Spring is an absolutely superb time to catch carp because there are a multitude of factors which can make the pursuit swing into our favour so consider these following points: colder and clearer water, carp that haven’t been fished for in a few months, carp that are hungry and all manner of baits come into play, to tempt them into having a feed. Increased sunlight makes a massive difference to the body clock of the carp, and often this is irrespective of water temperatures, because as the days draw out the carp increase their activity considerably. All these aforementioned factors can meet in the middle during the spring and it can make for a great time to fish if you get your approach bang-on!
Keep your baiting levels sensible in the spring – don’t just pile it in
Baiting levels - how to get it right
When I’ve got a target water in mind for the spring I’m always conscious of over-baiting. If I’m angling for big fish, as opposed to lots of fish, I’ll go down and fish with my baiting on a little and often basis. I’ve always found that during the spring, where the fish haven’t fed all winter, although they are hungry, they tend to get full very quickly. Being mindful of this, I tend to fish small PVA bags using high-attract baits.
By the time the spring rolls around the fish don’t tend to have had as much angling activity during the previous months so I feel that their defences have dropped and I feel that they are certainly more susceptible to getting caught on either bright hookbaits or Zigs. As the water temperatures start to rise, I’ll adjust my bait and baiting levels accordingly.
In the spring the water clarity tends to be very good due to the water temperatures. In simple terms, as the water gets colder it becomes more dense and suspended particles tend to sink, which leads to a greater water clarity and the bright single hookbaits are much more visible to the carp. If I want to further increase the attractiveness of my single hookbaits the addition of a mesh PVA bag of mixed Betaine pellets and Salmon Fry Crumb pellets can supercharge the effectiveness of my single hookers.
My dosed-up Mainline ‘wangers’ have some serious pulling power!
Glugging hookbaits - add in masses of attraction
I’ve got two things that I do - firstly I take some ethyl alcohol-based Mainline Pineapple flavour and mix it together with some Activ-Sweet-Ade 50/50 and keep it in a spare bottle. I then take my chosen pop-ups, in this instance, Mainline Pineapple pop-ups and then pour in a lid of my mixed flavour, shake the pot around so that the baits are completely covered and let the baits absorb the blend.
I’ll then repeat this process weekly for the period of a month until the baits have soaked in enough flavour without affecting bait buoyancy too much. These hookbaits are then supercharged to give my rigs that little extra attraction.
Pre-baiting doesn’t mean introducing loads of bait – a handful in the right place can be more than enough
Pre-baiting - it can be a mega edge
If I get the opportunity to trickle some bait into my chosen low-stocked big fish venue, during the early part of the year I will be introducing a maximum of 100 baits on every visit, either at the end of my session, or in-between sessions, and then fishing over only 50 baits when I’m actually back on the lake angling.
My pre-baiting approach is to establish the chosen boilie, in this case the Mainline Hybrid as a food source and make a particular area of the lake more attractive to the carp by offering them a food source. Pre-baiting in the spring is a completely different matter to pre-baiting later in the year - when I might consider putting as much as 5kg of Hybrid into an area, because the fish have had all summer to eat and they’ve then got the capacity to eat more.
Introduce a large amount of bait in the spring and you’re just making things more difficult for yourself. Just to reiterate - in the spring give them enough bait to have a peck and a mooch at without filling them up – small amounts of bait will keep the carp more than interested in an area during the spring.
Using Distance Sticks to measure out the distance to your spot will massively aid your pursuit to achieve maximum accuracy
Particle approach - not just for summer
If I was fishing somewhere like where I am today, which is on the Thorpe Lea fishery in Surrey my approach will be completely different – because this venue is traditionally a particle and pellet kind of water with a considerably larger stock of fish than my chosen big fish venues.
I’m happy to use particles and pellets even during the early spring, however my findings are that particles do tend to work even better during the mid-summer when the water temperatures are more elevated. Hemp seed has a very refined oil content, which is why it seems to work so well even in colder water temperatures – carp love the stuff and I’ll have no fear in using 3-4kg of prepared hemp, subject to the stock of carp in the lake being proportionate to the amount of bait I’m looking to introduce.
