Name: Tom Oliver
Experience: Nine years out and out carp fishing but around twenty years fishing in total. I now work as a full time angling coach.
Favourite lake: Current Southern Syndicate.
All-time best bait… Maggots.
My number one rig is… Solid PVA Bag’s.
Weirdest thing you’ve seen a carp do? I once saw a carp dance on its tail for around two minutes! It was similar to when a pike tail walks – very strange!
Let’s start with an obvious opening question: What’s your view on rigs right now:
Well I think that rigs being used by today’s carp anglers are on the whole very good. Rigs have developed so much even from when I first started carp fishing nine years ago and the advancement of modern items has definitely helped. I do think that certain rigs become trendy due to the amount they are written about in angling media and can sometimes be used in the wrong circumstance just because they are ‘trendy’.
Are we hitting the mark or are we a long way off?
I think generally that we are hitting the mark and even if you are not sure for yourself there is so much in the media on rigs these days it’s hard to go wrong. Also many companies now produce ready tied rigs to save you the hassle and they are extremely good. The Gardner ready tied chods for example are extremely neat and well-made and when I need to get a rod on a showing fish quickly these are normally my first choice. That said however I have watched fish time and time again pick up rigs in the edge only to spit them out again with no trouble what so ever. I think we could tinker with rigs for years to come but the carp will still find ways to eject them plus rigs will have different effects on different fish depending on how they feed.
What are your main concerns when it comes to the type of rigs that you use?
My main concerns are that my bait is going to be presented properly and the fish won’t be able to see the rig. This means choosing the right rig for the situation on the day and being 100% confident in the products you are using to do their job. If the bait is not presented properly then it will not catch the fish and this goes for concealment too. I always make sure my rig is pinned down and blends in to the lakebed so that the fish do not become aware of its presence on the bottom.
What do you prefer: pop-ups or bottom baits?
I use a mixture of both and it all depends on the situation at the time but generally I do prefer pop-ups. Pop-ups are great for quick fishing to showing fish with solid pva bags and chod rigs but also negotiate the weight of the hook making it easier for the carp to slurp them down. I would guess that 80% of my fishing is with a pop-up these days.
Do you ever present baits on bottom debris or are you only happy on the clear spots?
I normally try and find a clear spot that I can present some bait over but this is not always the case. I have been doing well recently fishing in weed and avoiding the clear areas especially when the fish are clearly visible showing over natural food within the weed. I also think they approach these spots with less caution as most people will fish on the clear areas. Generally I will try and fish for the fish wherever they are no matter what the bottom is like and adapt my rigs to suit.
What are your thoughts on hooklink length: shorter the better or do you favour longer? What’s your thinking?
Rig length for me all depends on what type of baiting situation I am using. If I am using lots of small food items such as pellets, particles, ground bait etc. Then generally I will use a shorter rig as the fish stay very close to the bottom when feeding and this will help with hooking them. If using a spread of boilies and a bottom bait rig then I would use something longer as the fish will tilt up and move between baits and a longer rig will aid hooking.
What about hooklink materials – braid, coated, stiff – what do you favour and which do you think the carp finds harder to deal with?
I do prefer to use a coated braid for most of my fishing with 25lb Sink Skin my number one choice. It steams perfectly straight and is fairly stiff and I believe the carp find this difficult to deal with. I do use soft braid called Trickster Heavy, but mainly only for my solid pva bag rigs and for the supple section with my combi-rigs. Stiff materials obviously come into play with the likes of chod rigs and variations such as the hinged-stiff.
Everyone’s obsessed right now with lightening the hookbait. What are your thoughts on this, or going the other way and making the bait heavier?
I do believe it can help to lighten your hookbait and counterbalance the weight of the hook especially with cautiously feeding fish. This is simple to achieve either with a small pop-up tipper or by drilling out the bait and inserting a cork plug. I have heard of people going the other way and using bigger heavier baits and I suppose if everyone is making their baits lighter then the fish could soon wise up to this and a heavier bait may work better.
