Our initial description of striking may seem somewhat simplified (of course), but if it was that easy and instinctive, why do many of us miss too many bites when fishing? Why do we prick and bump fish? We'll simply never know just how many fish we've lost, or spooked, from our swims by striking incorrectly? Our base instinct tells us that when the float goes under we should strike, but try that when perch or worm fishing for catfish and it's more likely you'll miss 4 out of every 5 bites! Striking should be more than pure instinct. Nevertheless, while it is a seemingly easy procedure, it still requires plenty of practise to actually get right. Unlike a waggler, it's not just a simple matter of flinging the pole to the side, or up in the air. A waggler fished at distance requires power, rather than finesse...the opposite applies when using a pole!

In order to do justice to a subject, which has proved immense, I have divided it into two parts. Part 1 looks at the actual mechanics of striking in several ways, while defining the advantages and limits of each style. The following Part 2 will deal with the timing of the strike...depending on the type of bite and specific fish being targeted.

Our Panel:
Once again we've called on the services of several top anglers to give their thoughts and views on this topic. Leading the article are perhaps two of the most experienced match anglers in the world...Diego da Silva and Steve Gardener. Whilst I've discussed with both men, in depth, their views on how to strike and read bites, I've also added other high-profile angler to our panel of experts, namely Alain Dewimille. A Team France stalwart, with a wealth of knowledge, who's eager to throw it into the melting pot of opinions contained within this feature.

The Mechanics of Striking
In this first part of this article I looked at how top anglers strike. It seemed to me that in modern angling there were three distinct types of strike motions:

  • The Power Strike: Striking with the pole between your legs and resting on a support/spray bar
  • The Classic Strike: Placing the pole across the knee and supported under the elbow, then striking upwards
  • The Lift Strike: A more controlled version of the Classic Strike, which involves simply raising your knee/heel to strike.

All three have their part to play, but I wanted to explore, in some detail, how to accomplish each strike perfectly, and more importantly, which style to choose under different circumstances.

The Power Strike... a modern phenomena?
By Power Strike (PS), I mean placing the pole between your crutch and resting it on a spray bar, before lifting the butt of the pole with two hands to raise the pole tip and strike. Look at some of the pictures from the 2009 World Championships in Holland and you could be forgiven for thinking this was now the standard position adopted by all of Europe’s top anglers... NOT SO!

I spent a great deal of time researching the many photo files from past international championships on Matchangler.com. Our website has massive photo libraries from World and European Championships, going back a decade. In Paris 2001, there were hardly any spray bars to be seen. In 2003 some of the top English anglers, like Alan Scotthorne, started to use a single U-shaped rest in font of their boxes. But I was amazed to notice anglers, such as Diego, the Hungarians and England’s Stevie Gardener, fishing big lollipops with their poles resting on their knees and supported under their elbows! Move forward to Holland in 2009 and these library files clearly showed many teams practising with their poles in the PS position. If the pole cup was a revolution during the first half of the millenium, then in my opinion fishing with a pole and spray bar became a 'silent' revolution during the second part of it!
France typified the change in attitude to the Power Strike during the 2009 World Champs in Holland. Here, two of the team, including Didier Delannoy (foreground), sit with poles resting on their spray bars, while Diego da Silva and Alain Dewimille (background), stick with the more Classic approach.France typified the change in attitude to the Power Strike during the 2009 World Champs in Holland. Here, two of the team, including Didier Delannoy (foreground), sit with poles resting on their spray bars, while Diego da Silva and Alain Dewimille (background), stick with the more Classic approach.So how did the PS come about?
Several key factors seemed to have helped facilitate this way of positioning the pole, ready to strike. Cupping has also been important, when used in conjunction with a spray bar, to fish and feed in an ultra-precise way. We have seen improvements in seat box design, for which certain manufacturers, like Rive and Milo, have to take much of the credit. The two main improvements have been better seats with well designed pole holding straps, making it easier to slide the pole in and out when fishing. The second was the introduction of quality spray bars, which were quick to adjust and designed with no sharp edges that could damage a pole. But then there are the poles themselves. Poles produced in the last decade have become considerably stiffer than the ones we used before. This is true across the whole price range, in fact a mid-price pole today would feel much stiffer than some of the top poles we had at the turn of the millenium! Stiffer poles have certainly made the PS much less floppy than it used to be.

How to set up for a PS
Both Diego and Steve showed me how they set up for a PS but, as is always the case, each had a different yet equally logical system of doing it.

