Ask any German match angler whether they own a bolognese rod and majority of them will say yes, but ask them if they feel confident when using the rod and they'll probably (if truthful) will answer NO! Unless they live and fish in a large river or canal area, such as the River Ems or the Silo canal, then it’s often the case that they will not have much opportunity to use it, except for an occasional event further afield.

I realised that, this year, when I attended the IAM on the Silo, as many an angler actually admitted to me that having a bolo' or two set up, was essential on certain sections of the canal. Unfortunately, they also confessed to a lack of confidence using them for any length of time, so would therefore stick with the more comfortable 13m pole line... I must also confess to being one of these anglers!

So when asked by Champions-Team, if I would like to do an article on the bolognese, I thought it would be a great opportunity to not only produce an article for all the readers out there, but also to be a little selfish and gain some valuable and essential knowledge for myself! But where should we do the article, and with whom?

The bolognese was an integral part of the anglers equipment on certain IAM sections.The bolognese was an integral part of the anglers equipment on certain IAM sections.To be honest, there was only one water where I had seen the bolo fished effectively and that was during the IAM on the Silo. This method had produced plenty of fish and accounted for numerous section wins over the two years that it's been held there. I had noticed, during this time, that on certain sections of the canal there were a few anglers who actually disregarded the 13 metre pole completely, focussing purely on setting up a bolo line with two or three made-up rods. These sections were nearly always won with this approach and one angler in particular usually ended in the frame, if he drew there... Ralf Herdlitschke. So who better to put us through the Why and Where-fore's of bolognese fishing than the man himself!

Ralf proved very co-operative when approached and agreed to come out for the day, but where should we go? My obvious answer was the Silo. Ralf rolled his eyes... even though we were on the telephone I could still hear his eyes roll! “THERE ARE other places we can catch in the middle of November“ exclaimed Ralf. “OK“ I said, accepting that perhaps the venue had taken a lot of pressure recently. “So where do you suggest”? “How about the River Havel at Pichelsdorf just west of Berlin?” came the reply from someone who obviously knew where the best spots where! “I think 200 metres just north of the Frey Bridge on Heerstrasse would be a good spot for us” Ralf added.

Having sorted out an acceptable location with Ralf the week prior, he phoned me the night before to throw the proverbial spanner in the works, informing me that Steffi will also be coming! “WOW you mean THE Steffi... Steffi Bloch, the current champion of the whole wide world will be joining us?” I said. Blimey, Having the current Ladies world champion and, according to an unofficial world championships ranking list, Germany's most successful men’s angler, I'll have to come up with a cunning new plan, and rather sharply. Perhaps a challenge match... not just for me, but for them!

Why a Challenge?
As I've said, there was very little notice that Steffi was coming along so we had to think up how to expand the original article to incorporate the surprise, yet welcome, inclusion of a World Champion for the day. We'd seen Steffi in action many times before and noticed, on numerous occasions, that her results had often outclassed many of her male peers in and around Germany. So it seemed quite fitting, if not convenient, to pit her against one of Germany's top anglers (who also just happens to be her national team coach!), hence the challenge idea came up! It would, after all, be an ideal opportunity to place a 'World Champion' under pressure. And so our special 'CT Challenge' was born.
Note: Champions-team (CT) is the recognised name for Germany's national team.

Angler Profile:
Name: Ralf Herdlitschke
Born: 25th September 1970
Profession: Tackle dealer and Builder.
Angling achievements (due to lack of space, only internationals shown):
22 times participant in World and European Championships for Germany
4th place Individual at the 2006 Euros, France
4th place Individual at the 2005 Euros, Slovakia
5th place Individual at the 2004 World Championship, Willebrook, Belgium
3rd place with CT at the 1999 Euros, Ireland
3rd place with CT at the 1998 Euro, Portugal
Since 2001 Ralf has been the coach for the German Ladies National team

Angler Profile:
Name: Steffi Bloch
Born: 29.12.1979
Profession: Tackle Dealer
Angling achievements (due to lack of space, only internationals shown):
10 times participant in World Championships for Germany
1st place with the German team at the 2009 World Championship, Italy
1st place Individual at the 2009 World Championship, Italy
3rd place Individual at the 2007 World Championship, Toledo, Spain.
3rd place with the German team at the 2002 World Championship, Slovenia

