The method feeder is an easy to understand and effective way of fishing. The method is popular withamateur anglers like me right through toprofessional match anglers. Carp are usually the target, so it works best on a water that has a reasonable stock of carp.
Let’s start by looking at how the method feeder catches fish. This is an inline method feeder or safe method feeder. Inline simply means the main line runs through the middle of the feeder. Safe refers to the fish safety,
which I’ll explain later. The feeder has a flat weight on the bottom, which does two things. Firstly, it provides the casting weight and secondly, the feed will always land on the lake bed the right way up. In other words, with the frame on top.
A short length of line with the hook is attached to the feeder. Feed is molded around the frame along with the hook and the bait. This creates a neat parcel of food with the hook and the bait embedded inside. When a fish comes across the feeder, it will drop down to eat the feed, sucking up the bait and the hook at the same time. As the fish lifts its head, the feeder is lifted off the lake bed. The weight of the feeder pulling on the hook length will cause the hook to prick the inside of the fish’s mouth. As soon as the fish feels the hook prick, it will know it’s a trap and bolt, causing an unmistakable indication at the rod. Most of the time, I use a small, 24 gram feeder. I don’t use anything less than 24 grams because they’re just too light and fiddly. I don’t use a large size feeder because of the risk of over feeding. I don’t want the fish to eat their fill and then leave the area.
I’m using an 11 foot Quiver Tip rod, able to cast 30 grams. I can comfortable cast 40 yards with this rod and a 24 gram feeder. Always ensure your rod is rated to cast the weight of the feeder. To cast further, I will need a heavier feeder and a stronger, longer rod. A 45 gram feeder, for example, will need a powerful 12 foot rod, but should
cast over 70 yards. With this rod, I’m using a size 40 Baitrunner reel loaded with eight pound monofilament line. Some anglers don’t use mono when feeder fishing, preferring flurocarbon or braid. The question of line is important, but I can only tell you what I do. I like mono when fishing under 40 yards because monofilament line has a certain amount of stretch. Bites on the method can be quite dramatic and the stretch in the
mono helps to absorb the initial lunge of the fish, but over 40 yards and the stretch becomes too much. It feels like you’re trying to play the fish on a length of elastic. Flurocarbon has much less stretch and braid has virtually no stretch at all, which makes controlling the fish at distance a lot easier, but when you get the fish close to the back, the lack of stretch in fluro or braid can cause hook pulls or the hook length can break. If I use flurocarbon or braid, I will use a light clutch setting on the reel. The clutch will strip long before the hook pulls and the line breaks.
Anyway, whatever you use, make sure the feeder, rod, reel, and line are balanced and complement each other. The whole idea of a method feeder is a simple one, but getting the feed right and loading it on the feed is the trick. The first job is to prepare pellets or method mix groundbait to mould onto the feeder frame. The feed will also need to stay on during the cast and through the water to the lake bed. Preparing the feed is the first job I do on arrival. For a method mix groundbait, put the dry powder into a bucket and add a little pond water give it a good mix, then riddle the groundbait into another bucket. The lumps are the wettest parts of the groundbait. By using a riddle, you will break up these wetter lumps and spread them through the rest of the mix. Now you must leave the groundbait to soak for a good 15 minutes. For pellets, put some pellets into a bait box and just cover them in pond water. Leave to soak for one minute for each millimeter in size of the pellet. Oily pellets like halibut take longer, sometimes much longer. It depends on the brand. One they are soaked, drain off the excess water and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Sometimes the pellets stick together better than others. Micro or small pellets
stick together better than large pellets. If the pellets you want to use won’t stick together, then you can add them to some prepared groundbait in a 50/50 mix. Attach the feeder by threading the main line through the feeder body. Tie a swivel to the end of the main line. The size of the swivel is important and specific to the feeder, although most feeders include the swivel. Once tied, push the swivel into the feeder body. It should be a snug fit into the front of the feeder. To ensure the best chance of hooking a fish, use a short shank, wide-gape hook.
