Tackle and Tactics
Mike Ladle


Information Page.

"Specialise for success.".

In this age of scientific wonders, we are all aware that every fish species has a different genetic design. That is what makes them separate species. Cod and coalfish, dabs and doggies; each is the product of millions of years of evolution. The eyes, nose, fins, gills and scales have all been developed for one purpose - survival! To survive, every fish must eat and a species has two choices. It can specialise or generalise. It can be an opportunist eating whatever it finds, but not being especially good at finding a particular prey, or it can be a top class predator, filterer, worm muncher, snail cruncher or seaweed grazer. The specialised predators win fins down in the competition for survival when food is plentiful but they struggle when times are hard and food is scarce.

The angling world tends to resist change. The tackle and tactics of sea anglers does not differ much than the gear used by their dads or granddads. All right! I accept that modern rods, reels and lines allow long casting and that modern electronics allow distant marks to be found. However, despite these innovations, the average angler still adorns the business end of his paternoster/leger tackle with a tired strip of mackerel or leathery lugworm.

By using tactics designed to tempt a particular species you are likely to hit the headlines with huge bags of fish or regular catches of specimens. If you are satisfied with catches of paltry pouting or widgy wrasse there is no need to read further. But if you would like to feel the rod butt bending with the pull of a great fish, or hear the scream of the ratchet on your reel - designer tactics are for you.

What do I mean by designer tactics? It may be that you are already adopting the correct approach to give you a good chance of landing your fish of a lifetime.

If you fancy a decent-sized dogfish from the shore, a fish or squid bait fixed to the sea bed at night with a six ounce lead is most likely to succeed.

If you are in search of corkwing wrasse or small ballans try a paternostered or float fished ragworm dangled among the weed fronds.

If you are lucky, the 'doggy' tactics could produce a specimen cod, bass or even a monster conger. The wrasse hunt may result in a record bream or pollack.

If the last hundred fish you caught were 4oz pouting or half-pound wrasse the next fish may be a big one, but it is unlikely.

First, you must decide if there are any worth while fish in your area. Look through the magazines, talk to other anglers and scan the seashore for tell-tale signs. Having learnt where the fish are likely to be on your patch, decide which species you want to catch. Work out a suitable collection of marks and then work out your tactics.

Now comes the crunch. Don’t do exactly the same thing as the other 999 anglers fishing in the area. If you do your chance of catching the biggest fish is at best one in a thousand.

Let’s consider a few examples:-

Your research tells you that wrasse are often caught in the ‘craggy cliffs’ area and that most anglers float fish ragworm. They usually land fish weighing less than a pound. Try using hard crab fished on the bottom or even a plug designed to resemble a prawn, squat lobster or sea scorpion. You may have to wait a bit longer for a bite but you will still catch plenty of fish - and they will certainly be bigger!

The usual night catches off your local beaches may consist of pouting or poor cod. Lug, rag, squid and fish baits are devoured by the fish and occasionally, one of the anglers catches a decent bass or cod. If you want to improve your chance of a big catch, fish with a whole dead pouting or better still a live one and hold the rod all the time so that you will be ready when the bite comes.

School bass may be the normal catch for anglers legering ragworm on smallish hooks from your shoreline. At dusk or dawn, try free-lining a big peeler crab, half a mackerel or a couple of squid in the surf or even spin a big shad or surface popping plug. If you are patient the odds are that a large bass will take the bait at some stage.

As you walk across the estuary mudflats for another flounder session, you will probably notice the bow waves of mullet. Don’t ignore them, try float fishing or light legering a bit of bread or even spinning a rag-baited spoon.

If you really want to get some satisfaction from your fishing, try setting out to catch just one species … you will be amazed at the results of your efforts.

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.'get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - docladle@hotmail.com



Small wrasse are often the norm on ragworm baits in daytime.


Big ballans take plugs well.'


Not a monster but bigger than I would be likely to catch on legered worm.'