Theorise to Optimise – Lee Wagner

After enjoying a bit of success on the bank over the last few years I’m often asked, be it on the lakeside or through social media, “what rig did you have it on” or “what bait was it on”?

I’ve considered the motives of that question numerous times, but one thing I’m very rarely asked is the real key information. Why?

For me bait isn’t a huge worry as I have so much confidence in the bait I use due to the years I’ve used it and the continued consistent success. The question of why I chose that rig in particular however though has many differing connotations. Most people are happy if you simply tell them that it was a pop-up or a bottom bait. I’ve reasoned that they must believe that during any particular session a pop up will outperform a bottom bait, or vice versa and want to get on “what the lakes switched onto”. Truthfully though, I don’t personally believe that it’s that simple and think that the only time that rings true is when they’re up in the layers on hatches, etc. which would make it a day for “zigging” anyway!

In the past I’ve noted that had I revealed that a capture was on a bottom bait then someone with a greater knowledge of rigs may further quiz me as to whether it was critically balanced hookbait and the truth is that if I’m on the bottom it will always be nicely balanced. By that I mean with the bait lifted but the hook still flat on the deck. This is down to my personal opinion on rig mechanics which I’ll go into a bit more detail about later.

So if it’s not ‘what the fish are switched onto’ that determines what rig I present, then what is it?

Simply put it’s the nature of the spot I’m fishing on. The swim choice will firstly and most importantly be based on the location of fish as that beyond doubt the single all-important determining factor. After that prior knowledge of a swim’s topography is extremely helpful because if the fish are showing in an area that I know is firm and relatively weed free I’ll automatically clip on a rig that will present a bait well in that scenario, a presentation called ‘the Horton rig’ that is my own tweaked/bespoke bottom bait presentation. This rig consists of a Gardner Covert Dark Mugga hook and an Ultra Skin hooklink.

If however fish are showing in an area I’ve not fished before, or over an area that I know to be unsuitable for a bottom bait rig then that will be what determines my rig choice and I’ll pop my variation on the Chod rig out there. It’s certainly NOT the fact that I believe that the fish will only pick up a bottom bait or pop up on that day!

The point I’m getting to is this, regardless of whether you’re fishing hard on the bottom or with the hookbait up off the deck, it’s the location of the fish and the mechanics of the rig you put in front of them that that is of paramount importance.

So what are rig mechanics and what does it mean to me?

My understanding of rig mechanics is that there isn’t one definitive answer for everything. It’s a relative thing determined by the style of rig that you’re using and what you’re looking to achieve in that critical moment when a fish picks up your hookbait.

My conclusions related to choosing specific presentations has evolved having witnessed numerous fish (of all types and sizes) feeding over the years with the additional benefit of watching fish feeding during underwater filming. With that knowledge in my head my ultimate (mechanically effective) bottom bait presentation, namely my Horton rig, came about after thinking about getting everything reacting as fast as it possibly can when the hookbait is sucked in.

In terms of the lead arrangement I use; I like an inline drop off system incorporating a Gardner inline lead that’s designed so most of the weight is at the swivel end (the end closest to the fish) and transmits the full weight of the lead the second the hooklink tightens. There’s no wasted movement, unlike a lead clip system where there can be 2-3 inches (half a second) of movement before the full weight of the lead comes into play; that’s plenty enough time for a fish to realise what’s occurring, spit you out and move on! The fact that the lead arrangement is fished drop off style means there is also no way for the fish to use the weight of the lead once the hooks set to throw or shake the hook out.

The next critical detail is the whipping of the D on the “Horton rig”; specifically where this finishes is not by accident, that’s all been carefully tweaked over the years to give me the optimum efficiency so in that the millisecond after the fish sucks at the bait, the hooks already turning over before the baits even entered the fishes mouth. Essentially this means that be it a slow feeding winter fish, a sly rig wise pressured fish or a silt pig willing to hang itself, I’m giving myself the best possible chance of converting pick-ups into takes.

Nothing is superfluous in my set up, right down to the mounting of the bait on a mini rig swivel; as these allow the bait and rig to behave a little more naturally amongst feeding fish, as well as allowing the bait to hover directly over the hook, shielding it from view and settling in the “cocked” position which ensures no wasted movement if a fish does decide it wants to snack on my hookbait.

