Wayne Mansford first came to my attention back in 1999 when he fished in the BCAC at his home turf of Farlows. A young ginger kid with a bit of a swagger, he was handy with the rods and qualified for the final. The following year he was at it again and I recall thinking how accurate he was around snags. Back then I reckoned he was probably the most precise caster I had ever seen when it came to snag fishing. Over the 15 years I have known him my opinion has only strengthened.
The swagger has now matured into a quiet confidence and an ability to “put a rig where rigs can’t be put”, which regularly draws “oooohs and aaahs” from lads watching him. One of the nice things about Wayne is that he’s a normal working bloke. He isn’t a full-timer or sponsored, he pays for his stuff (although he gets a bit of help from Mainline and Korda) and simply gets on with it when he can.
“Thanks for asking me to do this,” announces Wayne as I roll up onto The Point at Farlows, his stomping ground for a good few years. The M25 on a Sunday evening delayed my arrival but he’s already got one in the bag when I get there, fishing, as expected, tight to the islands. Incredibly this is Wayne’s first ever magazine feature, and he’s a bit nervous. Rightly so, as with Below The Surface there is no hiding place or bravado that can save you. You’re on show and results count.
“I like to keep things simple: a straight-forward coated hooklink, peeled back about an inch works for me. I like a bit of extra movement and I’m confident that it does the trick.” Add a size 8 Kurv hook and a 12mm pop-up and the rig’s ready-to-go. Questioning him about the size of hook (8 is small for snag fishing) he replied, “Wait until you see how well hooked they are…” On a busy day ticket water like Farlows, where they see everything, he wants something that will give him more bites and is convinced an 8 will do that more than a bigger meat hook. It’s not so much in their face is his logic, although, interestingly, when fishing open water he will up the size a little.
As for the lead attachment, it’s a simple lead clip so the lead can come off in an emergency, but interestingly there is no swivel, he prefers a quick clip and ring which goes back to his speed fishing match experience. He also like to keep it simple. “All these clips, swivels, tubing and all that rubbish is like chucking out a scrap yard – I want to keep it simple and tidy.” He’s probably right.
The rest of the set-up is a well-balanced rod and reel, a properly loaded spool, and a fluorocarbon leader. “Fluoro is that bit stiffer and allows me some extra abrasion protection – and also it disappears… hopefully. I use two-rod lengths of 16lb Tiger Line because it’s so stiff and clear which is great and I also use it for open water when fishing with Naked Chods. My main line is Daiwa Sensor because it’s cheap and casts well, and a major important point for me is that is comes off the spool well. I have to be accurate so everything has to be very smooth and precise.”
When you are being as precise as Wayne needs to be, everything matters, and if tightening up on each part of the equation can mean the difference between a goal or hitting the woodwork, literally, it needs to be done.
The lead shape is massively important in Wayne’s eyes. Flat leads are not as accurate as teardrop ones, especially in a wind, and whilst that amount may be tiny, it can be crucial. Six-inches at 100yds is nothing in open water, but in the woods at 50yds, three-inches is vital. Like a professional sniper with his choice of bullet, Wayne’s choice of lead is the same all the time as is his rod, reel, casting technique and rig. He uses a 3oz almost exclusively unless the wind is high because it is perfectly balanced and feels that people who change leads through a session will not be as accurate as they have to “re-train” with the new lead.
He casts slightly differently to everyone else. The rule book (if there is one) suggests that you should stand square on to the target. Wayne doesn’t. He’s also ambidextrous so he casts left-handed but reels in right-handed. He uses what he calls the 10 – 2 technique. None of this swinging round or locking arms straight. The rod starts at 2 o’clock, goes back to 10 o’clock and fires forward to 2 o’clock before being released. Incredibly, he doesn’t usually clip-up, preferring to ‘drill it in’ and get it under the overhangs.
“I will occasionally clip-up if it’s really windy, and I always do at night, but prefer not to in the day. It’s important to keep the action all in the arms and not move the upper body at all. If you move your shoulders two-inches that could put the lead into the snags. My technique is totally different from the modern-day technique as my feet, legs, hips and upper body stay totally still.
The target zone
The swim we were in is known as ‘The Corner’ on Heron’s Point but the water we were fishing would usually be fished from ‘Critchfield’s’ swim. However, as there was no else on The Point and we wanted to double up for the interview he moved up a swim as this allows a better angle of cast.
“When I’m fishing Critchfield, I usually walk up this way to cast anyway so this will give a true reflection of what I do. There’s an undercut that I’d like to get to but the trees are growing a bit and water level is up by about a foot so it will make things a little more difficult today.”
There is a lot of talk of undercuts, overhangs and caves around these islands and it would be interesting to see what was really out there. Some of the bailiffs have felt undercuts when they have been walking in the margins, but to date, no one has ever been in and had a good look. Wayne’s target was a small, cut-back cave on an island, with a cut-off and submerged tree stump and two branches poking up out of the water.
He said, “There’s an undercut and also a small shelf before the water drops off into deeper water and the rig has to be on the shelf as close as possible to get the quickest bites… It’s gotta be tight.”
Watching the rig being ‘drilled in’ only inches from the trees some 70yds out into the pond I cannot help but feel that the rig will be tangled. This conversation followed…
Rob: “How do you think the rig will be sitting on the lakebed?”
Wayne: “Pass… ask me one on football.”
Rob: “Are you bothered?”
Wayne: “Not at all. I know the bait works and I know if it’s in the right spot it will go.”
