Monster ‘slabs’

Big water bream

Lars Christensen reveals how he caught lots of double-figure bream to 14lb 10oz

Words and photography Lars Christensen

On the large natural still waters where I typically target bream, the fish are unpredictable at the best of times. There’s often a thin line between success and blanking. Often it’s blank after blank and then suddenly the fish seems to almost willingly crawl up the line. Around the end of April is normally when I start fishing for bream depending on how cold a winter and spring it has been. I’ve had my best results in the middle of May often after a baiting campaign, and May is of course the time to target the specimens at their heaviest. 

In recent years I’ve been targeting a large lake without many significant features. In other words there aren’t many obvious areas, and the fish turn up in pretty much all parts of the lake. Doing a baiting campaign in a likely looking area is of course to create a feature, however this has not always worked on this particular venue, as so many factors are affecting the fish’s behaviour. On any lake of a considerable size you will be competing with the natural food sources and the slight changes in the environment pushing the fish in other directions. One spring I decided to fish the chosen swim after a longer period of prebaiting. It worked well with bream landed on each session, though the size of the fish varied a lot. As it’s often the case, quite a few tench and the odd carp also decided to participate. Two sessions stand out as they saw me land 15 bream including a string of doubles with the best going 14lb 2oz and 14lb 11oz.

As I fished at distance at a considerable depth of water, I opted to use either large method feeders or bolt rigs with PVA bags and 8mm pop ups or grains of balanced artificial corn as hook bait. For some reason most of the bream seemed to prefer the artificial corn fished in conjunction with the method feeder. I fished short hook links consisting of 12lb coated braid with size ten wide gapes or curve shanks.

After losing some fish on the wide gapes, I switched to curve shanks to present the balanced baits which really seemed to make a difference. After the change almost every take would result in a landed fish, even though some of the bream takes were fiddly as is often the case. I used fish meal method mix in the feeder and regularly spombed a mixture of hemp, pellet, corn and groundbait with a generous addition of a smelly liquid to my chosen area.

As I assume the fish were getting used to find food in the area because of the prebaiting, I decided upon a tactic which was all about getting as much smell and taste in the water column as possible without to many food items to fill them up. This worked well and quite often I would get a take while I was spombing. Sometimes the fish responded to the bait so fast the rod sometimes went in my hands seconds after I felt the feeder down.

The spring of the following year the decision was clear: I was going to apply the same tactics as the previous year. I prebaited the same area and fished the swim consistently, however without any results to speak of. I did land the odd 5 lb’er in the beginning of the season, but after many blanks which saw me stubbornly stick to my prebaited swim, I decided to try something else. I went around the lake and found a nice looking area with a mild wind pushing into it and immediately felt right about the swim. The swim was quite deep and after seeing bubbles closer to the bank my gut instinct was to fish a lot closer in than I normally would on the venue. After leading around for a short while, I settled on a spot only five rod lengths out. I cast my feeders to the area and gave it five spombs of my chosen mix. After 20 minutes I started to receive liners and after less than an hour I had an aborted take. I knew I only had a couple of hours of fishing left due to family commitments but decided to stick at it, as I continued to receive liners. I was just about to reel in the first rod when my right hand rod received a steady take. The fish felt heavy, and as it didn’t fight to hard I had the idea it was a bream. When it surfaced I realized it was a better fish and with my heart in my throat I gently guided it to my landing net. The scales went 14lb 10oz, and a series of blanks had finally come to an end. I was really surprised to receive action this quick in a new area after all the blanks, especially considering the vastness of the venue, but it just goes to show that a couple of hours in the right place is all it takes.

The bream fights aren’t always the most intense, and to be honest some of the bigger specimens I’ve landed fought pretty much like a plastic shopping bag filled with water. There is however something truly magical about bream, when they reach a certain size. As it’s the case with most fish, their size can be pretty hard to make out, when you see the fish surfacing and entering the landing net, and sometimes the weight of the fish when lifted to the mat can be quite surprising. The unpredictable nature of the bream and the challenging waters they often reside in make them such a worthy opponent. I certainly look forward to the challenge of coming face to face with these magnificent creatures every year.