Tony King is an angler who needs little introduction, an established specimen angler with an enviable list of PB’s to his credit. With years of experience under his belt, he is an angler who really knows what he is talking about. Recently Tony got in touch to tell me he had been slaying the tench from a southern gravel pit he had been targeting. When the email came through of yet another tench massacre, 31 fish in total and with a kind invite, I didn’t think twice before making contact.
Tench are Tony’s favourite species (I think in a previous life he might have been a tench) and late spring and summer months you will often find him bivvied up on a large gravel pits pursuing monster red-eyed devils. His track record is nothing short of staggering, taking countless hauls of big fish on the way to his next double or, as Tony likes to call it, a ’Barney Rubble’. Making a very early start one morning, it wasn’t the usual drag getting out of bed and I was really looking forward to seeing the master at work. On drawing the curtains the dawn had yet to break and I made my way south to meet the man.
Tony welcomed me with a warm handshake and it wasn’t hard to see why he enjoyed tench fishing so much. He was nestled away on a quiet, mature pit that would have even the keenest of tench anglers foaming at the mouth. Dawn was just breaking and a rolling fish, followed by classic pinprick bubbles, occasionally broke the glass-like surface of the water. When asked about his most memorable tench catches I could have written a whole book on the subject, with numerous double figure specimens having fallen to his rods. A staggering 76 fish catch from Johnson’s Lake, including two doubles that stood out from the crowd. With these statistics in hand I was soon keen to find out what made Tony so successful.
Looking out across the lake, tench were evident on Tony’s baited patch. He had arrived at the venue the previous evening and fed a generous amount of his favourite particle mix known in tench circles as ‘SPADGE’ (small mixed particle and dead genitals etc.). The feed was spread across a wide area in a bid to get the tench rooting around his swim. I immediately thought he had found a clear area in amongst the weed which was evident on the surface in several areas, but I was wrong. Copious amounts of thick silkweed litter the bottom hindering a good presentation. Most anglers would shudder at the thought of such a thing, thrashing the water to a foam in the bid to find a ‘textbook’ clear area. Tony, on the other hand, had picked an area in the middle of the lake, an interception point where he hoped to attract the fish to his feed as they moved from one end of the lake to the other.
Before we could talk any further his alarm screeched into life as his spool turned into a blur. On dealing with the offending rod, a spirited fight was endured through the weed and the first tench of the morning was being held aloft for the camera. This was the first of many that fell to his rods in very short time.
Inspecting his rig like a forensic scientist I expected to see the latest design in rig mechanics but my thoughts couldn’t have been further from the truth. Yes, some very neat edges, which would certainly increase his catch rate, but it did not include an all singing and dancing array of end tackle items. Simplicity is the key and Tony uses only tried and tested components, which he knows will not let him down. Playing big fish in weedy environments is not a time for tackle testing and his experience over the years has enabled him to fine tune his end tackle (and believe me after seeing his tackle boxes, he tried everything) to the rig he is happy and so successful with today.
A strong durable mainline is essential when regularly recasting heavy feeders and playing fish through thick weed, his favourite is 12lb GT80+. A simple helicopter rig carries a 1.5oz open ended feeder which is packed full of an active groundbait mix. His chosen hooklength is five inches of 10lb Target Camo Speciskin, a lovely dark fine diameter coated hooklink material, and when Tony first got his hands on a spool we both knew it was going to be a permanent feature in his tackle box. At the business end, Gardner Target Specimen Hooks have also earned a place in his armoury. A small yet strong hook pattern with a beaked point which helps to protect the hook point when casting regularly, particularly on hard bottom areas after the fish have ripped up the weed whilst digging out the particle mix. Tony has found this hook is ideal when playing big fish on small sizes and particularly suits his favourite ‘T rig’.
Imitation plastic baits from Enterprise Tackle such as maggots, casters and corn are a favourite hookbait of Tony’s. Not only are they small fish resistant but, for the clever thinking angler, a buoyant version can be used to critically balance hookbaits. Tony mounts these in a particular way, threading a plastic maggot on lengthways and a caster on sideways forming was is known in the trade as a ‘T rig’. A devastating rig, which has accounted for many of Tony’s big catches of tench.
Pulling the lid from his bait tub revealed a pinch of maggots covered in water and I could immediately sense a fruity smell. Adding water to maggots 30 minutes before fishing makes the maggots float, adding more buoyancy and, crucially, movement to the hookbait. Tony adds a small amount of flavour to the water for added attraction, an array of fruit flavours being his favourite. Four maggots were added to the hook before a small groundbait stick made from Micromesh PVA, was threaded down the hooklength with the aid of a XL Gate Latch needle. The hook was carefully pushed into the bottom of the stick, ensuring that the rig cannot be fouled by the mass of silkweed covering the lake bed.
The groundbait feeder was plugged at one end before a pinch of maggots was introduced, finally sealing the other end with more groundbait. The rig was dropped into the margins to demonstrate why it was so successful. The feed exploded once the feeder settled on the lake bed, whilst the pva stick ensured perfect presentation and a mouthful of feed around the hookbait. In short, a go anywhere tench rig, one I will certainly be adding to my armoury.
Conditions soon turned warm, exceeding 20C by mid-morning, yet Tony carried on where he left off. Tench after tench fell to his rods and by 1pm he had amassed 15 fish including five 7’s and two 8’s weighing 8lb 2oz and 8lb 8oz. Yet again Tony produced the goods!
How to tie Tony’s T-Rig:
What you will need…
Step 1 – Strip back 4 inches of coating, Tony’s favourite hooklength is 10lb Target Speciskin in Camo.
Step 2 – Mount an imitation buoyant maggot length ways and a buoyant caster sideways, this creates a ‘T shape’ hookbait.
Step 3 – Add a hair stop to keep the bait in place.
Step 4 – Using a simple knotless knot whip down the hook shank. Tony prefers a short length of hair.
Step 5 – Thread a PVA Micromesh stick of groundbait down the hooklength and carefully push the hook point into the bag.