The proven bait
Proven baits for this method are maggots (hook size 16-18), bread flake or flake and maggot mix (12-8), and whole or just the tail of lobworm (8-6). Make sure the groundbait in the swimfeeder is soft enough to disintegrate quickly so that after casting out and waiting for a couple of minutes, the swimfeeder can be dragged back some 18in to release samples, among which the baited hook will settle. The advantages of this technique are that there is no need to check the exact depth fished and the hook will be close to the groundbait, however far out you cast.
Throughout most of the day fish the slope leading to the deeper water, groundbait occasionally with balls of fine sausage rusk laced with hook-bait samples, and keep the swimfeeder filled with hook-bait sandwiched between plugs of softish groundbait. From evening until the middle of the night, and again from dawn until midmorning, try moving to medium-depth water. Groundbait heavily to attract and hold the fish as they head for the shallows during these very important and predictable feeding periods.
How the fish will bite will depend on whether the fish are feeding boldly or just playing with the bait. Tench are notorious for plucking at the bait, causing the indicator to jerk as if a roach or rudd were nibbling. Counter this by jerking back. If the indicator moves up a little pull it back down. A little teasing of this sort often provokes a decisive take from a hesitant fish.
The shallows usually contain weed in plenty and large amounts of natural food, and it is in these areas that fish are found at night. Excellent catches can be made in as little as 18in of water. A light ledger or mini-swimfeeder can be used to place the bait on the bottom, but off-bottom techniques also work. For example, a buoyant bait such as a crust cube or a fat lobworm, free-lined or cast on a ledger trail long enough to enable it to float, will catch not only surface feeders like carp and rudd, but also bottom feeding tench, roach and bream.
Big carp are a popular quarry nowadays. In gravel pits, which are sometimes specially stocked with them, they often reach 20 or 30lb. Carp tackle includes a 10 or lift carp rod, line of 8-15lb b.s., and well-sharpened, eyed hooks.
The bait is fished on the bottom – free-lined if heavy enough to cast on its own; ledgered if it is a lightweight particle bait. All the baits so far mentioned will tempt big carp. Parboiled potatoes are another effective bait, and in recent years sweetcorn has proved very successful with carp and other species. Pastes can be concocted from petfoods and meat products, and artificial high-protein baits can be purchased.
Carp also feed near and at the surface, and can be lured by floating crust. In breezy weather, providing the depth is not too great, a crust can be anchored in .position by ledgering it on a trail equal in length to the depth fished.
During the summer and autumn months carp-strength tackle can be used for big eels – a species unjustly neglected in gravel pits, for specimens of over 4lb are often to be caught. Big eels turn up occasionally during the day, but night-time, when they are feeding in the medium depths, offers the best sport. Dead-baiting is the best method for this underestimated, fighting fish.
In winter pike and perch abound. Rudd, tench and eels are less active, but bream, carp and roach can still be caught. The two predators, pike and perch, are taken in summer on various baits and with spinners and plugs, but winter fishing will produce the larger specimens.