Better Bite Indication

by | Advanced, Carp |

As anglers, we’re constantly striving to improve all aspects of our fishing game, we relentlessly chop and change our baits, tactics, rigs, whatever we think will give us an advantage. With that said, it’s always seemed to me that bite indication is something of a neglected subject. I’m certain that many fish are getting away far more often than we realise.

Throughout the years there have been huge steps forwards in our sport. Hair rigs, more effective baits, better hooks, these are all things that are taken for granted nowadays, and rightly so. Will there be another wonder rig or bait as we move into 2020? Quite possibly. But perhaps the next big leap forward will be in the form of improved bite indication, quite honestly I still feel it’s one part of fishing that many people fail to understand. How many times are our baits out there fishing, being picked up without us even knowing? Clearly, nobody knows the answer to that, but we do know that it happens…

Waiting for bites…

Slack lines

I thought I would begin by talking about slack lines, as they seem to be more on trend than ever right now. Why do people use slack lines? Is it to keep lines flat to the bottom, for better indication or because they naturally suit the rig you’re using? Or is it because you read about them online or saw another angler using them? Maybe it’s my age, but I really feel like anglers nowadays follow a trend without understanding the why behind it. I don’t want to make out I’m wiser or superior than anyone else – following fishing trends is something I’ve been guilty of in the past so I feel compelled to call it out when I see it.

I’ve always been a bit undecided on the benefit of slack lines versus tight lines. I agree that it makes sense to keep the line out of the way as much as possible, but a recent trip has rekindled some doubts for me.

I was feeling pretty confident about my chances

I was down in Kent visiting family and had the opportunity to fish an overnighter at Elphicks. For those unaware, this is a pretty pressured venue so I made the decision to fish two rods both with slack lines. There were plenty of showing fish in front of me so I was feeling pretty confident about my chances. Was I successful? Sadly, all I received on that trip were liners… Or were they aborted takes? Whilst I came away feeling dejected, the same could not be said for my neighbour next door, he was using tight lines and managed to land four impressive specimens.

A couple of weeks later I had the chance to do another night on the same lake, naturally after seeing the success that using tight lines had provided, I opted for the same… By midday the next day I’d landed an incredible 10 carp. This proved to me two things – firstly, carp here aren’t put off by tight lines being present in the swim, and secondly, the bite indication when using a tight line, in this scenario at least, was better.

Including a heavy weight for tight line fishing at range will register a bite better!

Running leads

This season I’ve been using running leads a lot. It all began after a conversation with a seasoned angler who frequents many of the local waters that I also enjoy. He mentioned the fact that he’d seen people getting great results, regardless of lake, using running leads. Now I try to avoid making comparisons between myself and other anglers, but thought I’d try it out for myself.

You’ll know just how often and easily they are rejected

One of the first questions I asked myself was ‘why would it make a difference?’. The answer seemed rather simple, it’s the same old story – to give the carp a different challenge to beat. Fixed or semi-fixed leads have been a standard for many years, and as we all know, carp naturally embrace ways of avoiding danger. If you’ve ever seen a carp from an underwater perspective pick up a baited rig, you’ll know just how often and easily they are rejected.

Carp are also known to feed around rigs, even picking up and dropping the hookbaits. Unless you’re able to directly witness it happening, you would never even know they’d been in the area! Sometimes carp will actually use the lead to remove the rig from their mouths, but running leads don’t provide the leverage to do so.

One of my favourite heavy indicators

Indicator weights

For a long time, I tended to use the same set of indicators regardless of the situation, but getting the indicator weight right for your presentation has a huge impact on your bite indication. For instance, if I’m fishing at close range with slack lines, I want an indicator that is light enough to register any movement, but has just enough weight to keep everything in place. From my experiences, a light plastic indicator combined with a metal chain works very well.

More commonly though, I’ll be fishing at range with tight lines, here I use the same indicators as before but also include a heavy screw-in weight. I like to use ones that weigh around 2oz each. This is because I typically use braided mainline for this kind of fishing and, with a tight line, the heavy weight shows movement much clearer than a light indicator on its own does.

With that said, even when fishing tight lines, I still have a drop of a few inches on the indicator. This gives me those few extra bleeps as the line pulls forward. This is really useful when fishing those hit-and-hold situations where the sooner you know about the bite the better. Whilst I’m a true believer in using good quality braid when fishing like this, if your line is extremely tight then it might only mean getting a bleep or two and I would rather have just a bit more to go on.

A selection of back leads ready to go, but they need some careful consideration

Back leads

Like most anglers out there, I use back leads to ensure my lines are tight to the bottom, but this can severely affect bite indication if you’re not careful. Running leads can help out here, as when the fish moves off it still has to pull line forwards, assisting with bite indication. This isn’t the case with semi-fixed leads where the fish can sometimes move off a fair distance without us anglers even knowing about it. I’ve experienced times using back leads where the fish has moved 30-40 metres away before I even knew they were on, all because my indication wasn’t sufficient. Fortunately, on both occasions I was fishing open water and was able to recover and land the fish safely, but under different conditions things could have been very different.

You can test this for yourself out in a field or similar situation. Clearly, it’s not exactly the same as an underwater environment, but lay a selection of rigs out as you would, then then go back and play around with the rigs. You’ll see for yourself which setup works the best and provides the best indication at the other end.

Good quality braid is crucial for good bite indication

A final thought

Carp are difficult to catch at the best of times, that’s part of the reason us anglers love them so much. We’ve all heard the importance of sharp hooks or tried the ‘miracle’ rig/bait that didn’t provide results, but how many of us are guilty of just whacking on the indicators and calling it a night or putting the kettle on without a second thought?

Maybe someone far cleverer than you or I will come up with a new gadget that tells you the second a carp mouths the bait, I wouldn’t be surprised. Nevertheless, putting a bit of thought into a small part of our gear that many of us take for granted might just provide the edge so many of us are searching for.