This level of scrutiny goes into every rig I cast out and I’m always looking to “theorise to optimise” and will discuss my thoughts on optimum hooking efficiency with pop ups sometime soon. For now I’ve ran out of time so be lucky and don’t forget… “consider everything”!

Lee Wagner

Brandon Butler Lands The Long Common

After spending the last couple of weeks flitting around on different venues, it was time to head back to Church Farm at Yateley. I checked the weather for the week ahead and the pressure was expected to drop and a new South Westerly wind was forecast for the next couple of days, so I decided to go out for a two night trip on the venues back lake. I arrived at midday on the Tuesday and the car park was very quiet (which is what I expected being mid-week). I soon had the barrow loaded, headed up to the lake and to my surprise no one else was fishing.

I always find that swim choice is always harder when there are a lack of anglers on. I favoured a swim called The Reeds, as on recent sessions I have done very well from this area. With the bonus of a lovely South Westerly wind pushing into this bay, it seemed the obvious choice.

The right hand rod was placed down the margin to my right, where there was a lovely tree line and an area the fish love to spend time in. The set up I was using was 15lb GT-HD main line being tied to a length of 45lb CamFlex Leadfree and a 2.5oz inline lead. The rig presentation I decided to use was an Ultra D Rig tied with 25lb Ultra Skin and a super sharp size 6 Covert Dark Incizor presented around a tight batch of 12mm and 15mm Custom Bait from Active Bait Solutions.

On the right hand rod I decided on a helicopter lead arrangement with a hinged stiff rig, as the bottom was quite soft on this spot. The rig was tied using a 25lb Ultra Skin boom section and a super sharp size 6 Covert Dark Incizor. I spread around 100 free baits over the spot and got everything set up and sat back to watch the water.

Every so often a fish would drift into the bay and then drift back out. It got to about half 8 that evening and I saw activity over the right hand rod as a fish showed just off the tree line and I was feeling really confident of a bite. Everything was right, the fish were visiting this area of the lake regularly and the conditions were spot on. As night drew in the fish were becoming a lot more active and I could hear fish lumping out all over the lake. I checked everything was set and got some sleep.

During the early hours of the morning the right alarm screamed off and I was into my first fish of the session. It didn’t take long until the fish was under my feet and I soon realised that I was attached to one of the most sought after commons in the lake, that’s when the adrenalin began to pump through my body. The Long Common was soon in the net and as nobody else was on the lake, and the sacking of fish is against fishery rules, I rang my dad at 3am when he had work that morning! I put the kettle on and made a strong coffee for his arrival.

As I hoisted the fish out of the water and put it on the mat I couldn’t believe that this beautiful fish was finally mine. Up on the scales the needle was bouncing around and ended up settling on 31lb 12oz, a new PB and another target fish off the list. My dad took some awesome photos and I carefully slipped the beast back.

I was understandably buzzing and the campaign was accomplished! I had planned to do two nights but after landing the Long Common I decided to pull off that afternoon. My Church Farm campaign has nearly come to an end and a little earlier than I thought it would. I’ve had an awesome time at Church Farm; I really enjoyed my stay at the venue and met some lovely people. I’m looking forward to a new mission and hopefully catching some more lovely carp.

Tight Lines, Brand Butler

Bobbling Around Down the Pit – T.J. Elliot

Over the past month I had lost the buzz for my fishing. No matter how hard I tried to get it back I just couldn’t quite do it. Even popping to one of my local waters for a quick overnight trip and landing 2 fish to 26lb still didn’t seem help.

All of my spare time is spent at the lake; whether it be walking, seeing friends or having a pint at the world’s most expensive pub that happens to overlook the lake. For some reason, I suddenly felt like the amount of time spent at or around the lake was just pointless. Like there was no purpose to it! At least that is how I felt right up until last Tuesday morning anyway.

After work on the Monday evening, I decided to go for a walk down the lake, as I was planning on fishing once I’d finished work on the Tuesday. The weather was lovely, the sun was shining and a steady, warm westerly was blowing right down into the bay.

It didn’t take me long to find the fish. In actual fact it took the best part of about 30 seconds. First of all I spotted one, then two, then three and so on… It was obvious the fish were down here, and there were lots of them.

