Matt's Masterclass

Let me introduce you to 11 year old Matt Jackman. I first met Matt a couple of months ago when I was researching a fishery review at a venue in Staffordshire. Walking around the main lake on this complex, I came across Matt and a couple of his friends who were setting up to catch carp. Mum was sitting quietly tapping away on a laptop under the bivvy, keeping well out of the way. I watched as they set their traps and, as all older anglers do, I offered advice as I saw fit. Hopefully with the benefit of my experience, Matt and his chums would catch some nice fish. I spent a few minutes with the group, and then having left my contact details with them, I wandered off to complete my review. I asked Matt to keep in touch so I could include him in a weekly column I also write.

I checked my emails a few weeks later and found something from Matt telling me about a project at his school. The teachers at Stafford Grammar had set the class a task which involved a ‘species hunt’. As I’m a bit dim when it comes to school curriculums nowadays, he had to explain that this meant he wanted to catch as many freshwater fish species as he could between now and early next year to develop a project as part of his studies. He had emailed me to ask for any information I had that could help him along.....

Having thought about the best way to help Matt out, I considered whether working together, we could produce something for ‘Carp and Coarse Angler’ as well . An article along the lines of ‘Mr. Crabtree’ where the experienced angler (me, before you ask), helps the newcomer to catch the fish of a lifetime. It sounded like Matt might be keen, so I emailed him back and asked his Dad to ring me to discuss the idea. The weekend passed then Matt’s Dad rang me for a quick chat. I’d never met Steve so I had to describe the idea without sounding too committed in case he didn’t like the plan. Luckily, he was only too pleased, and thought Matt would love the idea, so we arranged to meet at Baden Hall a few days later.

As I’ve previously mentioned, Matt knows the water, but I’ve fished there for years so the intention was to sit back and chip in with pearls of wisdom as Matt tried his best to catch. I got there early and covered my bases by asking the owner where the hot pegs were, and I also spent time on the bank talking to other anglers and watching the water. The main lake is over 10 acres, not huge, but big enough to cause problems on an Autumnal day. The wind was blowing the opposite way to what I expected from the weather forecast, straight into the shallows at the bottom of the lake. Most other anglers were sitting in the deeper swims, and fish could be seen in these areas. I didn’t want to look daft in front of Matt and his Dad, so I needed to be sure where to start

Matt came prepared

When they arrived, I shook hands with Steve and explained that as Matt hadn’t really fished ‘The method’, I wanted him to try it at some point during the day to catch bream, a target fish for the project. I asked Matt for his thoughts about swim choice; as I hoped he opted to set up in the shallows near the car park. I was hoping Matt would struggle so we could move to deeper water and I could really show him how to do it. To be fair, his reasons were sound; the warm wind was going to push fish our way throughout the session as the shallow water would become a degree or two warmer during the day, and any food items would also be shoved towards us.  Steve ended up carrying all the tackle to the peg, whilst Matt gave the orders; (same with your kids?) my tackle was staying in the car for a bit as I wanted to interview the youngster and construct a story.

A Ron Thompson rod pod was quickly erected, and then two Daiwa carp rods with matching Wychwood baitrunners placed in the rests. Prologic VTS bite alarms and swingers completed the set up.  Matt then talked me through his rigs and the reasons for using them. First was his running set up. A 3oz lead slid freely on his mainline, and was stopped by a simple bead to protect the size 8 swivel, no tubing or fancy leaders, then a short hook link to a size 6 wide gape hook. Hair rigged onto the hook was a ‘Mainline Fusion’ dumb bell boilie. We found something on the second rig that could be improved....already I was teaching Matt good things! His semi fixed rig had a lead clip and tail rubber holding a 2oz sinker; he had already cut the length of the tail on the clip to help the lead eject, but the tail rubber was almost completely jammed over the top. I chatted about this for a minute and showed him how it was supposed to work by just pinching the rubber over the clip. Matt could see that if the lead snagged then this method gave a far greater chance of the lead being dumped if necessary because it would release with minimum pressure. A length of rig tubing would help pin the mainline to the deck. A fluorocarbon combi-link with the last two inches consisting of a supple braid to allow free movement of the hair rigged bait finished the terminal tackle. This rig had one of Matt’s homemade raspberry boilies on it.

