How To Use A Swim Feeder | Feeder Fishing Tips

A selection of feeders

As you are probably aware there are many methods to try when it comes to angling. One of the most popular and productive ways has to be feeder fishing. Feeder fishing is a form of fishing that uses a swim feeder to disperse your bait at the bottom of the water. Using a swim feeder can have several advantages over other methods on certain days. Learning how to use one is a fairly straight forward affair and is well worth mastering the technique.

What Is A Swim Feeder

A swim feeder is basically a small vessel that is attached to your line, usually above your hook. It is designed to get loose bait to the bottom of the water that you are fishing and attract fish into that area. This can prove to be a really good way of fishing if the fish are feeding on the bottom. A swim feeder will either be made of a hard-wearing plastic or metal. Metal ones are usually in the form of a cage feeder.

When To Use A Swim Feeder

You can pretty much use a swim feeder whenever you feel like it. But sometimes a feeder just gives you an edge over float fishing. Below is some of the different times that I would prefer a swim feeder rather than a float.

When The Fish Aren’t Near The Surface

If you are float fishing off the bottom, midwater, or near the surface and not getting any bites, the fish could be on the bottom. This is prime time to use a swim feeder. They may just simply not be feeding, but you won’t know unless you try.

When It Is Windy

Sometimes when it is windy float fishing can be a real pain. Wind can make it really hard to register any bites using a float, especially if you are fishing at some distance. A lot of the time this is when I prefer a bit of feeder fishing. It can still prove to be a bit tricky at times, but in general I find it a bit easier to register a bite.

Fast Flowing Water

When fishing any rivers or streams with a bit of flow to them baiting up can prove to be a bit tricky. Judging where your loose feed is landing can sometimes be a bit of a nightmare. With a swim feeder attached to your line, you will know exactly where the loose feed is being dispersed.

When You Are Fishing At Distance

A lot of the time on big venues such as wide rivers, large lakes and gravel pits the fish could be quite far out in the water. Even fishing with the heaviest of floats it can be to hard to cast to them. Due to the weight of a loaded swim feeder, you can get a lot more distance than you can using any float rod. You will also know that your loose feed is landing exactly where you want it to.

How To Rig A Swim Feeder

When I was a young lad all I used to do was have a running rig by use of one lead shot on the line. The swim feeder would run freely up and down the line until it hit the shot. I caught plenty of fish using this method, but there are better ways of using a swim feeder. I personally still like a free-running rig due to its simplicity of it. Here’s how I tie one.

Step 1

First of all, take your main line in one hand. I feeder fish a lot on rivers, for this, I use 6lb mainline and 4lb hook length. Now you want the end of your main line in one hand and your other hand wants to be pinching the line about 12 inches up from the bottom.

Step 2

Now you want to twist the line clockwise with one hand and anti-clockwise with the other. This should form a twisted length of line with a small loop at the end of it.

Step 3

At the opposite end from the small loop you will need to tie it off with a figure of 8 knot and then clip the tag end (the small length of the leftover line). Once this is done, thread your swim feeder onto the line.

Step 4

Take a split shot and firmly attach it to your main line just above the knot you created with the figure of 8 knot. This will stop the feeder from sliding all the way down the rig and coming off.

Step 5

That is the main rig ready, now for the hook length. The hook length always wants to be weaker than the main line. This is because if the line snaps you will only lose a small bit of line and not the whole rig. Take about 12 inches of your hook length line and tie a hook to the end. I like so many others use a half-blood knot. These knots are simple and effective.

Step 6

At the other end of the hook length, you want to form a small loop by means of a figure of 8 knot. This knot is extremely easy to do once you get the hang of it.

Step 7

Now to finish off the rig, get the loop from the main line and the loop on the hook length and tie them together by using a loop to loop knot, and that is it. This is a simple rig and easy to use for most situations. Carl explains it in the video below if you got stuck along the way.

