Hunting Big Carp
I’ve been chasing big carp now for a good few years and I’ve been fortunate enough to land a few fish that a some anglers (not just my mates) would term ‘monsters’. Some caught by design and others from taking advantage of certain situations. There are hundreds of factors that should be considered when targeting big carp; here I am going to discuss the main ones.
Don’t ignore these quiet, overlooked areas. They often provide unexpected opportunities.
The mental game
No two bodies of water are the same. What should remain constant however is your determination to land a desirable carp. Having the right mindset is vital if you want to be successful at this kind of carping. The low-stock nature of many big carp lakes, mean that you’re going to need to get used to blanks. It’s how you mentally cope with these blanks that will determine whether or not you are going to see your big carp campaign through to a fruitful end.The way I look at it, blanks are inevitable; I like to view the campaign as a single, continuous session. Whilst other anglers have five hours to do their thing, I have the entire year. Every minute, every hour, every session, it’s all building up the final capture and each night fished is just one step closer to bagging my target fish.
If you need a session on an easier water just to give the rod a bend, go for it, but personally, I like to focus solely on my aim. Last time I went down to a runs water, I just sat there thinking about my main target water and ended up heading over there for another night!
We know that carp are individuals, each with their own habits and patterns. A well-known example of this was ‘The Fat Lady’ who resided in St Ives Lagoon. This was a target fish for many anglers and as such was well understood. At her peak, she weighed 60lbs 8oz, much was known about this fish; she loved Nashbait Scopex squid, typically emerged on a first quarter moon and made multiple visits to the bank throughout the month of May.
Once you understand multiple different habits that a specific fish displays, like in this case, then it doesn’t take a genius to work out when you have the best chance of landing it
With every new fish I target, I look for these same patterns – bait, area and moon phases. The effect moon phases have on carp is well debated amongst anglers. In my opinion, if you’re fishing for runs, ignore them. But if you’re targeting a monster, it’s always worth looking into its capture history and trying to establish if your desired fish prefers a specific phase. As with anything in life, there will always be exceptions, but following the patterns that the fish lay out for you is a no brainer.
The effect of moon phases is well debated amongst carp anglers
Does your desired fish live in only a certain area of the lake and is it only caught during specific times of year? A couple of my best captures were only catchable in the winter, where other big ‘uns just weren’t. Another fish that I went after, known as ‘The twin’ was caught a good few times from the west corner of the lake, so as you can imagine, that was where I could be found.
Does the carp you’re hunting have a preference for a certain bait? As mentioned previously, The Fat Lady had a real taste for Scopex Squid, a bait first used on Yateley Car Park Lake for an angler chasing Heather. Heather was another fish that reported to enjoy baits containing some of that magic red stuff, Robin Red. How did the angler know this? He’d read catch reports online and in magazines. Catch reports are great sources of information, particularly for specific fish. Don’t underestimate their usefulness.
Make a plan
Once you’ve got to grips with your venue, have fished it a few times and understand the habits of your desired fish, it’s time to start planning. Nowadays this is a bit tricky for me as I’m limited to two nights a week and live an hour’s drive away from the lakes that I fish. What this essentially means is that I have to think very strategically to use my limited time in a productive way.
My plans mainly involve identifying an area or two with potential and then baiting these areas accordingly. This gets the fish used to feeding there and gets them visiting my target areas on a regular basis. I try not to fish the area until I think the spot is primed. If my plan comes together, I’ll catch. Of course this does no guarantee that the target will take your bait, but it will stack the odds in your favour.
Overlooked areas can be very productive
Because I live a fair distance away, I unfortunately can’t just pop down in the evenings to bait up or eye up a couple of areas. Then of course, you need to consider that there will be other anglers with the same goal using similar tactics to you. I like to use areas that are close to the main swims, but not obvious.
I always select areas that are overlooked by other anglers; here I can get the carp conditioned to my spot without benefiting another angler. This is much harder than it sounds. Getting it right is really dependent on the spot you choose, so make sure you put some serious thought into it.In addition to watching the carp’s habits, once I think I’ve found the right spot, I also watch other angler’s. If you’ve identified a number of different spots, it’s always worth trickling in a bit of bait across them all, as this allows you to test them before you dive in with a full baiting plan. Working your way through the different spots and eliminating those that won’t work is a crucial part of finding the right one.
You may have heard this one before, but don’t just sit there waiting for your baiting plan to pay off. Get off your chair and have a look for some stalking opportunities. You’re looking for a specific fish, so it makes sense to get out there and actively try and find it. In my opinion, a great angler is one that seeks opportunities and then takes advantage of them. These chances aren’t going to come to you, you have to go and find them.
One of my best catches was caught by doing exactly this. I’d found a few fish around some pads, so moved up there and sat for about an hour with a bait either side of them. No luck. So I started looking for further opportunities, I’d seen some carpy movement in an area not too far away, so I moved towards it. I went to leave a few patches of bait around the area, but didn’t actually manage to put any in – the rod ripped off and before I knew it the prize was in my arms.
A carp in the margins
Bait and tackle
If you’re out hunting big carp, it’s not a time to be experimenting with rigs or bait. This is a style of fishing for advanced anglers and you should be experienced and know what works for you. Confidence is key and you need to have faith, even through those sessions where you blank.
For me bait is an easy one and this year I’ll again be using a variation of DT baits cult classics. This is the same for my tackle. I have complete confidence in everything I use from my rods all the way down to the hook on the other end. I can keep using the same approach even through long blank spells, and know that when the chance does arrive I’ll be well prepared.
Now I’m sure that a few will disagree with this point, but as much as we all love this fantastic hobby, it is just that: a hobby. It’s not a life or death situation. I have a family, a wife and a job, all of which are a great deal more important than any carp, no matter how big it is. When you set out to catch a big carp, it’s easy to lose sight of what is important and become obsessed with the pursuit. It’s happened to me.
I’ve been in a situation hunting big carp, where as long as I had the money to fill my car with petrol, I was happy and wasn’t too concerned with anything else. I was on the brink of losing my job and my wife, all because of a bloody carp! Eventually I landed it. Afterwards I didn’t so much as even look at a rod for about two months whilst I got my life back on track. I’d learnt my lesson and learnt it the hard way.
To sum up, keep fishing well and you will get your chance to hold up a belter. There is no secret to catching big carp, all you can do is try and stack the odds in your favour, then make sure you’re in the right place at the right time.