How I Use Solid PVA Bags to Catch More Big Carp

by | Advanced, Carp |

I’ve been carp fishing now for over 30 years, and in all that time I’ve kept my rigs reasonably simple. Just a braided hook length, a strong wide gape hook, a kicker and a small piece of silicone to hold the hair in place. Nothing too exciting or complicated. I’ve always relied more on location and bait application rather than fancy rigs. However, back in 2017, something changed. Suddenly it wasn’t enough, and it was time to look a bit more closely at what I was actually doing!

I had started to fish Walthamstow as well as the occasional social with friends on Farlow’s main lake. I had just come off the back of a series of tough sessions and whilst I was definitely on the fish, I was struggling. Walthamstow 2&3 had horrendous silt and Farlow’s main lake had lots of thick weed around the majority of the lake.

To combat this, I spent the next few months really experimenting with all kinds of rigs. The first thing I tested was a helicopter set up, in an attempt to allow the lead to fall into the silt/weed. The pop up rig contained a boom with either a Ronnie or a Hinged Stiff Rig attached. At last, the bites started coming! However, there was still a problem – I was regularly losing fish! I eventually found something that worked for me, and it was something that I’d not really considered much in the past. It was the solid bag!

A bit about solid bags

In the fishing world, PVA comes in a range of formats. Solid bags, as the name suggests, are small bags that do not contain any holes – unlike PVA mesh, another popular product. PVA is a material that disintegrates in water, offering the angler a reliable way to accurately place free offerings very close to the hookbait. PVA has been in the angling industry for a long time now and solid PVA bags can be awesome when used in the right situation.

The Zip Linear from my syndicate, taken on a solid bag. One of four fish from an overnighter.

Why is the solid bag so effective?

Well, which rig is the most efficient hooker? If you could use any rig/lead set up what would it be? For me, nine times out of ten it would be an in-line lead and a short rig. This is why the solid bag can be so devastating! It allows you to use a rig you’d typically use in the edges but gives you the power to use it almost anywhere out in the pond in a way that you can be sure it’s fishing.

The carp hardly has to move before the lead does its job and buries the hook!

The key for me is the lead set up and the length of the rig. With this lead set up, the fish has very little movement before coming into contact with the heaviest part of the lead. No clips, swivels or beads. The fish’s contact with the lead is immediate in comparison with a lead clip or helicopter set up, and due to the short rig, the carp hardly has to move before the lead does its job and buries the hook!

Add to that the huge attraction that’s held in the pellets (you can of course add liquid) and you have yourself a deadly combination.

A nice big scaley mirror. Another victim to the solid bag, fished on a patch baited with corn, pellet and chopped boilie.

The rigs – what you need

I use short Blowback rigs in my bags. If you don’t know how to tie these, then give it a Google or search YouTube. Either way, you’ll need the following:

  • Soft hooklength material (I use Korda N-Trap Soft)
  • Mugga size 6 curve shank hooks
  • Medium sized rig rings

Simple, short little blow back rigs, ready to go in a solid bag. In fact, more recently these have become even shorter, maybe just 3 or 4” in length.

The hookbait – what you need

In terms of bait, I use plastic for several reasons. My sessions are typically quite short, so having a load of bags ready in advance is essential, as it means I can simply tie a bag to the main line and I’m away. The pre-tied solid bags can be in my bucket for weeks before they’re actually used. I use the Avid solid bag stems because these allow me to tie several bags in advance.

Plenty of bags, tied up in advance to help me maximise my time on the bank

If I used a boilie or a pop-up, then these would dry out or lose buoyancy. I therefore choose to use one plastic grain of slow sinking maize and one plastic grain of pop up corn. This combination creates a semi-buoyant bait that shoots back into the fish’s mouth, perfect as carp tend to home in on the pellets and take the lot in a single mouthful. For this reason, I don’t think there’s any advantage to using a real bait over plastic.

The solid bags – what you need

  • Small bucket
  • Mixed pellets (mixed sizes)
  • Ground bait
  • Fox solid bag ring
  • Medium sized solid bags
  • PVA tape
  • Goo (optional)

I think it’s important to use a range of pellet sizes in the bag. This is especially true if you’re fishing at range and need a really compact solid bag. The smaller pellets fill the gaps and prevent you from dealing with a horrible, saggy bag that doesn’t cast well.

How to create the perfect bag

There are a lot of videos on YouTube that cover this but here’s a quick overview of my own personal approach.

Step one

The first thing I do is take an empty, medium sized solid bag, add the collar and fill the bottom with a small bit of groundbait.

A collar on the solid bag, just a bit of groundbait in the bottom.

Step Two

Drop the rig hookbait into the bottom of the bag and move it into place, making sure that the hair isn’t wrapped around the hook and that everything is sitting nicely.

The rig is placed into the bag

Step Three

Start to fill the bag with the pellets until the bag is half full. Then drop the lead into the bag and make sure it’s sitting so that the stem is centred. Then continue filling until the lead is completely covered by the pellets.

Now remove the collar and twist the top of the bag around the stem. Shake the bag to ensure it is as compact as possible – the more compact the bag, the better it will cast. I pay more attention to this if I’m fishing at range. If you’re fishing close to the edge, it’s less important.

A finished solid bag.

You now have a perfect solid bag, ready to tie onto your main line. If you’re fishing out in the pond and not close to the edge, apply a bit of saliva to the corners and fold in, to make the bag more streamlined when casting. You may also choose to pierce the bag and add some liquids.

When I wouldn’t use a solid bag

I typically don’t choose solid bags when fishing in very deep, soft silt. Here I prefer to still use a helicopter rig. Having said that, solid bags can still work and I’ve managed to get bites in the past. If you do choose to use solid PVA bags in this scenario, make sure you don’t pierce it or use perforated bags. Air trapped in the bag will make it sink slower, parachute style.

I probably wouldn’t use solid bags at extreme ranges either – they’re never going to cast as far as a single hookbait on a helicopter set up.

A very recent result on a solid bag in the edge on a very short session. Almost instant success with a nice big common.

Solid Bags – The side by side experiment

On my syndicate, we have a cool little runs water. It’s a great place to test your rigs and try new things. In my next article, I’ll take you through a little experiment that I did recently. I baited a single patch a few rod lengths out and fished two rigs just a few feet apart. One was my conventional bottom bait rig. The other was a solid bag. You’ll have to read my next article to see the results, but it was very interesting!

I hope you have a crack at using solid bags. They’ve now become a big part of my fishing, and they rarely let me down when used in the right situation. Thanks for reading and tight lines.