“Prep is everything when it comes to successful overnight carp fishing,” states Carl King, a likable 28-year-old from Essex. “I learnt so much from last year, not only that tackle and tactic prep was essential so you can maximise your ‘rod hours’, but how pre-baiting could, and does work, on busy circuit-type waters like the stunning Cleverley Mere where I’m currently fishing.”
Carl certainly proved that, when after a run of 13 blank nights, all his hard work of pre-baiting through the autumn and winter finally paid off when he put the net under ‘Not Cash’ – an amazing looking 38lb 12oz common. And get this, less than 24hrs later he followed this up with another one of his target fish, Coco at 36lb 8oz!
So how does he go about his pre-baiting? What little tricks does he have when it comes to getting the most out of a 12hr overnight session? Here’s an insight into the mind of a very, very successful overnight carp angler…
This is now your second year of ‘syndicate fishing’ – i.e. concentrating on just one venue – where in previous years you’ve flitted between day ticket and club waters, so how has the fishing differed and what’s been the biggest changes between these two styles of fishing/venues?
“The overall approach is different; we’re actually building on something with each session, whereas on a day ticket venue, most of the time you’re just slotting in somewhere. On Cleverley Mere, my main venue, I’ve tried to look for areas that don’t get fished a lot and I’ve focused a lot of attention on my baiting.
“The way I fish would be different too. Instead of angling for a ‘big hit’ – a large shoal of fish – on here I’m fishing with a bit more finesse: I’m pre-baiting and then just fishing singles over the top or with say a stringer as it’s something not many of the other lads seem to be using/doing.
“The type of feature I also target is different. On Cleverley for example, I tend to target the silty, smaller areas, whereas on busy day tickets the obvious features such as islands and the top of bars do plenty of bites.”
You fish, on average, two nights a week. You arrive straight from work and then you’re off by half 6 in the morning. How do you maximise this limited amount of time?
“Pre-baiting is a massive thing for me on my overnighters and that helps maximize my time hugely. Because I’m down for such a short amount of time – 12hrs at most – there’s no point in lumping in masses of bait at the start of such a short trip, but by getting my feed in a day, two days before, it means I can just turn up and flick stringers or singles out and I’m fishing. On the day I wouldn’t put out any more bait; well, if I had a tench then I’d top up the area with a Spombful, or if I had caught a carp, then maybe a couple of Spombfuls in that instance. The same applies if I can’t get back into the main swim and onto my pre-baited areas: I’d just fish for a bite – i.e. with a stringer, small bag, high visual hookbaits, and minimal amount of freebies – I usually just use between seven to 12 around a hookbait.
“I always try and fish back-to-back nights instead of spacing them out, and this has a big benefit. On the morning of the first session, I’ll apply some more bait in readiness of my return that night.
“It’s a different story now the nights are getting longer, but in the winter it’s a very different scenario. I would finish work at 4 o’clock and then race down to the lake. By the time I got here, the light would have gone, so I’d have everything ready to go: the rigs tied and the rods clipped-up because I’d have done my ‘wraps’ at home, and then it would just be a case of pushing the banksticks in, flicking the rods out and I would be fishing.”
Do you do the same nights each week or do the change week-to-week?
“Yeah, I normally do Tuesday and Wednesday and I try to get one complete weekend in once a month. After the Wednesday session, I do come back to trickle a bit of bait in, usually on the Sunday. I will also pop in whenever I can, just to have a look around and have a chat with the lads to find out what’s been happening and to keep in touch with the place – that’s massively important.”
So you’ve just arrived at the lake, you know where you’ll be fishing, so what’s the set procedure?
“It’s pretty much the same as the winter: I have everything ready: rigs tied, baits tied on, all clipped up and if the swim’s free, I just gently flick the rods out – ideally with just one cast per rod to keep the disturbance to an absolute minimum – and then I’m fishing. It’s so important to get those rods out first and fishing; once that’s done, then I’ll sort the bivvy out etc.
“However, if I turned up and someone was fishing were I wanted to be or the fish where showing heavily elsewhere on the lake, I’d go after them – I wouldn’t ignore those signs just because I’d pre-baited an area. I wouldn’t just think, ‘Oh, they’ll move into on my area soon’, because they might not, you’ve got to go to the fish sometimes.”
Do you place much emphasis on your hookbait – both in terms of colour, flavour and taste – and the attraction around your hookbait (i.e a small bag, Stick etc.)?
“In this lake, it seems the fish favour white or pink – with pink tending to be the most productive colour currently, so I will always have a visual pop-up (on Hinged Stiff Links) on at least one of the rods. With my blowback rigs, I’ve got hookbaits which I’m glugging in the King Prawn glug but I’ve added some pineapple flavour to it, just to give it a different smell and taste note. I also always tip-off my hookbaits when using blowback rigs – in this case it’s a little fleck of pink or white.”
