We’re thankful to be able to call Dan a friend and take a lot of inspiration from his attitude and enthusiasm. His name is synonymous with a couple of things, namely big hits of nuts and seeds and also catching big under the radar ones from difficult low stock waters around the valley. If you’ve ever wondered about the mechanics of prepping and priming an area, here’s a technical insight into exactly how Dan goes about it.

When did you first realise the potential power of prepping spots? Was it from watching someone else do it, where did the inspiration come from?

I’ve been doing it for years now, back when I was 22 I was fishing over at the Leisure Sport Horton complex. I was fishing the Island Lake at the time but I had my eye on the Crayfish Pool, and at the time no one was fishing it. I’d read a piece by Rick Goulder, and also one by Alan Welch who was a bit of hero of mine about the place. At the time there weren’t so many big uns around but there were a few that were the Jack, Queen, King and Aces, and the Cray Pool Long Fish one was one of those, a real ‘one off’. Long story short, Alan had mentioned it was quite a greedy fish, so when I started on there I baited it really heavily for about 5-6 weeks before starting. That was the first time I did an ‘all in’ baiting campaign and starting getting the buckets in. I didn’t catch it from that exact spot, but it didn’t take long. The other person who inspired that way of fishing was Beadle, seeing the quantities he used and how he approached other waters we looked at together was a huge eye opener, especially the bigger wilder ones with no swims and names. When I saw how much he used sometimes, when the hammer was really put down, that was also a game changer for me.

'The other person who inspired that way of fishing was Beadle, seeing the quantities he used and how he approached other waters we looked at together was a huge eye opener'

Am I right in saying a vast proportion of your current angling is based around prep of some kind now?

It is yes, almost 100% of it. I became conscious this year actually that I’ve become a bit one dimensional in some ways though, sitting it out on these primed areas and not chasing them round, chucking singles at shows or looking under bushes. Part of the reason though is that I’m fishing with a young springer spaniel now. The baiting suits me more than ever right now. I’ve got into a bit of a routine, I do two nights and two days on my rota (Fireman) and used to go straight to the lake after my first night at work, and then back to work later. With the dog though I don’t do the night between work anymore as it’d be an extra hour trip each way to pick up and drop the dog off. With the baiting and my one night a week, I can feel like I’m fishing all the time.

What is it about the baiting and prep as an approach that really attracts you. Is it the buzz of the extra work and effort, the results it brings, or more just that it suits the time you have available?

I like it because I get my little ‘lake’ fix on a more regular basis, getting the bait ready, a quick walk after or before work, all that. Sometimes I’m in and out, drop the bucket in and I’m gone in 15 minutes, other occasions I take my time. The results of course yes, it’s incredibly effective if you get it right and also because I can feel like I’m fishing 7 days a week, even when I’m at home with my family or at work. I can work til 11 at night at home maybe, wait until the family is in bed then drop on one of my spots for the night and be fishing well. Rigs tied at home, prep done, and once I’ve lowered that tiger down into the edge, I’m in the game properly. If you asked me to zig fish, or put a pva bag 130 yards that’s not my game, so I play to my strengths.

What is your thought process for approaching somewhere new using this approach, what are the key ingredients needed from the water for it to work and be achievable?

The first thing is locality to work, or home. If I need to be in and out in twenty minutes, I can be. That is vital to me. There’s waters that I’d love to fish but just aren’t viable because they’re hours drives away. How busy it is is another factor, ideally for me it will be a low stock water with a relatively low frequency of angler. I like to target waters often that don’t have the popular carp in, the one big target everyone wants, they attract too much pressure for how I want to angle.  

'I like to target waters often that don’t have the popular carp in, the one big target everyone wants, they attract too much pressure for how I want to angle'

Having done it for years, do you think it is also possible on busier venues?

Absolutely, of course. Look at the lads on Dinton for example that have made it work. You just have to be a little bit craftier about how you do it I think, or think a bit differently. It isn’t always where you can see them in the days, it is sometimes more about where they’re happy to swim to at night to feed along the shelves. Maybe it’s a difficult swim, a one rod swim, a long walk, uncomfortable.. those are often the spots I’m looking for, that no one else is interested in sitting in. One thing my brain does process very quickly now is having done one circuit, I will have a pretty good idea about where the spots are in that lake that I can make something happen from.

Intuition based on an accumulation of years of knowledge? Looking more closely at the spots, what qualities does a spot need for it to have the potential to invest the effort in, maybe of months of your life and multiple trips? You’re not choosing any old spot are you… what are you looking for? How much observation and thought goes into choosing a spot before you commit?

