Beginners Guide To Pole Fishing – Part 6 – Shotting The Rig

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Beginners Guide To Pole Fishing – Part 6 – Shotting The Rig. Hello all fishing lovers, Today’s post is “Beginners Guide To Pole Fishing – Part 6 – Shotting The Rig”. Hopefully this post is helpful for you, all fishing lovers.

Beginners Guide To Pole Fishing – Part 6 – Shotting The Rig

Let me start by explaining that what follows assumes that most of the time no shot is being put on the hooklength. I know that many do put shot on the hooklength, I don’t. Reason being that it is quicker to change hooklengths if you don’t have to add shot as well. And in match fishing even a couple of wasted minutes can be crucial.

In the following descriptions the final shot, that closest to the hook, will nearly always be sitting touching the knot that joins the hooklength to the rig. If you are using a loop to loop connection then it will sit just above the loop in the main line.
Understanding Underwater
When talking of shotting patterns I think it worth considering what happens underwater and out of sight.
In absolutely calm conditions on a stillwater the rig should hang vertically under the float. But many situations arise that means this isn’t the case. We could be fishing a river, a lake affected by surface skim or undertow, a canal that is moving due to an overshot or opening lock gates.
What many people fail to understand is that water, even in a fast flowing river, does not move at the same speed from surface to bottom. The effect of drag imparted by the lake, canal or river bed means the lower layers of water move slower than the surface. Or, if there is an upstream wind, the surface may give the appearance of moving slowly if at all compared to the water a few inches down. On a lake a wind may create an undertow where the main body of the water will be moving in the opposite direction to the surface being blown by the wind.
Scientists have discovered that the average flow rate of a river is located at seven tenths of the depth. So on a river ten foot deep the average flow will be seven foot below the surface. For us as anglers this means we have to combat the tow for most of the depth in order to present the bait in a natural fashion on the bottom when the water is moving. Within a few inches of the bottom the water will be moving very slowly if at all.
With this in mind you can see, in part, why we end up with varying shotting patterns and different float loadings for similar depths.
This is the name given to the final few shot, normally spaced out, closest to the hooklength. The number and size of the droppers will depend on conditions and personal choice. The same for spacings. There is no one correct answer and really you have to experiment to find what you think works for you, the venue, the conditions, the species and even the bristle of the float we have chosen.

One piece of advice I was given and I can understand is that dropper shot, or the last dropper should register on the float. So in general, the thicker the bristle the heavier should be the droppers.

But as ever in fishing, there are no rules, only guidance.

Shotting Patterns

There are a few different ways of shotting a rig.

Bulk & droppers

Spread bulk

Double bulk

Strung out

So which to choose?

Bulk & Droppers
I would guess it is fair to say that the most popular or widely used will be the bulk & droppers pattern. Basically as it says, you have a bulk of shot or an olivette with a number of small shot below that.

I cannot tell you for certain why this is the most popular. I think people assume that it will get the bait down to the fish quicker.

Here I have to digress into a little science. Galileo theorised and later experimentation proved that the speed of a falling object is not influenced by its weight (mass to be precise). So in theory just because the shotting under the float is bulked together should not impact the speed at which the rig “settles”.

Galileo’s theory was finally shown to be correct on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 15 mission.

And for a video

And yes I know that the line will act as a parachute and impact the speed of the shot falling through water. I’m only saying that people assume the rig settles quicker when a bulk is used. You believe what you want to believe and in time will develop confidence in what you do as regards shotting a pole rig. Lowering the rig vertically will remove the influence of the line and this means we can, I think, place our faith in Galileo.  I’ll talk more about this when we go fishing.

The bulk can be made by using an olivette or a string of shot. I would probably use No.6 shot though others would tell me that these are too large.

How much of the float’s loading should be in the bulk? No hard and fast rule but I would actually work from the opposite end and ask what droppers do you want. For example if I wanted to use three No.10s as my droppers I would put these on first then make most of the remaining required weight my bulk.

When forming a bulk it is worth incorporating two or three smaller shot like No.10s at the bottom of the bulk. This means that if you wish you can slide these down and increase the number of droppers or double the existing ones up to make them heavier.

Also I would leave a small amount to be added on the bank as you can never predict the exact requirement for the conditions on the day. I nearly always have a small shot immediately below the float stem to act as an indicator in case the float slides up the line. In the main this is also where I add any extra shot required to finally trim the float down when in use. Similarly I add backshot above the float and this also marks the float’s position on the line. But more of backshotting later.

Where should the bulk be? Anywhere from just below half distance to possibly all just above the hooklength if no droppers are being used. Conditions, experience and target species can all play a part in making this decision. As a starting point I would recommend 12 to 15 inches above the hooklength.

Spread Bulk
Some anglers like to spread the shot making up the bulk out over a short distance. Let us assume we are using five or six No.8 shot as our bulk. These can be spaced out around half an inch to an inch apart.

I think the main reason this is used is because it is pleasing to the eye. If you hold the rig top and bottom at an angle the spread bulk forms a nice curve where a compact bulk would form an angle.  Because of the hinge effect between each of the shot it also means the fish only has to move a small portion of the bulk for a bite to register rather than the whole thing.

Again, experiment yourself and see if you prefer a spread bulk to a compact. Or more importantly, what do the fish prefer?

You can still have droppers below the spread bulk.

Double Bulk
This is a pattern that I am told is favoured by anglers targeting skimmers/bream.

