There are still many carp anglers who, upon arrival at a lake, just choose the peg that seems the most comfortable, set the rods up, simply cast out to the horizon, and hope for the best. If you’re serious about catching lots of carp, then you really need to be doing more than just leaving it to lady luck. The most important things to consider when you go fishing for carp - once the weather conditions are right – are location of fish, good quality bait, good baiting tactics, and effective rigs. These are the fundamental basics to catching carp effectively, so only when those basic points are covered will you stand a better chance of catching big carp.
After carp fishing for over 15 years, I have established a general process that I use for almost every carp fishing trip. Firstly, I only go fishing when the weather conditions are favourable or at least okay to stand a chance of catching. Once I’m there, I go through the process of locating the fish as best I can. Sometimes on day ticket waters the sheer number of carp anglers may limit my options, however I have found that to combat this I simply fish in areas where the fishermen are less crowded. The simple reason is that usually carp will move away from angling pressure, thus you can often assume that carp will be where the anglers are not!
If I am lucky enough to have many options of pegs, but cannot seem find see any signs of carp around, then I try to select a peg that gives me good options. I go for a peg that has more volume of water in front of it, I don’t like pegs stuck in corners or locked away in a small bay, unless obviously that’s where the fish have been located and caught from over the last few days. It’s important to give yourself options for when conditions change. If I’m not sure where the fish are located, I will always look for a peer type peg where I can have rigs in many different parts of the lake. For this reason, a peg with a large volume of water is often a good choice when having to guess. Once I have established these basics rules, I then go into a more detailed approach.
Once I feel that I have all the basics covered, I will then go into my general fishing tactic for the whole session. After choosing a peg I often try to get some bait in first, even before I use a marker rod. The idea is to scatter bait out in likely carp holding areas. I think a few baits scattered around the whole area of a swim also helps to get the fish moving and rummaging for food. I also want the carp to gain confidence in their feeding by letting them have my unique bait for free whilst there are no rigs (or danger) in the water. This may help lower their guard and increase the chances of a bigger fish over the next few days. Maybe only a little advantage but every little bit helps!
I do not scatter bait in the swim during the colder seasons, as I try using single hook baits or combined with a stringer of one or two free offerings. I also won't scatter bait if I'm only fishing for less than 48 hours.
I generally prefer to fish on large beds of bait, I especially like a unique combination of particle baits to try to trigger the carp's curiosity. With large beds of bait I try to get the majority in during the first few days. I will then slow down topping up over the mid-part of the session, and then completely stop topping up during the last few days. This causes the carp to compete for the rapidly disappearing food source.
I very often look at placing one carp rig in the margin to try to target fish moving in during the night. I have often had a run during the night or in the early hours of the morning whilst fishing the margins. Also, one advantage of fishing the margins is you can quickly get your free offerings exactly where you want them to be and, if the water is clear, you can see likely spots where carp may hang out or patrol at certain times of the day. You also don’t always need to use a marker rod which may scare off any carp in the area. If the water is not clear then a quick feel with a landing net pole can help find a area of the bed good enough to set a rig.
Once I have used a marker rod and found features on the lake bed where I can easily place a bed of bait, I get the bait in. Although for the first night I won’t place my rigs onto the bed of bait. The reason for this is I want the fish to build confidence on the bait. Carp very often know or sense when rigs are present, they’ve been seeing these things long enough to know what parts of a rig triggers the danger instinct inside of them. They may see the line, lead, tubing, etc, I'm not sure but it may be enough to force the most cautious (often the bigger) carp away from the baited areas. I will often leave a newly baited area for at least one day, choosing instead to cast 2 rigs out to visible features with various pop ups combined with different flavours and smells. This is to target the odd bonus fish whilst the baited area establishes itself as a feeding area for the carp.
I will also use different variations of rigs on each rod to try to discover what type of rig is the most effective. The difference may simply be a change in the length of the hook link or the type of hooking system employed. If I start to get action on one type alone then I will change the other rods to the same rig that is providing the action. I will only then change the type of rig if the runs slow down, as this may mean the carp have become wise to that type of rig. The actual method or rig I use first will largely depend on the type of lake or the situation I’m fishing in.
I very often prefer to place rigs inside a PVA bag for the first night to limit any potential tangles, plus this will place some free bait accurately next to the hook bait. I also feel the rig will sit on the bottom better if the hook is protected, as I never know exactly what the bottom may be like until I have used a marker rod. For example, I may have cast the rig onto a slight slope and the rig could roll down slightly and tangle up making it ineffective for catching carp. But, placing the rig inside a PVA bag will limit its ability to roll, and if it should roll, it should have a few minutes protection before the bag melts. There is more chance the baited rig will settle correctly before the PVA bag melts away.
During the first night I sometimes trickle feed each rig to try to coax any passing carp onto the hook bait. I don’t worry too much about over baiting on the first night because if I’m there for 3 days or more then I can re-adjust the amount of bait going in during the latter part of the fishing session.
This is the basic approach I have been using over the last few years. It has helped me bank many carp, with the majority being over 20 pounds. I do sometimes veer away from this basic tactic, but it doesn’t change much. How much I change it will depend on the problems I face on any given day or the depending on the lake I'm fishing. I do try to stick to this basic process because I feel it’s a winning combination of basic carp knowledge, experience, and logic.
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