Fishing the Margins

For many anglers, fishing down the edge can be a nightmare, but for Jamie Masson its just another line to win matches from! In the first part of his new series, Jamie reveals his latest tricks that give him the winning edge…

We caught up with Jamie Masson at Hallcroft fishery for a lesson in edge fishing, with a difference. Fishing down the edge is a crucial tactic in the commercial angler’s armoury; with carp everywhere becoming ever wiser, bites are often hard to come by throughout the match so making the most of the latter stages of the match is very important.

For years anglers have been fishing down the edge with all manner of baits. I’ve had success with loads of different combinations throughout the years – paste has been good, and corn, meat and pellets have also had their day – but I always felt that there must be a better bait to target these fish. Getting carp to come into the margins is never a problem; catching them, on the other hand, is! I always used to catch my fair share of carp when fishing with the baits I’ve already mentioned but the problem was line bites. The carp in Hallcroft are extremely ‘streetwise’ – they have been in here for years and have seen just about every approach ever thought of! The fish in here will come over a bed of pellets, but it’s almost as if they know that they are being fished for and getting a proper bite over this bait becomes incredibly difficult.

Several years ago an angler told me that he had been fishing with groundbait down the side, and mentioned how the carp seemed to come into his peg and feed without caution as if they hadn’t seen a large bed of groundbait in the edge before. The more I sat down and thought about it, the more I realised that the fish probably had seen groundbait there before, but only after the match had finished and anglers had thrown in their leftover bait. The fish must have learnt that groundbait was safe to come and eat as they had rarely been caught over it.

 I had to try it as I was becoming increasingly frustrated by line bites when feeding particle-type baits. My first few times using the groundbait were fantastic, and I tried feeding large quantities all at once, but also smaller amounts fed by hand. My results improved dramatically from feeding pellets, and where I used to catch four or five carp in the last hour of the match I was now catching up to 10!

Considering 10 carp in here can weigh over 100lb you can see how important these fish are.

THE GROUNDBAIT

Since starting to approach the margins with groundbait I have really experimented with my mixes. For the first few years, when I had the method to myself, it didn’t really seem to matter what the groundbait was. Any type of fishmeal mix seemed to draw the carp in and as long as it was mixed quite wet, it worked well. But as with all things in fishing you can’t keep a method to yourself for long, and once other anglers cottoned on to what I was doing the fish seemed to wise up too. For a short time I went back to particles to see if that would be effective again, but it was the age-old problem of getting fish into my peg and not being able to catch them. Groundbait was definitely the key but I needed to have a look at the mix I was using as the fish had definitely wised up to the bog-standard fishmeal mixes.

About 18 months ago my good friend Andy Kinder had started to catch loads of carp down the edge at Hallcroft, and with no disrespect to Andy he was catching far more fish than he had done previously, and it wasn’t like he was just drawing fliers. I asked him what he was doing and for a few weeks he dodged the question! But eventually he told me that the reason for his success was the new Marukyu groundbait that had just been released onto the market. As with all new things I dismissed it as a bit of a gimmick, and thought it must just be the way that Andy was feeding his peg. But after a couple more matches where my mix just simply wasn’t working, I decided to give Andy’s a try. The results were instant and I actually won the first match in which I tried it! That summer I went on to win loads of matches using this mix but this time around I kept it to myself!

The mix that I was using was Marukyu EFG 131. At first glance this groundbait looks extremely coarse! It is full of large particles that look completely wrong, but when you realise what the ingredients are you understand why this mix works so well. I don’t know all the scientific reasons why this mix works but what I do know is that it does, and that is good enough for me! The mix is fairly active but not in a fizzing manner; it releases particles into the water that help cloud the water slightly, which I’m sure gives the fish confidence to come into the swim and feed freely.

To my EFG 131 I’ve also been adding a small amount of EFG 100. This is a very fine powder that acts well as a binder but is also extremely attractive to the fish.

This seems to have given my mix an extra dimension and keeps me one step ahead of the other competitors. The great thing about these mixes is that you can mix the groundbait as you go along. There is a strict 2kg limit of groundbait here at Hallcroft, but on other venues where there are no limits then you can feed up to 4kg in a session. The problem with this with other mixes is that if you mix 4kg up and then don’t use it, it’s a complete waste of money. The beauty of the EFG mixes is that it can be mixed in five minutes to a perfect consistency. Because the mixes aren’t just based on crushed pellets, the ingredients don’t actually need long to take on the water, whereas a pellet mix can take a couple of hours to get perfect. For this reason I only mix up a bag at a time to reduce waste.

They also don’t need to be riddled, which also helps with the fast mixing process.

