Kent Coast Sea Fishing Compendium
Uptiding for Cod
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Uptiding for cod is the most successful method of fishing an area of fast tides, takes a large share of the larger double figure fish, and keeps you more active during cold weather. Because the bait is cast well away from the boat, tangled lines are eliminated and, unlike downtide fishing, the anglers lined up along the gunwales are not at a disadvantage compared to those fishing from the stern.
Uptiding was originally introduced to combat the so-called "scare area" created around an anchored boat by both the slap of the water on the hull and the "drumming" noise caused by a fast tide flowing around a tight anchor rope. The idea was that, by casting away from the boat outside the scare area, more fish would be caught. The increased width of scent trail passing downtide created by those spread-apart baits might also contribute to the success of uptiding.
The technique of uptiding is straightforward. A cast is made, not across the tide, but at an angle into it. As the lead hits the water (after first stopping the revolving spool to avoid overruns) the angler releases line, feeling for the lead to hit the sea bed. When the lead is felt to "touch down" more line is released to create a large bow in the line and to pull the wired lead deep into the seabed to anchor it.
The distance needed to cast, and the amount of line to release, depends on the speed of the passing tide. At times of reduced tidal run, and in shallow water, a cast of only 25 yards is enough with a release of up to 20 yards of line. In depths of over 75 feet, casting up to 45 yards and releasing over 30 yards of line may be needed to get the lead to anchor.
When the lead grips and the bow in the line is fully taught, the rod tip is bent over to the pull of the tide. Bites are seen, initially, as a series of "nods" on the tip, followed by the whole rod tip pulling over and then springing back straight as the lead is pulled free by the taking fish.
To strike successfully, first take in all slack line. Pick up the rod and lower the tip to the horizontal whilst winding in line at the same time. As the line starts to come tight and the weight of the fish is felt for the first time, lift the tip of the rod towards the vertical to fully make sure the hook has found a solid hold.
Invariably, almost all cod caught on the uptide method will be hooked against the static lead, but sometimes a hook point will find solid bone and gristle and fail to sink past the barb. The striking sequence ensures the hook sets properly.
The best uptiding occurs, like shore fishing, when the main run of flood and ebb tide is rushing past. Bites drop away towards slack water. Fewer fish are feeding inshore during neap tides and spring tides are better for uptiding. The best uptiding occurs when the big spring tides coincide with a period of rough weather settling down.
Paraphrasing Henry Ford, "use any bait provided it's worm". Black and blow lugworm are excellent but the black needs to have the guts left in and should not be gutted for full effect. Use a 9 inch bait, but a 6lb cod will easily take a full foot of worm without any problem. King rag is not as good as lug, but does catch cod. The 12 inch or bigger worms are better than the smaller ones as they carry much more juice and scent. Tipping off with squid, or making a combination bait of lug, rag, razorfish will also score. Other baits are much less successful in catching cod.
Rods & Reels
Uptide rods vary in length between 9 and 10½ feet and have a soft tip to (a) achieve the best casting action from a restricted casting style (i.e. a short, overhead stroke from a pitching deck) and (b) allow the tip to pull over into the tide and give to the pull and swing of the boat at anchor without ripping the lead free from the sea bed. The rod should have a powerful butt and lower section with which power can be applied to drag big fish back towards the boat against the tide.
One multiplier stands out when it comes to uptide reels - the ABU 7000 series. It casts well, has robust gears and a line capacity of 300 yards of 18lb line. Alternatively, the Daiwa SL30 is a competent uptide reel.
Fixed spool reels with a large line capacity (to maximize retrieve ratio and casting performance) can also be used for uptiding.
The long and low fixed paternoster rig with two hook pennell snood is the only real choice for all uptide cod fishing. Pennell rigs are ideal for catching cod because this species has an extra-large mouth.
A The two-hooks are ideal for mounting whole squid, crabs etc. Whichever way the fish takes the bait, you are almost guaranteed a hook-up. Use a strip of silicone tubing to lock-on and adjust the uppermost hook.
B Remember to use a very strong swivel and snap-link combination here.
C Strong knots are vital when catching big fish like cod, so use a reliable Grinner or even a Palomar knot.
D A 10in long sliding boom ensures that the snood does not come into contact with the lead.
E A seriously strong swivel attaches the breakout lead. These leads are essential for uptiding because they anchor your rig and bait.
Lead patterns are important. In average tide conditions a normal release wired lead between 5 and 6oz will hold with enough line out. Use leads with a longer tail as these pull into the seabed deeper and do not twist sideways so easily when the tail gets buried.
