Pole Fishing the Vaal River - Part 3

Pole Fishing the Vaal River - Part 3

Between this post and the previous blog post, I did a couple more fishing sessions with the company of my beautiful little family (mommy & son) and of course this gave me the opportunity to test some more ground bait mixes I conjured up in my relentless pursuit of creating something totally unique to both us and the fishies!
Through lots of trial and error it is possible to learn how certain elements inside a complex mix of ingredients can work for or against you. And I learnt a couple of very interesting things over the last 6 sessions of fishing at Aquavaal to the degree that I now feel more confident than ever before about producing something that the fish really like to eat, but importantly also consists of immense pulling power to draw fish closer to your intended spot and then stimulate their receptors to force them into a feeding frenzy.

In my opinion a good ground bait should be made up to consist of 5 vital factors, them being:

  • Colour
  • Aroma
  • Taste
  • Bind
  • Oil

Each of these factors are vitally important to contribute in making the best possible ground bait. I can explain each one individually but that will take up a whole blog post by itself so in short if you look at the bullet points above its easy to understand why each of these elements are a necessity in ensuring the ground bait you use actually catch you the fish you're after!

Of course, to be successful and catch lots of fish you cannot just rely on the ground bait itself, its just a part of the puzzle that needs to fit, but its a massive part and it needs to be right so that all the other parts will eventually fit in with it - if that makes sense? A good example of this is that the ground bait need to carry particles to the bottom and release these particles slowly so the fish can pick them out and eat them - this is exactly what will make you catch them as your hook bait will reflect it! Sounds obvious, right? But when you look at most ground baits on the market none of them really act this way hence the reason match (pole and feeder) anglers in South Africa have always been looking for something different...

Adding particles such as corn, maggots, hempseed, pellets, worms, maize rice etc. to your ground bait is a good thing, but the ground bait need to act as a carrier for these particles keeping it together so it releases on the bottom, especially in deep water (3m+). Deep water like you'll get at Aquavaal (and other parts of the Vaal river) can be in excess of 6m (or 20 feet!) so it becomes a really difficult scenario when you want your bait to be on the bottom in a small accurate pile laying dead still ready for the resident fish to feed over it without it wafting around and rising up through the immense depth - not to speak of the current that will add to the displacement of your bait. 

Its easy to see why I consider ground bait such an important part of angling and why it needs to be just right. Shallower water also has its challenges but will be covered in future posts. 

At the start of my latest session I plumbed the depth to find a small flat spot at the full extend of my pole (13m) that included me adding the dolly butt. The water was 6,5m deep there so I swopped my usual 2g float for a 3 grammer. This ensured that I get down to the bottom quicker and present the bait better. The rig was made up on 0.17mm Reflo Power Line with a double bulk shotting pattern to 0.15mm Reflo Power hook length tied to a size 16 Guru Kaizen hook.  

My target species was the resident carp, mudfish and the odd catfish. Yellow fish are inevitable so its OK to catch them on a regular basis, but if your ground bait is right and you feed it right you can reduce the amount of yellow fish you catch so this was definitely part of the plan! 

I cupped in 20 tightly squeezed balls of the lovely ground bait mix that was laced with particles. Cupping has forever been my favourite way of feeding and although it takes longer and far more effort than throwing its much more accurate and precise and I can work around it so much better during the session. 

After resting the feeding spot for an hour and fishing for small fish on a top section near the bank I started fishing the long pole. From the first put in my float went under and I caught a couple of dumpy little catfish that were feasting on the initial feed mix - a good start in my books. The water had a lot of colour as the previous night's down pour caused the nearby corn fields to run off into the river colouring it instantly to a red-brown soup - not so great! 

This made me think that I will need to stick to the golden rule of fishing by feeding "little and often" to attract the fish to my spot. Regular top-up balls were cupped into the swim and worked a treat as I later started catching the carp. The muddies were nowhere to be seen so the sudden run-off of coloured water definitely put them off but it didn't worry me as the carp was still happy to feed and I just had to keep them in my swim. 

The best hook bait to catch the carp was a worm and two maggots. I nipped the worm in half and hooked the other half onto the hook too, this formed two worm tails that was visual and smelly. The two maggots at the tip of the hook kept the worms from wriggling off the barbless hook and made the hook bait stand out a bit more. 

The sport was absolutely fantastic and I managed to catch a great bag of fish consisting of mainly carp and the odd small catfish in between. The fish were feeding positively on the ground bait and the particles as it was holding together until it reached the bottom. It was clear that the fish's heads were down as the hook holds were absolutely bang on - top lipped or down in the mouth every time. 

The #11 Dura Slip elastic worked well and I even thought of upgrading it to the #13 at one stage as the fish were biting instantly, although the #11 still provided me with the softness if I hooked a smaller fish. In hind sight I could've used my side puller had I changed the hook to something a bit bigger but I didn't want to risk it on the small hook I was using so just stuck with it - this was a pleasure session so fighting them a bit longer didn't bother me much and in the end the elastic coped really well with these hard fighting river carps.

I finished 2,5kg of the new ground bait which equates to almost 10 liters of wet mix and particles. When all the bait I had with me was finished I realised that I had a super session and probably one of my best ever at this venue with the pole. How can you stop fishing, pack up and go home when the action is as frantic as it was? Well, only to go mix up some more ground bait and get ready for the next session!