Josh Bennett's weed fishing masterclass!

Fishing in and around weed has always been an extensively discussed subject within carp fishing. However, each angler has different perspectives on what it is to fish within weed and how to land fish safely and effectively.

The waters close to my home are set in some of England’s finest countryside, and as a result of the water quality and the grounds substrate surrounding them, weed grows in abundance.

Oxfordshire gravel pits go hand in hand with weed, so I would like to think I have a relative understanding of how I like to fish for weedy water carp. As a result, I’ve presented a few tips to give an insight into how I fish in weed within the swim I’m presented with; as lets face it, sometimes getting a swim is the hardest part.

Immediately people think weed equals summer months, boiling sunshine and carp lazing on the surface. In the majority of lakes, you would be correct, however weed can be and is present throughout the year here in ‘Oxland’. Whether, dying, thriving or newly grown, weed presents food and cover for the carp among other things. As a result, time of year and even time of day, can effect how I present baits when fishing a swim with weed in front of me.

I am by no means an expert in fish or marine biology, but I am of the understanding that weed is a plant, and as a result emits oxygen or carbon dioxide during different times of day. I am afraid you will have to speak with an expert on the reasons why, however I have adapted my approach with the minimal knowledge I have via my observations.

My syndicate lake can become very weedy in the late spring/early summer and continues throughout the oncoming months. During a sunny day (note sunny, not necessarily warm), by presenting effectively, fishing in the weed is the only place to be or fishing in the upper layers. The fish love it there. It holds any available warmth, provides safety and is a haven for snails, lice and other marine life perfect for the carp’s natural diet.

During the evening however, the fish can be seen and caught in the less dense areas of weed growth, seemingly happy to leave the safety of any weed. Whether this really has anything to do with the weed’s molecular output in the hours of darkness I don’t know, but by fishing away from the beds, or more specifically up against them, I have found success catching at last light and early morning as the fish move to and fro.

During certain months however, weed can be an angler’s companion. I have found that carp soon harvest any fresh weed growth found in the early season and bait put either on or around fresh growth can result in excellent catch rates.

St Johns on the Linear complex has highlighted this to me on many occasions, especially in February/March time when the fish are waking up and becoming more interested in feed. Reversely, at the ending of the year, dying weed beds I have found to be counteractive with my fishing. Again I believe that the chemicals being omitted repel the fish in some situations, much akin to rotting silt, meaning fish are reluctant to feed on a dinner table of rotting vegetable essentially!

The difficulty really is determining which type of weed bed we are fishing over, and the only real way other than looking from the bank or boat is examining my lead on it’s return. Again, similar to fishing on silt, looking at the colour and smelling any weed brought back on leads or marker rods helps to distinguish whether it’s warm, luscious, green and full of food or dark, stinking, rotting tripe!

On another local pit, the fish congregate in a shallow bay, where although weed is present all year round, in the summer, the weed is top to bottom and almost impossible to present in. The lake holds approximately 50 carp and on a sunny day in the winter, the fish will move to this warm bay as the sun’s rays penetrate the water. This I feel is the crux of the point; warmth.

Have you ever walked into a lake either bare foot or in waders and had your legs surrounded by weed? If not, do it! It will prove to you why fish like weed. The temperature of the weed and the surrounding water is incredibly mild and regardless of time of year, carp are cold-blooded animals and hence enjoy warmth.

This is a key point of note for cold-water fishing. Any remaining warmth, and remember our quarry can sense 0.1 degree of a temperature change, will of course attract carp. Snags, islands and weed all hold warmth, especially if any prolonged sunlight hits them or they are sheltered from cold winds. Again, at any time of year, these carp magnets will present everything a carp needs, i.e. food, safety from predation and warmth, however bait placement and concealment can be an issue. Sometimes it is a matter of feet between a feeding fish and a wary one and this brings me nicely to my third point; presentation.

I will always try to find a clear spot when fishing in or around weed. There is always a presentable spot somewhere and I have a range of set-ups to help me present over any type of weed or lakebed. One of my favourite ways to target carp is by fishing tight to weed beds or snags, having felt for a drop. This I feel is important when finding that dinner table carp are willing to feed on, whilst having confidence of a good presentation. It also helps land your quarry; why fish deep within the weed or a snaggy area if you don’t need to?

By using presentations that I will list below, I can find a presentable spot within the weed at any time of year. It is rare for weed to be so dense it causes issues at this time of year, however it can still be quite thick. If so, finding small holes in the weed and being accurate with a carpet of spod mix such as hemp, pellets, small and/or chopped boilies and corn can be deadly. If a spod goes astray or misses slightly, the light particles will sit up in the weed strands and looks awesome when viewed from above. Using a solid bag to enhance presentation, whilst still having confidence of a nice short rig to nail those slow moving carp, feeding on all those small food items is a sure fire winner.

Again, fishing tight to weed beds or snags in this way can work just as good of course, but if you have managed to find a clearer area or strip of silt/gravel tight to or between weed beds or snags, I prefer to bait slightly differently.

Observation is key here, as certain routes or spots will be treated with severe caution, as they are more accessible to anglers, therefore fished more. Some are also used less and less as we enter winter and determining the commonly used patrols or more comfortable areas for the carp will allow anglers to continue baiting and indeed catching throughout the colder months.

I have found baiting these with a spreaded line of bait, allows for a bigger baited area, sometimes three rods on one spot and multiple catches. By baiting a tight spot as stated before, on occasions one bite was forthcoming and the fish have moved weed beds/snags and done the off.

With this approach, a line of boilies or larger food items allows the fish to harvest them whilst on a patrol/regularly used route promoting confidence, meaning they will more than likely keep returning. It also allows me to use my ‘normal’ rigs. By that I mean not 2-3inch bag/particle rigs or chods, but balanced bottom bait rigs using Size 6 Kurv’s and N-Trap soft of around 6 inches, usually on a COG system. I probably do this type of fishing 90% of the time and I really enjoy it.

If you find yourself fishing over new weed growth or a low lying weed bed (low lying being less than 6inches in my terms) such as silkweed, where you may have found naturals or that’s just where the carp want to be, then your favourite pop-up or chod rig is the one. In silkweed, particularly in the early or late season, solid bags can also provide a wicked single hook bait tactic.

I haven’t done a great deal of chod rig fishing, preferring a stiff hinged made of Mouth Trap, a Size 6 choddy hook and using N-Trap soft as a boom. Essentially it is a similar rig, but I prefer the lead being my side of the hook bait if you get my drift, personal preference though.

Again spreading the bait across a low lying weed bed or around a snaggy area, will lend itself to a chod or stiff hinge rig, meaning I usually do so utilising a solely boilie tactic. Don’t be afraid that a few baits may fall into the weed, it’s low lying weed remember, but I do usually use a few more baits than I would do to counteract this.

As a final point of note, having read and viewed underwater footage, I would always double the amount of weed you think you’re fishing over. If it’s clear on the marker rod, always assume there are a few strands here and there and adjust accordingly. In regards to bait in weed, having just highlighted the occasional bait may fall out of sight into the weed, it is worth putting an extra spod or two out in my opinion if working on a baited area.

So essentially, weed at any time of year can provide both headaches and success. It is a simple case of working out how you want to fish in or around it in regards to time of year, time of day, weather conditions and then presenting your chosen baited strategy in accordance with what’s in front of you.