In the first part of my look at location, I focused on being aware of the
influence of wind and sub-surface features in terms of deciding which swim to
fish. There are a number of other things to think about too.
A carp’s behaviour is driven by instinct, with the two biological drives being
the need to feed and reproduce. In fishing terms we are interested in
identifying what natural food fish in a particular lake feed on and, crucially,
where the fish are most likely to find that food.
Natural food can consist of a number of items, such as bloodworm, tubifex worms,
snails, caddis and the various crustacean and molluscs. Don’t underestimate
how much a carp is reliant on, and to some extent prefers, natural food to the
artificial food we introduce as bait.
Find Natural Food Larders
To help his catch rates the carp angler needs to find out where these natural
food deposits are in a lake. A little notebook to record observations may help.
The best way to start is to look very carefully at the lake and decide where the
natural feeding areas might be. Then you should closely observe these areas for
signs of fish movement and feeding, to confirm whether or not they are potential
A good pair of polarised sunglasses is very useful, and the angler needs to
watch areas from the best possible vantage point. When the water is fairly clear,
observation from climbing trees or high banks is helpful.
Where waters are cloudier, and direct observation of the carp is more difficult,
other evidence of fish movement should be looked for. Spots where carp leap,
swirl and roll should be noted. Look out for flat spots in otherwise choppy
water, as these can indicate active fish. Any bubbling or colouring up of the
water can be significant and also needs to be recorded. Hopefully, the fish
activity will confirm earlier indications of feeding areas although careful
observation may reveal new feeding areas that hadn’t been predicted. The next
step is, of course, to trial fish the potential feeding areas.
There are a couple of other things to bear in mind. It is important to remember
that sometimes the areas where fish are regularly active are not feeding areas.
Often in the daytime, carp choose to frequent quiet areas – these are often
weedy or shaded marginal areas.
These are spots that are often away from anglers but they are also areas where
carp don’t really feed. Where fish jump and crash out may also not be feeding
areas. The secret is to identify between fish activity in feeding areas and fish
activity in non-feeding areas.
It is also important to remember that carp are creatures of habit. They will
often visit particular spots every day. In some of the areas they visit they
might stop and feed, and in others they might not. There is tremendous variety
from water to water. For example, carp in all waters seem to seek the sanctuary
of weed or lilies during the daytime in warmer months. On some lakes I have
fished, carp can be caught on floating and bottom baits in lily pads or weed
during the day. Yet on others they are totally indifferent to baits in the same
circumstances and only start to feed again when they emerge from the pads and
weed as darkness falls.
Individual carp may feed in various spots at different times of the day. Thus
the successful angler will also try to identify any patterns that emerge in
terms of feeding behaviour, and track down the areas where individual fish go to
feed at different times of the day in certain weather conditions.
Identifying Feeding Areas
In a small lake it should be quite easy to identify likely feeding areas. In
bigger lakes, say over eight acres or so, I split the lake up into sections –
then approach each section as I would a small lake. Use your common sense and
instinct and fish the spots you think are most likely to be productive. If you
catch, your instincts may have been right, if not, it might be time to look
again – providing you have given the spots a fair trial.
Any features in a lake should be regarded as potential feeding areas. Weed beds
are rich in natural food and where there is weed there are carp. It is important
to find out whether they feed in the weed or not. Islands and exposed gravel
bars are obvious fish attracting areas. The action of the water on the exposed
banks will create disturbance and fish interest. If the island is wooded, root
outcrops and fallen branches are areas fish will also be attracted to. Shallow
areas often have the largest concentrations of natural food and are also most
susceptible to the influence of warm winds and oxygenation. Bars, plateaux and
the like all require investigation and trial
One thing many overlook is the colour of the water. This is important on any
size of lake, but it can be the key on large lakes. An obstacle to water flow
such as a bar or an island will cause silt to be deposited against them.
Once deposited, silt soon becomes rich in natural food – which is the reason
why bars, islands and so on are popular with carp and carp anglers. Water is
clouded up by the action of the wind on fine silt, which releases natural food
– in turn attracting the carp.
A lot of anglers seem to forget that margins are also an obstacle that creates
coloured water. Some of my best catches have come from coloured water in the
margins – often within a couple of feet of the bank. One of the reasons that a
mass bait such as hempseed or an alternative such as the Nutrabaits hemp pellet
works so well is because carp are attracted by the colouration of the water as
much as by the food signals that are given off.
I’ve known several anglers who have caught extremely well by throwing in
handfuls of soil to create a coloured effect. Others have done well in similar
circumstances after they have piled a rake through the swim several times. Never
ignore coloured water.
Finding Carp in Featureless Waters
How do you find fish in a completely featureless water with little depth
variation? This is a problem I encounter regularly on the English lakes I fish.
