Knowing which swims to fish when in the match is what sets top anglers apart from the chasing pack. Tom Scholey explains some key thoughts on maximising a pegs potential….

I think it was North-West Legend, Stu Conroy who said that there are two types of anglers; ‘Liggers’ and ‘Faffers.’ Your ‘Ligger’ might set up one rig, with a big hook, and plenty of line on the bottom under a good sized float. Then feed positively, and win the match on a single swim. The faffer, by contrast, would fish five swims, with two rigs set up for each, and rotate around them all day to win the match with a hard-earned net made up of multiple species. For me, the key to consistent good results is a combination of the two styles. In this piece, I want to talk about a few mantra’s that I have learned over the years which help me to sort a peg out, and achieve its potential.


On prolific venues, to win, you generally have to keep things simple - and the less familiar you are with a venue, or a style of fishing, the more this is the case. On arrival at your peg, the first thing you should ask yourself is how you are going to win the match, or have the best chance of doing well. Make this plan ‘A’. If its a big weight affair, then make sure you have duplicate rigs set up, and enough bait with you to do the damage with Plan A. This should become your first thought, and priority in planning your attack. 

This may seem stupidly simple advice - but honestly - its so often forgotten and lost in clouded judgement. Say it’s a match where you know you will need a big net of F1s shallow on the pole to win.

Then you see some carp crashing near a central island in waggler range. It might seem the right thing to do to pick up your waggler rod and go for them - but they could easily prove a red herring and draw you into fishing the wrong match. Would you be able to effectively feed a shallow pole line, while feeding and fishing a pellet waggler? Would the constant casting and reeling in stop the F1s from properly settling and competing?

Clarity of thought in terms of what you need to do to win, and making this a priority in your plan is essential. Then you can think about other lines and swims, as secondary or back-up considerations.

One thing I will talk a lot about in this feature is timing - and this main, ‘fishing to win’ line is the best place to bring it up. If you can catch on this ‘Plan A’ line all day, you are making yourself very hard to beat. When I caught my PB match weight of 337lb of F1s at Lindholme, I caught shallow at 11m start to finish. When I caught 93lb 8oz of roach on the Wye, I caught on a 7m whip from start to finish.

If you think you can catch all day on one line, then you should start on it. If it goes under all day, then you have a red letter day. Always be enough of a Ligger to give yourself the chance of this, if you think it is feasible. Of course, most of us don’t draw pegs that are this strong all the time, which is where most of my other tips come in…

Hemp is Plan A on the Trent at Burton Joyce

  One of Tom's edges is to fish light floats and lines

A black Fjuka pellet can work a treat when the roach are having it

Sensate liquid gives your bait a boost and gives you an edge


So with Plan A at the forefront of your mind, it’s time to start thinking about other swims that you may or may not need through the match. I try to prioritise these in order of importance, starting with the swims that I think will work the best, and then considering any bonus fish, or throwaway lines.

On the River Trent at Burton Joyce, where you join me today, I know there are lots of perch to catch at close quarters, so a perch line short is a must. My ‘Plan A’ line is hemp on the long pole, so my next thought is whether the two methods are congruent. In this case, they are, I can comfortably catch some perch on the short pole early, while loosefeeding hemp on a long pole swim.

My next thought is a swim for bigger fish. To be honest, I don’t think there are many in this area, and so I don’t think I will be spending much time on this line. That said, I always feed it, and there are some rules for this that I will cover in my next point. I now have three swims that I am happy with, a short pole for perch which I can fish early while building my hemp line. A hemp swim where I can hopefully do most of the damage, and a big fish feeder line that might add a welcome bonus to the net. I really don’t need any more than this to start with, as I always have the adaptability to change as the session progresses.


Whether it be commercial fisheries or natural venues, we have never had fishing as good as we have it in the UK at the minute. Perhaps more than ever, for this reason, we need to think carefully about our choice of baits, so we can catch the right fish - and not waste time.

I’ll start with ‘Plan A’ first. The reason I am going with hemp on this line is because it is selective, and brings in better quality fish than, say a caster approach. In previous sessions, I’ve found the fish are almost three times the size on hemp compared to maggots and casters - but if the day is tougher than I expect, I always have the option of loose feeding some casters to change my peg.

Hopefully though, by feeding in this more selective bait I am setting myself up for the best possible day.