I had to make a decision and without too much thinking I was off back home to get my rods and some supplies for the night. The next half an hour was a bit of a rush. You know how it is. You find fish, you get excited, and you rush to get some traps set.

I arrived back at the lake, and sure enough, there were still numerous carp cruising about from around 20 yards to roughly 40 yards out. At this point my confidence was sky high, and I couldn’t wait to get the rods out.

As I had work the next morning, I thought that my best bet would be to fish bags to where I had been seeing the fish lurking in this shallow weedy bay. The reason behind this is that I didn’t want to start casting around, potentially spooking the fish out of the swim.

Three solid bags were tied, containing nothing but crushed boilies and some 3mm pellets. Each rig was baited with a 15mm hookbait, each mounted onto a super sharp size 6 Mugga, each finished exquisite rig filling me with nothing but confidence.

All three rods were spread out around at about 30 yards range as this is where I had seen the most carp swimming.

Not even an hour after putting my rods out, the liners started. Bobbins lifting up off the floor, smashing into the underside of the rod, and then gracefully falling all the way back down.

It was around quarter past nine, and the fish had seemed to have moved down lower in the water. However, they were rolling over my left and middle rod, still giving me liners. Things were still looking more than promising…

I lay there that evening, under the stars, gazing up through the gaps in the trees. I even spotted a shooting star whizz on over my head, and for us carp anglers, the obvious thing to do was to wish for an almighty great big carp to grace my net by the morning.

I awoke around 5 o’clock the next morning to a savage liner on the left hand rod, that caused me to jump out of my bed and scramble out to the rod. After becoming aware it was a liner, I sat back on my bed and watched out at the lake.

It wasn’t long before I saw them showing again. This time they seemed to be a bit further to the left (around a rod length away from my left hand rig). About 30 minutes later they completely stopped showing.

The next fish I saw was a couple of hours later, around 8’ish. It just gently rolled not that far from my middle rod, showing nothing but a huge head and a lovely orange looking flank. I was certain they were still here, and I was right. There were plenty of them ‘head and shouldering’, cruising around on the surface, rolling…

I spent the next hour and a half waiting. Waiting for one of the bags to rip off, but it didn’t happen! Feeling slightly disheartened, I looked at the time. It was 9:56am already. That meant that I only had an hour before I had to reel in and leave, so I decided to put a zig out to where the fish were cruising around.

In my armoury, I used a whittled down white pop up, mounted on to around 5 and a half foot of Gardner 12lb Zig Link and a size 11 Covert Mugga.

I cast the rod out to where I had been seeing them. The lead quietly plopping in, with the hookbait following nicely untangled and leaving nothing but two small rings in the water.

I hadn’t really ever fished zigs, so I didn’t have an awful lot of confidence in them. However, judging by the two splashes I was sure that it was presented efficiently.

I took a short walk up the bank; just up from my swim to see if I could see any more fish in the bay. I was stood there for no longer than a minute, before I heard a single ‘beep’ come from my alarm. Hastily, I made my way back to the swim, and soon realised that there was a swan right over my zig! With my mind set on thinking it may have been the swan, I sat back and checked the time.

10:14am, just over 10 minutes after putting it out, the zig was away! I hit into what felt like an extremely powerful fish. It rapidly kited left, taking me into a large weed bed and stopping dead in its tracks. I kept a steady, constant pressure on it, trying not to give it too much stick as I was only fishing a relatively low diameter hooklink.

After about 10 minutes of the fish being weeded up, I began to pull a little harder, trying my hardest to free the fish from the weed. Finally, I felt it move, and all we saw was an extremely large mirror come up to the surface just past the weed bed that it had previously been stuck firmly in. I was back in contact with it.

She continued to plough left and continued to take more line, leaving me no choice but to jump in fully clothed. After a short while she was ready for the net, and luckily Rusty was already in the water ready to do the honours.

In she went, and straight away we knew what it was. It was a fish called ‘Bobble’, and it was the second biggest in the lake, coming out at 53lb+ just two months previously.

Due to having to be at work in less than an hour, everything seemed to be a bit of a rush. We lifted the fish up onto the bank and unhooked her and then took her to the scales. 45lb 10oz. My 2nd 45lb+ fish this year, and a new personal best for me!

