Big Fish Method | Steve Coe
Being what it is these days, sadly, carp fishing has seen anglers become quite lazy. It’s almost fishing by numbers on some waters. I mean, how often have you heard the words: “So, what’s the going bait on here then, mate?” It’s all too easy to turn up with a bag or two of boilies, bang on a PVA stick, and pub chuck it out!
However, doing this only sets you up for a fall in the long run. Yes, of course it’s okay to be inspired by anglers you admire, even copy their rigs, baiting strategies or approaches, but this should be a springboard which leads you to adopt, adapt and improve your own angling, not something to blindly follow without good reason. Being a copycat is basically what you might call a shortcut to thinking!
Successful big-carp fishing is all about application, dedication, and embracing a willingness to go those extra few yards. Those anglers who are constantly successful – the ones on the syndicate who are top rods year after year – don’t reach that pinnacle by pure luck. After all, no one ever fell to the top of a mountain!
These types of anglers are the ones who put themselves out. For example, moving swims in the middle of the night, even when it’s pouring down, because the fish are showing at the other end of the lake. They’re the ones who have almost a flagrant disregard for what’s fashionable. The ones looking to constantly update and/or change their setup, or the ones who try new or even forgotten methods and tactics in order to get back their edge.
For me, this is where a tactic like the Method comes in. It is an approach that is ideal for all seasons. It puts the feed and, more importantly, the hookbait in a neat little pile together, which means that when a carp comes in to feed, it can’t avoid it. It’s also a real killer technique for targeting carp of all sizes.
The Method is incredibly crude-looking compared to the neatness of a Multi-Rig or a low-lying Stiff Hinge Rig. Complete with a 10mm pop-up, the Method has allowed anglers to bank some huge fish over the years, and with very little effort.
Originally only available as a specially-shaped three-lobe feeder, since the match revolution saw the flatbed feeder ripping commercial waters apart, the Method has evolved as a technique. But regardless of the type of feeder you prefer, its beauty and simplicity remains constant, in that a whole array of loose feeds can be used and cast out, presenting the fish with a neat little package in a very compact area.
In the past few years, it is something I have used extensively because it gets away from the typical boilie, boilie, boilie approach. The fish see this year in, year out, particularly on very pressured waters such as Linear or Bluebell, and as a result, the big target fish learn ever more quickly how to deal with this type of setup. It’s not simply by coincidence that the biggies only grace the banks once or twice a year; it’s not that they haven’t eaten all year; they have merely leant how to ‘do you’! This is one of the reasons why carp rigs have got ever more complicated over the years.
In my opinion, Method feeder fishing has been forgotten in today’s world of catching big carp. There was once a time where it was seen as the way forward, a great way to give you an edge over the guy in the next swim. The nearest you will get to seeing a Method-style approach on the banks these days is solid PVA bags. Of course, I’m not berating the use of solid PVA bags. I have used, and still use them a great deal. They are a brilliant way to present a rig, especially if the water is very weedy or covered in soft silt. The problem with solid bag fishing is that it harks back to this innate laziness that seems to have crept into our sport.
Why spend 15 minutes tying up the prefect solid bag when you can launch a Chod or Ronnie Rig over a scattering of bottom baits, before stretching out on the bedchair with a portable DVD player or iPad? The other downside to bag fishing is that you are limited to what you can effectively fish using them. The loose feed has to be dry or PVA-friendly, and to get them well compacted so they cast well, it pays to use very small items, such as 1mm or 2mm pellets. This means that even if you add a few crushed boilies, the hookbait is always going to dwarf the rest of the payload, and for a more clued-up fish, this is the kind of trap they avoid like the plague.
Regarding the Method feeder, the world is very much your oyster when it comes to the payload. In other words, what you can put into the Method mix. There are a lot of different options, from the very simple to the very complex. My preferred mix is 2mm Dynamite XL pellets with some of Dynamite Bait’s Grubby Groundbait Carpet Feed. The two of these mixed together with some water gives a really good consistency, which holds well around the Method feeder.
The other thing about the groundbait is that it is packed with dried invertebrates, hemp and crushed oyster shells. This makes it a very active mix once in the water, and I think the fizzing and popping is one of the things that helps draw the fish in initially. Anything from simple scolded pellets, through to more complex and exotic concoctions, can be quickly and effectively wrapped around a feeder. Over the years, I have used loads of different mixtures, including various particles, groundbaits, pellets, and liquids. The great thing is that because you are free from the constraints of PVA, you can let your imagination run wild.
The mix I use depends on the lake and how much natural bait it contains. On some of the trickier waters, one of the tactics I have used is frozen bloodworm moulded around the Method. This is something the fish haven’t seen before, so it can have some amazing effects.
It also guarantees that no one else on the water will be using the same loose feed. How many anglers can say the same about their spod mixes?
