Wouldn`t you love to catch a lovely, great big common carp? Or do scaley mirrors take your fancy? Or are you a kinky bugger and like a bit of leather?
I have found that most carp anglers have a particular preference when it comes to the species of carp they like to catch, and many carpers angle their approach around catching these kinds of fish.
I for one would love to catch a big ghost carp, but to be honest I see the appeal in all carp. They are a truly wonderful and beautiful creature, and whether their scales are plentiful or scarce, I don`t mind catching them.
Commons are the most interesting strain I think, as they aren`t really that common anymore. But it is interesting to note how commons act completely differently to mirror carp.
There are boilies on the market that are proven catchers of common carp, for some reason they catch big commons, and it`s usually some form of natural additive that makes them this way. Half of the problem is that commons do not seem to recognise as food, or at least are indifferent to, many of the baits with which we routinely try and catch carp.
They just don`t seem to be particularly enthused by them at all. But it`s not all doom and gloom. If you do a bit of asking around you`ll find the more switched on carpers or bait firms are well aware of various baits or flavour/additive combinations which seem to do ring the dinner gong for commons in a big way. And the more you ask, the more you`ll be forced to accept that too many people have encountered the phenomenon of commons baits for them to be a work of fiction.
Their common pulling properties can`t be proved in a scientific fashion of course, but if anecdotal evidence isn`t enough for you then you wouldn`t believe most of carp angling`s fundamentals to start with.
Tim Paisley has remarked before about the fact that baits with molasses seem to attract a higher percentage of commons than other baits. Hutchy`s favourite old blend of Chocolate Malt, Regular Sense Appeal and Promix 50/50 has also always been a good commons bait.
Bait genius Ian Russell at Heathrow Bait Services reckons Indian Spice and Maple are his two winners for commons, and he doesn`t half catch alot of them. Particles are a proven way of increasing your chances of bumping into a common. Lots of hemp, pigeon mix or whatever you want to call it and particularly maggots really seem to switch commons on, almost as though they are more responsive to beds of very small particle or mass baits than mirrors. Why it should be I don`t know, but you`d be foolish not to at least consider a particle approach if you want a big common.
Fortunately, I have never had a problem catching common carp, in fact, I seem to attract 10lb common carp like the plague.
On most occasions, the first fish I will catch from a water will be a nice clean common carp weighing 10lb something or other. Then again, I am an avid fan of particles and of natural baits. No big commons yet, but I`m only a youngster. Good commons baits/additives include Nutrabaits Big Fish Mix, Mainline Activ-8 and Assassin-8, Liquid molasses, Chocolate malt, Indian Spice, Pineapple, Maple, Maize, Hemp, Pigeon Mix, Tiger Nuts, and Maggots. On the same level of thinking, mirrors and leather carp do respond very well to pellets and boilies and basically just food in general.
When going for the `big-hit` I have found that I have caught a lot of mirrors, whether that was down to the water I was fishing or not, I still think that all that food just proved too much for them. One bait, however, that will catch all types of carp is sweetcorn. Those terrific golden grains just have a particular appeal that no carp can seem to resist. Chris Yates, a legend in his own lifetime, almost refuses to use anything else when carp fishing, and I can see where he gets his line of thinking. Jolly Green Giant is probably the biggest bait manufacturers in the world. They probably make more money from fishermen than they do from people who actually like to eat sweetcorn.
Many of the catches that appear in Carp-Talk or the weeklies are rarely on whatever boilie that is claimed, I would hazard a guess that baits like sweetcorn or tigers were the culprits most of the time. You have to remember that bait companies offer money to those who appear with the brand name in the catch report, I, however, am always honest about what I have used to catch my carp with.
My personal best was caught on sweetcorn, and even though I had used 10mm banana boilies as freebies with corn, I would never claim to have used those boilies to catch the carp, despite my allegiance with that particular bait company.
Maize is also a fantastic bait, probably more so than sweetcorn as it`s hardness withstands the attention of `nuisance species`. It looks absolutely pukka on the hair and alongside artificial corn, it makes for exceedingly good critically balanced baits.
Another great all-around bait is meat. Luncheon meat is a dead cert on the match circuits, and I believe should also be equally effective on the specimen stage. Dynamite baits do some really oily meaty fish bites and these are great, although the stink will never leave your hands.
Bog standard luncheon meat works fine, and I have found it to be quite effective when torn off rather than cut. I use a punch a lot of the time when meat fishing, creating my own 14mm pellets of luncheon meat. This, fished with Dynamite baits meaty marine groundbait is an excellent approach on the match circuit, and I will be giving this a real go during the spring.