Diego’s approach
The first thing Diego pointed out was that he does not like the pole strap that holds the butt of the pole in place! This is because he doesn't like having to push the pole forward to remove it from the strap...he sees it as an extra movement which gets in the way of controlling a hooked fish! His seat box is a Rive and currently lays the pole butt on top of the strap – essentially pressing the strap flat – and secures the position of his pole by wedging it against his crotch. Now when Diego strikes, he can lift the pole almost straight up and onto his knees, or straight back if the fish is smaller, without having to 'unplug' the pole from the seat box strap!

The only time Diego uses his seat's pole strap is when he balls-in!The only time Diego uses his seat's pole strap is when he balls-in!Diego then showed me his neat idea to avoid damaging the end of his pole sections. He uses some 13 and 14.5 metre sections from an old Garbolino pole and cut them down to make short dolly butts. These ensured that he wouldn't actually put any weight on the butt section of his current pole, but rather on the short dolly butt, thereby avoiding the risk of cracking any of his main sections.

If you are going to put a lot of pressure and weight on the butt section when striking, then you need to protect it with some sort of strengthening and a mini-butt extension is ideal. From a continental pole limit perspective, you would need to adjust either your butt length, or the top section lengths, to remain legal!

I asked Diego why he didn't simply cut the pole strap off his box! He pointed out that fishing with the pole using a spray bar and seat strap was all about total precision when targetting better fish. In order to achieve that precision, he needed a strap to secure his pole while ground-baiting, which allowed him to aim at the exact point he was planning to fish. I think what Diego really needs is a manufacturer to develop a pole retaining strap that is attached with strong Velcro, or something like this, so that it can be removed when necessary.

Diego's hands are initially clasped around the pole butt similar to that of a golfers grip. He can then slide his left hand towards the spray bar to support the pole in his striking action.Diego's hands are initially clasped around the pole butt similar to that of a golfers grip. He can then slide his left hand towards the spray bar to support the pole in his striking action. When holding the pole butt steady on the spray bar, most anglers clasp both hands around the butt, ready to lift into the strike. Diego will clasp the pole this way, only if it is extremely windy. In normal conditions he prefers to hold the butt section with a grip similiar to that used on a golf club. He feels that by adopting this grip, it gives him a cleaner, more controlled approach to the strike, than it would with both hands clasped together around the pole. Once he lifts the pole to strike, his left hand moves forward to support the pole as he removes it from between his legs and begins to ship it back (hopefully with a fish on the end!).

Steve's approach
Steve approaches the PS differently and, unlike Diego, he actually uses the pole strap to hold the butt section of his pole. However, to help guide the butt into the pole strap Steve has a selection of skid bungs that fit his 11.5, 13.00 and 14.5 metre pole sections (pole limits are not a problem in the UK). These skid bungs have a rather phallic shape, but they certainly make pushing the pole snugly in and out of the pole strap very easy and safe!

It's worth pointing out that the ones Steve uses are the older-style Drennan Polemaster skid bungs, as these just happen to fit, exactly, the diameter of his Milo butt section. They are easier to use than the more modern ones, which are adjusted to fit different sections by screwing down a rubberised wedge into the end of each pole section. These modern bungs do not sit straight under the pole strap, because they are fatter than the diameter of the pole, so get pushed round and hang off the end at an angle, especially when fishing at 11.5 metres. However, I'm not sure how easily available these older style bungs are, as a quick search on Google revealed only one e-bay seller with two different diameters available! The alternative would be to modify a couple of adjustable bungs with some sandpaper, so that they are the same diameter as your 11.5 and 13 metre sections. Once the bung sits flush with the end of your pole then it will not get pushed to the side as you slide it under the strap. It is well worth doing as the pole becomes much easier, both to locate and slide out of the rest, with some form of skid bung in the end!
Steve adopts a different style when it comes to spray bars. His Milo box is fitted with an adjustable sliding pole support which locks when the poles' weight is placed on it. As this is closer to Steve than Diego's ribbed bar, Stev tends to lock his hands together around the pole more.Steve adopts a different style when it comes to spray bars. His Milo box is fitted with an adjustable sliding pole support which locks when the poles' weight is placed on it. As this is closer to Steve than Diego's ribbed bar, Stev tends to lock his hands together around the pole more.
Another difference is the spray bar Steve uses on his main Milo box in the UK, which is a distinctive flat sliding pole rest. This neoprene coated pole support, sits on Teflon rollers and slides across a bar, but locks once the weight of your pole is placed on it. Steve insists that fishing with the pole between you legs is all about getting total stability and accuracy in feeding. When Steve uses a spray bar, it's always for bigger fish, especially on stillwaters, when he's usually feeding with a pole cup for one or two big fish at a time. He slides the pole butt into the pole seat and lowers the pole onto his pole rest, exactly as he would for fishing, before tipping the cup over. How many of us feed with the pole under our elbow or wedged in our crutch rather than taking those extra couple of seconds to push the pole into the pole rest on your seat? If we are then going to wait 5 minutes for a bite, it makes sense to ensure that we have fed the exact spot that we are fishing, rather than in close proximity!
Steve's adjustable pole-cupping kit can be marked exactly to the centimetre for accurate cupping while in the Power Strike position.Steve's adjustable pole-cupping kit can be marked exactly to the centimetre for accurate cupping while in the Power Strike position.This attention to detail goes further with Steve as he uses an adjustable cupping kit, which are made by both Garbolino and Milo. As all his top kits are cut to the same length, Steve can mark his cupping kit section to their exact length to save time each session and also use it to re-adjust his cupping kit in certain circumstances, explaining “when fishing in a wind, or drift, which is pushing the float back you, many anglers forget to adjust the position of the feeding spot, to cope with what the float is doing. In these conditions I use the mark I made, to shorten the cupping kit by about half the length of line I have from the pole tip, so that the feed will still end up exactly where the float eventually settles. Therefore, if I am fishing with 40cm of line between float and pole tip, I will shorten the cupping kit by about 20cm to retain total accuracy”.