THE FEEDING

The feeding is perhaps the most crucial aspect of this method. I have had days where I need to feed a large bed of bait and then wait for the fish to arrive, whereas on other days the fish respond better to a little-and-often feeding regime. I have found that between April and June the fish seem to respond best to the softly-softly approach. Because of the 2kg limit I can’t really feed my peg early on in the match. For this reason I always feed my edge lines after about two and a half hours. This is important, as even when feeding the peg carefully you are still likely to use the full 2kg by the end of the match. To kick off the lines I simply cup in three large potfuls of loose groundbait. It’s important to feed either side of you in the same depth so that you can alternate lines. Once the initial three pots have been fed I like to top up with a potful every 15 minutes. I don’t just feed a pot after every fish, as I like to try and catch two or three off a feed. In fact, your best time for a bite is usually just after you have landed a fish, because the fish that you have just played will have stirred all the groundbait up and caused a big cloud in the edge.

After June I have had some success wit putting a very large bed down of, say, 1kg and then fishing it out. This can work very well and is great on those days where you think that only an odd fish will be caught down the edge. The fish treat this amount of bait with less caution and when the fishing is hard should feed with a bit more confidence. The key points to remember are to always feed your groundbait loose so that it creates a small cloud and spreads evenly over the bottom, and to always feed the pot in exactly the same place. The fish will come and spread the bait around for you, so you don’t have to!

THE HOOK BAITS

I am well known for keeping my fishing simple and when it comes to hook baits for this approach then I keep it even simpler! I either use two pieces of corn or two whole worms. I believe that when the fish are feeding over groundbait then they literally just come in and hoover the bottom up so that they are sucking everything in. The two baits I use are both visible and big so deter the attentions  of small fish, but remain highly visible so that a carp can find it. I have tried baits like meat and pellets but the results weren’t as good and I caught a larger number of nuisance fish with these baits.

TACKLE

Let me get one thing straight; when fishing down the side you are looking to catch BIG fish! There is no point at all in fishing light lines and small hooks and with fish regularly being caught up to 20lb here you need to gear up accordingly. For my rigs the lightest line that I will use is 0.18mm Maver Genesis Extreme. This line is very durable, which is important as the battles with these big fish can be quite lengthy so you don’t want your line to let you down. The float needs to be something with a decent thick bristle, and an Invincible Series 2 is my choice. I like to use light floats where possible so a 4×10 sees the most use. Because I like to hair rig my hook baits I use a size 14 Maver MT8 hook with a long hair and a bait band. This allows me to use double or even triple corn.

Elastic is an area where I feel many anglers get the wrong end of the stick completely. I have tried all kinds of setups down the years and always come back to lightish elastics. And now that we have puller kits the use of light elastics is even more effective. For 99 per cent of my big-carp fishing I use Maver 12-20 Dual Core Retro. This is a fantastic, soft elastic that allows the carp to swim out of the peg without fuss and then slowly powers up.

I use this with a Power Zone top kit that I have drilled so that the elastic can be pulled out of the side. I’m confident that I can land any carp in the lake on this setup, which for me is hugely important.

THE WINNING EDGE!

The final thing worth noting is the length of line between pole tip and float. Many anglers like to fish a line between six and 12 inches, but in my opinion this is too short as the pole is over the float. I much prefer to use a line that is two feet long so that I can set my float then move my pole out of the way into some cover. I don’t need to be able to react too quickly to bites as the hair rig helps with hooking the fish.

LOCATION

Finding the right place to fish can make or break your edge fishing session. The first thing that you need to do on arrival to your peg is to put a rig on and have a good plumb around. Ideally you want between one feet and two feet of water as close to the bank as you can find it. If you can find a flat spot then that will be perfect, but if not a gentle slope is what to look out for. Because the water here is quite clear I also like to look for a bit of cover.

Fishing towards the next peg is a great place to start, but also consider reeds and sedges as long as the depth is right. I rarely go into water shallower than 12 inches when fishing for big carp as I believe they are much happier feeding with some water over their heads.

THE SESSION

I’ve chosen to sit on a good peg on Moat Lake here at Hallcroft, which will hopefully show just how effective this approach is. It’s a typical peg with platforms either side at about 11 metres; the left-hand edge has slightly more cover in the way of reeds but the right-hand edge is normally the better side. I kick off the session with three pots of groundbait on either side, and bait my hook bait with double corn. I expect to wait a couple of hours for some action so I’m pleasantly surprised when I notice signs of carp straightaway.

Over the next couple of hours I catch carp steadily, but what is noticeable is the amount of carp I foul hook on the righthand swim. Now normally on this peg the right-hand edge is the best but today for some reason it isn’t. This just highlights the importance of feeding both sides, as usually the side that looks worst turns out to be the best! In the end I choose to just concentrate my bait on the left, as it is clearly the best side on the day. This is an important point to consider; as I’m catching lots of fish today I need to concentrate my two kilos of bait on one side and make the most of what clearly is a red-letter day.

I finish the session with well over 150lb of big carp, including two giants that weigh nearly 40lb between them (now you know why strong tackle is a must!) The groundbait approach is one of the best tactics to have been revealed in recent times and it might just be what you need to give you the winning edge!

The right bait is essential !!!