Every time I go fishing and place my baits on the desired spot I think will deliver, there will always be the hope that it will bring me the fish of my dreams that will come past and pick up my offerings. Of course in reality this is not always the case, in actual fact there is a fair chance that it won’t even be a carp that takes advantage to get to my offerings first.
For every carp that picks up our bait, there is a very good chance that there have been many more little hungry creatures doing their best to grab as much from our baits as possible. In actual fact I find it truly amazing that carp baits have gone through so much enhancement and still there are a whole lot of other species, like birds, other fish, crabs and so on that appear to be more willing and interested to eat these baits than the specific quarry they were designed for.
There are quite a few problems we will come across but this will all vary and change from venue to venue – some venues will be trouble free while others could turn out a total nightmare just trying to keep a bait in the water long enough for it to be found and picked up by carp. Either way if one doesn’t know how to deal with problems like these, they could push a person to the point where the session could be spoiled or even making anglers pack up and head home earlier than expected. So to start off with we’ll be looking at the most common problems anglers find on the bank.
First on the list will definitely have to be crabs, which are well spread across the world in all sorts of waters large or small, still and moving. These are the first problems anglers face, and personally after fishing all over I was certainly not ready for the damage these animals could do to my normal baits; also I didn’t expect them to be found in such large numbers which they usually are! However it was also very evident that crabs often form a major part of the carp’s diet, so they are without a doubt a very important factor in getting carp to grow to the sort of sizes which will encourage us anglers to go out and fish for this specie in the first place. In a way they are beneficial to us, but we still need to avoid them from eating our baits or perhaps breaking a hooklink or a lead core off completely, if we are going to catch any fish. Attracting these creatures to your baited area could work and benefit us sometimes, as you will in effect be forming a concentrated area of natural food for the carp to come in and feed on. Although I suppose there will always be a chance that carp could become preoccupied on natural food, but I can’t really remember a case were this happened. Besides the evidence would be in my carp sack after sacking a fish for an hour or two, as this normally reveals the combination of bait the fish has been feeding on. I should think we’ve all suffered at some point with other species of fish picking up our baits while it was intended for carp. Nowadays it is very rare and difficult to find a water which strictly holds only carp, although I know a handful of venues that have tried managing their waters just to keep their angling members happy.
Any other species however could also make things really difficult: bass, kurper and any others could become a nuisance at any time. The smaller species can usually be overcome by just using larger hookbaits – I’ve tried this and have also picked up the bigger fish now and again compared with smaller offerings. Of course not all the fish we want to avoid are small; I’m talking about catfish here. My main reason here would be that this fish has tremendous power on take-off and usually picks up other lines which could work out very expensive in this game when using braid specifically, although not everyone would mind catching these fish. From personal experience I’ve found that catfish much more prefer the deeper waters, so this species could be avoided for much of the time by fishing shallower waters. If the carp seem to be hanging around in the deeper water it’s not likely to target one without climbing into one of the others. There is nothing more frustrating than having everything in position at bite time, only for the screamer to produce a hard fighting, yet disappointing catfish.
There are even some other carp species that are classified as pests at times; maybe we are just too fussy at times? One of my first ambitions when I started fishing a new lake close to home, was to go out and get my first grass carp, as I had never caught one before. After the first session I realised that grass carp were best avoided at all costs. They do absolutely nothing until it’s time to be netted, and then they want to go out of control and pull your shoulders off! I have had one good rod snapped during a vicious fight when I encountered a big grass carp. These beasts also smell horrible at times, and they also show no resemblance in comparison with commons and mirror carp what so ever. A lot of anglers firmly believe that subtle fruity flavours are the key to catching grass carp, so to resolve this problem one could switch to strong fishy baits or savoury flavours.
A few answers for some of the mentioned problems that occur…
For every problem there is a solution, and after fishing waters with all the above mentioned problems for many years now, carp anglers have come up with many ways of either avoiding these trouble makers, or at least dealing with them. However it can be very annoying sometimes, as I have come to accept that if I want to fish certain waters and catch some serious fish, I have to prepare my gear properly and rethink my approach in advance very carefully.