This designer hook is very hooky if you see what I mean and is most likely to pick or catch on the fish’s mouth. Generally, the bait is attached by hair rig, allowing the hook to be completely exposed. For hard baits like pellets, use a band to attach the bait. For softer baits like boilies, just use the hair with a hair stop. I aim to catch fish of a
couple of pounds and bigger. I use baits from six millimeters up to about 10 millimeters with barb-less hooks from size 16 to 12. Always use a barb-less hook. Not only do they penetrate more easily, but are kinder to the fish. I tie me own hook lengths, often from ordinary six pound mono, but a modern low diameter line, all braid, may be better, or you can buy ready-tied method feeder hook lengths from a tackle shop. I like to use a hook length of a weaker breaking strain than the main line so that if the line is put under great strain, the weaker hook length is more likely to break than the main line. If somehow the main line breaks or is cut by a sharp underwater object, the safe aspect of the safe method feeder comes into play. With a safe feeder, the snug-fitting swivel that the hook length is attached to will pull out of the feeder, allowing the remaining main line to pull through the feeder.
This ensures the fish is not left tethered to a heavy feeder, which could cause the death of the fish. Even with a weaker hook length, always use a safe method feeder and have your reel’s clutch set correctly. Arrange your rod breadth so that the rod is at an angle to the swim. It doesn’t need to be at right angles, but just a reasonable angle. The tip of the rod should be close to the water’s surface. This ensures the first few feet of line above the feeder is close to the bottom, where hopefully the fish won’t notice it. Because the fish bolt when the hook pricks, I like to use a rear rod rest that grips the rod, less chance of the rod being pulled in. Although if bites are coming quickly, it’s easier just to hold the rod in your lap. Once all the gear is set, I’ll check the feed. This groundbait is too dry. You can see it will squeeze into a ball, but as soon as I touch it, it just crumbles. I need to add some more
water, mix, and riddle again, then leave for another 15 minutes. The pellets are sticking together. They’re just about right.
Carp can often be found in and around reeds, lily baits, while patrolling the banks of an island. Cast as close to a feature as you dare. Aim to get within a yard. If you fall short or overcast, estimate the distance and reel in or let line out until correct. Then clip up. Do one more test cast and make any fine adjustments. When you wind the feeder back, count the number of turns of the handle of the reel it takes to retrieve the feeder. If, for some reason, you have to unclip, it’s a simple task to set the distance again. To do that, cast anywhere in the lake, a similar distance to your swim. Clip up and then reel in while counting a number of turns. If the number of turns isn’t quite right, cast out again and unclip, then wind in or wind out until you have the correct number of turns. Then clip up again, knowing that you set the right distance. If I’m fishing in open water, I don’t usually use a line clip. It worries me that I won’t be able to stop a big fish before it reaches the line clip and breaks the line, but up against an island or reed beds, the fish will swim to one side rather than straight away from me. There are reels that automatically unclip, but I don’t have one of those, so for me, I just don’t use a clip in open water.
Whilst I’m happy with the distance and clipped up, I would attach the hook length. It’ pretty much accepted that a short hook length of four inches is best, long enough for the fish to suck it into his mouth, but short enough to ensure the fish gets pricked as soon as it moves. A four inch hook length, for me, is four inches from the bend of the hook to the end of the loop. I tie my hook lengths to end up with the bait on the hair, just off the bottom of the hook. Use a knot-less knot on the hook and a figure of eight knot for the loop. If I’m using a hard hook bait like a pellet, I will include a pellet band in the hair. With a soft bait, a boilie, for example, I would just leave the loopin the hair and then use a boilie stop or better still in my opinion, a blade of grass to keep the bait on. Finally, I attach the hook length to the feeder, pass the loop through the swivel, and then pass the hook through the loop.
