Tackle and Tactics
Mike Ladle


Information Page.

High tech hype.

Lets face it! we all fall in to the angling rut from time to time. You know, same old methods, same old baits, same old fishing spots what a bore! To try and inject some new life in to my fishing I have tried to set myself targets or projects over the years. In my youth I set out to catch new and different species each year, which resulted in my fishing becoming something of a species hunt.

Then my attention was focused on bigger fish, and within the limits of time, accessibility and skill, my aim would be to catch bigger and better specimens. Today, both these approaches have merged in to what is a simple desire to improve my catches and develop fishing methods. This piece was written some years ago and I’m ashamed to say that I only put one of my ideas into practice.

Angling writers often pay lip service to the fact that “you never stop learning”, although there is little evidence of any real improvement in terms of skills or general level of catches. Why should this be? I suspect that the main problem lies in our almost universal obsession with tackle. High tech. rods and reels, lines, sinkers of all shapes and sizes, booms which lift, separate and swivel in every conceivable direction, fancy hooks and lures which rattle and gyrate seem to fill the pages of angling books and catalogues.

If you think of your own angling experience you will possibly realise that the great improvements (what you might call quantum leaps) in catches were rarely the result of tackle changes. A new venue, a previously-untried combination of tide and conditions or a quite new approach involving a totally different form of presentation (usually simplification in my case), are much more likely to result in the big pay-off.

Just consider, for a moment, the shore fishing tactics used by sea anglers. I would guess that 99 percent of rock and beach devotees still spend their time tethered to a lump of lead. Whether the weight slides on the line or is fixed, whether it is a bomb, a pyramid, a grip or a breakaway the result is much the same, a bait ‘nailed’ to the seabed. If you can believe everything that’s written (and of course you can’t) there are an almost infinite number of subtleties which can be introduced to bait presentation by different combinations of weight, trace, boom and bead. But hang on… what about the other 1 percent of shore fishing? Most of the other remaining angling activity involves the use of float tackle. Despite the standard advice to use “sensible floats, no bigger than necessary”; the strand line on my local beaches is still (even now) decorated almost exclusively with crude cylinders of polystyrene big enough to support several ounces of lead.

All other tactics have to share the remaining, tiny proportion of fishing time and effort. It follows from this analysis that most fish will be brought by bottom fishing and most of the ‘improvements’ will come in this field simply because of the number of people doing it and the amount of time spent on it. Like everyone else I am a slave of tradition and I know that I shall catch fish by sticking to the tried and trusted tactics that worked last year and the year before and the year before that. However, I am still not too old to learn (nearly but not quite). Each year, usually in late winter when thinking is likely to be more profitable than fishing, I try to crystallise the ideas which germinated in the previous twelve months into a plan of action for the coming year. Perhaps it would be of interest if I revealed one or two of my own objectives (remember that this was written some time ago). If only one of my ideas works I shall be well pleased and even if none is effective I shall surely have learnt a lot.

High on my list of priorities is trying to effectively control the depth at which I fish a moving artificial or natural bait in mid-water. This isn’t the easiest of tasks. Even for the experienced angler it is difficult to know whether the attractor is five, ten or even twenty feet down below the waves. A paternoster with a lead bumping the bottom will work if you want to fish near the seabed and a float will suspend your tackle a fixed distance beneath the waves, until the retrieve begins. The stronger the current or the faster the retrieve or trolling speed then the more awkward it is to keep the bait down where you want it.

The only break through in depth control, apart from cumbersome American-style down riggers, has been the paravane. Paravanes are simply diving vanes which are forced deeper in faster flowing water. Commercially produced paravanes are bulky and awkward devices so I was interested to see a simple homemade version in use last summer. A pal of mine, Harry Holman, was using the bit of gear, like the one shown in my diagram, for mackerel trolling off Weymouth. It was my intention to make one or two smaller versions of Harry’s plywood Paravane to control the depth of spinning baits fished with rod and line in inshore tide races. I never did it.

Many anglers are aware of my interest in catching sea fish particularly bass, by using spinning tackle and tactics. In fact, over the years, I have had quite a few decent fish on bottom-fished baits ranging from ragworm to crab and from mackerel to mussel; but for many years the great majority of my bass, large and small, have been landed on carp tackle and buoyant plug baits.

It’s now my intention to capitalise on the “know how” of the movements and “whereabouts” of big bass gained during many hours of spinning. However, I won’t be fishing with lures but with large dead baits in an attempt to sort out the larger specimens (I did this and it was very effective). In my part of Dorset there are quite a number of rocky promontories that project well out to sea. Tides are small so, for anglers who know the area well, many of these ledges and points can be safely fished for long periods.

Because of the nature of the area there is a strong flow of tide parallel to the shoreline. I believe that by using these rocky vantage points as fishing platforms it should be possible to create a long rubby-dubby trail and to attract large predatory fish from some distance downtide.

Despite the shallow water, which characterises much of the area, sharks and tope commonly hunt close inshore secure in the knowledge that they are unlikely to be stranded by the ebb. So this year, I shall try to floatfish large fish-baits in a trail of rubby-dubby in the hope of inducing a few fish to have a go a single bite will probably represent a good return for effort. The three ideas outlined are more than enough to contemplate for a single season. I shall be well satisfied if even one of them pays off. The main difficulty will not be in the methods but in trying to “stick to my guns” when my mates are pulling out bass and mullet on all sides!

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


High tech tackle.

Nice bass!

The leap forward is not the use of the circle hook on which it was caught but the free line margin fishing tactic.

Which float?

The polystyrene float is quite a small one but compare it with my usual bottle cork (which can if needed be stepped up to 'wine bottle' size.