I was once a sane angler who enjoyed fishing for any species that came along. Then one day after amassing a huge bag of rudd and roach in only a few hours pole angling I decided enough was enough and I set off down the road to becoming a carp fool!
I had proved to myself that I could catch plenty of fish so I decided to broaden my horizons and I started targeting big fish. I reasoned that if I was going to put all my time and effort into fishing I wanted something BIG to show for it. The obvious target species was carp. In no time at all I had joined the boilie and buzzer brigade.
Over several years I built up my tackle and knowledge of carp fishing and became a competent carp angler. However, my approach mirrored (pardon the pun) that of the masses and the one and only bait that I used was boilies.
However, as I searched for an edge I started experimenting with different baits and to a certain extent to returned to the baits and tactics I used in my early years of fishing. Beds of hemp, various other particles and trout pellets (just before their re-birth and therefore too late for me to clean up, darn!) improved my catch rate, as did a change from the standard bolt rig tactics.
I started float fishing in the margins and even managed to catch carp on baits as diverse as hair rigged cod liver oil capsules (as recommended by Ken Townley) and strawberry jelly cubes.
Incidentally, it is worth adding a cod liver oil, evening primrose or my favourite, garlic oil capsule to the hair for added attraction before putting on your boilie.
The top float-fished bait was luncheon meat. This encouraged me to return to older less favoured carp baits such as bread, sweetcorn, luncheon meat and worms.
Not only did my carp catch rate increase but I started catching specimens that I had neglected for a few years. I have now taken some decent sized tench, stillwater chub and bream (okay they are a bit yucky!) on baits intended for carp.
This re-vitalised my fishing and so what I am saying to you stereo-typical carp anglers is buck the trend, try baits other than boilies and watch your catch rate increase. And enjoy the pleasure of catching some other species again as you will often find that they are good specimens due to the size of baits and tactics that you are employing for the carp.
I don’t need to patronise any of you by telling you how to fish with the four baits I have mentioned above but here are a few hints and tips that have worked for me or some ideas that I haven’t used but might be worth trying or considering.
This is my current favourite and I’ve caught loads of carp on luncheon meat fished in conjunction with a method feeder.
It is always handy to have a couple of tins in your bag or in the garage as a back up bait.
I’ve found that luncheon meat is more instant than boilies and on waters where it hasn’t been over-used and a long cast isn’t necessary it will definitely outscore boilies everytime.
I often fish it straight out the tin and cut it into the standard square-(ish) shape. Don’t be afraid to use different shapes. Experiment and come up with your own ways of cutting and presenting the bait.
My favourite variety is Spam. However, most people have their own personal favourites. Again experiment and use the one that you can work with the best and that catches you the most fish.
Flavours can be added. However, this isn’t always necessary and the most I have ever used is a couple of mils of Nash Malay Spice Oil on a bag of cubed meat. You can add powdered spices or additives to a bag of meat to give it a covering. You can also fry the meat in some oil and spice powders.
Luncheon meat can be fished on the hook and will normally strike off easily. However, in colder water the gristle may harden and make this more difficult. Incidentally, it is in the winter months when luncheon meat comes into its own. It is an excellent winter bait.
Hair-rigging the meat is more successful for hooking the fish. In order for you to be able to cast any distance and keep the bait on the hair you need to be careful. A nice smooth cast is essential but how you put the meat on the hair also matters.
The usual continuation of the hooklength through to the hair or a thinner hair material will mean that the hair cuts through the meat and it will fly off on the cast or as it hits the water. I have two methods of presentation which minimize this occurring:
The first is by threading some 0.75mm or 1mm tubing onto the hair. This is then pulled through the meat and as it is thicker than a usual hair it does not cut through the bait as easily allowing a harder cast. The meat is secured to the hair in the usual way. I normally use something like a couple of strands of thick grass or small twigs. These then can go the full width of the meat and provide a firmer base.
The second rig is a variation on the first. This is my preferred method. I tie on my hook using the knotless knot and some Kryston Snake-Skin. I don’t strip off any of the coating until the rig is tied. This means that the hair is made of coated Snake-Skin. This is slightly thicker than a normal hair and not as supple, which therefore helps the meat withstand the cast. To improve the rig I strip an inch of the coating above the hook CAREFULLY at the end once the rig is tied up. If you are worried that the hair is not supple enough you can strip a small amount of coating off the hair at the base to give it more flexibility. I use the same hair stop as in 1.
I apologise for the poor quality rig pictures but my digital camera doesn’t have focus and just wouldn’t work right! I hope they still illustrate the use of the ‘thicker’ hair to hold the meat in place on the cast.
Other methods that could be tried include using a square of clear plastic on the base of the meat to prevent the hair stop being pulled through or the Trefor West meat hooks.
I must admit I haven’t used sweetcorn as much as the other baits mentioned and when I have used it I’ve not found it as successful as the othe
rs for some reason.
Sweetcorn is a very versatile bait and can be floatfished or legered. It can be threaded on the hook necklace fashion or hair rigged. If hair rigging you could add a bit of cork, yellow foam or the Trefor West ‘pop up corn’ to make the bait more buoyant. You can make the bait neutral buoyancy or popped up depending on the amount of bait/foam used.
A few tins of sweetcorn aren’t expensive and can be left in your bag to be used whenever needed. You can flavour and colour the corn yourself to add more attraction and be a little bit different from the rest. However, you are probably better buying the commercially available flavoured and coloured corn. Please dispose of the tin correctly.
Bread has a wide appeal for all types of species but is a favourite of carp large or small.
When stalking close in a large piece of bread flake which flutters enticingly in front of the carp will often be snaffled without hesitation. Breadflake is a nice visual bait and will rest on top of silt or weed. It can be fished freeline but normally a float will be needed to give a bit of casting weight.
The bread can be made into a paste by cutting off the crusts and adding water. To give the bread paste added attraction with some liquid flavour, honey or custard powder. Try anything and experiment! Breadpaste has a little more weight and can be cast a little further if freelined but again is better floatfished.
Breadcrust can be anchored just off bottom (never tried it though!) or surface fished. I like to use breadcrust as my hookbait and fish it amongst free offerings of cat/dog biscuits. A large hook can be hidden in a large piece that will be readily accepted by the carp. Breadcrust is often taken more confidently by surface feeding carp as they have become wary of pet food type floaters.
Breadcrust can be struck off the hook easier on the strike but can also fly off easier on the cast! It is worth persevering with and it is those who take a little bit more effort that normally succeed and will reap the rewards.
Bread is also very cheap and can be liquidised (take of crusts first) to make an effective but filling groundbait.
However, bread is a very light bait and is therefore more suited to close range fishing.
I’m not going to say much about worms but I know I should use them more often than I do. A big juicy lobworm is a great natural bait that will fool a boilie shy carp. Unfortunately, as well as attracting other species, which I welcome, they also attract eels, yuck!
I normally use them for stalking (so I can avoid the eels!). A big worm can be cast quite far on a freeline. The fish often respond to the load plop.
Worms have a habit of wriggling off the hook so a John Roberts bait stop comes in handy.
Bunches of worms also work well.
There have been numerous discussions on the coarse fishing forum about worms and creating your own wormery so it might be worth looking through the forum archives for further information, or Leon Roskilly’s excellent article entitled I’ve Got Worms!.