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Fishing the method
By Jeff Vaughan

I think I have said a few times on the forum how underused the Method is at Long Sault. This year I had a lot of guys either driving up from the Peterborough area, or Brits who had previously fished this area but moved to us because the fishing up there has dropped off considerably. All these guys are crazy about the Method. Also whilst I have always said how good the Method is, looking at the catches of the guys who use it regularly I think it warrants more attention. I have also seen many anglers fishing it all wrong.

Canadian Carp ClubFrom memory the Method became famous in the early 90`s and was so successful many UK waters banned its use. In simple terms the Method is the use of powdered “feed” mixed with water to a stiff paste. The paste is moulded around the lead or purpose made feeder and cast into the swim. As the bait breaks up in the water it releases very small food items, colour and smell into the water to attract the carp.

Like all things carpy there are a million recipes for a method mix, and in my UK shop I probably have more than 20 premixed method mixes where you just add water. In Canada you do not have that luxury, but it is easy to make your own. I of course sell a couple of good UK mixes and my own recipe in my Canadian shop.

I am not going to give away the recipe of the mix we sell in the shop as it has taken us about three years to develop what I believe is a great mix but I will give you some pointers. Any feed and seed store will have sacks of different grains and seeds to select from, and at this stage what you are looking for is fine powdery type grains. You can also buy some mixed bags containing many ingredients and the best of these is the calf starter. Next you need something to put in to give it a good smell/taste and my favourite is powdered molasses. Lastly you need a “binder” this is something to make the mix sticky so it will “bind” around your feeder and be stiff enough to cast but will break down in the water, and the binder in many ways is the key.

The very best binder is PV 1 binder. This is a purpose made fishing binder that I sell in the shop. The reason that it is the best is because it is totally water soluble. This means you can make the mix as stiff as you want and it will ALWAYS break up in the water. Another great binder is bread crumbs, but this is very expensive in Canada as you are buying “food grade” crumbs while in the UK every tackle shop sells cheap crumbs which are sold as fish bait and commercially prepared in bulk for this reason. The other popular binders are flour based. Corn flour, wheat flour, or plain old white flour. This is an excellent binder but has a serious defect. Flour is not easily water soluble, this means if you mixed a stiff ball of flour and threw it in the margin it would take forever to break down. So flour is good but you must use it carefully. Lastly porridge oats is a great binder, and the “fast” oats rather than the traditional stuff is the best.

My own shop mix is a mixture of six different ingredients, including animal pellets, olasses various powders designed as animal feeds and two different binders. I cannot tell you how many hours Colin and I have spent mixing ratios and putting balls in buckets of water etc to get it right. Our mix can be taken straight from the bag, mixed with water and used. I of course do not do this!!!

Once you have your mix, you need to enhance it. This means adding food (bait) and boosting the oil or smell content. The obvious addition is a few good handfuls of your hook bait, which out here is normally corn. I prefer to add cracked corn as I want my fish to work for their food. Personally I also add some tinned corn (complete with juice) some tinned tuna, hemp seed and a liberal amount of liquid molasses. I now at last have a supply of sinking fish meal pellet so a couple of handfuls of this go in as well. When the water is warm I also add corn oil or olive oil to get a slick coming off the bait. EVERYONE has their own recipe; some add Chilly powder, Kool-Aid, Ketchup, you name it they have tried it.

The consistency of the mix is largely controlled by how much water you add and of course how much binder you put into it. Shop bought mixes already have the binder in it, but I always have extra binder with me. Firstly mix about 70% of your mix into a fairly sloppy mix and then use the last 30% to stiffen it to how you want it. Your extra food items etc should be mixed in before you put the last 30% in

Some tips;

1; It pays NEVER to attempt to mix all your available bait at one time, because if you screw up the mix and it is too sloppy, without some more powder you are buggared.

2; You need to mix your method at least 30 minutes before you need to use it so the powders can absorb all the water.

3; Once mixed, keep out of sun or rain, and best thing is to cover it with a damp towel

4; Once mixed mould a ball and throw it into the margin where you can see it, to test breakdown time. The ball should fall apart within 5 minutes or so (more about breakdown rates later) If it stays in one ball it is not correct.