The CT Challenge
To catch more fish than your opponent! Using our specially developed Champions-Team Rules and Regulations (CtIP's)

The Rules according to CtIP's
(Try not to take these special rules too seriously. It's highly unlikely they would ever be considered for the next World Championship!!!)
  1. Only one peg to be used for a maximum of three hours.
  2. Each angler will fish one and a half hours each.
  3. The toss of a coin shall decide which angler will fish the 1st hour, or the 2nd hour. The 3rd hour will be split with 30 minutes allocated to each angler.
  4. A full hour, of the 90 minutes allocation, must be spent on the bolognese. The remaining 30 minutes on the pole.
Note: We included the pole up to be fair to Steffi, who admitted to being part of that majority who lack confidence on the bolo!
  5. When fishing either method, feeding of the remaining line MUST continue!
  6. All other Rules shall be made-up, when and if necessary, by the CT reporting team (Yours truly!).
  7. The CT reporting team has the final word. When in doubt, then Rule 6 shall apply!
As usual we start with groundbait. Steffi was to make the mix for the 11 metre pole line and Ralf had the task of the bolo mix:

Ralf´s Bolo mix
VdE Turbo Classic x 2kg.
Turbo Black x 2kg
Mosella Favourite Bream DM 2003 x 1kg
Roasted crushed hemp x 500 grams
VdE liquid aroma 'Roach'.

The heavy Turbo Classic and Black combined with the Mosella Bream, created a mix with a slow rate of breakdown, capable of carrying lots of loose particles. It was ideal on rivers and deep canals and for catching all species of silver fish.

Steffi's pole mix
VdE Turbo Classic x 2kg
Mosella Xedion Edition Brassen x 2kg
VdE Team Mosella Brassen x 2kg
Sensas Terre de Riviere Special heavy damp leam x 3kg

Xedion Edition Brassen is a groundbait that Ralf helped Mosella to develop being ideal for roach, silver bream and bream, which are the target species for our contestants on the Havel. Although it is chiefly designed for canals, when mixed with Turbo and the Mosella Brassen, it makes it an ideal mix for faster flowing waters when you want to get the feed down quickly and in a short area.

Before the session
While Steffi started making up three top 5 kits for the pole, Ralf sets up a side tray on either side of a seat box, to accommodate the large amounts of bait needed when a decent head of fish is expected. Nothing fancy here, in fact at this point of an article we would normally show you all the latest razzle dazzle top-notch gear that top anglers are expected to carry around with them. With no disrespect to Ralf, his stuff looked pretty much like most other anglers' gear. So apologises for the lack of any pretty picture goodies! But I'll say this much for Ralf, he certainly knew where everything was and had every piece set up in no time at all.

The Bolognese rod
One of the smartest things about bolognese rods is that they are nearly always telescopic, so are set up very quickly as the rigs are already made-up on winders then attached to the broken down rod.

A sample of Ralf's favoured river bolognese floats.A sample of Ralf's favoured river bolognese floats. Plumbing up isn't as difficult as what you'd expect!Plumbing up isn't as difficult as what you'd expect!Ralf prepares to set the depth by sliding all the shot/bulk to the end of the line where he's tied a small loop, ready for the hooklength. He then moves the float to what he thinks the depth will be, in this case about 4 metres, and then casts out over 25 metres. The float sits perfectly in the water and glides effortlessly through the swim. “Plumbing up with the bolo is not as complicated as many people think. We want to find the true depth of the canal or river and also look for features, but more importantly, whether obstructions are in our swim. As we can see, the weight is not yet sitting on the deck. If the float lies flat on the water then we are well overdepth. If the float shows halfway then we are not too far off the right depth”, Ralf explains. He reels in, sets the rig deeper and casts out again. This time the float pops right out the water, “too deep” he says, but lets it run through a couple more times anyway explaining, “if the float sits correctly, somewhere along our feed path, then that tells us we have a hole or a contour in the bottom”.

