The Big Carp Paradox

by | Carp, Advanced |

Last year I started fishing a brand new lake… Unfortunately, this article isn’t the one I was intending to write when I first set out my new fishing adventure, as I sit down to write this it feels as though this venue has well and truly kicked me in the proverbials.

The year I started on the venue was the first time that this particular lake had been open through the close season. I was of the mind that because of this, there would be a definitive window of opportunity that I would be able to capitalise on. This was not the case, instead the period was intensely slow, possibly due to the cold winter that we were coming off the back of.

The venue itself is similar to the Car Park Lake over at Yately – it’s a similar size and has been the subject of many top-quality anglers over the years, meaning that the carp have seen it all. In addition and more importantly, the lake is home to real specimens. So much so that I would say it’s one of the best that I have ever fished on, hitting the sweet spot between stock level and difficulty.

Coming off the back of a particularly cold winter

The two largest fish on here are particularly wily beasts, only ending up on the bank about once a year. This kind of fish is not that uncommon and certainly not the first of its kind that I’ve targeted. I do often find myself thinking about a paradox that exists with carp like this; how can the biggest fish in the lake, the fish that you would assume consumes the most food, also be the most elusive? Whilst there are many variables and factors to consider when it comes to hunting big carp and there is no doubt that each lake is different, there do appear to be some traits that these once-a-year fish have in common.

Now this isn’t always the case, there are plenty of other lakes out there where the opposite is true; often such venues do pose some challenge and doesn’t offer many bites, but the fish that’s caught the most is often the biggest. Willington lake is a good example of this. The lake is a pretty tough one, but the prize fish there in terms of weight was banked nearly as many times as all the other residents combined, making for a great target fish.

A coated braid rig – one of my personal favourites

A common trait?

One feature that many of these notoriously elusive fish have in common is mouth shape. Those fish that are very rarely banked tend to have a hoover-shaped mouth, whereby the top lip protrudes well over the bottom one, similar in essence to a barbel’s mouth. Mr Angry over at the Manchester park lake exhibits this feature very clearly and is a fish known for its exceptionally elusive nature.

I must make it clear that I haven’t observed any such fish feeding at close quarters, so I’m not able to say for sure why this mouth shape makes them so hard to catch, but there are theories out there…

A hoover-shaped mouth is even more efficient

The carp’s mouth is pretty much the only way the fish can interact with its environment. Specifically, the carp’s mouth is used to sift through silt, ejecting anything that is unwanted and at the same time crushing and consuming desirable foods. Considering this, it must be pretty easy for carp to detect a hook at the best of times. It is theorised that a hoover-shaped mouth is even more efficient for this sorting process, meaning they’re more likely to escape the danger posed by our hooks and rigs…

In order for the hook to turn and properly take hold, many rigs rely on the fish lifting its head or move in such a way to cause the hooklink to tighten. It’s therefore conceivable that if the carp has both lips against the lakebed, it is able to hoover up the food, without lifting up, thereby rending many rigs ineffective.

Mr Angry from Manchester Park Lake, notice the shape of the mouth?

Searching for the solution

If the problem is correctly described above, then perhaps the solution lies with a different style of rig or presentation? If so, then either a hinged stiff link or chod rig seem like the two stand out options to me.

Coated hooklinks or supple braid rigs represent the status quo, so use of a short stiff section that the fish cannot eject or turn around would have to stand more of a chance… But I find that stiff links perform best on hard bottoms and using choddies in every scenario doesn’t sound like the best idea.

I landed the Willington fish through the use of a stiff hinged link paired with a six-inch braided boom section. This presentation is more effective on a broader range of bottoms and could therefore hold the answer to landing these elusive big carp.

About a month ago, I was able to land my first carp from the venue in question through the use of a pretty conventional knotless knot coated braid rig. As with any venue, the first fish on the bank really does act as a confidence booster. This lasted until the following morning, when I had fish showing all around me, but no action.

Is the choddie the solution?

I awoke at first light, gazing out onto the lake I saw a nice looking mirror crashing about 25 yards out, instantly signalling that the fish were around and active. It was one of those warm, overcast spring mornings that carp just love and I was sure that there was potential for another bite, just as there had been the day before.

Not long after I saw the first carp crashing did another carp show, then another and another. But still my rod lay motionless. I had to leave at 10.30 to head back home, and by the time 9.30 rolled around I was starting to worry.

The fish were indeed still around

Finally, I gave in to the urge to take a closer look at my two spots, which I could observe from a tree in the viewing area. This risked spooking the fish, but it seemed as though something was going wrong anyway, plus I had an hour left to try and recover something. I stealthily got into position and saw a 35lb-plus fish glide past, indicating instantly that the fish were indeed still around.

At the top of the tree, I could see a swirling cloud of debris at my other spot, and was forced to watch as another huge common emerged from the haze of debris. The fish had clearly been feeding hard. I was gutted. I’d basically just witnessed the fish take off having consumed all my freebies, leaving behind a lonely hookbait.

Naturally, my thoughts turned to the day before… Had my result been down to luck? Did my approach still require work?

Following that session, four of the biggest five fish have been caught on the venue. All of which were landed using either a chod or a hinged stiff link. Certainly, food for thought.