Maximise Your Potential…

Winter carp can be fickle beasts at times, but Tom Pickering’s system gives him maximum chance of success...

Last year I was lucky enough to win the Wickersley Angling Bomb and Feeder league here at Hallcroft, against some very tough competition. It went right to the wire - and looking back over the league there were definitely a couple of key decisions that swung events in my favour.

What I want to explain in this feature is the system that I use to tackle venues like this, when just feeder and bomb are allowed. It’s took me a long while to work out the best, option-covering approach that helps me quickly work out how the carp want to feed on each given day, and then catch them!


Lots of things influence how carp feed. From the water temperature, to the intensity of the light (whether its sunny or not) to the amount of wind on the water, and the barometric pressure. As I explain my approach, you will realise it hinges on maximising my ability to catch carp - whether they are actively feeding or not. However, being aware of the conditions is essential. If it s a mild day, with a breeze on the water you might want 100lb to win. If its cold, with a stiff frost and bright sunshine, 30lb might be enough. You must always let your peg tell you what to do, but it does no harm to have in your mind a target weight to help you make the best decisions through the day.

On most winter sessions I set up two rods, which gives me three approaches to work between. I’m going to start with the most negative, and work my way through. First up- my ‘dobbing rod.’ This is a simple running inline bomb set up, with a 12 inch hooklength and a size 16 Guru SLWG hook. This is used primarily to cast at showing fish, with the intentions of bagging a quick bite. If you see a fish roll, its always worth having a cast towards it. The fact that it is moving tells you that the fish is active, and its amazing how often a fast bite follows. This tactic has bought me loads of fish over the years, and its often on the hardest days -when you most need that valuable extra bite that it comes up trumps.

The key with the ‘dobbing rod’ is discipline. If you see a fish pick it up and have a five minute chuck, but if it doesn’t go around be just as quick to put it back down, and go back on your other lines.


On some days a sinking bait like a piece of corn can be a brilliant choice on this ‘dobbing rod’ - but more often than not I want a pop-up. I have three baits in my armoury that I will work through, the first is a simple Fjuka pop-up on a spike. The second is one of the Fjuka Floating Neeonz - these are softer than the pop ups and often bring a fast bite. The final one is bread - though I have recently had my thinking changed on this. Tank testing has shown me it doesn’t always pop up as well as I thought! So now, I almost always use a couple of discs of punched bread, along with a floating Neeonz to ensure buoyancy.        

The next approach is the one that I would expect to spend the majority of my session on. This is the hybrid feeder. Ive explained my take on this deadly technique an awful lot, both on the pages of this magazine and on YouTube, so I’ll not dwell too much on it.

The crux of my approach is a free running Guru Hybrid feeder with the holes glued up. This runs down to a Korum quick change bead, and I fish a four inch hooklength. Hook choice is a size 16 Guru Super LWG. Hookbait is generally a 6mm Fjuka hookable wafter, though I will also try corn, or a 7mm Fjuka Carpo or Pop-Up if I can’t catch on a wafter.

Fishery micro pellets go on the Hybrid feeder. I prepare these by soaking them in Fjuka Sensate Fish Accelerant liquid the night before I use them, then keeping them in the fridge so they soften throughout, and break down properly, even in the icy cold water that you are often faced with in winter.

Unless I see any showing fish, this is generally the tactic that I start on. I begin the match by casting my hybrid feeder towards wherever I think the fish might be, then its about keeping a close eye on the tip.

  1. Small liners, and I will generally sit on my hands until the tip goes around, as this means that there are fish around my feeder. Big liners can mean the fish are closer to you - so a closer chuck might be in order. And no liners at all, means it might pay to cast elsewhere until you can work out where the fish are sat. 

    In fairness, this is my banker method in most conditions. I think it offers the perfect cold-water compromise, a small pile of bait with a hookbait neatly presented in the middle of it. One question that I get asked regularly is about the colour of hookbait to go for - generally I feel a pink or yellow wafter is best, but the key is to keep changing until you catch on a colour on a given day, and then stick with it.


So thats the two more negative approaches out the way. As anyone who knows me well will tell you, I like to fish to win - and the last part of my three method attack is about giving myself the chance of a run of fish late on in the day. Literally, this line can see you go from zero to hero in the last couple of hours of the match, and it also affords me a completely different style of feeding to the other two styles - so Im really covering my options and working out how the fish want to feed on the day.

