Bonus fish are always worth their weight in gold on any type of venue, even more so in winter when 5lb can cover to the top four at the end of a match but dividing your time between catching bread and butter weight-building fish and spending time in search of a bonus is a delicate tight rope to walk.
Waste too much time fishing for a carp and drawing a blank and you’ll fall behind whereas if you don’t give it enough time, you’re not doing the swim justice. This is common on venues where there are lots of skimmers but also a good head of big carp that can really knock your weight up a few notches.
All in the timing
So when do you have a go for a carp and for how long? There’s no text book written about this and each day is different. However, one thing always remains the same in that carp normally feed best in the opening and final half hour of the match so I would devote this time to fishing for lumps! After this, I will be fishing for carp and F1s much as I would if I was after big perch on a canal – having a quick look every 20 or 30 minutes. You only need the quiver to go round once and you’re in business. One or two casts in the maximum I would make each time.
Bags of promise!
I don’t even consider using a feeder or groundbait to catch carp. I’ve found that big fish much prefer to feed on ‘hard’ baits, namely pellets. Add groundbait and you only draw skimmers in, which are what you don’t want to catch. So pellets it is and although you could use a Method or pellet feeder, these would involve feeding dampened softened pellets, which is a recipe for attracting skimmers too!
That only leaves me with PVA bags to get the feed close to the hookbait. By filling Avid PVA Stocking Mesh with a mix of 4mm and 6mm Sonubaits F1 hard pellets and a few 2mm hard krill pellets, the carp and F1s are presented with a small pile or crunchy goodies right on top of the hookbait. I make my bags up the night before and load each one with enough pellets to fill up a small Cad Pot – the finished bag should be around the size of a 50p piece.
Go the distance
Only on an odd occasion will a carp or F1 venture onto my skimmer feeder line and experience tells me that the big fish much prefer to sit well out into the lake away from any commotion. That means winding up a big cast of perhaps 60m, where you can find your own water. This basically means fishing a line that those anglers around you aren’t. This way you will have any fish on the area coming to your feed and your feed alone.
The longer you can cast, the better your results will be so you may have to blast the rig a long way but in general, a 50 or 60m cast is comfortable and far enough. However, you’ll need a more specialised rod than a standard 11ft bream rod to hit the spot. That means digging the 12ft Preston Innovations Equis Feeder rod out of the holdall to really put some backbone into the chuck, especially when there’s a PVA bag attached to the rig.
Stepped up tackle
You could hook a 15lb carp on this rod so you don’t want to lose it. That is reflected in the tackle used, made up of 5lb Preston Powermax mainline with an 8lb shockleader and a 50cm hooklink of 0.17mm Powerline finished off with a size 14 PR27 eyed hook to hair-rig baits. Because I’m not using a feeder, I fish an inline Match Cube bomb of 1oz or even 1.5oz. Inside this I run an elasticated Interchange Stem to help make the rig even more self-hooking. Many fisheries won’t allow elasticated bombs or feeders but where allowed, I want to use them. If not, I simply run the bomb on the mainline.
Because there’s only a small patch of bait for the carp to home in on, I like to give them a bit of a helping hand by fishing a bright hookbait. Again, hard is best to avoid trouble from skimmers and pretty much all I need is a tub of 8mm Sonubaits Band ‘Ums, which are hard dumbbell-shaped pellets in a range of colours.
As a guide, the red Krill or orange Band ‘Ums are excellent for carp and F1s when the fishing is good but if sport was slow in cold weather, I’ve caught more by changing to a white or yellow bait.
Threading the bag
If I was casting short then I wouldn’t hesitate to nick the PVA bag directly onto the hook but this is no good for a long cast, as the bag will rip off the hook. The solution is to thread it down the hooklink and onto the hook as this will hold in place perfectly. Here’s how to do it:
1 Take a latched baiting needle and pass it through the bag
2 Now hook the loop of your hooklink into the needle’s latch and close
3 Run the bag down the hooklink off the needle
4 Pull the bag onto the baited hook, leaving just the bend showing