How long is your hook­length? – Mark Ma­lin

If it’s less than 3ft you could be miss­ing out on bites, ac­cord­ing to MAP’s Mark Ma­lin. He ex­plains how longer hook­lengths fool wary bream

Improve Your Coarse Fishing (UK) - - Inside - Pics: Richard Chap­man Words: Tony Grig­or­jevs

IF THERE is one arm of the sport that can lead to you rip­ping your hair out, it’s bream fish­ing. A cou­ple of quick fish on the feeder lull you into a false sense of se­cu­rity, lead­ing you into think­ing you’ve cracked it. Then the bites sud­denly stop. You be­come in­creas­ingly frus­trated as your rod-tip con­tin­u­ally taps, in­di­cat­ing the pres­ence of fish brush­ing against the line that are re­fus­ing to take the hook­bait. It would be easy to throw in the towel at that point. But Mark Ma­lin be­lieves there is one trick that has helped him over­come this prob­lem time and time again. “Mod­ern-day an­glers are ob­sessed with us­ing short hook­lengths but there are times when us­ing a much longer ver­sion can be ex­tremely ef­fec­tive,” ex­plained Mark. “Bream are a cagey species, and there are sev­eral rea­sons why us­ing a long hook­length keeps the bites com­ing thick and fast.”

Why longer is bet­ter

Bream are greedy. They can hoover up a bed of bait in no time at all. Un­like carp, though, they can be cau­tious when feed­ing, which makes them tricky to catch. The dis­tur­bance of a cou­ple of fish be­ing ex­tracted from the shoal in­stantly puts them on high alert and changes the way they be­have. “All the ground­bait comes out of the feeder once it hits the bot­tom but that doesn’t mean lots of fish will in­stantly dive in and at­tack it,”

said the Bait-Tech and MAP-backed an­gler. “More of­ten than not the fish will sit away from it slightly and feed off scraps that are be­ing wafted around the swim. “That is why it is bet­ter to use a long hook­length so that your hook­bait re­sem­bles one of those bits of bait that has come away from the main din­ner plate.” The sec­ond ben­e­fit of a long hook­length is that once the feeder hits the deck it con­tin­ues to fall at a slow pace. Mark be­lieves that the fish watch it as it falls be­fore in­stinc­tively grab­bing it as it flut­ters past their face. Mark ties all his hook­lengths up so that they are 3ft long. If he is miss­ing bites he will trim it down in 6in in­cre­ments un­til he starts hit­ting them, but there are plenty of oc­ca­sions when no ad­just­ment is needed at all.

Build the swim grad­u­ally

Shoals of bream cruise around lakes and reser­voirs and there is a the­ory that you need a big bed of bait to hold them in the swim when they ar­rive. But Mark be­lieves that ‘fill­ing it in’ can have a detri­men­tal ef­fect on your re­sults. “If the fish turn up and they’re not feed­ing heav­ily then they’ll mop up what they want and drift off. In that time you might catch the odd fish but it’s then game over once they’ve gone.” In or­der to stop them in their tracks while main­tain­ing an air of cau­tion it is best to start the ses­sion by cast­ing a five-holed cage feeder loaded with ground­bait and a few dead red mag­gots and cast­ers four times. Mark uses the same feeder for his ac­tual fish­ing and re­casts ev­ery three to five min­utes.

“This grad­u­ally builds the amount of bait up with­out over­feed­ing the bream be­fore you know what their ap­petite is like that day. “If you are get­ting bites then keep cast­ing at the same rate but add some chopped worm to your mix­ture to keep them oc­cu­pied. “On the flip side, cut it down to cast­ing ev­ery 10 min­utes if you aren’t catch­ing to re­duce the amount of bait go­ing in, and try to force any feed­ing fish to take the hook­bait.”

Hook size and hook­baits

When pole fish­ing it isn’t un­com­mon to have one hook­length on a rig and then stick with it un­til the end of a ses­sion. Feeder fish­ing is a dif­fer­ent game, though, and while one rod can be used to present a num­ber of hook­baits, each needs a dif­fer­ent hook to do the job prop­erly. “You need to strike a bal­ance. There must be plenty of the hook­point show­ing but most of the hook needs to be cov­ered so fish can’t see the trap. I use a size 18 with one mag­got, a 16 with dou­ble mag­got or a small worm and a 14 with triple mag­got or a large worm.” All his hook­lengths are tied to 0.12mm line but he will step up to 0.14mm if he is catch­ing at pace to en­able him to pull a lit­tle harder and get fish in quicker.

Un­lock­ing Ar­row Val­ley

Worces­ter­shire’s Ar­row Val­ley Lake is home to stacks of bream but they don’t give them­selves up eas­ily. With such a vast area of wa­ter to ex­plore, they can seem­ingly go miss­ing. Em­ploy the right tac­tics though and you throw the odds well in your favour. Four feed­ers packed full of Bait-Tech Pro Nat­u­ral Dark and Su­per G Gold ground­bait were cast 50 yards out be­fore the ses­sion be­gan. Reach­ing such a range was done with ease thanks to Mark’s rod choice which is a 12ft 9in MAP Dual Dis­tance. As ex­pected, it was a wait­ing game to be­gin with. But by cau­tiously build­ing up the swim, his rod-tip even­tu­ally swung round. The fish were clearly hes­i­tant to feed, but by switch­ing hook­baits, ad­just­ing the hook­length and cast­ing at dif­fer­ent in­ter­vals, he never went any longer than 15 min­utes with­out a bite. “You can’t sit on your hands and be lazy when bream fish­ing or you will pay the price,” cau­tioned Mark. “Long hook­lengths are a thing of the past for many an­glers but they are a must for any se­ri­ous bream en­thu­si­ast.”

The feeder is fished on a run­ning quick-change swivel


Cast­ing ev­ery five min­utes grad­u­ally builds a bed of bait

Switch hook­baits to keep the bites com­ing

Start by push­ing some ground­bait and a few cast­ers into the cage feeder...

...then add a few dead mag­gots be­fore plug­ging the feeder with a lit­tle more ground­bait

A long hook­length will fool bream feed­ing cau­tiously

Mark fills his feed­ers with a mix of Bait-Tech Pro Nat­u­ral Dark and Su­per G Gold ground­bait

Match your hook size to the bait you are us­ing. A size 14 is ideal for use with a large worm

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