The frosts had cleared for a few weeks and the time to select my campaign water for the year had come. Being 17, not able to drive yet, and working a laborious job straight from leaving school, working life hit me hard and I needed somewhere which I could get to easily on the barrow from my house on a Friday night after work. This would also allow me to keep in sync with the lake throughout the week, making the short time I actually had on the bank fishing all the more worthy. An 8 acre small urban mere, with pylon wires all over the lake, and set next to an industrial estate it's not the most aesthetic but the originals in there are different gravy for where I live in Warrington. I spent a few weeks lapping in the week after work, just learning the routines of fish, how they moved on to certain winds and in to certain areas. I held back from baiting heavily at first, the lake was fishing slow and I endured a few blank nights but I was still just getting to grips with the place. A starting point for me was the few fish that were coming out were mainly on match the hatch hookbaits, and i quickly adapted to that, fishing straight bottom baits produced my first few fish of the year, a banging 21 leathery stocky, followed by another clean big scaled linear the weekend after. I was using the Tange Marine at the time, and the fish were getting on it. Watching them feed in snags proved to me that the fish was reacting to it instantly. Another weekend provided a chunky fella known as Cyril at 22.8, and I felt momentum was on my side. But then I pulled off for a few weeks after this as the fish had began to spawn.
Once the spawning had quietened down and anglers were back on fishing, the bites were few and far between for everyone. This was around the time Joe had sent out a sample of a new red spicy fish meal test bait, and It looked brilliant and I decided to go for it, an order was made and it seemed the right time to give them some bait. As I mentioned bites were few and far between and in my mind, they just needed some top grub and a lot of it, on a dance floor where they could come and smash it up, to regain all this depleted energy they had used during spawning. Doing my normal rekkies after work I had found a good group of 15-16 different fish in a small quiet corner, I don't think I've ever seen anyone actually fish the swim in the 2-3 years I've been looking round the lake. The plan was to find a spot close in, as these fish was literally turning up boils of water within inches of the bank, and to fill it in. A small hole in a set of pads and a few kilo of the testbait along with some hemp, pellet and the rock salt was all deposited for several nights under the cover of darkness. Turning up friday after work I just knew they had been on it. The whole clarity of the water in this corner was completely different to the rest of the lake. And setting up the brolly at the back of the swim I heard one fly out just yards from the bank, and then the fizzing started on the spot. I was rubbing my hands. Got the rods out mega and I was away within 20 minutes. A mid double mirror lost at the net and I thought I had ruined my chances. The lake hadn't done a bite for almost a week at this point, and I'd just lost one before I'd even got the kettle on. I stuck with it in the hope they'd move back in at first light and another bite would be on the cards. 12:30 am and the rods away, stripping line off me and heading straight in to a set of pads. After a dogged fight in the darkness I could just make out a big gob and head roll over the net cord. Get in there "it's Split Tail" I said to myself and giving it the big fist pump to myself, like a kid at Christmas. I was straight on the hooter to my mate who was fishing a lake a few miles away. I'd had full confidence in the test bait from this moment on.
Over the next month or so I continued this success and over in the adjacent swims, which was basically a mirrored style of fishing from the current swim. None of the big girls turned up unfortunately. Until after a few stalking sessions I was checking my spots and the big girl, my target fish cruised over. I spent the next few weekends in that swim to no avail and the area turned stale. I fished a central swim the following week and was giving some yellow 12mm test bait pop ups a go, fishing snowman style with a 2 bait stringer and I managed one of my targets 2 scale, spawned out but still buzzing all the same, and this just gave me such belief in the bait, knowing if I put it in the right area the fish would 100% feed on it.
I went to Leeds festival the following weekend and after a long day in a sweaty tent I was running low on energy to say the least. On the train journey home I just knew I had to get back out, and once home Id packed the barrow after a relieving shower and made the 2 mile walk. The rods were set in a central swim of the lake and the place was rather empty, I decided to fill it in and started off with 3kg of bait, hoping to get a long well needed kip and a bite at first light. How wrong was I! I think I was playing my 5th fish at around 8am the next morning! A few mid doubles and a cracking 23lb linear being the pick of the bunch. I was buzzing as the spot had done 2 scale the week before and this proved it wasn't just a fluke. I stuck it out in that area of the lake for the next few weekends and only managed one more fish. During the time I'd been fishing this small area of the lake, I'd noticed how a certain end of the lake had been getting completely ignored, and a few evenings sat down there revealed how many fish was actually down there! The fact the swims are the furthest walk from the car park might be the reason for this. After a week of prebaiting I went down and a fresh new wind was hacking down there, and the next morning there was 1 fish in the sack, which turned out to be a repeat of a stockie from early on in the year once I'd looked at all the pics, and another fish in the retainer which turned out to be a banging old original linear! Not on my list but one I really wanted to catch just to get some awesome pics of it.
The following weekend produced a low 20 from the same swim and then I pulled off as I was going to a gig in Manchester. I told my mate Nabs the wraps to the spot and he dropped in that weekend having a small common. So I knew the spot was still producing. Me and Nabs decided to have a social the following weekend down that bank, as it was still empty 9 out of 10 times when we was doing laps in the week. We dropped on after work on the Friday and after dropping the rigs on to the spots I was away within 20 mins with a lovely old leathery low 20. Fresh rig back on and the spot topped up i got about doing some photos when halfway through the same rod was melting off! With Nabs on net duty and another of my mates who had come down to get involved with pics looking after the fish and returning her, I was bent in to another fish, which turned out to be a heavily full scaled fish which none of us even know was in the lake! While the mats and slings were all sorted we got him out quickly and got the pics sorted. I finally managed to get an hour of peace and get the kettle on and have some food, until halfway through my pot noodle the rod pulled up tight and I could see the tip pulling round as the fish kited. After a heavy and long fight the fish rolled over the cord and Nabs straight away called it as 2 scale! But with a full belly on her this time. 24.1 she went and I got some top trophy shots before slipping her back. That's the same fish on the test bait for a second time, she certainly likes it...
The swim went quiet for a while and the next bite came around 3 am ended up being a nice mid double linear stocked fish so she got slipped back quickly so I could get some more shut eye. The following weekend I travelled down to the Warwickshire Avon for 2 nights with my old mate Whitham for some barbel and chub fishing before heading out to Australia for a holiday. We managed a few fish, all mine taken on the 10mm test bait, proving to be quality for all situations of specimen fishing. That just about brings me up to date as I'm sat writing this on the sandy beach of Perth. This year so far has totally opened my eyes to how much a good top quality bait can really make such a big difference to your angling and the way in which you apply it, let's not forget alongside your watercraft and rig mechanics! But it's certainly a huge part of it! I'm looking forward to a good winter on the MC Nut and Banoffee, 2 quality winter baits which I'm 100% sure will bring the results coming! Then getting back on to the testbait in the spring of 2018. If your not on the Oxford Carp Baits already, then get on it!