Having checked that the swim is free from debris and holes Ralf performs the same procedure closer in at around 23 metres, but gets the same result. “There's no point in casting greater distances when conditions are exactly the same closer to us” he tells us, adding, “plus, I have now the option to go further out a few more metres if the nearer line fails to produce”! One final adjustment sees the float running through the swim, the body occasionally just popping-up. “OK, it looks like we're just scraping along the bottom at about 4.2m, which seems quite clear and flat, let’s give it a go”, Ralf says confidently.

Shotting a rig for the bolo is also simplicity itself!Shotting a rig for the bolo is also simplicity itself! Having sorted out the depth, Ralf now adjusts the shotting by sliding the main bulk and a string of No.2 shot approximately 30cm up the 0.18mm main line. He leaves two No.2 dropper shot from the loop, spaced 15cm apart, then attaches a 40cm 0.14mm hooklength to the loop. “I now want to have half the hooklength lying on the bottom, so we needed to drop the float 20cm. I’ll start with this shotting pattern to begin with and then we can adjust things as and when needed during the session” Ralf explained.

Many manufacturers now produce hollow elastics... all as a direct result of the introduction in 2000 of the famous 'Hydro' elastic!Many manufacturers now produce hollow elastics... all as a direct result of the introduction in 2000 of the famous 'Hydro' elastic!We then decided to disrupt Steffi's coffee break to have a look at the pole rigs she'd set-up. The World Champion, she always looks a little embarrassed when I call her that, has a 1.8mm hollow elastic through the first three sections of all the three top 5 kits. The 0.16mm main line has a 0.14 hooklength attached with a size 12 hook.

Steffi prefers a bunch of 'Perfect' pole floats to that of flowers!Steffi prefers a bunch of 'Perfect' pole floats to that of flowers!Incredibly, just like Ralf's bolo set-ups, I just can’t believe that terminal tackle and shot sizes are so heavy for this time of the year! “We have plenty of fish here,” explains Steffi adding, “I believe we can expect to catch around 25kg of roach, silver bream and bream during our allocated 3 hour challenge, so naturally we need the appropriate tackle!” Two of her top 5 kits are set up with 6 gram floats for the roach, the other has an 8 grammer set up for the bream, these are all are typical river-pattern floats from 'Perfect'.

Let’s take a closer look at the two roach set-ups. There's a size 12 hook attached to a 30cm hooklength then two No. 6 shot. A further 15-20cm up are another two No. 6's with the main bulk a further 15-20cm away. Part of this bulk consists of a string of seven No.6 shot which can be used as further droppers if required. The rig is plumbed-up to dead depth so will be fished running through, or 10cm overdepth if necessary.

The bream rig also has a size 12 hook to a 30cm hooklength, then two lots of two No.6 shot, from the hooklength to the bulk, spaced 10-15cm apart. Because this rig will be fished more static over the feed, unlike the roach rig which will be fished running through, it will have a plummet clipped onto the last two dropper shots, which will allow the complete hooklength to lay on the deck. “Many thanks 'Champ', now we’ll let you plumb up the pole line, while we have a quick chat and a coffee with Ralf”.

At last, our 'tea-boy' arrives!At last, our 'tea-boy' arrives!Before I forget, I would like to thank Nico Matschulat for turning up with a large flask of coffee for all of us. He makes a great 'tea boy', and for those of you who are familiar with the past two years of the IAM... he knows a bit about fishing these venues as well!

The CtIP's scoring system:
Because we were so excited about Steffi´s last minute decision to attend our session, we, the representatives of CtIP's, forgot to bring a second keepnet! Not to worry, this is where our specially developed scoring system comes in, and here’s how it works:
1. Small roach - 1 point
2. Medium-size roach and small silver bream - 2 points
3. Nice roach, good silver bream or a decent bream - 3 points
4. Additional points may be added if any fish exceeds expectations
Note: Official scoring sheet shown at end of article.

