Short Whip Fishing
Peter Jacobs with an in-depth look at short whip fishing. "Far from being a brainless method, fishing a short whip can be an exciting, fruitful and rewarding experience," says Peter
Short whip fishing was once described by a well known match angler as, "fishing with your brain taken out!" and for many years I too subscribed to that particular theory.
Then as an aspiring match angler I was quite amazed to see the dexterity, experience and rhythm that were required in order to master this unique and rewarding method.
Far from being a brainless method or indeed one for match anglers alone, fishing a short whip can be an exciting, fruitful and rewarding experience.
In both Europe and Scandinavia the short whip is widely used on both rivers and lakes in matches and pleasure sessions alike.
I was therefore a little surprised on returning to the UK after many years in Scandinavia to find that the short whip rarely featured in matches over here. Maybe this has something to do with the rise of commercial fisheries, but then again it is still an excellent river method, so I am unsure of any particular reason why this should be so.
Not Just a Match Method
When teaching youngsters to fish (regardless of age) I will invariably utilize this method if for no other reason than to get them catching fish as there is nothing more off-putting for kids than hours of boredom interspersed with a few moments of thrilling interlude.
Given that there is no reel to contend with, no casting per se, and typically being as close to an instant method as is possible, then I believe that there is no better method with which to begin a young angler's career.
This is not to say that it is only a beginner's method. In the years when I targeted carp from all over the UK (now that is an admission that I rarely make in public) I would always have a small selection of whips in my holdall for those long hours between runs. Many of the lakes I fished were well stocked with both roach and rudd, and during the middle of the day I would happily target these obliging fish often catching upwards of a hundred fish in very short periods.
As a match angler it was a method I often employed to boost what would otherwise have been a mid-section weight into a framing weight and I found that by regularly feeding the short whip line you could keep fish in that area for hours at a time.
Beware, whip fishing can become obsessive!
When the waggler line or the long pole line dried up then with very little effort I could usually add a few kilos to my weights at a time in the match when everything else was yielding little or nothing. In fact a good selection of short whips were constant companions ranging from 11/2 m to 5 or 6 meters in 1/2 meter interval sizes.
All of my short whips are Milo Alborella's and I can certainly recommend them, if you can still find them available.
So, what do you need to start out with?
Well, very little really, a whip of 4 meters will suffice to start with which, if you slide out the bottom section, will also double up as a 3 meter (or thereabouts) tool as well.
Simple rigs are the best for this method with the bulk of the shot at about ⅓ down the line with just one dropper shot right where the hook length and mainline join. I prefer ordinary shot to styl leads as styls will tangle easier than shot.
Floats should be short, wire stemmed with a thin bristle, after all, at about 4 meters even I can see a thin tip.
The main point is to have a balanced rig that will continue to work for you for long periods without having to keep stopping and fiddling with the rig.
A small landing net is essential because even though this method is primarily targeting small fish every now and then a bigger specimen will investigate what all the fuss is about. I have caught and landed Ide, Tench and Bream all over 4 pounds on a 4 meter whip, both in matches and in pleasure sessions.
As noted above I keep my short whip rigs really simple. I prefer barbless hooks in a match situation whereas for a pleasure session then I use a whisker barb. The reason for the barbless hook in a match is that it assists swift unhooking which means more time with your bait in the water. Given that you can get a rhythm going in a match and catch up to 5 or 6 fish a minute you do not want to waste time on the unhooking. That is not to say that care and consideration are the watchwords at all times!
I also keep my hooklength quite short at no more than three inches for a very short whip and up to five inches for say a six meter to hand set-up. Given that you want no more than one dropper shot then a longer hooklength would be counter productive.
Ready made rigs are a must
I weight my rigs so that the bulk will take the float down to the beginning of the tip and the dropper will sink the tip to about half its' length. As you will invariably get the fish feeding higher and higher in the water by constant feeding the dropper shot gives an excellent indication of on the drop bites. Sometimes it is simply a case of cast, count to five slowly, strike and swing in the fish with little or no indication on the float at all.
