CARP LEGEND ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS EVERY MONTH
QWith it being early autumn now, should I be changing my bait approach?
A:September can be a very tricky month – the weed can still be very thick, and in the heat the fish can seem quite lethargic.
Having said that, the fish will long ago have completed their annual spawning ritual and many of them will be down in weight and looking for food.
Although much of my fishing is based
around boilies, this is one of those times of year when it can pay to embrace different baiting strategies.
In the middle of the summer the lake will be rich in natural food, and for a lot of the time it can see the fish are preoccupied with this harvest.
How do we know? Well, aside from the fizzing you can see on silty areas, one of the main giveaways is that usually little is being caught. The carp have to feed, and if nothing much is getting caught, often they will be gorging on natural food.
At this time of year, particle fishing can really come into its own, particularly when it is laced with sea salt.
As soon as the fish have finished spawning, salty particles can be the best way to target the fish and in some cases nothing else seems to work. Boilies can well be at their weakest in the whole 12-month calendar.
When it comes to particle baiting, in my opinion there is only one serious contender. Forget your pigeon mixes and all that stuff there really is nothing better than straight hempseed, and plenty of it!
Hemp is genuinely a carp ‘super bait’. In fact it is a supremely attractive bait for just about all fish, such are its magical properties.
Buying pre-cooked particles can be expensive and this type of bait works best in bulk so, if you are on a budget, I suggest cooking your own, which is what I do.
Buying a bulk sack will ensure you have more than enough for a campaign.
I soak the hemp overnight and then bring it to the boil, simmering it until all the seeds are split and showing their white inners.
At this point I transfer the hemp to a bucket (keeping all that lovely ‘hempy’ water) and then add some sea or rock salt.
I’d favour around half-a-kilo of salt to a medium-sized bucket of hemp. To this I will probably add some tiger nuts, maybe some corn or pellets, although any pellets should be added shortly before use or they will simply turn to mush. And there you have it salty particles par excellence!
Apply the mix where you have seen the fish and use something like a tiger nut on the hair.
For the next few weeks this can be one of the best bait mixes out there!
QWhen is the best time in a session to re-bait and re-cast?’
A:This is a great question that has huge relevance and impact on our fishing. From my travels around the country, I would say there is one massively common mistake being made all the time and this is costing people fish left, right and centre.
We have all seen it I’m sure - the guy opposite wakes up after a blank night and the first thing he decides to do is wind in, check everything is okay with his rig and then recast the rods, usually followed by a fresh load of bait. This all sounds fine until you realise that almost everybody is doing it first thing in the morning, which is the very worst time to disturb the swim.
This is because all coarse fish feed strongly around dawn and it is by far the best period in any 24-hour window to catch a carp on most lakes. Winding in and making a load of disturbance right at the very best time to get a bite isn’t really all that sensible, is it?
Generally, my rule of thumb is to leave everything in place, quiet and still, until around mid-morning. Very often by this point, feeding activity is on the wane and the best chance for a bite on most waters will have passed. I never wind in before 10am unless I have to, and I would say that a vast percentage of all the carp I catch come between 4am and 8am.
If you have placed your rigs perfectly the night before, then why do you need to bring them in? All you are going to do is put them back out there on the same spot again – so leave them there through bite time and fish with confidence.
As ever, there are one or two exceptions to the rule and one of these would be on a lake with a big crayfish population. In this
instance, unless you are using plastic hookbaits, it may be prudent to bring the rods in and check everything is okay, before replacing them as quietly as possible, ready for bite time.
Another example might be where you have had one of those red-letter nights and, following plenty of bites, the swim is ‘rocking’ with feeding fish.
In this situation, it can be prudent to keep the bait going in. Often, when the fish are feeding this hard, a few re-casts and a bit of Spombing doesn’t upset them at all.
Other than on those occasions, don’t be tempted to disturb the swim during what is the best possible part of the day to get a bite!
It’s all about common sense - on some lakes there might be a really good feeding window around 4pm or perhaps just on dusk. Knowing this sort of information can be very valuable and it allows us to prepare accordingly in advance.
So, if the best time is, say, 4pm (a very good time in the winter), then I’d make sure I had everything redone and settled by around 2pm so that when the best time arrives, the swim is calm and undisturbed.
QAt the start of a session, how much bait should I be introducing and how much should I top it up with?
This is a really broad question but one that, if we understand the answer correctly, can lead to an increased catch rate. The first thing to get a handle on is how many fish are in the lake? This might sound like an unanswerable question but in reality, most lake owners and bailiffs have a very good idea of the rough number of carp present.
Ask around and see what you can find out, because having some idea of the number of carp present does of course have some impact on how much bait you might want to take with you and how much you can introduce.
The size of the lake also plays a role – if, for instance, there are 300 carp in the lake then that stock is going to be a lot easier to find and the fish are likely to be hungrier if the lake in question is five acres. If that stock is applied to a 25-acre lake then you can see that the fish will have more space and possibly a lower reliance on bait to survive.
By having an idea of the overall stock, you can make a rough calculation on the numbers of fish in an active-looking swim.
On a lake I am fishing currently, there are around 100 carp present. If I find the fish successfully (always the first and most important task on any session), and there are numbers of fish showing, then I could reasonably assume that there might be somewhere between 20-50 per cent of the stock in front of me. (Of course they could all be there, but it is fairly unusual for the entire stock of the lake to be in a single zone).
Working on a starting point of around 20 boilies per fish, I can then apply the bait in a measured way and take it from there. Of course none of this is an exact science (far from it!), but it does give us something to work from rather than just guessing in an uninformed, random manner.
Often I use the Spomb to bait up and if you really are not sure of the numbers of fish that could be present in the area, I have always found that 10 large Spombs over a pair of rods is enough to elicit a response while at the same time not being so much as to overfeed the swim. This quantity is a good rule of thumb from April to November – during the really cold months I’d cut it down by at least half.
Always count everything you put into the swim. Whether it is boilies, Spombs or balls of groundbait, I need a starting point to work from. Just guessing ‘X’ amount of a bucket or bag of bait isn’t precise enough for me, and I know that if I bait with, say, 10 Spombs over a couple of rods and I get a bite on one of them, I can reasonably assume that maybe half of the bait has been eaten. I might then top up with another five Spombs after the bite. Counting things gives us that all-important starting point to work from. It is information that we can detail in our fishing diaries and it is data that can be useful on future sessions.
The best rule of thumb is always to bait on the conservative side - that old adage that you ‘can’t take it back out’ is spot on, and recklessly overfeeding a swim can kill it stone dead. That said, on well-stocked ‘hungry’ waters, the most consistent anglers are often those that approach the swim in a proactive manner and give the fish a good hit of bait to get them competing.
Look around you - if the there are plenty of fish in the lake and everybody is baiting very lightly, it can pay off to attack the water with a big bucket of hemp, pellets and corn. Of course this, like any other tactic, will only work if you position yourself in an area where the fish are so don’t neglect this most vital aspect!
A switch to particles brought this Quarry lump to the net.
Particles work best during hot weather.
Dawn – do not be tempted to re-cast just because you can.
Dawn is the best time to get a bite.
Prepare rigs and bait at sensible times.
Get bait quantities right and the fish are bound to follow.