Small Baits For BIG Carp

At this time of the year carp fishing can become difficult due to many factors. The lakes are full of naturals – water shrimp, baby snails, caddis larvae, bloodworm, you name it, they form a larder of food which the carp can feast on. Naturally this makes them less interested in our baits (no pun intended).

Many of the carp in our lakes have been caught more than once and often decide to give big baits a swerve, particularly when they have all those small natural baits to gorge on.

If you can imagine how many boilies are introduced into a lake over a weekend, particularly on a busy day-ticket water where it’s one in, one out of the swims, and generally each angler will introduce more bait even though there will often still be lots of it in the same area they will be fishing. It gives you an idea of how often the carp see these large round baits.

Yes, they will eat some of them, usually when the lake is less busy, along with the bream and other fish that eat them over a period of time. This can make it harder to catch on big baits, especially at weekends.

A day, an overnighter, 24 hours or 48 hours are the most likely scenarios we are faced with when we plan our session. Carp can become tuned in to when not to feed on our baits; weekends are usually the busiest times and angling pressure is at its greatest and it can be difficult to catch, especially when some anglers insist on Spombing large amounts of boilies out into the lake.

They also become rig shy and get used to seeing the same type of rigs fished on the same spots – how many times have you turned up at a lake and been told how many wraps you need to be fishing in a certain swim? Day-ticket venues are famous for it.

Don’t get me wrong, carp will get caught on these spots, but more often than not it’s during the quieter periods, such as in mid-week.

Let me explain how I counteract all these negative situations that we face. There are a few ways to nick a bite when the odds are stacked against us.

Scaling down on the bait sizes has been mega successful for me in the situations I have mentioned. If you think about it, it does makes sense; if a carp is feeding on naturals it’s less likely to pick up large baits such as boilies, but more likely to feed on small items such as crumbed-up boilies, particles and small pellets. The leakage and scents that these small baits release is usually greater than an inert boilie that lies on the bottom with its hardened outer skin.

I was tasked to prove this theory on a very recent session, and as I was working in the south I headed to a day-ticket venue called Ashlyns Fishing Lake in Epping, Essex.

The lake is a typical day-ticket carp venue with fish running to 30lb, and a number of mid-doubles and twenties. Like most day-ticket venues, they have seen it all. The carp anglers tend to pile in the boilies and sit behind the rods, waiting for carp to move in and clear the lot up, often with a well-presented hook bait and every confidence they will get a take.

My approach was going to be different; I used a couple of rods, and to prove my theory I set up one with a standard 18mm Triple-N boilie and the other with a Method feeder with a tiny 8mm The Juice Pellet Dumbell Wafter hook bait… yes, that’s right, an 8mm bait.

Feed bait was going to be small pellets, with a Camo Bucket full of mixed small and micro sized Super Attract Carp Pellets, which contain fishmeal, krill and Fatal Attract pellets in various sizes, so you get different breakdown times and they give off a massive amount of attraction and contain lots of nutrients.

I cover them in lake water for just a few minutes, then drain this off so that they soften slightly and hold on the Method feeder. I also add some Stick Mix Liquid to held bind them further and add even more attraction. The feeder I was using was a 36g model with a strong elastic running through it; I like these as they help cushion any sudden lunges of large carp and reduce hook-pulls, and the hook I was using was a size 12 barbless. Yes, small and barbless and I can see you cringing, but don’t worry if you’re fishing in open water, these will hold no problem. Trust me on this, I’ve used them hundreds of times.

The small hook matches a small bait and in this situation I was matching them up with The Juice Pellet Dumbell Wafters, I like these because you get two shades of pellet colour in the same pot. They are available in a 10mm size too, if you want to step up!

After a quick lap of the lake I noticed a few carp coming into the shallow end; it was very hot and with the bright sunshine it wasn’t going to be easy trying to catch on the deck, and surface fishing is banned on the lake due to the number of water fowl.

I kicked off by introducing the small Method feeder filled with my pellet mix a couple of times with no hook bait, to get some scent trails in the water, and then buried the small 8mm hook bait into the feeder mould and introduced some pellets. The small feeder makes very little disturbance and can be recast every 20 minutes or so to keep a little bit of bait trickling in.

I crept along the bank and swung the rig over a slight drop-off into deeper water, where I envisaged the carp would patrol this margin ledge before coming right into the margins. I felt they would be more likely to feed in this slightly deeper water – it was around four feet deep with a firm bottom. I slackened off the line and by placing a few pieces of tungsten putty above the feeder this helped pinned the line down in the zone. I also fed a handful of 15 and 18mm boilies on the other side on the swim, again just over the margin drop-off into the same depth of water. The larger boilie hook bait was fished on a fluorocarbon combi rig and was placed on a firm spot among the freebies.

I sat well back, put the kettle on and tidied my gear. A screaming run on the 8mm hook bait soon had me dashing to the rod as the carp ripped line off the reel at a fair rate of knots, as they usually do when hooked at such close quarters. A dogged battle ensued before a lovely looking common rolled over the net cord – result.

It was a lovely looking common that lit up in the sunshine, showing off its golden flanks. It gave me even more confidence that the small baits would yet again prove to be a successful tactic.

As the session wore on I could see them clouding up the bottom searching for every morsel on the pellet-feeder line. The method was working a treat as a few more carp tripped up to this little-used tactic. A very short 3in supple fluorocarbon hook link didn’t give them a chance to eject the tiny hook bait and they were nailed against the feeder before they knew what was going on.

The session was very productive and I managed to nick a couple more commons of varying sizes before a lovely mirror also fell for the small-bait tactics, and all the while the larger hook bait on the other rod lay motionless.

Don’t neglect the use of such small baits and tactics, they can often be the difference between a great session and a blank.