Carp Fishing – Finding and Fishing Features and Hotspots
Adam Garland takes a detailed look at features under the surface and also suggests that carp anglers should reappraise their approach to the more visible features.
I think most, if not all, carp anglers - me included - are drawn to features both above and below the surface. Island margins, overhanging trees and bushes, weed beds, clear spots that are visible from the bank are all particularly hard to resist. Visible features like these often hold or attract carp for all kinds of differing reasons; they also draw carp anglers like a magnet. So with the pressured waters that many FishingMagic readers probably fish, searching out the less blatant spots to fish or maybe fishing the more obvious ones slightly differently to the crowd can often give you a major edge.
At the start of a session the first thing that many of us reach for is a marker rod. Even if you are completely unfamiliar with a swim, a quick cast around will usually reveal a fishable or carpy feature.
On most lakes there are always subtle features and undulations that are really hard to find, some go undetected. Even if you make time for some extensive plumbing and exploring during the close season, you will never find them all. There have been situations in the past when I’ve had the opportunity to explore swims that I thought I knew well with a boat and there have always been features and interesting things that I’d missed. I once had the chance to walk an area of a lake I’d fished extensively when the lake was drained and that was a real eye opener. I found things that if I’d known about them at the time I was fishing the water would have surely helped me to have caught more fish. You should never underestimate the value of knowledge and you should always take time to explore a water, even if you think you know it – it is never time wasted.
The ‘Spook’ Factor
On some of the waters I fish, casting out a marker float at the start of a session is the kiss of death; the disturbance causing any carp in or around the swim to exit rapidly, which means there could be a long wait for them to return and for you to get that first bite.
One bite tactics are the way to go on such waters, bright hook baits, with maybe a light scattering of freebies can work well to start with. A single hook bait and matching Chain Reaction combination also makes a really stealthy carp trap which is something that has worked particularly well for me in those situations. As the Chain Reaction discs break down they create a lot of activity in the water which carp seem to be immediately aware of. I know during their development a lot of work went into the taste of these baits, which is something that many tend to overlook. When a carp starts to feed on the broken down baits it creates a very enthusiastic response and the hook bait is usually taken straight in. I also like the way the residue covers and camouflages the hook link which provides another edge on tricky waters.
Once you’ve caught the first one that is when your watercraft, knowledge and experience really kicks in and with care and observation you can pick just the right moment to introduce more bait. You can then slowly build the swim and, if you get it right, multiple captures are possible.
But on the flip side of that there are other waters that I’ve tackled where fishing accurately, or on specific spots or features, is crucial. Due to the life cycles of natural food or perhaps simply when the food has been ‘eaten out’ by fish, these spots can quickly move or change. But if you are not on them your catch rates will suffer. So in these situations regardless of the potential to spook the carp or spoil my chances, which is something that’s always in the back of my mind, I will always start with the marker rod and locate the spots first.
On all lakes and in all swims there will usually be a feature of some kind that will be THE spot. Most anglers seem to search out several spots and then usually fish multiple rods on multiple spots, which in my mind can be a disadvantage. Most carp are spooked by main line or at the very least they will be aware of it and in my experience, multiple lines zooming off at different angles can work against you.
Carp are masters of their own environment, even if you fish ‘invisible’ fluorocarbon or slack lines and back leads, I’m convinced that the carp know it’s there. For anglers who are used to fishing multiple rods my idea may take a little getting used to but fishing just one rod on the right spot and leaving the rest in the holdall could actually catch you more carp; it might even catch you bigger carp or maybe even a special one.
If that sounds a bit scary or too radical, maybe the way I often fish will seem like a more attractive idea. If you are lucky enough to find a real hotspot, why not fish all of your rods on the same spot? It takes time and practice to fish this way accurately and effectively but when you’ve mastered the method, they’ll be no going back. In fact I’d go as far to say that three main lines fished tight to just one spot is no more spooky to the carp than fishing one.
For me accurate baiting is equally as important as hook bait placement and line angles and a mixed feed approach is the way I like to tightly bait my spots. Mixed particles, hemp, pellets and whole and chopped boilies can really get your spots buzzing and the much maligned spod is my preferred method of delivery. I also add other baits to the mix if they have a proven track record on a particular venue.
