Over the last couple of years I have been fishing a large pit in Kent with my sights firmly set on catching a new PB common. My current PB common is a fish of 42lb 8oz, which I was lucky enough to catch in 2010 from a weedy Oxfordshire syndicate lake. Having my new target located a lot closer to home, and with a few friends on the lake, I thought would make things a little easier but how wrong was I! The problem was simple, unlike a lot of other big fish waters this one had a good stock of back up fish, so rather than trying to single out one of 30 to 40 fish I was now trying to single out the one I wanted from a stock of between 200 and 300.
My first year on the lake (2014) went well – but by September I didn’t actually feel any closer to the big common, mainly because I hadn’t caught a single common amongst the thirty fish I had landed. I spoke to a few of the other guys on the lake, that I knew had caught commons, and it turned out that 95% of these captures had fallen to bottom baits and I’d spent the year fishing pop ups on all three rods. My catch rate was higher than a lot of the other syndicate but I wasn’t catching what I was after, so I decided to change all rods to bottom baits in an attempt to get amongst the commons.
Over the course of my next two trips I managed six bites; one I lost in the weed, a 32lb mirror and low and behold four commons to 29lb. I really thought I had cracked it but on my next trip I had two more bites and again it was two mirrors – and a bloke two swims along the bank has a bite on a white pop up and it’s my target “The Big Common” I couldn’t believe it…
Come the end of the first year things had gone OK. I had managed two fish over 40lb and twelve over 30lb; but I still felt a million miles away from my elusive target which had made one more visit to the bank very late in the year at a massive weight, and once again to hookbait that was fished popped up.
This put my bottom bait pop up theory out the window, especially as by May of my second year I had had two mid thirty pound commons on pop ups and the big common had also been out at 51lb (again to a single pop up).
I carried on fishing, using both pop up and bottom bait rigs again with some success but all the time I was getting as much information as possible about the past captures of the big ‘un; areas, baiting situations, rigs, times of year, day or night bites etc. even down to the other fish caught.
It soon started to become apparent that more often than not when she was caught she was the only fish caught by that angler and it rarely came from the favourable area of the lake at that time (where the bulk of the fish were showing or coming from during any particular period of time). Oddly, she actually seemed to often come out from swims that looked hemmed in by other anglers and even the last swim to go. Another key piece of information was that she rarely came over large beds of bait (sometimes even coming to a single).
All of these tactics were the total opposite of how I had been fishing the lake. I always tried to get into the prime areas and when I did I would put out enough bait to hold a number of 30lb+ fish in that area. If the lake was too busy I would go and fish elsewhere or not fish at all but now things had to change.
Rig wise I kept everything simple and absolutely reliable. Pop ups were presented multi-rig style using 25lb Ultra Skin (colour dependant on what I was fishing over) with size 6 Covert Chod hooks and rig rings to attach the bait onto. Bottom/snowman rigs were tied using 15lb Ultra Skin (again with the colour dependant to the nature of the lake bed) and either size 6 or 8 Covert Wide Gape Talon Tip.
Due to the amount of weed present I fished both these rigs on Covert Lead Clips, and I have total confidence in everything at the business end. I’ve been using this set up for a long time now and have got to the point that I know once I get the right bite it should be converted. Although changing the approach has been very hard to do after fishing a certain way for over 25 years I’m now 3 weeks into my new fishing style (for the big common) and although not setting up on the main group of fish has probably been the hardest thing to change I have still managed a few fish – so who knows the next one might be the one.