Back to Basics - by Gary Westoby 
Ever thought how much planning, cash and effort you actually put into Zander Fishing..?  My own ' thinking' started one evening in Spring 2009 as I finally got around to transitioning a somewhat tatty fishing 'log' into a readable spreadsheet format.
My aim was to see how well I'd faired in terms of catches and I suppose somehow justify to myself that the more you put in, the more you get out (or some other moralistic type quote).  As a side issue I also begun to compare my approach in a loose 'then and now' to see what the differences were and begin my planning for the season 2009/2010 season.  The results turned out to be something of a suprise and resulted in a completely new way of thinking.
I live in Sheffield and with family commitments, can only realistically manage only a handful of trips down the fens every season (our prefferred hunting ground).  My son Louis (12) has joined me full time - althought his ability and willingness to carry tackle and actually assist is sometimes questionable.
With a low number of opportunities my general approach to zander fishing has over the years become more complex in terms of planning (e.g. weeks ahead).  This was hardly suprising.  However, what I did startled me is how sophisticated it had become in terms of tackle.  Looking at a garage full of holdalls, carryalls and various 'essentials (?), it became clear that I had come a long way since cobbling together a single outfit for my first assult at zander.
Like many others I have over the years kept telling myself that a new one of these, a tweak of this and the addition of that new gizmo will all prove to be the silver bullet in my quest for zander success.  Its just a matter of time before hugh zander came flying out.
Yes I have caught some big fish, including some big doubles.  However by and large these have been few and far between.  I began to ask myself whether this was just pure luck, brilliance or just rewards for hard lessons learnt over the years.  What I did know for certain was that my approach over the years had basically aligned itself to:-
a)  Bivvying up for a period of 1-3 days  b)  Minimum of 2 rods (mostly 3) and a hell of lot of complex end rigs/tackle
c)  An obscenely expensive set of bite alarms and peripherals (most of which I rarely used) 
d)  Replicating as far as possible a comfortable home from home situation..... e.g.  food, entertainment and luxuries (e.g.  television, latest clothing etc).
In summery I began to realise that my trips had become less aimed at enjoying fishing and more aimed at sophisticated and expensive escapism.  When I finally got around to reviewing my catches it made uncomfortable reading.  Have a look at the following:
Season 2000/1 - trips (5) zander caught (25), Season 2001/2 - trips (6) zander caught (13), Season 2002/3 - trips (8) zander caught (26), Season 2003/4 - trips (10) zander caught (8), Season 2004/5 - trips (4) zander caught (7),   Season 2005/6 - trips (5) zander caught (8), Season 2006/7 - trips (4) zander caught (9),   Season 2007/8 - trips (5) zander caught (3),   Season 2008/9 - trips (2) zander caught (7).
Although mu number of trips had declined through domestic commitments, I was alarmed to see that my number of zander to trip ratio had seriously declined.  Align this with the cash/complexity of my approach: the returns were not what I had expected them to be.
With my son joining me full time for the 2009/10 season I realised that things had to change.  Simply duplicating the amount of kit for him was not an option.  Not only would this have been prohibitively expensive but I had to consider the amount of room in the car and, more importantly the amount of time I needed to set things up and run around after him.  I decided to make some drastic changed on my approach and tackle set ups.
1-3 night sessions, Mountains of kit, Home comforts and entertainment, Gourmet food.
1 day sessions - chosen randomly with weather in mind, 2 rods each max, minimal gear, clothing and walking boots, small cool bag with deadbaits only, sandwiches and a flask, roving approach.
Simple Legering (butt indicators) or sliding float, 2 x 8 semi barbed trebles on a 25lb trace, Change swims every 1-2 hours depending on results, Targeting likely looking swims or features.
I'll tell you something, watching the float go under is a sight that can't fail to excite every single time.
2009/10 Season Results - Trips (6)  pike caught (29) zander caught (21)
Highlights of the fish caught this season.
Zander:  17lb 06oz (Louis), 12lb (Louis), 11lb 13oz, 9lb 13oz, 8lb 06oz (of the rest only 1 zander under 4lb)
Pike:  25lb 10oz (Richard's only contribution - his only trip with us...... !), 20lb 10oz, 16lb 10oz, 15lb 02oz, 14lb 12oz, 14lb, 13lb 12oz, 13lb 08oz, 13lb 04oz, 3 further doubles and the rest single figure fish.
Using a max of two rods each, the number of runs went through the roof (68) - well above previous years averages.
All these trips were day only trips - setting off very early and fishing through the day until dusk. (red bull always included for the journey home)
All fish were caught on deadbaits - no livebaits or jobs etc.
The back to basics approach has worked well.  Looking at the results versus effort/cost, I'm very pleased with how things have worked out and will adopting this same approach for the coming season.
If like me you're a bit stuck for time, why not park all the heavy gear and adopt a lightweight approach.  One thing is for sure - the care is much light for the long drive up the A17.

Richards 25lb 10oz Monster Pike

12lb Daytime Zander

11lb 13oz Daytime Repeat Capture

17lb 06oz Great Ouse Magic for Louis

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