Throughout my career as a Carp angler I have used, experienced and learnt a few very noticeable edges that if applied correctly or used on the right day, will always give you a positive result.
The obvious easy one to recognise for most anglers was the hair rig. If you were lucky enough to be the angler that used it for the first time, you will know the meaning of easy fishing. One of the major advantages of the hair and its many derivatives is its consistency over every circumstance that made it such a major angling breakthrough.
I remember many years ago fishing a very difficult water in the midlands that had a reputation for being almost impossible. It was during one very hot summer day I discovered a method of catching these fish without spending countless hours on the bank.
When daytime temperatures climbed and the sun shone all the fish in the lake would head towards a very large weed bed in the shallow end of the lake. They would then settle themselves down into a convenient hole until the sun set. This behaviour could carry-on for weeks until a change of weather disrupted their routine. I tried a static approach and stalking them on all the usual baits, but most of the time all I managed to do was spook them further into the thickest parts of the weed bed. However, there was one method I hadn’t tried and that was, what you could call live-baiting with a large lobworm – not the easiest bait to find in hot weather. I did eventually manage to acquire some by watering my mum’s lawn constantly for two days, for the uninitiated you don’t dig lobworms up, you have to bring them to the surface and catch them.
My first attempt with this bait worked and I caught my first Carp from the venue but there is a definite technique to ensure success, because if you present it wrongly they would ignore it just like all the other baits. However, fished correctly with the right amount of finesse a strikable take usually follows. You must first have a static fish preferable laid-up in a hole in the weed. You then need to cast over the fish and slowly bring the worm back to the fish, do not let your line touch the water between worm and tip ring. You can only fish this method effectively if you are free lining and have a good pair of polarising sunglasses to ensure you can see everything clearly. It is also a method that is hard to fish beyond 25m so getting close and personal is important. Ensure you manoeuvre the worm to intercept the head end of your Carp, when you have the worm within 600mm of the Carp slow everything down, if you are pulling the worm over surface weed this can now be done very slowly, if you are fishing in circumstances where the worm will sink if you stop pulling, ensure the retrieve is smooth, injecting the worm with air will help, but you must ensure the worm sinks once you drop your rod top. The secret is to get the worm to sink slowly past the mouth of the Carp and not to allow your line to touch the waters surface. If you haven’t spooked the fish with sudden movements or your line, I can assure you the fish will grab the bait. The secret is to then hopefully hook the fish before it try’s to eject the worm, which it will do if you do not react quickly. I thread my worms up my main line making sure the hook is in the tail of the worm and once the Carp sucks in the worm, I strike. I also squeeze a small piece of bred flake around the hook point protruding from the worm to ensure the hook does not get snagged on the retrieve. If the carp fails to try the bait allow it to sink slowly out of site before retrieving, I have known fish follow them down to the bottom and then take them so make sure you never take your focus off the fish or your main line.
I have caught many Carp in this way and not always using worms, I believe it appeals to their predatory nature; another very effective bait used in this manner is luncheon meat and the skin from around a bait brick.
A bait brick is a special prepared oblong of boilley paste cooked in that form usually made if you want to use square or chopped baits. However, the by-product of this process is a semi buoyant outer skin that can be cubed into any shape or size. I like to use it again free-lining and balance my hook so the bait sinks extremely slowly. The secret again is to present the bait on the Carp’s nose, but sinking, their response can be very positive and aggressive.
Another method I have fared very well with is suspending bait anywhere between 125-600mm below a small quill float. Again the circumstances have to be right, fish need to be active in the surface lay’s conditions again found during the summer months. The secret again is stealth, quick reactions and you must be able to see your bait. Carp’s curiosity will always pull them towards unfamiliar objects the secret is then getting them to sample the offering. The other secret with this method is if the fish rejects the bait on its first approaches, retrieve and recast it into a slightly different position. Most of the takes will come very fast and you will need to strike immediately the fish takes the bait into its mouth. It is a method that works best in open water where cruising fish can be intercepted quickly and easily. I have used many different types of bait with this method with varying degrees of success, but the ones I found most effective are brightly coloured boilies.
