Many DVDs, books, articles, and individuals will have you believe there is only one way to fish for carp. That concept runs from the rods you use, through to the way you bait up for them. This often includes ludicrously expensive rods, and shed-loads of boilies. Now, I am not saying they are wrong, far from it, if it works for you, then happy days. However, I would suggest there is no go-to rig, method, rod, or baiting campaign that works best for any species. I want to offer up an alternative way of thinking.
One thing I do know is that on any venue, the fish really don’t care how much you paid for your gear. Before we had the all singing carbon rods, we were using fibre-glass, cane, split cane and so on. We still caught big fish. Izaak Walton wrote 350-years-ago of catching 50lb Italian Commons. He was using bread-paste mixed with latex and honey and spending days and nights in their pursuit. We are just reshaping the wheel.
So, rods and reels aside, I want to share with you my views on carp rigs and my approach to baiting for them. In addition, I will try to illustrate how the fish are likely to respond to different campaigns. Most of you who know me, will know I like a left field approach. The reason in my thinking established itself years back, when fishing an adult match on the River Welland at the tender age of 16. I was lucky enough to draw next to one of the greatest anglers ever, ‘Sir’ Ivan Marks. So, at the start of the match, the whistle blew and we all attacked our swim with our pre-conceived ideas. Instead of following suit, he sat back for ten minutes drinking a coffee and watching. I asked him after what was behind his thinking. He explained that he wanted to know which line people were fishing and would then choose a different area. By line, I mean how far out, i.e. three rods, four rods, etc. He suggested on a river fish swim in a line, and didn’t want to compete for the same fish. That resonated with me, and I have always looked for an alternative way. More recently, fishing hard waters like Hemingford Grey, have vindicated my approach.
With that in mind, I will go through my rigs firstly. I will then look at what may be considered alternative baiting campaigns.
Often you will see similarities to conventional rigs, with a twist. Or some that are as left as you’ll get.
Rig 1: Boilie String
You will see this rig involves three 8mm boilies on a size 10 or 12 hook. (Sometimes, I will use three 6mm bolies on a size 14.) The idea behind my thinking is that most carp have seen every variant of 15-20mm boilies available. As a result, big old wise fish can be spooked simply by its appearance. Going for a little hook and a string of small baits, will often trick them. I believe they see it as free offerings. Size 12 or 14 hooks – providing they are strong enough – will hold onto a big fish. When I want to reduce my hook size, I mostly use Drennan Barbel series, as these have never let me down.
Rig 2: Trigga
This Trigga rig is used with pop-up baits. With the hook shank buried in the bait, the first thing the fish feels when trying to eject the bait is the point of the hook in its bottom lip. I believe it is almost impossible for a fish to spit this rig out without hooking itself.
Rig 3: Butterfly
I have found using this butterfly pellet rig in combination with halved pop-up baits will often out think the fish. Using the pop-ups counter balances the weight of the hook. This means if the fish suck at this bait, it’s in before they have time to change their mind. Again, you will see little baits, and small hooks are used here.
The idea behind many of my rigs involving small hooks and bait will become obvious – I hope haha – when I come onto the section about attracting fish into my swim.
Rig 4: Reverse snow man
As you can see from the illustration, by reversing the position of the pop-up creates a unique presentation. Because the bottom bait sinks – as does the hook – the pop-up lifts the hook creating a perfect hooking angle.
Rig 5: Single or Double Pellet
Over the years, anglers have through in tons of pellets, seemingly ‘free-of-charge’ i.e. no hook involved. As a result, the fish never feel intimidated when feeding on these. However, as soon as we use a pellet on the hook, we feel compelled to top it off with half a boilie, plastic corn, or something similar. I have found by using a single 8mm drilled pellet on a small hook will trick even the wariest of fish.
Rig 6: Octopus
Around five years ago, I developed this rig while fishing Hemingford Grey. It is now my go-to for this venue, and I actually believe it gets me ten times more bites than a straight boilie. This rig also works particularly well during the colder months. I believe the combination of a live bait with the boilie hoodwinks the fish.
Rig 7: Maggot
I first came up with this rig while fishing for big Tench. I very soon realised it was deadly for carp. Either used on its own, or with two maggots on the hook works equally well. It certain conditions, this can be a killer-rig.
Attracting fish into your swim.
For many years, I have focussed my attention on big bream and tench. As a result, my baiting campaign has always involved creating a grazing area for the fish. This was more the case for bream, but also worked well for tench. I have invariably used less food for tench, because they tend to swim in smaller shoals. That said on some venues, very big bream can be in fours and fives. Sometime back, I realised, my rigs and baiting methods were the down fall of many carp. My mix generally involves bread crumb, small pellets, cooked particles, vitalin, corn, maize, maggots, crumbed and crushed boilies, and so on. On the subject of boilies, I rarely use whole boilies, and if I do, it will never be more than a handful. My view is that if a wary old carp goes looking for something more substantial, I want it to be my hook-bait, not a free offering. In short, I use a bream/tench style ground-bait approach for carp.
As a side note, if I am fishing in depths of more than 14 feet on venues over 20 acres, then I put my ground-bait out in balls. On any big venue, even with low winds there will be tow. I don’t want to bait the next swim along. If I want to catapult my ground-bait more than 20 rods out, I will use a 30mm Nash Ball maker. With a decent ground-bait-pult, you can easily hit this distance. Alternatively, Nash produces something called a ‘ball-blaster’. This is a brilliantly intuitive bit of kit, and with practice, you can hit extreme distances.
However, in smaller, shallow venues, I use a spod. My mix will be loose and my aim is to create a big grazing area.
Ultimately, I want the fish, be it Carp, Big Bream or Tench, to settle into my swim, picking up small free samples. They will soon start looking for something more substantial – even in winter – and this will hopefully be your hook-bait.
On big predator waters, I believe the carp have grown up being scared of pike. This must get into their psyche, and as a result, they go for safety in numbers and swim around with the bream. Target the big bream, and the carp won’t be far away.
I don’t want to suggest my method is any better than any other method. It does, however, work me, and if you can find something in this article that helps you create an edge, then it’s all worthwhile.