Definitive Guide to Ledgering – Part 1: Tackle
For years purists within the sport have considered ledgering, and particularly feeder fishing, as a ‘chuck it and chance it method’ with little skill involved in comparison with running line float or pole fishing methods. This belief was perpetuated by the fact that CIPS, the World Governing Body, did not permit ledgering of any form in the World Coarse Angling Championships.
Over the past two decades however there have probably been more innovations in ledgering and feeder fishing than any other area of coarse angling, with many top anglers refining the method in both the rigs and setups they use and the subtle adaptations they make in order to increase their catch.
The developments within this discipline, coupled with its increasing popularity in Europe, have seen CIPS finally introduce a separate World Feeder Fishing Championships.
As ledgering has become more popular tackle companies have been quick to see the potential market and there are now literally hundreds of different , rods, reels, rests, bite indicator, leads, feeders, swivels, beads, connectors, booms, rig tubes, baiting needles, hair rig stops etc on the market. To the beginner this presents a daunting array of tackle to choose from and is very confusing.
Over the next few months I will split the topic of ledgering into a number of parts that will hopefully build into a definitive guide. As a start point the Parts will be:
Part 1 – Suitable tackle to fish on rivers, canals and stillwaters.
Part 2 – Basic rigs to cover most eventualities.
Part 3 – Getting started; laying out equipment, selecting tips, choosing where to fish, feeding and accuracy
Part 4 – Fine tuning to increase bites, playing and landing fish
Part 5 – Distance fishing, use of braid etc
Part 1 – The Tackle
When buying any fishing tackle you should always adopt the principle of trying to buy the best quality for the money you have available. Cheap starter kits and budget brands are rarely a good investment, but this doesn’t mean you need to go out and bankrupt yourself buying the top of the range in everything.
Where tackle is concerned the difference between a quality middle of the range product and the company’s flagship product is not going to make a significant difference to your ledger fishing. A good way of getting quality fishing tackle is to keep your eye on e-bay or on notice boards at local fisheries and tackle shops. Often other anglers will sell perfectly good tackle when they succumb to the next fashion, trend or latest items that they believe will catch them more fish.
You can normally get plenty of advice on which tackle you should buy to suit your local waters from your local tackle shop, but always bear in mind that they are in the business of selling you tackle. Alternatively, see what other successful anglers are using, they will more often than not be more than happy to show you what they use if you ask.
To give you some rough guidance however, in this first part we are going to cover:
- Main Lines
- Feeders, Incl. Open End, Block End, Pellet & Method or Frame Feeder
- Other Essentials – Swivels, Beads, Hooklengths, Hooks, and equipment for fishing with hair rigs.
There is a huge number of feeder, quiver tip and specialist ledger rods on the market and it can be very confusing for the novice. All of them have slightly different specifications to allow them to do different things, or make them suitable for different waters/methods.
As a beginner, my advice would be to always go for something that will cover every eventuality that you are likely to come across when fishing the waters in your area. For this reason I would recommend shopping around and trying to find one of the 11/13 ft variants produced many of the top manufacturers, which come with a selection of push in tips.
These have a removable 2ft section which makes them extremely versatile. At 13 ft they are ideal for river fishing or large stillwaters where you need the extra length to keep the line out of the water or cast the required distance. At 11 ft they are short enough for your small water and commercial carp fishing where a shorter rod makes landing large fish easier.
That said, if you are not intending to fish rivers or large stillwaters then opting for one of the many 11ft medium quiver or feeder rods may be a better option as these tend to be a little softer in the middle and thus more forgiving when playing large fish on light hook lengths.
Whichever rod you choose having a good selection of tips (fig 1) is vital as these are changed to balance the need for bite indication against the strength of flow on a river or wind on a stillwater.
The reel is likely to be either your most expensive item or come a close second to the rod. When reels are concerned definitely avoid cheap deals and as with rods shop around for the best deal you can get on a recognised quality brand.
As stated in the tackle section of this site there are three main reel types used in coarse angling. For 99% of your fishing you will probably use a fixed spool, or open faced reel like in the diagram at fig 2.
As a beginner I would avoid going for a specialist feeder or bait-runner type reel. What you want to look for is a good all round reel that you can use for feeder work and float fishing.