Those of you who may have been fortunate watch Steve during International Championships will notice that he uses a different box and spray bar set up. That is because Team England is sponsored by Drennan, therefore he uses the Team England boxes along with a Rive style ribbed spray bar. On all other non-international events, he fishes with his sponsors set up described above. Finally, in terms of his hand grip for a PS, Steve uses the classic double-handed clasp position and holds the pole close to the actual spray rest itself.

The Classic Strike
The Classic Strike (CS) requires that the pole be supported along the length of your knee and held steady by the forearm and elbow. Striking is done by a clean upward movement, either guided by the other hand placed under the pole in front of your knee, or simply by using your forearm to lift the pole upwards.
Both right anf left hand anglers with a similar Classic Strike position.Both right anf left hand anglers with a similar Classic Strike position.
Evolution of the Classic Strike
Back in the 1970’s, no angler struck with a pole the way we do today. Kevin Ashurst had arguably become the greatest pole angler in the world, yet he, like all the other anglers of the time, fished with the pole more across the leg than along it. Both hands were quite far apart and you struck by pivoting the pole across your knee. It is actually quite funny looking back at these old fishing books and seeing how clumsy and awkward anglers looked holding poles, compared to today, but I remember fishing with some of these anglers and thinking we were the cutting edge of modern angling!

As poles became lighter and stiffer, anglers started to fish with it along the knee, rather than across it, which gave a crisper and more controlled strike. Even looking back 10 years ago, you will notice that the butt of the pole was often sticking a little out behind the elbow, again, this was to slightly counterbalance the weight and sloppiness in some of the poles being used. The more senior anglers amongst us will remember certain poles counter-balancing systems being hailed as revolutionary! Even some younger anglers will recall memories of fishing with poles in breezy conditions and having half the butt section under their arms, trying and cope with the wind!

The progress that's been made so far, is not been so much in weight terms, but in stiffness. In fact I would go so far as to say that today's top-of-the-range poles are a fraction heavier than they were 4 or 5 years ago, but are much stiffer and better balanced in comparison. There is no doubt that modern pole design has made the CS easier than ever before. The position today for efficient striking is to have the pole placed with the end of the butt against your elbow and the pole resting along your knee. Whether you choose to guide the pole with your spare hand, or not, depends largely on the wind and distance you are fishing at. Classic striking at 5 or 6 metres can easily be done just by lifting your forearm. But fishing at 13 metres, in a breeze, will definitely require the use your spare hand on the front of the pole, to help stabilise the rig and guide the strike.

Modern pole fishing does not need the same force applied to the strike as poles of a decade ago. Those days of fishing canals and lakes with over a metre of line to the float and striking hard on every bite have almost disappeared. Now, match anglers use lengths of line less than a metre to the float. Alain Dewimille, for example, expects in decent conditions to fish with about 50cm of line on deeper canals and lakes, and 80cm on shallower venues. This avoids tangling and reduces the risk of bringing fish to quickly to the surface once hooked. It's much more time-efficient to strike less forceful, as you can lay the rig back in the water much quicker if you miss a bite. Another reason anglers used to strike so hard in the past, was to compensate for the softer action and bounce of the poles available then. Clean and crisp, rather than hard and excessive, are the principal that should describe classic striking today!

