Catching big, crafty carp on our commercials requires confidence, the right tackle and nerves of steel...
It must be one of the most exhilarating tactics in the commercial match anglers armoury. Huge weights can be on the cards if you get things just right - but it can also be heartbreak hotel. We’ve all been there - when you can see big fish swirling in the edges but somehow can’t catch them, and the clock is ticking away to the all out…
Over the last couple of years I have dabbled in the world of specimen fishing, and become really good friends with some expert carp and barbel anglers. Incorporating their thinking and tactics into my approach has led to some brilliant results, and a better understanding of how the fish behave when they move into the edge. Hopefully some of this knowledge can help you too.
A squirt of Goo can really help tempt a wary fish.
A beast of a carp, and this size of fish is becoming more common on commercial venues.
Perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned is about how and when these big fish feed. Because us match anglers often fish very specific times then pack up and go home, we have limited insight into this - which can lead us to draw the wrong conclusions.
In the past, I thought that lakes would just get better and better as you moved towards dusk. Look at how the average match pans out - a few fish early, then a tough middle part of the day, before the last hour builds into a crescendo. So it would seem logical to think it the evening would be absolutely solid!
The truth is, this is rarely the case. Far more commonly, the fish feed really well about 4pm, or whenever the matches usually finish, then action actually subsides.
It is not the case that every fish in the lake decides to move into the edge and feed as we all head off home. What we are generally seeing is what specimen anglers call a ‘feeding window.’
The early part of a match is often another ‘window’. And, in the specimen world, first light and around dusk can also be times when big fish feed.
So how does this knowledge help us? It think it means we can be more disciplined and targeted in how we fish. We’ve all heard anglers talking about ‘filling it in’ for the last hour when ‘they will come in’ and ‘it will be solid.’ So they proceed to pile bait in.. and end up with a load of feeding fish in the swim, but no bites, as they have given the fish too many options.
The truth is the fish want to come into the edge at this point anyway. They are going to move into shallower water and feed - it’s what they do. There really is no need to pile bait in generally. It’s much better to feed just enough to attract two or three fish into your swim, and hook and catch one of them quickly as there is competition for bait - then you can repeat the process.
"The truth is the fish want to come into the edge at this point anyway. They are going to move into shallower water and feed - it’s what they do."
"Time management is an absolutely crucial skill to master, and one rule I would stress is don't push your peg until you have to."
Pin It Down
Another key lesson has been to do with how we present our bait. A lot of specimen anglers hate having tight lines around their spot. They believe fish can often feel and sense this, and then spook. I have seen this many times in the match world too. Think big line bites, or false indications on the pole.
The below tips may or may not be of use to you, depending on the rules at your local venue. Adopt what you can, but most importantly understand the concept. We are trying to pin a rig to the bottom.
The first thing I like is a coated braid leader. I was first shown this stuff by Brad Hancock when we went barbel fishing. The idea is it pins the line immediately above your feeder to the bottom, and out of the way of wondering fins.
I simply strip six inches either end of a three foot length so I can tie some tidy knots, and use this. Where allowed, I attach a large swivel, connecting my mainline to my leader. Around this, I wrap Korda’s ‘Dark Matter’ tungsten putty. In effect, this pins down everything behind the feeder and keeps it nailed to the bottom. The final part of the rig is my feeder - and in keeping with my desire to pin everything to the bottom, I use a 45g large Guru Hybrid. The last thing I want is for my feeder to be moved once the trap is set.
When complete, this definitely looks more like a specimen rig than a match style rig - but its deadly effective.
One other key lesson relates to how this rig is fished. Because in effect this is a bolt rig, there is no advantage to fishing a tight line when presenting a bait down the edge. I would much rather leave a little slack. Set your feeder as you would normally then peel an extra metre of line off. Your bites will be very slow, deliberate pulls round that just keep going!
The new Fjuka Hookable Wafters.
Tungsten putty now forms part of Tom's feeder rigs...
... as does a coated braid leader (where permitted).
Timing Is Everything…
Us match anglers do have one constraint that specimen anglers often don’t - and that is time. We only have five or six hours to achieve our goal - they have all day (and night.)
Time management is an absolutely crucial skill to master, and one rule I would stress is don’t push your peg until you have to. This is where giving yourself different lines and options is important.
It is a mistake to think that an angler who fishes down the edge for a full five hours will catch more from a margin than one who fishes there for the last half an hour. Indeed, the angler who spends the bulk of his time elsewhere but rests and builds his peg will come out on top.
