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Horton with Dave Levy!
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Horton with Dave Levy! Posted by ,

FISHING A TRICKY WATER ON LIMITED TIME? DOESN'T MEAN YOU CANT CATCH BIG FISH! AS DAVE LEVY EXPLAINS...

Firstly, I want to tell you what the bait I use means to me, and how much importance I put in to the bait side of my fishing. I don't mind letting you know I'm no bait guru, but I have a very good understanding of how and when to use the right amounts of bait. Over the years I've seen a good few anglers with access to a lot of bait with little knowledge of how to use the right amounts. They have struggled thinking it's all about chucking in as much as they can.

Image © Mainline Baits

You need to look at the stock of carp you're fishing for and what else in the lake is eating your bait, this can be anything from Bream and Tench to the bird life. I once worked out that a coot could roughly eat 10 to 15 boilies, I was fishing a set of reeds and there was a coot's nest, Coots are very protective of their nest so I chose that area to bait knowing that between the two coots they would only eat 30 baits at most in 24 hours, and if any other bird life came for a look the coots would fly out and attack them. It was early spring so I didn't need loads of bait and one to two hundred baits was more than enough, that was one of my most productive spots that spring. I've used lots of situations to my advantage over the years because it's thinking outside the box that will keep you one step ahead of the pack.

Horton certainly held some beautiful carp like this 34lb 10oz mirror
Horton certainly held some beautiful carp like this 34lb 10oz mirror

When I started fishing Horton I knew it was going to be tough, it had a reputation for being a very tricky water. Horton is around 16 acres with an average depth of 15-19 feet, the margins run deep around the whole lake. What makes Horton so tricky is the angling pressure on the lake and the class of angler fishing for the carp is of a high standard, which means I would have to be at the top of my game if I wanted to do well. To be honest I put more pressure on myself to succeed than anyone else ever could, but I enjoy that and there's no substitute for hard work.

44lb of Horton carp limited time does not mean you can not catch big, pressured fish!
44lb of Horton carp limited time does not mean you can not catch big, pressured fish!

One Pressure that is totally off me is what bait to use. I've been using Mainline bait for a long time and the confidence I have in it is unquestionable and that's a big plus as its one major thing I'm not questioning. Catching big carp is made up of percentages, the right swim, the right rig for the type of bottom your fishing over, then bait. The bait is a big one giving you a in my opinion over 50% of the 100 you need to catch big carp because if they don't like what your putting in then everything else will not make a difference.

A 46lb 12oz carp that saw my bait as food, not danger and that is an edge!
A 46lb 12oz carp that saw my bait as food, not danger and that is an edge!

I wanted to use something a little different so I opted for the Hybrid as it was quite now on the scene being a mix of Active 8 and Cell, I'd mix this with a slight bit of Essential Cell. The reason for the Essential Cell was so I had a visual factor with a bait that really works well while the water is still at low temperatures. So, adding 20 to 30 Essential Cell baits to each kilo of Hybrid which is darker in colour just adds to the effectiveness of your bait. Quite often the carp will start the year being very susceptible to bright hookbaits like the Pineapple Juice pop-ups and so on, but as the spring moves on it doesn't take long before the carp start to realize everything bright or in this case yellow is fairly dangerous. By adding small amounts of the Essential Cell to my bait and applying it mixed with the main bait it somewhat naturalises the danger of the yellow bait.

A fish known as Scully at 40lb 4oz and I was starting to apply a little more bait
A fish known as Scully at 40lb 4oz and I was starting to apply a little more bait

I used this to good effect in the spring last year and it wasn't until late June that I was solely using Hybrid and matching the hookbaits the free offerings. When you do match the hatch (fish the same hookbait as the free offerings) it again is another edge as you eliminate danger at a time where they are now seeing rigs and bait really regular on most waters and of course I'm writing about fishing for very pressured carp here.

Prior to a very special moment...
Prior to a very special moment...

When it come to the amount of bait I apply to a lake this will also change throughout the year. In the early spring most carp have had a long period without eating too much and surviving off their own body mass so if you start filing it in with kilos of bait then it's likely your struggle. I tend to use less than a few kilos a session at that time of the year, but I'm a real advocate of putting a bit more in when I leave to keep a steady flow of bait going in so it's really accepted as safe when the carp comes across it. Once you hit late May and their on the feed the amounts will double bearing in mind most of my sessions are 36 hours or less, so I'm not putting in ten kilos - I want to catch them. The time when I really do use a lot more bait is after spawning and the carp are desperate to put healthy weight back on, from this time on the only thing that will change is where I'm putting the bait because as the autumn comes around your notice the deeper water comes in to its own and the carp is now wanting to gain as much weight as possible to get through the winter.

A piece of carping history The Woodcarving
A piece of carping history The Woodcarving

It was on one of the last warm days of the year that I got down to Horton and to be honest I knew Just by looking that the carp weren't about in the margins like they had been. I put some bait along a tree line with the intention of checking it later that day, I'd put in about 20 broken Hybrid baits mixed with 20 full baits. It was funny because one of the things I'd been told was the Horton carp won't pick-up a round boilie in the margin yet that year I'd witnessed them do it mutable times. Anyway, I had spent at least two hours walking round when I got back to the baited tree line. Straight away I spotted a carp drift in from the right, the water on Horton is tap water clear, and I could see it was a fish known as the Woodcarving one of the loveliest carp your ever see and at over 50 years old she was as big a part of Hortons history as the lake itself.