The Panels Opinion:
Alain also supports the pole in his stomach while feeding top-up balls.Alain also supports the pole in his stomach while feeding top-up balls.Most, if not all of our top anglers agree on the mechanics of this form of striking. The Classic Strike generally suits the regular catches of small to mid-sized fish and one of the best anglers in the world at this application is Alain Dewimille. Having watched Alain many times during various aspects of fishing, I've noticed how he swaps between holding the pole under his forearm, when waiting for a bite, to supporting it in his crotch (simply held by his left hand, without a spray bar), especially when standing to feed a top-up ball. Even then, he can still strike while the the feed ball's in mid-air! Once he's fed, he'll often sit back down with the pole still in his crotch, waiting for any instant bite, before moving the pole back onto his knee if things become slow.

Another point generally agreed on by top anglers, is that when Classic striking you should always lift the pole upwards. Although many wonder if you shouldn't attempt to place the strike to one side or the other, depending on the wind or if fish take the bait on the drop! Well, the best advice from all our top anglers is don’t over complicate matters. Work on controlling your strike and hitting bites at the right time. Inspect your elastics and make sure they are lubricated and tensioned correctly but strike upwards.

Finally, check the hooks you are using. Size, weight and sharpness are all critical factors when it comes to hitting bites correctly – any one of these factors could cause striking problems but, once again, strike upwards! The point I am trying to make is that when we experience problems striking, the issue is often related not to the actual mechanics of the strike itself – that is to say its direction, or even force used – but other factors such as timing, elastics or hooks. You're feeding approach especially, can become a constant problem when it comes to connecting with a fish! Start looking at the basics first, before worrying if you are striking correctly.

The moment you start attempting to strike sideways, you run a far greater risk of damaging your pole. For example, if the pole tip touches the surface of the water on a sideways strike, then you stand a good chance of breaking the tip under the waters' pressure. Furthermore, we all fish using a vast array of attachments and equipment around us, which effectively creates an assault course for the pole to overcome. If you start striking in all sorts of directions, you create an opportunity to damage or break an expensive pole! So remember... strike upwards!

The Lift Strike
This is a relatively modern form of striking, originally developed within the UK's commercial fishery circuit, but it's fast finding favour amongst many anglers throughout Europe. The idea is simple. Ask yourself this simple question: how far do you have to move your pole tip to actually set a hook in a fish’s mouth? The answer is not as far as you may think!

If a fish has a bait in its mouth correctly and you want to set the hook, then you only need to move it a few centimetres with the pole tip to achieve this. Try this simple test with a sharp hook and your finger (if you are feeling very brave... or stupid!). Hold a hook under your finger and pull it up a couple of millimetres! Ouch, get the picture! You really don’t need to move a hook very far to actually set it in a fishes mouth.

The Lift Strike (LS) works on this basic principle, that you strike to only set the hook... not to move the fish, as with the Classic or Power Strike. For instance, if you watch anglers striking classically, you'll notice that while they strike crisply to set the hook they also, within the same action, start moving the fish towards them. The LS aims purely to set the hook. Once set, the way you play the fish will depend on its size and your rig, the strike itself is designed to move the float and hook just enough to set the hook properly, that's all!

The LS can take a bit of practise to get it working right. Here's some guidance on how to achieve this:

  • Place the pole butt against your elbow, as you would for the CS, with the pole securely supported along the knee and under the forearm
  • Use your spare hand to steady the pole if needed
  • When you get a bite, strike by raising your heel off the ground which in turn lifts your knee and pole. This gives a very solid and controlled strike and proves, astonishingly, just how much lifting your heel 5 or 6 centimetres raises the pole tip – approximately 40cm or so – more than enough to set any hook!

The heel of Steve's right foot gradually lifts to help raise the pole during striking.The heel of Steve's right foot gradually lifts to help raise the pole during striking.
With the LS, the hardest thing to get right is avoiding lifting the pole with your arm, let your foot power the strike. It takes some effort at the beginning to get it right, so don't worry about the odd risk of tangling if you 'snatch' a few strikes! I also think the LS suits a slightly crouched position, with your body leaning forward.