On to my short line. Past experience tells me the perch here love to live in the rocks, and weed cover, so the fact that I have a lovely clear spot on a top kit where I can fish, in close proximity to weed and on a rocky bottom is perfect. I can fish to hand here, which is even better, I will be able to put a weight together quickly if the fish have a go.  The bait choice here is maggots,  as I am looking for fast bites off everything that swims, and I know I can catch quickly.

Finally my big fish feeder line, which is in the strongest flow down the middle of the river. This is the furtherst one away from me, and I don’t want to waste time catching small fish from here, so I opt to be really selective and target big fish.

Strong line and big hooks are order of the day here, and baits that only bring in the right fish. So its strong fishmeal groundbait (Dynamite Marine Halibut) and small fish resistant Fjuka Carpos on the hook.

So to me I have the perfect scenario; small fish are being targeted short  where I can catch them mega quickly. My ‘Plan A’ line is targeting good sized fish to build a weight, at a distance where I can comfortably fish for them, and my big fish line is much more selective - so if I’ve got to reel a fish back from the middle of the river, the chances are it will be a good one. 

Hemp is Plan A on the Trent at Burton Joyce

  One of Tom's edges is to fish light floats and lines

A black Fjuka pellet can work a treat when the roach are having it


Think about your typical match. 60 blokes sat in a line, all doing (more or less) the same thing… or at least that is how it looks. The truth is, the anglers doing the best are probably doing lots of little things a bit differently. For me, I have four little things that I think give me an edge when roach fishing on rivers.

Firstly, I tend to fish lighter lines than most, and fluorocarbon hooklengths. Today its Preston Reflo Power in 0.11mm for the mainline, with a Hooklength of 0.09mm Drennan Supplex Fluorocarbon.

Second up, I like lighter floats than most other competitors, which I think affords more natural presentation, especially on still days like this. Today, its an old style Preston Chianti in 4x14 size.

I always open a bag of 3mm Fjuka black Micros when hemp fishing. If I can catch loose feeding hemp, but fishing Fjuka on the hook, then it speeds me up massively. It doesn’t always work, but when it does it's deadly. And finally, the Sensate liquid. One thing Im massive on is making my feed smell a bit different to most other competitors, and Ive caught stacks of fish over this stuff lately. Of course. -the above three things are just my edges. These are very personal, and I would urge you to find tricks that work for you, and build them into your fishing.

Marine Halibut groundbait means one thing: big fish!

  Add some Sensate to the water used to mix the groundbait

Mix with a drill and fish a Fjuka Carpo over the top


My old (sorry Rob) mentor Rob Perkins taught me a lot about efficiency when it comes to match fishing. And its not always about speed. 

For sure, an efficient set up is essential so you can catch fish quickly, but just as important is an efficient, disciplined approach to your match so you don’t get drawn into things. Rob’s ‘100 second rule’ has served me really well over the years, when after a combination of small fish and big fish. Basically, this dictates that you drop on a bonus fish line (today, my feeder swim), count to 100 and then come off it. It stops you getting drawn in to the wrong method.

Another piece of great advice Rob gave me relates to when things aren’t going so well. The natural thing for an angler to do is scale down to try and get a bite when the goings tough, but if you aren’t getting any bites, the best thing can actually be to scale up, and fish a big bait. This way, at least you are targeting a match winning fish, and have the tackle on to land it. For me, today, if the pole hadn’t worked, I would have sat on the feeder trying to catch bream - three pulls and you are a hero. When the chips are down, lig for victory!

You can catch plenty of perch close in on the Trent


Tom definitely sorted it out as this catch proves

As it happens, the pole has worked a treat. Plenty of dumpy perch early, then a roach a chuck on hemp for 3 1/2 hours. The result is a lovely 20lb+ net of redfins. My final piece of advice though pertains for when things don’t go so well. Alan Scotthorne gave one of the best pieces of angling advice ever in my opinion. ‘If you think it, do it.’ Too many anglers come off the bank thinking ‘what if.’ If things aren’t going according to your original plan, don’t be afraid to change, and work your peg out as you go. The great thing about having different options covered, as explained here, is you always have somewhere to go, room to experiment, and learn quickly about what works on each respective line.



Sorting it out!

Match Fishing magazine October 2022

Tom Shcoley explains some key thoughts on maximising a peg's potential.


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