It’s spring, the birds are singing, the sun is out and the carp are active once again. To most anglers that can only mean one thing and around every lake we suddenly hear that sound of lids being wrenched off big old bait buckets as the barrage begins!
But is this the right thing to do? There is no doubt that over the last 10-15 years I’ve found myself using less and less bait while if I made a graph of my results, I’d see a steady upward curve in terms of catch results. In my fishing the two elements seem to be intrinsically linked and having recognised the trend I make sure to take advantage of it! The majority of the carp angling population adopt the mindset that ‘more bait equals more fish’. I see it everywhere I go and whatever the time of year, and to a point regardless of venue, this is in my opinion generally folly. I accept that there are a few notable exceptions to this – venues that really do respond strongly to big baiting approaches – but in my experience they are not the norm and are rarely the type of lake that the cap angling ‘everyman’ is tending to target.
Of course there have been occasions when I have caught a lot of fish and got through a lot of bait but in every situation I can recall, that bait has been steadily applied throughout the session. I genuinely can’t recall the last time I dumped a load of bait onto a spot at the start of a trip and then proceeded to do really well from it! (To play Devil’s advocate, that is largely because I don’t tend to fish in that style but reflecting back on the times when I did, I’d still say that it was far from being a really effective tactic!)
My approach is almost always to fish sparingly with bait in an area that I have located some carp activity and I think this is definitely the best approach for spring carp angling. At this time of year the fish will be travelling around the lake a lot, eating sporadically, seeking areas of warmth and harvesting natural food larders. It is a time when the carp can be very hard to pin down and also a time when they will have two primary requirements, both of which exceed the need to eat lots of bait in order of importance. The first is body temperature – carp are cold blooded creatures and will be looking first and foremost to increase their body to what I call ‘operational temperature’. While part of that motivation will be so that they can process and digest food more efficiently, the key objective will be in order to achieve their ultimate biological goal – the ability to spawn. In fact for really big and old female fish, they can be quite indifferent to eating until they have shed the burden of spawn and that is one of the reasons why, on tough waters, singles, bags, zigs and very light baiting are proven tactics to pick off the serious players in the spring.
For me it’s all about mobile fishing, following the fish if I can, and then angling for them using a handful of boilies and a low, matching pop up.
HOW TO FORMULATE A BAITING CAMPAIGN
The key thing with prebaiting is that you simply must do it in an area that the carp are already visiting. The resident fish will all have preferential routes around the lake and many of these will be dictated by what is known as the Optimal Foraging process. This means that in order to not needlessly expend energy, they will take the shortest and most direct routes to and from each food larder. This can mean that sometimes quite large areas of the lake rarely if ever get visited. If you try to apply a new food source in an area where there is no regular ‘carp traffic’ then you are really going to make things hard for yourself. Remember – the carp will always be where they want to be, not where you want them to be.
If you are going to start a baiting campaign, then while it is often a good idea to focus on areas that are perhaps overlooked by other anglers, you do still need to apply that bait to where the fish are visiting / travelling through. Getting fish to regularly encounter your bait is the only way to get them used to eating it – I know it sounds simple and obvious but this single point is so important and I’ve seen people waste a lot of time and money in the past by baiting spots and then hoping the carp might magically seek them out.
I think of it like this. If I wanted to catch a human on a Mars Bar and I went and dangled it down the bottom of a quiet little cul-de-sac next to a dusty antiques shop, I probably wouldn’t get much interest. However, if I set up at the top of the high street, on the crossroads where there was a huge amount of passing trade then I’d catch a fat old human every few minutes! Lakes are the same – you have to set out to catch and bait in the place where there is the most passing trade.
Use your watercraft* to work out the areas the carp use frequently and put your bait there. Get them eating it and if it’s good bait that they enjoy, you could get onto a fast track to catching them. Good luck!
*One of the most important videos on the Carp Academy platform is the Watercraft film. If you’ve already watched it then I’d strongly advocate watching it again – it contains many of the most vital tools you will need to take your carp angling further!