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
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
TACTICS: FEEDER SPECIES: BREAM DIFFICULTY:
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