Shotting in practice

There isn’t any mystery to correct shotting – it’s a matter of common sense – but getting it right makes all the difference when it comes to catching.

W hen conditions are perfect and the fish are pulling the float under every cast it doesn’t seem to matter how much shot you put on the line or where you put it. But, as we all know, days like this are few and far between. More often than not there’s an awkward wind blowing, a tricky flow or drift, and the fish are hard to tempt. This is when knowing how much shot to use and where to put it can make the difference between catching and blanking.

Three key points

Whatever the type of float fishing, there are three things to consider: casting, bait presentation and bite indication. Before putting any shot on the line you should ask yourself: how far do I need to cast, how do I want to present the bait to the fish and what type of rig would best register the bites?

Comfortable casting

Think about how much shot you need to cast comfortably and accurately to your chosen fishing spot, then choose a float with a suitable shot capacity.

Presentation versus distance It is important to choose a rig of the right weight. One that is too heavy makes for poor presentation – the fish feel the resistance and won’t take the bait confidently. One that is too light cannot be feathered without losing distance – to reach the feed area you have to cast violently, causing unnecessary splashing and risking tangles. The bulk For long range casting with a bottom only float you need to bulk at least 75% of the float’s shotting capacity at the base of the float. As a general principle it is much easier to cast a weight when it is concentrated at a single point, and you can try the following experiment to verify this. Spread three swan shot 60cm (2ft) apart and see how far you can cast. Now try bunching the shot together and see how much farther they fly.

If you are using a bulk shot pattern with a bottom-only type float, and need to cast long distances, then it is best to use a slider. sinking food particles. A rig with no shot on the line gives the most natural presentation – causing the bait to fall slowly through the water, perhaps only very slightly faster than the feed itself. The problem with having no shot on the line is that a fish has actually to pull the float before you see a bite and it may have to swim a metre (3ft) or more before this happens. The answer is to compromise between natural bait presentation and sensitive bite indication.

By stringing small shot out below the float, in a sense you ‘stiffen’ the line. Obviously, the bait sinks quicker now but if a fish swims with the bait or even holds it up, then the bite registers as a movement on the float. The more shot there is on the line the more direct is the contact between the fish and the float – and therefore the better the bite. But as the amount of shot increases, the faster the bait falls and the poorer the bait presentation becomes.

Trial and error is your guide to establishing the right compromise between as light a drop as possible and a rig that keeps you in this way the bulk remains close to the base of the float during the cast and helps to prevent tangles.

When using a bulk shot pattern with a top and bottom float – such as a balsa -place the bulk shot below halfway between the float and the hook. Again, this helps to prevent tangles.

Present a natural bait

Having decided how much shot to use, you must now decide how you are going to present the bait. This depends on the species you are after, their feeding habits and what region of water you would like to encourage them to feed.

On-the-drop Loosefeeding or feeding soft groundbait for species such as roach, skimmers, dace and chub often causes them to rise from the bottom to intercept slowly contact and shows all the bites. Sometimes a string of no. 8s does the job, at other times you may have to go down to size 12 or 13 shot. Remember, though, that your float tip or insert must match the size of shot.

If the fish are feeding right up in the water, try shallowing up your rig. The shorter the line between the float and the hook the fewer the shot you need to keep in contact and the better the bait presentation becomes.

If the fish are feeding on-the-drop in the deeper layers of water, push some of your string of shot together to form a mini bulk just above the depth you think they are feeding at. This allows you to rush the bait through the barren upper layers of the water and present a slow sinking bait near the bottom where the fish are feeding -where it matters.

On the bottom For bottom feeders such as bream, tench or barbel, you need to get the bait down to the bottom and keep it there. Any shot – no matter how small – sinks to the bottom, but the current, strength of the drift and the depth dictate just how big the shot need to be to hold the bait still enough for the fish.

In fast, deep, turbulent water you might need a big balsa with 5AAA bulked 30cm (lft) from the hook to present the bait to a shoal of bottom feeding barbel, whereas in a slow, shallower glide, a light stick float with a string of no. 6 or 8 shot might do the job just as well.

It is important to get the right balance between conditions and the size/amount of shot. Too heavy a rig can act like an anchor, hindering natural presentation and putting the fish off. But a rig that is too light swings up from the bottom, away from feeding fish, every time you try to slow the bait down (hold back).

Spotting the bites

All the shot on your rig have an important part to play but one of the most crucial is the shot placed closest to the hook – the tell-tale shot. Choosing the right size and positioning it correctly are essential. Make it register As the tell-tale shot is the final register on the float, it goes without saying that it must register on the float. A no. 13 shot registers on a fine-wire pole bristle but a thicker-topped peacock waggler may need a no. 8 or no. 6.

When a taking fish swims away from the float the size of the tell-tale shot isn’t such an issue because the float is usually pulled under. But when fish are intercepting the bait on-the-drop or giving you lift bites, the size of the tell-tale shot has to be right.

The bigger the tell-tale you use the worse or less natural your bait presentation and the higher the chances of a fish feeling the shot and rejecting the bait. Too small a tell-tale won’t register all your bites. A compromise must be found between a tell-tale that presents a bait as naturally as possible and one that registers bites on your chosen float. Remember that your float may need changing as well as your shot to get this balance just right.

Proximity The closer the tell-tale is to the hook the quicker a bite registers on the float. However, if the shot is too close then bait presentation suffers again. The correct distance can only be determined by trial and error and you may need to change it several times during the session.

If you are getting bites and missing them, try moving the tell-tale shot farther away from the hook – the fish are probably feeling the shot and rejecting the bait. If you aren’t seeing bites but find that your bait has been chewed, try moving the tell-tale shot closer to the hook as the fish are probably taking the bait – perhaps quite confidently – but rejecting it before it moves the shot and registers as a bite. You must be flexible with the positioning of the tell-tale shot and keep moving it about, both to attract bites and, just as importantly, to convert bites into fish in the keepnet.