Within milliseconds the probing electronic scan began to fill the edge of the screen with fish markings, showing shoals of fish hanging in the up-swell of current; the food-rich water accelerating from the depths, bringing with it the microscopic plankton and feed stuff that fish such as Whiting are on the prowl for in such areas of faster water.

Whiting are one of those obliging fish that can be caught all year round in deeper water, but as the colder months come upon us, they begin to move inshore like a scavenging horde and welcome they are as well! Sometimes when you are boat fishing during these colder months it is often possible to fill a fishbox in a days fishing, especially if you fish baited feathers and catch the whiting three or four at a time. But it is a fact that most anglers would rather catch fewer, but bigger fish, so that those tasty fillets look in better proportion to the chips and peas!! So how do you begin to sort out the better fish from the hordes of hungry razor toothed, shoal size whiting?

To focus on the larger fish you must be prepared to catch fewer fish, because the more sizeable specimens are not often found competing with the hungry hordes of younger fish over the shale, sand and muddy bottoms favoured by these shoal fish. The larger fish are much more likely to be found in the shadowed sanctuary of sunken canyons, wrack covered rock faces of deep water reefs, heavily bouldered bottom and long forgotten wrecks.

Drift your boat so that your baits fish under the lee of a reef or in the Scour, often found where the tide washes away the sand uptide or downtide of a wreck. This is where the specimen whiting will be found, along with other species which take advantage of the cover, but do not actually live on the reef or wreck. Tackle is a basic 20 or 30lb class rod fitted with a medium size boat reel such the Penn 320 GTI or Shimano's excellent TR200G loaded with 20 to 30lb breaking strain line. Whether or not you choose to use Superbraid line or standard monofilament is a decision you make for yourself. What should be remembered is that whiting are a fish which feeds close to, or just off the bottom. Your baits have to be consistently presented in this bottom zone or the only fish that you will catch will be when the tide slackens for a moment or two and your baited hooks drop into the shoal of feeding fish. It is essential that the balance between the weight of your sinker and the line you are using is such that you can constantly feel your sinker tapping the bottom.

The easy way to tell is to fish with your thumb on the spool of the reel. Then, if every time you lift your thumb, you can feel a lot of line going away before the sensation of the sinker tapping the bottom is felt, then your sinker is way off bottom and it will pay you to use another ounce or two of lead to get your baits closer to the bottom. If the sinker is light, then the flow of the tide can lift your baits twenty or thirty feet away from the bottom and the feeding fish! If the fish cannot find your baits, then they are not going to eat them and you are not going to catch the fish!!

One of the reasons for using superbraid lines is that the contact between the sinker and the bottom is felt much more distinctly, you will have a clearer picture of how your baits are being shown to the fish and it's true to say that you will catch more because of it.

End rigs are simple, and the simplest of the lot is to use baited feathers. A set of standard mackerel feathers, often tied using spade end commercial haddock hooks about size 1/0, are ideal. Bait each hook with a strip of mackerel or a section of worm, drop them amongst the fish and it won't be long before that familiar "rat-tat-tat" is felt as a whiting picks up your bait. The problem with using baited feathers is that invariably the fish will spin as you reel them in, especially if you pick up an occasional pouting as well. Then the short snoods become twisted and as soon as the weight is taken off they take on a life of their own and immediately tangle. Tangled feathers are a real pain in the neck believe me. So, unless you are a real old fashioned penny pincher, a good whiting trip will usually ruin a couple of sets of feathers. Regard this as a totally justified expenditure.

The French Boom rig is quick and easy to make up, especially if you have tied up the booms and snoods before the trip. Simply tie the sinker to the end of your main line or shock leader and clip the booms to the line, one close to the sinker, another three feet up and if you really mean business, another boom five or six feet up again so that you cover the bottom and the water up to maybe ten or twelve feet. Try different baits on each of the hooks, it will soon become evident what the fish prefer. This is a good rig if you are fishing in close proximity to a reef or wreck in an effort to sort out the bigger specimens.

My personal preference is a simple Single Hook Leger. Main line is tied directly to the top eye of a Knotless spreader, a sinker clipped on and a short three to four foot leader to a 1/0 or 2/0 heavy wire hook. This is a simple rig which has the capability to present a bait really well. This is my specimen hunting rig for bottom feeding fish such as whiting and bream. Tie it up with 20lb/30lb clear monofilament or fluorocarbon line, taking care to tie good, well lubricated knots and it will be quite capable of landing a jumbo cod or pollack, should one decide it likes the taste of your bait. This rig can also be supplemented with a French boom clipped onto the main line about 5 or 6 feet up the main line from the boom, especially if there is a chance of a bream or haddock on the ground that you are fishing.

Present your bait so that it does not spin as it sinks to fishing depth. If necessary use bait elastic to tie the bait to the hook so that it slips through the water with a fluttering action. If the bait spins it will inevitably tangle these short snoods and the baits will not be well presented.

As soon as the bite is felt, tighten the line with a few fast turns of the reel and lift the rod to set the hook. It is easy to get carried away when a shoal of whiting is found and the "whitin are bitin" to fill a large bag with fish. This is when I like to set up a single hook rig and see if I can sort out one or two of the larger whiting.

Contact the author: russ@reelfoto.demon.co.uk