I’ve fished like this on dozens of lakes now, so you’re almost just pressing repeat. Once you understand the fundamentals, it all starts to make sense. Of course it always depends on the makeup of the lake, when I first start walking a lake I’m looking for good snags, depths of the margins and the cover, spots that look unattended to and aren’t getting attention. I’d start with maybe 7 or 8 spots I’m looking at, I’d take a few buckets down there before I start fishing and just walk. Ideally looking for a couple of spots on each bank, so I’ve got options, I might clean any margins up with a rake if they need it, but if they looked ok I’d just start with maybe one big scoop on each spot. Next time down I’d be checking them all, sometimes that might be the same day, or the following day if it’s local. Once I get things going, I’ll usually end up cutting down the spots to 2 or 3, obviously going with the ones that are getting cleaned and have the most potential. If I’m doing the mass baiting and proper prep, with big levels, doing it in the edge makes it so much easier, on one lake I fished I was doing 20k each morning, in and out in less than twenty minutes. If you’re spombing, or using a boat that’s a much longer process. If you’ve got spots on different banks that’s the ideal scenario, so you’ve got options or a back up for different conditions. Once it starts happening, and you’ve dialled in what times to look, and when to bait, it all becomes simple. Once it gets past spawning time, and they’ve settled, if you’ve got a half decent spot that you are feeding, properly, they will visit that every night, I firmly believe that.

What does your perfect spot look like then?  

I did discover this swim, it does exist. It’s really inaccessible, and uncomfortable, so gets left alone. I’m looking for that runway that fish travel along the shelf on, from A to B, ‘motorway’ spots as I call them. It’s got a decent depth of water, and perfect line lay so I can get everything down and hidden. If it has a climbing tree that looks down over the spot then that is the biggest tick as well for me and ideally I want to be able to bait where no one else can see it. A motorway with a tree above it, basically is what I want. And it has to be deeper than a swan’s neck.

'A motorway with a tree above it, basically is what I want. And it has to be deeper than a swan’s neck'

What sort of effort have you gone to in the past to prep a spot – cutting snags out, clearing debris… how important is all that?

If I’m not ‘gardening’, I’m not fishing. We could tape an hour just on this alone. I’ve used boats and rakes to clear spots, and line lay, I’ve had a wetsuit on and diving mask and cleared up rocks off spots. I’ve cut bits of trees down, trimmed roots out and overhangs to make sure line lay is perfect – if I can get my line all the way from my tip to the rig flat along the shelf, that’s the one. Things like that can make all the difference. Even clearing twigs and bits from the path up to an edge spot… I’m never without a handsaw!

Looking at the baiting levels and strategies then, when is the earliest you would start prepping spots in the yearly cycle?

The earliest I’ll start is end of March, beginning of April, and I’d hope to have edge spots up and rolling properly by mid-June. If I’ve put time and effort in, I’m seeing it out for 8-9 weeks on them until September, then it might be fishing for them back out in the pond. Early in the year I’ll often be using boilies, spraying it round the lake here and there until I build up a picture of what is happening. The particle thing doesn’t really come in until May time really for me. Then I’ll start getting the buckets of small stuff in to clean up spots.

What sort of quantities are we talking, for a mid-summer or autumn prime time prep? How much, and how often?

You have to take into account my spots are often visual, so if I get up the tree and it’s been cleaned out, I’ll load it back up. I’ll continue with that until it either starts getting left or not cleaned as quickly as I’d like. People would be frightened to learn how much carp can get through when you have them dialled right in, one lake in particular I was baiting at the same time every day, and after 3 or 4 days of doing it they were literally sitting there waiting for me at 7am. I got to a point where I was putting 20k a day in, five times a week. That’s the extreme end of the scale. You just tune it up or down depending on how many carp are in there, and the feedback you are getting.

What are you using generally bait wise?

I’ve got baits that I’ll use for clearing spots, and baits that I’m using for fishing. For clearing spots I’m using the mixes I make and sell, the smaller particle based products. There’s no point using whole baits for that, they’ll be in and out in two minutes whereas if I’ve put a big bucket of seed down there they’re staying there for longer and feeding differently on the spot. Once that bottom is clean though, it can be difficult to get a bite over the really small stuff, so I tend to move up in size to whole tigers, and boilies. If I’m fishing for a proper big un as well, I don’t want to be hooking that over bits of hemp, I want to be hooking that on a big Neanderthal rig that will stay in.