It is the case on these sorts of waters that fish will constantly pick up baits
in a particular place and yet ignore baits in an identical area just a few yards
The first thing again is to watch for any fish movement. Fish often show around
dusk or just after dark on many lakes, and a carp rolling or swirling just below
the surface can betray feeding fish or an area where fish feed regularly.
Casting to and baiting these spots can prove successful.
Sometimes the fish don’t show, particularly in cold water, and if this is the
case a different approach is required. This is when using far bank features and
trying different spots along sight lines is a good tactic. I discussed this in
part one and if you read that you’ll recall it’s a trial and error process.
I memorise far bank features from my casting position and try out different
spots along the line of a feature until I get action. Features might include a
uniquely shaped tree canopy, a branch, a trunk or a house or church tower. If I
get a take on a particular spot I tend to put all the other rods in its vicinity,
particularly in the winter or if nothing else is happening. I rarely use a
marker float to cast and bait to when fishing like this, as it is possible to
spook fish. I rarely use any free baits other than a PVA stringer in winter, and
bait sparingly when I’m trying to find fish in summer by this method too. Once
I’ve found a productive summer feeding spot I’ll bait it on future trips to
ensure the carp find baits there.
There is another way of locating carp. This is simply to fish in a swim that
fish were recently caught out of by someone else. Another tactic is to get as
close to someone who is catching as you can and when they start shouting you
know you are there or thereabouts!
Whilst these approaches might bring short-term success, they won’t make you
popular with others who have done the hard work for you. You won’t progress
much as a carp angler either.
Isn’t it much more satisfying to work things out for yourself, especially when
that deserved success comes? That really is what carp fishing is all about.
Balancing - Fact or Fiction ?
'Essex Man' Woodrow
ask a question.
Does a critically balanced pop up bait behave the same way when you are checking
it in the margin or a bucket as it does when cast into much deeper water?
If you were to answer "yes", how do you know?
If you were to answer "no", then how can you be certain how your bait
I've included the word 'performing' as surely added water pressure at depth will
affect the baits emulsification (leakage/attractiveness) qualities pretty much
in a similar way to cold and warm water. Don't we use a much thinner viscosity
sweetener, oil or whatever in colder weather than in the warmer summer months?
If we take buoyancy first - buoyancy is the force that causes objects to float.
It can be desribed as an upward force exerted on any object placed in fluid,
whether it sinks or floats. If you want to get scientific, then according to
Archimedes Principle "any object wholly or partially immersed in a fluid is
buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the
We ought to note that saltwater is obviously more dense than freshwater, not
suggesting that we would be carp fishing in salt water as such, but there are
certainly areas of brackish water on many rivers near the coast (deep rivers too)
where the water has significantly more salt content than further inland.
The river Frejus, near Argens in the south of France is one area that springs to
mind, where a lot of cracking commons can be caught in the brackish water. What
I'm trying to say is that variation in the density of the fluid in which the
object, in this instance a pop up, is immersed will affect the bouyancy of the
bait. The more dense the fluid, the more buoyancy results from a given
tendency for solid (and liquid) substances to float or sink in water is measured
as specific gravity. Specific gravity compares the density of a given substance
to pure water by forming a ratio of densities. Since pure water is the standard
of measure, the ratio of pure water is 1:1. Therefore, pure water has a specific
gravity of 1.0. Substances with a value less than 1.0 are, by definition, less
dense than pure water and will float in pure water. Substances with values
greater than 1.0 are more dense and will sink in pure water.
The terms positive, negative and neutral simplify various state buoyancy
descriptions. An object that floats is called positively buoyant, one that sinks
is called negatively buoyant, and an object that neither floats or sinks is
called neutrally buoyant or, in carp fishing terms, critically balanced. It
would be possible for us to mathematically calculate the exact weight required
on our hook link to make the bait neutrally buoyant, but who is going to do that?
As a qualified divemaster, I was able to look at the varying properties of an
identical bait in 3 feet of water and then at 30', basically a nicely balanced
bait in a bucket on the bank was not quite as buoyant in 3 feet of water thus,
was not 'critically' balanced. In 30 feet of water the pop up was acting almost
like a standard bottom bait. To make the bait float and become critically
balanced I removed a large piece of the counterbalance putty weight. Maybe we
should think about this next time we cast a bait out into deep water...?
Pressure is the term used to describe the force or weight acting upon some unit
of area, underwater two different sources exert pressure: the weight of the
atmosphere upon the water, and the weight of the water itself. The deeper you
go, the greater the pressure gets. Is the pressure exerted on our baits
sufficient to affect their performance, as we mentioned above? I don't know is
the truth full answer, it must to some degree, but how much? Certainly the
effect will be less in 3 feet than a bait at 30 feet. Should we be using
additives with better emulsification qualities? Have bait companies thought of
this? Are we going to see 'Deep Water Mix', like we do 'Cold Water Mix', 'Winter
Mix'? Any scientists/chemists out there, help please!
