Steve looks back two decades to the cre­ation of a bait that’s still deadly today…

Angling Times (UK) - - TIPS & TACTICS -

THE ex­pander pel­let as we know it came out about by ac­ci­dent!

I was study­ing at Sparsholt Col­lege and at the end of a feed trial I’d man­aged to grab what was left of the pel­lets used. There was a match at Cas­tle Ashby’s Gren­don Pond, and I thought they’d be perfect for the res­i­dent carp.

How­ever, on ar­rival at the venue I quickly dis­cov­ered a huge prob­lem – all the pel­lets floated!

I hadn’t checked what they were and just as­sumed they were hard pel­lets, which would sink. This, of course, left me with no bait to feed so all I could think to do was to soak them and see if I could make them sink.

Af­ter a while they had all swelled up, and af­ter giv­ing them a good squeeze they sank – thank­fully!

I was back in busi­ness and went on to win the match feed­ing what would quickly be­come known as ex­pander pel­lets.

From that point on my brother Phil and I had a great run of re­sults feed­ing ex­panders on sev­eral dif­fer­ent venues. Even­tu­ally, though, the se­cret leaked out and oth­ers latched on to the fact we had dif­fer­ent pel­lets to ev­ery­one else on the bank.

With de­mand for the pel­lets be­ing so high, Phil sourced them and be­gan bag­ging them him­self and sell­ing them to lo­cal tackle shops. That was the be­gin­ning of Ringer Baits as we know it.


The funny thing about those early ex­pander pel­lets is that for prob­a­bly three months we only fed them. It never oc­curred to us to ac­tu­ally put one on the hook!

Back then we would feed ex­panders and fish paste on a wag­gler over the top. Then one day my dad sat be­hind me at Cas­tle Ashby when, de­spite hav­ing a peg full of carp, I was strug­gling to catch them on paste.

Dad picked up a 6mm ex­pander and said: “Have you ever tried one on the hook?” I quickly reeled in and nicked a 6mm ex­pander on. Straight away I remember think­ing how easy they were to hook.

Out went the wag­gler and, as I went to sink the line, I nearly lost the rod as a carp hooked it­self!

The trans­for­ma­tion of my swim was un­real, and I went from nowhere to fram­ing in the last hour as carp af­ter carp sucked in a hooked ex­pander pel­let.

Look­ing back, I have no idea why I never hooked one on ear­lier but one thing’s for sure, their ef­fec­tive­ness on the hook has to be seen to be be­lieved.

From that point on I did loads of wag­gler and ex­pander fish­ing and caught a lot of carp in the process.

Then, for var­i­ous rea­sons, the tac­tic tailed off. I think the big­gest fac­tor was the ad­vent of fish­ery own pel­lets. All of a sud­den you couldn’t feed ex­panders, which was a ma­jor part of the tac­tic.

How­ever, times have changed and there are plenty of wa­ters which al­low you to do this again. If you get the op­por­tu­nity, you’ll find it’s still a fan­tas­tic way to fish!


You need only one bait, a bag or two of 6mm ex­pander pel­lets.

I’ve used loads of dif­fer­ent types and sizes over the years but at the mo­ment I’m us­ing Ringers Ul­ti­mate Koi Ex­panders. Once

pre­pared these are a bit more rub­bery in tex­ture and lend them­selves per­fectly to wag­gler work. Pre­par­ing ex­panders to en­sure they sink is dead sim­ple – all you need is a pel­let pump!

Remember, the less you pump the more com­pact they will be. Pump­ing pel­lets to ex­cess ac­tu­ally breaks them down and will leave you with a pile of ex­pander mush two hours into a ses­sion.

I like to put the pel­lets in the pump, fill it with wa­ter and give the plunger half a pull. I then re­move the plunger, top the pump back up again with wa­ter (you’ll find the level has dropped), then give the pel­lets a sin­gle pump which should see them all sink.

To fish the wag­gler and ex­pander I’d say you want three to four pints of pre­pared ex­panders, so you’ll have to pump six to eight batches of pel­lets to get that amount.


When I first started fish­ing the ex­pander I used tra­di­tional pea­cock wag­glers but now I’ve switched to Dren­nan’s more mod­ern Loaded Pea­cock Glow Tip ver­sions. Size of float de­pends on the dis­tance I want to fish, but one tip I can give you is al­ways to go a size bigger than you need.

A slightly heav­ier float makes cast­ing that lit­tle bit eas­ier, with less chance of cast­ing the ex­pander off the hook. The cast can be kept slow and smooth, which is the se­cret to keep­ing the pel­let on. On the sub­ject of cast­ing it’s

worth men­tion­ing that a low di­am­e­ter main­line also helps, and it’s for this rea­son that I use 5lb Guru Pulse line.

I pre­fer a loaded float– first it casts a dream and sec­ond, it means I don’t have to put big shot on the main­line.

In­stead I only have four No8 shot around the float.

I don’t put any shot down the line but do use a size 16 quickchange swivel. This not only acts as a weight, but also gives me the abil­ity to change my hook­length quickly and ef­fi­ciently in the course of a ses­sion.

On the sub­ject of hook­lengths,

I like to use 12ins of 0.16mm Pure Flu­o­ro­car­bon to a size 12 F1 Pel­let hook.

A size 12 might seem like a big hook, but I like it be­cause I can thread the ex­pander on to it and this helps it stay on when you’re cast­ing – some­thing that can’t of­ten be said with smaller hooks.

Fi­nally, when it comes to plumb­ing the depth, I al­ways do so with a swan shot. Cast­ing a plum­met out is only likely to spook fish. I try to fish around 6ins overdepth too, and this way, if there any tow, I can still get the hook­bait to trip and hold.


As far as feed­ing goes, with ex­panders be­ing soft I al­ways feel it’s bet­ter to feed heav­ily.

All sizes of fish will eat ex­panders, even small roach, so you have to take this into ac­count to make sure some pel­lets reach

the bot­tom and stay there.

If small fish are a prob­lem I will sim­ply up my feed even more to try and get to the bigger ones.

Equally, if I’m on a venue that doesn’t have small-fish prob­lems, then of course I can cut back my feed­ing and tai­lor it to bites – but to start with it’s al­ways bet­ter in my ex­pe­ri­ence to be ag­gres­sive with the bait.


Wag­gler and ex­pander is a tac­tic that with­out doubt suits shal­low, silty venues - this is one of the rea­sons it was so ef­fec­tive at Cas­tle Ashby.

Hard pel­lets sink into silt, whereas ex­panders tend to sit on top of it, so you don’t get so much

fizzing and the fish as a re­sult are that lit­tle bit eas­ier to catch.

It’s also perfect for Barston, on the big lake where I am today, as it’s a rel­a­tively shal­low lake with less than 4ft of wa­ter on 80 per cent of the pegs on the wag­gler line.

Per­son­ally, I’d say any­thing deeper than 6ft and wag­gler and ex­pander is a method that loses its ef­fec­tive­ness.

With the ex­panders sink­ing so slowly they can end up all over the place, tak­ing your fish with them.

As for species, ex­pander pel­lets were orig­i­nally all about carp, but of course skim­mers and bream love them too – and on some fish­eries these can be great fish to tar­get and build a weight with.

I use Dren­nan wag­glers to fish soft ex­panders.

These are my ex­pander pel­lets of choice – hardly sur­pris­ing, re­ally!

My ready-la­belled 12ins hook­lengths.

This swivel also serves as a weight. A soft touch? A good carp taken on an ex­pander.

Two colours of ex­pander of­fer more op­tions.

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