One final thought about shipping in smaller fish from a LS. People like Steve Gardener and Didier Delannoy have perfected how to do this in a fast and controlled way. As they lift on the strike, they gauge the size of the fish on the elastic. If it is small enough to be brought in quickly, they simply turn the pole to about the 11 o’clock position and start shipping it back. When you watch someone striking with the Classic style, against a LS, it actually seems to be faster. As they lift the pole tip fairly high on the strike, the switch to shipping back comes straight off the top of this lift. The whole procedure looks fast and impressive when done well. With the LS, there is a definite change in tempo from its gentle strike to a quicker ship back. Although this may not look as fast, when you closely watch how little the pole moves, it's clear just how efficient and speedy the operation is.

The Lift Strike has developed over the last decade as a response to several changes:

  1. The growth of commercial fisheries with various fish sizes. Anglers were confronted by situations where they could be catching roach and small skimmers, followed by a carp or big tench. What anglers noticed was that if they struck with a Classic Strike on these bigger fish, they would shoot off much harder, thereby taking longer to bring to the net. With the LS, and a relatively soft elastic, it was possible to gently 'guide' a big fish out of your swim. This caused less disturbance around the feed area and actually proved much faster at landing the fish. The LS, coupled with softer latex or hollow elastics, can sometimes allow you to 'hit' big fish without them realising that they've been hooked which in turn gives you the opportunity to 'play' the fish in a calmer manner, compared to say the Classic or Power Strike's.
  2. Another factor benefitting the LS was the growth in pellet fishing. In order to get the best from pellet hookbaits, they need to be soft. Many anglers across the UK now use expander pellets, almost exclusively, because they are soft and perfectly balanced in water. However, soft pellets are fragile and what anglers found was that if they missed a bite striking classically, the pellet would always come off the hook. The LS had partly been developed as a response to this situation...either a fish would be on or not! Even if a bite indication was caused by a liner, you could still drop the bait straight back down again after striking, confident the pellet was still on the hook. Many top anglers, like Didier, have now adopted this approach for bloodworm and maggot fishing for precisely the same reason. Miss a bite with a Classic Strike, and you have to lay the whole rig in the water again to get it falling and sitting right. LS on a missed bite and the rig can be just lowered back into place without laying the rig again because you have not moved the rig very far in the first place!
  3. Finally, there has been a growth in stocking levels of crucian and hybrid F1 types species across Europe and, in particular, the UK. These fish are notorious for not moving the float when they pick a bait up. Didier talks about his experiences fishing for F1’s in England, where the only way to see if you have a fish on is to lift and drop the float regularly. Perhaps on every third or fourth lift, the elastic will come out and a fish is on – and these could be a kilo or so! This action is a form of 'blind' striking. Carassio, carassins – these are all variations of the same fish and present the same problems throughout Europe. Using the LS offers the best opportunity to convert any tiny movement, or indication, into a hooked fish without constantly having to wait while the whole rig is reset in the water.

The Panels Opinion:
The Lift Strike is, of course, much more than just a simple strike. It affects fundamentally many aspects of your fishing, but most importantly the length of line between pole tip and float. You cannot apply a LS if you are fishing with a metre of line to your float! Didier likes to fish with as short a line as he can get away with, and is convinced that the extra control and precision this brings, helps him hit more bites. As a consequence had adopted it when fishing static or slow moving waters. Steve Gardener is also fan of using short lines but points out that many anglers in the UK have taken short lines a step too far. He does not agree with fishing 15 or even 10cm lengths, it's much too short because if any ripple or breeze blows up, you loose control and presentation. In calm conditions, he'll normally use about 30cm, if conditions become rougher, he'll extend to 40 or 45cm, even then he'll still be able to apply the LS successfully. Obviously in extreme windy conditions these lengths would simply become impossible. Nevertheless, this gives you some idea of what we mean by short lines.

So what method of striking should I adopt?
Today's anglers should be able to master all three types of striking. The main question is WHEN to use each striking style. What I want to do now is to explore the strengths and weaknesses of each style and give some indication as to when they should and shouldn’t be used.

The Power Strike
All our panel agree that there is a definite place for the PS using a spray bar. Blocking, or holding a float still, would be a good example of where the PS position can reduce vibration to keep the rig stable enough to be properly effective. Then we have the specific case of targeting big fish, carp or bream, where you are feeding for one or two of these at a time. Steve explained that this was how England fished their big bream line in Holland during the 2009 World Champs. If they dropped the float in and got an indication or bite straight away, then it was no good, as it meant small fish were on the area and they were never going to catch a bream small fish meant no bream, basically!) If, on the other hand, you dropped the float in and it just sat there, you could mentally rub your hands with joy because it meant that big fish where around. Once that happened, it was just a case of waiting and holding your nerve till the float buried properly. Unfortunately for England, but happily for France, this plan worked well on the Saturday but on Sunday the small fish moved out and dominated the 13 metre line, with less bream seeming willing to move in on the feed. The rest is history, as they say!

