Steve Pope Barbel Fishing

Catch more barbel!

Me and My Rod…………………Baitdroppin’


A baitdropper to me is every bit as essential as my rod and reel, if I ever find myself at the riverside sans dropper I might as well pack up before I start. That’s how important it is to my barbel fishing.

The only exception is if I’m rolling a piece of meat around and as I rarely do that these days a dropper is always in my bag or pocket.

I can still recall the very first time I used a baitdropper, it was a long time ago, back in the early sixties and I wasn’t fishing for barbel.

The River lea or to be precise the Navigation Canal was my usual haunt as a lad, and I had recently become the proud owner of what was affectionately called a Roach Pole. Living in Tottenham my local tackle shop was Charlie Rew’s, this was also the place that the Broadwater Angling Club’s LAA team hung out, and they were the kiddies!

A bit like Manchester United, they were the team to beat and were the Challenge Shield Champions……….they knew their stuff and to an aspiring angler like myself these were guys to tap into for their wealth of knowledge.

Using a baitdropper was the way to cut out the gudgeon and get through to the goer roach, the stuff of dreams to us back then.

So that was how I started, a baitdropper off my roach pole and then laying on with a quill for lots of lovely eight and ten ounce roach.

So when the time eventually came for me to start using one for barbel, primarily to get a bed of hemp down, in my deepest subconscious I was already a convert.

What I want to do in this article is to explain all the why’s and wherefore’s involved with the use of a baitdropper and give you a few additional tips that might just give you an edge at times.

So let’s start right at the beginning.

 In most instances you will need a dedicated rod set up for the sole purpose of baitdropping. The only time I would dispense with this is when travelling light and moving from swim to swim. This should be an old carp rod, twelve foot with at least a 2lb test curve. An old fixed spool reel loaded with good strong line  15lb test completes the set up.

Here’s a selection of the droppers I’m using at the moment. I tend to lose them regularly because they get so much use and I’m quite happy to substitute similar makes and sizes. You should get a decent overview of the different types available from this selection.

We can split the many types of baitdroppers that are widely available into four categories, Big, Medium, Small and Tiny.


So starting off in the Big section, at this moment in time I have three droppers which conveniently fit into this section.




This is a mean ole machine, it gets a gallon of hemp onto the riverbed in just twenty drops but it has its drawbacks.

It would be my choice on a flooded Severn where I just want to fish off the rodtop.

Casting is easy then with a careful underarm swing, its a heavy load when full of hemp!

You don’t want to lose one of these, they cost about £8, it gets expensive if you get snagged.

This is a specialist tool, and I only use it for depositing large quantitities of hemp very close in.





This is a brilliant piece of kit, the dropper I use for the bulk of my big river fishing. It costs about £7 so once again be careful, you don’t want to lose too many!


Four and a half dropper loads puts down one pint, so a gallon of hemp needs 36 drops which time wise equates to about an hour on the Severn fishing a couple of rodlengths out.  I’ll often carpet an area of twenty five square yards, thats one hundred or so dropper loads and takes a couple of hours, it is worth it I assure you!

Barbel anglers at times put far too little bait into a big river and far too much into a small one!                                                            





 Back in my Barbel Catchers days it was all the rage to make your own. Hard to believe I know but it really has only been the last fifteen years where barbel anglers have been able to pick up anything they want from their tackle shop, back in the eighties it was tuna tins, sieves and plenty of lead!

The one I still use has certainly seen better days but it has great nostalgic value. It was made by Chris Binge, the man who I still believe holds the record for the biggest brace of barbel ever caught. I’ve actually lost this dropper on a number of occasions but for some reason I’ve always been able to retrieve it, even when its been on the Severn bed snagged up for a month! You can see why it’s held in such affection, plus it has helped me catch some of my biggest Severn barbel!

Three payloads from this one and you’ll put a pint down, that gives you some idea of the capacity of these fish tin droppers.



