Here’s a clever little tip to fool extra wary carp. Soak your boilies in water for, say, 24 hours before use. The result will be a ‘washed out’ look that gives the impression of a bait that has been sat on the lake bed for days and is therefore safe.
Particles is the name given to small items of food that are great for keeping carp in your swim without filling them up. Hemp, pellets, sweetcorn and tares are cheap options that can be bought in bulk to keep costs down.
PVA bags are a great way of getting feed around your hookbait. But solid bags can float on the surface while they dissolve and this is something to avoid. Puncture the bag with a baiting needle to ensure it sinks on casting.
Don’t think you need to cast into the distance to catch big carp. The margins are great places to target and the added benefit is that they are easy to feed accurately.
A classic carpy looking lake
If you want to target a marginal swim, look for features. Overhanging cover, nearside weedbeds and depressions in the lake bed are all likely places. Sit well back, though. You don’t want to spook the fish.
Understanding the depth of your swim is vital if you want to catch carp. Cast a lead out and count the number of seconds it takes for it to hit the bottom. One second is roughly one foot. Look for gravel bars and depressions.
You should also look to establish what the base of your swim is made from. Again, cast a lead out and slowly retrieve it. Any solid resistance means weed, a dragging sensation could be silt or mud and a solid ‘donk’ is likely to be gravel. This is the area to target.
Carp fishing in colder temperatures can be tough and bites are at a premium. Dispense with the normal bolt-rig set-up and go for a running rig instead. Cautious carp can be fooled easier this way.
If you see a carp break the surface, cast to it. You’d be surprised at the number of fish that get caught in this way.
If you’re fishing a weedy lake, try using a rake to create your own hotspot. Carp are naturally nosey – and greedy – and will home in on any area that has been freshly disturbed.
Give your hookbait extra attraction by dipping it one a glug. Or choose one that’s PVA friendly and it add to your PVA bags. This will provide attraction without providing the fish with anything to fill them up.
If you see a carp breaking the surface, cast to it
Study the water: Your eyes are your best weapon. If you spot carp, you are two-thirds of the way there. Jumping fish, disturbed wildlife, moving reeds and bubbles – these are all signs of carp.
Know your swim: You might not be able to see underwater but that doesn’t mean you can’t build a picture of the lake bed. Use a lead and cast around, ‘feeling’ for things like bars, weedbeds and gravel spots. Find a clear area and begin your assault there.
Be mobile: You have to be prepared to move if the fish aren’t in your first spot. And you can’t do this if you have a ton of kit. Be ruthless in what you take and try and keep things to a minimum.
Don’t over complicate things: New fangled rigs and super expensive bait isn’t necessary. Choose a simple tangle-free rig but make sure the hook is razor sharp. Pick a reliable, good quality bait but try giving it an edge with a glug.
Pack pellets: So many pellets are piled in lakes nowadays carp see them as ‘natural’. And with fish waking up after their winter slumber, they’ll be looking to build up lost fat reserves – and pellets are loaded with these. Take plenty with you.
Make sure lines are kept out of sight: On pressured day ticket waters especially, carp will be very wary of lines cutting through the water. Use a heavy sinking mono or use a back-lead to pin everything on the deck.
Use PVA: PVA is a brilliant invention and guarantees a bed of bait around your hookbait. Pack them tight with pellets, broken boilies and even dry groundbait to create a concoction that ‘explodes’ on the lake bed.
Spod and groundbait: Spodding is a superb method of introducing a big bed of bait. But ‘spod spill’ can leave bait spread all over the place. Eliminate this by plugging the end of your spod with groundbait. The added bonus is you get a lovely cloud hanging in the water.
Maggots are a brilliant carp bait
Never ignore maggots: Maggots are not just a small fish bait – carp love them too! When the water’s still cool and the fish lethargic, a bed of maggots can trigger them into feeding. You can even swap your lead for a big blockend feeder.
Solid bags can be deadly: If your lake is especially weedy, a solid bag can be deadly. Take a standard bolt-rig and use a very short hooklength, of say 3ins. Place in a solid PVA bag with pellets, broken boilies or groundbait and cast out.
Breadcrust is one of the all-time great surface baits – but it’s all about picking the right bread. Go for a freshly-baked loaf as opposed to one that’s pre-sliced. When it comes to the size of hookbait, don’t be shy. Use a large square and mount on a size 6 or 4 – this way it will stay on the hook.
The main negative to using crust are birds. Overcome this by using fake bread instead of the real stuff. Enterprise Tackle make some great-looking fake bread and it has the added bonus of never coming off the hook.
Dog biscuits are often the first choice for anglers wanting to catch carp from the surface. But don’t just use them ‘dry’ from the packet. Place a handful in a bag and add water – but don’t over-wet. You want them moist enough to be able to hair rig. Then introduce a squirt of flavouring – this will help your bait stand out from the rest.
Don’t ignore cat biscuits. They not only come in all types of different sizes, they are often smellier, and more oily, than dog biscuits.
It might sound slightly strange, but certain particles can work as surface baits. Sunflower seeds have been known to work brilliantly on hard-fished waters. But prepare them properly by leaving them to soak in water for 12 hours prior to use.
When it comes to picking a controller float, it all depends on distance. If you’re fishing at short to medium range a bubble float will do the job, but if you’re trying to reach fish further out then a heavier version is better.
Surface fishing for carp is deadly – and heart-stopping!
If you’re struggling to feed floaters at range, try attaching a PVA bag of biscuits to your hookbait – that way you’ll ensure free offerings in the area. Better still, use a Spomb.
One clever trick is to dispense with a shop-bought controller altogether and use a piece of twig or cut-down tree branch. Obviously you won’t be able to cast it far, but in terms of camouflage, it takes some beating. Simply wrap an elastic band around it and trap your line underneath.
When it comes to hooklength, the choice will be determined by the venue and the size of fish. If it’s snaggy and the carp are big, try a floating braid. But if it’s clear of snags and the fish aren’t huge, a mono link of say 6lb will encourage bites.
Use the lightest hook you can get away with. Presentation is everything, especially on hard-fished waters, and anything too heavy will make the hookbait behave unnaturally. Try a Korda Mixa, which have been purpose-made for the job.
Boilies tend to be round. But these can become familiar to carp. Why not try fishing half a boilie instead? Not only will this look different, you will have broken the skin and allowed added scent to escape into the water, too.
If your want to target carp in winter, always pack some fluoro boilies. A single bright bait stands out – and can often spark a lethargic carp into feeding.
Try a snowman rig. This is essentially two boilies – one a bottom bait, one a pop-up – put on the same hair-rig. You’ll find that the buoyancy of the pop-up is off-set against the weight of the bottom bait, creating a critically-balanced set-up.
Having faith in a piece of plastic might be tough but fake baits have accounted for countless huge carp. Try imitation boilies, sweetcorn and even maggots. They have the added benefit of durability.
In summer you will often find areas of the lake’s surface covered in a surface layer of scum. Carp can often be found feeding here.
Different pellets come with different breakdown rates. Try using a variety in the same PVA bag – it’ll ensure your feed doesn’t all look ‘uniform’.
Don’t ignore rivers when it comes to targeting specimen carp. Some are natural inhabitants but many enter waterways during floods – and they can grow big!
Marker floats ensure accuracy
The alternative is to use a marker float. This enables an exact depth to be found. Cast out, tighten up to the lead and pay off line from the spool at one foot intervals. When the float hits the surface, you’ll know the depth.
Use braid with a marker float. The extra sensitivity and lack of stretch means you’ll get a more accurate picture of your swim.
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