For todays session at Larford Lakes, I have done just that. I have spent three hours fishing a medium Hybrid feeder at 20m, taking the occasional skimmer and F1 that came along, plus one bonus 6lb carp. It’s worth saying that on this line, none of the ‘pinning down’ I have spoken about is relevant. When you have to reel fish back from a distance, I don’t like anything heavy above my feeder that might bounce the hook out, and there is less of an advantage when mixed fish are the target.
In the interest of experimenting, I wanted to see what I could catch in five hours. My session proper was 11-4pm, and after spending the first three hours in open water, I put three of the large Guru bait up feeders down the margin at 2pm.
This was fed up to a broken pallet to my left, where I found a gentle slope and 3-4 feet of water dropping slowly away.
STEP-BY-STEP PINNING IT DOWN
1. Tom uses a swivel to connect the coated braid to the reel line.
2. He then moulds tungsten putty qround the swivel.
3. That will work but it's not very neat.
4. Much better and now Tom's rig will be pinned to the bottom.
Bait for a weight
There are two key schools of thought when it comes to bait in the specimen world, that are almost paradoxical. The first is the natural or familiar. Some of the best carp and barbel captures of recent years have fallen to bunches of maggots or worms.
Then there is the standout, or manufactured. Think whacky bright bait boilies with exotic flavours. I don’t think there are too many banoffee flavoured baits in the natural world, but boilies in such flavours do produce results.
I have my own take on these trends that apply specifically to match venues. First off the familiar. We know that big carp love micro pellets, and at venues where its venue pellets only, like here at Larford, this is even more simple. These are the staple feed, and all I put in down my edge. Why not? We know the fish see loads of them, plus they are cheap and readily available.
Then there is the standout element of my attack. This is where the new Fjuka hookable wafters come in. These are laced with Sensate™ attractant, a unique smell that carp in particular seem to love. Plus, because they are bright and soft but tough, they stand out, and when they are sucked in by a fish they seem to hang on to them.
The Bait-Up feeder.
All fish seem to like the new Fjuka Wafters.
After resting my peg for half an hour following the initial feed, I have my first look on the line with 90 minutes to go. A stopwatch is a vital tool, as time can easily run away from you in these final stages. I gave it ten minutes, and with no signs, I fed again with a single bait up feeder and went back in the open water.
My next look came at 3pm, and this time I was in luck. My feeder had been in the water just two minutes, and the tip heaved around with a solid weight on the end. I was in business!
I was glad of my beefy rod and reel at this point, as this fish was big. I twin a Guru Aventus Feeder 12ft feeder rod with a 4000 size Daiwa Tournament Distance reel. Mainline is 15lb Gardner. Hooklength was 0.19mm Reflo Power, to a size ten Guru QM1 hook. All super strong I know - but at least I was in control.
It goes without saying that even though you are fishing with strong rods and reels, there is no point rushing fish powerful fish like this. This first fish fought hard for over five minutes - but at approximately 15lb in weight, it was worth waiting for!
After disturbing the peg, I always like to put a bit more bait in to try and home the fish back in on my feed area. I give the peg one more bait up feeder, then am back in with my beast tamer as soon as possible. This is the golden hour - and you have to make the most of the feeding window.
Again the response is almost instant. Three minutes into the cast, another powerful fish is hooked. It surges off towards the middle of the lake and sets the drag screaming! This one is a lean common - longer than the first, but perhaps slightly smaller.
I repeat the process, but this time no bites. Because my other two bites have come fairly quickly after the feeder has hit the water, I give this cast just five minutes before winding in and casting again. This time, I get another instant response.
This third carp is the biggest yet, a fat mirror off around 17lb. So in three fish, I have more than doubled my weight, putting around 50lb in the net.
Tom's feeder choice.
Timing is critical when catching big fish down the edge.
I am delighted with that return. Why did the bites come so quick? In my opinion its the feeding. The fact that I gave them just enough bait to generate competition and they had to eat my hookbait. Having my rig pinned to the bottom helps the feeding fish graze with confidence. And of course, my choice of hookbait. A unique smelling, soft but tough Fjuka bait that the fish can’t help but suck in.
Now they are some proper beasts!
LET'S BE HAVING 'EM!
David Preston's latest range of baits have a TOUGH texture to withstand small fish and create a constant leakage of POWERFUL Sensate™ attractants to draw in the LUMPS. Meanwhile, their DURABILITY guarantees fast-hooking, banding & hair-rigging to MAXIMISE your fishing time. Tough Fjukas: INVINCIBLE on the method, feeder or bomb.