The groundbait should fall into lumps when squeezed, not crumble as before. This is now right and ready for use. I could squeeze the feed onto the feeder by hand, but it’s much easier to use a mould. Place the hook and bait
in the bottom of the mould. Fill the mould with feed and press the feeder into the mould, frame first. Give the feeder a firm squeeze and then press the underside of the mould to eject the loaded feeder. With pellets, it’s exactly the same. Hook bait in the bottom, feed on top, squeeze the feeder into the mould. As the feeder falls through the water, some of the feed will inevitably be washed off. If the water is more than about six feet deep, you might have to skin the feeder to make sure the hook bait isn’t washed off on the way down. Skinning is simply loading the feeder as normal, then adding an extra laye rof feet over the top. The skin will hold the bait
in place as the feeder sinks. Skinning can also help you for being plagued by small fish eating the feed. The extra feed on the skin will allow you to keep the feeder in the swim a few minutes longer.
Every groundbait and every type of pellet takes a different amount of water. You can add more water togroundbait and you can soak the pellets for a second time, just for a minute or two if they’re too dry, but once either gets too wet, you got a problem not only loading the feeder, but also how the feeder behaves in the water. Here, the pellets are sticking to the inside of the feeder mould. This is because the pellets are too wet. I’ve left them too long in the water soaking before draining them off. Groundbait would also stick to the mold if too much water is added to the mix. If the pellets are too wet, I just mix them 50/50 with groundbait. As you can see, this allows them to stick to the feeder. With ground bait that is too wet, there are various tricks you can try, like putting the mould inside a polythene bag and loading the feeder on top, or you could wet the mould first, or add more dry mix to the groundbait. But in all honesty, spending a little time mixing it right in the first place is the best solution. With the feeder loaded, I can cast out confident that the feed won’t fly off on the cast or disintegrate as soon as it hits the water.
I cast just beyond my chosen spot, knowing that the long clip will stop the feeder at the right distance. Cast and then hold the rod upright to absorb the shock of the clip stopping the feeder. Done properly, the feeder should only give a tug on the rod just before it hits the water. Once the feeder is settled on the bottom, sink the main line
either by putting the rod in its rest and slowly winding in, dragging the line under, or by holding the rod tip under the water and pulling the line by hand. Finally, tighten down to the feeder, produce a slight bend in the quiver tip. It’s most important that you do not move the feeder when sinking the line. Any movement will cause
the feeder to bury itself in the mud or cause the feeder to turn over, neither of which will catch you any fish. With the feeder on the bottom, I’m sure you’ll appreciate that the feed won’t last long. Roach can demolish your feed
in no time and the actions of carp will soon wash away the feed, but how long should you leave the feeder before reeling in and reloading it? I think, perhaps, the easiest way to answer that is to run through what I do
when I fish the method feeder.
In the summer, when I know the fish are most active, I like to start by leaving the feeder in for just five minutes on the first four to six casts. If I don’t catch anything, I have at least put some feed in the swim, which will hopefully attract a few fish. After that, I’ll leave the feeder in for 10 to 15 minutes on each cast until the fish arrive. Once I start catching, I abandon time in the feeder because I will be reloading it after each fish anyway. In the winter, the first job is to find the carp. Carp tend to group together in sheltered parts of the lake, often in and weed beds which are died back, but will still offer shelter and a slightly higher water temperature due to the decaying vegetation. Fish are coldblooded, so when the water temperature is low, their metabolism is very slow, meaning the don’t eat much, so you use a fine groundbait in the winter because it would attract fish, but not feed them. I will cast around the lake, giving each swim maybe 10 minutes until I find the fish. Often, the fish will congregate in the same areas year after year, so it’s worth making a mental note of where you find them. Clearly, the best indication that you found the fish is to catch one, but also, look for indications at the tip, which could be line bites. Even with line bites, if I don’t catch any carp, I will try elsewhere until I do. Although you may fish in the middle of the lake in the summer, this is very exposed in the winter, so don’t forget to try the margins. In some types of fishing with a quiver tip, you may well react to a slight pull of the tip, but not with the method feeder. As the fish attack the feeder, they will cause small movements of the tip. You must learn to ignore these little flicks and pulls because when a proper bite happens, there is no doubt. When a fish is pricked by the hook, it will bolt, which will cause the tip to pull round. Only then do you pick the rod up.
