How To Improve Your Presentation

I meet many anglers out on the bank who have a good grasp of what they are doing; using good baits, good rigs, and with a good degree of technical knowledge, but who then leave it all to chance when putting a rig out! It’s such a shame, because if they applied just that bit of extra thought when putting out their rigs, the chances are they would do much better.

I’m completely anal when it comes to putting my baits out, and I won’t be happy unless I’m 100% confident that I know exactly what’s occurring on the spot I’m fishing to. In the same way, I have to be 100% happy with the way the rig goes out, and if I’m not – even if I’m 99% confident - it will come back in and it will keep going out until I know I’ve got perfection.

Why do I go to these lengths? Simple, really; I want to do all I can to increase the chances of getting a pick up. What’s the point in going to all the trouble we do as carp anglers if, when you finally get your bait out, you leave it all to chance with an iffy pub chuck?

To get perfect presentation, you first need to know what’s going on on the bottom of the lake. If you’ve not run a feature finding set up around the swim you are fishing, how can you possibly expect to get good presentation? I do this on every lake I fish, often when not even fishing, so when I turn up to fish next time, I know roughly where everything is and it’s just a case of having a lead around to ensure the spot is exactly as I’m expecting it to be.

The amount of times I’ve had anglers telling me they are in a certain depth of water, or on a certain feature, when they have never even run a lead over it... it’s laughable, really. A lad I used to know was well known for it. I remember we all went down to Oxfordshire one year in harsh mid-March conditions for a jolly, fishing a lake none of us had seen before. The wind and rain was incredible and the lake looked like the north sea, yet by going the extra mile at the start and doing a bit of feature finding I found some good spots and put about eight fish on the bank over two days, with most of the other lads having a couple, too.

We all kept to ourselves, due to the weather, and although I knew matey was fishing to my right, I had no idea what he was doing as I had my back to him and visibility was terrible. He showed his face here and there and would talk a proper game; how he’d done this and done that and all his spots were mint – the usual rubbish – in these conditions it would have been the fastest pub chuck ever and straight into his bivvy, and by the final night he’d not had so much as a bleep.

On the last morning, it was like we’d woken up on a different lake in the middle of summer. A stunning flat calm spring morning. It was only then that I could see clearly up to matey in the next swim. He was fishing a small bay out to an island and, as I looked over to his swim, I could see his lines right out of the water going most of the way out – something was very wrong!

Closer inspection revealed he’d actually had his baits in about ten inches of flood water for the entire session. It turned out the owner was extending the lake and had just dug off the turf  to mark the area, but with all the rain prior to our trip the lake had risen and covered where he’d taken the turf off. Of course matey had just dropped in without checking and fired them straight out – and then fished it for a whole two days!!

Poor lad. We were all howling; it took us twice as long to pack up for continual fits of laughter. He then had to endure a two hour trip home in the back of a van with all of us – so you can imagine how that went! Not surprisingly, he NEVER lived it down. I’ve got tears in my eyes as I write about it fifteen years later – so let it be a lesson! Never chuck a rig out unless you are TOTALLY sure of what’s going on beneath the surface!

From then on in, it’s all about accuracy. The more accurate you are at getting your baited rigs out, the better your chances of success. As such, when it comes to getting good presentation, much depends on knowing your own limitations!

It stands to reason that the further out your spot is, the more difficult it is going to be to hit it perfectly first time out. Marking the spot, clipping up and having a few trial casts will all aid your chances, but it still might take a few casts to get it bang on the money – and it’s important to remember that you have to work at perfection. If it takes ten casts, then it takes ten casts. Far better to do that and be happy, than do one cast and not be.

Following on from this, it stands to reason that if it’s probably going to take you a few casts to get perfect accuracy on a distance spot, it’s best to cast a single hookbait and then bait up around it. If you try to whack a bag out there’s a good chance you may land off the mark and what do you do then? Most I know would make out the spot they wanted to hit was actually where the bag landed, rather than admit they dropped it way too short or wide!

The closer you come in, the better your accuracy is going to be with regard to feature finding and, ultimately, presentation. It’s important to remember that there’s no shame in that. Too many anglers think carp fishing is all about distance – how wrong could they be! As a stalking angler, most of my fishing is done within a few rod-lengths of the bank and, whilst they are busy wondering how their monster pub chuck is sitting having never even run a lead over the spot, I’ll be busy hauling them out of the edges!

You see, it doesn’t mater where the spot is – it’s your accuracy when you are on it that counts. I’m never happier than when I can underarm flick my bait out to a spot, as you can feel everything through the lead and should you need to, you can keep doing it until you know it is sitting perfectly.

Carp Rig Presentation

Don’t be fooled that making a few casts to the same spot will spook the fish – it’s nonsense. Far better to make a few and have it sitting pretty. To be honest, wherever possible, I take it one step further and, if I’m fishing a spot where I can wade out and place my baits by hand, I will do. You are never more ‘at one’ with a lake you are fishing than when you can physically get out into it! A lead can tell you so much, but if you can actually get out into the lake to have a feel around with your feet, you can take things to another level – some of my best results come on waters where I’m able to wade out to find spots other anglers simply don’t know exist! Obviously, I would only do this in a water in which I knew it was 100% safe to do so. Do NOT go wading into unknown waters, EVER.

When I compare my results to those around me who effectively fish blind by not going the extra mile with regards to accuracy, most of the time I’m way ahead, meaning I often fish a fraction of the rod hours for the same amount of fish – even when fishing like for like rigs, bait and swims.

Julian Grattidge
February 2013