What about double hookbaits?
Double hookbaits play a big part in my angling especially with one of my favourite snowman rigs. I will often use a bottom bait tipped with a slightly smaller pop-up and it has caught me countless fish. It also helps on lakes that have nuisance fish as they find it harder to get in their mouth and it means your rigs will sit there longer for the carp to come across.
It’s become very ‘trendy’ of late to have a large counter-weight just below the hook to help flip it and pull the hook home. What are your thoughts on this?
I have used this in the past myself and it had some good results. I can understand the theory of why a lot of people like to do this but I think if your rigs are tied with precision and correctly then it is not needed. I have been fine tuning my rigs over the last few years and the one thing I have noted is the better they are tied the better they will work. I take my time with all of my rigs to make sure they are perfect and if anything is slightly out of place I will not use it. Maybe I’m missing a trick but it is something that I will need to play around with a lot more to find out!
What are your views on Hair length? Should we revert back to the old school way of super long, super supple hairs?
I think there is a time and place for long hairs but generally I use pop-ups and for this I like the bait to be as close to the hook as possible. It is good to take note of what others around you are doing though as if everyone is fishing with short hairs and pop-ups then quiet often a big bottom bait and long hair will nail them! I guess this is down to personal preference too as both ways catch plenty of fish so there is no right or wrong answer as such.
What are your thoughts on lead size and shape? Do you use the same for almost all situations or do you chop and why?
I like to use a big lead where possible as I believe this helps to hook the fish and gives a better hook hold. My favoured pattern is a flat pear inline as the shape means that the weight is condensed at the bottom meaning the fish come in to contact with the heaviest part first. It is not always possible to use this arrangement though due to distance so I will use a large swivel lead instead on a conventional lead clip.
Can you talk us through the way that your baiting situation would change between the different rigs you use?
It is important to use the right rig for the right baiting situation as if you get it wrong it may result in a blank session despite having fish visiting and feeding on your spots. For example fishing a chod rig over a bed of particle would be suicide as it is far better suited to when the fish are moving from bait to bait such as over a spread of boilies. In this situation a short rig with a big dense lead would be far more effective at hooking the fish. It is normally all common sense it just takes a few minutes to stand back and think about the situation you have been given.
Tom, can you list your top five products and then write 50 words for each one, explaining why you like said product/item and its uses.
Covert Anti-Tangle Sleeves
I wouldn’t leave home without these little beauties anymore as they have increased my catch rate since I started using them dramatically. They help to kick the rig out on the cast ensuring that everything lands as it should without tangles. These first came in to play for me when fishing at mega range but have now become an essential item in my kit.
25lb Sink Skin
Sink Skin is a semi-stiff coated braid that I use for a great deal of my fishing. As the name suggests it sinks like a brick and performs brilliantly especially when steamed over the kettle before casting. I use this for my favoured snowman rigs and by stripping the end few inches you can create the same effect as a combi-rig.
Size 8 Covert Kwik Lok Swivels
I fish in many of the competition carp events and venues that respond to speed fishing. These little beauties allow me to interchange my rigs with speed and no hassle and I use these for most of my fishing preferring them over a conventional swivel.
Size 6 Covert Incizors
As stated I use pop-ups for a large percentage of my fishing and I believe these hooks to be the perfect tool for the job. They have a long straight point that is super sharp and the wide gape of the hook also aids in hooking the fish. I have found these hooks work best with a long slow progressive curved shrink tube kicker and the hook holds I have experienced have blown me away.
25lb Trickster Heavy
If I’m looking for something supple then I don’t need to look any further than the Trickster Heavy. It is strong and reliable and sinks like a brick as well as being super supple. I use this material for all of my solid pva bag rigs and also for the supple section in my combi-rigs. The coloured fibres used to create the braid also blend in very well and help to conceal the trap.