Chopped worm fishing for clear-water perch

This deadly autumn and winter method has really come to the fore in recent years, but you seldom see it used outside match fishing. Follow match magician Dave Vincent’s advice and give it a go.

In the 1980s there was a big rise in the numbers of perch in our waters, especially canals. Match anglers responded by developing a technique that specifically targets these fish: chopped worm fishing, or chopped worming as it is known.

Put simply, chopped worming is float fishing a worm hookbait over a bed of chopped up worms. Perch of all sizes can be caught this way – good bags of them too. Other fish also like worms, of course, so don’t be surprised if you occasionally catch more than just perch.

Clear and cold

Chopped worming is usually associated with canals, but it can work wherever there is a good head of perch, be it a canal, drain, river or still water. It’s best in clear water in autumn and winter – and the clearer the water, the better it is. Chopped worming doesn’t work so well in summer, when the float fishing is the order of the day.

Short-lining with a pole is best on canals, drains and still waters, since it gives pinpoint accuracy and allows you to twitch your hookbait constantly. If you don’t have a pole, a waggler is next best, but it’s harder to keep your hookbait over your feed and to twitch it so effectively.

On running water you don’t have to twitch your hookbait -just keep running it over your feed with the current until a perch grabs it as it goes by. The pole, waggler and stick all work here on their day.

With the pole, use Zim No. 3 elastic (or its equivalent) on canals, drains and still waters, and Zim No. 3 or 4 (or their equivalents) on running water, depending on the depth or flow.

On rivers, drains and still waters, any suitable pole float taking up to about 2g is fine, using a straightforward Olivette rig with a few droppers.

On canals, use a slim-bodied, bristle-topped float taking around 0.25g in good conditions, with small shot or Styls strung out shirt-button fashion. If there’s a strong skim or some flow on the canal, use a heav- ier float (one taking anything up to around 0.75g) and have all the weights in the bottom half of the rig.

In all cases, use 1-½ lb (0.45-0.9kg) hook-lengths, medium-wire, micro-barb, wide-gape hooks, and fish slightly overdepth.

By the way, don’t ever try chopped worming with a whip. Perch over 1 lb (0.45kg) can turn up out of the blue, and it’s not often you come out the winner against them when fishing the whip.

Setting the trap

Successful chopped wormers have different opinions on what, how much and how often to feed. Dave recommends the following feeding pattern as a good one on most days and most waters, but advises you to experiment if it doesn’t work.

Where you expect only small perch – up to 4oz (l10g), say – you need only feed red- worms. (Brandlings are much less effective, but it doesn’t matter if there are one or two of them in among your redworms.) Where you expect a few bigger perch as well as small ones it can pay to feed a few lobworms instead of the redworms.

At the start of the session, chop 30-40 red-worms (or three or four lobworms if you decide to use them) with scissors, into pieces no longer than about 1cm, then feed them neat into your swim.

The reasons for chopping them up, rather than just feeding them whole, are, firstly, to release the worms’ attractive juices, and, secondly, so the worms can’t burrow out of sight into the bottom silt.

You must bait up a small area, to concentrate the released juices. On canals, drains and still waters you can just throw the chopped worms in, but it’s much, much better to use a pole cup. This allows you to place your feed precisely where you want it, and in a tight area. On running water use a bait dropper.

Binding the chopped worms in a little peat works well on some waters, but don’t ever use ordinary groundbait – it simply doesn’t work.

On a good day you should get your first bite within 10 minutes. You can then feed another dozen or so chopped redworms (or one chopped lobworm, if wanted) about every four fish. If you’re not catching at all, top up your initial feed with this same amount about every half an hour.

Picking your spot

On all kinds of waters, perch love to patrol close to the bank (provided there is sufficient depth) and along the bottom of shelves. These places give them cover from which to ambush prey, and are where food naturally tends to accumulate.

On canals, the best places to fish are the ‘dark’ water at the bottom of the near and far shelves, and close in to either bank if the water is deep enough. On rivers, drains and still waters, the best places are, again, close in to the bank if there is enough depth, and at the bottom of the inside shelf.

Chop and change

Start by hooking a single redworm through the head. If this doesn’t work, try hooking a single redworm once through the saddle. And if that doesn’t do the trick, try hooking just the tail end of a redworm.

With all three hooking methods, it pays to try different sized worms. You can also try a small piece of lobworm on the hook, but a lively, wriggling redworm hookbait is usually much more effective. As always, match size of hook to size of bait.

The main thing, if you aren’t getting bites, or if you’re missing bites or bumping fish, is to keep varying the hookbait, because on some days perch are very fussy and only take the bait properly when it’s presented in a particular way.