In the first two installments of this series I talked about my approach in winter and also bait application. In this final part I want to highlight some simple rig choices and also how being adaptable and ringing the changes can turn a bleak session into a ‘Red Letter Day’.

If you have read any of my previous articles you will know that I base 90% of my fishing success on location. I would rather spend more time looking for fish than fishing blindly. Once you have found some feeding carp the rest is fairly easy. The only exception I make to this rule is if I am pre-baiting an area, but again I will more than likely not fish the spot unless I see signs that the bait is being eaten. There is no doubt that at times you will ‘Blank’ but I am absolutely positive that you will reduce these blank sessions if you spend more time looking for signs of active and even better ‘feeding’ carp.

Torpedo common - stalked to save a blank!

Torpedo common – stalked to save a blank!

Another point to mention is that I tend to pick my times to fish, based on a number of factors. These include weather patterns, winds, air pressure, moon phases, tides etc. In essence I try to maximize my time on the bank by having a number of factors in my favor that I believe affect the carp’s behavior. Most of my decisions are based on trial and error and from having fished in all types of extreme conditions and while I may not have caught fish in many of these conditions I learnt from them. As an example, in winter I am not concerned about the air temperature. The water temperature is much more important and so I will be looking for a number of days where the weather is stable. I avoid periods when cold water is going into the lakes (if not iced out) or rivers, such as an ice or snow melt. Air pressure is also another major factor I look at, but I will cover this in other articles. The more positive elements you can put in your favor the better the chance of success.

There is no doubt that you can catch carp in any conditions and I certainly would not discourage anyone from venturing out no matter what nature has to throw at them. In fact to prove this point my first fish of 2013 was caught in arctic conditions with most of the available water already frozen.

Just enough water to get my rods in!

Just enough water to get my rods in!

On arrival the spot I wanted to fish was completely frozen but after testing the ice to make sure it was thick enough to support my weight I decided to fish for a few hours as I was sure I might still get a chance or two. Usually, I would free line bread in this swim as it is a nice piece of slack water and being relatively shallow (4-5 feet) the carp do not tolerate leads being cast on top of them! However, the 100 or so ducks in the area would not allow this approach so I decided to set up very light leads (1/2 oz) and make as few casts as possible. After an hour or so I had two nice doubles in quick succession and made a hasty retreat as another snow storm was approaching!

A proper 'snow' carp

A proper ‘snow’ carp


There are many trains of thought on rigs and thousands of articles have been written so I won’t bore anyone with the technicalities as you can find step by step guides on how to tie various rigs, just by searching the internet. Over the years I have used many, many rigs; some successful, some utter garbage. I would stress that while magazine articles, companies and well known anglers highlight certain ‘in vogue’ rigs, I would take what you read and see with a pinch of salt. Some of the rigs are very, very specific to the fishing situations and are just not applicable to the common carp angler! Rig selection is a very personal choice and in an ideal world I would tie my mainline directly to the hook and free line! However, this is usually not possible due to the nature of the areas I fish, so with this in mind I try to eliminate complications and you will find most of my rigs are fairly simple.

KD Rig - Sounds complicated but in reality a simple rig

KD Rig – Sounds complicated but in reality a simple rig

The first factor I take into account is the area I am fishing. Is it weedy? Snaggy? Silt, clay, sand or gravel? Are the fish big or small? Are the fish ‘riggy’? Flowing water or still water?………These are all elements I look at and based on these factors I will then decide on a rig or rig(s) for the situation. With that said I usually settle on a couple of presentations and instead of changing the rig, I will change the length of the hook link, the material, the hook size, length of hair, bait size, bait buoyancy…..not the actual rig.

My winter rigs tend to be shorter hook links, as the fish do not generally feed as hard and I want them to be hooked as soon as they take the bait into their mouths. To aid this I also fish with smaller hooks (size 8’s) and smaller hook baits (10mm being my favorites). One very important ‘edge’ that I think I lot of anglers overlook is hook sharpness. I make sure I check my hooks before every cast and if they are not sticky sharp my diamond file hook sharpener goes to work. This also helps with reducing hook pulls as the hook goes in much easier when honed to a point and in my opinion, most hook pulls result in the hook never going into the mouth properly to begin with. Another thing you may want to take into account is water clarity. Generally, the water will be much clearer in the winter and this is where I favor fluorocarbon as opposed to braid or stripable materials. My current winter rig consists of 4 to 6 inches of 15lb fluoro carbon tied to a 1 inch section of braid (using an Albright knot). This is knotless knotted to a size 8 Ashima Longshank hook (C900). The only complicated part is that instead of the usual hair I tie it to a small 5mm Ashima rig ring to create what is generally referred to as a ‘blow back’ rig. To this arrangement I will either add a pop-up or a snowman hook bait.