If you’re fishing a lake with in excess of 2,000 carp in it, like Thorpe Lea they tend to be very hungry waters, purely due to the number of fish present. It’s not inconceivable that a 100 fish could move over you and start to feed, and with this in mind a few kilos of mixed particles isn’t going to take very long to get eaten and for the fish to move on.
Get the location right and the bites will come quickly. Dave hooked this fish stalking in a shallow corner
Location - just like the winter months, it's mega important
The last few years I’ve found that the shallower areas of the lakes I fish have been far more consistent for me, however this isn’t always the case on all waters as sometimes it can be the upper layers in the deeper areas of the lake. Later in the year (October / November time) I’ll comfortably fish on the bottom in areas that are in excess of 20ft, however in the spring I would never expect to get the same degree of action, unless that is, if I’m fishing 15ft off the bottom with a Zig Rig.
The fish might like to hold in these deeper areas but due to the cold, they’re often unwilling to drop to those depths, instead preferring to hold in the upper layers with the sun across their backs where they feel most comfortable. Natural food is starting to hatch around this same time, which means they’re a sucker for a Zig fished in the upper layers and they can be easily caught at times on something as simple as a black foam hookbait.
I’ve used a thermometer to test the water temperature throughout the water column and what surprised me was that during the spring, the actual difference between the surface and bottom can often be less than 1°C, however this temperature difference is enough for the fish to find their comfort zone, and during the spring especially that ‘warmer’ level is often nearer to the surface.
With the fish being resident in the upper layers, it’s amazing how easy it can be to get a bite in the spring, and this is when it’s virtually impossible to get a bite off the bottom using more traditional tactics. Shelves and snags are also a superb place to locate carp in the spring because they absolutely love rubbing themselves. Early in the year carp love to rub themselves
to either remove leeches or for just the pure joy of just having a good scratch seems to bring them into these areas. In this instance fishing close to where the fish want to be, even though they’re not there to feed will bring more bites.
Feature finding - how to find the spots
The extent that I embark on a feature finding mission totally depends on the lake that I’m fishing. On some lakes for instance, just getting the location of the general area is enough and then it’s just a case of adjusting your rig presentation to suit the lakebed. An example of this could be that I’ve found fish in an area of lakebed that is covered in silkweed.
Now a standard bottom bait rig might be hampered by the silkweed, so in this instance I’d adjust my rig to something like a Chod Rig, whereby the chance of good presentation is greatly increased. On other lakes I’ve found that targeting the general areas aren’t enough and I can only get bites from specific features within these areas and zones.
An example of this could be when I was fishing Cleverley ‘bottom lake’ where extensive plumbing with the marker rod located me these small gravel areas that were literally only 2-3ft long and not at all wide. When I positioned a rig on these small features I was getting bites, but if I cast slightly off the feature I simply wouldn’t get a bite. Accurate baiting tight onto these spots was definitely the way forward and having spent the time finding these tiny features and applying the bait accurately, really swung things into my favour.
A Helicopter set-up helps to drastically reduce tangles
Rigs - what Dave recommends
I tend to mess around with a couple different rigs – one being a blatant pop-up rig either in Chod Rig or Hinged Stiff Rig form or a longer, slightly more subtle monofilament extended ‘D’ Rig. As I’ve mentioned previously, after a long winter the carp do tend to drop their guard and a bright pop-up is a great way of catching their attention and bringing about a bite.
Both the rigs I’ve just mentioned are difficult for the carp to deal with due the inherent stiff properties of the rigs and they lend themselves to fishing bright pop-ups because they re-set if they’re ejected and they’re very tangle-proof and I further increase the anti-tangle properties by favouring a helicopter set-up.
Summary - get out there and catch!
So there you have it – the fundamentals of a solid carping approach, made better by giving them a little thought. Considering the activity of the carp moving into spring and their consequent appetite and where in the lake or water column they may be most comfortable has proved a real spring winner for me, and so it could for you!