Roger Wakenshaw

Next on Jim Baxter's list of the 12 all time greatest waggler anglers, Roger Wakenshaw: A one-time rival on the River Witham when it was a great roach river, is an example of a great competitor. He is a very focused individual who will determine his goal, not over-complicate things and go all out for the win. His record seems to confirm this.

Sugar factory, River Witham, by Tom Presland Sugar factory, River Witham, by Tom Presland

God’s county

Born and raised in Normanton, West Yorks, Roger trained on local rivers like the Wharfe, Swale and Ouse, and Ryhill Reservoir. He left the county to attend college in Lincoln where he met and married Karen, his wife of 33 years and then Lincoln became his adopted city.

In his early years on the Witham Roger was coached by Witham ace Edgar Purnell and was also helped by the late Eric Tattershall, a Lincoln team angler. By any measure they did a wonderful job. At his peak on the River Witham Roger was nothing short of phenomenal, or ‘at times unbeatable’ as Grimsby rival Dave Ashmore put it.

Elite spectator

Even the great John Allerton got up off his box one day to watch Roger catch enough to win a Witham Super League round on route to the overall title on waggler back in the early 90s. Roger had that effect on others, keen to learn more about how he did it rather than struggle on regardless.

Kamasan open titles

He’s also shone on the Trent, winning consecutive Kamasan British Open titles at Long Higgin in 1992/3 and 1993/4. He caught 14lb of hybrids to win the first and really made it count in the second with 53lb of bream. He was also third overall in the prestigious Kamasan Matchman of the Year competition in 1993, earning points in all matches of 60+ pegs.

National medals

Waggler hero: Roger Wakenshaw

He has won two National Championship team medals, both on the River Witham. Division 4 in 1983 (Kirkstead won with a record 978 points and a lowest score of 55) and Division 2 in 1985. Roger led from the front with a section 3rd from Langrick in the first, and took section runner up in the second. He won the Witham Super League title twice and enjoyed other top three placings with most catches falling to waggler.

He has also won consistently on the Trent and his local Fossdyke Canal. His personal best weight came in an Embassy Pairs qualifier, on the non-tidal Trent at Holme Marsh peg 185 (first below Winthorpe Lake) comprising 17 big bream on feeder for 93lb.

Waggler method

What follows is Roger's description of his Witham waggler method:

"Back in the early 90s the River Witham from November through to March provided some of the best roach fishing in the country. As the summer level of the river was lowered, usually in early November, it was transformed from a still drain to a flowing river. Providing it was not racing through, this flow was welcome as it made the fish feed.

Ebb and Flow

The river was controlled by the lock gates, which would open on the ebb tide. The flow depended on how much water was in the river, ie. flood conditions meant the gates would be fully opened, but on a low river with less force of water the gates might only be opened slightly. As the tide came the lock gates would close, presumably to prevent salt water getting into the river.

Advantages of the waggler

My favourite method by far during these winter months was the waggler, with the stick float and bomb the back-up methods. The obvious advantage of the waggler was its scope for covering a large area of river both across the river and downstream. The pole, though deadly on its day, was restricted by its length and could therefore not reach fish beyond the middle, nor further than halfway down the peg.

Floats

The all-important float was a Drennan crystal insert waggler in 3.5AAA to 2 SSG or 2-Swan size, with various interchangeable coloured tips. In a heavy flow or windy conditions I’d use the 2-Swan size, and being long and thin this gave stability and added casting weight. Confidence in your tackle is everything.

Shotting patterns

Shotting patterns would reflect the flow speed. If the river was ‘stood’, or flowing only gently, I’d hope to catch on the drop with the lighter float. For this I’d use a shirt button-style pattern with five no. 8s spaced out over the lower half of the rig – 6 inch to 10 inch apart depending on the depth, and three no. 10s spread out below that. If the flow was stronger then the bigger float would be used with no. 6 shot instead of the 8s down the line, again shirt button-style. I never really liked bulking shots together.

Depth

I always began matches with the waggler set at dead depth. I expected to catch quicker this way, but my next move might be to drag up to 12 inch of line on the deck though I was less happy doing this as the bait could get masked by weed or debris, especially with fresh water in the river. As for positioning of the feed, depending on the river’s flow, I’d generally feed at 1-o’clock or a yard downstream (note: the Witham at Kirstead flows left to right if fishing from the roadside bank). The Kirkstead length often had a downgate wind too, so it would help bait presentation if the fish could be shoaled up a few yards downstream of the standing position. 

Bait

Bait requirements included four pints of bronze maggots with a few reds mixed in them, and a pint of casters, though I expected to use from two to three pints of maggots at most. Only on the very odd occasion did I feed any groundbait, usually in small balls when the water was coloured and I was fishing stick float. I won a Lincoln Open one February on a coloured river with 24lb of hybrids fishing like this.

Roach bags

My better results in this period gave me at least a double figure weight, and my best roach catch totalled 28lb. On this day I caught steadily for the first hour, a little better in the second, bagged up in the third and fourth hours, then back to a steady last hour. On less hectic days I often caught on straight lead (bomb) when the float swim was drying up, but these could be bigger roach from the tail end of the swim.

I never liked catching too well to start with as this usually meant the overall weight would be lower. On the good days I’d often fall behind the pole anglers after an hour, but as their swims slowed mine would get stronger and I was able to catch up and pass them.

Feeding patterns

I’d always feed nice and steadily to start with, especially in the first hour, to see how the fish responded, then take it from there. The better the fish fed then the more bait I fed. I didn’t like to miss bites though and found that when feeding too heavily the bites were less positive and you could get line bite trouble (false bites). We must always fine-tune the feed rate to give them the right amount for the occasion and quantity of fish in the swim.

Feeding, the key to success

I believe feeding is the big key to catching fish consistently. On some days just half a pint was more than enough. I remember winning a match by feeding this light between the old and new bridges at Tattershall with 22lb of roach on the waggler. There were so many fish in the peg that feeding more bait only produced loads of missed bites. Sometimes the fish do not need that much attracting and want to be where they are, and this was one such day. Very little was caught either upstream or downstream of the two bridges.

One exceptional season we caught lots of fish shallow and the river fished brilliantly all through the winter. These were 70-peg matches and I was able to feed heavily and catch at just three-foot deep. I would start my car on Saturday and Sunday and it was like it knew its own way to the Kings Arms pub match HQ. Happy days!

Last date edited: 28 January 2019