Over the last two weeks of the season I had decided to target a big zander on the Lower River Severn. This is one of the best times to fish for zander on the river as you really need rising water temperatures to get them feeding well when it is cold.
The first week of my mini-campaign went slowly; I was bank fishing with deadbaits and only had a few knocks and no positive bites. The weather was pretty grim though, and the water temperature still very low, so I was happy just to be on the bank and learning a new stretch, even though I wasn’t catching.
Much better weather was forecast for the second week and the Midlands rivers suddenly came alive. Barbel and zander were being caught as the fish switched on and I knew this was the time when I had to drop everything and get on the river. As luck would have it, my mate and regular fishing partner Andy Black had a similar idea to me and wanted to get his boat on the river so we could cover some areas inaccessible from the bank.
The morning past quickly with us catching a few nice zander to about 7lb on legered deadbaits but it was noticeable that we were only getting one bite per swim. This would normally come within about 15 minutes and then nothing, so after lunch I suggested that we should have a couple of hours fishing lures instead to cover more fish.
We began lure fishing at about 2pm, because of the power of the river the electric outboard is on the front of Andy’s boat, so it was up to me to drive the boat slowly up and down the river holding the boat in position with the electric. I find that when the fish are in rather a dour mood you really need to slow everything down and fish as slowly as possible.
Because I was on the tiller I would be vertical fishing – my favourite style anyway, whilst Andy would cover more water by casting jigs. Again, because of the cold, I was using a tactic called ‘dead sticking’ this is basically just holding the lure in the current, and moving the rod tip no more than about 2 inches. It sounds weird to be fishing a lure almost static, but believe me, for big zander it can work much better than imparting more action in the lure; on the river the current moves the lure anyway.
After no more than 20 minutes of fishing I had a really solid hit on a 5-inch Berkley Finesse Ripple Shad, which has quickly become my no.1 bait for vertical fishing, and I bent into a really heavy fish. Andy actually thought I was snagged, except I knew from the positive bite that it was definitely a fish – and a good one at that!
I needed to get it away from some snags nearby, so gently guided the boat out into the centre of the river away from danger whilst trying to hold the fish below the boat. Once we were away from danger I increased the pressure and a dogged fight lasting several minutes commenced. I was using light but well balanced gear, so barring an unknown snag, it was just a case of patiently waiting for the fish to tire. At one stage we could see the fish below the boat and knew it was big, but how big, that was the question? Somehow I managed not to panic and just kept the pressure up.
Eventually she came to the surface and lay beaten in the current. Once again I guided the boat towards the fish and Andy scooped her up first time. The fish was almost as long as our big pike net, so we knew we had just landed something very special indeed!
The fish was hooked perfectly on the single jig hook in the corner of the lip and was soon unhooked and placed in the big weigh sling. Andy read out a weight of 19lb 2oz, and we measured her at 92cm, an enormous fish, and caught on my favourite vertical fishing too! This smashed my pb of 12lb 8oz caught from a Midlands Reservoir a couple of years back, I’ve had several 12’s but been stuck on this weight for about 15 years, not any more though!
After a few quick pictures the fish was released and swum off strongly, hopefully to one day grow into a record breaker!
Switching to Vertical fishing didn’t suddenly transform our day though, apart from a small jack that was it, as we seemed to have hit the end of the feeding spell for the day.
After a very, very long hard winter with very little to show for my pike fishing efforts it was great to finally get my reward. I just love it when a plan comes together!
ABU Veritas Medium 6′ 6″ rod
ABU Orra S reel
0.10mm Nanofil braid
Berkley Powerbait Finnesse Ripple Shad in ‘Granny’ colour