Big carp on a Day Ticket
I have been Carp fishing for well over 20 years now and I think it’s fair to say we have seen some big changes within our wonderful pastime, not least the quality and quantity of fisheries available to us nowadays. I am finding more and more that carping is much less about outwitting an unknown whacker in some overgrown gravel pit, but more about outwitting each other, as anglers. However, with the emergence of these big fish day ticket waters, fishing for big carp has never been so accessible, but surprisingly challenging. I have fished some tricky waters, syndicates, none more tricky than the ex-Cemex Sutton at Hone lake in Kent, these fish were unbelievably tough, but at the time I really loved this style of carping, days only, hard fishing, big rewards, so when I finally decided to try something different, I was fishing big, largely untouched gravel pit(s) to try and find some solitude, but in fairness, I soon came to realise life is too short to be sitting on the bank of a 100 acre pit with such limited time. I like many of you have a young family, three children and demanding job, so fishing time is generally days only, with a couple of nights thrown in where possible, a change was needed…
A few years ago I decided a complete change of mind-set was in order, after spending many a year on syndicates and society waters, I decided to tackle these so called ‘big fish’ day ticket waters head on. We have a wealth of really great quality day ticket fisheries in the UK now, so the challenge was set. My experience with big day ticket carp over their slightly wilder cousins is that are often as tricky, if not trickier to catch, I mean this in more ways than one, but in particular they tend to be very ‘Riggy’ ,almost experts at testing even the most finely tuned end tackle. My plan for tackling the big day ticket carp was simple, fish for one bite at a time, using the most efficient rigs I could use and a good quality reliable food source. This was the relatively easy part, the next slightly trickier obstacle was water craft. Now, I have heard numerous times people say “water craft isn’t so important, it’s a hole in the ground” ‘’ it’s only small, you’re never too far away from fish’’ and in fairness a lot of modern day ticket waters are relatively flat and featureless, at first glance anyway…
firstly and something I learnt over time on busy day ticket waters is that if a feature is obvious and in turn fished a lot, the smartest fish, in particular the big ones will tend to avoid it or at least be extra cautious when around it. The big lesson I’ve learnt is the smallest, tiniest alteration in bait positioning will make a big difference. I am currently fishing a southern day ticket where the carp are a pretty good average size, probably 20lb + but there are some real gems in there in particular several 30lb+ fish up to and over 40lb. I have been fishing the lake regularly for nearly 2 years now and initially we were catching really well, but we couldn’t seem to break into the so called A-team which is made up of approx. 12 or so 30’s, topped by a Mirror with a regular weight of around 42lb. During our first winter on the water over a period of 5 day sessions between January to March we had about 18 fish between me and my Dad, approx. 10 of which were 20’s up to 29lb, beautiful carp for any time of year let alone mid / late winter, but still the bigger more well know fish still somehow eluded us.
We knew our rigs were efficient, be it barbless, so these weren’t too much of a concern, although we couldn’t help but think out of the 30 or so fish we have caught over the entire winter, surely at some point one of the ‘big ones’ have had to have tested our rigs… we needed a plan B rig wise. The rig popularised by Danny Fairbrass at Korda, the ‘IQ D rig’ was similar to what we were using 15 years or so ago, the swimmer rig. We knew that it was a fantastically efficient hooker and in all honesty it was a bit of a light bulb moment. I must say the latest version as used by Danny Fairbrass and the guys at Korda really impressed me, so we set about making a batch ready to take our Mainline Cell/Hybrid wafters. In terms of bait, I have used Mainline since the early 90’s, so really and truly, bait wasn’t and still isn’t a factor, we may deviate between different mixes should the fish show a distinctive preference, but on the whole our current approach is predominantly the Cell and Hybrid.
Any way all we had to do now was find the so called undiscovered ‘hot spot’ where these fish were willing to feed, most lakes have one I have found, the difficult thing is that they are often really obscure, the result of our relentless feature finding was to come to fruition, early summer this year. I was fishing a swim with a non-fishing margin opposite, an obvious feature I know and in truth produces fish and lots of them, but as I mentioned earlier, the big fish have a clear reluctance to feed there, I couldn’t help but feel that if we were to catch the big fish regularly we would need to find a spot they were willing to feed on with confidence.
One particular session we found a tiny gravel clearing on what is a sand/clay bottom, whilst we were have a ‘lead’ around, a dustbin lid size is probably being generous, it was small, but we had to try it. It was 2 rod lengths or so off of the ‘non fishing’ margin which ordinarily would be a sin in this swim such is the popularity of the opposite margin, but still I pressed on with the plan, I baited with a kilo of Mainline Hybrid and the wait began.
In normal fashion the rod on the margin was ‘doing’ the bites, but nothing really big. It was mid-afternoon when the bite came on ‘the spot’. I knew it was better fish, it turned to be, at 31lb we finally broke into the 30’s club, and we went on to find several more of the tiny patches around the lake, each seemed to produce the better stamp, they were all away from the usual spots, this I felt spoke volumes, the run that was to follow was unimaginable. In the last 3 day only sessions I have managed 4 x 30’s, this includes a recent hit in November where in a day session I managed a 23lb, 28lb a Mirror of 32lb and a common of 35lb, the rigs are really doing the job, but I can’t help but feel the small alterations in location, on what is predominantly a flat feature less bottom has been the key, we are ticking the big girls off now and hopefully soon, the big girl herself will make an appearance, last out in August at 42lb, she could be pretty big now… Possibly even mid 40’s, I will keep you posted!
Tight Lines! Dan Bates Twitter – @bigcarpdan
So if you are fishing a big carp day ticket my six tips would be…
- We are told this all of the time, but use a bait that has a proven track record, Cell, Hybrid and Active-8 being ours, but there are lots of good quality baits on the market, but ensure its one you are confident in.
- Camouflage, ensure nothing is left to chance, you may feel you are overcomplicating things, trust me, you aren’t. Match end tackle with the lake bed you are fishing. Not wanting to plug tackle, but I have to say, the Fox Trans Khaki takes some beating, but other brands offer fantastic components.
- Try something different, remember, if a spot is obvious, chances are it’s been fished a lot and as a result the warier fish will avoid feeding there more often than not.
- Try and fish when the lake when it is quieter, weekdays typically, the carp will be much more at ease, the majority of my best sessions have been during the week when the lake is at its quietest.
- Large hook baits, day ticket carp are accustomed to picking up small food items and a result, we often get drawn into thinking small baits, it’s fair to say in most cases they are more productive, but big hook baits I find are much more selective, be it slightly slower.
- Time, it isn’t always the key, don’t be put off if you can only do days, if you can find a so called ‘hot spot’ you catch regularly even on short day sessions. We fish days only generally, occasional nights, but have still managed more fish between us than anyone else on the lake this season, even the ‘session’ anglers! It can be done.