Ol' bucketmouth is not the most hard fighting of fish, but what it lacks in
speed and energy, it makes up for with its willingness to bump big baits and
put a hefty bend in our rods. When a double figure fish rolls in the wash
alongside the boat, there is a feeling of fulfilment, that this is what it's
all about, another good days fishing. When is the next trip???
Club Secretaries love this time of year because there is never any trouble
filling boat places, when the Spring run of butter yellow big bellied Cod
tantalise the taste buds of thousands of eager anglers. The enthusiasm is
tangible as anglers, laughing and joking, carry buckets of shiny pirks,
tackle boxes, rods, boxes of lugworm, calamari squid, kingrag or whatever
bait is favourite to their chosen charter boat.
Many thousands of words have been written on the many and varied methods of
catching Britains favourite fish, to the point where if you didn't know any
better it would be very easy to become confused. There should be no confusion about cod fishing, whatever might be said there is one simple fact, cod rarely turn away from food, especially if it is in big helpings.
On some days they will turn on to one particular bait in preference to
others, but even then fishing with the "wrong" bait will often still catch
the occasional cod, on days like that perseverance is the name of the game.
There are times on the deepwater Channel wrecks when lures and pirks will
catch well, sometimes in shallow water estuaries the "uptide" method will
outfish all others, but it is a simple fact of life, come what may, that
most cod are caught fishing a big bait "downtide" from a charter boat at
anchor whilst the tide is moving and maybe on the drift as the tide
Fishing a big bait hard on the bottom requires a mid range boat rod; a 7ft
6inch 30 pound class rod is standard equipment and does the job superbly
well. Fix that rod up with a mid size multiplier such as a Penn 320Gti or a
Shimano TLD15 loaded up with fresh 27 to 35 pound breaking strain
monofilament and you will have an outfit capable of landing the largest cod
that swims in European waters.
The classic Cod rig is a very simple "Running Leger" which is simplicity
itself to make up.
Just take your main line and thread it through the largest size of "Knotless
Line Slida", then a plastic bead to cushion the knot, tying the main line
off to a swivel. Use a swivel about size 7 which has a breaking strain of 75 lbs. This is an ideal working size for many boat rigs, a swivel bigger than a size 7 will hardly work with 30lb line. If you have the confidence, use a size 10 swivel which has a breaking strain of 40lbs. The 10's work best of all, they just seem a little out of proportion, which is why so many of us have settled on
the size 7 swivel. If you find you are still getting twist, add another
swivel into the leader.
An ultra long leader is rarely needed for Cod fishing, about a 5 foot length
of clear monofilament or lately, fluorocarbon, is what many experienced
anglers have settled on. If you are using big squid baits which have a
tendency to spin as they sink, put another swivel halfway along the length
of the leader.
The leader breaking strain wants to be a little less than your mainline, so
that should your rig snag the bottom, then it is most likely that only the
leader will be lost, not your boom and sinker. For instance if you were
using 30lb mainline, then a leader breaking strain of 25 to 27 lb would work
Big hooks between size 6/0 and 8/0 are best when using big squid or
cuttlefish baits which are often tied up with bait elastic so that the hook
points are not obstructed by the volume of the bait. For this reason Pennel
rigs are favourite, spacing the two hooks to present a large smelly bait to
My personal favourite is a cocktail of worm and squid, juicing the bait up
with fresh worm everytime it is reeled in.
Alternatively tie your Pennel rigs up on a foot length of clear 50lb mono,
finishing to a swivel, so that like the shore angler you can "double pat".
What happens is every time you reel in, simply snip off at the swivel, knot
on a freshly baited pennel rig and you are ready to go. Then whilst the
other rig is fishing, you can re-bait or juice up the original pennel ready
for the next drop. There is no doubt in my mind, especially in murky waters,
that Cod find baits by smell. I firmly believe that washed out baits catch
less fish. When you first start, 10 fresh baits dropped to the seabed create
a scent trail which is inevitably going to lead fish to your baits, keeping
this scent trail going is a recipe for success.
Fishing at Anchor.
The running leger rig is very effective when fishing at anchor. But it is a
fact that in the colder times of the year cod will be found feeding hard on
the bottom, so it is essential that this is where you present your baits.
Seems a simple thing to say, but it is surprising how many anglers think
their baits are on the bottom and really they are kiting high in the tide
ten, twenty, maybe thirty feet off the bottom, well away from the fish!!
Feel for the tap of the sinker hitting the bottom as soon as you drop your
tackle. This initial tap is usually quite evident. Fish for a minute or so
and let out some more line, if you feel the sinker tap the bottom again,
your bait is not being held on the bottom and you need a heavier sinker.
Think about it, is this why you have not been catching?
Arguments have raged forth and back about the advantages and disadvantages
of using the relatively new braided lines. Probably the biggest advantage of
these new lines is that you can feel what is happening at the business end
much more clearly and because they are only half the thickness of
monofilament you can get away with a lot lighter sinker to hold bottom.
If you are fishing from the stern of the charter boat or fishing from your
own boat then it will pay to have a range of sinkers, in order that they can
be changed every now and again, so that you are using just enough weight to
hold bottom. The advantage of this is that every whit and while you can reel
up twenty turns and let the tide settle your bait a little further down
tidewalking the baits downtide till the fish are found.
Fishing on the Drift.
This simple leger rig is equally at home fished on the drift, but now
because the boat is moving it is absolutely essential that your bait is held
in the "fish find zone". On the drift it is often much easier for the baits to be high in the water, a long way away from the bottom hugging fish so that you have little chance of a bite. On the drift it is better to use a sinker that is too heavy, rather than one that is too light.
What is immediately noticeable is that experienced anglers always hold their
rods whilst the boat is on the drift and that they are constantly dropping
away and reeling up a little line before dropping it away again, a method
which has become known as "sink and draw". This serves several purposes.
First it keeps the bait on the move in an enticing sort of way, secondly the
angler can feel the slightest knock and is prepared to react instantly to a
bite. Thirdly by constantly dropping the rig to the bottom, the bait is
always near to or in the zone where the fish can find it. if you want to
catch fish, that is really important!!