If you are lucky enough to live close to your chosen water and can easily introduce bait without any problems then effective pre-baiting will give you a major edge. If possible I would always try and establish my bait by the following method:
The whole process works on little and often basis gradually building the Carp’s confidence in your bait. I learnt my technique more through experience and a need to be economical. I have found initially you need to find spots where the fish will feed normally; this should be your starting point. The secret is then, once you know you have the fish feeding on your bait, to try and create your own spots. If your bait is any good they will follow. If they move freely and feed on your new spots, the rest is easy; it just then becomes a balancing act between fishing time and baiting. I believe once you have them behaving in this manner they will almost pick your bait-up anywhere and angling becomes easy for a time. The timing of these baiting up sessions is crucial and some days you might need to do it more than once. The last time I did this effectively was as part of a team so the workload and the chance of annoying other anglers was reduced. To effectively create these circumstances you need two advantages, firstly to live close to your chosen venue or have unlimited time and resource, two very important edges.
It would be impossible to discuss this topic without including a section on bait. It is however very difficult to précis all the edges this can give you providing you apply it correctly. There are so many good baits around at the moment it must be hard for the average Carp angler to decide what to use.
My advice would be to focus on baits with a good reputation and then adapt it to your circumstances. I have very recently done well using high quality HNV’s combined with high attract additives, a combination not always thought to be compatible, so it does help to think out of the box sometimes. Another common trait I have found with bait that has both given me and other anglers an edge is originality it never pays to follow the crowd.
Probably my current favourite edge is using multiple baits; I’m sure most carp anglers don’t really know how to use this method correctly or how effective it can be.
It would always be my first option on any difficult water. The secret to applying it effectively is in both the presentation and introduction. Baiting-up with multiples is essential. There are several ways of doing this, but my preferred method is to skewer my baits onto dry spaghetti, in a similar manner to threading beads. Once you have one completed length loaded with your bait you can then break-off sections to your desired configuration ready for use. They do take more of an effort introducing them, because they do have a tendency to have a mind of their own, both when used in a catapult and throwing stick, but with a little patience they can be used as a pre-bait effectively. I prefer to use them in conjunction with ground bait; their structure helps bind the mix, making the whole process easier.
The numbers, combinations and patterns you can use are quite extensive. The most common and probable most used is the two bait set-up, mounted like a snowman on a standard knotless knot rig. I prefer to use this set-up with my hook baits slightly apart. This is best achieved by leaving a 10mm gap between each bait, the first being held in place by either sliding a rubber ledger stop onto the hair or trapping the line with a cocktail stick pushed into the boilly. The second bait can then be mounted on the hair in the normal manner. It is helpfully if you have some consistency with your bait size and you should ensure your hair is made to the correct length to accommodate two baits, the gap and hinge. I also prefer my hair to be made from very supple material and whipped to my hook mid shank.
Last year I did very well early in the season fishing multiples, in two double pairs, leaving the gap between each pair. I must stress at this point I have never done well in the UK using multiple bait set-ups with baits larger than 14mm. My preferred bait size is 10mm or less, mainly because it gives you endless scope without the set-up becoming too large.
The combination of bait type is endless; you do not always have to use boilies. I have tried combinations with all the following and caught on some very difficult waters, tiger nuts, maggots, castors, maple peas, bread, sweet corn, worm, pellets and hemp to name just a few.
Why are multiple set-ups so effective? I’m not quite sure, but I have my own thoughts and theories. They have all come from many hours observing fish both feeding and being caught on multiple set-ups. Firstly most fish do not see them at anywhere near the same frequency as single baits, but when they do, they feed on them differently. Three bait multiples mounted with gaps, even as a free offering using the spaghetti are difficult for the fish to pick-up and eject without taking them well into their mouths, so four and fives just exaggerate the situation. They seem to forget caution and become aggressive with frustration sucking-up as much as possible and almost attacking the baits to ensure they get every last one. We have all heard multiples referred to as the greedy pig rig; I would qualify that and add the word frustrated after greedy.
So next time you are out on the bank or making future plans what are your edges to ensure success this year.