Next we move on to the Medium size droppers, the ones with a capacity in the region of eight drops per pint. This size is probably the most popular and it is the one I would use for most of my small river barbelling.





 I have a number of these and will be adding to them when Alan’s gets the Dinsmore Thamesley’s in. The metal version has just the right length stem which ensures the payload is deposited right on the riverbed and not a couple of inches above. It takes about seven drops to get a pint down and this size dropper costs around the £4 mark. When I’m fishing casters in the summer I would have a gallon, plus a gallon of hemp as well. Over a twelve hour day it takes just over 100 drops to deliver that quantity, say ten drops per hour which is three every twenty minutes or so. That gives a good idea of the rate at which you should use this dropper and it’s very important to keep the dropper going in, thats why the dedicated rod is essential. You can even feel the barbel knocking the dropper about when the method is working well.





 The smallest of the three Seymo droppers and a useful piece of kit which I use mainly for putting pellets down. Ten drops will put down a pint and there are times when fishing the right venue when it pays to work hard droppering a good bed of small mixed pellets.

This dropper will set you back about£6, so as always make sure you go easy and don’t get snagged!



The next group of droppers are classified as small, their capacity is in the region of  twenty drops to a pint. They are very useful for the little and often technique and being light are easily cast as long as you are careful.




 These are brilliant little plastic droppers which surprisingly when you look at them first time can deposit at a decent rate. It takes eighteen drops to put down a pint. They cost about £4 and are available from Fred direct or through me. The design is exceptionally good with the weight in the right place and a door that springs open close to the river bed to ensure the bait is where you want it. I always keep one in my pocket when roving about on a river like the Teme, much preferring to put a dozen or so pellets in via this dropper than throwing them in.




 The photo shows both the medium and small version because you buy one, get one free as it were! they come as a pair for less than £4.

The larger one has a capacity of 20 drops to the pint. The longer stem makes it more suited for the times you want the bait to come out just off the bottom and drift along for a bit. The cost means there’s always a place in my bag as a back up if I lose too many Thamesleys!





 Free Spirit do a full range of droppers from £6 to £8, this one has the same capacity as the Middy Medium. They come with interchangeable weights and are very good droppers. An alternative to the Seymo.








 Fox also do the full range but I have to say that a design fault with the door means I would not use one of these in preference to the other makes, certainly not in the larger sizes. I just know too many people who have lost the door!

This small one takes 24 drops to deposit a pint and comes in at about £7.




The last category is Tiny, you would get severe tennis elbow trying to put a gallon of bait in with one of these, it would take three hundred or so drops, you would be dropping all day long!




 Well as they come as a pair you get a tiny dropper that has to go in 38 times to put down a pint, so oviously it’s not used in those circumstances when speed and quantity is of the essence!

As a back up or for delivering tiny payloads, ten small pellets,  it has a use.





Next I’ll run through a few dodges you can use with the dropper that can at times give you an edge.




All credit for this little trick goes to the Caster Master, Stef Horak. Basically it entails putting in twenty or more droppers, Thamesley size, at around three in the afternoon to give the rest of the shoal that hasn’t been caught their final dinner bell! The sudden increase in food on the table can often drive the barbel mad resulting in very quick captures. This technique works well with casters but you have to make sure you have enough bait because you’ll certainly need it!




This is a last resort tactic, something to use late in the day, an hour or so before close of play and will often result in bonus fish. You need to lift the dropper as soon as it hits the riverbed, just two or three inches and then let it hit the bottom again. This too works well with casters and maggots, the sight of these wafting down the current a couple of inches above the gravel can prove too much of a tease and the barbel can’t resist it any longer and so make a rush for your bait!




There’s no need to fill the dropper with one bait, you can mix and match, hemp/casters, maggots/hemp, pellets/hemp, crushed boilie/hemp, etc.

This certainly makes it easier for you to make the bait last, especially when using casters which are not cheap!




