Ever wondered what sets apart the real big fish men and how they target the biggest and most elusive of carp? Experienced big carp ace Simon Crow uncovers the reality of what it takes to target big carp successfully.
The number one tip to help catch any individual carp is to trace its history. Past captures give you vital information about areas of the lake a carp prefers, times of the year they tend to get caught, the types of baits and even the tactics they have fallen for. One carp might be a real keen surface feeder, some carp rarely get caught in the winter, others do every season. Talk to other anglers and wade through magazines for information. My Belgian mate Alijn Danau has hundreds of catch pictures on his laptop tracing the swims the Rainbow Lake giants come from. Gather information about your target carp and see what it tells you that will help catch it yourself.
Spring into action
Forget rigs, baits and tactics, think timing. A huge proportion of the biggest and hardest carp caught in this country each year come out between 20th March and 21st June, the period known as the Spring Equinox. Take a look at the catches in Carp-Talk or on the forums and there’s no doubting that the Spring is THE time to target big fish. Fish as much as you can between these dates – the carp you catch will be at really good weights in this period too.
Big fish baits
Accept that some baits are more attractive to bigger carp than others. Some ingredients are more attractive to older fish, a bit like kids enjoy fizzy pop yet detest alcohol, puppies prefer and need different foods to older dogs, and the same with calves and cattle or chicks and chickens. The success of some baits with biggies isn’t coincidence – Gary Bayes has become an expert interpreting field tester results to find the key ingredients that help catch the bigger carp. It’s no coincidence he chose Scopex Squid when targeting Britain’s then biggest carp Two Tone, he knew Scopex Squid consistently caught the bigger fish, and so it proved. If you prefer making your own baits, try some liver, green lipped mussel, yeast, or capelin meal.
The free feed
Prebaiting is something so many anglers talk about yet so very few are willing to drive to a lake to bait up because it takes effort. Even feeding spots just the once before you fish will be of benefit and feeding regularly and long term is a great way of building confidence in difficult big fish. Stick to the same bait and preferably add your own little touches to it so that no-one else is likely to benefit from your efforts. Join forces with a few mates if you haven’t the time or finances to do it on your own, but do whatever it takes to get your bait introduced regularly.
I put great faith in liquid additives that I know stimulate carp into feeding. If you scout any of the scientific papers on carp, you’ll soon find they need certain enzymes like Pepsin and Trypsin to digest food in the intestine. To assist the enzymes, residues of amino acids need to be present, so gain an edge by using complex amino acid additives in your bait. The Nashbait Amino Liver Concentrate fits the bill perfectly and has crucial amino acids dissolved into it. Coincidentally, it also contains liver extract, one of the ingredients mentioned earlier as a great puller of tough old carp…
Watch and learn
Many of the hardest lakes I’ve fished are very low-stock so you can be waiting days, weeks or months for a sign of a fish or a capture. But there is always something to see and learn – don’t just watch for fish keep an eye on the other anglers too. Hard lakes tend to attract experienced carpers so anything they do they will be doing for a reason and being aware of what is happening around you might give you some clues or extra information about swims, areas or successful tactics.
Be Spot On
It can be down to a matter of inches where you’ll get pick-ups on tough waters, especially the smaller heavily fished ones which tend to be very ‘spotty’. The carp in these types of venue have a habit of marking areas unsafe if they know that fish have been caught from them, not picking up bait from them for a long while later.
Marker work is tedious and time consuming but essential to learn underwater terrain and locate potential feeding spots. Quicker still, use the echo sounder of a bait boat if they are allowed. Last year I uncovered some great spots with my bait boat sounder, small craters that had been created by the fish in only a few days as they searched for natural food in areas they’d not previously been hooked. Look for small undulations, and especially any changes that weren’t there last time you fished.
The repeat capture
Big old carp in tough lakes have a habit of going uncaught for quite a while, in some cases several seasons. If you’ve been targeting a venue with a biggie that has been elusive, and it eventually gets caught by someone else, don’t whatever you do pull off thinking it is all over. There are loads of examples of these fish getting caught again soon after, often only a few days later but certainly within a couple of weeks before they then go on the missing list once again. I know loads of lads who’ve made the mistake of fishing somewhere else because their target biggie has come out, only for it to trip up again whilst they’re away.
Success on tough lakes needs the right frame of mind more than a wonder rig. Targeting big carp is a long game, and mentally you have to cope with long periods of inactivity. I can assure you that Terry Hearn blanks more than he catches carp because that’s the nature of the lakes he targets. Blanking is a part of the big carp journey and if you can’t handle that you’ll fall down along the way. You’ve got to remain positive and believe you’ll get there in the end. Have total confidence in your baits and rigs rather than start messing which ultimately may cost you that one chance when it eventually comes along.
This really simple aspect of carping is probably one of the biggest reasons why the same anglers are consistent with the big fish time and time again. Most carpers think they must be using a fancy rig with fancy tackle to have an edge, but it’s a long way from the truth. If you really want to catch a hard carp, just go for it. Lakes with credibility have earned that reputation over many years. Some anglers will have been successful but a lot more will have failed. Put the effort in, walk the walk, and get the rods out. You’ve got to be there to catch them.