Just some food for thought, maybe our critically balanced baits fished in deeper
waters are not quite as effective and performing as we might think...
Chris 'Essex Man' Woodrow
origins of modern carp baits
the start of the 1970's, perhaps the most common types of baits being used by
carp anglers were breadcrust, luncheon meat, natural baits such as worms and
maggots, and catfood or sausage-based 'special' paste baits following their
successful use in the late 1960's by the likes of Gerry Savage and Jim Gibbinson.
Two major bait revolutions occured in the 1970's which still have a massive
influence on the carp scene today.
The first was instigated by a docker from Kent, by the name of Fred Wilton.
In the late 1960's and early 1970's, Fred and his small group of friends, had
enjoyed tremendous success on entirely new baits he had developed. These baits
had taken apart the waters of the Darenth valley, such as Brooklands, Sutton at
Hone and the Darenth lakes. In 1972, in a famous orange-coloured issue of The
Carp, Fred for the first time publicly outlined the theory behind and the
ingredients to be used in the make-up of his High-Nutritive-Value baits, which
later became more widely known as high protein baits
baits had a scientific basis and formulation and were part of his search towards
the ultimate bait. Fred's theory that carp could instinctively recognise the
food value of baits after they had eaten and digested them following a
consistent baiting campaign was criticisiced from all quarters. Some attacked it
on the basis that carp couldn't possibly recognise the food value of a bait
because they lacked intelligence, others attacked it on the grounds of fear:
fear that it would lead to the emptying of the lake's they were fishing!
Fred's baits were based on milk and vegetable proteins. The major ingredient was
casein, which was a powder derived from milk. The clever Fred precipitated his
own. In addition to casein, lactalbumen and calcium caseinate (commercially
known as Casilan) and various vegetable proteins such as soya flour, wheatgerm
and TVP (textured vegetable protein) were incorporated.
In many baits, an ingredient known as PYM (Philips Yeast Mixture) was added to
provide both a smell and an additional nutritional ingredient. To provide
vitamins and minerals to the mixture, Fred added a supplement used for horses
called Equivite. Fred pioneered the use of a smell/attractor label in his baits
by which the carp would instantly re-recognise the bait as an outstanding food
source. He was a little coy in his writings about what the sources of his smell
labels were in his writings. It is known today that essential oils were widely
used by Fred and his circle of friends which included Robin Monday, Derek
Stritton and Bob Morris.
Those who realised the significance of Fred's theories and who soon experienced
the stunning effect on carp by applying them were quickly sourcing their own
supplies of casein and making extended tours of fledgling health food stores and
someone who came into the carp scene and became exposed to - and convinced of -
Wilton's ideas I found getting my hands on HNV ingredients a major problem,
especially casein and lactalbumens, although other ingredients like Casilan,
wheatgerm, TVP (textured vegetable protein) and soya flour could be obtained
expensively from chemists. L ike hundreds of others, I suppose. I still remember
the cost of buying small boxes of Casilan from Boots in order to formulate my
own version of the ultimate bait.
Recognising the need, the first-ever commercial bait companies sprang up. The
first commercial bait based on the HNV principle was called Hi-Pro - a clear
attempt to jump on the HNV bandwagon. Developed by Philips Yeast Products and
endorsed by Gerry Savage, the bait was sold ready-made in tubs ranging in size
from 100g - 800grams, and adverts for the new wonderbait appeared for the first
time in Angling magazine in May 1977. Boasting 'over 60% protein' and utilising
one of Fred's major smells the bait was widely sold although many of the hard
core bait buffs were very cynical about Hi-Pro. Nevertheless for many, it was
their first contact with a HNV bait.
afterwards, a company called Bait '78 started to advertise bait ingredients,
closely followed by Duncay Kay and then Geoff Kemp. For the first time, the
ingredients Wilton had used were available to all by mail order and at sensible
prices. These companies also brought out ranges of flavours too, putting and end
to the search for new food essences in supermarkets and the trawl of flavour
houses in the quest for the elusive killing smell.
Without question, it was Fred Wilton who invented boiled baits. Whilst the rest
were using soft pastes, Fred was advising anglers to incorporate eggs into their
mixes so that they could be lightly skinned by boiling for 1/1.5 minutes to
deter nuisance fish. I suspect that using soft pastes was the dominant
nationwide trend throughout the 1970's, but Fred was using boilies as early as
the late 1960's, with the hook buried within the bait and not exposed. I used
boilies intermittently where major problems were experienced with bream, but
like most carp anglers on the lakes I was fishing I was still using soft pastes
mainly until the turn of the decade.