Tactically, another big advantage of Method feeder fishing is that as well as presenting the wiser fish with something they haven’t seen before, or haven’t seen in many years, it is perfect when fishing runs waters and looking to catch big numbers of carp. This is a great edge for anglers like me who fish a lot of matches, where speed is of the essence.
From my point of view, the Method enables you to catch more fish, and more effectively when compared with spodding. By using a large Method feeder and fishing accurately, you can deposit a lot or a little food in the swim, as is required on the session. It is this that has seen me enjoy some big hits in the past, because it always deposits a controlled amount of bait with each cast. This allows better regulation as to what is going in, and keeps the fish where you want them, as long as the casting is accurate.
If your spodding isn’t on the button at longer ranges, there is always a chance if a baited rig is in the water. The Method is a feeder, even though you’re not necessarily building up the same feed area because it only carries enough loose feed for one bite. It’s not the end of the world if you do make the odd rogue cast.
Regarding big fish, I have caught some very large ones on the Method feeder, including a 33lb 3oz mirror from Linear Fisheries’ B2. I have also had a 30lb 4oz fish from B1 in the middle of the winter, also on the Method. I find it to be more effective when cast to showing fish. I think the reason it seems to trip up the big girls is because it’s not just a hookbait out on its own, as with other more standard rigs.
With the Method, there is small particle bait for added attraction, and you often find the larger fish on their own. Also, a range of different additives make up the loose feed, so it looks totally different from a bed of spod mix or a solid PVA bag. With the latter, you also dispense with the common problem of PVA residue. Even though PVA completely melts in water, I still feel that a carp picks up on the fact that something isn’t quite right with the pile of food it is presented with.
To put another imaginary nail in the solid PVA bag’s coffin, the fact that you can very quickly mould loose feed around the feeder means that if you do see a better fish show, it is only a matter of a minute or less to reel in the rod, rebait and cast. With a PVA bag, unless you have a few pre-tied, you’re looking at least a 10-minute job. As well as being perfect for ambushing showing fish, it is also ideal for using over large beds of bait. I think it helps create a real hot spot, especially if there are quite a few liquid additives in the mix or the ball of feed is coated prior to casting. These will leach out, and draw the fish to the Method ball and hookbait like a moth to a flame.
When it comes to deciding which Method feeder to use, there is a wide variety of choice. Usually, most people go for the bigger, the better. However, I have found that using a small to medium one is best. It enables me to have a small amount of mix or load it right up. This is where choosing a Method feeder that is lighter in weight is better, as by the time the feeder is filled, it becomes much heavier – a least 5oz, and very often more.
Using the right equipment comes into play here. It may seem a bit overkill, but to get the best out of the Method, I use a 13ft 3.5lb test curve rod. This means I can fish at range if necessary. In the past, I have cast loaded Method balls in excess of 130 yards, which is a distance where a carp will probably never have seen such a presentation. Having heavy rods means I can cast also cast really big Method balls if needed. It all depends on what I’m trying to achieve on the day or the session.
When it comes down to considering the reel and line, once again, I prefer to use a big pit-style reel for ease of casting, paired with a 13lb casting line. I never fish the Method without the use of a tapered leader, as this really helps absorb the cast, and allows me to achieve maximum casting distances.
Using different particle baits in the mix opens up the hookbait options. Most of the time I use critically-balanced baits, as I believe that when the fish comes across them, it only takes one or two mouthfuls before the hookbait flies into its mouth. I also tend to use hi-vis baits, so again, there is a target for them to home in on. My go-to is usually bright yellow Dynamite Cork Ball Wafters, although Cork Ball pop-ups still play a part in my approach.
The final point regarding Method fishing is the breakdown time of the payload. Unlike a PVA bag, which is affected by the water temperature, you can play around with the Method mix to get it to do exactly what you want it to do. The type of water I’m fishing dictates the breakdown time. On highly-stocked runs waters, I fish like a match angler, and look for the ball to break down within 90 seconds or less. This is achieved by using my pellet and groundbait mix, but I add more pellets than groundbait.
If I want a slower breakdown, I add more groundbait and liquids to make the mix stodgier, so it takes around 5-10 minutes to completely come off the feeder. It is then simply a case of casting. This is again dictated by venue type. On runs waters, it’s every 20-30 minutes; on big-fish waters, it’s cut down to every 2 hours, or an opportunistic cast towards showing fish.
If you have never used or considered the Method as a big-fish tactic, I sincerely think you should give it a go. It will give you a great edge, especially on hard or pressured waters. When I first saw it being used, people laughed at those anglers who were fishing the Method. That was until those same anglers started to consistently catch some of the biggest carp in the lake. The jeers soon stopped then, I can tell you.
So, why is the Method so good? Well, in basic terms, it’s because it is different. Unlike a straight boilie approach, the beauty of the Method is that you can make the mix unique, so no two mixes are the same. It presents the fish with a rich, smelly ball of attraction, and when they come in and knock the ball about, there is very little in the way of food items besides the hookbait. It might not be the be-all and end-all of techniques, but it is one that is definitely worth having in your armoury.