Its been a long time since I used to regularly target carp on soft plastics. Given my recent passion for chasing them on fly, I thought I may as well write what I can remember of my previous efforts using spin gear. You don’t need a fly rod to chase carp on artificials, a bream stick will be just fine and is a very effective carp catching weapon.
Lures: Back in the day, their weren’t the vast range of soft plastics there are today. So my carp exploits were with what was available. The best lures for me were one to two inch grubs, squidgey wrigglers etc in greens, browns, organges. Remember carp feed on lots of aquatic insects and representing those is usually your best chance of success, hence the muted tones. These days there are a whole load of soft plastics that I wish I had had as a teenager in my carp on lures heyday nymphs, worms and all manner of different grubs and small paddle tail plastics. The options available are pretty impressive and exciting even for the almost retired carp on lure aficionado.
Personally I never had much luck on hard bodies, carp will hit hardbodies occasionally, I had a little bit of luck slowly worked yabby imitations, but I never really cracked it, so there is a challenge for you. You also may get lucky, we’ve all probably hooked a carp or two fishing for yellas or cod, sometimes carp are in the mood for something bigger and faster. Last week in a Canberra pond, the carp were smashing schools of mosquito fish. I hooked a couple on the fly rod on fast stripped baitfish patterns. So some days, they can go nuts and start acting like uncoordinated tuna, but thats not the norm.
Weighted or unweighted: Carp fishing is sightfishing, whether you do it with a fly rod or a spin rod. So answering that question really comes down to what the carp are doing. If they are tailing in the mud, a weighted plastic, cast 2-3 meters past the fish and hopped in front of its face (somewhere between 25-50 cm) will often do the trick. Stopping the lure 10-20 cm to the side helps detect the take- if you see the fish move to eat something to the side, thats your lure, use the movement of the fish to determine when to strike, not a “bite”. If they are mooching on the surface, an unweighted plastic is the weapon on choice. Again cast 2-3 meters past the fish (any closer and you will most likely spook it) and then slowly wind the plastic (at the level the fish are sitting- if they are on the surface, you want your lure just under the surface, a foot down, you want your lure a foot down etc) past the fish (again 25-50 cm in front of the fish is usually best). If the fish is keen, once the lure is in its field of visions, it will have a look and then decide whether it wants it or not. If it does, it will turn and follow. At this point you have two options- stop it or keep winding. I was always a stop it fan, but they will often keep coming after a moving lure and that can be the best option on some days when they are a little frisky.
The rest: Stalking is hugely important- carp fishing will improve your stalking skills. Reading fishes behaviour is important. I might go into that more in depth in a later post but in short though- mooching fish eat (difficult, but very achievable), tailing fish eat (the easiest to tempt), vacuuming fish eat (second easiest to tempt), cruisers eat (moderately easy/hard depending on whether you are a glass half full or half empty guy), fast moving fish don’t eat (by far the hardest anyway), its best to just ignore them. Be careful- often if you spook one fish you spook others. Carp have great lateral lines- minimise slap down of your lure when it hits the water (thats why you want to land your lure a few meters away from any fish), be careful not to land line over the fish etc, those things will result in spooked fish. Carp learn- if you hit up the same spot regularly, the carp will pretty quickly learn to be **** scared of your lure and any sign of you on the bank. First couple of trips are all good, naive carp are generally pretty easy to tempt, but once you’ve had 3 or 4 goes in a pool, the lure that once had carp jostling to eat it will send the entire pool into a frenzy of fear as soon as one fish sees it. A moving shadow that they once ignored sends them into a similar frenzy. In that case, leave the pool alone for a few weeks or change lures, amp up the finesse of presentations and improve your stalking. The more natural your presentation the better on carp that know a thing or two about lure or fly fishermen. If it looks a lot like normal food that they have to eat, they have to take a risk, get your presentations right and you can still consistently catch fish that have seen a few lures, its just a bit more challenging…
In any case, I will get Graz to read this and send him out to test out my old techniques and hopefully get me a few photos for this post. Until then you will have to get by with fly caught carp. Sorry.