The crux of this corn line is loosefeed - I fire corn over an area of around three metres square somewhere in the swim, then fish a bomb over the top of it. This corn swim generally takes a while to build, so I’ll feed it for at least two hours before I go on it. I just trickle bait in little and often, maybe eight pieces of corn every ten minutes, to pull any feeding fish into the area and get them competing.

In terms of what I feed, its just supermarket corn, which I again soak in Fjuka Sensate Attractant. This gives it a pink tinge, and of course that distinctive Fjuka smell!

Tackle wise for this swim its the same as the dobbing rod - and generally I simply hair rig a single piece of corn, then let the tip tell me how the fish are responding to it. 

Obviously, bites speak for themselves - but another good way to gauge how the fish are responding to your loosefeed is to fire some bait in while your bomb is in the water, if you get liners, then you know the fish are moving around and responding to the bait that you are firing in.

If this happens, try firing some corn in then casting straight over the top of it. This can bring some savage bites as fish follow the loosefeed to the bottom, then instantly pick up your hookbait.


Today really couldn’t have gone any better, I had two quick fish on a hybrid feeder, which I cast around three quarters of the way across the lake here on Moat Pool. No more bites, or liners were forthcoming though, which told me that the fish had moved. A cast right brought not a single sign, so I cast slightly down the lake to my left. Sure enough, another fast bite then a load of liners followed. I had found them again! This bought a steady run of fish, including a couple of real beauties on the dobbing rod. 

After a couple of hours, I started to loosefeed corn down the middle of the lake, hoping for a late arrival. As we moved into the last hour of the session, I dropped on it. Interestingly, my first three fish were skimmers, but with bites coming quickly I didn’t mind one bit. On my fourth cast I had a big common though, followed by a good mirror to finish the session.

As I said, this has been an exceptional days fishing, and all three methods have worked. Its worth saying though, the real strength of this three pronged attack is the more difficult days, as it helps you cover your options and work out how the fish want it on a given day. Hopefully it works as well for you this winter as it has for me. 


A key point to consider where possible is the kind of bottom you feed the worm bomb on. Sometimes, you have no choice but to feed it on a silty bottom, and to be fair, I’ve caught lots of big weights fishing this tactic on silt - but if you can find a firmer bottom anywhere - maybe on a gravel bar, or just creeping up a slope towards an island, even better! 


The great thing about this way of fishing is it generally brings an instant response - its not like you are feeding a big bed of groundbait and waiting for the skimmers to settle over it. The fish attack this small ball of particle rich bait, and I never wait too long before I have a look on it. Today I fed the worm bomb, then had a quick look on a pellet line for ten minutes, which brought one small solitary skimmer before going on the dirty line!

Interestingly, this brought five small skimmers in the time that it took me to catch one on pellets. See what I mean about the peg telling you what’s right? On other days, you might be met with a disappointing response on the dirty bomb - and then I would pick up the catapult. 

I managed to catch for about 40 minutes on just one initial ball. Some nice skimmers, plus a couple of bonus crucians and a small tench. You can usually tell when its time to top up, as bites drop off  - and that is exactly what’s happened today. I always make my top ups slightly smaller than my initial feed - I kicked of with a tangerine sized ball and topped up with golf balls. The fish were straight back on it though!

In terms of hook baits, I alternate between a worm head, and a Fjuka micro. In the slower spells, the Fjuka micro seems better, but when there are loads of fish in the swim, for example, straight after feeding, the worm head proved more resilient - and I could catch several fish off just one small hookbait.

Strangely, after my third top up, I started to suffer a few missed bites. If this happens - always slip the plummet back on, as sometimes the fish will burrow out the bottom, and you can find yourself fishing off the bottom without realising! Thats exactly what happened today-  I added an inch of depth, and once again the bites were clean and the fish were hooked clean in the mouth. 


Its a great short session to be honest, three hours fishing on one line, and well over 30lb of mixed fish. Carp, crucians, tench, bream, roach and perch have all fell in to the trap today.  The ‘Dirty Bomb’ can make for a very simple days fishing, and a net that contains a little bit of everything!  


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