Questions on Catching Carp

The list below shows numerous questions about catching carp and how to improve catch rate.

Why can't I catch carp when fishing an easy runs water?

There are many possible reasons why you're not catching carp. It could be something very simple and subtle or a combination of minor issues together. For these reasons, I cannot really answer this question well without knowing more information about the lake, fish stocks, weather, etc, etc. 

I will however, try to stick to some common basic fishing errors and see if this helps improve your catch rate. 

If you know there are carp in your swim and you're pretty sure they're feeding, then you can narrow it down to a problem with your rigs or bait. It may just take a subtle change to your end tackle such as the length of the hooklink or hair used.

For ease, I will list some possible rig issues that you may need to look into:

  • Hair or hooklink length may need adjusting
  • Hooklink, line or end tackle are visible to the carp
  • Lead is too light to set the hook properly and carp are successfully ejecting the hook
  • A blunt hook
  • Wrong hook size for bait selected
  • Bait is not behaving naturally like the free offerings so carp unlikely to pick hookbait up (maybe more possible on hard waters with rig-shy carp)
  • The rig is not settling on the bottom as intended and rendering it useless
  • Rig selection or set up is not right for the situation (using helicopter rigs on hard gravel or using inline leads cast into weed beds - both not recommended)
  • A tangle in the rig set up
  • Line is not pinned down on the bottom or hooklink loops up when rig settles

As you can see there can be numerous rig issues that could cause a reduction in your carp catch rate. Bear in mind it could also be another problem such as your angling methods, techniques, tactics or even bait issues. So you need to experiment and be prepared to try out new ideas. You can improve your catch rates if you apply a little thought and effort to all areas of carp fishing.  

I'm struggling to catch carp on the gravel lately so thinking of trying weedy areas. Is this a good idea?

Yes of course, carp love weed. There is a common saying - find the weed and you'll find the carp. For security reasons, carp like the deepish water surrounded by weed. Most anglers don't cast lines through or into weed, so there's less angling pressure on the carp. The difficulty comes when fishing into weed as it creates its own rig presentation problems, potential tangles and snagging issues. However if you bear with it, fishing in weed can bring some good catch  results. Just remember to fish using safe rigs with a lead ejector system. this means if a carp runs into dense weed beds then you can play it through the weed safely and limit its ability to become tethered.

It may be best to place rig and bait close to a weed bed and attempt the carp out rather than the difficulty of actually fishing into the weed itself. 

My fishing method is no longer working on my local lake. I would pre-bait with effective boilies and fish to the known feeding spots. It used to be a fish banker for years. Why are my tactics no longer effective?

To be frank, the carp have adapted to your consistent angling approach. They may have associated your bait presentation and method with danger and therefore become less effective. You may catch one or two more carp going forward but the reality is, you need to try out a new approach to your fishing method to improve your catch rate. Repeating the same approach once you've caught most of the carp in a lake is a common mistake many carp anglers make. 

Firstly, you could try just single bait tactic within the same feeding spots. The carp may have associated big bait beds as the danger and thus avoid such situations. It's also possible that the feeding spots have become dangerous to carp, so if no one else is catching from these areas then you may have to find new spots or try to develop your own.

Also try changing your bait such as the colour, flavour or shape. However, if you do change your bait then stick with it for a while. Carp will need time to feed on new bait as they will probably be suspicious of it at first. Of course on a runs water, a new bait may work immediately as carp's hunger will override any potential danger.

What's the first thing I should be doing when starting a carp fishing session?

Look for where the fish are located. Once you find the fish, and providing you can fish the area, I would plop out a few free baits but maybe not on top of their heads. You want to try to gain their confidence and get them feeding without any pressure of leads crashing into the water.

If the carp in the lake are particularly wary, then try casting out light lead rigs up to 10 yards away from their position. Then try to encourage the carp towards your rigs by continuing to drop the loose boilies gradually towards the area of each rig. 

I regularly fish for carp on baited spots. Should I use the same bait as my loose offerings?

I generally prefer to use the same bait as the free offerings at the start of a session and then change tactics if this is not catching carp. Some like to fish with boilies over a bed of hemp or pellets so their hookbait stands out. However, I think this is too much of a common fishing tactic on most waters. 

Like many tactics, it'll still work but maybe catching out the smaller carp. One good trick to use when fishing over bait is to place 2 rigs in the area. One using the same bait as your loose feed and the other with a stand-out hookbait. This way you'll find out which works best on your lake. It could also work well at fooling rig-shy carp by showing them which is the "danger" bait so they feed confidently on the free bait where your other matching rig is presented. 

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