If we move away from the two specific applications of the PS – flat float fishing and catching bigger fish – opinions begin to disagree on the advantages. Alain, for example, will only use a spray bar when general bream fishing, because he likes the stability and lack of vibration you get on the rig. Didier, on the other hand, does not enjoy fishing with a pole between his legs, if he can avoid it, and all our top anglers would never consider using spray bars and the PS for general roach and canal fishing. Therefore this raises the question... 'if top anglers only fish with the pole between their legs in very specific circumstance, then why is it now quite common to see vast numbers of anglers using with spray bars and resting poles and rods in their crotch during many different types of matches?'

I think it's about time we dealt with a few myths and misconceptions about the benefits of the PS position:
Feeding with a catapult becomes more effective when adopting the CS positionFeeding with a catapult becomes more effective when adopting the CS position

It's easier to loose-feed with the pole resting on a spray bar
Sounds logically correct. With both hands free, surely it's easier to maintain a regular feeding rate than if you were fishing holding the pole? NO, this is actually a MYTH. Many anglers find that the ideal time to feed is while the float settles. Now, when using the PS method, the usual time it takes a float to settle is generally spent getting the pole onto the rest and secured between your legs. By the time you are ready to feed the float is already settled into position, therefore as you reach for the catapult to feed, you tend to get a bite... so you drop the caty and miss the bite!!! This situation quickly 'screws-up' your rhythm and loose-feeding becomes ineffective. It was Diego who pointed out that if fish respond to regular loose-feeding, then it is much easier and productive, to feed holding the pole and it's the only way to guarantee that you kept a regular supply of feed going in!
You get more control on the strike with a PS
This is an absolute MYTH, and this time you don't need a world class angler to tell you so. During our feature work for InfoPeche, it is normal for Vincent (the cameraman) and myself to go for a walk to the opposite bank of the venue, if we can. Here, we can take pictures 'head-on', but more important, we observe a different view of what is happening. Having sat opposite and watched Diego and Gilles Caudin strike in different ways, while fishing for roach on a French canal, I was amazed, and astonished just how different the Classic Strike looks, when compared against a PS head on. The first obvious thing noticed was that the PS was slower, because it required more momentum to lift the pole from 'dead-still'. The second thing was just how much higher the pole travelled during the striking movement. Not only did the action look much slower and less controlled, but it also seemed to exert more uplift than was actually necessary to hook a fish! This did surprise me. Next time you have a chance to get onto the opposite bank when a match is going on, watch an angler during a PS and you will see what I mean!
You can explore a swim in a more controlled way

MYTH, Diego was keen to point out just how wrong using the PS is when it comes to catching and locating fish in a canal. “The problem is that you can only ever work the swim along a straight line” explained Diego. With the pole under your elbow it is much easier to explore all areas of the swim... beyond the feed, closer in, left and right etc. On a canal, fish are not always right on top of where you have fed, because lock or boat movement can distribute feed all over the area”.
This is the corrected illustration!This is the corrected illustration!
You can fish further out with the PS

Well almost a MYTH, but in reality I think this maybe one of the bigger attractions of using the PS. You believe you are fishing further out, because the pole is in front of you. However, do not confuse pushing the pole out in front of you with where the butt of your pole actually ends up – in the pole grove on your seat box! The next time you sit with your pole positioned notmally for a Classic or Lift Strike, look at how far back the butt is, compared to its position in the grove on your box. If there is 20cm difference, that will be all, it may even be less. How many of us lose 10 or 15cm off a poles maximum length when cutting kits back, assuming they start at a true 11.5 or 13 metres in the first place! There is a slight distance gain in fishing with the pole between your legs, but it is much smaller than most anglers probably imagine! However, the option of controlling where you fish is more versatile with the Classic position, as this enables you to sit with an extra section behind you, thereby making the process of extending the pole much more immediate and convenient.

