Solid Bags vs The Method

Let me set the scene… the first beams of sunshine break through the hazy morning mist and rays of golden light flicker across the seductive pool, insects dance with glee on the still water’s surface and the lake was alive again. The overhanging leaves drip fresh morning dew and the bird song begins in earnest. Okay, so it wasn’t quite like that, I’m playing tricks with your imagination, painting pictures in your mind of the warmer days of summer past when in reality it was damp, drab autumnally October day, but it sounded better didn’t it?

I had arrived at the specimen lake at Home Farm Fishery, Alsager near Crewe and it was rather chilly drizzly, damp and overcast… yuk!

However, whenever I go fishing, come rain or shine I always get that happy feeling, work or fishing? Errr, it’s a no brainer, fishing all day long.

This was no ordinary session though, it was a test of tactics. The plan was to put the often-maligned Method feeder up against the much more ‘carpy’ solid PVA bag. Answer me this, how often have you fished the Method feeder, would you prefer to fish a solid bag? Let’s put them both to the test and look at how, when and why they can both help you catch more carp.

I arrived at the lake and was met by Steve the fishery owner; we had a quick chat as he showed me around the lake. It was a nice looking mature lake with lots of features, lily pads, overhanging willows and a fairly large central island. I picked his brain and enquired about fish stock, size, average depth, type of lake bottom etc. It’s always a good idea to speak to the owner or fishery manager before you head off to a swim, five or 10 minutes gaining their knowledge can be very useful indeed.

The lake has a number of equipped cabins on site, these have electric power and are perfect if you like your mod cons on the bank. I believe it can get busy at peak times so it’s best to ring up and book on in advance as I understand it’s a popular place, especially at weekends. As well as carp the lake also holds some big catfish.

It all sounded great except for one key point that Steve mentioned, and that was the water temperature. Apparently, it had dropped rapidly in the past couple of days, a 5oC drop in fact. Lots of cold rain coupled with lower day and night temperatures had certainly had a negative impact on the fishing.

I only had a limited amount of time so a short day session was going to test my watercraft, bait application and the tactics if a quick carp or two was to be tempted. I had certainly put the pressure upon myself. A couple of lads fishing the opposite bank had been on overnight and not yet caught so I quickly realised it could be a tricky one.

I headed to the far end of the lake as Steve pointed out that this was the deeper end, my thought process being that the fish may have moved into deeper water due to the drop in the water temperature. I opted for an open swim and the brolly shelter was swiftly chucked up.

My swim choice gave me a few options, a couple of features and open water. In my experience when the water goes cold and the colour drops out of the water the carp will look for some cover, and a set of lily pads offered this. They weren’t a large set of pads and they did look a bit lonely at the bottom end of the lake, but they were certainly able to offer sanctuary to a carp or two. The island was a massive feature that couldn’t be ignored and as I set up the PVA bag rig under the shelter of the brolly a carp showed itself up to my right further along the island, which gave me a lot of confidence.

The island was fairly large and ran down the centre of the lake with lots of overhanging cover, a great looking feature. I had a lead around the island margin close to an overhanging tree to check it wasn’t snaggy; it appeared clean so I clipped up and placed a solid PVA bag fairly tight to the end of the it. It looked a good interception point for any patrolling carp.

The second rod would be fished on the versatile Method feeder; this would be fished tight to the set of lily pads on a locked up, tight clutch set p. If I was to get a take I didn’t want to lose it in the pads so I sat next to the rods in anticipation.

The rods were soon out and fishing and the clock began to tick.

Firstly, the solid PVA bag; it’s a great way to ensure good presentation particularly over any light weed. I load the bag with a pellet mix that was put together specifically for solid bag fishing – the resealable bucket is useful too. It contains lots of attractive micro pellets along with powdered krill plus dried shrimp. I add some PVA friendly krill liquid extract, pure soluble liquid that can be used in any water temp. The contents soak up the liquid and it literally oozes attraction. Hook bait is a trimmed down King Prawn wafter, I like to use a small hook bait because it can be hoovered up much easier than a standard sized hook bait and is not as obvious to wary carp, it just looks like the other small offerings.

A bright hook bait can stand out and work too; in cold clear water when the carp are not really looking for food it can draw them in, however I will also trim it down.

The reason I use a small PVA bag is because I imagine a carp sucking up the contents in one go, therefore the rig follows the bait into its mouth at the first attempt; if you have a larger pile of bait the carp could take two or three attempts to suck in your hook bait. On a hard day when the carp don’t want to eat too much a small bag offers just one mouthful, so it always the best option for my fishing.