He confided that he did sometimes worry about tangles but added, “I talk myself out of any concern as I have used this rig for 12 years and catch fish on it so I am confident.” You can’t say a lot fairer than that.
As for baiting up, he doesn’t really bother when fishing by snags, feeling that the odd bottom bait in the area will be enough but the fish are there and don’t need feeding, they simply need tripping up. Reading the swim is important and they will let you know if they want food. Today they don’t! In fact, teamed up with former UK Carp Cup winner Ryan Need, Wayne won a recent qualifier for the Eric’s Angling Tournament at Walthamstow No.1 Reservoir with 407lbs fishing a 12-inch ledge on the island in 18-inches of water at 100yds. That’s not a lot of margin for error. Incredibly the lads didn’t fire a single freebie in, relying purely on the hookbait being in the right place.
I finally asked him why does he prefer the snags and the response was common sense.
“You’re always near the fish. Every fish loves a snag, and when you get to know snags intimately you know where the fish will be, how they will move through, and where the danger zones are,” and with that I got rigged up and went in for a look.
Below the Surface
Out at the island it looked very carpy from above. Islands can be funny things: sometimes there are caves and cutbacks, other times none. Some edges are deep, others gradual slopes. The majority of the time there will be some sort of shelf, but occasionally there can be slopes straightaway dropping down to flatter deeper water. Whenever there are trees right up against the edge of the water you can be sure there will be roots.
Rounding the point of the island and dropping down the edge of the island was near vertical along the side. The roots formed a wall that was cut back behind and the water varied from 3 to 5ft deep so the fish could get right up against what, from above the water would seem like the edge. However, in this case they could get further in as sure enough, there was a hefty undercut. In some places it was a fortress of roots whilst in others there were stumps blocking the way that fish could get over and round, and in other spots there was clean gravel.
Looking into the cave all I could see was blackness. I couldn’t see the back and there was no way that I could either see, or in any case fit with all my gear on. What was clear though was that fish used it. There were a couple of areas of perfectly clear gravel where you could see the carp preferred to enter and exit their hidden fortress and dotted along its length were signs of anglers unsuccessful attempts to get just that little bit too close. I was concerned that if ever I was going to find a tethered fish, it would be now, and although I found a few rigs, there was no sign that anything had met an untimely end.
Moving along the top of the shelf towards where I was expecting Wayne’s rig to be, the top of the shelf opened into perfectly clear patch of gravel and mussels, The top of the shelf would be a couple of feet wide with a slight fall away before the real angle of the drop started and it was this area that was covered in mussels. One or two single baits were dotted around trapped in the mussels and gravel and then I saw Wayne’s white pop-up standing out like a beacon.
The lead had come to rest against a clump of mussels and the pop-up was sitting proud and clear. It was just at the front of where the ledge started to drop down and having seen the cast I have a feeling in my mind that it might have been pulled back a little when he tightened up. I can’t confirm this as there were no track marks on the hard mussels (there wouldn’t be!) but the way the lead was lying against a slightly bigger clump of mussels and the line tightness made me form my conclusion. The hooklink was twisted round, but only once, which given the fact no clip was used, was a bonus. Sometimes it can wrap a lot, sometimes a little, and the stiffer hooklink and also possibly the smaller bait may have helped this.
The Tiger Line, being tight, was lifted off the bottom and as the shelf dropped off quite quickly it was a good six-inches off the deck about a foot back from the lead. In total, the rig would be about 2-3ft away from the bank which was actually a good job. What would effectively be his backboard was a rather nasty looking sunken snag tree. The two sticks above water betrayed it’s presence, but like an iceberg, it was much bigger below the surface. When the water level was lower you could just make out one part of the stump from the bank. It was now a foot below so impossible to see or know about. Coming off it were a few branches that had claimed a few victims and in his attempts to get “smack-on”, Wayne had been caught out. Incredibly though, even when losing his rigs he was proving incredibly accurate as two of them ended up on exactly the same branch in the same place!
The rig would surely produce a bite if I wasn’t hanging around in the area. It was in front of the snag, clean, well-presented and clear of danger. It would be impossible from the angle of the bank to get a bait into the overhangs as the cast is up and alongside them rather than at them so the best anyone can get in this swim would be on the shelf in front of an opening.
The last thing to look at was indication and in the water I felt the strike after I had moved slowly off by about a foot-and-a-half. This was slightly better than usual but interestingly on the bank, Wayne said the bobbin pulled tight, rose to the top and then quivered in the clip for a while. It didn’t pull out of the clip and he hit it before it did as this is what he would usually do. He said a lot of bites are like that or they simply rip the line out of the clip and the tip bends round as the lead falls off and the fish kites or comes up to the surface.
“It’s not actually what I thought it would be. I’m not disappointed but I thought it would be a little tighter than that. However, the overhang isn’t facing us so I couldn’t get in it anyway. I was told it undercuts and it doesn’t so to get any closer would just mean getting stuck in the trees. If anything, I should come further away from the stump and tighter to the leaves, but without you going in there’s no way of knowing that. I’m happy with the way the rig was lying, as it was presented and I wouldn’t do anything differently.”
“Simply being asked to do the feature. As a normal working bloke to get the chance to be in the magazine and to be considered good enough for it is great.”
“I would have liked to have caught more.”
“I thought the shockleader would have been lower and also the bite was less savage than I expected it to be so I will bear that in mind for the future.”
My opinion of Wayne hasn’t changed. He’s the most accurate snag caster I have ever seen and his results prove that. I like the fact that he’s so humble with it and also that he keeps things simple and doesn’t hype it. He’s a good old-fashioned accurate caster who does it with skill and precision.