For very fast tides use leads with fixed wires coming from the nose ("Sputniks"). The wires need to come forwards in a straight line for a couple of inches, then be bent up at a right angle and then bent again at another right angle to form the grip.
"Cod Fishing" (1987) John Rawle at pages 63 to 76 & 84 to 87
Boatcasting has, over the past ten or twelve years, revolutionised cod fishing, especially in the southern half of the country. The method was pioneered in the southern North Sea by Bob Cox and myself. Once we had realised why the method worked so well and improved the basic technique we made some fantastic catches of cod.
… The big advantage of the method over conventional boat fishing is that you can efficiently use much lighter tackle and much lighter leads than you would normally need in the same conditions if you were fishing with standard boat gear, but the one big advantage of the technique is that in areas where you can use it efficiently you will catch a lot more fish. This, a few years ago, was supposition with no real evidence to back it up, but now it has been proven beyond all doubt that boatcasting, if done correctly, will catch as much as three times the fish in comparison with other methods.
Water Suited to Boatcasting
… The depth of water fished depends on the amount of tide run there is. If there is not much run you can boatcast effectively in up to 120 feet of water. In this depth you need to be able to cast a reasonable distance. I have, over the years, followed the general rule of thumb that the minimum distance you need to cast is at least twice the depth. For instance, if you are in sixty feet you need to hold bottom with, say, a five or six ounce lead, to be able to cast forty yards (120ft). You can hold bottom quite effectively casting much shorter distances but in strong tides you may have to step up your lead a bit to maybe an eight ounce, where you could hold with four or five ounces by casting a little further.
In water over eighty feet it pays to increase the weight of your leads slightly anyway because of the distance the lead has to travel from the surface to the sea bed, this being greater the more the end tackle is drifted downtide before taking a hold on the bottom. You may cast sixty or seventy yards up and across the tide but in a hundred feet of water the lead and end tackle can travel back with the tide ten yards before hitting the bottom. A heavier lead gets down quicker. In water less than eighty feet deep this doesn't apply so much.
To summarise this section, you can effectively boatcast virtually anywhere, providing you have less than 120 feet or so of water and a fairly clean sea bed. You do not really want to use grapnel leads over rough ground where you are likely to get hung up anyway.
Boatcasting involves casting the baited tackle up and across the tide, where the lead sinks to the bottom and the wires grip into the sea bed. Line is then paid out to form a bow in the line, which holds the grapnel in the sea bed. If a bow of line is not let out, then the angle of pull on the lead, created by the tide pressure on the line, is wrong and doesn't enable the lead to get a grip on the bottom. Also, the bow acts as a buffer, cushioning the rise and fall of the boat. If the line is held too tightly the movement of the boat rising up on a swell will pull the lead off the bottom.
Distance from the Boat to Cast
The distance you need to cast depends on two things: firstly, how deep the water is and, secondly, how much tide is going to be running. The best way of deciding this is to find out the depth and double it. This is a very rough guide because at both ends of the depth range a lot of factors are to be taken into consideration. In deep water you have to take into account the distance the tackle travels down tide before hitting bottom. In a hundred feet or more of water you can lose ten yards like this, so this is to be taken into consideration when deciding what lead to use. A slightly heavier lead will travel down more quickly so a change up to a heavier lead will compensate for several yards in deep water.
In shallow water you have to consider why you are casting in the first place. You are casting away from the boat to get away from the scare area set up by the boat. This is described in the diagram. The double the depth rule of thumb really applies to the depth between thirty five feet and eighty feet. These distances are really the minimum you need to cast to fish effectively utilising the mechanics of the method to their full advantage.
Another variation on distance from the boat is when you or the skipper has anchored the boat in a position to enable you to fish a particular area of sea bed; obviously you then cast to where this area is.
One big advantage of boatcasting over conventional boat fishing is that it enables the anglers on board to cover a far greater area of sea bed with their baits, greatly increasing the chances of locating a feeding area or, to quote a cliche - a hot spot. If such a hot spot is located then obviously concentrate your effort on this patch.
The sea looks all the same on top but underneath it varies a great deal. This fish may be feeding over a small bank, in a gulley, on a patch of shellfish or some other source of food. Often these feeding areas are very small, perhaps just a few yards square or wide and it needs accurate casting to put your bait in the given area. Bearing this in mind, if you are not catching any fish try casting further or shorter, farther out the side, or more uptide, until you start getting some action and then concentrate on this area. If someone else is catching and you are not, watch where they are casting and try and get your bait on the same line.
