In part 1 of this series we took a look at pre-baiting for river carp, baiting methods and location. But once you have been baiting a spot for a few weeks or even longer, what happens when you come to want to fish the spot? What happens to the baiting technique, what gear do you need on the bank and what rigs should you be using to catch after all your hard work in baiting? In the second article in the series we will look at answering all of these questions.
Tackle requirements for powerful river carp
Rods, reels and mainline:
When it comes to choosing your rod and reel setup, as well as the breaking strain of the mainline and end tackle it’s worth being aware of how much harder a river carp can pull compared to many of those found in stillwaters. As the carp have had to survive floods and fight against the current on a daily basis and may never have seen a hook before, if they do get hooked the chances are they will bolt a lot harder than stillwater fish that may be more used to being hooked.
This means you may need to step up your setup strength and at least the line strength when targetting the larger river carp. It is important to match your mainline strength to the conditions as with any form of fishing. If you need to cast a heavier 5 oz or 6 oz lead to hold bottom in flooded conditions then always use a shockleader and a minimum of 15 lb – 20 lb mainline.
River carp will also often be caught from around features such as moored boats, bridge supports and sunken trees so 20 lb is the minimum I will use for most river carp fishing. My personal setup is the same as I use on most large pits and commercial waters, with the Shimano 10000 reels and Fox Aquos line in 20 lb breaking strain.
Rods and reels should be the same as if you were targetting larger carp in stillwaters, with a 2.5 lb to 3 lb test curve being strong enough to keep fish away from snags without putting too much pressure on the hook hold during the fight. The extra strength in the rod isn’t so much for casting a rig long distances, as you will rarely have to cast more than a few rod lengths for most river carp fishing.
Try to use a rod with a through action to give a bit more power when stopping that initial run, such as the Fox Euro Warrior, Sonik SK4XTR or even Nash Scope if you are looking for a powerful rod shorter than the usual 12ft rods to get into smaller swims.
It can often be best when choosing a landing net for river carp sessions if you choose a large rounded design, rather than a draw string if you are fishing in a swim with lots of lily pads, weed or snags as this will give you more control in moving the debris out of the way of getting the net under the fish.
There should still be a soft mesh to the net and the wider netting should also help to move the net through faster flowing water quicker than a regular specimen net used on stillwaters.
Preparing the swim
So you have chosen your swim, prebaited, chosen your tackle and are now on the bank ready to get the rigs in the water. Before you do, if you have prebaited it’s often worth introducing some of the same prebait mix the morning of your session.
This is down to personal preference and if you can’t present a bait in an area where the fish are then it may be worth clearing a small area nearby. The alternative is if you have been prebaiting a large area or are fishing a longer session with a lot of bait then it can be worth having a feel around the river bed with a lead and marker rod before you start baiting, and then again the day of your session. This will give you an idea of where any weed has been cleared or any fresh gravel areas that the carp are happy to feed over naturally.
Baiting around your rigs
If you have used large amounts of particles or smaller pellets when baiting the swim, it’s worth holding back on these particularly during the night to avoid any bream picking up your hookbait or hoovering up all your free offerings.
How strong the flow of the river is and how deep the section is will both have an effect on how far upstream you need to fire out baits. This can vary from session to session so try to adjust your baiting pattern until you are confident the baits are landing near your hookbait which can take a bit of trial and error, particularly when fishing an area for the first time.
Line positioning and backleads
As with the majority of my lake fishing where I like to position baits very close in to the margins, where possible and if not fishing too far out it is best to use lines with a little slack in them. This helps sink the line closer to the rig and reduce the likelihood of a carp touching the mainline and spooking when feeding.
Rigs for river carp
When it comes to rig design, although the rig itself can be less complicated than those used on stillwaters due to less angling pressure on many stretches, it’s still important to think about how the carp approaches your bait. Whereas in stillwaters the hookbait will remain still along with the free offerings, on rivers the free offerings will move around a lot more while the hookbait sits stationary due to being attached to the lead.
Often in stillwater situations the fish will approach the bait from a variety of angles and make it more likely to pick it up without feeling the lead attached due to a little slack in the hooklink. But with river carp naturally facing upstream, they will often approach the bait from a position where the hooklink is already fully stretched out with much less slack, making it appear less natural and more likely the carp will feel the weight of the lead when it picks up the hookbait.
This is why longer, supple hooklinks have done very well on some faster flowing rivers where the bait can move around more naturally in the flow. In slower flowing rivers this should be less of an issue and a simple blowback carp rig should be effective with a shorter length hooklink of around 7 inches.
A semi fixed flat pear or gripper lead will help to hold bottom in the flow, a length of leadcore leader to prevent abrasion on mussel beds and underwater snags and hooks with a slight turn in the point will complete my river fishing rigs for most situations. It is important to make the rig as abrasion resistant and safe as possible, as there can be a lot more underwater snags washed down in floods compared to those found in lakes.
Whichever rig you choose, make sure the hookbait is large enough to resist the attentions of smaller fish such as bream, chub and even barbel. If you are specifically targetting a river carp and have put a lot of time into baiting a spot and positioning the rigs then most times you will only want the bait to be picked up by a carp.
As well as the larger double hookbait, you can also use a slightly longer hair than you normally would so that these fish can pick up the bait without actually being hooked.
Catch more river carp part 3
In next week’s part 3, we will take a look at some of the most prolific areas for river carp fishing in the country, as well as some notable captures and watercraft.
Each week we will be taking some time to look at carp angling, whether it be the future of the sport, ways of improving fish safety after capture, enhancing your baits and many other topics for discussion. Every Friday a new article will be made available and we are always happy to take suggestions on our social media pages.