Part 2 of 2
When it comes to gaining confidence, your set-up is just as important as your approach (covered in part one). You need to use rigs and tackle that you have complete faith in. Unless trying a new item for a specific reason on one of my specimen waters, i.e. to get around a particular problem I’m working to solve, I will stick to tried and trusted items – there’s no way I’m going to risk losing the fish of a lifetime on a product I have not got complete confidence in – I will first test it on a runs water and assess its effectiveness. The same goes for rigs – I rarely try a new rig just for the sake of it on a specimen water. I believe that simple is often best and, again, I will test the effectiveness of different rigs on runs waters before adopting them on harder waters, purely for the reason that my fishing time is extremely limited so I need to maximise my chances when I do have the opportunity to target big fish – there’s no point sitting on a rig that I don’t think is going to do anything for me or fail should I hook something big. Far better to first test it on a lesser water and see how it compares.
A while ago, I fished with a lad who was telling me about a new rig he was trying. He openly admitted he was sceptical about it and reckoned it was not that strong - so why was he using it on the end of his line!? I said as much at the time, but he seemed to brush it off. Sure enough, he received a proper one-toner in the middle of the night and the rig snapped clean in half as soon as he lifted into the fish. Now, this was on a decent water and it’s highly likely that had it been landed, the fish would have sailed over twenty pounds, yet just because he had seen a new rig in a magazine article, he thought he’d give it a try next time out!
So what rigs and items of tackle should you use? Well, that’s the tricky bit. On my own website, www.northwestcarp.co.uk, the forums are full of experienced carp anglers, and in many cases what one angler swears by as an essential item of tackle, the next angler can’t abide! It’s about personal choice – you need to use products that you have confidence in, not those that somebody tells you to have confidence in. By all means, take advice and try things out, but don’t believe everything you read ,as things aren’t always what they seem!
Start from the hook and work backwards, after all, it’s the most important part – if your hooks are no good, there’s little point worrying about the rest! Then find the hooklink materials that suit the waters you are fishing and, for goodness sake, make sure you test the strength of your rigs and knots before you get to the water – and remember, the stated breaking strain will usually be far less once knotted. Once you have a set-up that works well, you will be able to play fish with supreme confidence, and as daft as it sounds, there’s much more chance you will get it in the net – if you are worrying about your hook-hold or the strength of the rig during the battle, your concentration will wane and when you have 30lb of clutch-screaming carp on the other end making a beeline for the next weedbed, you really should be concentrating on matters in hand!
As for bait, well, you could write a whole book on this alone, but the basic principle remains the same - if you have not got confidence in the bait you are using, then why have you got it on the end of your hook? I had an email not so long ago from a lad that had just started carping on a local pond who was pretty despondent after having fished it four times with no success. I asked for some more details about how he had approached the water and to my amazement he told me that he’d used about ten different types of boilie on each occasion and none of them had worked – he kind of answered his own question! Yes, have a few different baits in your armoury, but be realistic – if you are changing baits every five minutes there’s little wonder you are not catching – you need to allow time for things to work.
There are some really good boilies on the market, but there are also some really poor ones, so take time to find one that works well for you. I would always favour a high nutritional value boilie over any other, and most experienced anglers would say the same, but that does not mean they are the only baits to catch carp, just the opposite! There are hundreds of baits out there that have carp written all over them! Nuts, corn, maize, worms, peas, beans, the list is endless! Don’t think that just because Joe Bloggs had all his fish on ‘boilie x’ that it is the only bait out there that will catch carp.
Bait: If you’re not confident on the bait you are using, why are you putting it in?
I’ve learnt the hard way that what works on one water may not always work on another – so keep an open mind. I use a wide variety of baits and have found some of the cheapest most natural baits can often be just as effective as your top of the range boilies, you can even catch carp on artificial baits, and I’ve had great success using many of the fake baits now available on a number of waters.
What you need to bear in mind is that a good bait rarely ‘blows’. For example, carp have been getting caught on sweetcorn for decades and yet they are still just as susceptible to the method today. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to be using the latest wonder bait released each month to catch – you don’t and, in fact, constantly swapping and changing will often do more harm than good in relation to catch returns.
If you find a good quality food source that the carp seem to like – stick with it!! In the last four years I’ve only used boilies from two different companies. Why? Because I have supreme confidence that they are among the best there is – so why bother constantly swapping and changing? By sticking with baits from these two companies, I have caught more and more. It’s the domino principle in full effect – the more confident I get, the more I catch!
There are no immediate short cuts to gaining confidence in your approach, but by applying some sort of strategy and analysing your set-up and baiting tactics, you’ll be well on your way, and before long you’ll forget all about what it was you were worrying about in the first place!