Undoubtadly, the PS has a part to play in today's modern arena, but I wonder just how many of us adopt the PS position without truly understand the mechanics and reasonings behind its use? No one disputes that you achieve greater stability when it comes to 'nailing' a bait on the bottom, but stability alone is not always what's needed. It's certainly not so good for hitting bites from smaller fish, or when it comes to feeding regularly. I wonder if we just find it more convenient to use a rest and wedge the pole between our legs? Could it be that the real motive may be laziness? I don’t know. Perhaps it's simply that we have not taken the time to fully understand and appreciate this modern phenomena!

The Classic Strike
It's probably the number one striking action for all anglers fishing rivers. I would say that even here, anglers are using shorter lines and striking less hard than they did a decade ago, but on any running water the controlled CS should be a must for all anglers. However, today it is on canals and lakes that anglers fish more often and thereby have more choice in how they strike with the pole. I mentioned earlier that this action was best suited to catching small to mid-sized fish regularly.That remains good advice, but this does not mean that the CS is not complex, or even controversial. It's amazing that when you ask experienced anglers the same question on any angling subject, just how differently their personal perception of it varies...for instance:

How do fish respond when you strike through them?
I asked Alain what was the biggest advantage of the CS. “If you lose a fish after the strike it will not be over the rest of the shoal, as they will have been moved away by the strike's disturbance”. Alain has a valid point, but what actually does this mean, in terms of a shoal's behaviour as you strike through them? If you are only moving a hooked fish, say by 40 or 50 centimetres, would this have any effect on the rest of a feeding shoal? It cannot look natural, that's for sure. But my real question here is, does moving fish when striking unsettle a shoal and explain, to some extent, why we sometimes go through periods of fishing without bites?
Having given up trying to shoot a bite in action, it proved more successful photograhing the strike process. It showed just how much travel the float achieves, from the initial strike, through to the actual 'playing' action a few fractions of a second later. This in turn indicates just how far a fish would have come away from it's surrounding shoal.Having given up trying to shoot a bite in action, it proved more successful photograhing the strike process. It showed just how much travel the float achieves, from the initial strike, through to the actual 'playing' action a few fractions of a second later. This in turn indicates just how far a fish would have come away from it's surrounding shoal.Having spent some time trying to photograph Steve Gardener’s float, during the bite process, but gave it up as the fish were taking the float under much too quickly for me and all I managed to photograph was empty water!!! He thought what I was trying to do was rather unusual and looked at me surprisingly when I moaned about his float continually disappearing on bites! I then decided to photograph the float on the strike, which proved a little easier. Steve was using 0.8mm elastics and catching fish in the 60 to 150 gram range. What was fascinating was just how far Steve’s float came out of the water when striking these fish. Logic dictates that if you can lift the float 30cm or more on the strike, then the fish has definitely not stayed still on the bottom!

The question is, does it really matter?

Well we all know just how disruptive it can be if we bring fish too quickly to the surface in shallow water...it can quickly unsettle a shoal. But if hooking fish in a 1 metre deep canal then lifting them towards the surface spooks a shoal, what could be the effect in a 3 metre deep canal, when you do the same? Although we do not see it, can we be certain it would have the same sort of effect?

There have been many articles in the English angling press this winter about fishing during cold conditions. One of the most interesting was by Will Raison, when he described his approach to feeding during very cold competitions. He explained he liked to feed ALL his bait at the beginning of the match, usually double-leamed, then go for a walk and a cup of tea for a couple of hours. These are 5 hour matches of course, but his point was that he didn't want to be striking on the first fish that came over his feed, believing that this was a sure way to spook any other fish around. He would therefore rather wait a couple of hours to let the fish settle properly, before starting to take any out of the shoal. This makes perfect sense and gets you wondering about what the fish must think when we start striking and moving them from the shoal too early. OK, it's England and our matches are 5 hours long, so he can do this, but I wanted to get across was the principle... rather than suggest that anglers should walk about for the first 2 hours of a 3 hour continental match!

What about spooking fish?
Alain Dewimille seemed to analyse it clearly enough. “The more fish you have feeding in your swim, the more secure they will feel and the less likely moving them will matter!” However, we need to think about it logically. How many times have we started getting a few bites only for them to unexpectedly dry up? What could have happened? Could it be that there were only those few fish there anyway? It's possible, but very unlikely. Much more likely is that they were initially there and have then been spooked by something like a perch or pike, OR, it could be seeing other fish moving in an unnatural and erratic way because they have been hooked and dragged through their shoal violently! Do we really understand how much disturbance is actually being created as we pull line, shot and fish, 'up-through-and-over' a shoal? Diego believes this disturbance can be a bit misleading, when you compare smaller fish to their larger brothers. Steve, on the other hand, thinks that this may happen more often than we realise and accepts it's one of angling's great imponderables. However, Steve fishes more densely stocked mixed-fisheries, where big fish often compete directly with smaller ones in a more sociable manner. Diego, on the other hand, fishes more natural venues where smaller fish will often be pushed out of the swim if big fish move in. It's nevertheless worth thinking about!

