Bait choice is one of the biggest influences of your catch rate, choose the wrong bait and you can find yourself struggling despite having a swim full of fish. In summer you’ll find yourself catching on most baits, but as the water cools how do you figure out just what bait is the right bait? We joined Mark Pollard who might just have the answer.

Before winter really kicks in, temperatures can vary massively from day to day, a warm day can be followed by the temperature plummeting at night. These sudden changes in temperature really can affect the way fish feed in most commercials. This can obviously mean that the baits you use one day may not work the next, but this can also throughout a session.

Do you know what bait you should be using?

When the temperature drops during the night the water cools, this then causes the fish to want smaller baits that are easier to digest. This can mean maggots and small pellets can work well but the fish will probably ignore bigger baits like meat or corn. As the sun warms the water during the session and the water temperature rises the fish can sometimes begin to feed on bigger baits.

So how do you use this to your advantage and more importantly how do you choose the right baits to help you put more fish in your net? 

Starting Small:

I’ve found that to get the most from your peg at this time of year you have to start the session quite negatively. I’ll do this even when expecting to catch 100lb+ during the day. The thing to remember is that you can’t win a match in the first hour but you can give yourself a helping hand.

With this in mind I will plumb up several swims and have an idea of where the fish will be as the day progresses and the temperature rises. I will then feed different size baits in these different areas to reflect what the fish will be doing.

This may sound quite complex but it is actually quite simple, we’ll start by looking at feeding maggots. Maggots usually give you a pretty quick response; most fish will feed on them even in the depths of winter so they’re a great starting bait.

Maggots are normally a great starting bait

At the start of the session and before the temperature rises I don’t expect the fish to be in the shallowest water in the peg, this rules out the area tight to an island or in the margins. The deep water of the track is sometimes a bit too deep as the temperature will be cooler the deeper you go so I look for around 3ft of water away from any islands or features. This will be my starting point and I’ll toss pot maggots on this line and expect to catch fish from the off.

The switch:

If the fish are feeding well on maggots I will begin to introduce some pellets in with my feed with the view to switching this maggot line to a pellet line over the next hour or so. This can be a very effective way of prolonging a swim and also feeling the response to pellets. If it is a pellet day then I will eventually stop introducing the maggots and feed just pellets on this line, this usually also brings a better stamp of fish that can give your catch a nice boost.

Switch from feeding maggots to pellets, and don't fish tight to islands at the start of a session

When the fish have switched over to pellet and if it is a day where the sun is bright and the temperature is rising I will start to think about where the fish will want to be next. This next move will usually be into shallower water, depending on the contours of the lake I will try to work my way up the slope towards the island, usually just half a section at a time. This process can take a while as you feed further and further up the shelf but eventually you should be able to get the fish feeding tight against the island.

The great thing about the fish feeding in this shallower water is that it reduces the number of line bites and foul hooked fish that should result in less lost fish and more fish in the net.

Once you move up the slope the fishing can be fantastic

The next move:

My next move is always based around either catching quicker, or catching bigger fish. Again if it’s a day when the temperature is rising and the fish are feeding confidently you can expect to catch a few fish in the margins. Initially I will feed pellets next to any feature where I have around 2ft of water in the hope of the fish moving in as the session progresses.

You can still catch in the margins in winter if you have the depth

I will keep dropping on this line and look for signs of fish beginning to move in. If and when the fish do arrive and I start catching on pellets I will then start to introduce some corn. In much the same way that I switch a maggot line to a pellet line I will try to switch this margin pellet line to a corn line. You’ll find that the bigger particles will sort out the bigger fish and if I can end this match fishing corn in the margins catching lumps then I know everything has gone to plan.

Match the rigs to the fish:

An area that needs consideration on top of the baits that you’re using is your rigs, you need to match your rigs you’re fishing to the baits you’re using which can result in having several rigs set up for the session to cover the various depths. I’ve found that even when putting a steady 100lb net of fish together you don’t need to fish really heavy or bully the fish. I always lean towards the lighter side when it comes to tackle. My main line for my rigs is 0.16 Matrix Power Micron to a 0.14 hooklength. I can step this up, especially in the margins if I’m really catching well but generally I find this as heavy as I need to go. I get away with the lighter hooklength thanks to a soft size 8 Matrix Stay Fresh Hollow Elastic and with a puller kit you can still exert the pressure when needed. Hooks vary from a small size 18 for maggot fishing to a size 16 for pellet or corn and my floats generally vary depending on the depth I’m fishing. 4 x 14 for deeper pellet fishing and a light 4 x 12 for tight against islands and the margins. I use a simple bulk on both of these rigs.

Power Micron, but you don't need to fish really light

Secret to success:

Fundamentally I think the secret to success as the weather cools is not to become sunblind! Basically just because the sun is shining at 9 o clock in the morning it doesn’t mean that you’ll catch 200lb of fish shallow. Take note of night time temperatures and feel your way into each session and don’t go all in with your bagging head on at the whistle. Start on small baits, try various depths and when the fish do arrive be prepared to introduce bigger baits.

If you can follow this guide then you should be able to catch fish all match and by doing that you will usually never be far away from the main frame.