With their golden scales and bright red fins, big rudd are one of the handsomest fish in British waters. Graham Marsden reveals his secrets for catching them.
Where other species, particularly carp, tench, bream and roach are thriving, rudd appear to be slowly disappearing. This could be because roach and rudd are very prone to hybridization, with the result that the pure species is being phased out from many stillwaters. Other species can survive slight pollution, but rudd can’t, and waters quickly become devoid of them.
Rudd are true surface feeders, as indicated by their protruding lower Up which makes it easy for them to suck food from the top without ‘standing’ vertically on their tails.
This protruding lower lip is a major identification point, for the lips of the roach and most rudd hybrids are level. Most of the big ‘roach’ reported from stillwaters are in all probability hybrids.
The bigger, the better
Small ponds rarely contain big rudd for the simple reason that the fish are prone to over-populating small waters and hence become stunted because there isn’t enough food for them all. Large stillwaters – gravel pits, lakes, meres, broads, reservoirs and the loughs of Ireland – are the specimen rudd’s strongholds. The bigger and cleaner the water, the better it is for these fish.
Finding the actual swims the rudd inhabit on these big waters is rarely a problem, for they are generally in one of two areas. You’ll find them in and at the edge of marginal vegetation (particularly reeds) or following the surface drift across open water, mopping up spent insects. A great advantage with rudd is that they give away their presence when feeding by swirling and priming on the surface.
A boat is almost essential for big rudd fishing since they are great wanderers. Many swims are productive one minute and quite devoid of fish the next because the shoal has moved on. A boat provides the means to follow them on their nomadic travels once they have been spotted priming. As an alternative, you can try to keep one step ahead by having a bait ready for them when they reach the area you think the shoal is going to next.
Although they can be caught at any time of the year, the summer months are the best. The favourite time for rudd to feed is the last hour of daylight and the first hour or so of darkness. The first few hours of morning daylight can also be good. On dull, humid and overcast days rudd can sometimes be caught throughout the day, but they are more difficult to catch in bright sunshine although they may be feeding.
Tackling up for rudd
Float fishing in open water from bank or boat is perfectly suited to a match rod and a fixed-spool reel loaded with 4lb (1.8kg) line and a 3lb (1.4kg) hooklength. When fishing close to the reedy margins or other snags use 4lb (1.8kg) line straight through or 5lb (2.3kg) main line to a 4lb (1.8kg) bottom.
Suit hook sizes to the bait you are using: 16s or 14s for maggot and caster, 12s or 10s for worms, and 10s or 8s for breadflake, crust, floating mini boilies and Chum Mixer or similar dog biscuits. Use fine wire hooks for small floating or slow-sinking baits.
Floating or sinking
If you can see any rudd at the surface, bunch all the shot right underneath the float – or use a self-cocking float – and fish a floating bait. At times the float is hardly needed, except as casting weight, since you can see the rudd snatching the bait from the surface. There are times however, when they gently suck it in with hardly a dimple to show for their activity.
A favourite method is to fish a very slow-sinking bait 60cm (2ft) from the float, with perhaps only a dust shot halfway down. Big rudd often lie at a depth of about a metre (3ft), where they have a wider view of the surface (a bigger ‘window’), and are readily attracted to a slowly sinking morsel — they may swim up to intercept it.
Maggots, casters and fluttering discs of breadflake are ideal for this type of fishing. Very little groundbait is required — except for perhaps a little cloud to entice them into investigating your swim — but frequent loosefeeding is essential to hold a shoal in front of you.
Long range rudd
When fishing from the bank it is often impossible to cast float tackle far enough to reach a shoal of feeding rudd. For swims up to 2.5m (8ft) deep use a fixed paternoster rig. With the line slack, baits float to the surface, but by tightening up it is possible to pull the bait down to the required depth. Hold it there with a butt indicator that is only just heavy enough to keep it in position. You’ll find that bites are usually sudden and very fast.
Mixing it up
The best way of groundbaiting with floating baits such as Chum Mixer or crust if you find you are out of loosefeed catapult range, is to press some samples inside balls of groundbait. As the balls gradually dissolve on the bottom, the buoyant baits are released and rise to the surface.
It’s a good idea to experiment with a variety of different mixes so as to achieve a slow but steady dissolving rate which releases your hookbait samples over five or ten minutes. A 50/50 mix of fine white and brown breadcrumb mixed with very little water works well.
Try adding some of the Continental mixes to slow down or speed up the release of samples. When using this style of groundbaiting, don’t forget to try a bottom bait for those rudd that have gone down to sample the carpet of feed.