We’ve all done it. I know I have on more than one occasion; drifting from a sound, winning setup, because I’ve wrongly felt a blank session was down to my rig, tackle or something like that. It’s followed by a succession of similar trips where I’ve changed this and that only to blank again and again. Before you know it, you’ve fallen into the dark, soul-destroying abyss of changing things just for change’s sake and you’re writing out ‘Blankety Blank Cheques’ for fun.
I can clearly remember one such occasion during my first trip to Linch Hill in Oxfordshire. It was a syndicate at the time and I was fishing Christchurch as a guest. Prior to the trip I’d heard one story after another about the fantastic stock of carp that reside there and how difficult they can be to catch. So, I foolishly made some changes to my approach that had been working well, for no reason other than believing I’d need some kind of ‘super’ approach to catch.
My travel down this slippery slope continued throughout the session. Ultimately I ended up sitting on the top bank of the New Dig looking down the Lake with my aching head in my hands! I remember seeing fish topping all over the place; they were really active and I should have been catching, or at least in with a shout, but my carping world had well and truly caved in. The last thing I could do was start thinking clearly and simply.
Simply, because all I really needed to do was revert to the approach that had been working for me beforehand: putting a sound rig and some quality bait in front of the fish. That’s it – it’s that simple!
For me the most important part of any approach to catching carp is your bait, or rather your bait confidence. Once you have this, everything else becomes a whole lot easier, as you can then concentrate on your watercraft and location of fish. Your whole focus can be placed on getting on ’em, which essentially is what will lead to your sessions being successful or not.
Bait confidence is key, with boilies top of the list. Luckily, if you stick to a reputable tackle shop, you’ll find it hard to buy a poor bait these days. (Stay away from your mate’s shed-made specials. There’s a reason why a three-quid-a-kilo boilie is that cheap: the vital ingredients aren’t included!) Yep, there are some really good boilies in the tackle shops. I think some are better than others, but of course everyone will have their personal favourites.
For a great many years I have placed my trust in the dedicated range of freezer baits from Mainline. There are a great many reasons for this, but none more than these baits are suitable for use the whole year through. That means I can choose one bait and stick to it regardless of the time of year and the consequent fluctuations in water temperature. In other words when winter comes around I can carry on using exactly the same boilie I’ve been applying through the summer, and my confidence in my bait and approach remains unaltered and undiluted at a time when it will be tested the most. The only thing I may need to do is lower the amount of feed to perhaps as little as a single hookbait or PVA stringer, but I can remain confident that if it’s in the right place at the right time the carp will take it. The initial groundwork has already been done.
These dedicated food-source baits, such as Activ-8, Cell and Hybrid, contain active ingredients that react with water, so not only do they promote an instant feeding response and work from the off, but they also get better with time. The longer you apply the bait the better your results as the fish become increasingly confident in eating it, inevitably seeing it as a stable source of food and nutrition.
Just one more point on the subject of active ingredients: because they are designed to react in water they will begin to react in contact with moisture of any kind. I always empty the boilies into an air-dry bag the day before my session or as soon as I get to the bank. I hang the bag in a dry place where plenty of air can circulate through the baits and they’ll stay in top condition.
Tonnes of options
Basically, choosing a single boilie flavour is a great way of refining your approach and maintaining your confidence and focus. That doesn’t mean you’re limited when it comes to using your preferred style of fishing or adapting your approach to different situations, because you still have a stack of options.
Hookbaits are prime examples. Mainline’s dedicated freezer baits are available with matching hookbait options from reliably buoyant 15mm pop-ups to Mini and Dumbell pop-ups, giving you an option to scale down or create balanced snowman setups. You can still stick to your flavour label if you’re a bright hookbait fan, with Mini-Micro and 14mm Fluoro Pink & White pop-ups. Dumbell Hookers and Balanced Wafters continue your list of hookbait options and fishing styles, as do the PVA-friendly liquids and matching Response Pellets, which are perfect for PVA bags and bulking-out your boilie feed.
What I’m getting at here is, yes, you may need to fish in a multitude of different ways to cover various situations, but keeping the main elements of your approach simple and concise, such as a couple of reliable rigs and a bait you’re confident in, is vitally important. Once you have this confidence, you can pretty much forget about bait, rigs and the things where mistaken doubts can creep in, leaving you little more than location to concentrate on, which inevitably will bring you consistent results!