Angling pressure has a big effect on carp behaviour, so it’s important to approach pressured carp waters with that in mind.
Carp that are regularly targeted can wise up to rigs, shy away from certain spots and feed only when they feel completely comfortable, but it’s not all bad news for the angler. These same carp can also come to live their lives with a large degree of routine. Pressured carp can end up acting predictably – including the way they react to the sound of baiting up, the way they react to more or less angling pressure and the way they react to the weather – making them very catchable if you can stay one step ahead.
Pressured carp can fall into two categories
Generally speaking, pressured carp waters fall into two categories based on how many fish are present. On pressured low-stock venues (Yateley Car Park Lake would be a classic example), the fish can be as difficult to catch as any you are likely to encounter. On pressured well-stocked venues (such as day-ticket sites like Linear or Bluebell) the fish can often follow a pretty specific rule book, though there are certainly edges you can deploy.
On both types of water you can get ahead of the game with some good old-fashioned research. If you’re targeting a specific fish on a low-stock lake then gather as much information as you can about past captures and you may well see a couple of trends appear. These patterns might include favoured swims, more fruitful times of the year and certain weather conditions. For some big fish the trends can be so strong you can really plan a campaign around them.
The same goes for heavily stocked waters. You might struggle to single out a certain fish but you can definitely find out the more productive times to visit. These days, plenty of popular day-ticket sites produce regular catch reports on their social-media channels and you can use these to your advantage. When someone has had a big hit, try to tally that to the weather conditions at the time, or see if anything else might have played a part. The lake could have just re-opened after a close season, or a big match, or that swim might have suddenly switched on due to a big change in temperature or wind direction.
Keep an eye on the weather and catch reports
Getting in-tune with your venue in this way can be a huge advantage, and most of the big-name anglers on the day-ticket circuit can predict when the odds are stacked in their favour just by assessing incoming weather conditions and knowing what’s going on at the fishery.
Another option in your quest to stay ahead of other anglers is to do things differently to them. This is perhaps more suited to lower-stock venues, where eating anglers’ bait isn’t a necessity for the fish, but it can also work just as well on runs waters.
Don’t be afraid to go against the grain
If everyone is doing roughly the same thing with bait and tactics then being deliberately contrary can make the fish drop their guard. The options are unlimited, but on some pressured carp waters it can pay to use much bigger or much smaller baits than the rest of the crowd. You could also introduce your baits in a different way. On lakes where bait boats and tight spodding have dominated, the carp will be very used to seeing dense patches of bait and could associate them with danger, so try a throwing-stick approach for a wider spread of boilies.
On the bait front, you could try a nut-based boilie on waters where fishmeals have prevailed, or switch to particles if boilies are all the rage. You may find that going against the grain can harm your results, but you might also stumble across an amazing fish-catching approach, and you won’t know until you’ve tried it.
Speaking with other anglers can lead to invaluable insights
If being deliberately different doesn’t work, or you just can’t quite bring yourself to try it, then think about the old adage, ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. Especially on well-stocked day-ticket lakes, some of the best anglers in the business are not doing anything particularly ground-breaking when it comes to rigs and bait. In fact, the likes of Tom Maker and Kev Hewitt are very open about their approaches and will happily publish details of their rigs and spod mixes.
Cast accurately and consider tuition to hone your skills
So what sets them apart? Beyond an innate watercraft that’s hard to teach, it’s very often pure accuracy. If you gave an average carper the same kit, same rigs and same bait in the same swim, the pros would still out-fish them nine times out of 10 simply because of the way they physically work the swim.
Putting three rigs and 20 accurate Spombs of bait on a tight area at 140yds is a genuine physical skill in the same way that curling in a 30-yard freekick or making a century break in snooker takes practice and ability. If everyone else on the lake is unable to fish beyond 120 yards, you can strive to make sure you can fish at 140yds, where the fish feel much safer. How? Take some casting lessons from someone like Terry Edmonds or Mark Hutchinson and give yourself time to practice on an empty lake or deserted field. And remember that gaining an edge in this way is about accuracy as much as it is about pure distance.
If you become the type of angler who doesn’t settle until their rigs are precisely where you want them – rather than a ‘that’ll do’ merchant – then you have already gained an edge over the vast majority.