If we take a walk around a modern day ticket Carp water most anglers would be fishing a bait – normally a boilie on the bottom of the lake bed. Carp anglers have every reason to focus their attention on the bottom of the lake as Carp are anatomically designed to feed off the lake bed, with their long extending mouths helping them to hoover up bloodworm and other small bottom living insects.
However, we have to realise that Carp are opportunistic feeders and, as such will happily feed in every layer of the lake – mid level and off the top and, if we ignore this fact we are missing out on a huge potential to catch Carp.
This point was made very clear to me during a session back in January when the bight sunny conditions were pleasing for the time of year – daytime temperature were at +16C with an overnight temperature of a very chilly -5C. The anglers in the next peg had spotted Carp feeding near the lake surface and had set up zig rigs to intercept them. Their strategy paid huge dividends for them as they banked numerous Carp when everyone else on the lake fishing bottom baits blanked.
Fishing a zig rig is simplicity itself and your standard Carp fishing rods and reels will do the job very well. However, you do need to ensure they are able to cope with fishing small hooks – size 10’s or 12’s and very fine hook lengths 10lb or even 8lb mono. My rod of choice is the new Greys Prodigy GT5 12′ in a 3lb tc as they give me the ability to cast a zig rig 120 yards but still have a nice progressive action that helps cushion the hook hold and prevent the fine hook lengths from snapping.
For my zig rig I use buoyant bait, either a pop up or a fake bait from Enterprise tied tight to the back of a small strong but light Korda Mixa hook in either size 12’s or 10’s. The hook length is from Drennan called Double Stretch and I use either 8lb or 10lb breaking strain depending upon the size of the Carp I am expecting. I connect the hook length to either a running lead system or if it is weedy a lead eject system. It is better to use a running rig system if possible as the fish cannot use the weight of the lead when using a fixed lead system to help bounce the hook out of its mouth.
I set the hook length to be as long as I need it to be if the lake is ten feet deep I will often try an eight foot long zig to start with and continue to adjust the length until I start getting bites.
I place a small amount of PVA foam over the hook before I cast out this will helps to prevent the rig from tangling as you cast and will ensure the rig is set in the upper layers of the water before the PVA foam dissolves leaving your bait right in front of the Carp.
With my rigs ready I use my Greys Marker Plus Rod and carefully check out the depth of the lake at the range I want to fish at. With the Marker still out in the lake I take my Greys Spod Plus Rod and cast my spod to the marker float. When I have got the Spod sat right next to the Marker float I then clip up the line on the Spod rod reel and again marker the line with pole elastic just in case the line comes unclipped from the reel.
Now I range my rods to suit the fishing conditions and once I have the range I place a small size 4 pole elastic marker on my line so I know I am at the right range every cast. I do not clip my lines up as I am not using a PVA stocking bag of pellets so I am happy to cast my rigs out into the lake and simply wind the rigs back in until the line marker is sat just in front of the reel. With my GT5’s ranged up I then cast them out into the lake watching the spool on the reel looking for the marker to come off the spool. As soon as I see the marker leave I feather the line to prevent over cast and then reel the line back in slowly until the marker is back just in front of the spool.
You can fish with tight line to your rigs as the fish will be feeding in the upper layers and should not trip over your main line as it sit tight to the lead.
On heavily stocked Carp lakes I will spod soup over the top of the zig rigs to get the fish, actively looking for buoyant and slowly sinking food items in the middle layers of the water. I use a standard Korda Skywinder spod but tape up the holes in the body to stop the sloppy spod soup from covering you on the cast. The spod mix is made up from items which will create a cloud in the waters and has items that flutter through the water column. Milk shake powder is very good – I prefer banana which I mix with breakfast oats and vitalin dog food which has a lot of rolled maize and oats in it. I will also often add a large number of dog biscuits to the mix which will after getting wet enough sink slowly. The mix is put into a large ground bait bucket and mixed very, very wet. Once ready I spod every thirty seconds or so keeping a large cloudy column of food items dropping through the water tempting the Carp to feed in the upper layers as they compete with each other for food.
I have found with such long hook lengths the fish don’t seem to register any liners so bites are normally screamers with the fish racing off as it realises it has made a mistake picking up that last food morsel. Once hooked you have to play the fish with a lot of care due to the small hooks and light hook lengths. As I said before I like a smooth progressive action in my rods to cushion the Carps lunges. I also set the clutch on my reels very soft and use my fingers on the side of the spool as an adaptive brake if needed. This strategy helped me land many big Carp with my current best caught on a zig being 27lb 6oz a huge fish on a small size 12 hook.
Don’t forget that surface fishing is also a great way of catching Carp when they are cruising around and taking bugs and insects off the top.
Next time you go fishing take a little time to think about where the Carp might be in the layers of the lake and modify your approach to try and intercept them. Make sure as summer and the warm weather approaches you have a bag of mixers in your car ready for that 3 dimensional fishing session and have some fun trying to catch those surface Carp.