5; Mixing food into the mix is important, but the more you put in the faster the ball will break down. (Apart from pellets which can do the opposite)

So your mix is ready, the traditional Method tactic is to mould the mix around either a gripper lead or a custom made method feeder. Of course there are 100 types of method feeder (I have 6 types in my Canadian shop) but all do the same thing. They are just weights that are shaped to allow you to mould the mix around them so it stays on when you cast. I am in favour of using as heavy a lead as I can comfortably use as out here the fish are not shy and a heavy lead/feeder helps set the hook. In fact I have had some 4 ounce method feeders made up especially for Canada.

Hook lengths traditionally are very short 2 to 4 inches, and the bait is normally buried into the ball of bait. The idea being the fish peck at the bait and the hookbait becomes uncovered during this process and the fish is fooled. Personally I do not fully bury the bait out here. I wrap the hook length around the ball and pin it in place with extra method mix but leave the hookbait exposed just outside the ball at the bottom. A lot of modern feeders are designed with all the weight on one side, so it will always land on the bottom in the same way. The idea being the buried hookbait is on the top so cannot be under the feeder. Why take the risk?

Now the bits I see people doing wrong all the time; (in my opinion of course)

Breakdown rate; I see so many people using mixes that simply do not break down in the water. They think they do, because little or nothing comes back when they reel in, but this is because most people jerk the rod before they retrieve the feeder and unless the mix is very bad it will have softened enough to fall off when you wind in. This is different from breaking down correctly. The breakdown rate is determined by the mix, the amount of water added and by how hard you pack it on the feeder. You should have already thrown a ball in the margin, so know if it is breaking down or not. I repeat, you want it breaking down after 5 maximum 10 minutes into a carpet of bait, not stay in a ball. If it does not do this, you need to add a little more water, more hard bait particles ( this allows more water to penetrate when on the bottom) or not pack it (squeeze it) so hard.

Building a swim: It is important when fishing the method that you select a fairly tight area to fish and keep all the bait going into this area. I see people using the method and every cast is to a different area! The Method works because it builds up a swim, and gets the fish competing. Providing I am fishing at a distance I can hit accurately with a catapult I will also fire in 4 or 5 balls before I start fishing, and maybe top up the swim with the catty if I “feel” it needs it.

Keeping it going: To fish the method properly you should be casting very regularly. For the first hour or so every 5 to 10 minutes and once the fish move in every 10 to 15 minutes. Also during the first hour I do not squeeze the ball onto the feeder very tightly. I want it to break down very quickly to release the goodies into the swim. When I feel there is enough bait out there I will either add more binder or squeeze harder to slow down the breakdown rate. Now I am looking for the fish to home in on the bait source and to be pecked at the ball as it breaks down. Because the bait has continually gone into one area the fish are now waiting for it. By slowing down the breakdown rate the fish now have to home in on the ball, and work a little to get to the foodstuff. They have to do this while beating the other fish in the shoal to the prize so all caution goes to the wind. If you keep feeding, the larger fish will bully off the smaller fish and this is why the method is so devastating. IF FISHED PROPERLY.

Your method mix also has a secondary use, especially in fast flowing water. When fishing in a flow, the hardest thing is baiting, If you fire corn or boilies with a catapult or spod, you have little idea of where it is actually landing on the bottom. I see many people feeding almost directly over their baits, and if the water is moving all you are doing is feeding the fish and moving them down stream. I have spent a lot of time sitting in boats dropping baits over the side and watching how far the move before hitting bottom. Of ten this is much further than you think. Method balls being heavy sink faster and hit the bottom quickly and when thrown by hand or with a catapult can be devastating in moving water. As above though, Make sure they are breaking down fairly fast.

I hope that helps a little …..Jeff

Here are some great articles to get you started!

Casting   |   Feeding   |   Fish Location   |   Fishing the Method

Fishing With Corn   |   Flavouring Baits   |   Float Fishing for Carp

Float News   |   Getting an Edge   |   Hook Baits

Quiver Tipping for Carp   |   Spodding   |   Marker Floats and Feature Finding