Matt cast out without leading around or any marker float work. I asked him to clarify why he hadn’t done any ground work and to describe the contours of the lake bed. He told me the patch he had cast to was silty (it isn’t, its clay) and was about 5 feet deep (it’s three feet at most).  He settled the rod in its rest, tightened up (slack lines work best) and switched on his alarms before pausing to bait the second rod. I was loving this, so far Matt was doing everything I hoped I’d be able to correct; I could soon have him catching fish as his efforts were bound to end in failure! I would look like I knew what I was doing...an expert! Brilliant! Before he could get the needle through his boilie, the first rod took off in a stunning ‘one toner’ as a hungry (and daft) carp picked up his bait. Fluke obviously..... Unfortunately, a hook pull resulted in the fish being lost at the net (smug) and Matt was left red faced looking for excuses.... Re-baited and re-cast, the first rod was followed shortly by the second rod slightly to the left into open water.

Matt dried his hands and sat down looking a little despondent; we chatted about his fishing, he told me about the waters he’s fished locally and about his holiday to White Springs Fishery in Wales. I discovered that his favourite species is perch, and his most memorable day was sharing a big net of barbel with his Dad from Heronbrook Fishery just up the road. Baden Hall is a fantastic fishery for younger anglers; well bailiffed with spacious pegs, good facilities and a great little tackle shop, it provides everything that you could want for a good day out. The addition of a specimen water with fish to almost 38lbs in 2008 only adds to the place. I asked Matt what he wanted to achieve on our day together? For a youngster, Matt has a good solid grounding in his fishing, even though he only got into it seriously last summer, time spent with his Dad and hours spent reading the fishing magazines and website forums have given him the basics and the confidence to try many different tactics. The only thing he wanted me to look at was fishing ‘the Method’ as he hadn’t had much success on it so far.

After the initial excitement, I thought it was about time to tackle up myself. My first rig consisted of 24” of sinking rig tubing, a 2oz lead on a clip, and around 8” of Advanced Carp Equipment ‘Camo core’ hook length material to a size 10 Korda Kurve shank. Baited with an S.A.E. baits 14mm Blackjack boilie and a PVA mesh bag of broken boilie bits and crushed halibut pellets, this got lobbed out towards the centre of the pool at a crashing fish. The second rod had another 24” of rig tube into a Fox Method feeder and a 3” Merlin braided hook link, again, to a size 10 Kurve shank. My method ground bait was made up of Sonubaits ready mix, a couple of pints of Vitalin cereal based dog food, a small tin of hemp and a pint of mini pellets. I’d taken the chance to mix it the night before so it just needed a tiny bit of lake water to get it ready. Moulding the bait around the frame of the feeder, I hair rigged a 10mm ‘Carp Zoom’ amino scopex pellet onto the hook and cast this about 45yards to the base of the gently sloping shelf. Matt had got his eye on carp and bream for his species hunt, so I felt I’d got both fairly well covered.

Within 10 minutes of my feeder settling on the bottom and everything being tightened up, the alarm slowly warbled as a fish took line; looking across at Matt, he seemed a bit fed up as I reeled in a bream of a couple of pounds. He hadn’t had more than a knock or two in the hour previously, so wound in to check his baits. I noticed that he hair rigged his dumb bell baits across the bait rather than along it and made a mental note that was to prove important later on. Casting back out, he tightened up and sat back down. Just a few seconds later and his alarm screamed off as an angry carp took off across the lake with the hook firmly embedded. A short fight and a lovely looking 5lb carp sat in the folds of his net; it was bigger than my bream and he told me so! My feeder rod was doing well, three fish in a thirty minute spell had seen me creep ahead of Matt (not being competitive you understand!) but I was wondering why the boilie had not been taken yet as the fish were obviously feeding. We had now been on the bank for over two hours, had caught four carp between us and I’d had a few bream; no-one else on the lake was even getting a run, never mind landing fish, so I had to suspect that Matt had picked the right pegs to fish from. The combination of a warm breeze pushing directly onto us and a shallow depth was certainly producing action for us.

Matt had three dropped runs in a very short spell that prompted us to adjust his rig. Looking at the baits, I asked Matt if there was anything he could change to improve the hooking efficiency and reduce the number of missed bites. He thought about changing the hook size, the hair length and even changing baits, but as he was getting bites on the ‘Fusion’ boilies, he agreed that changing bait was not such a good idea. I suggested that hooking the dumb bell along its length instead of across it, may change the action of the hook on the pick up, allowing the weight of the hook to drop into the bottom lip of the carp and secure a better hook hold that the fish couldn’t eject; Matt thought this reasonable and agreed to try that first. Putting it back on his lightly baited spot, he waited patiently for it to be taken. Would it work? I’d look daft if it didn’t!

