My Carp Fishing Priorities - Darrell Peck

Put location first, then apply a simple but effective rig - Darrell explains how this is all you need to do in order to catch.

“Some of the most common questions that I get from anglers are about location. It’s not uncommon to come across someone that has thousands of pounds worth of tackle, rigs coming out of their ears, but almost no idea how to locate carp in the first place. This is a scenario that has become more and more apparent as carp fishing has grown. In many sports, cycling for example, some people will be more worried about how good their bike is than how much it’s actually improving their fitness. When I’m fishing I don’t care how level my bobbins are, or if my reels look good, as long as I have carp in front of me, then I’m happy. Until this is the case, I will search relentlessly for signs of fish. Location really is the be all and end all – I hate to say it but the old saying “You won’t catch them if they’re not there.” springs to mind.

Guaranteeing that you’re on the fish should always be your number one priority. Unless you have been pre-baiting areas, or you are visiting the venue on a daily basis and already know where the fish are, your first task upon arrival should be to locate the carp. It’s always mine, and there are a few key points to locating carp.

The first of the points, and one of the most vital of all, is to be at the lake for first light. Arriving at the lake nice and early, preferably just before first light, will dramatically increase your chances of seeing fish. Although it may seem like a chore to drag yourself out of bed during the early hours of the morning, and then travel to the lake in order to get there before it’s light, it is most certainly worth it. The hours surrounding the sun rise are some of the most valuable of the day; carp will often show themselves in around feeding time and first light is the most prolific of these times. As the carp drift toward the end of their nighttime feed up, they will show in order to clean their gills. These signs are vital and nearly always indicate actively feeding carp. There are plenty of shows that are worth moving onto, but the ones around first light will take some beating and I have caught so many carp of the back of them.

Carp will also show themselves during the day, in fact they will show themselves at any time of the day, and all shows are worth taking note of, just some more than others. Shows that you see during the middle of the afternoon could be for any reason, including feeding. The thing to remember is that a showing carp will always represent one thing, it may not be feeding carp but it means they’re definitely in the area. This is can be vital info at times and whether the carp is showing because it has been feeding or not, at least you know that you are setting up near a fish. This is a great starting point but don’t stop there, even once you are in position, always look for more signs. You never know, the bulk of the fish could be somewhere else. All signs are relevant you just have to use all of them to build a bigger picture.

Unfortunately, you’re not always going to see carp show, sometimes you can spend hours, even days, looking for carp but you don’t see any. When this is the case you need to try and anticipate their movements. The first thing to do is look at the conditions and then try to look back at how the carp have reacted in the past, which areas they where in for example. You might notice that every time the wind blows a strong southerly, they follow it. If this is the case, on a day that it’s blowing a southerly and you haven’t seen any carp show, you can set up in the teeth of it, confident that they will be there. Of course, you will need to keep looking for signs, in case they aren’t there. The idea is to make the most of what information you have available at the time.

If you don’t see any fish during a walk around the lake, you don’t get to spend much time at your venue, and your knowledge of the carp and their habits isn’t great, then you will need to make more rational decisions. I would advise targeting the lakes main features, which will most probably be used and visited by the carp quite frequently. Things such as islands, snags, reed beds or gravel bars are all very popular areas for the carp to visit.

Any of the larger features, such as gravel bars or islands, almost have to be used by the carp. An island is a large piece of the lakes structure and will be something that they are swimming past or around all the time, either because they want to, or they have to in order to reach other parts of the lake. Fishing near this island will ensure that at some point a fish is likely to pass you. You can use the island as an interception point, with the aim of intercepting the fish as they travel.

The smaller, more avoidable features such as reed beds or snags are areas that I will always look in, but won’t always be used by the carp. It is these types of areas that a decent pair of Polaroid glasses and a safe vantage point from a tree will benefit you in. Any area of margin that I am able to look in, I will look in, when I’m hunting for carp; leave no stone unturned. Some of the places you will find carp during different times of the year can be quite incredible. I have learned to expect anything but never to assume too much.

Once you have either seen a carp show, or used other information in order to anticipate where they will be, it’s time to think about fishing for them. This is where the right rig will come in handy, but which rig do you choose? The amount of different rigs in circulation these days is crazy. There’s nothing wrong with this but the most common fault I come across is that people are overcomplicating things for themselves. Some anglers will spend more time tying a rig than they will looking for fish, yet when asked why they are using the rig, they don’t know, nor have they seen any carp – not an ideal starting point to any session. I have said it so many times in the past but a simple rig is all that’s needed, there is absolutely no need to go mad, especially when you don’t have a technical understanding of how rigs actually work.

When looking at rigs I have always paid attention to ensuring a few things; the hook is sharp, the bait is visible, and the rig isn’t going to tangle. One rig that I have become increasingly fond of over the last few years, and one that is also very versatile and easy to tie, is the one featured in this article. This rig is similar to the hinged stiff-link in the way that it works, yet it’s much easier to tie. I have become a big pop-up fan since playing around with this presentation and these days it is often my go-to rig. The great thing about this setup is that I am able to use it in any situation, no matter what bait I am introducing, or what type of lakebed I am fishing over. The only things that I need to play about with are certain aspects of the rigs length.

As a general rule I will fish with the rig at a length of about eight inches, but this will change dependant on where it’s being cast. If the bottom is nice and clean then I might shorten the rig by an inch or so, and vice versa should the ground be littered with debris. The pop-up section is something else that I play around with. If I am baiting tightly over the rig then I will use a pop-up section of around an inch, but when I am spreading my bait more widely then I might lengthen it slightly. The idea is not to have the bait sat off of the bottom too obviously, and the more confined the area that the carp are feeding in, the more likely they are to notice.

This rig is one that I have the utmost faith in and once that hook goes in, it rarely comes out. If you can combine this rig with some decent watercraft then I am sure that you too will enjoy success, just like I have when pairing these two very different but effective carp-catching methods.

Darrell Peck”