Other things to look for in a quality reel are a good roller on the bail arm to minimise line twist, and one with as many ball bearings as you can afford as these make the reel smoother and are usually a good indicator that the reel has plenty of winding power.
Most of the other features you need are standard on all modern reels, such as an anti-reverse switch and variable drag setting and a spare spool. Advice on correctly loading a reel with line can be found in the tackle section.
Many manufacturers now label their lines to inform anglers what they are for (fig 3). It is important to ensure that you load the spool you are going to use for ledger/feeder fishing with a reel line and not a high tech line.
The reason for this is that reel lines have considerably more stretch than high tech version and are more abrasion resistant. This avoids frustrating break-offs on the cast or strike and also provides a bit more give when that big fish makes a final bid for freedom when directly under the rod tip as you try to net it.
For almost all of your ledgering with a straight lead you will use an Arlesey Bomb (fig 4). These come in a huge range of different weights although a selection of ¼ oz, ½ oz and 1 oz ones in your box will cover almost everything you will need or want to do.
The Arlesey Bomb has an integral swivel to avoid line twist and as such can be threaded straight onto the mainline.
However, as you will see from my suggested rigs below it is always best to clip it onto a snaplink swivel as this will allow you to change the size or replace it with a feeder without having to strip down the whole set-up.
As I mentioned at the start of this article there have been considerable advances and innovations in ledgering and feeder fishing over recent years and this has led to a bewildering array of different, sometimes specialist, feeders appearing on the market. On the upside, many of the more obscure variants now come in packaging with clear directions and suggested set-ups included.
It may sound blindingly obvious but the key to remember when choosing which type of feeder to use is that it is simply a system to deliver either groundbait, particles or loose offerings into your peg close to your hook bait, when flow or distance makes it impossible to use a straight lead and loose feed. The question you need to ask therefore is, “Which feeder will do this most effectively for the type of venue and conditions?”
While there are now lots of different feeders available on the market the majority can however still be grouped into the following categories:
- Open End Feeders
- Block-End Feeders
- Pellet Feeders
- Frame or Method
Open End Feeders
Groundbait can be used neat, or a few loose offering the same as being used on the hook can be added to get the fish hunt for what you hope to catch them with without overfeeding them.
Alternatively, and a really useful trick when the fish are feeding well is to use just enough groundbait to plug the end of the feeder, then fill it with loose particles such as hemp or casters before capping it off with groundbait again.
The groundbait ensures that all of the loose feed stays in the feeder until it hits the bottom and then explodes out leaving a bed of particles between the feeder and your hook bait to hold the fish in the area and keep them hunting around for things to eat.
As can be seen from the diagram there are a number of different varieties available but they all work on the same principle. While the majority are made of plastic there is also a range of cage feeders which are made out of wire.
These allow the feed to escape very quickly and can be used to create a cloud effect to draw fish into your peg. For this reason they are normally only used on stillwaters.
These cage feeders also have the added advantage of being less visible in clear water and can produce better result on waters with heavy angler pressure where the fish have learned to be wary of plastic feeders.
There is also another variation on the open end feeder where the lead weighting is either fitted centrally or around the base as in fig 6 these feeders are specifically designed to be more aerodynamic and increase casting distance.
Tip. Electrical tape can be used to block the holes on the sides of plastic open ended feeders to slow the release of bait. This can be important on those colder winter days when you don’t want to keep casting and introduce too much feed.
Block End Feeders
For this reason they tend to be used primarily on rivers where the flow helps to flush the bait out of them, although on some days they can produce good bags of fish on stillwaters.
Block end feeders were originally designed to be used with large quantities of maggots on rivers like the Trent, Severn and Avon where large nets of greedy chub or barbell were the target of match anglers. They also work very well when packed with hemp and casters though and it always pays to experiment with both the type and quantity of feed introduced in order to get the best results.
Tip. Half filling the feeder and casting more regularly at the start of the session allows you to draw fish into your swim without overfeeding them. This is particularly important on hard fished rivers where fish will happily hang off downstream waiting for odd items of bait to finally reach them rather than moving up to where your hook bait is.
Obviously you could increase the length of your hook-length but remember, the longer it is the more chance there is that you won’t see the bite before the fish has rejected the hook. Far better to try introducing less feed and encourage the fish to compete for it and move into your chosen catching area.