Air drying has virtually become the standard method for anglers who travel great distances and time. One of the main reasons for air drying is that it helps to preserve baits over a longer period of time, but this is not what it’s about – air drying has a bonus feature that is making our baits go much harder, as most of the moisture is removed. When air drying baits just remember that they will shrink a little, so if you aiming for a certain size, I suggest that you make the boilies a little bigger, although you should also keep in mind when these baits will settle in the water they will start to expand again. Certainly having them rock hard makes them slightly more difficult to break down by crabs. While normal softish baits could be gone in a mere couple of hours rock hard baits can last up to 24 hours. One of the signs of crabs in the area will be that your boilie would have several scratches on it; mostly you will find these on the side of your bait where tiny pieces would also be nibbled away, but usually there will be enough left for a carp to come by and find and pick up your bait.
When making or fishing with homemade boilies, I would advise you to air dry your baits for a minimum of 1 week in a dry hot room, or when at a venue hang them in an air drying bag in the sun. Of course not all your baits have to be rock hard, as the main focus here would be the hookbaits. Freebies can be rock hard but it doesn’t matter so much if they are getting eaten as long as your hookbait is still intact.
Ever heard of meshing your hookbaits?
This is a popular and very effective method which I don’t really use a lot myself. This method simply involves using mesh to wrap around the boilie to stop it from being eaten away. The mesh can be tied off with dental floss, or even some superglue, however I don’t really like the superglue method as I believe the smell will interfere with the fish (some would say otherwise but that’s a personal opinion I have). The importance here is that this method does work, although I am dubious about this method for the simple reason that it is very time consuming to mesh baits properly.
Mass baiting situations?
One thing I’ve found out through fishing is that crabs won’t always eat bait on the spot. Because they would be in danger when doing so out in the open, one of their ways is to be picking up the bait and dragging it to a safe zone or under the closest rock. When baiting up, larger baits in smaller quantities would be your best bet. Anglers tend to think that bigger baits in smaller quantities get removed quicker by pests, which I don’t agree with – because the hookbait gets nibbled on the spot it doesn’t mean that the same happens with freebies. Of course the hook-bait is in a certain place cause of the lead keeping it settled which makes it harder to shift. The only way around this would be using much larger amounts of smaller freebies. If the crabs can only carry away one bait at a time, it is quite clear that it’s going to take them longer to clean out your swim with hundreds of smaller baits. This I actually figured out on my second trip where I was having trouble with the crabs. I wasted no time with taking out my 10mm boilies as I had decided to put those out all day. I had 24 hours left and managed the most carp with this, and absolutely no crab problems at all.
Looking at particles…
I have only spoken about boilies so far as most anglers use them, and the most problems occur when using them. However particles do come in very handy from time to time – in particular tiger nuts! A lot of bait companies have made tigers which can be used at any time, so there’s no need to stress or worry about preparing them if a difficult situation comes along. I have to admit tiger nuts are an awesome bait when the catfish are out in force. During summer I love to fish these in 6 to 9 feet water as my hookbaits. Not that I won’t be using boilies but they’ll rather be the bed I’m feeding up fished with a tiger on the hair. Many people will fish a boilie on the hair over a bed of particles but why not the other way around? It makes sense to be sure my hookbait sits back and relaxes a little until my dream carp comes along to find it. Crabs could cause serious havoc although they show no interest in tiger nuts.
I suppose that we can come up with a bait that would be exclusively for carp, but the closest we have got to this must be tiger nuts, but with so many anglers figuring this out they have become a little less effective on many waters. So maybe the bait companies could come up with something that can attract carp but repel any other species, this would be great, but I usually find myself day dreaming like this next to the water, so until someone does make a “carp only” bait, anglers will have to find ways to deal and avoid all the other species that like our baits so much.