'If I’m fishing for a proper big un as well, I don’t want to be hooking that over bits of hemp, I want to be hooking that on a big Neanderthal rig that will stay in'

Does that vary depending on the nature of the spots themselves, the stock, clarity, time of year etc?

Completely. I do use a fair bit of boilie, but mainly in the spring and autumn. Lots of the waters I fish, you’re just never getting a bite in the edge on a round boilie, they simply won’t eat them. Also because I have the particle and nuts on tap at home with the company, I naturally use a lot of it. I love that act of tipping a big bucket in, and going back the next day and seeing it shining, you know?! I’ve got dark mixes and baits for when it’s tap clear, or the birds arrive, or paler ones when I need something more visual.

How careful are you not to overdo it? What signs are you looking for, have you ever gone too heavy and killed it? How long will you give a spot?

A month, maximum. So four or five nights fishing. September say, I’ll have picked an area and I’ll give it the month. I’ve done plenty of campaigns over the years that haven’t come to much, so I guess I must have overdone it at times, or chosen wrong. That said I’m rarely fishing spots that I’m not absolutely certain aren’t getting visited, I’m always getting feedback from activity. Be that shows, liners, sheeting up, spots being cleaned.. all that stuff that tells you they’re feeding there. If I turn up and find one of my spots I baited a couple of days ago getting hammered by birds, coming up with bait, I’ll likely choose a back up spot for that night.

You’ve always struck me as an angler that really enjoys catching carp own their own terms, does the prep do that for you? Is it the process of the prep itself you really enjoy – the extra midnight missions, the buzz of setting up on a primed area etc – or does the prep help maximise the chances on the shorter sessions you have available to you between work, family and running the particle business on the low stock waters you often choose

It is a bit of both, I’m doing it because I’m certain it is maximising my chances, and the photo album doesn’t lie as my friend Oli Davies always says. Everywhere I’ve ever been though, it has worked, sometimes you get lucky quickly, other times it’s taken longer, but almost everywhere I’ve set my mind to it has come off in the end. And also because I’ve got other projects and things going on, and my family, so I simply can’t be at the lake all the time, but by sticking my buckets in, I feel like I am.

I know we’ve spoke before about how busy lakes have become, have you found yourself angling for lower stocks, and smaller targets, or especially awkward venues perhaps to allow you to fish in this way in recent years?

I’ve got a little circuit of quiet waters I fish, maybe for a month or so each year, and I do tend to fish a target water each year as well, maybe not with anything massive in, but yes, like you said – lower stocks, harder, slightly smaller targets, awkward to fish, those are the waters I’m choosing these days. You can do it on busier venues, you just have to get creative, maybe baiting up at midnight when everyone is fast asleep, in those overgrown spots everyone ignores, and keep your cards a bit closer to your chest. The method is well proven, it works, everywhere, you just have to tweak it accordingly. The waters I’m fishing often, there’s an etiquette that means this kind of fishing is possible, and respected, which makes things a lot easier in some ways. Part of the process for me is making an effort to get to know lads, get down on the ground. I’m not a phone angler, the way I was brought up you get down the lake and earn your information. On most of the pits I fish, out in the pond is fair game, you can’t bait popular areas and expect to keep it to yourself, but if I’m baiting a corner that no one else has fished for years, I like to know no one will even look at it. If I see a big un on a spot in the edge on someone else’s area I’d be ringing them to tell them, not rushing back to the van to get a rod. It’s just a different mentality. You need thick skin to fish the busy places, you just have to get down there and fish.

What does prep really mean to you?

Getting the dog made me realise a few things, I think part of what I actually really enjoy is the act of hunting down a carp, creating a situation from my efforts, and trapping it like that. I guess that is what prep means to me, it is a calculated effort, and that’s the biggest buzz for me. I haven’t just chucked a pop up out into the pond, I’ve outwitted her off my little spot in the edge that I’ve built up and created. Because of the dog, the family and the business and balancing it with my fishing, it is all about picking my battles wisely. I don’t want to lose focus on any of those things.

'I guess that is what prep means to me, it is a calculated effort, and that’s the biggest buzz for me. I haven’t just chucked a pop up out into the pond, I’ve outwitted her off my little spot in the edge that I’ve built up and created'

Thanks Dan, mega. We’re off to bait up!


You can get hold of Dan's particles via his Instagram - drop him a DM, but be patient, he's a busy guy



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