Alan Scotthorne kicked off the year in style with an impressive catch of bream from the Stainforth & Keadby Canal. We got the England star to explain how he did it:
I always fish the Stainforth & Keadby Canal matches through the winter months and it’s the only canal I know that almost guarantees you plenty of bites, even on the coldest of days. It’s always been known as a bloodworm mecca, but over the last couple of years it’s been very difficult – maybe almost impossible – to make the frame using only his bait. You now really need to catch on hemp in the closing stages of the match or strangely on casters in the opening couple of hours of the competition.
When the first matches start in October, a good ploy is to start on caster and finish on hemp if you are looking to win the match, discounting bloodworm altogether. I have tried a lot of times with slightly different approaches to catch a winning weight on bloodworm alone, but with the fish being very small and the canal being quite deep it’s difficult to put big numbers of fish together, given that they don’t seem to come in closer than nine metres of pole. One match I caught 286 fish for just short of 14lb but only won the section as 36lb of bream won the match. As I said, plenty of bites but you need to be more selective to actually win.
This season, match organiser Lee Kerry decided to try a competition where you needed to win your section to qualify for a big final match which guaranteed a good pay day for the winner. After three matches I was looking like I might not make this final. This included one near miss by just two ounces and really not having a chance on the other two qualifiers with end pegs dominating my area. With two qualifying matches left, the pressure was on a little!
A Tactical Switch
I felt a change of tactics was needed and, although I still fed a shorter bloodworm line, the longer lines between 13 and 16 metres needed a more positive approach if I was to progress. I had drawn peg 170 at Wykewell Bridge, which is an area of the canal where a few bream and skimmers can occasionally show up. To win the section I felt I would have to catch some of these bigger fish.
At the start of the match I started right at the side of my keepnet for perch with bloodworm, feeding just a small ball of joker in leam. I managed to catch 15 small samples here while my other lines that I had fed settled.
With a few fish already in the net I then moved out to my 9m swim for roach. Here I had fed a 50/50 mix of Sensas Canal Black and Sensas Black Leam with 300g of joker in six balls. I caught another 10 roach to add to the perch from the close line using my now standard 0.6g rig for the canal.
My intention was to be out long for bream after 30 minutes. I have noticed that these quality fish always feed early in the matches and so I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to snare one. Lots of anglers target these fish at 16 metres but I am sure that the best line is between 13 and 14 metres. I chose to feed this swim at 14 metres where the bottom was still flat.
I prepared the feed for this area at the start, finely chopping 500ml of worms and placing them in a small groundbait bowl with 250ml of casters and 100ml of dead red maggots. I then added leam and soil to this until I could form it into a nice firm ball that should take the bait to the bottom before it starts to break down. To start, I fed just one 250ml pot-sized ball very accurately using the front pole rest on my Rive box to make sure I could fish right over this ball of feed. Topping up was done via a small pole-mounted pot with the same mix.
I set up two rigs: one with a slim prototype float in 0.6g for when the canal was standing still and a Drennan AS7 float in 0.6g if the canal started to tow. The AS7 is brilliant when the canal is moving as with an almost round body and a 0.6mm wire in the base they sit very well. This allows me to use a slightly smaller float to combat the flow, which is a big advantage on the canal. Both rigs were shotted simply with a bulk and two No10 dropper shots to a barbless Drennan Silverfish Match hook to a 0.083mm Supplex hooklength.
You might be surprised that I chose this specific pattern as it’s a barbless hook, but it’s one I have a lot of confidence in. I have used it really successfully in recent commercial silverfish matches, even landing several carp to 10lb without much trouble. As I haven’t been losing any fish off them I cannot see why I wouldn’t use them on a natural venue as well. Being barbless means I can strike with less force and still hook fish really cleanly. It’s something I am going to experiment with a lot more this year.
I kicked off with a single dead maggot on the hook but also had the option to try caster or a small piece of worm. Fishing with the pole in a rest enabled me to present a static bait for bream and skimmers and I settled down to patiently wait for a bite. This was not to be long and a 2lb+ bream was a nice start. A No5 elastic through two sections of my Acolyte pole dealt with it quite easily.
I was now up and running. From that point on I had a great match, catching odd quality fish for two hours while also keeping my inside line topped up for roach just in case the bream shut down. Once this happened I dropped back on the closer line and although they were small it kept me ticking over, adding to my final weight. I managed one more late bream but lost another to a ginormous pike, much to my disgust!
At the scales my 21lb total was more than enough to qualify and win the match on the day. A great start to 2017 and now I am really looking forward to the final.
What I have learnt from this match is to have a more positive approach to the canal if I want to win more matches. Knowing the canal well is a big advantage and knowing what fish are present in which areas, but bloodworm will no longer be my first choice of bait on these matches. Happy new year!