Fluero carbon and braid combi link

Fluorocarbon and braid combi link


The same rig with a pop-up

The same rig with a pop-up

All of the rigs I use are tried and tested as I think confidence is a massive factor in my carp fishing. Once I have found the fish I need to be 100% confident that firstly the bait I am using will be accepted and that my rigs and bait presentation will not let me down. In the winter, I tend to fish more sessions for smaller fish (under 20lb’s) as I like to keep warm by being active and catching fish! This is the ideal time to hone my rigs and make adjustments so that when I am fishing for large carp (30lb+) I know that the rigs work. In regards to the lead system, again this will be determined in relation to the water I am fishing. I tend to favor inline leads when fishing lakes at close to medium ranges, helicopter set-ups for longer distance work and also when using heavier leads and lead clips when I am fishing weedy or snaggy waters or if I want the option of changing lead sizes during the session.

Simple lead clip system

Simple lead clip system

The final subject I would like to touch on is adapting and changing tactics as a session develops. There is no replacement for experience and the longer you fish the more you will identify patterns and understand what the fish are doing and how to stay one step ahead of them. Recognizing these patterns will greatly improve your success as long as you alter your approach in response. How many times have you had a missed take and you put it down to bad luck? The fact is that carp pick-up our hook baits far more often than we are aware. Just watch a couple of under water videos or better still observe feeding carp yourself. I have spent many an hour perched in a tree or out of sight watching carp feed and it is eye opening to say the least! Sometimes carp pick-up and eject your hook bait in their natural feeding  patterns and on other occasions they get rid of the rig when they realize something is wrong. On one stalking session I observed carp clear an area of all food apart from the hook bait and it was obvious they could either see the hook or braided hook link. In this case a change to a fluorocarbon hook link resulted in several fish.

Stalked after changing tactics

Stalked after changing tactics

When fishing a session I will be constantly evaluating my results. For instance, I always check where the hook is when unhooking a fish. Is it in the scissors, top lip, bottom lip, an inch or so inside the mouth, on the edges of the mouth? If I notice a pattern I can then change my approach. On one session this winter I noticed that a couple of the fish I landed were hooked on the edges of the mouth. As I was using large boilies  spread around the area, my impression was that the fish were picking up a boilie and then moving off to pick up another bait. My hook link of 7 inches was a little short in this case and once I lengthened it to 9 inches or so the rest of the fish I landed were hooked well inside the mouth.

A small change can make all the difference

A small change can make all the difference

As a general rule I will vary my approach on each rod in the winter. I may use a pop-up on one rod and a bottom bait on another. Once I find a presentation that is working I will then change all rods to this approach. On some days you may need to vary the color of your baits and I can think of several occasions when on the same water the fish were nailing yellow baits only and then on the next session they would only get pick up white baits. This may be down to light values, but just may be their preference on the day. Another thing I vary is the baits buoyancy. On my most recent session I had a couple of violent aborted takes on a 1 inch pop-up. I made a slight adjustment by placing the shot on the hair so that the pop-up was in essence a bottom bait and the resulting takes all resulted in fish in the net.

Hectic ten minutes of winter action

Hectic ten minutes of winter action

There are many facets to successful carp fishing and the more you can simplify your approach, baiting choices, tactics and rigs the better your chances of excelling. In winter it is easy to second guess yourself as the fishing is usually slower and so the last thing you want is to start questioning yourself. Number one, identify a water where there is a good head of carp. Next comes the hardest part, locate the area(s) they prefer in the winter. Thirdly, pick a bait or baiting approach you have utmost confidence in. In the same vein, use a rig and set-up you know works. Finally, look at the weather and try and pick conditions that give you the best chance for success. Most importantly, get out on the banks and experience the wonders that the winter has to offer. You may not want to fish for long periods but to me there is nothing better than fishing for a few hours when the world around you is frozen and covered in snow and everyone else is indoors.

Size isn't everything in the winter!

Size isn’t everything in the winter!

Lastly, don’t forget to enter any carp you catch this winter into the BC News ‘Carp of the Month’ contest, which is free to enter and has some excellent prizes on offer for the winner(s).

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