The most prolific of baits, the world over, is probably bread. For some reason, carp take a real fancy to bread, for what reason I am unsure, although I have always thought it might create a chemical reaction that carp just cannot resist. The amount of `opportunist` carp I have caught when people have been feeding the ducks is something to really consider as more than just coincidence. People feed the ducks and the carp must roam around underneath because when I`ve cast out a simple bread flake when the ducks have cleared off, I have almost always caught a carp (Or a bream, and once, a personal best roach.) The new imitation bread makes life much easier for carp anglers, as normal bread tends to fall off every 10 minutes.
Okay, so I`ve outlined what baits catch whatever kind of carp (Which is probably wrong but there you go…) but what about catching those BIG carp? Having caught over 100 fish last season, the biggest going 20lb 11oz`s, I figured that it was time to rethink my approach. I have moved away from finding the largest head of fish and catching a dozen doubles a session, and I`m starting to seriously consider single, high attract baits, which in my opinion look like nothing carp have ever seen before. Carp are quite inquisitive, despite appearing to be cagey, and it`s usually the biggest fish in a lake that will be the first to try something different to what they`ve seen before.
Also, the larger fish are more likely to avoid large beds of bait, probably having been caught over bait so many times in the past. Larger fish are usually older and wiser than their single and double-figure cousins, can become completely petrified of bait.
The Frank Warwick pop-ups are becoming a serious tool in my armoury, and I think they are a real winner as a hook bait. Many may argue that bright baits attract small carp, and all the carp I`ve caught on these so far have backed this claim, but that has only because in my haste to buy a take I`ve cast to a shoal. Another line of approach for me now is trap setting. I`ve tried this before with amazing success, but I have watched big carp swim past knowing that the bait was something they`d come across before.
It is with this in mind that I am decided to use things completely differently from the norm. The word different there having a huge emphasis. Carp learn by association, so if there is something in front of them that they cannot associate with anything, they might just make a mistake and get caught.
Large pulses, or partiblend, create a wonderful mixed scent and look superb on the lakebed. This simple collection of beans and peas looks areal winner to me, and I`ll give these a real push on a few waters to see what the carp think.
Pellets make great carp baits, many of the carp we fish for grew up being reared on pellets, and it`s for this reason that carp associate them with a natural food source. The problem with pellets is that they are very cheap, very effective, and thus, very popular amongst carp fishermen. This results in pellets becoming almost impossible to catch on.
There are many waters where a pva bag of pellets just won`t work anymore, due to overuse. Carp will have got used to coming across piles of pellets and being caught on them on busy waters, and unless you use them differently, it`s difficult to use pellets to your advantage.
The different coloured and shaped pellets of CCMoore & Co are fantastic, for the simple reason that they are so different to what is normally used. A pva bag of these or a couple of spod fulls is bound to catch a few carp. But, what about using pellets as single hook baits? Or using a 1-2 bait stringer in conjunction with a large halibut pellet? This may fool the carp into thinking that this was the leftovers from a PVA bag that`s just caught there little brother, and could prove to be exceptionally effective on waters where pellets have been `blown`.
In the past, I have field-tested for Natural Extracts, who make special fly hatch pellets, and boilies made from lobster fishmeal and 100% organic ingredients. I was particularly impressed with their mealworms, which you can buy in tins. The pellets were excellent, although proved to be an absolute killer when I used them on an old abandoned lake, that I didn`t realise held trout. I love maggots, casters, worms as I think naturals are fantastic baits. Using them may sound strange to you, but ask yourself what fish feed on a daily basis, and this looks far more realistic than foreign objects such as boilies. As an avid fan of naturals, these are likely to feature in my fishing for many years. And who knows, maybe I`ll catch a big common in the process. The main approach to catching a particular strain of carp is to fish a water that contains them.
It`s a silly old cliche but it is the absolute truth. I have recently gained permission to fish a virgin water, a moat with a small head of wild carp in it. I really like wild carp, and to catch them I`ll be using a fat juicy lobworm, but had I not got access to fish this moat I would probably never catch a wild carp again in my life. Another way to `select your species` would be to stalk, or floater fish your carp. I can recall a time quite recently where I pulled a freelined bait from the nose of a small common towards a smashing looking linear of around the same size. I scared the crud out of both fish in the process, and I was being a bit too selective in the end.
All the best in your search for those big leathers, golden bars or fully scaled carp, I`ll be down at Wraysbury after a 35lb Ghost Linear, or at a moat trying to figure out why wild carp are so bloody powerful for their size, but most likely, trying to find a secret lake that combines all that is great about carp fishing.