If the area where the fish are coming from is downtide of you and you cannot fish it without hindering other anglers, try and find your own feeding area. It is surprising how localised these feeding places can be. I had a 130 pound catch once from a patch of mussels on the sea bed that was no more than five yards square. If I put my bait outside this area I didn't get a bite and the other anglers on the boat unfortunately only had one small fish between them. This instance was the exception rather than the rule but it illustrates perfectly how important it can be. Freshwater anglers are much more aware of localised feeding areas than sea anglers, but most sea anglers' catches would improve if they paid more attention to it.
Angle to Cast Away from the Boat
This again depends on the same things as the distance you need to cast away from the boat. Firstly, the depth of water you are fishing. In most cases the deeper the water the further uptide you need to cast to hold bottom and fish effectively. Exactly the same principle applies to the strength of tide. The harder the tide is running, the further uptide, or the tighter the angle you need to cast. The diagram explains this.
How Much Line to Let Out
How much line should you let out after the cast has been made and the lead hit the bottom? As with casting both distance and direction, the amount of belly in the line depends of depth of water and tide strength. I generally work on the simple formula of letting the lead hit the bottom, then wait for the tide to tighten the line, then feed out line under tension until the line lies approximately ninety degrees from where the lead landed. This again is only a rough guide to be varied when conditions are at both extremes, such as very little tide, when you need not let out so much line and other end, a very strong tide, when you have to let out a bit more. Generally, though, this guide is a good one to follow and works well in most conditions. Another time it pays to let out a bit extra line is when it's rough, to help cushion the rocking of the boat.
Bite Detection and Hooking the Fish
I have included this section because in my own experience a lot of anglers wrongly assume that because you have a lot more line out than in conventional boat fishing, it is not so sensitive. This is definitely not the case. The water acts like a funnel for the line to run through and any movement at the terminal tackle end is transmitted through the line in the same way that a brake cable on a bike works. The outer cable can bend, twist and be as long as it likes, but the inner cable follows the contours inside. A one inch movement at one end is transmitted to the other. The line in a big bow in deep water does the same.
Most bites are registered by normal noddings on the rod tip, usually followed by the rod springing back as the fish dislodges the lead. Then you usually get a series of nodding movements as the fish pulls the lead downtide. It is at this point that you have got to think what is happening. You have a big belly of line between you and the fish which has to be taken up before any positive contact is going to be made and it is this that causes a lot of missed fish by anglers new to boatcasting.
The way to deal with a bite after you have seen the crucial movement on the rod tip is to pick up the rod and get it in the position that you would normally take to wind in. Feel for the bite and if it is still there wait until you feel the fish pull the lead out of the bottom. This will be felt as a slackening, followed by a series of nods as the cod moves downtide with your lead. Once this is felt, point the rod down the angle of the line so that you have as direct a line as possible to the reel, then wind. Wind in fast and keep on winding until you feel the weight of the fish then, still winding, lean up into the fish. If you don't make solid contact wind the rod down and pump up again until you have the fish kicking on the end. I cannot emphasise enough the need to keep winding fast once you have decided to have a go at the bite. Often the cod will swim downtide quite fast and with a strong tide with them they can come downtide very fast, often faster than an angler using a slow retrieve reel can wind in.
Sometimes they bite much more shyly, giving positive nods but not pulling the lead out. These are a bit more difficult to hit. You have to judge when the fish has got the bait inside its mouth, and then do as before. Wind in very fast and lean into the fish when you feel the weight of it being tightened up on. If you miss one or two, vary the length of time before winding up on them. Take notice of where the fish are hooked. If they are all in the lip or you are losing some fish on the way up leave the bites longer. If they are coming up hooked in the throat, don't alter it; you are doing it all right.
Rods for Boatcasting
When we first pioneered this method some twelve or thirteen years ago there were no specifically designed rods on the market. Nowadays there are at least twenty or more different boatcasters or as they are more commonly known, uptiders, to choose from. Most of them are quite adequate for the job but some of them are useless, having completely the wrong action or being too short.
A good boatcasting rod has to have the ability to cast a lead and bait up to sixty or seventy yards without coming under undue stress. It must also have a sensitive, softish tip for bite detection and equally important a shock absorber to cushion the movement of the boat, which on a rough day is quite considerable.
A stiff tipped rod will continually pull the lead from its hold in the bottom; the best length is nine to ten feet. Any longer and they tend to get a bit cumbesome, unless you have a lot of room to fish in. A shorter rod has got the casting capabilities or the length to incorporate the correct action. A fast tapered blank is ideal because it has the sensitive tip and stiff butt required for the job. It must have a fair bit of power in the bottom two thirds to give you enough power to cast a lead and big bait a sufficient distance and also to play in quite large fish.