Fred was also responsible for another key bait development. This was the
invention of floater cake based on the same ingredients he used in his bottom
baits. but made by baking. The amount of eggs used was doubled and the runny
paste poured into a baking tray and cooked. Floater enthusiasts will have caught
many fish on this off-shoot of Wilton's revolutionary ideas. I caught my first
twenty on it in 1978, and my first twenty common in 1981, and many are still
catching well on floater cake today.
On the 'special baits' front one other offshoot of bait development deserves
mention. This was the development of commercially available amino acid based
paste baits which many had been experimenting with and catching a great many
fish on. Two Norfork anglers, Dick Weale and Len Bunn, had great success with
baits incorporating ingredients which it was known in scientific circles caused
involuntary feeding responses in fish, following experiments with cod at a
research centre at Lowestoft. These ingredients were concentrated amino acids
and various combinations of amino acids seemed to have a dramatic effect on any
base mixes they were added to. Dick and Len came up with a commercial version of
their bait which had the very seductive name of Black Majic.
I obtained some Black Magic on release and it was the very first 'off-the-shelf'
paste bait mix I ever used. After rolling it up I was convinced - with the
naivety of youth - that here I had the ultimate bait that would empty all my
carp lakes. I had to keep this quiet.....It is difficult to describe to anyone
who did not live through this era just how secretive we were. To keep everyone
blind to what one was using any lengths would be gone to, with downright lying
the most common approach.
my first encounter with a 'famous' carp angler. It was a warm July night and as
I sometimes did on warm summer nights, I bedded down solely in a sleeping bag
covered in a dustbin liner on the warm ground near to the rods. Sometime during
the night, I was awakened by a loud cry and felt someone stumble over me in the
blackness and crash into the undergrowth beyond me . An angler had arrived in
the night and hadn't noticed the black lump lying on the ground in his haste to
get to into a pitch. He got up, cursed me, gathered up his tackle and crashed
off into the gloom. I just turned over and tried to get back to sleep. For once,
my Heron's weren't playing up. As dawn came and went I packed up after a
biteless night and thought it politic before I left to find the other angler and
apologise to him for tripping him up. I found him down at the other end of the
lake and recognised him immediately as someone with a 'reputation.' As I came
into view, he was visibily nervous and hurried in his movements. He was
obviously putting baits onto his hook.
"Sorry, about last night. I wasn't expecting anyone," I offered.
Silence. And more hurried fiddling about with his bait which he tried to conceal
from me by turning to one side.
I was about to commit the cardinal sin ....but couldn't help myself.
"What bait are you on...a special?"
He quickly thrust out the rod to cast and I could clearly see a big brown ball
of paste on the hook. As the paste hit the water with a tremendous splash, he
turned to me now with an angry and reddened face and snarled, "Maggots!"
lots of carp on the Black Majic, but the couple of pounds I bought ran out after
a month or so, and I was forced to look for a quickly-obtained alternative for a
full weekend session. Terry was raving on about Duncan Kay's version of these
baits, so I gave him a bouncing cheque in exchange for half a dozen bags of
Duncan's Red and Yellow Slyme. These proved successful for me once again, and I
was convinced that this really was a massive breakthrough. Inevitably, I began
sourcing my own amino acids from the growing number of bait companies and the
recommended ingredients to go with them, such as sodium caseinate, wheatgerm and
The kitchen looked like the witches scene from Macbeth..... success again, but
after a year or two the boiled bait would transform the bait scene and the
commercial amino mixes based as they were on soft paste baits would fade very
quickly into disuse.
One final point about 1970's specials before I move on. Looking back, we hardly
used any bait in those days. We would add eggs to our standard a la Wilton ten
ounce mix, roll it into a big ball and that would last us a whole weekend. Much
of the time the paste bait was fished on its own although a few bits of paste
would sometimes be catapulted out in the near vicinity. We also often used 'crust
pads' to help keep the paste on the hook during the cast. The paste was moulded
around a cube of crust. Most disguised the hook completely, but almost as a
precursor as to what was coming I used to compress the paste down so that the
point of the hook was slightly exposed.
other great bait revolution of the decade was initiated by Rod Hutchinson, who
by the end of the seventies, was at the very top of the carp fishing tree.