When you are getting the baiting situation right they can come like busses this 32lb mirror found the net shortly after the Woodcarving
When you are getting the baiting situation right they can come like busses this 32lb mirror found the net shortly after the Woodcarving

I watched her eat a few baits before she slipped out of sight down the marginal shelf. Quickly, I ran back to the motor and fetched my gear, and was soon lowering a bait down to the spot where I'd seen her feed. I had a bottom bait on coupled with a PVA bag about the size of a small orange nicked on the hook. Soon enough she (The Woodcarving) returned and this time she was with another mirror of about thirty-pounds. Right away she swum up to the small pile of bait sucking it in then blowing it out! I could see everything and was horrified as the rig was picked-up and dropped at least four times. In the end she lifted-up and swum off leaving my hook-bait.

Like cradling a whale!
Like cradling a whale!

In my mind, I knew where I'd gone wrong. I quickly broke-up ten more baits and scattered then about the margin shelf I then lifted the rig out the water moving it just in case she had sussed the spot. Ten minutes had passed until she came back and now she was confident moving between the feed items and I knew movement would be her undoing, I sat well back from the water's edge as I was now a nervous wreck. I was just putting the kettle on when the Delkim bleeped followed by the scream of the alarm, I run to the rod and lifted in to an angry carp. It was taking line and I prayed it was her, as it came up twisting and turning in the weed I caught sight of the long row of linear scales - it was the Woodcarving and I kept her moving towards me with the weed over her head she was quite calm until the net was lifted around her. I can tell you now I jumped for joy.

50lb 2oz! A fish known as Rodger The Dodger
50lb 2oz! A fish known as Rodger The Dodger

What makes Mainline so good is it's digestibility, and this makes it a very good winter bait, which means you can keep fishing it in the coldest of water. If the carp can still digest the bait this makes it very acceptable as a food source, coupled with other ingredients that don't solidify in cold water it makes the range one of the best all year round baits ever made.
Well of course I'd say this I'm a consultant for Mainline, but I use the bait out of choice because of my belief and confidence in the range.

Bright Pineapple Juice pop-ups are great early on
Bright Pineapple Juice pop-ups are great early on

Recently I got down to Horton and there had only been one bite in four months! I had baited a spot a week before with eight large Spombs of 15mm Hybrid mix with a bit of Essential Cell. On getting to the lake I didn't see any shows so decided to fish the area I'd baited the previous week. I wanted to keep the baiting situation light due to the reason I spoke about at the start, so just used four Spombs over each rod. During the evening a flock of about twenty diving ducks came over the spot I was fishing and the first bird that dived came up and flow off scared out of its mind, this was swiftly followed by the rest, right away I thought it had just been spooked by the presence of a big carp.

I chose Hybrid boilies as the base of my bait approach on Horton
I chose Hybrid boilies as the base of my bait approach on Horton

I was fishing a bright Pineapple Juice pop-up over the free offerings. The night pasted quietly and about 5am I was woken-up by a young swan swimming through my right hand line, I was now wide awake and lay on my bed waiting for the kettle to boil when I heard the braid crack from the clip on my rod followed by the screaming Delkim. I was half expecting to see the young swan going through my line, but the rod was bent over as a carp pulled line slowly from the tight clutch, I lifted the rod and the carp stopped hold out in the lake, slowly she come closer not really doing much, it kited left and I remembered that the year before on my second ever visit to Horton I'd lost a very big fish in a snag so I was taking no chances and reeled down lifting the carp higher in the water. She turned heading away from the snag, but still she seemed to know where she wanted to go and headed for the overhanging trees. Again, I clamped down and she rolled on the surface before bolting deep in search of dying weed beds, I could feel the thick weed but kept the pressure on and up she came and I pushed the net out slipping it under the fish. I looked in the net and in the low light she looked a good thirty. I quickly fetched my head torch eager to look at the carp, as the light bounced off the carp it reviled just how big the carp was and definitely much bigger than I'd first thought. With thick-set dark shoulders and a black scar running along the top side I didn't recognise the carp.

A few Essential Cell boilies added to the Hybrid gave a different dimension and lowered the fear of bright baits
A few Essential Cell boilies added to the Hybrid gave a different dimension and lowered the fear of bright baits

A quick call to a mate and we zeroed the sling before lifting her on the scales.
I watched the needle swing round past fifty pounds! I couldn't believe what I was seeing. We settled at a weight of 50lb 2oz. I was soon holding her up for the camera and although in a day when it's carpy to not smile I couldn't contain the joy of catching such a wicked carp. It capped off a year that had seen me fish a total of 35 night and in that time I'd landed 21 carp including six over forty-pounds, a 51lb 10oz Grass carp and a 50lb 2oz mirror. Among the other carp was some stunning thirties including the much sort after Woodcarving.
Like I said at the beginning there is no substitute or quick fix to catching big fish but you can stack the odds in your favour. There are still a few more I like to catch in Horton so for now I'll keep going. I know one year can change from another but one thing I won't be worrying about is my bait.

Highly digestible food source baits perfect for the whole year through
Highly digestible food source baits perfect for the whole year through

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