Oli explains his thoughts on preparing for the spring.

Catching carp isn’t always about how your session unfolds when you’re out on the bank- sometimes, the thinking and planning that occurs before the session is equally important.

Oli Bowles places great emphasis on preparation at this time of year, something he feels puts him in the best possible position when the first chances of the spring appear!
We asked Oli exactly how he goes about his spring overhaul and his thoughts on spring fishing.

“This time of year is all about looking to the season ahead, tickets should be secured and plans should be in place. I want to stress the importance of being prepped and ready to rock at this time of year, and also how I go about achieving this. Spring will soon be upon us and before it arrives you need to make sure you have your set up and approach as sharp as the hooks you have been honing over the cold months.

One of the first thing I focus on during my spring prep rituals is getting my Hook-baits sorted.
Grabbing a pot off the shelf a few days before you go and giving them a quick glug is fine, and will catch carp, but for me, a bait that has been cultivated and boosted over a few months by regularly applying a small amount of a liquid, like the Goo, is far superior.
I am usually happy to have just two different types of hook baits with me, a highly-attractive, white or pink, fruity pop-up and a fishmeal-based cork-ball pop-up. I have huge amounts of confidence in the hook-baits I use and I know that by adding liquid, little and often, I am getting the maximum amount of attraction, for a longer period of time than if I were using a pop-up straight from the pot. I will have one of these two baits on for 90 % of my spring fishing, such is my confidence in them.

The next thing I do is check my kit over from top to toe. Check every eye on your rods for damage, apply a dab of oil here and there to your reels, change the batteries in all of your alarms, and make sure you have fresh line on your spools. Rods and reels usually need sending off for repairs or servicing, and you’ll be kicking yourself if you’re missing kit when the carp begin to appear! It’s worth checking your tackle box to make sure you have everything you need for your rigs too, nothing worse than getting to the first session of spring and realising you have no swivels.

I always empty my rucksack and start from fresh and I’m often amazed at what I collect throughout the course of a year- once I’ve refilled the bag it’s always noticeably lighter. I ensure that I only take as many leads as I need, and any extra clothing or winter comforts can come out too. I then apply this to my rod bag as well, extra bank sticks, storm poles, pegs and buzz bars always seem to find their way in there and again stripping these items down to a minimum saves an eye-opening amount of weight. All this weight-saving encourages a much more mobile approach and state of mind and this is something that compliments my spring approach.

When the spring properly kicks in, be sure to have decided on a solid plan to fall back on. The fish will be active and showing a lot, so opportunities to get on them will be plentiful, but there will still be times when you either can’t find them or some other keen spring angler has beaten you to them. This is where you must have a back-up plan, be it zigs along a patrol route or a few pre-baited areas to fall back on for the night. Do your homework and think why you want to apply bait to that spot and then if you can’t get on them you won’t waste a night at such a prolific time of year. Get up early and start again, there will be new chances every day!

It’s great to pre-bait a few areas in spring as a backup but when actually fishing, I will be using very small traps for the most part, as I will be trying to make the most of the opportunities presented to me - The fish will be active, moving around and showing a lot. I’m not saying a big bed of bait won’t work, I just feel the best way to fish once I have found them is to get rods out with minimal disturbance. They will be seeking out food, so if I give them a highly-attractive hook-bait and hardly anything else in the way of free food, in my mind, they will pick the rig up much faster than if it was being fished over a bed of bait.

Hopefully these tips help you to put your time to good use at this slow time of year, and help put a few extra fish on the bank for you this spring. Spring is my favourite time of year to be on the bank and with a little extra time and thought spent getting yourself prepped will put you in great stead for clubbing season”