Although Jack Hilton and some of his friends on Redmire had caught fish on quite
small natural baits such as sultanas and sweetcorn, it was Rod Hutchinson who
firmly established the catching ability of particle baits by his success on a
variety of waters up and down the country, including the then home of the record
Rod began with hempseed for his initial experiments, and after achieving great
success with hemp went on to replicate that success with a whole host of other
particle baits including mini-maples, haricot beans, black-eyed beans, in fact,
eventually most types of seed, beans and nuts. Rod developed his approach
following the difficulties experienced in trying to temp carp on conventional
'specials' from rich, clear weedy waters. Rod felt the carp in such waters fed
on small natural food such as bloodworm, snails and pupae. The best way to catch
them would be by introducing - by sustained baiting - small foodstuffs of the
anglers' choice to wean the carp onto
many of his experiments with certain particles failed as the carp didn't seem to
like them, experiments with other particles were spectacularly successful on
Redmire Pool were Rod achieved unprecedented results and also other waters. The
manner in which Rod presented his particles was another startling innovation.
Other anglers were also to achieve outstanding success using particle baits in
the 1970's. Another that deserves mention is Kevin Clifford for his devastating
success on waters as diverse as Redmire, Crab Mill Flash and Yateley.
Unlike other sweetcorn users who often used the bait very sparingly, Kevin went
the other way and used corn in large quantities very much in line with Rod's
ideas. In the 1975 season - his first season in the syndicate - Kevin was to
catch eighteen twenty pounders on sweetcorn, and took no less than nine fish in
his first session on the legendary water!
He went on to be one of the most successful Redmire anglers of all time
When I started carp fishing - way back in the 1970’s - there were two main
hooks used in carp fishing.
The first was the Jack Hilton carp hook, which was a commercial derivative of
the low water salmon hook made by Partridge of Redditch. This was a strong,
thick-wired and very large hook for its size, with a straight point and quite a
large barb. The second was the French-made Au Lion D’Or, another very strong
hook with a beak point and another rank barb. Most carp anglers I knew at that
time used one of these.
Things have moved on greatly since then in a number of directions. In the
1970’s we tended to use very large carp hooks with the average size being size
1 or 2. A size 4 was considered a very small hook! We used large hooks to strike
through largish balls of paste or pads of crust, and towards the end of the
decade when the bolt rig became vogue a large hook compared to bait size was
fairly common. I well remember using a size 1/0 Au Lion D’Or in conjunction
with an 18mm boilie! With the development of the hair rig, hook size dropped
dramatically with the average size in use today being from size four to eight.
manufacture of hooks has become much more sophisticated, with a much greater
strength to wire diameter ratio being achieved by the now largely Japanese-based
manufacturers. Hooks are also lighter and therefore more suited to our more
modern rig arrangements. The great rank barbs on the early carp hooks have been
replaced with much more reliable and carp-friendly micro-barbs. I shudder when I
think of the damage often done to carps mouths with those great big hooks of
Personally, I believe that micro-barbed hooks are safer than completely barbless
versions, in that once they have penetrated the mouth tissue they tend to stay
put. I remain unconvinced that barbless hooks cause less damage – quite the
Most hooks available today are pre-sharpened by chemical etching. This produces
a durable needle-sharp point. I have a couple of die-hard friends who still
sharpen manually their hooks – Dave Sawyer (AKA Sos) and Graham Trickett
amongst them – but I am satisfied personally with the sharpness of the
chemically-etched patterns I use and I don’t feel sharpening manually would be
of any obvious benefit. Dave and Graham tend to use non-chemically treated
patterns anyway, such as the Mustad O’Shaugnessy.
Most of us use eyed hooks, myself included, and the quality of the eye on modern
hooks is excellent, although with any mass-produced item the odd rogue item can
slip through any quality control measures, so each hook does need close
inspection before use.
There has been a welcome move away from stainless steel patterns and bent fly
hooks in recent years. The safety aspects of these became gradually questioned
and thankfully most sensible fishery owners ban one or the other or both. I
never saw the benefits either offered to the carp angler particularly when there
were so many safe alternatives available.
There are so many excellent hook patterns available today that correct choice
can become very confusing for the newcomer. What I would say is this. Hook
choice is a very personal thing: once you have found a pattern that you are
happy with then stick to it. There are hooks my friends use which they rate very
highly but I just can’t seem to get on with. That is illogical I know, but
that’s how it is. There is no real substitute for confidence in your choice of
I tend to keep coming back to these same two patterns of hook even though I have
flirted from time to time with others. They both serve me well, and I use them
in different situations. I have no commercial tie-ups with either manufacturer
and I pay for my hooks like anyone else
C310 Super Carp Hook
This is a cheap, straight pointed hook which I tend to use for all my fishing
over soft bottoms and silt in size 4 or 6. It has replaced my choice for many
years which was the Drennan Super Specialist simply because it is much stronger
and is less likely to spring open under real pressure.
I feel straight-pointed hooks prick fish more easily, resulting in more takes.
Over soft, silty lake bottoms I tend to opt for these. I also feel the straight
point is most effective with bottom baits, which I tend to use a lot over silt.
