Catapults and bait throwers

The principle is simple—to throw loosefeed accurately into a distant swim. But to maximize power and accuracy, these simple items have evolved into quite sophisticated tools The best groundbait in the world is useless unless it can be accurately placed into the swim that the angler is fishing. Where his selected swim is close in to the bank he is sitting on, it is a simple matter to estimate the speed of the stream and then throw the bait, by hand, towards the head of the swim so that it will be carried down into it. But where the swim is some distance away—under the opposite bank for instance—difficulties will arise, more especially if the groundbait cannot be pressed into a heavy ball. For these the catapult is an excellent solution.

The fishing catapult has made its appearance as an angling aid in the last few years and is now available in various designs, both good and bad. The good points should be checked carefully before the item is purchased. It naturally follows that the bigger the model the greater will be the force that can be applied as the bait is released. Weak, spindle- type forks of wire or thin plastic will soon bend and snap, and they should be rejected. Look for a heavy plastic, one-piece moulding, preferably with a shaped hand-grip that is well below the fork. If the handle is too short, there is a risk that you will receive a painful blow on the hand each time you let go of the pouch.

Right shape for accuracy

Too big is better than too small, and this particularly applies to the spacing of the forks themselves. A large ‘U’-shape, with the ends of the forks turning slightly outwards will give the greatest accuracy. The elastic should be secured through holes at the fork ends, either by a large knot (which makes for easy replacement) or by crimped metal tubes. The elastic should be soft and able to return to its original length after stretching. Before buying elastic flex it once or twice to ensure that its pull is within your capability. The cup into which the bait is placed should be rigid and have a large, well-shaped flange at the rear which enables you to keep a firm grip when it is pulled back.

While most anglers are well aware of what a catapult can do, it is sensi-ble to know its limitations before starting to use one. It cannot place large amounts of groundbait at any one time, nor can it manage very heavy baits such as saturated and stiffened cereals with any degree of accuracy. It will not cope with extremely light cereal baits—the spring of the elastic and forward propulsion make it break up in mid-air and scatter over a wide area. It is most successful with pellet and grain baits, which include maggots, casters, hemp, wheat, tares and so on. These should be kept damp or, in the case of cereals, wet. This will provide the weight and ‘cling’ needed to keep the bait intact.

Judging the speed of the current

To place the bait accurately, the angler must be able to judge the speed of the current where the bait is finally to land. If this is against the opposite bank, then check the speed of the current against the bank you are fishing from. Many anglers make the mistake of estimating the speed of the current from the fasterflowing mid-river swims, which results in the groundbait being placed too far upstream.

The purpose, once the cup of the catapult is loaded, is to drop the bait into the swim by means of a gentle curve through the air. Firing the bait straight will cause a big surface disturbance and make the ground-bait break up. The curving type of delivery applies especially if the op-posite bank is tree-lined; by lobbing the bait through the air, it will drop through the overhanging branches and fall naturally into the swim.

Drennan’s ‘Feederpult’

A final word of warning concerns the temptation to hold the catapult at face level and to sight along the elastic and through the fork. Should the elastic break or pull free (and this happens) the result can only be face or eye injuries. It is essential to keep the cup with its load well down below the face and to keep the forks on a level with it. Then if anything should break, only the body will receive the impact.

The bait thrower is a simple tool usually consisting of a short stick with a metal cut-away cup mounted on to the end. Groundbait is loaded into this cup and the thrower held in the hand with its high back facing the angler. A quick forward flick and the bait is propelled out into the swim. This is a straightforward way of throwing heavy groundbait over a considerable distance, governed by the length of stick that is used. In general terms, the longer the stick of the bait thrower the farther the bait will travel.

A bait thrower can easily be made from a small tin, its top completely removed. The side of the tin is cut away with a pair of tinsnips, leaving the high back which stops bait from spilling over the angler during the throw. The tin is secured on to a length of jjin dowling, 2-2£ft long, and the tin itself given two or three coats of paint to prevent rusting.