As the name suggests you split your bulk into two. The main bulk will be around 18 inches from the hook with a small bulk, possibly as little as two No.10s two inches from the hook. This is not a shotting pattern I have ever used as it entails putting shot on the hooklength. But it may be something you wish to try.

Strung Out
This is, I have to admit, my normal pattern for stillwaters. I switched from using a bulk & droppers a few years ago on a day when it seemed fish were rejecting the bait when feeling the bulk. Bites improved that day and I now use this pattern most of the time.

Why do I think it works? I believe that while you have all the benefits of the weight of shot, i.e. 0.5g, you have the sensitivity of a lighter shotting pattern near the hook. And remember Galileo, a single No.6 should sink as quickly as a bulk of them. Certainly I do not notice any great delay in the float settling.

On my 0.5g standard commercial rig I will have three number ten droppers and then four No.6 shot spread up the line. In favourable conditions the first No.6 will be within a few inches of the float and the rest spread evenly and the final No.10 just above the hooklength. If there is a tow or I just feel I need the shot more closely spaced I will slide everything down so the first No.6 is at around half depth. The droppers may then only be an inch or two apart.

I suppose I really should use No.8s instead of the No.6s. But I find I still get bites and shotting with three No.10 and four No.6 easy to remember. I have been experimenting with No.8s on my Winter commercial rigs. Again just a thought that the slightly better look of the rig may help bite detection when it gets tough.

On my canal rigs with a 0.2g float I will use a string of six or seven No.10 shot again starting just above the hooklength and spread as far apart as I think the day demands. Although I may occasionally swap the bottom No.10 for a No.9. The slightly heavier shot as the last dropper will, hopefully magnify the effect of a fish moving it. Combined with a very sensitive bristle I think this improves bite detection. But its only a theory.

A variation of this shotting pattern is to gradually reduce the size of the shot as they get closer to the hook. This looks to overcome the faster water nearer the surface and give less weight in the lower depths where any flow will be less.

How Much Shot?
I am lucky in that I have a couple of water barrels in the garden and so I can shot floats in them. But if you haven’t got that facility you can use a tube or cut down pop bottle filled with water to help shot floats at home.

But using tap water or even rainwater will not fully replicate actual water conditions when fishing. So if shotting this way at home then allow a little leeway to add shot on the day.  I normally leave the whole bristle and possibly part of the body showing when shotting in a barrel. 

Another thing you can do is use an app to calculate the shotting given the stated loading of the float. So without access to water you can still shot floats at home with a degree of confidence that they will be nearly correct when first used. But still leave a small amount to be added on the day.

Shottafloat is a phone app that will convert the 4xNN markings on floats into a weight in grammes and then also suggest how that weight can be made up using shot.

The Hardy online calculator allows you to play with various combinations of shot and styls to arrive at a certain weight.

How Much Bristle
One mistake I see many inexperienced pole anglers make is to have too much float or bristle showing. People worry that if “dotted down” too far they will not be able to see the float when settled and thus will miss bites. As long as the bristle is still visible then you will see the bite when it comes. Eyesight, distance and bristle thickness will all play a part in deciding just how much to leave visible. But trust me, you can sink a float lower than you may imagine and still see bites, even with a chop on the water.

The picture on the left shows a float as I would expect to shot it at home. 
Note that it has settled with all of the bristle and some of the body above the surface. 
The picture on the right shows  the same float with an acceptable amount of bristle showing.  Personally I may still add some more shot (No.12)
to at least halve the amount of bristle above the surface.
The No.11 backshot is keeping the line near the float underwater as I will explain later.

When there is a chop on the water many will try and have more float showing. In my opinion this is wrong. I still try and dot my floats down. What I am looking for is the float to ride through the peaks and troughs, not up and down with them. The best way to achieve this is to have a heavier float and little bristle showing. Yes it will disappear as each peak passes but you will soon see the rhythm, strike when that rhythm is interrupted. It may not be a bite every time that happens but I would rather strike at false bites than miss the one when it happens.

I have said that I dot my floats down most of the time. But there are days when you may need more showing. In the main this will be days when you are being troubled by small fish or fish brushing the line are causing false bites. So if you are getting bites and not hooking fish you may wish to try taking some weight off and having more bristle showing. You will get fewer indications but those you get should be proper bites where the float disappears.

After an experience that showed me the importance of backshotting I now add backshot to most if not all of my rigs.

Backshot are shot that are added to the line between the pole and the float. They serve two purposes. The first is to sink the line, they can also be used to trim the float sinking the bristle to the precise level the angler desires. Being above the float they can be moved up the line to reveal more bristle if desired.

The effect of sinking the line is twofold. It stops any wind affecting the line and moving the float around. This will improve the control you have over a pole float and improve presentation.  Second it can improve bite detection because the fish do not have to pull the line through the surface tension. And that resistance can be considerable particularly to small silvers.

The way I backshot most of my rigs is to add a No.11 near the float (as in the picture above), I set this on the line level with the tip of the bristle when the rig is suspended. A No.11 will keep the line sunk but not unduly unbalance the float. I then add a No.9 near the pole tip. This shot helps sink the line from pole to float initially but being near the pole tip will not affect the float. The size and position of this shot can be changed depending on conditions. When windy it may be as much as a No.6.

If you wish you can add a few (I add four) No.12 or 13 shot that can be slid down to the No.11 or up to the No.9 depending on whether you want less or more bristle showing.

Get the shotting right on the day and you will increase your catch. And so it is worth taking the trouble to get this element of your pole fishing spot on. Those that don’t take the trouble, make the effort, will catch less.

So with rigs made and shotted lets go pole fishing.


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