The session begins
Ralf's solid balls fit snugly into those 'goalkeepers' hands!Ralf's solid balls fit snugly into those 'goalkeepers' hands!Steffi won the toss and gave Ralf the first hour... and the job of priming BOTH lines with the initial balling-in of ground bait. A wise decision indeed as Ralf´s hands are the size more in keeping with a goalkeeper! Ten 'baby's-heads' of Steffi's mix were deposited at 11 metre. This would have equated to around 20 balls, had Steffi done it! Eight slightly smaller balls of the bolo mix were then sent flying out to 23 metres. This then prompted the first important question of the session... where to cast and then feed each time? Ralf was quick to explain. “Today we are using 10 gram floats, perhaps a little too heavy at the moment, but we will probably see a more water movement later, when the bigger boats start coming through. But as it’s just trickling through at the moment I'll keep casting and the feeding quite tight”.

Ralf casts to the clip which sees the float land slightly left of 90 degrees (see video link below). He then introduces a ball of groundbait a metre short and a metre downstream (left) of the float. The float is then pulled into the feed line, by which time the complete rig has settled as it hits the feed. “If we cast too far to the right, then we'll be wasting time and waiting far too long before the rig comes into contact with the feed hotspot. Cast too far left and the rig will not settle until it is at the end, or even worse, out of the feed area,” explains Ralf.
See video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RorqegBSjLE

Plenty of fish for Ralf during his initial stint on the bolo, if not a little on the small side!Plenty of fish for Ralf during his initial stint on the bolo, if not a little on the small side!Before Ralf had finished his sentence, a 300 gram roach slid into the landing net and the second cast was already settling. The second run-through also saw a good roach coming to the net. So within within the space of two casts we began to realise what sort of session this was likely to be! Ralf continued to catch roach and it was only a matter of 15 minutes before the first good sized silver bream found its way into the net. In fact Ralf was getting a 'bite-a-chuck', with about 15 % of the strikes not connecting, due mainly to the size of fish present in the swim.

Even a special sweetcorn 'sandwich' couldn't improve the size of Ralf's fish!Even a special sweetcorn 'sandwich' couldn't improve the size of Ralf's fish!Ralf had started the session with five maggots on his size 12 hook, but now tried a maggot, sweet corn, maggot combination to see if he could select just the better fish in the swim. But to no avail, it seemed that no matter how big the hook bait was, it didn't improve the size, or amount, of fish caught... amazing!

There was another intriguing question which came to light, something I'd noticed many times before, especially during the IAM. Why do many stand while bolognese fishing? Ralf, as always, had a logical reply and explanation. “I’m not only standing to extend the rods' length and keep as much line off the water, but by also holding the rod at a 45 degree angle to the water, it gives me more of a direct line to my float. I can therefore retain more control of my rig by lifting and amending my line accordingly, than with a normal length match rod, which lacks the control at these distances and depths.

Standing up when using the bolo adds control and contact to the rig.Standing up when using the bolo adds control and contact to the rig. Like the pole, I can hold the rig back or slow it down. Of course the wind plays a major part in this control, but today conditions are ideal as we have a slight breeze coming upstream.” Ralf continues. “If I extend the angle of the rod, the wind will cause more of a bow in the line and I can actually make the float, quite literally, stay on the spot. I say on the spot, but of course the bigger the bow, the more the float comes towards the bank, rather than actually stay in one place! Good bolognese fishing is all about finding that right combination. For example, if you feel that maybe bream want a stationary bait, then on the initial cast I wouldn’t pull my rig into the feed, but let the wind do the work of guiding my float over the feed in a delayed fashion, so when I strike, most result in a hooked fish. A bow in the line takes away the more violent effect of a direct strike, and has a more gradual contact, hence the loss of fewer fish!”
Eds note: This is a similar concept to the one used when feeder fishing in a strong flow, where you allow the line to form a large downstream bow. When the fish picks up the bait and dislodges the feeder, it nearly always hooks itself!

“It seems to me that you're striking quite hard, is there a particular reason for this?” I asked Ralf. “I strike fast, not hard, there is a very fine line between the two,” explaining further, “it’s essential to keep control over the strike, therefore I strike fast, but towards the end of the action I cushion 'the hit' and resume control. It´s also important to strike to the side, not upwards. This prevents the float catapulting out of the water”

Viewed from the CT's special 'river-cam', Ralf nets a small silver bream while Steffi and Nico look on!Viewed from the CT's special 'river-cam', Ralf nets a small silver bream while Steffi and Nico look on! Ralf continues catching steadily, feeding a ball every second run through. The smaller roach now seemed to have been 'bullied-off' the feed by bigger fish, but just as Ralf's settling in to a good rhythm the whistle blows, to indicate that an hour has past and it's Steffi turn to take up position in the 'hot-seat'.

