Friday 27 December 2013

Rugby Lake "Finding The Key"

Every so often a water comes along that really catches the imagination, for me Rugby is one of those lakes. It's in a woodland surrounded by trees, it has long reed beds and lovely overhanging branches and bushes. After some marker work I have found it to be very deep in places with a few really interesting little drop offs and channels. The water contains a lot weed and can make presenting a bait some what of a challenge. It has a very impressive stock, with the rumour of five fish in the thirty pound bracket with lots of fish in the twenties.

I do rotate a fair few waters but over the past months I have made the decision to focus my efforts on Rugby. It hasn't really been a kind water to me, I always manage to get at least one bite most sessions but something nearly always happens that prevents me from landing the fish. If I fish near the reeds they always seem to manage to get in them or bury themselves in the weed beds, last winter I managed a real nice looking twenty pound mirror. There was a part of me that always felt like it was more luck than judgement. 

A Room With A View
Once settling on the water, watching and really thinking about how I was going to wire myself into the lakes workings. I decided to eliminate a few things before I started my time on the place. Firstly I was going to avoid the far margins and any of the obvious features, all of these spots get continually hammered and through the years I am positive the carp, at least some of them have wised up. I believe when a fish is caught enough off of a certain spot, it could be very reluctant to continue feeding there. 

There's a metaphor in life that has always interested me and I feel it walks hand in hand with a specific fishing approach - "You can spend your whole life looking to the horizon for solutions, when more times than not the answer is right under your nose". When I think of the amount of times I have incorporated this in to my angling, it's spooky. The amount of good fish I have had out of the near side margins greatly outweighs fish I have had from visible features. 

With all this fresh in my mind I thought fishing underneath my rods tips might just be the answer. The beauty of Rugby is that in some swims it drops off down to a really good depth less than a rod length out. So in theory there is a possible patrol route right under your nose. For this approach to work I would have to set my rods up so they didn't hang over the margin and from arriving at the water I had to be very quiet from the moment of setting up, being silent was something I felt was going to help this approach work. Silence is something some anglers overlook.

Sometimes when I am out fishing it really surprises me how loud other anglers talk, sometimes I can hear guys so clearly and they are fishing way up the other end of the lake. If I can hear them, I am pretty sure the carp can to, learning to be quiet is a discipline, it is ironic really, I have spent my whole life making a huge amount of noise with my drums, angling for me is such a polar opposite. 

Regarding rigs, in the past I had been using long running helicopters, replacing the back bead with PVA cord and making sure the bait sank slowly and was perfectly balanced. After having a think I decided to try something a little different, I took the concept of the Withy Pool rig and combined it with the chod. I got a lot of stick from people when I posted this specific rig up on my Facebook feed. I didn't really understand all the animosity, the great thing about angling is that you can try and experiment with whatever you want to. Once you understand the basics and basis of rig design, it can open up a whole new world of creativity.

My Chosen Rig

As you can see with the rig above, the silicone is long and when it sits up it creates a 'claw' type presentation. The micro swivel on the hook allows the bait to rotate 360 degrees, this means that whatever direction the fish come from, the hook can spin and nail them. Because Rugby is weedy I don't want to spend ages trying to find clear spots, I am confident that this rig will present efficiently over pretty much any lake bed, I wouldn't use it on gravel though. The hook link material is Krystons Snakeskin, it's stripped back to just under the silicone tubing, the hook length itself is very long. On the cast I will wrap a PVA nugget round the hook, this ensures that once the lead has settled, the hook link will stay suspended in mid water, once the nugget dissolves the rig will flutter down and perch on whatever is beneath it. 

How The Rig Sits

View From The Top

The hook I am using for this rig is a Size 8 Nash Fang Twister, the silicone tubing is ESP, the stops are from ACE tackle and the micro swivel is made by Fox. Below is a short demonstration of how a PVA nugget pauses the decent of the rig. The more balanced your hook bait is, the slower it will drop through the water. Doing this allows the lead to settle nicely before the hook bait comes to settle, ensuring that you are giving it the best chance to present properly.

Rig Demo On Entry To The Water

Moving onto the subject of bait, I have been mixing it up a little, baits that have delivered me bites have been Starmers Garlic Sausage, Tangerine Fish, Banana Cream and Honey Nectar. Because winter is starting to set in I'm going to scale down on the amount of bait that I introduce. This time of the year I go for 'maximum attraction', making sure that the solid items that carp can pick up are at a minimum. 

Instead of using beds of boilies I favour fast dissolving pellets and method mixes. Because the carp aren't feeding as much as they were earlier in the year, using this approach can really help produce. Method mixes and pellets breakdown leaving a nice scent on the lake bed, I believe this helps to draw the carp into the area. If there are only a few solid food items then it ups your chances of getting a pick up. If I am pre-baiting a spot then I will use boilie crumb, again, the reason for this is because I don't want to fill them up. I really want to try to keep them active and feeding.