Drennan Continental Boilie Hook
The problem with straight-pointed hooks is their tendency to blunt or burr over
when fishing to gravel or on mussels, etc, so I opt for a beak-pointed hook in
these circumstances. Initially, I used the standard Drennan Boilie Hook but have
gone firmly over to the Continental in recent seasons.
The Continental is very strong, and also excellent for pop-ups. I fish a lot
abroad and some of the best French strains of carp seem to fight a lot harder
than their UK counterparts. The Ashima though very strong, has let me down on
occasion abroad, so I do tend to use the Continental for all my foreign fishing.
I tend to use size 4 in summer and size 6 in winter when I scale my hookbait(s)
size down a little.
I have recently played around with other patterns such as the highly rated
Raptor, but experienced problems (as did friends) so I now will stick to these
two proven hooks through thick and thin.
other thing I have always practiced is to change my hook after every fish. I
think a hook loses sharpness once it has caught a fish, but more seriously
because of the stresses put on it during the fight it is more prone 'to spring'
and come adrift thereafter. So I take a number of ready-tied rigs with me for
quick and easy replacement. The only exception to this rule is if I am fishing a
very easy French water where the loss of the odd carp isn’t too tragic.
However, for big English fish I won’t take the risk!
For a long time I thought pop-ups were the
For almost a decade, I more or less used pop-ups all of the time and although
they brought me plenty of carp, I realise now with the benefit of hindsight that
there were times when I would have caught more carp by not using them.
Then through accident rather than design when I had a fabulous session when I
had - for once - forgotten my bag of pop-ups, and had to resort to using simple
bottom baits. On session after session, I started to catch lots of carp on
bottom baits even on very silty waters where I once considered it very important
to use pop-up baits. Over the last few years, probably 80% of my carp have been
caught on bottom baits from gravel pits, clay pits and silty meres.
The era of the pop-up
The pop-up bait started to be widely used in the UK around about 1982. The
originator of the approach is not known, although Rod Hutchinson pioneered a
similar method in his first carp book when he showed how to wrap soft paste
around a piece of polystyrene to make it buoyant. It was the next big thing
after the original hair rig and it really improved catch-rates again once the
hair rig started to slow down. The pop-up was a novel form of presentation,
which the carp found difficult to resist or come to terms with quickly. It was
just a matter of time though.
The pop-up today
Today the pop-up is just another form of presenting a bait, although there will
always be occasions and situations where a pop-up will bring results. On many of
the waters I fish the carp often view a pop-up with great suspicion. Thinking
about it logically all the risk-free baits a carp eats are standard bottom baits.
A bottom bait hair-rigged to a hook lying amongst identical baits is probably
going to be taken more readily than a pop-up sitting proud a couple of inches
above the free food. The more a carp is caught on a pop-up, the more likely it
will develop an aversion towards taking one. However, as I said earlier, the
pop-up has a number of important uses still.
Winter carp angling
I still tend to use pop-ups a great deal in the winter months from November
through to mid-March. Carp find them more easily in winter when the bottom of
lakes can feature a lot of leaves, decomposing weed and the like. Carp tend to
feed in very short spells in cold water and tend to wolf-down food they can
Single bait fishing at long range
When fishing at long range beyond the
distance where free offerings can be baited, say over 120 yards, an isolated
pop-up is a much better option than a single bottom bait. There are a couple of
reasons for this. A pop-up is more obvious to the fish both visually and in
terms of smell. Also, when the carp comes across a single pop-up there are no
other baits around a carp can compare it to by what carp anglers refer to as
‘sucking and blowing.’ Due to this the method should never stop working.
Double baits and snowman rigs
I use double baits a great deal, mainly because I feel carp find them very
difficult to eject compared to a single bait, especially when they have been
sucking in and blowing out single free baits just prior to picking up the double
hookbait. A double bait is much more unbalanced than a single. Although I often
use double bottom baits, I find the combination of a bottom bait and a pop-up
very effective. With the pop-up fished as the bait furthest from the hook and
the bottom bait as the counterbalancing weight a “snowman” presentation
becomes very difficult for the carp to eject without the hook catching hold in
the mouth somewhere.
Pop-ups make highly effective floating hookbaits and have the advantage that
they last indefinitely. I’ve caught surface-feeding carp on a pop-up I’ve
had on a ready-rigged floater rod for three months! Often when fishing with Chum
Mixer or other dog or cat biscuits, carp will pick out the floating pop-up in
preference to the free offerings or a biscuit hook bait. Pop-ups are best fished
on a short hair of fine monofilament. On waters where carp are very surface-shy
and will only take the odd free offering, a single pop-up fished in splendid
isolation can often take a fish.
