on the tactics which won the mega-popular FeederFest event
FOR those that aren’t familiar with Feederfest it’s a five-day festival on the massive Inniscarra Lake in southern Ireland.
This huge reservoir has been very kind to me in the past – it was where I won individual and team gold with England at the World Feeder Champs in 2014, and I was fortunate enough to win the first Feederfest event here in 2016.
The event attracts a lot of top anglers – 98 of them this year – and with the winner decided on weight it’s an event that appeals to my positive style of fishing…
SETTING UP FOR SPEED
Quite often fishing in Ireland can be about catching lots of small fish quickly, and you can’t leave anything to chance – five minutes lost can cost you a match, which in turn can cost you a festival.
Each day I set up four identical rods – all 11ft Daiwa Tournament quivers with the 1oz tips fitted – and 4012 TDR reels loaded with Guru Pulse8 braid.
Rather than use a shockleader for roach work I much prefer to fish braid direct. Bite detection is so much better, as a result of which I find I miss far fewer bites.
Feeder choice varies but the theme is small, and I normally fish either a four-hole, 28g Nisa plastic cage or a 30g mini window feeder.
Hooklength also varies, but as a guide I will always kick off on 50cm of 0.15mm N-Gauge to a size 10 Tubertini series 18 hook – yes, you read that right, a size 10!
The important part to remember here is that in Ireland you are fishing for wild fish that aren’t hook and line-shy and so you can fish a lot heavier than normal.
A size 10 hook is also a lot harder for the small roach to deal with, so you miss fewer bites and lose fewer fish.
As far as groundbait goes I stuck with my usual roach mix of two pints each of Dynamite Frenzied Hemp Black, brown crumb and Van Den Eynde G5, mixed in equal parts.
As a guide, six pints in total was enough for the full five hours due the size of feeders being used.
On top of the groundbait I had a kilo of worms, two pints of casters and half-a-pint of red maggots, which were purely for the hook.
Interestingly, I fed virtually no casters over the five days, finding very finely chopped worm a much better option.
On the hook a single red maggot hooked straight through the middle was all I really fished as far as the roach were concerned.
DAY 1 – C SECTION GREENWAY
The first day saw me draw C45 on the Greenway. This was an end peg which I thought was a half decent start – after all, there is no such thing as a bad end peg in Ireland!
While there are lots of skimmers in Inniscarra, at this time of year it’s the roach that are the banker species and worth pursuing.
After a quick plumb up I quickly established this was a shallow area so I went with two lines, one at 31m on a count of seven with a 1oz bomb, so around 15ft-18ft deep.
This was further out than I’d have liked but I was worried about the depth, or the lack of it!
The second line was at 20m, which I hoped would produce in the last 90 minutes.
Looking back, I actually had a decent match, finishing with 138 fish, mainly roach for 8kg 880g which was enough to win the section.
The short line also came good, although not until the last 30 minutes when the light dropped, and then I put 32 fish in the net.
DAY 2 – D SECTION GRAVEYARD
The second day saw me heading to D section. This had produced all the best weights on day one, so I knew if I was to have a chance of winning the festival I needed 15kg-plus from here.
I found myself drawn on 71 at the Graveyard, which was the first peg in the trees and at the deeper end of the section.
Plumbing up, I had an eight count at 16m, and with it not getting any deeper further out I decided to gamble and fish short.
I felt I would need 200-plus fish so the shorter I could catch them, the quicker I would be.
At the start of the match it took me 10 minutes to get a bite, and with others around me catching from the off further out I was wondering if I’d made a mistake.
Eventually, though, the roach turned up and in the first hour I had 43 fish – I felt the swim was getting better.
To quicken things up I decided to come back a metre and up the weight of my feeder from 28g to 44g.
My thinking was that if I could bring the fish shorter I would be able to catch quicker. A heavier feeder would also sink quicker, saving me time.
This worked a treat, and in the second hour I put 66 fish in the net before bites started to slow and I had to drop back down in feeder weight.
The rest of the match was steady, if not exactly spectacular, and I finished with 216 roach and three skimmers for a match-winning 17kg 780g – I was very much back in the race!
DAY 3 – E SECTION PUMP HOUSE
Wednesday’s location was a split section – one on what’s called the concrete and one on the Pump House.
For a decent weight I really needed the concrete, but my drawing arm failed miserably and I found myself on the Pump House.
This is a very deep section that can produce skimmers, but it isn’t one you can fish for roach on. So while I had an early look for roach it was a futile exercise and I soon settled into a skimmer match.
In hindsight this never really got going and I ended up with just seven skimmers and a few bits for a disappointing 4kg 430g.
I foulhooked two skimmers and lost them. If I’d have been more patient then 6kg was a possibility. How costly this would be I’d have to wait to find out.
DAY 4 – A SECTION GREENWAY
My trip to A section on Thursday was realistically my last chance of a decent weight as B, which I’d fish
on Friday, had been hard all week.
Everyone wanted A1 but I wasn’t unhappy with A7, as this was an end peg of sorts with no-one until peg 3.
That said, it was a peg I felt only really offered a roach option so I was going to be busy and set up to fish two lines, one at 25m and one at 15m so I could catch quickly.
I actually had a strange match and really struggled to get the fish to settle at all.
Bites were also very iffy, even on braid direct the way through. I eventually worked out that the best way to hit them was to fish with a slack tip and let them pull themselves on – fishing with a bend in the tip just resulted in missed bites galore.
My short line never produced a bite either, which was disappointing, and I eventually finished with 116 fish for 6kg 320g. Barring a miracle, my chances of retaining my title seemed to be away with the little people!
That said, a chance of top eight was still up for grabs so there was still plenty to fish for on the last day…
DAY 5 – B SECTION GREENWAY
The last day saw me in the toughest section of the week, bang in the middle of Greenway.
My target to stay in the money positions was 4kg so I opted for two lines, not alternating them.
Instead I kicked off at 25m on a 12 count (around 30ft deep) with a view to finishing at 31m on a 14 count – getting on for 40ft deep!
This worked really well, and while those around me started longer, I kept plugging away closer in and had 24 fish in the first hour before it died.
I then had another burst at 31m, plus a nice bonus in the form of a 1lb 8oz perch.
This line eventually slowed up, but by fishing a tiny window feeder and short hooklength I eventually finished with 90 fish for a 6kg 540g. This pushed me up the leaderboard into sixth place overall which, all things considered, I have to be happy with.
Looking back, I think fourth was probably the best I could have done off my draws and the way they fell.
That said, it was a really interesting week and I felt I’d learnt loads, which of course is what it’s all about!
My 17-780 winning day two Graveyard haul.
Size 10 hooks are not too big for Irish roach. These window feeders cast like bullets.
Bait – casters, maggots and worms.
A window feeder and mixed contents.