I have a very strong belief that carp feed all the way through the winter but it's just for shorter periods of time. That's what makes location and bait application so important, also during the winter I rarely take my eyes of the water, some days it's as if no carp are in the lake, other days they might give themselves away with the odd bit of bubbling, or the smallest of shows, more times than not the water will tell you everything you need to know, you just have to be listening.

One approach that I often use when I am fishing close in is something I call 'burying the bait', I have covered this in an older blog post. For those that may not of read it I will explain it again. One of the great advantages of fishing close in is the fact that you can be so precise with your baiting. 'Burying the bait' is an approach that I wouldn't recommend for fishing at distance. It's a very simple method of moulding a ground bait or method mix ball around you hook-bait.

I have been using Starmers Green Lipped Mussel method mix with some ground up boilies thrown in, to this I will add some salmon oil and a few whole boilies so my actual hook-bait doesn't stand out to much. The mix itself is relatively stiff, I want it to be solid enough to grip to the bait on entry to the water and on the landing. I find that it slowly breaks down giving off a nice level attraction, once it's fully broken down the pop up just rears its head above the mix. Before casting out I throw a few handfuls of boilie crumb over my spot.

Boilie Crumb Selection

Ground Up For Maximum Attraction

Getting The Mix Right

Mould The Mix Into A Small Circle

Place The Rig On Top

Roll Into A Ball 'Burying The Bait'

As you can see by the above pictures, it's a very simple process, you can make the finished ball as big or small as you see fit. I opt for a larger size because I feel it drops to the bottom at a good rate, I need this for my chosen spot because it's a good 9ft deep, there can be advantages to it breaking down before landing, the spread of the mix would no doubt cover a large area. The firmer the mix the longer it will take to breakdown. You can get as creative as you want regarding what you include in your mix, in the past I have combined Starmers 'Carp Red' ground-bait, tuna, anchovies, anchovy paste, 10mm boilies, crushed sardines, the list is endless.

The rig I use to fish this particular method is a simple pop up presentation, I make sure the boilie is nice and balanced so when the carp come in and start hovering, my bait flies up into it's mouth easily. With all my pop up rigs, I like the bait to be touching the hook, I don't opt for any free movement when using a popped up bait.

Burying The Bait Pop Up Rig

View From Above

Anyway, that's enough of my waffle, I think I have pretty much covered my main approaches, I am looking forward to getting stuck in on Rugby. I know it's going to be a ball breaker but it's fishing lakes like this that makes me feel my angling is heading in the right direction. I know that my catch rate is going to drop but I also know that when I do get a fish, it's going to be something pretty special. I'm looking forward to sharing this new journey with you all.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Diawa Crosscast S And Crosscast X Reviews

Before I start my reviews I would like to state that I am in no way endorsed or associated with Diawa. Like I've stated in all my other review posts, this is solely to help people out, I get frustrated sometimes because there is a lack of information on some of the products I am interested in purchasing. Instead of reading a sales pitch I would much rather hear from anglers out on the bank putting the kit through its paces. 

So I could get a truly rounded experience of both reels, I went back and used my Crosscast S series for a solid month, this way I could give an honest opinion. I had some good sessions and managed to really put them through the ringer.

I haven't really gone through a huge number of fishing reels considering how many years I have actually been fishing. My first set were the Shimano Baitrunner 6010's I was really fond of this specific model and used them for years. Actually it got to a point where I was trawling ebay and purchasing a good few that were in mint condition, it started to get a little out of hand. To me this series of baitrunner was a classic design and I thought it was built like a warhorse. 

It goes without saying that in the last few years tackle development has come on in leaps and bounds, both in rod and reel design, and I also feel you don't have to be spending stupid money to get real quality. It's just a case of taking a look around and being prepared to do some research. I didn't want to give up my 6010's and it took me a long time to come around to the idea of moving onto my first 'big pit' style reel.

Crosscast S 5000

I initially purchased two Crosscast S's for spod and marker work. One day I had the idea of trying them out as my main fishing reels. To be honest, once I had loaded them up, cast out and landed my first fish on them, I didn't look back, I was pretty much blown away with the whole feel compared to the bait-runner.

Crosscast S 5000 Details

"The Daiwa Crosscast S is said to be setting new standards, offering so much in a big-pit reel under one price tag: how many reels can eat over 100cm of line with each revolution of the handle? This one does so it’s perfect for long-distance fishing and lead-retrieve. The polished aluminium spool and matte black body are particularly good-looking but the many hidden features are equally attractive to the discerning carp-man. Digi-Gear and quality ball-bearings combine with worm-drive to produce superior Cross-wrap line-lay along the full spool-length; infinite anti-reverse completely banishes irksome 'play' in the handle; full 'T' hand-piece gives positive, confident winding and Twist-Buster baling serves to prolong line-life."


  • Twist-Buster
  • Infinite anti-reverse
  • Digi-gear
  • T-shape handle knob
  • Cross-wrap
  • Aluminium spool
  • Advanced locomotive level wind
  • Weight 635g
  • Line Capacity (approx)- 400yds of 14IB (370m of 0.35mm) line
I thought that it would feel odd going from using a baitrunner system to a reel with a front drag, it wasn't. The first thing I noticed was how 'in touch' with the fish you are and because the drag is on the front, you can easily adjust and cater for all the lunges and pulls that a hard fighting carp gives you, easily and quickly. 

