Catching Carp in the Margins

by | Advanced, Carp |

Catching carp in the margins is one of the most exciting and productive methods, perfect for the short session fisherman. I’ve arrived at lakes in the past, carefully baited up a few marginal spots before catching some fantastic fish in a relatively short space of time.

It’s definitely one of my favourite ways to fish for carp. You’re mobile, moving slowly around the lake, trying to pick off fish from the edges. Hooking a fish in the margins is always a heart-thumping affair, much more so than when they’re hooked out in the pond. In this article, I cover why I love this approach, my methods, bait application and my favourite rig for fishing the margins.

Why target the margins?

Throughout winter, carp will often hide out in the pond, looking for deep water to rest up in. As we move into late spring and summer and the water warms up, the fish start to explore the edges, in their search for food. If the water is shallow, you may even be able to see them if wearing a decent pair of polaroids. This enhanced visual input of having the fish at your feet makes it a very exciting way to fish.

Like many of you, I’m a busy guy, and therefore generally I fish very short sessions. I haven’t got the time to bait and wait. Fishing in the margins allows me to stay mobile and move around the lake looking for a bite at a time. If you bait accurately and use simple rigs, there’s no reason you can’t pick off a fish or two.

With only a small amount of gear, you can fish several swims in a short space of time.

​Location, location, location

Upon arrival at the lake, I will always have a look around. This is standard practice. Look for those tell-tale signs of fish such as rolling and bubbling. Like I said before, with your polaroid glasses on you may even be able to see the carp. If I do spot the fish, I apply a bit of bait to that area. Just a couple of handfuls at most, remember that you’re looking for one bite only.

A good look around the lake is critical

​Baiting up

If you don’t see any signs of fish, then look for the likely holding spots, such as overhanging trees, marginal lily pads or rushes. I like to bait up with just a couple of handfuls of mixed pellets and corn. Again, try not to put too much in, we don’t want the carp to become fixated on a heap of bait when we’re hoping for a quick bite.

Pellets and corn are a good option. If the lake holds a lot of nuisance fish then maybe try half and whole boilies.

Fish your spots in rotation

I find that it’s often worth baiting up four or five different spots and then fishing them in rotation, spending only about 30-45 mins in each swim. When I’m fishing like this, I typically use just one rod, generally around 10 feet in length. I find that’s a better length than the typical 12ft when you’re moving around, fishing in this mobile way.

Multiple catches are not that uncommon

By using this technique, I’ve been known to catch fish from each of my spots before leaving for home. That particular instance happened on a fairly densely populated lake, and I’d be satisfied with just a bite or two. With that said, multiple catches are not that uncommon, as when you’re fishing like this you‘re not waiting for the swim to recover – you just move to the next swim for a fresh start.

Be discrete

Don’t charge into the swims, stamping your feet and chucking tonnes of bait in. Fishing the margins requires a bit more finesse. Stay well back from the water’s edge and try to move as slowly and steadily as possible. You need to ensure that your presence on the bank isn’t clocked by any fish that may already be in the targeted area. In effect, what you’re doing here is stalking, you’re moving around the lake very carefully trying to locate fish in the edges.

If you spook them, you’ve ruined your chances before you’ve even started. If fish are on the spot, then consider applying a little bait over their heads to move them away temporarily. This will enable you to get a rig in place and is a much better option than dumping a lead on their heads.

The best rigs to use in the margins

I like to keep my rigs very simple in the margins. To start, you aren’t going to be launching these out into the pond, so pieces of tackle designed to reduce tangles are unnecessary here.

Consider the lake bed

Whatever you choose to use, it’s important to consider the lake bed. My preferred margin rig would be a short, blow back rig mounted on an inline lead. In fact, this would be my preferred rig for all carp fishing if I could get away with it. Unfortunately, though, sometimes silt and the characteristics of the lake bed prevent me using this setup, but if I can use it, 99 times out of 100 I will.

A short rig means that the fish hardly need to move before coming into contact with the lead. There is very little movement in the inline lead system, either in comparison to lead clip or helicopter systems, and the fish is almost immediately in contact with the heaviest part of the lead.

Many people would use a lighter lead in the margins; however, I would use one that’s slightly heavier, again to help with the hooking properties. This, of course, assumes that I’m not dropping the lead amongst feeding fish.

A nice simple little blow back rig on an inline lead


Witnessing feeding fish in the edge makes for a good freelining opportunity. Freelining is a method that involves simply attaching a hook to the main line, with nothing else in the way of tackle. It’s a great method to use when stalking or casting at feeding fish. This method allows you to cast into the water with the absolute minimum amount of disturbance. Use a sensible break strain mainline and simply tie on a strong hook. I would recommend a size 8 or 6. Slow sinking maggots or bread flake can be devastating in this scenario.

Something different – Floats and Blobs

Can ruin your chances

I have caught loads of carp from the edge using floats. This is something that you don’t see carp anglers doing very often and I’m not entirely sure why because it can be an extremely effective approach. When using this technique I tend to bait four or five spots before fishing them in rotation. This often results in having to carefully place a bait amongst feeding fish. I have found using a float reduces the chance of spooking fish in this scenario. It’s definitely worth trying this method instead of plonking a rig with a heavy lead into the water, which often alerts the fish and can ruin your chances. A float basically allows you to fish with more finesse.

A product that I’ve just got my hands on are the Korum Blobs. I received these in preparation for spring, and I’m confident that these are going to be perfect for this style of fishing. They achieve something that feels like a combination of freelining and float fishing. It’s like freelining but with a small indicator threaded on the line. They are preloaded with a 3g weight and attached to the line off a wire, similar to float stops or hooklength sinkers.

The Korum Blobs, a great bit of tackle for discrete margin fishing

Hooking and playing margin caught fish

If your targeting carp in the margins, getting the clutch set on the reel correctly is crucial. A carp that’s hooked in the margin is almost guaranteed to power out into the middle of the lake. This is very exciting and quite explosive, with the reel humming as the drag kicks in!

Do not try to backwind, a margin hooked fish will move off too quickly for this. You might get away with it when you’ve hooked a carp in open water but with a fish that’s been hooked in the margin it’s a bad idea. You need to set the drag so that you can pull line off the spool without too much effort.

A 30lb Common caught from the edge on a very short session in 2019

I have written this article in the spring. Everything is starting to wake up, and the water is certainly getting warmer. The fish will begin to investigate the edges more and more over the coming months. I cannot wait to get out there with a single rod, a small bag, a net and an unhooking mat and move around the lakes catching carp from the margins. I hope this article will help you do the same and land some fantastic fish along the way! Thanks for reading!