Now I said to ignore the line bites, but that’s not strictly true because line bites are a good indication of fish around your swim. Now they could be a shoal of roach demolishing your feed or it could be carp grubbing around. You won’t know until you catch something, but what you do know is that there are fish there. The more the tip quivers, the more the fish, whatever size they are, you have in your swim. The more fish, the sooner you will have to reload the feeder. If the tip is constantly on the go, you may have to reel in and reload every few minutes, even if it’s just small stuff eating the feed. Eventually, the carp will move in and scare away any small stuff
and then you can get down to the business of catching decent fish. I don’t use the method for targeting big fish. It’s much better at catching lots of fish between two and 10 pound, I suppose. That doesn’t mean that you won’t pick up the odd larger fish, just don’t expect to. Besides, there are better ways to target big carp. You have watched me cast a few times and I’ve been casting out to the lilies in the middle. It seems to me that the method is often portrayed as distance fishing. There is nothing at all to stop you using it a lot closer. Here, I’m fishing a large lake, but just swinging the feeder out little more than a rod length. Why am I fishing a feeder and not a float or some other method? Well, this particular swim is literally no more than 18 inches deep. Although not impossible, I chose not to fish the float in such shallow water. You will notice, the rod is pointing at the feeder instead of being at an angle. The peg is simply too tight to have the rod at an angle and be able to strike. Instead, I have the Baitrunner switched on and I just wait for the fish to bolt, pulling the line as it goes. They never seem to j ust dive into the reeds. They always want to charge off across the lake, so no problem with bite detection.
Ordinarily, I would fish with the rod at an angle, watching for a proper bitethat nearly pulls the rod in, but this doesn’t always happen. You may see a drop back bite where the tip suddenly straightens out. The fish has picked up the bait and bolted towards you. This is not impossible, but is unusual. Fish normally swim away from the bank, producing a proper indication at the rod. You may see the tip straighten for a second and then pull round,
but it could also mean the feed has been nudged by a fish, causing slack in the line. If I see the tip straighten,
I will wait a second or two to see if the tip pulls round. If not, I’ll reel in and reload the feeder just to be sure. This bite starts off as a drop back, then develops, but not as a full blooded pull the rod in bite. A small tench just goes to show it’s not always carp. You can see the method feeder is a simple to understand way of fishing, especially for carp.
So is there a trick or a tip I can give you? To be honest, with the method being what it is, I’m not sure there’s much to be done with the rig itself. I think the best way to influence your catch is with the feed and the hook bait. Mixing different groundbaits, adding pellets to groundbait, different flavor of pellets are all ways to attract the fish. I always carry a number of different hook baits. The color can often have a big effect. I don’t know why, but sometimes I’ll catch two or three fish and then nothing. I change the color or the type of hook bait and then catch another two or three fish and so on. So if you see line bites and don’t hook any fish, change the hook bait. Sometimes it makes all the difference. Adding a flavor to the pellets or groundbait might give you an edge. Try corn steep liquor, CSL, or scopex. Try using a critically balanced bait or a pop-up, especially in a silty swim. You can see the possibilities are endless, but in some waters, attracting a fish for something different is a must. In the summer, when the fish have an appetite, they are actively looking for food. I prefer to only use pellets as the feed. If I want to use large pellets to try to keep the fish in the swim, I make a 50/50 mix with method mix groundbait. Prepare the groundbait and the pellets separately, then mix them together.
Whereas, in the winter, I will fish with only fine method mix ground bait on the feeder. Ground bait will attract the fish, but not feed them, so all there is to eat is the hook bait and I won’t overfeed the swim. By all means, try different method mixes and try mixing them together. Swim Stim and halibut method mix seem quite popular, perhaps with micro pellets added. Try pop-ups and wafters on the hook, try hard pellets, soft pallets, dead maggots, sweet corn. The list is endless. If you’re new to fishing or new to the method feeder, it’s more important to learn the techniques involved than experiment with bait. Just get yourself a bag of method mix. I quite like Swim Stim method mix myself and a bag of 2 mm carp or course pellets and some 8 mm pellets for the hook, but for a simple, effective, tangle-free way of fishing, you can’t beat a method feeder. Thanks for watching.