The two-bait tench mix you need to try – Paul Elt
Although many tench have grown big on carp baits, top specimen hunter Paul Elt proves that all you really need is a couple of traditional offerings…
SPRING signals many things – increasing daylight hours, warming temperatures and the appearance of fresh vegetation. It also signals the return of one the most popular coarse species to the angling menu. We are, of course, talking about tench. You’ll find them in all venues from small farm ponds to large tidal rivers, but it is in large gravel pits where you will find the biggest specimens. And it was on the banks of Linear Fisheries’ Manor Farm Lake that we found top specimen angler Paul Elt targeting the 14-acre pit’s stock of big tench. One of the country’s most popular carp day-ticket waters, Manor Farm Lake’s tench have thrived on the vast amount of quality bait intended for the carp, and specimens to over 12lb have been caught in recent years.
A classic bait combo
With the tench in Manor enjoying this diet of boilies and pellets it would be fair to assume that these would form at least a part of Paul’s baiting strategy. But peering into his bait bucket there appears to be nothing more than hemp and casters in it. “There’s no need for anything more complicated,” asserted the 48-year-old St Neots angler. “The carpet of hemp attracts them in and casters are quite simply one of the greatest tench baits. “I’m fishing a 50/50 mix of hemp and casters today but if you want to keep your bait bill down you can increase the ratio of hemp. I wouldn’t go any higher than 60/40, though, as the tench will become preoccupied on the hemp. “For a 24-hour session you won’t need more than a couple of pints of casters at this time of year. The bulk of this will go in the spod mix and you just need to keep a few separate to be used in PVA bags. “The only other ingredients that go into my mix are Dynamite Baits CSL Liquid Carp Food and Hemp Oil. It’s impossible to put too much CSL in and it’s a known tench attractor. The Hemp Oil also really helps to pull in the fish from surrounding areas.” When the temperatures start to increase it can be tempting to reach for the spod rod and ‘fill
the swim in’ with bait. This, however, could be an error. “I haven’t gone mad with the loosefeed,” says Paul. “I’d heard that several anglers had been fishing over big beds of bait and blanked. On busy waters like Linear there’s every chance someone fished your swim the day before, so you never know how much bait has already been put in. It’s therefore better to err on the side of caution and bait sparingly to start with. “I only started off with eight small Spombs around the area to get the fish mooching around. I then play it by ear – if I start getting a few fish I’ll put a few more Spombs out. “All three rods are spread over a 6ft-8ft area so eight Spombs of small particles spread over this really isn’t a lot of bait at all.”
T for tench
At this point Paul gets up and starts to reel one of his rods in. “I recast roughly every hour to keep a small amount of fresh bait going in via the PVA bags,” he says, skipping his rig back across the surface. “Tench aren’t scared of noise, they’ll often come and investigate any disturbance. It’s amazing how many bites come shortly after recasting.” Hoping to prove his point, he dries off a small number of casters with a towel, ready to tie up a fresh PVA mesh bag. “Not only does this leave a small pile of casters around the hookbait, it also prevents my supple hooklink from tangling,” he explains, holding up a six inch Drennan Sink Link braided hooklength knotless-knotted to a size 10 hook. “This is quite long compared to what a lot of anglers use for tench fishing but I’m confident with this length as a starting point and have caught a lot of fish on it. “I wouldn’t go any longer, but if I was getting aborted takes and missing bites I would shorten it right down,” he explained. On to the hair Paul has threaded two fake casters – one light and one dark coloured. “I know some people can’t get their head around using plastic baits but for hookbaits I think they are better than the real thing. Real casters can get smashed on the cast if you’re fishing at distance and also by smaller nuisance fish when in the water. This isn’t a problem when using fake ones. “Rather than threading the casters on side by side I thread them on to the hair so that the two casters form a ‘T’ shape. The fish seem to really struggle with this presentation and it definitely leads to more hooked fish.”
Search for features
With the bag nicked on to the hook the rig was cast back out. “When targeting gravel pit tench it’s important to look for features. Today’s swim has a lovely near-side margin down the lefthand side and there’s a gravel bar directly out in front. “All these things are attractive to tench, and when I arrived yesterday afternoon there was also a fresh wind blowing directly into the swim which is something else tench love. “I had a couple of casts, and the only thing that is missing to make this a perfect swim scenario is a decent amount of weed. Being clear it will aid my presentation, but tench will always go to weed beds and lily pads. Still, three out of four requirements isn’t bad! “I’d done a bit of work at home and could actually see the bar on Google Earth, so I knew roughly where I had to aim for. Using a marker rod will also allow you to find drop-offs, gullies and silty areas,” he added. “On this particular feature there is 7ft of water above the bar so I’m happy to fish my rigs
directly on top of it. If it was anything less than 4ft, I would fish further down the bar to stop the birdlife diving and picking up my baits.”
Just as Paul had stated earlier about tench being attracted to disturbance, it wasn’t long after recasting that he started to receive a couple of liners. Several minutes later the liners developed into a proper bite. “Tench are one of my favourite species,” said Paul, as his rod took on a healthy curve. “They’re hard fighting and are really like a scaled-down version of a carp but much prettier, in my opinion. “It’s just a shame you can’t fish for them for longer. The time spell to target them is only really from spring to early summer and then once they’ve spawed their shoals break up and they become much harder to track down.” It’s not long before a decent tench is brought through Manor’s crystal clear water into the net. “This is one of the things I love about fishing gravel pits – not only are they capable of producing huge tench, the bites often come throughout the day rather than just at dawn. In fact, I’ve found 10am – 1pm is a great time for tench on these large pits.” By the time we said goodbye to Paul he’d added another two tench to his tally, both of a similar size to the first – and all he needed was hemp and casters!
Paul starts the session with eight Spombs of hemp and casters over his rods
Recast regularly as tench will actively investigate any disturbance
It’s easy to see why Paul rates tench so highly with specimens like this
A marker float set-up is crucial for locating features when targeting gravel pit tench