The Lift Strike
The LS is essentially best suited to short line fishing and feeding with a cup. This is because the whole style revolves around accurate feeding, in order to concentrate fish into a tighter zone, whilst allowing you more control in maintaining a baits position. The LS may have been developed for the UK's commercial fisheries , but it's actually a very efficient way to put together good weights of small fish too. The reason is the speed with which you can get your rig back in the water once you have missed a bite. Diego mentioned that during the World Champs in Holland, he was putting together good weights of small fish by lifting the pole at every tiny movement of his float. This entailed missing a few bites, but by controlling the strike and only lifting on each little knock, he was able to just drop the rig straight back down into the feeding zone, so missing some bites didn't cost him too much time. Had he struck with the CS, he would have lost much more time as he resettled the rig back into position. We will explore bites and what they mean more in Part 2, proving that the LS is a very effective way to fish for small, as well as larger fish.

I've already mentioned how effective the LS is at hooking big fish, without causing them to shoot-off through the swim. It's also the best way to strike when fishing very shallow with a short line. But it's not, of course, the answer to every angler’s problem and you should consider these points beforehand:

  • Cupping feed into a very tight zone is not always the best way to feed. This may seem like an out-of-place comment, coming from a UK angling writer, but for some fish – skimmers in particular – feeding over a wider zone and giving fish more space could actually help you keep bites coming longer. Using a short line is generally not best-suited to regular feeding, especially by catapult, because they can become easily to tangled round the pole tip once you start bouncing it around during feeding.
  • Even when cupping into a tight area, the fish may not always be sitting right on the feed. One of the disadvantages of the LS's short-line, is that it restricts you exploring more of your swim. Diego told me of a match he lost where he fed through a cup and fished a short line over the top. Things should have been perfect, had the fish not backed off the feed! It took him sometime to actually find where they were, but once he did he started to catch again, only enough to come second though. He is in no doubt that had he fished with a longer line, he would have been able to explore more of the swim and find the fish much quicker.
  • Cupping in accurately does not necessarily mean you will know where your feed actually ends up on the bottom! This, in a way, is linked to another of Diego’s experience, but it's worth mentioning that when cupping in loose-feed particles, like chopped worms, casters, maggots or even pellets, there's a chance that they may drift through the water on the way down, if it's windy or there's an undertow. Trying to find where this feed ends up, using with a short line, can prove extremely difficult. In the UK, we can get around this problem on deeper wind-affected venues, by feeding through a bait dropper. This way the feed is dropped into an accurate position on the bottom. Unfortunately, bait-droppers are not widely used on the continent, nor are they allowed in international matches!

Personal Conclusion
With my own fishing, I'm happy using all three striking methods, provided they catch fish! Even after writing this feature, explaining why I would choose to strike one way, compared to another, is rather difficult. At first I thought it would depend on bait types. For sure, I fish with pellet a lot and use the Lift Strike when doing so. But what about caster fishing? I will often use the Classic when fishing it on the bottom, but the Lift when fishing up in the water. With bloodworm, it can be fished in so many different ways that you actually end up using all three of the striking methods in the course of a year. It's all about what feels right on the day! As a rule I will normally try to assess the amount of bites I think I'll get, the size of the fish available, the bait I'm using...before coming to some sort of decision that seems to logically suit the session but, I'll always be ready to change if I think it's wrong!

I do believe that you have to practise and learn how to strike correctly with all three styles, in order to get the most out of your fishing. Repeating what I said at the start, striking is far from being simply instinctive, it's something that has to be worked at and is only half the story! In PART 2, we'll be looking at bites... when to strike on different fish and in different situations. I will also examine the bites we hit, as well as those we miss, and trying to work out what they are telling us, regarding what's happening below. There will be more from Steve Gardener as I follow him through a session analysing the various types of bites he's getting, and how he modifies his approach to cope with changing situations. We will look at questions like...when to hit a lift bite...what happens when you get nothing on the end of 'sail-away' bites...why you sometimes need to miss bites, in order to catch more.

It all goes to prove that there certainly IS, much, much more to striking than pure instinct!!!