1. The Caster Cluster
When it comes to tench fishing there is no doubt at all in my mind that there is no bait to beat casters. It doesn’t matter whether you are fishing quiet estate lakes, meres and natural venues, big windswept gravel pits, commercials or small pools if you are after tench and you are not using casters on at least one rod then you are not fishing as effectively as you could and should be.
Tench can be incredibly picky feeders and have the annoying habit of changing their preferences at a moment’s notice. On more than one occasion in the gin clear waters of the Colne Valley and the Cotswold Water Park I have watched a group of tench work their way over a patch of mixed feed and move off leaving most of the feed behind – a closer look showed me they had, in fact, picked certain items out of the mix to the exclusion of all others.
Of course at times a group of fish would come through and just hoover the lot up and at other times the same group would have ‘first preference’ then come back later the same morning and have ‘second choice’. It didn’t take too long to work out which items out of a bed of mixed feed usually went first and more often than not it was caster, followed by maggot, then corn, pellets, mini boilies and, finally, if they bothered with them at all, larger boilies.
Indeed if you are planning a tench campaign I would advise you to forget boilies altogether, yes they will catch – but think about how many chances you will have missed for each one you manage to catch on boilie – at least ten to one I reckon!
You only need to look at some of the many underwater DVDs which have been produced to see how precisely tench can feed; in fact it is a wonder they are caught at all on boilies as they are far more adept than carp at spotting when something is wrong. Give them a nice, crunchy caster and they cannot help themselves; present those casters correctly and tench fishing is suddenly a whole lot more effective.
So, how do you go about presenting them correctly? Casters are notoriously fragile and to feeder fish them effectively at range – as you often need to do – they need to be hair-rigged and carefully balanced. Balance is perhaps the real key as it allows the bait to behave naturally and I achieve the set up I am looking for with a relatively small hook, usually a size 12, with a combination bait of two real casters in combination with two Enterprise casters in a rig I christened the ‘Caster Cluster’ and it has caught me a lot of big tench over the years, including a few doubles up to 11lb 8oz.
Here’s how to make it:
The presence of the artificial baits not only balances out the weight of your hook to give perfect presentation but they also protect the two real casters from damage and you will find they not only cast perfectly time after time but you can often re-use the same baits fish after fish too and of course it’s not just a tench bait either, think feeder fishing for daytime summer barbel too!