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Close-in Carping – Text Only

Joe Atkinson reveals his best tips and edges for catching carp close in.

Stalking is a massive part of my carping, and should be the same for every angler. The word ‘stalking’ covers all array of fishing methods. It could be surface fishing, float fishing, Zig fishing, free-lining, on the bottom with a lead setup – the list goes on. There are no limits to what you can do; it’s all about being able to adapt to the right situation in front of you, staying mobile, and being vigilant, and then acting on what you see and make the next move. Not all waters enable you to do such things, but thinking like this can come into play in your normal fishing as well. I guarantee that staying mobile and being visually aware of what’s going on around you and acting on it will put more fish on the bank. I’ve been lucky enough to have some very nice fish throughout the years that I’ve been carp fishing. Without stalking in my armoury, a lot of my captures would be nothing but dreams, as I wouldn’t have caught them. The times I’ve spent stalking have been some of the best hours I’ve spent on the bank. After all, being up-close and personal with our target species is the reason we all go fishing. A day spent watching them can be just as good catching them. You never stop learning in carp fishing, and being able to watch them can teach you an awful lot. Here are some tips that will hopefully help you along the way when you’re out there having a go yourself.

Location
Location is key, which I’m sure you’ve heard many times before, but if you’re not on the fish, you won’t catch. Polaroids are a must when stalking, not only for finding fish but also for finding spots to fish. This style of fishing is very visual, and you need to see what’s going on so you can act on it. This applies to fishing at close range, in the margins, reedbeds, pads, trees, snags, drop-offs, bars – it’s endless. Scouring these sorts of areas for any signs of fish is where I start. Sometimes water clarity isn’t too good, so look for fizzing, movement from any vegetation in the water, vortexes, etc. There are plenty of other telltale signs like these to help you find them. Find them first, and then fish for them.

Surface Fishing
This is a method that’s underused, but in my opinion it’s the best way to fish for them. You can see everything that’s going on in front of you – whether you need more bait out there, how the fish are reacting to different baits, how weather affects their feeding characteristics, etc. It’s all there in front of you to see and take in. People think it’s a method that is only appropriate during the summer months, but this is definitely not the case. Weather and venue dependent, fish can be caught any time of the year. It also gives you the chance to target certain fish, as you can watch each fish feed. Floater kit should always be carried, which can be frustrating at times, but don’t let that put you off. Believe me, any rewards you have will make you forget all the bad times. Having a variety of freebies and hookbaits is a big edge. Feeding a mixture of freebies will get the carp feeding far more confidently, and so make them easier to catch. Surface fishing is all about confidence, so once you have built this up, the job in hand becomes much easier. In terms of terminal tackle, finesse and presentation are key. Everything is visible on the surface of the water, so scaling everything down will get you far better results.

Lead Setups
For me, when stalking on the bottom, nine times out of ten I use a heavy in-line drop-off. There are quite a few benefits with this: it minimises any chance of tangles, due to its simplicity, and gets the fish up in the water away from any structures once hooked, plus it uses the lead’s weight for maximum hooking potential. The majority of the fishing is done in the edge, with tight little patches or parcels of bait. When fishing like this, the carp tend to be glued to the bottom in the way they feed. This makes them harder to catch, but with the aid of a heavy lead and short hooklink, it becomes much easier. With the option of being able to lower the lead on the spot most of the time, you can get away with a nice heavy one. I normally use anything from 3-5oz, which may sound heavy, but it has far better hooking potential. As well as this, being able to drop them off on the take minimises any chance of a hookpull during the fight. There may be the odd time when you are fishing on a real soft bottom or on top of weed, so in these cases you can change. Other than that, this will suffice for the majority of your margin fishing.

Rig Setup
It’s very important to keep it nice and simple. The rig needs to be fishing at all times because the windows of opportunity can be small. It needs to be virtually tangle-proof, and also strong and reliable. For me personally, I tend to use really short hooklengths, depending on which baits I’m fishing over. Generally, the smaller the baits, the shorter the hooklink, as the carp tend to feed a lot closer to the lakebed. My typical hooklink length is around 4ins, although I have used them as short as 2ins. You can watch the carp’s mannerisms and the way in which they’re feeding, and adapt to what you feel is necessary in the particular situation.

Tackle
Keeping mobile with this style of fishing is essential, so keep things as light as possible. You need to be able to move quickly, so carrying any extra bits that you don’t need won’t help. You need to try to cover all circumstances, but keep to the bare essentials and your stalking will become far more effective and enjoyable. Having the right tackle in the right situation is very important. You aren’t fishing to get bites, you are fishing to put carp on the bank, so using the right gear in the right situation is paramount.

Zigs
Zigs don’t have to be fished out in the middle of the lake in the deep water. Carp spend a lot of time patrolling any marginal structure, and with natural life being most prolific in the margins, around any vegetation in the water, Zigs can be highly effective. With the chance to watch the carp in close, you can see which paths they’re taking and at what depths they’re swimming. Lowering a Zig in position for a patrolling fish can be deadly carping.

Baits
It’s worth carrying a few different options when stalking. For a bottom bait, I like to have a mixture of small particles, which can be anything – mixed pellet, corn, maggots, chopped boilies, or particle. You want to keep the fish in the areas you’ve baited for as long as possible, and by using smaller particles of bait, the fish will be grubbing around a lot longer. I tend to have a mix for feeding on spots, and then have a few different hookbait options. I carry some natural hookbaits, such as maggots, worms or corn, plus my surface baits. With these options, you are covered for all possible situations.

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