Struggling for bites the last few weeks? Kent big carp ace Ted Bryan reveals a neat bait trick that has served him up some big fish when conditions have been tough.
Spring can be a tricky time, with anglers much more active than the carp. One lesson we need to learn better is when to take it easy with the bait, there seems to be an obsession with putting it in, even when the conditions suggest feeding activity will be limited.
It was a funny old winter. The daffodils in Kent started to bloom in January, the cold north easterlies and wet weather since were a shock for them! They are still flowering now, which goes to show how up and down the weather has been. The fishing though was good, I can’t remember many winters when so many carp were caught and rather than switch to chub and barbel fishing on the rivers through February until the end of the river season I stuck to carping and had some good results. What was noticeable was that venues I know fished better in January than they have in March and April.
"...the normal Spring bonanza period we all look forward to didn’t really happen."
I think the carp in my area slowed down in late January and have been a few weeks behind ever since. Now the water temperature is coming up they are getting caught again, but the normal Spring bonanza period we all look forward to didn’t really happen. Most of my time has been spent at Barden Lake in Kent, which has a great stock of fish, including some real big ones at this time of the year, but a lot of the guys have been finding it a bit tough.
The favoured early season areas are places that receive the most sun and are away from the cold winds. All lakes will have these kinds of areas and I am sure if you look hard enough you will see signs of the carp in them. Perhaps not every day, but certainly when the conditions are good.
On most lakes these areas are well known, and this can lead to a problem at this time of the year in particular, and that is too much bait going in. You have to remember that the water temperature is still pretty low. The carp aren’t going to be eating massive amounts of bait, and it is easy to fill them up for a few days. You can often see this when lakes fish poorly for a few days after a lot of anglers have been on, it’s often the case following a weekend. It isn’t that any single angler has been piling the bait in, just the cumulative effect of several people baiting up when the carp aren’t eating it.
"...in fact they keep the same buoyancy for much longer compared to a pop-up straight from the pot because they can’t readily absorb any more liquid."
I will have some bait with me at this time of the year, but most of the time it will stay in the cool bag and I will rely on either just a scattering of bait, or just hookbaits and a small PVA stick of little pellets, to draw attention to the hookbait and eliminate tangles on the cast.
I’m still fishing for one bite at a time and will use a heavily glugged bait that really pumps out maximum flavour. I started preparing my glugged baits last autumn and I reckon it takes a good few weeks for them to really soak up plenty of liquid. I just add about a tablespoonful of liquid to a tub of pop-ups and then keep shaking the baits up, turning the tub upside down every few days so they get a nice covering. Once the first dose has been soaked up I will add some more and keep going until they stop soaking it up. By this time they will be much softer and will have swollen up a bit. They will have also lost a bit of buoyancy because of the weight of the dip they have absorbed but in fact they keep the same buoyancy for much longer compared to a pop-up straight from the pot because they can’t readily absorb any more liquid - whether it is dip or lake water.
"Because my pop-ups are less buoyant than normal a 15mm pop-up balances well with a matching bottom bait and a size 7 Fang X hook"
With me will be several different colours and flavours of pop-up. At the moment I’m using Tangerine Dream and the new Pineapple Crush bottom baits. These are nice bright baits, and I might top these off with a white pop-up to draw more attention to the hookbait. Because my pop-ups are less buoyant than normal a 15mm pop-up balances well with a matching bottom bait and a size 7 Fang X hook. As normal my rigs couldn’t be any simpler, around eight to ten inches of 15lb mono knotless knotted to the hook, a short hair and a lead big enough to go the distance is as complicated as I get. It works for me and if I can get it in the right spot it will catch any carp that swims.
But of course that is the key, not just at this time of the year but all the time, get your location right and the rest will all fall in place. What I’m sure helps a lot though is making those hookbaits as attractive as possible rather than piling bait in when carp still have only a small appetite.