A neat little bag casts easier too. Accuracy is important; however, a solid bag does allow for the odd margin of error if you aren’t a great caster, you can still be fairly sure the bag is ‘fishing’ over most lake bed substrate. So, there are lots of positives when it comes to solid bags. I also like to use a flat lead in my bags and always when fishing up to islands and in the margins, it’s unobtrusive and as the bank will most likely slope away, a flat lead holds position better. A 3in supple braid hook link on a blow-back rig with a size 8 hook completes the simple setup.

On to the Method feeder, and the days when you had to mould a huge ball of bait around a huge Method feeder are long gone. Match anglers have often taken parts of our carp fishing and implemented them into their match fishing; however, the shoe is now on the other foot and carp anglers can take something back. The Method feeders often used in match fishing can be useful for carp fishing too.

The Hybrid type feeders are my preferred feeders, great for chucking long range or lowering into the margins, they are weighted on the base and the side walls ensuring the bait stays in the feeder until it’s on the deck, your hook bait sits on top and gives perfect presentation. The main benefit of the Method to me is that you can use a wet mix, it can be dampened pellets or groundbait or a combination of both.

I set my feeder up using tungsten tube behind the feeder to pin the line down; I tend to use fluorocarbon on one of my reels and this is great when fishing the margins, light penetrates the shallower water and the carp have greater visibility in this clear water so it’s important to pin everything down and fish a slack line.

Today I expected it to be hard going so I opt to fish a fairly small Method feeder, which is loaded with a Method Mix that has been put together for big fish. It’s a versatile mix, meaning it can be mixed stiff if you want to ensure the bait stays on for a longer period, longer casts and deeper water or mixed fairly dry if you want a quick breakdown for quicker attraction. The mix contains a fishmeal groundbait with added micro pellets, krill meal and crushed and dried shrimps, a very attractive and active mix. Mix it the night before if you want to curb the active dried particles; once they have soaked up the water and any other liquids, they will become inert and stay on the lake bed rather than ‘fizz’ out of the feeder.

A benefit of the Method Mix is that you can quickly load the feeder, no loading bags, PVA bags cost money so you don’t have that expense either. You can load and cast in the rain, nothing melts, it’s just so much quicker.

I use a short supple hook link that is the same as the rig used with the solid bag. Because I can reload and recast the Method feeder more easily and quicker, I will try different hook baits, bright or bland baits, in various sizes. The size of the Method feeder can be changed easily too; small, medium and large sizes in varying weighted options make them super-versatile.

If you fish waters that don’t have too many nuisance species then you must try this Method Mix; you can add bigger pellets, crumbed boilies etc just as you can with a solid bag set up.  It’s so easy for the carp to suck up the mix and the hook bait, and they aren’t used too often on carp waters these days as they aren’t seen as trendy. I’m quite glad about that as they are a definite edge on many waters as carp just don’t see them as danger.


The rods had been in an hour or so and I had recast the Method feeder a couple of times to introduce a bit of attraction into the water. Every 15 minutes I picked up my catapult and pinged a few 10mm Tutti Frutti boilies in the vicinity of the solid bag to try and attract a carp to the neat little pile of attraction, but the lake was cold and looked dead due to the cold temperatures and it looked like a blank was on the cards as the time ticked by. I began to wish I had given myself more time to give both the tactics a better chance.


I always believe that the carp will have a munch at one point in the day; every water tends to have a favourable bite time, I just didn’t know when that was on this water and hoped that mid-afternoon would be favourable – when the air temperature peaks can be a good time.

I watched the water hoping for a sign and sure enough I noticed one of the lily pads twitch.

Less than a minute later and the Method feeder rod arced round; unable to take line on a tight clutch I grabbed it and held on as it made lunge after lunge to try and bury itself deep into the pads and make its escape. Fortunately the soft blank on the Bank Creeper rod absorbed them all. A barbless hook rule applies and if the fish got in the pads it would surely throw the hook.

After a minute or two of sheer bullying I had it in open water and it was soon sulking at the bottom of the mesh. A nice looking mid double common and I was chuffed on such a tricky day to have nicked a fish in such a short time span. I am sure that the lake will produce some really good winter fishing as soon as the water temperature stabilises, my timing had been a tad unlucky.


The Method feeder with a trimmed down King Prawn wafter had done the business.

To be honest the solid bag rod would have been my banker if I’d had to make a bet on the day, purely because the area around the island looked so carpy. I had seen a carp in the area too. But let’s not take anything away from the deadly Method feeder, it had shot down the solid bag and proved its deadly worth yet again.