So you’re pre-baiting when you leave – what bait are you using, how are you introducing it and in what volume?
“At the moment I’m using the King Prawn in 10 and 15mm, but I have just started combining these with another Crafty Catcher bait, the Peanut Pro, which together offers something quite different in colour and taste to what everyone else on the lake is using. I also like to glug both of these baits up with a combination of the King Prawn oil and hemp oil, and at this time of year I also like to add hemp to that mix.
“In terms of volume, towards the end of last year I was putting out 3kgs at the end of each session. I will also always try and keep certain areas going, even if I’m not fishing them. For example, there’s a spot up towards the top of the lake which I haven’t fished for three weeks, but I put a little bit of bait in there last week so I try to keep my options open in case one of the areas is taken.
“When it comes to introducing the bait, I try to concentrate the feed into a tight area, but if it’s within catapult range, I will fire a few baits around the main, fixed spot of bait. I’m not sure why, but it’s something I’ve always done so I suppose it’s a confidence thing.”
When you’re not regularly fishing the same swim, what are your thoughts on feature-finding? What are you looking for and why, and does this differ between those busy day ticket venues and your current syndicate venue, Cleverley Mere?
“On busy day ticket type venues, the going spots seem to be out in the middle of the lake; everyone’s going for the long chuck. On here, it’s a bit different. There are blatant spots which the fish will get caught from, but like I said earlier, I like to find a bit of silt but still with a bit of a drop to know I’m fishing on a hardish spot and getting really good presentation. I’m also looking for the quieter areas – the one’s which not everyone’s focusing on and will allow me to bait with a lesser chance of someone stumbling across it.”
You’re on limited time, but you’ve been very successful, so what do you believe you do differently to others on the bank?
“Cleverley Mere is a circuit water; it’s very, very busy and I think a lot of people shy off pre-baiting because they believe they won’t be able to get back into that certain swim or area. But I’ve just stuck with it. I went through a 13-night blank, but I kept on pre-baiting. Some guys on here were saying to me, ‘Why don’t you try somewhere else, they’re not down there” but I just kept the bait going in, and kept on fishing it, and in the end it happened: I got my first fish, 38lb 2oz. I also had my first forty in that hit too.
“So my advice would be to pre-bait – and to keep it going in – because they will get on it. I’d say that’s my biggest strength on this lake. Some of the other guys do put some bait in, but they’ll pre-bait a margin for instance whereas I’ll bait out in the middle of the lake.
“Being super organised also helps. Like I’ve previously mentioned, I’ll have everything done; I’ve even gone to the lengths of filling up the bath so I can finely-tune my putty so the rig sinks perfectly, again saving me time when I’m on the bank and need to get the rods out to maximise my time. All these little things add up and increase the amount of rod hours you can get in during an overnight session.
“During my first year of doing overnighters I’d waste so much time tying rigs, getting my bait mixed – it would take me ages to get everything set-up, but I’ve learnt from that for this,
my second year.
“I also fished every swim during that first year so I could build up a map in my head (and phone) and this helped massively for this second year. Prep is everything for overnight success.”
Everyone has a favourite rig; their old reliable which they tend to start off on whenever they fish a new water, then change things up when they feel the need – what’s your ‘old reliable’ and why do you use it?
“Fishing on a good, clean area it would be the blowback rig. It’s just simple but effective. I fish it with a coated hooklink with a section stripped back, the hook tied on Knotless Knot and with a rig ring on the shank – that’s it – nice and simple but it works. The second rig would be the Stiff Hinged Rig. I just stick to those two and I don’t really change to be honest. That said, I’m currently trying to get my head around Zig fishing and will be something I’ll focus on through the summer.”
Do you prefer to fish tight or slack or a little in-between and how important do you feel it is to anchor the line to the bottom?
“Yeah, I do think it’s important. On a little, pressured lake like this, I like to have a slack line, I like to have everything pinned along the bottom. If I’m fishing quite some distance out, say 100yds, then I fish it semi-slack as otherwise I’d lose too much indication.”
Keeping with that theme, line angles: is this something you take massive consideration of?
“No, not really. It’s not something I’ve paid much attention to. It obviously does play a part in the whole jigsaw, but with the way I fish my lines – i.e. right on the deck – I’m not sure how much bearing it would have.”
Finally, Carl, what’s the rest of this year’s plans?
“Although I’ve just got another ticket for a new water, I am going to keep my main focus on Cleverley. I love this place. I’m going to continue doing my two nights a week and fingers crossed, by the end of the year, I’ll have ticked off a few more of my targets: Little Sister, which isn’t a massive fish (around 25lbs), but it’s a lovely scaly one; a fish called Hendix which is the big girl of the lake, around 42lbs; and the third one is Cluster. They are the three I really want!”