Pellet potting perfection – Shannon Swallow
Guru’s Shannon Swallow reveals her top three ways to pot in pellets to catch more commercial carp
IRARELY visit any commercial fishery without having some micro pellets and expanders at my side. This bait combination is used everywhere all year around and is a banker for getting bites from a variety of species. There are, however, some simple tricks that can give you an edge. Today, you join me on the Railway Lake at Barford Fishery in Norfolk, where I’ll reveal these tricks of the trade!
When using micro pellets as feed, I always soak them so they soften. This ensures they all sink, gives you the option of feeding them in various ways, and makes them easier for fish to digest. Ideally, you need to soak them so that they are soft throughout, but still remain a whole pellet without becoming too mushy. I always prepare my micros as soon as I arrive on the bank. This gives them time to soak up the water and swell properly. To prepare my micros, I use a Bait Strainer and, after placing the pellets into the Strainer in a bait tub, I fully cover them with water. I then leave them for a minute, before lifting the Strainer out and leaving them to drain off. After 15 minutes, I’ll check the pellets. If they seem to be softening, I’ll simply leave them – they’re done. However, if they’re still very hard inside I give them another dip in the water, dunking the strainer back in the tub of water for a few seconds before leaving them to drain again. Repeat this process until they are perfect. When preparing hook pellets, I place a handful in a small food bag the night before fishing. I then just cover these with water, before tying a knot as tight to the pellets as possible. You can then cut the bag open, and you’ll have a textbook hook pellet. If they float, give them a light squeeze in a tub of water before you place them on the hook.
There are several different ways of feeding micro pellets, depending on the situation on any given day. The first, and easiest, way is to feed them almost loose in your pole pot. You can vary the amount you feed by changing the size of your pot. Fill the pot with micro pellets and very lightly push them down with a finger or thumb. This temporarily wedges them in the pot, and enables you to ship out without spilling them everywhere. You may also notice I’m wearing fingerless woollen gloves. This also helps with smooth shipping! It’s then a case of accurately potting in the pellets where you want them. I lightly touch the pot on the water, and the holes in the base of it let water in, loosening the pellets and releasing them. Sometimes, a small series of taps on your pole butt with your hand will help them come out. The next way to feed them is with a sprinkle pot. This is highly effective on more difficult
days because you can sprinkle in just a few pellets at a time. This creates an attractive column of pellets falling through the water, and produces a ‘pitter-patter’ noise when the pellets sprinkle in, further attracting fish. My final feeding ploy is to squeeze the micro pellets into a small, firm nugget and place this into a pole pot. This will go straight to the bottom very quickly, keeping the pellets in a tight little area. This is deadly in deep water, or if there are a lot of feeding fish in your swim, because it keeps them pinned to the bottom. You can also be highly accurate and, after feeding the little nugget, you can lower in your rig directly over the top.
Hooking and striking
How you hook your expander pellet is important. When pellets are made, the grains lay a certain way within them. This is always long ways, so that the hook bend is pulling against the grains. Always try and bury the hook deep into the barrel of the pellet, before rolling it around on the bend of the hook. Make sure that the point comes cleanly out of the other side of the barrel, and is exposed to hook into fish when you strike. On the subject of striking, I give the float a gentle lift rather than a firm strike. When you get a bite, lift up with your knee, moving the pole tip and float just a foot or so. A lot of people strike quite hard, causing the pellet to come off. When you’ve hooked the pellet properly, you only need a very gentle lift to set the hook. If you do miss the bite, you can lower the rig back down back into position confifident that the pellet is still fifirmly attached to the hook.
Pellet rigs made simple
My rigs for pellet fishing are super simple. My main requirement is that the rigs are stable because I want my rig, float and hookbait to sit over the feed without drifting off. When feeding with a pole pot, your bait lands in a small area on the bottom and that is exactly where you need to place your hookbait. If your rig is too light it can drift away from this zone and you simply won’t catch the fish that are eating the loosefeed! I always use a quite a heavy float. Today’s swim is 6ft deep and I’m using a 0.6g float. In 4ft of water I’d use a 0.4g version and in water up to eight feet or more I wouldn’t hesitate to use a 0.8g or even 1g pattern. Obviously, this depends on conditions too. If it’s windy, you will need a heavier float than normal. Shotting of the rigs is a simple spread bulk of No.9 shot. This string of shot starts just above my 6in hooklength, spaced at 2in intervals. This
shotting pattern means that all the weight of the rig is close to the hook, which aids stability and also provides good bite indication. If the shots were spaced out along the whole of the rig, bite detection wouldn’t be as good.
You can probably see that the nature of my approach is about being accurate and fishing in a small, tight area. Plumbing up correctly will hugely improve your accuracy. If you have too much line laid on the bottom, fish will pick up your bait and blow it back out without registering a bite. Likewise, if you fish off the bottom the fish won’t pick up your bait. Ideally, you need an inch or two of line laid on the bottom so the bait is static on top of the feed. Plumb up so the float bristle and a little of the body is out of the water.
Today has been perfect for demonstrating feeding techniques with pellets. After a cold start to, I began feeding with my small sprinkle pot. This prolongs the release of pellets from the pot, leaving a fish-attracting trail in the water. After around 10 minutes I started to get bites from smaller skimmers. The action soon hottedup and I began to miss bites and was plagued by small roach. The sprinkling of micro pellets was attracting far too many small fish and I needed to feed more bait in more solid form. Removing the small pot, I replaced it with a medium one and began to fill it up and lightly press the pellets into the pot. This released them in a solid clump, and I was soon into a run of golden Barford F1s! After an hour, I lost a foul-hooked fish and began missing bites again. It seemed that the fish were competing for the bait so much that they were coming off the bottom. After a cool night, I wasn’t confident in loosefeeding and fishing shallow , so I simply began making my micros into small balls… and what a difference it made! By plopping in a small nugget of pellets, the fifish seemed to follow it straight to the deck and, by lowering my rig right on top, I was into the big F1s again.
Shannon will always be armed with pellets when visiting a commercial fishery
Correctly hooking expander pellets will result in more positive bites
Float: 4x16 Shotting: Spread bulk of No.9 shot starting 6in from hook Mainline: 0.15mm Guru N-Gauge Hooklength: 0.13mm Guru N-Gauge Hook: Size 14 Guru Kaizen for carp, or 16 Guru Super LWG for F1s Elastic: Daiwa Orange or White Hydro By altering her feeding, Shannon put together an impressive net of carp