In keeping with many other styles the key to success is in the feeding. To start with be wary with both quantity and quality of the feed that is going in as you can easily feed-off even a shoal of small fish. Although once the fish are feeding confidently then an acorn-size nugget every drop in is actually enough but keep it going in every cast.
I prefer to use this little and often approach and my usual feed is quite a wet mix of either Sensas Surface or Sensas 3000 Ablettes. To the mix I will add a small quantity of pinkies rather than maggot but I will usually fish a big maggot on the hook. The reasons for this are two fold, firstly I can catch quite a few fish in the same maggot by making sure that it is threaded up the hook shank worm fishing style, and the second is that I want a slightly larger hookbait than feed bait as an attractant.
Feeding and Fishing Patterns
My experiences from match fishing taught me that you can very quickly exhaust even a relatively large shoal of small fish by continuing to fish and feed on the same line and I soon learned that by fishing alternately at the 10 o-clock, 12 o-clock and 2 o-clock positions and only taking 2 or 3 fish from each area you can make the line work for much longer.
It can also pay great dividends to have a spare whip set up at 1 to 11/2 meters longer than that which you are using. Every now and then give this longer whip a try and you might be surprised at the size of the bonus fish that were sitting just outside your line of feed cautiously looking on.
Rhythm Not Speed
I have noticed that short whip fishing has been referred to as 'speed fishing' in some articles in the angling press.
A Big Top to your Keepnet is a big advantage
When I first started on the short whip I had this idea in the back of my mind having read all I could find on the subject.
The result of many of my first attempts was dismal to say the least. The 'faster' I tried to fish this method the more problems I incurred. Horrid tangles that meant changing rigs, lots of missed bites and, worst still, lots of fish dropping off before the net.
The net result was one very frustrated angler indeed!
I knew the potential of this method and yet couldn't master it to save my life.
Fortunately for me a good friend and then captain of the Norwegian National Team, (Jon Anders Walle) showed me that the secret was rhythm rather than speed.
A simple rhythm of; cast, feed, strike, swing the fish to hand, unhook, check the maggot, re-cast and then slide the fish into the keepnet, then repeat the process and you can soon be catching at 4 or 5 fish per minute.
You will have noticed that in this process that you hang on to the fish until the recast has been made. I actually tried this on the stop watch and over even a short period it is amazing the amount of additional time you have with the bait in the water.
If you know the venue and the typical size of fish to be encountered in advance then make-up your rigs to length by using a weight equal to the expected target fish and trim the rig length to suit. (If not, then be sure to adjust on the day).
The ideal rig will be the same length as the whip when it has this weight of fish swinging in. This will ensure that the fish comes straight to hand and you don't have to grab for it either higher or lower than your natural sitting position.
In a match situation invaluable time can be saved by not putting the whip down to unhook the fish. It is a simple manoeuvre to keep hold of the whip between your middle, ring and little fingers thereby freeing-up your index finger and thumb to remove the hook. This is easily accomplished with a little practice but is easier to achieve if the rigs is made to the correct (natural) length.
(I have just realized that this is one of those weird things that is so much easier to 'do' than to try to describe in words).
Give it a Try
As I have said above, fishing the short whip is not only a match angler's method but one that can be used in many different situations and is really good for beginners and especially so for junior and younger anglers.
So, why not give it a try?
The next time you are at the lake or river and are not having much luck with your chosen target fish, or you are in that period when a lot of carp anglers would take to their bedchairs and read (or whatever they do these days instead) take a look around and see if you might not be able to enjoy this fun and rewarding method instead.
A word of warning to all aspiring match anglers though; never, ever, try to increase your catch by not taking sufficient time to carefully remove the hook. No amount of section or match prize money is worth an injury to any fish, even a small one!