Fishing for tench is something really magical and catching really big tench is the stuff dreams are made of. As the tench is a truly elusive coarse species, and as catching really big specimens isn’t the easiest of tasks, I have decided to write this helpful guide on specimen tench fishing.
Targeting and catching specimen tench demands both a lot of time, strong gear and tackle, and advanced tactics. Prebaiting, specialist rods, baitrunner reels, fine-tuned rigs, bigger hookbaits and a lot of time all improve your chances of catching those really big tench above 8lb.
If you want to get the best tips and tactics on how and when to catch monster tench, all you have to do is keep reading!
What Size Is a Specimen Tench?
It’s hard to define exactly what is considered a specimen-sized tench, but most anglers in the UK and in Europe would agree on fish that exceed 8lb of weight.
Don’t get me wrong, tench that weigh 6 or 7lb are really big fish as well, but I think those 8+ pounders really stick out, both when it comes to their actual size, their elusiveness and their exquisite strength and fighting skills.
When tench reach a certain size, they turn into real feeding and fighting machines, which is why I usually refer to them as small tanks. I think some of those tench even outperform carp of the same size when you play them. They are just so strong and wild!
So, if you manage to catch a tench that weighs more than 8lb, you have most definitely landed a real specimen tench!
How to Catch Specimen Tench?
You really only need a few things to be able to target and catch big specimen tench:
- a venue that actually holds big enough tench
- time for overnight or weekend sessions
- gear and tackle that’s up for the job
- plenty of feed
So, once you have found a venue that harbours big tench, make sure to free up some time for both prebaiting and fishing for them.
As will be discussed further down in the article, prebaiting is a brilliant tactic for big tench, but it’s also one that requires some time and effort.
When it comes to the actual time spent behind the rods, having lots of it definitely improves your chances of landing big tench. Those fish are smart and old, which means they move slowly and with care. It’ll take some time before they find your swim and start feeding in it with confidence.
Now that the place and the time aspects are covered, let’s move on to the tactics, the equipment and the baits you will be needing for your specimen tench fishing adventures.
Best Fishing Method for Specimen Tench
As you will be spending a lot of time behind your rods and fish through the night, the absolute best way of targeting specimen tench is by ledgering for them with specialist rods, baitrunner reels, a rod pod and bite alarms.
This somewhat more passive way of fishing allows you to both fish with multiple rods (I prefer 2 rods, but 3 definitely works as well, if the swim isn’t too busy with fish), try out different hookbaits and rigs, as well as to catch some sleep while still being able to have the lines in the water.
Once again, specimen tench fishing takes time and using ledger rods in combination with a rod pod and bite alarms just makes the most sense.
It’s just like carp fishing, really! Of course, you could be fishing the lift method or using a lighter feeder rod, but those are methods for shorter sessions close to the bank.
Really big tench are often found further out and the time between bites can sometimes be fairly long. And trust me, those tench runs are out of this world! It’s such an adrenaline kick every time that bite alarm screams away. A truly awesome experience!
So what gear and tackle will you be needing for this method? Continue reading and find out!
Specimen Tench Gear and Tackle
Tench aren’t the biggest of coarse species, but they certainly have immense and raw power in them! That’s why using a specialist rod of 1.5-1.75lb is definitely recommended. You can read up on the specialist rods I use for my big tench fishing by reading this related article on the best tench fishing rods.
This more passive way of targeting tench means that they will have to be able to run freely once they’ve hooked themselves, which is why fishing with smaller baitrunner reels makes a lot of sense. I prefer a 4000 model, which both holds enough of my mainline and manages to tame even the angriest of tench.
You can check out this article I wrote on the best tench fishing reels in order to get recommendations on what baitrunners to use.
A robust monofilament mainline is your best choice for specimen tench fishing. Use a 6-8lb breaking strength for clear and open water, and a 10-12lb mainline for snaggy venues. You can find the best mono line for tench on Amazon here.
Hooklink and Hooks
For my tench rigs, I prefer using fluorocarbon or braid hooklinks. Both materials are highly abrasion-resistant and well-camouflaged underwater, which is something I find important for tench fishing.
Try to keep your hook lengths relatively short! Regardless of your rig choice, a hook length of between 2 and 4 inches is definitely enough for tench.
Shorter hook lengths tend to hook the fish better, which is a great advantage when it comes to tench, as they can be extremely careful and picky biters.
The hooks you should be using for your specimen tench fishing are wide gape carp hooks with a size ranging from 8 to 12, depending on the size of your hookbaits.
I prefer strong carp hooks because tench are so incredibly strong fighters. Additionally, they have rather hard mouths and lips, making it difficult for thinner-shanked hooks to penetrate them.
I have used the Korda Wide Gape X for many years and they are truly awesome hooks. I’ve yet to lose a fish on them! And, they actually come in sizes down to #12, which is quite rare for carp hooks. You can check out the Korda Wide Gape X on Amazon here.
