Carp spend a lot of time in midwater, especially on those high-pressure days with bright sunshine and no wind.
They are predictable creatures, and when conditions are right, zigging with baits fished anywhere from a few inches under the surface to just off the deck can prove to be deadly.
The biggest problem with zig fishing is having the confidence to cast one out and leave it there long enough for a carp to find it. Even though I know how effective they are, I still suffer from this problem at times.
Don’t look on zigs as a tactic to try only when all else fails –chances are that on days like these zigs will struggle too. Instead, make this a front-line attack and reap the benefits.
On prolific venues, spodding a sloppy groundbait mix over the top of zigs will bring more bites. The idea is simple. Not only does the cloud produced by the soup create a lovely fish-attracting haze in the water, but it also helps to disguise the end tackle. Carp will often simply swim through the cloud, searching for larger particles to feed on.
Spodding works best on venues with a big head of carp competing for food. The well-known reservoirs Drayton, Boddington and Naseby are where the tactic can yield huge catches, but don’t ignore it on smaller venues. It will work anywhere that the carp respond to the splash of a spod.
Your soup needs to hang in the water for as long as possible to have maximum effect. So the particles need to be as small and neutrally buoyant as possible – some ingredients definitely work better than others.
Maize meal is a very cheap and useful addition to soup mixes. Finely liquidised bread works well too. Breakdown pellets can also be used, as the mush that is left when they have broken down creates a very attractive cloud.
There is no point in adding larger baits, such as carp pellets and hemp. These will simply sink to the bottom where they are not adding to the attraction. Note that spodding this sloppy mix is not a clean job. By the end of a day’s fishing you are likely to be covered from head to foot in bait!
I normally prepare some soup the night before fishing so it has plenty of time to fully absorb the liquid. Have a second batch ready to make as soon as you arrive, so that it soaks while you fish, and you’ll have a constant supply.
I tend to use additives at the sweet end of the spectrum at this time of the year. Strawberry Crush and Pineapple are a good starting point. Keep the levels low though – a teaspoonful added to two pints of soup is enough.
Water-soluble additive, such as liquid betaine are another must, boosting the feeding response of carp at a time of the year when they can still be fairly lethargic.
SOAK THOSE HOOKBAITS
You will catch plenty of carp on unflavoured baits, although when I have tested them against ones that have been soaked in attractants the difference is often quite distinctly in favour of the flavoured baits. Super-sweet hookbaits work very well and are a good starting point.
SUPER-BUOYANT IS BEST
There are some simple rules to follow when fishing zigs that will maximise your chances of success.
The most important tip that I can give is to keep the hookbait small. Even when 20lb-plus carp are the target, a hookbait around 8mm in diameter is ideal. I imagine that carp prefer this size of bait because it most closely matches the emerging insects that they will naturally feed on in midwater.
To overcome the weight of the hook and the hooklength requires the bait to be as buoyant as possible. It’s surprising how the hooklength becomes heavier as it absorbs water, and it can then drag down the bait. If you are going to leave the bait out there for a few hours it’s essential that it doesn’t absorb any water and lose its buoyancy.
A small pop-up boilie will do the job, but often better, if allowed, are artificial baits which have a consistent buoyancy.
Several companies produce bait specifically for zig fishing – from pieces of foam, to intricate hand-crafted Zig Bugs designed to imitate freshwater invertebrates.
All these baits work. I tend to favour Zig Bugs, because the more complex shape helps to disguise the hook, but the choice is yours.
KEEP IT TIGHT
I like the hookbait to touch the back of the hook, as this definitely improves the number of bites translated into fish on the bank.
The chances of the hook ending up well back in the carp’s mouth are improved when the bait is tight to the hook. Foam can be slid up the shank of the hook, or held on with a very short hair rig.
Think carefully about the colour of your hookbaits. I find black and brown baits tend to outfish lighter coloured offerings. This is probably because they are easier to spot when silhouetted from below against a bright sky.