Times change, even for a five-times World Champion. New methods and baits need to be mastered to keep pace with the modern match scene, and that’s exactly the situation I found myself in this winter when fishing the Hayfield Lakes Pairs Series.
I’d thought that bloodworm for roach and skimmers would play a big part, but after the opening round, when carp fed all around the lakes and relegated my 15lb of silverfish to nowhere in the section, a radical rethink was needed – I’d have to catch some carp!
At Hayfield the fish run big and show a liking for swimming around a few feet off the bottom, so baits fished on the deck are often left untouched. Popped-up baits rule, but I’d hardly ever used them before.
However, on the winter commercial fishery match scene they’ve become more and more popular and productive, so I had to bite the bullet, trawl the carp section of the tackle shop for baits and dips and get experimenting.
I also tapped up anglers like Steve Ringer, who know a bit about pop-ups and carp. Armed with his advice and a bagful of weird and wonderful hookbaits, I was ready to do battle on the Island Lake at the Doncaster water.
KEEP ON CASTING
Luridly-coloured boilies and pellets or white discs of bread are unmissable in clear water, which is why pop-ups work.
You rarely feed anything when fishing these, and it isn’t a tactic where you cast to the same spot time and time again.
Each cast should go to a different part of the swim. In cold water fish are unwilling to move any distance to pick off a bait, but not unwilling to feed. That means a bait could well sit a foot away from a fish but never be taken. Land it on its nose, though, and a take should be pretty quick in coming.
If you see a carp top, reel in and cast to it immediately as this will be a feeding fish.
In 10ft of water the fish could be anywhere, and that means a lot of playing about with the way you pop up the bait. However, I’ll also use my quivertip to ‘read’ where the fish are in the water column. A knock on the tip but no take tells me that the fish are perhaps under the bait, hitting the line, so a shortened hooklength is the first port of call. No bites but fish moving tell me to lengthen the tail and fish a bait higher in the water.
Tosave time I carry dozensof ready-tied hooklengths from 1ft to 6ft long in a carper’s rig bin. These can be changed in seconds by using a snap link and hooking the loop of the hooklength on to it. These aremade from 4lb-5lb Drennan Supplex to a super-sharp size 12 or 14 Drennan Power Hair Rigger hook.
I’ll start at a foot off bottom and give each cast around 20 minutes before winding in and recasting. Often the first cast of the day is the most important as it will land somewhere near a fish and find it at its most willing to feed, so be fully prepared early doors.
Just like when fishing on the deck, you’ll typically get a nudge on the tip before it pulls around or drops back. Slow line bites that gradually pull the tip around should be ignored.
This is where it starts getting complicated and it can all be too much to take in, given the sheer variety of size, shape and colour of baits. As ever, keeping it simple is best and I’d limit myself to bread, boilies and pellets for popping-up, always starting on three 10mm discs of bread punched out and allowed to swell up in the water into a hi-viz mouthful for the carp.
Large floating expander pellets of around 12mm-14mm diameter are also a good bait, especially on waters that see a lot of pellets piled in. These are fished as singles, drilled out and mounted on the hair.
That leaves boilies to cover, and while I’m unsure that carp can sense flavours quickly, they can certainly pick out colours. I’ll carry yellow, white and red mini boilies and dumbels in 8mm-12mm sizes and try them all as singles throughout the day.
ALTER THE SHAPE
Rather than chucking out a normal round boilie I’ll alter the shape of it using a craft knife on the bank, carving it into a square shape to try and mimic a pellet.
This is a trick a lot of top carp anglers do, and if it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for me. You can do the same with pellets, while the flattened elongated dumbell boilies offer the fish something different too, and are well worth a cast or three.
Does feeding work? My answer to this would be ‘no’ on the whole because you’re relying on the attraction of the pop-up to catch.
However, if there’s nothing to lose then a few 8mm hard pellets pinged in every 10 minutes can draw a few fish in, especially on balmy winter days when the carp might be hungry and starting to think about going after some food.
While it remains cold though, leave the catapult in the bag.
Be prepared to accept that pop-ups aren’t the be-all and end-all. There will be days when they don’t work and the carp will be feeding on the bottom, but working this out is easy –
the tip won’t move and you’ll start worrying!
The remedy is simple, though – a change of bait to traditional pellet, meat and corn fished on the deck.
An 8mm or 10mm punch of meat, two grains of corn stacked back-to-back and single or double 6mm drilled hard pellets are all good fish-catchers, used on a short 12ins hooklength, and when you change to fishing on the bottom you can also feed a little more, ideally with a tiny PVA bag of pellets to encourage the fish to get their heads down.
Spicy meat-flavoured dumbbell, pineapple pop-up, oily floating pellet, white chocolate dumbbell, toffee/chocolate flavoured pop-up, mini fishmeal pop-up, three 10mm bread discs make a good change bait from boilies and pellets