With the fish safely in the retainer, I called a couple of people for photos. Half an hour later, Craig turned up and took some lovely shots. Then we returned the fish and I was at work on time.

What a perfect end to an unplanned over nighter!

Gaskin Lands Ulcer Fish

After enjoying a bit of success on my last session a couple of weeks ago, my confidence was where it needed to be and I couldn’t wait to be back down the park. I had no idea how the lake had been fishing or what had been out; and to be fair I wasn’t fussed because I was now armed with some of the new Covert Dark Mugga hooks and the ever faithful CC Moore Pacific Tuna and I had a plan that had worked previously.

A surprisingly drama-free journey after work saw me arrive at the lake with plenty of time before it got dark, but also not another angler in sight! Again, I was in no rush to get set up, at least until I was happy I was on fish. There was a stern south westerly breeze pushing into the top end of the lake so my attention was drawn to this area, thinking the fish will be enjoying the turbulent, oxygenated water. It was difficult to see and hear anything with the combination of ripples and wind but I was convinced I saw subtle signs of fish poking their heads out amongst the choppy waves. A quick check with the weather forecast revealed that the wind was due to be blowy all night so I settled for this area with a plan to move the following morning if I hadn’t seen anything worth staying put for.

Whilst setting up the camp I was getting frustrated with missing ‘sloshers’ (if you know what I mean) and could never tell whether the noises were carp or tench. It seemed every time I took my eyes off the water to do something I would miss what they were. The night passed with not so much as a liner, so mid-morning I decided to pack up and get on my toes to find a better opportunity. On one of my laps I stopped to talk to one of the bailiffs who was fishing in another bay (in the hope of a brew, but no such luck!). Further along from him there is a tree line of snags that the carp like to get in to sunbathe, however upon closer investigation I could see there was in fact a set of bubbles that looked like a carp was very likely to be the main culprit. That was all I needed to see and was quickstepping the barrow round to the swim that had access to this area.

I had only seen the one set of bubbles, so I decided to only fish with one rod for the afternoon to keep the disturbance to a minimum and not risk spooking any other fish that were present. It took two casts to get the rod tight enough to a little opening in a bush where I’d seen the activity; I just hoped that it wasn’t too much commotion.

I wasn’t 100% sure what I was fishing over so using a light lead combined with my favoured multi rig consisting of a CC Moore Pacific Tuna White pop-up and size 4 Covert Dark Mugga hook. I introduced just a few crushed up Pacific Tuna boilies around the hook bait to try and enhance a small area to feed on where my hook bait was poised.

Well the stealthy tactics paid off handsomely when the bobbin pulled up tight to the ATTs and I was in! Initially, for a split second I thought I had just had my pants pulled down because there was no movement but gradually a heavy weight started to kite powerfully along the snags out towards the windswept Bramble Bay.

I felt like I was in a game of tug of war with this creature and couldn’t gain an inch! My first thoughts were that I was in battle with one of the big nutty ghostie’s, but as I slowly coaxed it in it rolled and I caught a glimpse of the old battle scar on its flank – a scare that belonged to only one fish of the pond, the Ulcer Fish.

At this point I didn’t know whether to remain calm, shake to pieces or cry, so I’m pretty sure I did a combination of all! Knowing that this fish was over 58lb the last time it was out was not helping but the leviathan wallowed over the net cord and the game was up. I gave out the shout that nobody heard, so I secured the fish safely and made the necessary phone calls to get some help with photos and weighing. Up she went on the scales to reveal a weight of 54lb 4oz, which was a new PB and one of the A Team crossed off the list. To say I was happy would an understatement!

Gardner Tackle has been manufacturing quality carp fishing and specialist fishing tackle for over 35 years. As one of the original carp tackle companies we have been at the head of carp angling innovation and design. We are still a family run business and the ethos of producing ground-breaking carp fishing tackle that is high quality and reliable has never been diluted. Every member of the company lives and breathes all things carp fishing related. From the moment we wake (and even while we sleep!) carp and their capture are at the forefront of our minds. This translates itself into the continual development and refining of our carp focused product ranges. And with a dedicated carp fishing team, that includes some of the most well respected carp anglers in the country, you can be sure that each product has been tested to the extreme and meets the exacting standards that we strive for.