BRIGHTEN-UP YOUR CATCH-RATE!
Mainline Carper, John Kneebone reveals why bright 'stand-out' hookbaits are now so important to his fishing approach...
When I think back over my fishing and how it has evolved, one of the biggest contrasts has to be where my hookbait is concerned. As in, I can remember having a massive preference towards a hookbait that resembled the food source boilies I’m generally using the most – either a bottom bait out of the bag of a pop-up of matching flavour and colour.
In fact when I think of it, outside the winter months I would rarely use a pop-up on its own. More often than not pop-ups would be in the bag just to tip off bottom baits for a balanced Snowman Rig. Now although I will still employ this type of presentation, it definitely plays second fiddle to the one I used to avoid – using bright, highly visual pop-ups.
WHAT CHANGED THE MIND-SET?
This transition of preference really began when I started fishing in the Oxfordshire area where for some reason you simple cannot ignore the colour yellow. For whatever reason bright yellow hookbaits easily out catch most others - I’m not sure why, and can only imagine it stems from the high use of this colour, as the carp are no different to carp elsewhere.
Nevertheless, I did start to use bright hookbaits more and more, Hi-Visual Pineapple Juice and Milky Toffee pop-ups in particular, and consequently my confidence in brighter baits grew and grew. Around this time I began to fish Christchurch on the Linch Hill complex – the Chod Rig was fresh on the scene and a good way of casting at showing fish in areas of light weed. Mini 12mm pop-ups balanced a size 8 SR hook perfectly, and so I found I could still add some subtly by scaling down a tad.
Now these fish had a valid reputation for being ‘riggy’, which didn’t quite compute with the success of this presentation at first, but it did show one thing. That a bright high-attract hookbait is often very difficult for carp to keep swimming past and ignore – the curious nature of the carp to investigate the bait will generally win it over in the end.
Prior to my fishing on Christchurch the winter months had pretty much been the time when I’d be using single hookbaits and indeed brighter, hi-visual baits. Even then I’d nearly always end-up adding a few freebies, as I do just like to fish over a bit of bait.
But now all that was beginning to change, as you could see the pulling power of a bright, high-attract hookbait at work. If you could tap into the sensory organs of the carp (sight, smell or both) you were halfway there – summer or winter, and all you needed was one single hookbait. Just as long as they had a nice bright colour to standout well and encourage curiosity or a high leakage of flavour to attract fish via the water column down toward the bait.
These high attract baits really are doing the job equivalent to a much bigger bed of bait with the attractors they release - which partly explains why they can work so well fished as singles.
In winter the appetite of the carp is very low and any feeding spells can be extremely short. So the main aim is attract fish and induce a pick-up, not one of trying to encourage prolonged feeding over a bed of bait – in most case it just isn’t going to happen.
Where as in the warming months when the carp are active and hungry a single hookbait put in their way, perhaps cast at a showing fish can promote quick bites. After all there is little for the carp to think about or choose between with one bright bait – a hookbait giving the impression of there being much more food present through its attraction drawing fish to its location, which leads me onto what I believe to be an awesome approach…
Ah! Make a cross with your fingers and ward him off, he’s going to talk about overfeeding! Yeah, yeah, I get it! For as long as you can remember you’ve been told to try and avoid overfeeding at all costs and the term “once you put it in you can’t take it out” is bouncing around your head. Well you’ll pleased to hear that I’m not about to contradict that advice, which is fundamentally very, very good, but I am going to explain a way to stray from this strict rule slightly. In fact I believe it’s a way of fishing that on its day can be a significant edge!
The basis of the tactic began when I was fishing on another of the Linch Hill waters, Stone Acre. You had to cast from the bank at the time, but were allowed to use a boat for most other things – finding spots, markering them, checking your rig presentation and interestingly checking your spot after you fished or after catching from it.
As you can imagine, you would learn quite a lot, and one of the most significant things for me was how much bait was left after a take. Where bright hookbaits were used, the majority of your feed would nearly always remain. There was no doubt at all that a brightly coloured high-attract pop-up was pretty much the first bait to be investigated by feeding fish.
This happened time and time again, and so my confidence grew to bait heavily to a point where I knew I was actually over baiting – just as long as I was using a bright hookbait. My thought process being I could place a massive food signal in the lake by over baited, so basically maximising my chances of drawing fish to my swim. Any fears about those fish then being able to feed for long periods without encountering the hookbait were then quashed by the performance of my bright hookbait, which the fish would head for straight away.
Sound good eh? But what would happen next is the really good part of the approach. Because I knew that the majority of my free bait was still on the spot, all I’d need to do was clip-up my rod to the correct distance using the ‘two bankstick trick’ and return my rig back into the feeding zone with the minimum of disturbance!
Many times since I’ve been faced with a fishing situation where you’re not quite sure how much bait to use? There’s always that period in spring when the fish are waking-up, active but not quite ‘on it’ with a similar scenario as activity peters off in autumn. Then off course summer sessions can often be moody when prolonged spells of hot weather are encountered. So when in doubt about the ideal level of feed to apply, the use of bright hookbaits that will probably be picked-up first, helps me edge my bets a little and reduce the margin for error. Coupled with the fact they are all I need for winter carping, I can’t imagine not having a tub or two in the bag.