Likewise there’s no need to fill the dropper. When I’m into a baiting rhythm I often only half fill the dropper, especially when droppering over my baited hook looking to induce a take.




The start of a session always means laying the table. Often I’ll put in a pint of maggots or caster and a pint of hemp and then leave well alone for an hour at least, sometimes longer.

This allows the barbel to settle and gain confidence. It can be very easy catching the first barbel, it often comes on the first cast, the second can be a little more tricky but the third should mean you’re in for a good day!




Very important this one. After you catch that first barbel put half a dozen droppers in straight away, bait/hemp, and then leave well alone for half an hour. This helps to settle the rest of the barbel who will have been agitated by the fact that you’ve just caught one of their shoal! Sometimes it pays to rest the swim at various times in the day even when you are not catching.




A brilliant dodge this one when fishing casters. You leave your baited rig in the swim and drop just above, as the name imples after the third dropper you need to be quick because more often than not you will get a take. Then it’s a matter of dropping the dropper rod and grabbing the baited rod PDQ!

When anglers see this happen they can’t quite believe it, there is this thought that the dropper frightens the barbel, er no!

For some reason it works better with casters than maggots. Just be sure you’re set up ready to grab the rod because it all happens very quickly!




As Brucey says on Strictly, well not quite, but the sentiment is much the same. Get into a baiting rhythm, don’t forget to drop, don’t get lazy. The key to droppin’ is to keep it going. One of the main reasons I see people fail with the technique is because they simply forget, remember, bait  till you drop!






 Laying a carpet of hemp on the Lower Severn. On a two day session I will put somewhere in the region of three gallons of hemp over an area fifteen to twenty feet square. It often takes a good few hours for the barbel to find it. I fish boilies, big pellet or meat over it.


 Loading my favourite Severn dropper with hemp.








 I get through lots of hemp in a season. Buy it in from animal feed stores in bulk bags, its much cheaper. The jars of Dynamite hemp are brilliant for short sessions and are always worth keeping in the boot of your car for emergencies.







 Baitdropping with a Thamesley type close in on the Kennet.

A devastating method when using maggots/casters and hemp. The key is to keep it going in all day long.




 Casters, barbel love em!

In the summer you’ll need a gallon but as the days get shorter you can cut down. In October six pints is fine together with at leat the same amount of hemp.





 Fifty fifty, a fantastic combination for summer/autumn barbel fishing.








 Hemp, the best barbel attractor you can buy.









 The next best attractor, mixed Dynamite pellets. I get through lots of these as well.

Be careful not to over feed on a small river but be aware that a gallon may be needed for a session on a big river.

Use your loaf and always consider the effect your baiting will have not only on the fish but your fellow angler.


 Me and my rod…………..baitdroppin!

















Notwithstanding the picture above, try and ensure you cast the dropper out cleanly and that it enters the river with the minimum of splash. Not so much because it may scare the fish, it doesn’t usually, but you may find the door opens on the surface scattering your feed.

For close in work there should be no splash at all, the dropper should enter the water just like Tom Daley.

Likewise when your dropper hits the riverbed, keep everything steady and clean. Lift it out almost immediately so the bait is on the bed and not drifting off downstream.

Another important point, be aware of the depth, current speeed and type of river bed, all of those will impact on just where you put the dropper.

You have to make an educated guess and remember that the flow on the bottom of a three feet deep gravel swim on the Kennet  will differ from an eight feet silty bed on the Lower Severn. Also that the speed of flow is far greater on the surface than it is on the bed.

I always tend to drop well above my hookbait. This distance will vary and can be thirty feet or three feet above taking onboard the factors mentioned.






As I said right at the start I consider a baitdropper to be an essential part of any barbel fisher’s armoury.

Use one well and your catches will go up significantly, use one poorly, well you know the rest!


Feel free to ask any questions on here and I’ll do my best to answer them.


Many thanks to Dr. Paul Garner for allowing me to use one or two of his shots.


STEVE POPE  Copyright October 2010.




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