commercial skimmers act very differently to natural-water skimmers. Arguably this is not because they want to, but more likely because they have to due to the availability of food and the likelihood that if they don’t seize the opportunity to feed when they get the chance, other species, such as carp, will get in and eat everything up before them!
It’s for this reason that on small, heavily stocked lakes such as Daisy’s my approach is slightly different and revolves around offering sticky balls of groundbait packed with segments of worms, fed via a medium Cad Pot, that I feel occupy and attract fish into the swim and get them competing for the feed on offer.
I like to make up a sticky mix consisting of 50/50 Sensas Stimul-8 Natural & Green groundbaits, to which I can add the chopped-up worms and a few pellets to keep the fish occupied. I like to mix the groundbait in this way as I feel skimmers will stick around for longer if they are having to get their heads into the groundbait and are actively seeking to pick out the particles, rather than those particles being loose in the swim and wafting all over the place.
How finely I decide to chop the worms depends on the target species: when bigger fish are the target I see no need in chopping them too fine as this will have a tendency to attract too many small fish. It’s a good job this is the case, really, as the recent transition from my old box to a new one has seen my worm scissors go missing, and all I could find today were ‘our Maud’s’ pink nail scissors. I think I’ll have to replace them before this issue gets published!
A small ball of groundbait was fed via a Cad Pot every drop in.
I have decided to target a single area of the swim that will be the focus of my day; the weather is favourable, being slightly overcast, which means the fish should feed confidently in open water. I have a depth of five feet at 10 metres, which is also an extremely comfortable distance to fish and a good depth.
It is important when setting up to consider different factors that may affect your catch rate throughout the day. The peg I am sat on today is quite high off the water and the bank behind me is even higher; fishing too close could therefore mean spooking the fish should I get up or while I am moving about on the peg. On the other hand, fishing too long may reduce catch rate as speed, ease of shipping and presentation will all be sacrificed.
Due to the short nature of the session I feel a one-line approach is going to be most efficient on the day as I want the fish to be focusing on the feed where I am fishing and not in small pockets around the peg. This should allow me to catch quickly without having to chase the fish around.
I have set two rigs up for the session. The first is a deck rig consisting of a 0.3g Drennan AS3 float shotted with a bulk of No9s and two No10 droppers, made up on 0.13mm diameter Guru N-Gauge main line down to a 0.11mm diameter hooklength of the same material tied to a size 16 B911 F1 hook.
I then set up a shallow rig that consisted of a slim-bodied short float in 4x10 size and again a 0.11mm diameter hooklength down to a size 16 B911 F1 hook, in case the fish start coming off the bottom and intercepting the bait in the upper layers.
Jake is a big fan of the AS range of pole floats from Drennan!
Within seconds of my inch-long segment of worm and golf-ball-sized ball of groundbait entering the swim I have my first bite and fish of the day, a skimmer of around 8oz – a good start to the session. The key is to build the swim up, so fishing in this manner I always expect to catch a few smaller fish to begin before the bigger fish move in and start pushing the smaller fish out.
I continue to plug away catching small skimmers every drop in, feeding a similar sized ball of groundbait every time. It takes around 20 minutes before my first proper fish of the day, and a skimmer of around 2lb goes through the usual dramatics of jumping out of the water before ultimately giving itself up as it floats along the surface of the lake, resembling a wet flannel.
A couple more of these better stamp fish soon follow before my swim seems to go a little quiet. I give it a couple of minutes before my float shoots under and a carp of around 3lb is the outcome.
On dropping back in the action picks up where it left off and I am back catching small skimmers, sometimes hooking a bigger fish such as a carp that will clear the swim of all bait with one waft of its tail to almost ‘reset’ the swim. Generally the smaller fish will linger in the periphery of the feed area so a bit of bait being introduced will soon have them back and interested again.
Using soft elastics allows Jake to ship back without worrying too much about what the fish is doing.
After a while I start getting a lot of indications on the float and begin to miss bites. Sometimes when laying my rig in the float never settles, and on lifting up a fish has picked up the bait before it has reached the bottom.
At this point I reach for my shallow rig and continue again; my first three fish are all proper skimmers, with a couple of F1s for good measure, all falling to a full, medium-sized worm.
Commercial skimmers act very differently to their natural-water counterparts and one thing that makes them different is their feeding habits. In natural venues such as rivers or canals we often see them swimming around mid water or see shoals of big bream basking in the sun on the surface. However, catching them off the bottom is a different matter altogether!
Commercial skimmers, on the other hand, are often forced into feeding off the bottom, where they naturally prefer to feed. This is largely down to their need to compete for food and with much more active species such as carp, roach and F1s sharing a habitat, the much more languid temperament of the skimmer means reaching the feed before anything else can prove to be a bit of a struggle.
That definitely seems to be the case today and these bigger fish are feeding in the upper layers trying to intercept the bait before the smaller skimmers, which are in the swim in their hundreds, have a chance to get to it.
Carp like this make a pleasant addition to a netful of skimmers!
I have been fishing now for almost three hours and I am continuing to get a bite every drop in. In fact, for the duration of the session I have had a fish pretty much every chuck! I have caught a lot of small skimmers between 3oz and 8oz with plenty of better ones mixed in, as well as carp, F1s and roach.
By switching between my deep and shallow rigs I have been able to keep in touch with the fish and find where they want to be, and have finished with really nice net of fish to show for my efforts, of which the bulk of the weight is made up of skimmers.
It goes to show how far a handful of worms, micro pellets and just over 1kg of groundbait can go! A day like this doesn’t need to cost a lot, so get out and give it a go!
An impressive haul after the short session.
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