Big bream from pits with Alan Stagg

Thu 09 May 13

 

Bream are fascinating creatures and, although not known for their fighting qualities, a big bream is a very impressive sight. This species has always interested me, particularly when found in large low-stock venues, a style of fishing that can be both exciting and very addictive. Fish thrive in these rich environments and these venues often hold large sought-after carp which are often fed high-quality bait throughout the year, giving the bream an additional high protein food source. These factors help bream to reach massive proportions and they remain a highly regarded fish, targeted by many specimen anglers.

The summer of 2011 gave me the ideal opportunity to visit one such venue with untapped specimen potential. Situated in the south of England, it was part of a complex of lakes with a history for producing big fish of all species. I had been keeping an eye on the venue since it was opened for the first time to anglers several years ago and when I was offered a ticket I didn’t need to think twice. I had very little information to go on as the syndicate here were targeting the carp population and there were rumours that fish weighing over 50lbs had been spotted, but not caught. I knew this would keep the carp anglers busy and hopefully I would be able to stay away from prying eyes and be left to fish for the other species the venue contained.

At 96 acres in size the lake was dotted with a couple of large islands and two bays, meaning location was always going to be key when fishing here. I didn’t have a lot of information to go on and knowing that bream can be nomadic at times I knew it would be a real learning curve.

I visited the complex several times at dusk in the hope that the bream would reveal themselves by rolling, thus pinpointing the areas they were visiting. The fish were obviously active, as on my second evening I saw a fish roll at around an 80-yard range in large bay of around 18 acres. A few days later I returned with the plumbing rod to investigate. Time spent locating features is never wasted as it allows the angler to learn more about the venue they are fishing. Bream are not great lovers of weed, so I knew it would be worth finding large clear areas and if this was combined with suitable depth and open water I knew the bream wouldn’t be far away. After an hour spent plumbing various swims I soon found what I was looking for. I discovered a nice gravel bar around 6 feet wide rising to 2 feet in an area that was devoid of weed. It was an ideal place for bream to visit and feed.

Feeding the swim

The venue allows the use of boats to find features and to use when baiting up. I was still waiting to get my hands on a boat so I had to adopt the use of a groundbait sling for the first few sessions to introduce the feed. This is a great method to introduce lots of bait quickly and accurately at range and the bombardment certainly raised a few eyebrows. Good friend Dai Gribble soon came to rescue though and lent me his boat. I was very grateful for this offer as it proved a very valuable tool. Time spent floating around in the boat leaning over the side with an Aquascope was a great experience allowing me to quickly build up a picture of the lake and pinpoint likely looking areas to target. Drifting over the area I had located previously it was obvious to see why the fish had been seen rolling here. The bar was completely polished and looked an ideal ambush point.

rig components

Most of my bream fishing on large southern venues is carried out at distance and due to the size of this particular venue this was going to be no exception. I always favour open water swims and fishing at distance often means adopting scaled-down carp tactics to be able to reach the features the bream are visiting. It is worth noting that these venues also often hold large carp which can have a liking for big beds of groundbait and it is not uncommon to hook these when fishing in this manner. As the fish are often big and venues can be weedy, make sure you have a fighting chance of landing them. Fish to 36lb 8oz have fallen to my rods when using these tactics. It is not uncommon to see some bream anglers using 3lb test curve rods and big pit reels to be able to reach the distances and features they want to fish. The problem in using lighter tackle is when strong crosswind blows across the lake making it difficult to hit small features at a range of 90–100 yards plus.

Strong mainline is essential when using big leads to cast long distances. I favour a line of 12–15lb breaking strain and I have been using Gardner Hydro Tuff, an abrasive line that casts extremely well. I always use a length of Plummet leadcore to keep the line pinned to the deck around the rig. This also has abrasive qualities that can be beneficial when fishing to bars or humps that can damage the mainline. When fishing at distance I always favour a lead clip arrangement and use Covert Lead Clips in a C-Thru brown colour that blends nicely into the lakebed. I have recently become a big fan of supple braids although most anglers favour skinned hook lengths. Supple braids such as Trickster Heavy from Gardner Tackle are ideal and I particularly like the brown-flecked version which blends in well with the gravel areas that I like to fish over. Hook sizes depend of bait, but my preferred choice is a size 8 Gardner Talon Tip which suits a couple of 10mm boilies or perfectly balances two grains of Enterprise imitation corn, one bouyant the other one sinking, which leaves the hookbait to sit up the length of the hair off of the bottom.

The baited rig

Both combinations have proved successful and I particularly like the addition of plastic as they take on flavour well. I carry various assorted plastic baits in small bottles, including sweet and fruity flavours such as Richworth Esterberry, which have proved particularly effective.
When it comes to bait there is no need to be frugal especially when fishing large venues. Big bream can eat a lot of bait and a decent bed will help hold them in the area for longer. My preferred mix is Sonubaits Super Crush Green which is made from crushed koi pellets mixed 50/50 with F1 groundbait which is another fishmeal mix with a lovely sweet smell to it. I like to add various small food items to the mix such as mixed particles and, as bream love pellets, a mixture of crushed halibut pellets, 2mm S-Pellets and 4mm elliptical pellets are always added. I like to keep larger food items such as sweetcorn and 10mm boilles to a minimum. I want the bream to search these out from the mass of feed and I hope the hookbaits stand out from the crowd. I like to add lots of flavour to the groundbait and its common knowledge that bream love molasses. Adding oils to the mix sends up flat spots to the water’s surface as the oil is released, letting you know fish are feeding on the baited area which is an added bonus. If at all possible I like to mix the groundbait the night before as this allows it to fully absorb the flavour allowing a steady leakage once in the water.

Alan's bait selection

Fishing this large gravel pit over the summer made me realise just how much feed a shoal of big bream can get through. My standard baiting procedure was to spread around 12 litres of feed between two H-Blok markers that had been positioned over the distant gravel bar. After spreading the feed between the markers I would head back to the bank and cast three rods to the area. Once I was happy, I would row out to the markers and view the hookbaits to make sure they had landed accurately over the feed. After several bites in the night I would often row out the next morning to see what the baited area was like. Often all or most of the feed would be gone with the odd small patch left, which just goes to show how much feed these fish can eat.

A boat comes in very handy

At this point the fishes’ behaviour changed from night time bites and they were now spending most of their time feeding in the large bay I was fishing in the day. They would often appear in the early hours of the morning. In 96 acres they were difficult to pin down at night and after a few nights trying various swims around the lake I couldn’t pin-point where they were spending their time in the hours after dark. Why there was this change in behaviour I am not sure, maybe it was down to weather conditions and the cooler temperatures. However, the bay was one of the only weed-free areas of the lake and had a good depth of water. During the day the fish would often respond quickly to the introduction of bait and it wasn’t uncommon to receive a take a couple of hours after adding 12 litres of feed. It was always apparent when the fish had found the feed as the lake is exposed to the elements and often the wind would create a good chop on the water. Large flat spots would often appear above the baited area as the fish disturbed the oil in the feed, a sure sign a bite was imminent.

a stunning brace of big pit bream

The two-month campaign on the water was a good experience and the use of a boat provided a great insight in to the lake and the features I was fishing to. In total I managed 37 fish during this time with 14 double-figure fish, the best weighing 13lb 2oz and made for a very enjoyable campaign.

 

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