HOW to catch the biggest carp in a lake has been the subject of many a late-night carping conversation. Some people just seem to have the ‘knack’ when it comes to big ones, while for others it can be a real struggle.
I always remember the legendary Rod Hutchinson saying that his mate Ritchie MacDonald had such a knack – he didn’t catch huge numbers but would always winkle out the ones that everyone really wanted.
Rod was the opposite. Although he was an absolute carp-catching master, the real big ones often eluded him.
To some extent, I believe even personal chemistry plays a part but that aside, there are plenty of other, more tangible things that we should consider when trying to catch the biggest fish. Personally, I have always found that the best route to the biggest fish is simply to try and catch as many as you can – if you catch them all then, sooner or later, the King or Queen of the lake will be yours. However, catching most of the stock of a lake simply isn’t a realistic option for most, so what else can we do to load the dice in our favour?
SUBTLETY CAN BE KEY
Remember that bigger, older carp will often feed more slowly, using senses of smell and taste, as opposed to the younger, faster moving fish, which will usually be inclined to feed by sight. An easily available, bright hookbait will be much more readily found by a smaller fish than its slower moving, bigger counterpart. Removing any visual element from your hookbait is extremely prudent when trying to avoid the smaller fish.
GO ALL OUT WITH BOILIES
There is no question that a boilie-only approach will often single out a much larger stamp of fish. In many cases it will get you fewer bites than perhaps a bucket of particle mix, but when those bites come, they will usually be well worth waiting for.
Fish a hookbait that matches the freebies exactly. You will often find that a fishmeal-type bait, dark and rich, is more attractive to a bigger carp than something bright or sweet.
SCALE UP YOUR RIGS
If you have a lot of smaller carp in your lake, then fishing an ‘agricultural’ rig will catch you a better stamp of fish, simply because it will largely eliminate enquiries from smaller fish.
This is down to the element of scale which we all know plays a part in fishing - it’s the same reason you won’t catch as many roach on a size 10 as you will a size 18. Similarly, with carp rigs, use a big size 4 and a thick, heavy hooklink and you won’t be catching too many of the smaller ones.
Big, old carp often have favoured haunts. When you research the history of the target fish in your lake, you will discover that they frequently get caught from similar areas time after time. The majority will have patterns to their behaviour that you can learn about and use to your advantage. This could include zones they’re caught from, areas they are often seen in and even preferences for certain baits.
You may discover that your target fish prefers certain moon phases or months. A fish I am currently chasing has been caught in mid-August several years running, almost always on a half moon.
This year, I caught a very rarely caught common, not once but twice. The beast was just under 50lb and both times it came from the margin, on the end of a brand-new wind and over a small amount of bait. Both times it also came from areas that you could not conventionally cast to – a real crafty old carp! Now I’ve caught it, I can see a trend, and many big fish will have similar behavioural patterns if you research their history.
Bear these things in mind when fishing for your target fish this year. You may just end up with a really special one in your landing net.