Most areas where any amount of cod fishing is done have a reasonable depth of water and a fair run of tide, so realistically you only need to look at the heavier rods on the market. The lighter ones often rated one ounce to three ounce, or two ounce to four ounce, would almost certainly not be powerful enough to cope with run-of-the-mill cod fishing effectively. The heavier rods are usually rated four ounce to six ounce or six ounce to eight ounce. The ones rated four ounces to six ounces are the rods most widely used. They cover most situations adequately. The heavier rods, six ounces to eight ounces, are really for areas that have deep water and very strong tides, where you will be using eight ounce lead most of the time. The other rods will lob an eight ounce lead far enough to cope with most places, so I would go for one of those.
There are a lot of reels around that are ideal for boatcasting. The qualifications needed are the ability to cast a reasonable distance without problems and have a good rate of retrieve to enable you to pick up line fast when you wind up on a bite. It must also be sufficiently robust to take the stick this type of fishing can give out.
The rate of retrieve is very important as on several occasions I have witnessed anglers using slow retrieve reels who have failed to catch up with a lot of the fish they have had bites from when on the same day anglers using reels with a higher gear ratio have hardly missed a bite.
The reel must also have a very efficient clutch because you are dealing with quite large fish on lightish tackle. Cod can never be classed as fighting fish but a good one coming downtide in a strong tide can pull quite hard initially, often taking several yards of line or, if your clutch is too tight, break your line.
Most of the small beachcasting reels are more than adequate …
One of the biggest attributes that boatcasting has over conventional boatfishing methods is that it is relatively tangle-free when several people are fishing on the boat. Boatcasting terminal rigs should be kept fairly simple. In my mind all rigs for all types of fishing should be kept simple.
Ninety percent of all boatcasting for cod can be done with one simple basic rig - the single hook and Pennell rig as shown in the diagrams. These rigs as shown are really all you need to use but on some occasions a variation of this rig may improve results. On some days when you are catching mainly small codling it pays to use a fixed lead set up. This rig helps to prick the fish as they come against the lead anchored in the bottom. In most instances this is not needed but small codling notoriously snatch at a bait and when they are feeding like this it pays to leave a good proportion of your hook point clear and use a fixed lead.
The two hook Pennell rig shown in the diagram is now the most widely used boatcasting rig for cod. I always use two hooks the same size, unlike a lot of anglers I have seen fishing with this rig. They use a 4/0 or something similar on the bottom and a 1/0 or 2/0 up the line. I don't like this for the simple reason that if you hook a big fish you are never sure what hook it is and a big cod can hang very heavy in the tide and seriously endanger the hold of the small hook. I like to know what is in the fish so I always use two hooks of the same size.
There are two ways of making up this rig. The best way is as shown with a plastic sleeve piece over the shank of the top hook with the line running through it and then through the eye to the swivel. The best sleeve I have found for this is the black cable of household wiring cable. Strip the inner wire out and cut it into lengths of about ¼ inch less than the shank of the hook. It is a tight fit over the eye of some hooks. I have found that it pays to heat it up a bit to soften it. This makes it easier to work with.
Another and easier way to make up with Pennell rig is to simply slide the top hook up the line, bait up the bottom one with a bunch of worms, or whatever bait you are using, and then slide the top hook down until it is just over the top of the bait and then wrap four or five turns of line round the shank, then stick the point in the top of the bait. This is not as good as the plastic sleeve method but perfectly adequate so long as you check the trace regularly because the line wrapped round the top hook kinks your trace and can weaken it.
The need for two hook, two bait, rigs in my mind is minimal. The only time I would ever entertain using more than one bait is if there were a lot of fish about and there was a very good chance of getting two at once and realistically nowadays this will not happen very often. If you think there is a need for two bait rigs then the best rig to use is the one in the diagram. The dimensions of the rig are important if you are to avoid tangles. The normal trace with two hooks on it will tangle when cast. In my opinion you are better off sticking to a single or Pennell hook rig with one bait.
"Sea Angling: Kent to Cornwall" (1990) Mel Russ & Alan Yates at page 32
Uptide casting techniques find considerable success along the north Kent coast and in the shallow waters off Folkestone, Dover and Dymchurch, although it is not generally so successful when used from a small dinghy. Rods of up to 10 feet long are employed with the best being built along beach rod lines. The smaller shore fishing multiplier reels filled with light lines of around 15lb help to get maximum casting range and beat the tides. A simple one hook nylon paternoster with bait clip and fixed grip lead completes the outfit, which is especially effective for cod during the winter months.