Ralf was now becoming a little too curious about our 'innovative' scoring system, but like we agreed, the results would be made known at the end of the three hour session!

Steffi's down-sized balls may not be as big as Ralf's, but she certainly knew how to throw them!!!Steffi's down-sized balls may not be as big as Ralf's, but she certainly knew how to throw them!!!After a few adjustments to the seating arrangements Steffi, to our amazement, picked up the pole and swung out a 6 gram float. She expertly threw four balls of groundbait slightly left and downstream of the pole tip and one onto the bolognese line. In a 'lowered' voice, she let us in on her cunning plan of action. “The pole line has been fed constantly by Ralf over the past hour, but has remained un-fished. Ralf HAS to fish this line in an hour’s time, so I shall try and take advantage of it in the next 30 minutes and see if we can plunder a few good fish that may have hopefully settled, undisturbed, over the feed”

The CT's 'river-cam' in action again as Steffi brings in a small roach on the pole.The CT's 'river-cam' in action again as Steffi brings in a small roach on the pole. She proves she's not just a pretty face as the first '2-pointer' roach is scooped out with the net, closely followed by another three roach, for a further 6 points. What then follows is the first proper pull of the hollow elastic as it's taken out of the pole by a decent fish. Steffi takes her time with this one, leaving the tip underwater and shipping the pole very slowly backwards. After breaking the pole down, Steffi then moves the tip upstream, keeping the tip underwater, until the last minute when the tip is placed high in the air for us to see a good sized silver bream appear and gracefully enter the waiting landing net. A small nod of approval comes from Ralf, as Steffi gets her head down and continues netting on the 11 metre for the remaining time. This time a 'wolf-whistle' indicates that Steffi's allocated 30 minutes on the pole has ended and she must now take up the bolognese to finish her first hours session.

Clever thinking saw Steffi optimise her time on the pole with some quality roach like this!Clever thinking saw Steffi optimise her time on the pole with some quality roach like this!She even managed to keep the fish coming when she switched over to the bolo.She even managed to keep the fish coming when she switched over to the bolo.An initial cast towards Ralf's pre-baited area brings an immediate response, but only from a small roach. “There, I've cast too far left, but before I could recast this small roach had taken the five casters on a size 12 hook, on the drop, before my bulk had settled,” explains Steffi. The second cast see's the line hit the clip, placing the float precisely in the landing zone, followed closely by a ball of feed into the feeding spot. In what was becoming the 'norm', it was only a matter of seconds before another good roach takes the bait.

I couldn't resist a slight dig at Steffi saying, “I thought you had labelled yourself as one of the majority, when fishing the bolo rod? Your looking good from where I stand!” Steffi's quick to reply saying “well today´s conditions are not that difficult, because even if the groundbait or float does goes astray, we can still catch. The fish are overwhelming on this canal, so to be perfectly honest, even the majority of us would have a great time today.” She adds, “but of course, times are not always like this and when the going gets tough, the majority of us will probably give up and return to our favoured methods which have only become favourite because it’s what we use on a regular basis.

Therefore my advice to any anglers, and to myself, who are not that confident using the bolo, is to find a river or canal that produces fish just like today. You can then have some fun practising and catching, after all, success brings confidence with it.” It was certainly a confidence-building exercise for Steffi over the next half an hour.