How to tie a simple feeder rig

Different Types Of Swim Feeders

In general, there are 3 types of swim feeders most anglers choose to use. These are maggot feeders, cage feeders, and method feeders.

Maggot Feeders

Maggot feeders (that are also known as block-ended feeders) are as the name suggests, they are used for maggots. A maggot feeder has holes drilled in the sides and usually both ends. These are designed so the maggots will wriggle through them and be scattered around your hookbait. This kind of feeder will not work with groundbait or pellets. All that would happen is that the holes would clog up.

To use a maggot feeder, simply open one end up and fill it with maggots. Clip the lid shut then cast out. Don’t take too long to cast though once the feeder is full, the maggots do not take long to wriggle out.

Cage Feeders

Cage feeders are designed primarily for the use of groundbait. You could also add particles to the groundbait such as sweetcorn, hemp, or casters. Maggots are not a good idea to add to it because they will break up the groundbait before it even hits the water.

When mixing your groundbait for use in a cage feeder be sure to get the right consistency. If it is too wet it won’t leave the cage feeder it will just get stuck. If it is too dry then it will fall out of the feeder before it reaches the bottom of the water. You want to be able to slightly squeeze the groundbait in your hand and for it to stay in one piece. When filling the feeder, gently squeeze the groundbait in at each end of the cage. Only a small squeeze is needed otherwise the bait will get stuck and not fall out.

Method Feeders

Method feeders are used for either groundbait or pellets. These feeders are designed for your hook bait to sit amongst a pile of pellets or groundbait, depending on what you choose to use. These types of feeders are very popular amongst carp anglers on still waters. They aren’t much good on any water that has a flow to it. This is because you want everything to sit in a small pile so the fish can rummage through it.

With method feeders, you will want to bury your hook bait amongst the pellets/groundbait and mold it around the feeder. Regarding the pellets, be sure to give them a good soaking in water prior to use. This will ensure that they will mold perfectly around the feeder and your hook bait. There are several good brands of pellets on the market that are formulated to suit a method feeder.

What Rod And Reel Is Used For Feeder Fishing

The Rod

If you are feeder fishing for fish such as small carp, bream, chub, etc., you will want to get a medium feeder rod. This is a good all-rounder type of rod to have in your bag. I absolutely love my Drennan medium feeder.

This type of rod will come with several different tip sections. Which one you will use on the day is determined by what fish you are targeting and what type of venue you are at. The lightest tip which will probably be 1oz is fine for still waters and when the conditions are nice and calm. If you are fishing a river or there is a bit of wind this tip may be a bit sensitive and it may be worth trying 2-3oz instead.

If you are targeting bigger fish such as barbel you will want to get yourself more of a specimen rod. There are plenty of barbel rods on the market nowadays. These are typically a 2 section type rod usually with a spare end section. A barbel rod will be about a one and a-quarter test curve. This means the rod will have more backbone than a medium feeder and make it possible to pull in bigger more powerful fish.

The Reel

Regarding brands of reels, there really are lots to choose from, Shimano, Daiwa, and Preston just to name a few. My go-to brand is Daiwa. You just can’t fault them really. They are a good robust reel and very reasonably priced. The Daiwa LT 4000 is the one I use for most of my feeder fishing. The ‘LT’ stands for light and robust. These reels can take a bit of abuse and can tackle most conditions with ease.

When it comes to the bigger fish such as barbel I have a Shimano Baitrunner. I use the 6000 series. The baitrunner allows the fish to take line when it picks up the bait. This is important when targeting big powerful fish such as barbel and carp. They can be very aggressive and pull your rod straight in or even snap you up in the blink of an eye.


Learning how to use a swim feeder can prove deadly when all others around you are struggling for a bite. Before buying any swim feeders go and suss out the venue where you wish to fish. This will help you in deciding in which type and size of feeder you will need. If there are any anglers on the bank don’t be afraid to ask them for some advice, most of us are friendly chaps willing to help. Tight lines and enjoy your fishing.

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