Matt JackmanLuckily, only a few minutes had passed before a chubby carp was tricked into sucking the bait in; unable to shift the hook, it shot off leaving the alarm shrieking. Happy again, Matt landed a smasher which proved to be the heaviest of the day. It wasn’t a big fish, coming in at just under 9lbs, but was in great condition and gave a good account of itself on Matt’s tackle. By now, we were really getting into the fish, bites within thirty seconds of the bait hitting the bottom were not unusual, and I was beginning to feel that every fish in the lake was right in front of us. Carp ranged between 4-9lbs, but were queuing up to be caught and the bream took whatever was left; we could do no wrong, and bear in mind, this is at the end of October, not the middle of summer. Other anglers started to drift over to see what we doing as they couldn’t get the action that we were. I even had an angler try to set up in the peg next to me and cast into our swim! (It’s only ten acres with 67 pegs, so there were more than enough other swims to try!) Even Matt was disappointed with the lack of etiquette! We eventually ended up sharing our baits with four other fishermen to see if they could get something going.

Whilst the method feeder had taken plenty of bream, the other rod had barely twitched. I know the bait is good as I’ve had results on it before, but today, it just wasn’t working; I had to swallow my pride and ask Matt for some ‘Fusion’! Breaking a boilie in half, it went out and inside ten minutes it was away, attached to pasty sized mirror......Hmmm......again, Matt had out thought me. This continued with a fish almost every cast. Matt’s homemade boilies didn’t do as much damage as the Mainline baits but he was taking the odd one which pleased him immensely to catch on baits he’d prepared himself; something I’ve never done....

Steve recommended that Matt try ‘the method’ as the scopex pellets had produced a bream or at least a bite on each attempt. A Garbolino ‘Mayhem’ quivertip rod was quickly set up, paired with a Shimano 3000 reel and a small method feeder. Matt was using one of the feeders that is designed to fit into a spring loaded mould and which gives perfect ‘method balls’ every time. By putting his hook bait into the mould first, then covering it with his ground bait mix before pressing the feeder into the bait, then the resulting ‘ball’ had the hook bait sitting right on top in the ideal place for a fish to find it. I advised that a gentle lob would be best to prevent the bait ball breaking up on the cast, and Matt dropped his bait in a few rod lengths out. Putting the rod on the rest and tightening the line to put a small deflection in the quiver tip, we were both astonished to see it wrap around as the bait was instantly taken!

A skimmer bream of about 14ozs came wriggling into the landing net, it was the first bream of Matt’s species hunt so he was very happy; further bites and more fish followed for the next hour or so until Matt hit into something a bit bigger. After a slightly longer struggle, Matt managed to land his new personal best bream in the form of a fin perfect slab weighing just under 3lbs. It wasn’t a massive fish, but it was a new p.b. and put a huge smile on his face. When bites started to drop off, Matt experimented with leaving his hook bait dangling outside the method ball which resulting in more fish as they were perplexed by the new problem this presented. Another hour of ‘The Method’ and I could not show Matt anything more; every time I suggested a change or tweak, Matt consistently questioned and improved his fishing and continued to land fish.

I spent around five hours with Matt and Steve; I had intended to help Matt out with a few angling issues we had previously discussed via email and improve his knowledge. If I’m honest, things didn’t really work out that way and I learned as much, if not more than Matt. I’ve got a fair few years angling experience under my belt, and like to think I know my way around on the bank, but our session demonstrated to me the importance of being able to read weather and water conditions, knowing which baits to use and recognising when to change tactics. I’m as guilty as anybody of turning up at a venue with preconceived ideas of which peg I want, the method I’m going to use and the baits I’m going to catch on. Other anglers on the day we were there caught very little; between us, I would estimate that Matt and I put around 150lbs of fish in the net, and we rarely went more than twenty minutes without a take. It was a great example of everything coming together on the day. The area Matt was fishing did indeed prove to be a silty hole five feet deep so, Matt’s extensive understanding of ‘his’ water surprised me, but it just goes to show that we can all learn from someone else, no matter how young they are!

I’d like to thank Matt and Steve for the day and hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.

Matt's smile says it all
Matt's smile says it all

Matt's best of the day
Matt's best of the day