TOP GROUNDBAITS FOR RIVER BARBEL
Bait expect Paul Garner reveals his favourite swimfeeder mix
IF any venue is designed for the feeder it has got to be a big river.
Being able to get some feed close to the hookbait is an absolute godsend – just try fishing a straight lead rod alongside a feeder rod and you’ll see how much difference it can make.
For me the open-end feeder is the right tool for the job at this time of the year because I want to fish with a mix of groundbait, pellets or boilies, with lashings of hemp to draw fish towards my hookbait.
I don’t worry about the commotion caused by the feeder crashing down over the fish – in deep water it doesn’t affect them.
THE FEEDER MIX
When I am guiding anglers on large rivers many are surprised at how often I will recast. Yet, keeping bait going in is key to building up the swim. The more you feed, the more you are likely to catch, and this applies just as much if I am fishing into dark as it does during the day.
Fifteen minutes is as long as I like to leave the feeder out, and my groundbait mix is designed to break down in this time frame.
The basis of my feeder mix is micro-pellets, from almost crumb size up to 3mm. Wetted down, these pellets stick together well, yet they break down in water to release a stream of particles.
Because the pellets can stick too well, I add a handful of fishmeal groundbait to help the mix bind, but still break down quickly. By adjusting the amount of groundbait added you can finetune the mix just how you want it.
This is a really potent groundbait mix on its own, but to boost it still further I use as much hempy water as possible to dampen it. If you use ready-prepared hemp then drain off the water it is supplied in or, if you cook your own hemp, keep the cooking water back in a plastic bottle.
A handful of 6mm and 8mm pellets is added to the groundbait mix so you are including feed of a similar size to the hookbait. Use mini-boilies instead if these are your preferred hookbaits.
The biggest problem to be overcome when fishing for barbel in big rivers is how to feed accurately. When faced with a river perhaps 60 yards across and 10ft deep with a decent flow, getting any bait close to the hookbait will be a challenge.
On relatively slow-flowing rivers like the Lower Severn or Thames, a spod can be used to launch hemp, pellets and boilies out to your chosen line. Use the line clip on the reel and you’ll hit the same distance every time. Allowing for the bait to sink, cast the spod two to four rodlengths upstream of where you cast your feeder rig.
Spodding in a river may sound unconventional, but if you want to boost your barbel catches it is highly effective.
The cloud of baits drifting downstream drives the barbel wild, and often the rod will hoop round within seconds of the spod splashing down. The spod is used as an addition to the feeder, not instead of it, as it can’t match the tight concentration of feed that you get with the feeder.
The old adage that the harder you work, the more you will catch applies to barbel fishing with the feeder. Keep a constant stream of bait trundling down the swim and you will catch a lot more than with a more laid-back approach.
I tend to keep my hookbaits straightforward when fishing the feeder. If it has done its job then the barbel will be on the lookout for grub and not too cautious, so a mini-boilie or a hard pellet is all that’s needed.
Keep the hookbaits small, though. My favourite has to be two 8mm pre-drilled pellets on the hair, or a 10mm boilie whittled down to resemble a pellet.
“Being able to get some feed close to the hookbait is an absolute godsend”
For me the feeder is a favourite river barbel tactic.