There are also other additives that give my mix a real boost; for example, the Nash Rock Salt Crystals (which have been reviewed here on FM) are an essential addition as is are the Food Dips, which are dense bottom hugging liquids that seep into the lake bed and just seems to keep drawing the fish back, even when all the bait is gone the residue keeps pulling the fish back to search out the elusive smell of food.
As a contrast the Boilie Dip, or Arouser Liquids, are oily substances that permeate the water creating a curtain of attraction that pulls the fish down onto a baited spot. Adding both types to my bait mix really boosts attraction and also adds more-ish appeal. To a degree it also helps to negate the negative effects of feature finding and baiting the spots.
If I’m at the lake for a few days I might start by introducing eight to ten kilos at the beginning of a session, which might seem like a lot of bait and disturbance, but with practice the spod can be feathered to create minimum noise on splashdown. I’m confident doing it and I’ve often caught very quickly over the mix providing that I’ve correctly identified exactly the right feature to fish to in the first place.
If the lake holds an abundance of natural food, adding Pure Crustacean Extract and Green Lipped Mussel to the mix helps to get carp that are preoccupied on naturals more interested in my bait. These additives also seem to attract invertebrates to my spots, which add a new dimension to attraction.
Despite my love affair with the dreaded spod I am slowly coming around to the Soluballs concept, particularly on waters where spodding bait has been done to death. The Soluballs actually have a very complex make up of cooked cereals, particles, extracts, meals and other goodies that carp find hard to resist. I like to add to the complexity by using different flavour Soluballs in the same mix, some of them soaked in a range of liquids too which delays the breakdown times and adds more interest to my baited spots.
It’s worth noting that when hitting the water they make a different sound to a boilie or spod and with practice and, making allowances for water movement and undertow, they can be delivered with deadly accuracy via a catapult of Cobra Stick.
The other factor that also needs to be taken into consideration are lakebed undulations; for example if I’m fishing on or over a bar and there’s little or no weed, round baits may be prone to rolling off a tightly baited spot, so again its important to have an accurate picture in my head as to what I’m actually fishing over or on.
Understanding fish movements and patrol routes can be crucial too, bearing in mind my concerns regarding carp being spooked or put on edge by main lines I don’t want my main lines running through the area where the fish will be feeding. If at all possible I like to ensure that any fish approaching my baited spot will encounter my freebies and hook baits first. This could involve fishing my chosen spot from an alternative swim and whatever it takes I will always make the extra effort to maximize my chances.
All this hard work is wasted if you are fishing with anything but a very effective rig, I’m also very fussy about how my rigs land and I won’t hesitate to recast each rod a dozen times or more until I’m happy that each hook bait is positioned inch perfect.
I like to keep things relatively simple and although I enjoy reading about what other anglers are getting up to I am rarely swayed by all those ‘step by step’ articles featuring the latest wonder rigs and components. I’ve been down that route in the past and now I prefer to stick to what I know will work!
I’ve got utmost confidence in the combi-rig that I use for most of my fishing; this consists of a stiff fluorocarbon boom and a supple section at the sharp end. A 10 inch stiff section adds an anti eject element and two inches of supple braid behind the hook maximizes the turning effect. This combination and length also ensures that the rig sits flat on the bottom regardless of whether the bottom is clear or semi dirty. I’ve tried going shorter but I always return to the longer one as it just seems to work well wherever I’m fishing.
The Fang Twister is my hook of choice, the long, dangerously sharp point and aggressively downturned eye makes it a fast turning seriously grabby hook that works effectively. I find a blow back ring combines well with my snowman hook baits; the balanced baits promote solid dependable hook holds well back in the mouth. But just recently the ring has been getting clogged by silkweed so I’ve switched to a more conventional silicon tube attachment without any problems. Diffusion components maximize invisibility and really boost my confidence, nothing should left to chance!
Well that’s it from me - remember, stay focused on detail and leave nothing to chance – good luck!