Specimen Tench Rigs
I really only use 3 types of rigs for my big tench fishing; the method feeder rig, the maggot feeder rig and the simple bolt rig. All three alternatives are perfect for ledgering with bite alarms and this is how I set them up:
Method Feeder Rig
This is the rig I use most commonly when targeting big specimen tench and it’s the best choice when you are using groundbait.
It allows you to chuck out larger amounts of groundbait and makes sure the hookbait is always close to the feed, which is a very effective way of fishing for tench.
Use a 1-1.5oz method feeder together with a 2-4 inch hook length and a #8-#10 wide gape hook. A pair of critically balanced fake corn or a scaled down pop-up work really well on this rig and is a deadly weapon for big tench.
Maggot Feeder Rig
If you are baiting and fishing with maggots, which is an absolutely brilliant bait for specimen tench, then using a maggot feeder rig is the logical choice for you!
A tench swim teeming with maggots on the bottom is hard to resist and can produce a lot of bites during a session.
Using a swivel or inline maggot feeder ensures that there’s always fresh maggots close to your hookbait.
Use a 1-1.5oz maggot feeder and a short fluorocarbon hook length of about 2-3 inches with a #10-#12 wide gape hook and a couple of maggots, casters or lobworms either directly on the hook or on the hair (you can also use fake maggots here).
RELATED ARTICLE: Check out this helpful review article on the very effective Korum Grub Maggot Feeders to get more in-depth tips and recommendations.
Simple Bolt Rig
If you aren’t using groundbait to bait up your swim and instead prefer just to bait with particles, you can instead fish a basic bolt rig setup.
The main objective is to get your hookbait onto the bed of free offerings, which means that you don’t really need to use a method or maggot feeder to put out additional feed.
Instead, a simple safety clip with a 1-1.5oz lead, a shorter braided hooklink of 3-4 inches and a #8 wide gape hook will do just fine.
It’s the perfect rig for presenting smaller pop-ups or boilies on the hair. If you want to ensure that there’s always a little portion of your particles right next to your hookbait, you can simply attach a small piece of PVA that you can fill with some pellets or hemp seeds.
This is a very rig that has caught me a ton tench over the years and it’s one that is very easily tied and cast out.
RELATED ARTICLE: Read this in-depth article on the best and most effective tench rigs to get even more helpful tips!
Specimen Tench Baits
Big tench love all kinds of goodies, and as long as you are putting out a lot of feed and fish with hookbaits that are of an appropriate size, the sky is the limit! Here are a few of my absolute favourite hookbaits, groundbaits and particles for specimen tench:
Hookbaits on the hair
- 8-12mm boilies
- 8-12mm pop-ups
- Flavoured fake corn
- Fake maggots
- 6-8mm pellets
RELATED ARTICLE: Make sure to also read this in-depth article on the best boilies for tench!
Hookbaits on the hook
Groundbait and Particles
- Sticky Baits the Krill Active Mix
- Sticky Baits Bloodworm Active Mix
- Dynamite Baits Marine Halibut Groundbait
- Hemp seeds
RELATED ARTICLE: Check out this article on the most effective groundbait flavours for tench if you want to get even more tips and inspiration!
More Essential Equipment for Specimen Tench
In order to target specimen tench, you will also need the following fishing equipment (all of which can be found on Amazon, if you need to gear up):
- A compact and lightweight rod pod (Amazon link)
- Affordable bite alarms (Amazon link)
- Specimen landing net (Amazon link)
- Simple unhooking mat (Amazon link)
- Digital fishing scale (Amazon link)
Should You Prebait for Tench Fishing?
Tench love to feed and big tench are really hungry creatures. So, if you can find the time to prebait your swim prior to your actual session, a day or two in advance, do it! This is what many specimen anglers refer to as “bait and wait”, which is a classic big tench tactic that almost always works.
You can save a lot of time by prebaiting your tench swim, as the big ones tend to move slowly and feed with extreme caution when first arriving in the swim.
Prebaiting sort of bridges that period, which means that you could already have plenty of big tench that are actively feeding by the time you arrive.
RELATED ARTICLE: Bait up your swim with both plenty of groundbait and smaller particles such as sweetcorn, pellets and hempseeds. This will make for a nice buffet for the incoming tench! Check out this related article on the very best groundbait for tench in order to get more inspiration!
When to Fish for Specimen Tench?
If you are after heavy-weight specimen tench, the best time to catch them is between the months of April and June, meaning before they spawn.
Female tench produce a ton of eggs, which will periodically increase their overall body weight and make their bellies extremely fat. We are easily talking an extra pound of weight, if not more, if the fish has the right proportions.
Additionally, tench actually have a healthy appetite and continue feeding actively until they start spawning, which means that catching pre-spawn tench doesn’t have to be all that difficult!
Can You Catch Specimen Tench at night?
You can and definitely should big tench at night, as this is one of their prime feeding times! I have caught countless specimens tench in the middle of the night or just before the first light of the day hits the top of the trees.
I have actually written a detailed article on how to catch tench at night that you might also find interesting.
Pro Tip: If you are fishing at night, make sure to always have a head torch on you, as this will make fishing and landing your catch significantly easier. You can check out my favourite head torch on Amazon here.