The line lay on the S series is very good and it's lovely to cast, the line peels off nicely and it struck me how much easier it was to get distance with minimal effort. The retrieve is smooth and quick, geared at 5.1:1, the Crosscast will eat up 108cm of line per handle turn making it perfect for big distances, also I didn't suffer from the line getting coiled under the spool. The clutch is smooth and firm when playing a fish and it makes a nice ticking sound which is very satisfying, the reel itself has a three ball bearing system. 

Front Drag System

The one element I am not to keen on is the quality of the line-clip, it's plastic and I am not sure how long it would last, I used these reels for a good year before upgrading and I didn't have any problems with it, my gear does get hammered because I am out a hell of a lot, I am just curious to see if after a good few years of use it would still be up to the job. The upside to it being plastic is that it's very easy to get your line under the clip, which can be a pain with some metal clips.

Plastic Line Clip

The reel itself isn't a bad weight and balances out with my Free Spirit X Wraps perfectly. In regards to the build of the reel, I have no doubt that you will get years of use out of it. I do find that it doesn't quite hit the spot in feeling 'solid', the weak point for me is the handle, even when you tighten it right up there still seems to be a little movement/wobble in it, but that is a very minor point and with all of the companies that now do reel conversions I am sure you can get this particular model 'tarted up' a bit, if you felt the need.

All in all for the price which is £59.99 you are getting a really good reliable bit of kit, I feel this series is spot on for those that are thinking of ditching the bait-runner system. It's a good entry level reel that opens the door to the world of the big pits. And again because of the price it allows anglers that maybe didn't have the money in the past, to get stuck in and give the 'big pits' a go.

Moving on to the Crosscast X, this is a different kettle of fish - "excuse the pun". After about a year or so I upgraded to the X series, I really liked the S's and wanted to stick with their mechanics and design. The Crosscast X has five ball bearings compared to the S's three, this makes for a much smoother and solid feeling reel. Cosmetically it's a feast on the eyes and the QD - Quick Drag facility really makes a massive difference, all in all you're getting one hell of a brilliant reel at a really competitive price, to be honest I thought it had the wrong price tag on it.

Crosscast X 5000

In regards to the quick drag, before using one I really didn't get the point of them, but since using a reel that has the facility included it makes fishing a whole lot easier. It's literally half a turn and you are in complete control of the clutch. Again it makes catering for what ever a carp throws at you really easy without the ache of having to twist the clutch back and forth a load to try and find the sweet spot.

Diawa Crosscast x 5000 Details

"The arrival of the Crosscast X has extended this family of unbelievable reels to four models and with it taken the standard up another level. The X features Quick Drag, HIP high impact line clip and Air Bail. It is also furnished with a machined handle and spare spool. Sharing Digi Gear and quality BB's combined with the worm gear enhanced Cross Wrap line lay and Twist Buster they deliver an impressive performance for the price. All geared at 5.1 : 1 the Crosscast eats up 108cm of line per handle turn making them perfect for big distances."


  • Air Bail on X model
  • Quick Drag on X model
  • High Impact Line Clip on X
  • DigiGear
  • Twistbuster
  • Infinite Anti Reverse
  • T Shaped Handle Knob
  • Cross Wrap
  • Advanced Locomotive Level Wind
  • Machined cut Aluminium Handle
  • Aluminium Spool (spare supplied with X model)
  • Ratio 5.1 : 1
  • Weight 21.5oz
  • Line Capacity 360m 14lb.

As you can see in the list above, it's loaded with features. It has a high impact line clip, this can be a little fiddly until you've used it a few times. The design and the mechanism of the handle is top notch and you don't get any shake or wobble. From a distance it's reminiscent of the Basia handle. On the photo of my reel above you will notice the wooden handle, I got these modified at 'Lee Valley Customs', mainly for visual effect but it seems to make the whole reel feel more balanced and weighty. The clutch is ultra smooth and when attached to the rod it feels nice and solid, it doesn't feel as cheap as the S series. The bail arm is chunky and strong, it's great on both the cast and the retrieve. I have no doubt that this reel performs as good as those that are twice the price.

High Impact Line Clip

One thing I noticed after loading the spool, the line lay is nice and tight, again I haven't had any issues with line getting coiled around the shaft. It flies nicely off the spool on the cast and I can get good distance with the lightest of leads. Once again for the price, which is around £90.00 I believe you are getting something pretty special.

To sum up, I feel both of these reels are great for the money. As we all know, tackle is very much a 'personal preference', we are all different and looking for different things in what we buy. Nowadays there is so much on the market, the carp angler really is spoilt for choice. What makes your tackle good is if it does the job that you want it to do, and it caters to your style of fishing. Either way if you are thinking of dropping the bait-runner design to step into the world of the big pit reels, the Crosscast series is well worth a look.