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09 May 2017
by Jon McAllister
How to target small waters
Jon McAllister offers up four bite-sized chunks of small water advice

Big leads: The bigger the better

So you’re fishing a small lake, it’s really intimate and you’re being really careful because there’s a bloke opposite you who’s being quiet, looks really carpy and is probably a great angler. He’s just got his rods out really stealthily with small 1oz leads creating as little disturbance as possible, surely he’s going to catch?

It might be the norm on the small water you’re fishing to use small leads and be quiet, everyone plips and plops tiny leads into the lake and I’m sure the fish get caught this way, but I don’t. Time and time again I’ve had people ring me up for advice on this one. “I’m fishing this small water, I’m doing this and I’m doing that. I’m getting pick-ups but I can’t get a bite.”

The fish in these smaller waters are used to picking up 2oz of lead every day, they’ve adapted and learnt how to deal with them, so go for a minimum of 4ozs
A big lead and hook was the winning combo here

My first question is always: what size lead are you using, even though I already know the answer will be 2oz. Yes, they’ll work, but you need to scale up to fish effectively. Go up to a minimum of a 4oz, but if you’re not casting too far, then you could easily fish an 8oz beast. The fish in these smaller waters are never far from a rig, and they’re used to picking up 2oz of lead every day, they’ve adapted and learnt how to deal with them. Pressured small waters holding big fish can become incredibly difficult, it’s not like a big pit where everything comes down to location, and often you’ll be ‘getting done’ regularly by not setting the hook instantly.

Apart from a very soft lakebed my advice is to go as big as you can. Don’t worry about the disturbance, and don’t worry about everyone looking at you – you’ve got as much right to be there as anyone else. Obviously take into consideration where they’re fishing, but apart from that just get a big lead on there. If you can get a little bit away from people, do your own thing with a big lead then that’s probably the best bit of advice I can give you for small waters – big is better.

Keep it simple. A simple rig comprising of a size four hook coupled with an 18mm boilie is perfect

Big hooks: They're harder to deal with

Quite often people will fine down their gear to fish small waters. Small hooks, bit baits and tiny hookbaits, sweetcorn, all that jazz – just use a size four hook on a short rig. The short rig will ensure the carp comes into contact with that big lead much quicker, and a big sharp hook will be very hard to deal with for the fish, not least because they’re used to seeing much smaller hooks and have learnt to deal with them.

If there’s one bit of advice I can give, it’s to wind in and walk round, searching every nook and cranny

Stay vigilant: It's equally important to stay mobile on small waters too

If you’ve come from a big lake you know full well the importance of watching, staying mobile and hunting for signs or sightings of the lake’s stock. This is equally as important on a smaller venue, but the common trap that anglers fall in to, is thinking they can see the whole lake from where they’re sat, because the venue is only a few acres after all. You can sit there and, providing you’re looking you’ll see any shows that break the waters surface. You’ve not got to move…

If there’s one bit of advice I can give, it’s to wind in and walk round, searching every nook and cranny

If there’s one bit of advice I can give, it’s to wind in and walk round, searching every nook and cranny. The number of times you see things from a different angle that you wouldn’t have from other areas of the lake. Whether it’s pinprick bubbles rising from the bottom, or a carp rubbing against the bank 3ft down in gin clear water, there’s always something to find. Soft lakebeds will have cleaner areas, spots that can be seen in clear water providing you’re not getting glare from the sunlight and you’re in the right place to see it. Climbing trees is still essential, and often more rewarding on a small lake due to being able to see a greater percentage of the water from one tree branch.

Don’t forget instinct here either. Some-times you may stand in a different swim and it could just feel right. Fishing is as much about instinct as watercraft so stay mobile and keep checking areas by walking round and staying observant.

Bait heavily with large 18mm boilies because I guarantee they rarely see it

Do the opposite: Going again the grain gives the fish something they don't see too often

Even on small venue’s, there are ‘going’ swims and ones that are more popular, which see a lot more footfall and often do more bites (is that just because they’re fished more?). The fish are used to the lines being in those swims more frequently and they will know when anglers are fishing for them because of this. The areas that get avoided are probably known as crap swims, but when the fish in these small waters are so finely-tuned to know when they’re being fished for, it’s important to alter your approach.

I actually caught Heather The Leather from a swim at Yateley’s Car Park Lake that hadn’t done a bite for seven years, so you should never rule a swim out because of its past form. Often, just getting a different line angle to the exact same spot can be the difference. An empty lake is great for this because you can’t get in anyone’s way, but if there are anglers on, just be careful with how you go about it. In a lake where the fish are ultra-cute, the smallest of changes can account for a fish that otherwise wouldn’t have occurred.

A pretty mirror taken over a bed of 18mms

Continuing on the same theme it’s important to change your baiting approach and be different. A prime example would be Darrell Peck, again on Car Park Lake, as he emptied the lake fishing with big boilies despite that not being a tactic anyone was catching on. Bait heavily with large 18mm boilies because I guarantee they rarely see it. If you’re in the lesser-fished swims then pre-bait when the lake’s empty or bait before you leave ready for next time. The chance of fish feeding with no lines in the water will only do you huge favours in that respect and give the stock confidence next time they see it.

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