The in line pellet feeder is one of the newest innovations and is, as its name suggests, specifically designed to be used with pellets. Micro pellets or 4mm pellets are prepared for use with this feeder by lightly soaking them so that they easily pack into it.
They then explode out as they expand leaving a bed of pellets on the bottom to attract and hold fish in your peg. For this reason they are normally used in conjunction with a very short hook-length, often no more than 8cm, and a larger pellet bait presented on a hair rig.
Using a different bait that stands out from the bed of pellets, like sweetcorn or luncheon meat, can also be very effective on certain days. If you don’t want to go to the expense of buying these feeder then cage or frame/method feeders can also work equally as well with pellets with a bit of practice.
The best way to prepare the feed pellets is:
Micro pellets: Place approximately ¾ pint of pellets into a 1 pint bait tub then add just enough water to wet them by mixing with your fingers. Once all the pellets are wet the excess water should be tipped out and the pellets left to soak in the moisture on the outside. If you add too much water to micro pellets you will just end up with very claggy almost paste like pellets that won’t come out of the feeder.
4mm pellets: Again place approximately ¾ pint of pellets into a 1 pint bait tub then add just enough water to cover them and leave for approximately 30 seconds before tipping out the excess water. Again these are then simply left to soak up the remaining water. It is best to give these a mix a couple of times while setting up the rest of your tackle to stop those at the bottom becoming too claggy.
Frame or Method Feeder
These feeders (Figs 9 & 10) were originally designed and introduced by specimen carp anglers. When they were originally introduced they were almost all similar to the Emstat feeder shown in the centre of fig 8 and this style of method feeder is still in use today.
The idea of this style was that you could form two or three balls of groundbait and catapult them out to you chosen fishing area. The balls were deliberately made very hard/sticky to ensure that they broke down slowly. And carp would come along and mouth at the balls which were too big to get in their mouths to release the few loose offerings/particles like hemp, sweetcorm, micro boilies or dead maggots. A few floating bits could also be added to indicate when fish had moved in and started feeding.
A ball of the same groundbait mix was then formed around the frame of the feeder about the same size. Your hook bait, which was mounted on a very short hook-length, rarely longer than 8cm, was then laid on the outside and a softer mix added over the top to keep it in place while casting.
The idea was that when you feeder hit the bottom the softer groundbait would break down quickly releasing your hook bait which would sit like a tasty offering as if it had naturally been released by the ball as it broke down – irresistible. The only drawback with this method was that you could never truly guarantee which way up your feeder would land and you bait may well be buried underneath until feeding fish pushed the ball out of the way and revealed it.
Match anglers found that this was a bit slow and unpredictable and in order to increase the chance of the feeder landing the right way up and your hook bait always being immediately visible to the feeding fish the style of feeder in fig 9 was introduced.
These, being designed by match anglers also tend to be smaller which means that you can cast more often without feeding too much groundbait or pellets. Indeed, with these smaller feeders the carp will often come straight to the splash and hoover up most of the bait along with your hook bait.
Tip. Many of these new method feeders now come with a Method Mould (fig 10) to make forming the groundbait or pellets around the feeder quicker and easier and ensure perfect presentation – well worth the investment.
Hair rigged hook baits are almost always used with method or frame feeders as the short hook-length results in the fish self hooking against the feeder which acts as a bolt rig.
Ready tied hair rig hook-lengths are readily available these days but are very simple to tie yourself.
Because of the nature of the approach you need to literally sit on your hands and wait as bites develop when fishing the method feeder.
Very often the tip will bounce around and even drop back violently as the feeding fish push the feeder around trying to dislodge the groundbait. You should avoid the temptation to strike and if the tip drops back simply re-tighten the line. When you have a fish the rod tip will either fly round or drop back and you won’t be able to tighten back up. When this happens simply pick up the rod and tighten onto the fish and play as normal.
Tip. Never leave your rod unattended when fishing the method feeder. The bites are often extremely violent and on more than one occasion I have seen and unmanned rod pulled into the lake never to be seen again!
To finally prepare your rigs ready to fish you will need a few other bits and bobs including:
Some specialised stops are available on the market to make the task of baiting up a hair rig quicker. The most common of these is the Korum Bait bayonet system and needle (Fig 18)
The bait drill is used to hand drill a hole through large pellets, boilies or nuts so that they can be mounted on a hair rig.