While Ralf was keeping a close eye on his attractive opponent, we asked him if anglers normally play about with the shotting patterns during a session of this nature, as Steffi seemed content to leave things as they were... or was she being just a little lazy? Ralf laughed, “No, if you want laziness then go and find somewhere a little more relaxing, you can see how the fish are going mad for what we're giving them. I don’t think that any alterations made, will change our catch rate, or even the size of the fish today. Therefore it’s simply a matter of developing a rhythm and filling the keepnet as quick as possible”

“But when the going is tougher, or on another venue where perhaps there isn't so many fish, how would you make changes to the shotting pattern, or even hooklengths, to gain more success?” we asked him. “Changing your shotting to suit conditions is an important part of achieving perfect presentation,” Ralf replies and continues. “Moving your bulk up the line and adding a few more droppers can make a difference, but obviously don’t forget to reduce weight of the bulk to compensate for the extra droppers. This, for example, is a good option when the water has a strong undertow because an uncompensated bulk can cause the hook bait to move unnaturally through a swim when caught in the undertow. When crosswinds and undertow move in the same direction, you may have to go overdepth to help slow the bait down. Don’t worry about laying too much line overdepth, the current and wind tend to keep everything direct and tight, so you will still see the bites register on the float. I now think you are keeping me talking because Steffi”s time is up,” Ralf pointedly remarks!

He takes his place on the box, and returns things to their original position after Steffi's impromptu housework! His final 30 minutes are allocated to the pole and places five casters on the the 8 gram rig and slowly edges it through the swim, holding it back every now and again. The results prove no different to Steffi's 30 minutes session, although the CT reporting team did mention to Ralf that the fish seem to appear slightly smaller than Steffi's! (In fact what we conveniently failed to clarify, was that the fish actually appeared bigger in Steffi's smaller hands than in Ralf´s massive buckets!) “I think you are talking nonsense” replied a disgruntled Ralf!
Note: The CT reporting team umpires of this friendly challenge, take Ralf´s statement as an act of dissension, thereby under-mining our authority. We therefore deduct 10 points under Rules 7 and 6 for this outburst, but fail to inform him of this!

Steffi's last 30 minutes on the bolo also saw no difference in the number of fish that were caught so the cameraman took full advantage of 'snapping' as many shots of our World Champion as possible.

The session now over all that remained was for the total net of fish to be divided, according to CtIP's rules, into approximately half each for purpose of photographing our challengers. However, more importantly was the scorecard, which we neglected to show the challengers, but rather announced the results:

FIRST: Steffi Bloch with a total score of 152pts
SECOND: Ralf Herdlitschke 151pts.

A net for each competitor... but slightly more we think in Steffi's!!!A net for each competitor... but slightly more we think in Steffi's!!! Our final scorecard tells the whole story!!!Our final scorecard tells the whole story!!! That was so close, shame about Ralf's unlucky brush with the umpires! But congratulations to Steffi, the new CT Bolo Challenge Champion. A title we’re sure she’ll cherish as much as the many others she holds. Our thanks to our two sporting contestants for an excellent demonstration of angling, and a special appreciation for testing out our new innovative scoring system. You never know, the real CIP's might get a few ideas from this!!!

Editors comment:
The Bolo's not just limited to the confines of Europe, it has a valid application on many of our UK waters, yet doesn't seem to quite capture the imagination of us here. In essence it's just a controlled way of float fishing at distance in very deep and flowing waters. But there's also another advantage to using a bolognese rod. Some of our commercial fisheries are quite deep and many anglers simply become lazy and use the feeder to cope with the more extreme depths.

Having been 'weaned' on 12 to 14 foot waggler rods, many of us seem unwilling, or unaware, that a 'bolo' can open up more options to catch fish... especially if you're sick and tired of feeder fishing. Using a slider puts the emphasis back at float fishing and is an option some choose, but many anglers seem to get confused by it's set-up so don't bother and sit like garden gnomes watching the tip of their rod. The bolo is an ideal and simple alternative for those wishing to keep the historical principal of just setting the float depth and casting out. With normal lengths from 4 to 8 metres... yes that's a rod capable of fishing over TWENTY FOOT with a fixed waggler, you can now start to see some advantages appearing! Despite their length, they are remarkably soft and powerfully constructed. In fact I remember many years ago at the Gold Valley carp mecca, many anglers fishing with bolo's close in for double figure carp. So you now see what I'm getting at!

Perhaps we have created cause here to run an article on the bolo's use on one of our more deeper commercial waters? Watch this space!

And finally, our thanks to Jayson and the Champions-Team for producing an enlightening and amusing, if not slightly unusual, approach to bolognese fishing!