Off the lead presentation
This is a method I use in specific circumstances, such as in hot conditions when
the carp can often be seen cruising near the surface. Pop-ups work straight off
the lead very effectively; but when fishing more than a few inches off the
bottom the rig is more efficient if a large swan shot is placed a couple of
inches up the hooklink from the lead.
This helps to prick the fish, as it helps eliminate the complete free movement
of the hooklink. Off the lead pop-ups work all year round in deep waters and I
tend to use them at ‘scratching time’ and it has often produced a fish when
all else has failed. Although the rig does look crude, it certainly works.
This can be a very effective way of producing rock-hard pop-ups that stay
buoyant for a long time.
1. Start by rolling and boiling bottom baits as normal, but make sure that the
baits you intend to microwave are smaller than the eventual pop-up size you want
to fish with. Microwaving causes the baits to swell. If you want to end up with
18mm baits, start off with baits of 14mm or less.
2. Place half a dozen baits around a revolving microwave plate. Cook on full
power for about three one minute periods. If the baits are cooked too quickly
they will crack. It is best to experiment to find out exactly what timing and
power settings suits best.
3. Microwaved pop-ups are thoroughly dry. This means that they have a very long
shelf-life and absorb additional flavours or bait soaks very quickly. As they
are very hard, the microwaved baits are best tied onto the hook with dental
floss, as they are very difficult to pierce with a baiting needle.
This is a method popularised by well-known carp angler, Alan Taylor. Nutrabaits
have produced a Pop-Up mix with a supplied Pop-Up oil.
Break one egg into a bowl and add 5ml of Pop-Up Oil and double the
flavour/essential oil normally used.
2. Add to the one egg mix any low level powdered additives such as Betaine HCI.
3. Thoroughly blend contents of bowl together.
4. The Pop-Up Mix can be used either on its own or in combination with a base
mix at a rate of 75% Pop-Up Mix to 25% base mix. Gradually add the powder
ingredients until the required consistency is achieved. This should be slightly
softer than than if you were going to roll bottom baits.
5. Transfer the ball of paste into a plastic bag to ensure ideal consistency
6. Take a small amount of paste at a time and roll into balls in the usual way.
In the cooking process the baits will swell by 15% (i.e.14mm will end up as
7. Pre-heat a dry non-stick frying pan until it becomes ‘very hot’ to the
8. Add approx. 20 baits to the frying pan and constantly rotate, ensuring it is
kept directly on the heat at all times. Keep baits moving/rolling.
9. Continue rolling baits around pan until their colour lightens slightly and
they begin to swell (this should take 2-3 minutes depending on the size of baits.)
10. After approx. another 2 minutes of continuous rolling around over heat,
baits will begin to sound ‘marble-like.’ At this stage tip them out onto a
towel to cool.
11. After cooling, add some neat flavour to outside of baits for added
To make oven pop-ups baits need to be smaller than required and consist of at
least 50% milk protein.
1. Roll and boil baits as normal but make them smaller and double the normal
liquid flavour levels.
2. Place the baits on a baking tray and cook on gas mark three for fifteen to
3. Try to move the baits every few minutes to prevent them sticking or burning.
4. The baits should be removed before they start to become brown. Baits tend to
be hard and need to be tied to dental floss.
Allow the baits to thaw fully and follow steps 2 and 3. Usually, these can be
pierced with a baiting needle.
These are available from several companies, with Ian Russell’s Heathrow Bait
Services pop-ups highly thought of, as are Nutrabaits Classic Combination
Nutrafruit pop-ups. The latter are excellent and convenient pop-ups and I use
them on all my foreign trips as well as keeping a packet for those occasions
when I need an instant pop-up on my home waters. They are available in small
packs in a mixture of 15mm and 20mm baits to complement the range of ready-mades.
The baits are very hard, but can be easily pierced with a baiting needle, and
stay buoyant for a long time. They are already attractively flavoured but also
can be boosted by dips and bait soaks. Custom-made sprays are available and
these are really handy.
Polystyrene or cork ball inserts
I prefer to use cork balls to make
pop-ups when I am using and establishing food baits on my English lakes.
For 18mm baits you need to use cork balls of 12mm or with 14mm for very heavy
base mixes. Cork balls ensure the pop-ups are identical to the bottom baits,
whereas all the other manufacturing processes produce a dissimilar pop-up to the
The method also eliminates all the guesswork in relation to buoyancy times and
having to soak baits for long periods to boost their attraction. Bait-size is
also not an issue as there is no need to worry about bait swelling in the
The base mix in use is crucial in determining which type of insert to use. If
you are using light ingredients such as milk proteins, poly-ball inserts are
perfectly adequate. I use the Gold Label ones in my winter milk-protein mixes.
