After returning from sunnier climes the first session of my closed season double figure canal Zander challenge I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task, 15 or so miles of canal to explore and not one inch of the towpath I’d trodden. In less than ten minutes drive I could rock up at a certain banker swim I know very well, whack out a headless Roach and within an hour have a few fish on the bank. Out of the countless I’ve caught at the banker swim and other swims in throwing distance the biggest only went 3lb, I don’t want schoolies I want their parents. For me it’s very much unchartered I’m expecting to blank more often than not, they ain’t that easy these Zander, especially when targeting the bigger ones.
My PB canal Zander of 5lb 4oz was lure caught so for the first few sessions I plan to use a two rod approach, a light lure rod donned with a highly successful fire tiger coloured lure and then a float set-up with a headless Roach as a highly visible sleeper rod. I aimed to try and cover up to a mile or so in each session, and then suss out the areas where in the future I’d target specifically with deadbaits. I use Roach exclusively, and to be honest condition doesn’t really matter. You would think they would prefer a fresh bait but manky ones that have been frozen and defrosted repeatedly work just as well. They are voracious feeders, they don’t mess about.
The tried and tested Jeff Hatt recommended Mustad ultimate bass 2/0 hooks (with the barb flattened) would feature in the float and running deadbait set-ups. I’ve such confidence in the pattern I couldn’t really think of using anything else, they transformed my hook-ups and believe you me using other hooks really did lead to frustration with many a fish managing to lose or shake the hook. The fish banked rate went from 1 in 7 landed to 6 out of 7.
A 5 hour weekend session and a one evening in the week would mean plenty of hour’s banktime, for me as a multi species angler, a carpet bombing approach is a bit alien to me if I’m honest, but it’s an incongruous fish, and needs a bit more dedication from my usual dabble here and there. It’s a mobile pursuit targeting canal Zander so travel as light as possible. I have a folding landing net, two rods, and a small shoulder bag . In my experience apart from the problem of finding the fish, there doesn’t seem to be a pattern in their feeding. First and last light is a good time but then I’ve had them feeding in short spells in bright sunlight in the middle of the day.
So how big do these canal fish go, well amongst the many ridiculous made up weights, over estimations , forgotten scales and ridiculous arms out small head big fish pictures , doubles certainly do exist I’ve no doubt about that but I would suggest needle in a haystack stuff. As the local midland bloggers have discovered you could spend literally hundreds of hours for a half decent 5lber and then someone could rock up at a swim put a bait in the right place, at the right time you could catch an elusive double, a lifetime capture if there ever was one. Sadly time doesn’t equal success in this game.
The first session just over a mile, I managed to find some Zander and despite it being bright and sunny I managed 6 fish from 4 different swims, nothing huge sadly, the biggest was a nadger under 2lb and took a liking to a deadbait as I was playing a fish on the lure. 6 fish caught with 5 on deadbait (all runs landed) and 1 on the lure. I’m looking forward to the next session.