Steve Ringer Explosive margin tips
A last-gasp lump can make your day. Here’s how to catch one
ONE of my favourite places to fish on commercials is in the margins. The carp tend to be big, and when you hook one the action can be explosive!
On top of that, from a match angler’s point of view, if you get it right in the margins you can very quickly go from zero to hero and pull back from a seemingly hopeless position to win the day!
That said, catching carp down the edge isn’t always easy. In fact at times it can make you want to tear your hair out, as there can be tails all round the float and you still can’t get a bite!
In recent years it’s been all about groundbait and dead maggots, and I have to admit I’m still a fan of these baits as long as the swim is right for them.
Here I’m talking depth. I only really like to feed groundbait into water that’s a maximum of 2ft deep. Anything deeper and line bites and foul-hookers become a problem. If I have a really deep margin I simply substitute the groundbait for hemp, and feed hemp and dead maggots instead. Being heavy, hemp helps keep the carp on the bottom, and line bites become less of an issue.
For a five-hour match I like to take three pints of dead maggots. To give them a scent boost I always add a capful of Mainline Activ-8 liquid. My groundbait is a 50/50 mix of Ringers The Edge and Dynamite Baits Sweet Fishmeal.
The Edge is a very heavy mix, while the Sweet Fishmeal adds plenty of flavour. It’s important that the groundbait you use is heavy, so that when there are carp feeding in the swim it doesn’t waft about all over the place.
When it comes to mixing it, I like to overwet it slightly as again this helps keep it on the bottom.
I always feed a bit of corn too, so I know that if small fish are a problem with maggots I have another hookbait choice which the carp are used to. Double corn tends to be a lot more small-fish resistant than maggots.
My favourite floats for margin work are Mick Wilkinson Margin Slims or Diamonds. For shallow water – say 12ins – I prefer the Slim, whereas for 2ft or more I find the Diamond a lot more stable.
Both have several key characteristics – first, they are
pretty much unbreakable. This is important, especially when fishing up to snags. Second, they have ‘proper’ bristles, which are easy to see and allow me to read bites a lot more easily.
When edge fishing I like to leave a little extra ‘show’ on the float tip so that I know that when I lift I’m doing so at a proper bite and not a liner. Float size is 0.2g or 0.3g, depending on depth. I don’t like really light floats for edge fishing because even in shallow water I always find they get moved about too easily by feeding fish.
Mainline is 0.22mm Guru N-Gauge to a 4ins hooklength of 0.19mm in the same material.
This might seem heavy, but when the fish weigh 10lb-plus I see little point in messing about with light lines. A double-figure fish in a match is too big to risk losing, and I honestly don’t believe where carp are concerned that fishing lighter means more bites. It’s all about making every fish count.
Hook is a size 14 Guru XS Spade, a razor-sharp, wide-gape pattern that is perfect for big baits and big carp. It’s super strong too, so you don’t have to worry about the hook straightening.
Shotting is a lightly-strung bulk of No10s. I place the bottom shot about 5ins from the hook and the rest of the droppers at half-inch intervals above this. I don’t like to put shot too close to the hook when fishing in the edge as I find it leads to more line bites and spooked fish.
I also don’t believe there is any benefit to doing so, because when a carp sucks in the hookbait it tends to stay sucked!
If the fish are big, there’s nothing better than Red Hydrolastic. This hollow elastic is thick and powerful, but once a fish is hooked it’s actually softer than a lot of anglers realise – so soft, in fact, that to use it properly it really has to be on a puller kit.
Be positive! Carp in the edge tend to be big, and they can mop up a lot of bait very quickly, so it’s important to take this into account.
The first thing to mention is timing – it’s very rare that I will feed an edge swim from the off.
Unless it’s a noted margin peg I will look to feed the edge with two hours to go. This is done with six big 250ml pots consisting of one-third maggots and two-thirds groundbait with a few grains of corn.
Once I’ve done this, I keep an eye on the margins to see if there are any signs of fish. When I do see a tail I don’t go straight over it – I prefer to wait until I see several tails! If there is only one carp feeding in the swim then my chances of catching it are slim. I’ll waste time and end up spooking it.
Once I do decide to have a look in the edge, discipline is crucial! It’s so easy to waste loads of time catching nothing in the edge.
What I like to do is spend just two minutes there. If I’ve had no signs after two minutes, I’ll put the pole down and have another look after 20 minutes. If I get signs but no bites then I will give it five minutes, but if there are still no bites I’ll feed another three pots and leave it alone for 20 minutes.
Once I do get a bite and a fish, feeding becomes easier. I try to work out a routine, which normally involves feeding
two-thirds of a big pot of bait after every fish. Of course, I will try and catch more than one off a pot to start with, but experience suggests that unless the swim is solid this just doesn’t happen. Better to get into a routine of catching a carp, feeding and then going in to try and catch the next one.
My favourite hookbait is a big bunch of dead maggots. I normally start off with five and then vary the number, depending on the bites I’m getting. I have noticed that if I’m not getting bites but I can see there are carp present, a bigger bunch of maggots often gets a response, and here I’m talking about as many as 10!
Ten maggots is a really big hookbait, which give the fish something they can really home in on. It’s well worth a try if you are seeing carp in the swim but they are proving hard to catch.
Unless you’re fishing a known margin flyer, don’t feed it until two hours before the end of your session.
MW Margin Slim (left) and Diamond.
Activ-8 is a brilliant maggot additive.
My three favourite feeds for the margins.
A proper lump taken late down the margins.
Overwetted groundbait sinks fast.