However, for heavier ingredients such as fishmeals or birdfoods, a cork ball is
best. I use Kevin Nash’s cork balls which are available in different – and
often more realistic – sizes than others. These can be obtained from all good
One tip, if you are using fishmeals.
I use Big Fish Mix, which is quite a ‘heavy’ base mix. For my pop-ups I make
a base mix consisting of 75% Big Fish Mix and 25% Hi-Nu-Val. This makes a very
hard, very buoyant pop-up. A pure BFM pop-up can be too soft and brittle.
1. Pull off a piece of paste. With experience you will soon learn how much paste
to use per cork ball size.
2. Roll it around the cork ball. Ensure you compress the paste fully, as any
trapped air will lead to blistering and an unshapely boilie.
3. Boil fishmeals for two minutes, milks for one minute only.
4. Allow to harden overnight on a clean dry towel before freezing. Freeze in a
plastic bag, with any dip added to the baits/bag before freezing.
I use lead inserted into the hookbait to provide a counterbalance, so that I can
use the minimum size shot I can get away with on my hooklink.
Whatever your preferred method of pop-up manufacture, you should aim to produce
a pop-up that will remain buoyant for as long as you need it to. In the winter,
that can be as long as twelve hours or longer. You also want to achieve a pop-up
that will retain its attractiveness to the fish. That takes us on to the issue
of over-flavoured pop-ups which is the subject of another article, methinks!
Enjoy your carp fishing.
at this time of the year I’m sure that like me you spend a lot of time looking
around various carp waters. Very often you will stumble across the odd fish
basking near the surface. This is a great situation for what I call opportunist
floater fishing. I got fed up with the frustration of finding fish when I had no
gear with me so these days it’s rare for me to visit any water without an
emergency floater kit stashed in the boot of the car.
It was sweet music to my ears when Fox asked me to help out developing a four
piece floater rod. As far as I am aware this is the first of its kind. A 2 lb
through action model with plenty of eyes to help punch out controllers with
loads of backbone to subdue those lumpy old carp. But best of all the 12 ft
model breaks down into four pieces and can easily be stowed in the smallest
standard fixed spool carp reel will normally have at least one spare spool –
sometimes two if I’m being really adventurous. Most of my floater fishing
tends to be in the more snaggy areas of the lake and I will normally use a
floating braid as the mainline. The 30 lb breaking strain Driftmaster is the
ideal candidate and it saves all that messing about treating a heavy line to
make it float. For open water and at real long range I will normally have a
spool loaded with either 8 or 10 lb breaking strain Soft Steel. To ensure that
it floats I will spray the loaded open spool with some fly floatant
are several makes of this material about – I use the D.A.M. version which
comes in a mini aerosol can. Make sure that you treat the monofilament dry
before you start fishing. Usually one application will give you a good four or
five hours of trouble free fishing. If it does start to sink dry the line out by
retrieving it back through some kitchen towel or at worst your handkerchief
before repeating the procedure
with a telescopic landing net pole and a standard carp net they go to make the
basis of a compact essential floater kit.
A small stalking bag with just a reel and a small box of essentials really is
about it. Oh of course we need some bait. Well that’s simplicity itself. I’ve
always got at least half a dozen bags of Richworth Floating Trout Pellets in the
need no preparation whatsoever they can simply be used straight from the bag.
Make sure you take along a catapult to introduce the freebies. What I’ve done
is organise myself one of the small Fox System Boxes as a dedicated floater
outfit. In there are all the essentials for my surface rigs. A range of Floater
Controllers, some In-Line Bubble Floats, various beads, swivels and rig stops
make up the fundamentals for a good rig. Bait bands are used to position a
single trout pellet on the back of either a series 1 or a series 2XS carp hook.
The series 1s are used for open water work whereas the 2XS is just the job when
fishing in and around weedy
For most of my floater work I will use either a size 6 or 8 in either pattern.
can be filled with water to add casting weight and I fish semi fixed by pushing
the extension rubber over the stop swivel. Because of their low profile in the
water they can easily be manoeuvred in and around reed beds.
fishing holes in the weed cover the exposed hook with some High Riser foam to
stop it becoming entangled. The bait can be quickly tweaked into position where
the foam will melt giving you a weed and tangle free presentation. In these
snaggy swims I will use the 30 lb breaking strain Driftmaster as the mainline
with a 15 or 20 lb breaking strain Fluorocarbon hook link.
This Opportunist Floater set up is a very effective way of catching an extra
carp or two especially as they have the habit of completely disappearing into
thin air if you return a couple of days later equipped to the hilt with a
mountain of gear. Although the purists reckon it’s not ‘proper’ carp
fishing I would have to disagree. Why not give it a try next time you are doing
a reckie – you never know you might actually enjoy it!