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Approaching Barbel on the Trent

Liam Willis takes us through his approach on tackling barbel on the River Trent.

Joining the Spotted Fin Team last August has massively helped my style of fishing as the range available in Smokey Jack covers every base for my barbel fishing. Everyone has their own approach to fishing the River Trent for barbel and my approach has changed a little bit in the 5 years I have been fishing the river. The changes I have made, and the preparation I focus on have helped me to target the bigger barbel. Yes I probably get less bites but fishing a straight lead with big baits and introducing an initial bed of bait then topping the areas up is how I now approach it. I think the key to my new found success in my fishing is the preparation I put into it all before I go fishing, on my hook baits, feed and rigs.


Firstly hook baits. The Smokey Jack range includes 12, 15 and 20 mm boilies plus 15mm pillows, hardened hookers, pre glugged hookers, wafters, hook bait sprays and lots more. At the end of the season, I start my bait preparation for the next season with a mixture of boilies in a container.

Every 2 weeks I add small amounts of the food dip, then 2 weeks before the season starts I add the Krill Powder. The hook baits have adsorbed lots of that smokey flavoured dip and have a fine coating of krill on them.

Next I prepare the bait for my pva mesh sticks. I put 2, 4 and 6mm Smokey Jack pellets, 12mm boilies and crushed 15mm boilies in a large bait bucket, again introducing the food dip but this time also adding the Smokey Jack Pellet and Particle Syrup in equal amounts every 2 weeks.

Getting ready for the first day…

Prior to every session I make sure my rig boxes are full of hook lengths. Rig wise I prefer a combi hook length of fluorocarbon and braid with a strong hook. I will however alter my hook length depending on the area I am fishing. I will also tie up a large amount of pva mesh with my mix of pellets & boilies that have been soaking up the food dip and syrup for several months, then put them in sealed plastic bags soaking in hemp oil. I also make up some mesh sticks with 12 mm and 15mm boilies. Depending on the length of the session I might tie up to 100 pva mesh sticks. When pushed through the pva funnel they bind together, taking longer to breakdown adding attraction to the swim.

On the bank…

When at the river I will normally bait 2 areas, depending on the peg. One area will be with a spomb full of natural hemp and every hour catapulting boilies over it. The other area I use hemp with a mixture of pellets and 12mm boilies with a good coating of particle syrup again, introducing it with a spomb  This approach probably goes back to my days match fishing as i am competing against the anglers around me fishing for barbel. I want to create an area that the barbel can come into and feed, the bait being the feature and when they come into my swim, I want to keep them in the area. At the start of the session I will introduce 5 spombs on each spot. Then 2 hours before sunset anything up to 20, depending on the river level, the stretch I am fishing, the weather and whether I have been catching in daylight.

Normally during daylight hours I will fish single hook baits, either boilies or 14mm halibut pellets but at night I step it up to 2 x 15mm or 2 x 20mm boilies or halibut pellets. I always wrap my hook baits in Smokey Jack Paste and attach a pva mesh stick to them and sometimes a pva mesh stick to my lead/swivel when I cast out.. A lot of preperation and thought goes into my fishing and that gives me confidence in my fishing.