Dare to be different

A nice common caught over a wide spread of bait – thanks for the advice, Dad!

Following the crowd is not Michael Poulter’s thing...

I’ve always been a bit stubborn in my angling – something I got from my dad, I suppose. He always said, “Look at what everyone else is doing, then do something different,” and he was right to an extent. Obviously there are times where an angler would be foolish to ignore a ‘going’ method, but even in those situations I always have one rod doing the opposite to the others; using bottom baits whilst everyone else is using pop-ups, or running rigs where semi-fixed are the done thing. You get the idea, I’m sure.

For instance, in today’s angling the key word seems to be accuracy. Trying to get all the bait on a dustbin-lid-sized area. Marking out distances and spodding at 16.2 wraps to the third leaf on the second branch of that tree on the horizon to create a tight patch of goodies, so Mr Carp can pull up a chair and get on the munch. This is a very productive method of course, and I’m not saying that it doesn’t work, because its record speaks for itself. Nevertheless, in some instances I think it can work against you, especially on the more heavily stocked waters where the fish have been caught on it time and time again, and the tight patch of bait becomes a danger zone rather than a feeding area. This has become clear to me lately on my local syndicate lake where I’ve swapped the spod rod for my trusty catapult and spread bait over a tennis-court-sized area and caught well on overnighters, whilst some of those around me have fed a tight area and blanked over 48 hours.

Spread em about with a catty!
You’ve gotta fish the snags, mate!
Another one from an unpopular spot

It seems that by spreading your baits out over a larger area, it also encourages the fish to move about and compete with each other, which will hopefully lower their guard enough to nick a bite. Another plus to a wider spread of bait is that the carp are more likely to come across one of the baits and get drawn in, following a trail with their confidence building with each mouthful, eventually ending up in the hookbait zone and hopefully picking up the baited rig with a carefree attitude.

I remember about 10 years ago the fishing on one of my local lakes was dominated by baitboats for a number of seasons, with many large hauls of carp being taken. Then suddenly anglers couldn’t buy a bite using the same tactic, but a small PVA bag or single hookbait started to score well. My theory on this is that the fish became extremely wary of tight piles of bait, because they had been caught on the tactic so many times already, whereas a stand-alone bait or PVA bag did not set off the panic alarm.

Just imagine you got food poisoning every time you ate at a certain restaurant. Eventually you wouldn’t go back there; you would go somewhere else to avoid it happening again, wouldn’t you? I think carp, although not as quick to learn as we are, treat the areas and methods we put before them in very much the same way, deliberately avoiding the situations that have ended up with them being on the wrong end of a size 6 hook.

If everybody’s fishing over big beds of bait, whack out a single instead

On the more featureless, heavily stocked lakes you can bet your life that most of the anglers will be fishing to the most prominent skyline feature, such as the tallest tree, and that area will probably have seen lots of tight patches of bait at varying distances. In this instance it’s worth picking out a less obvious marker and creating an area of bait that is not so scary for the carp, simply because it’s away from the usual spodding line.

The other day I was fishing a very snaggy corner of the lake with a large expanse of open water to my right. Every angler that popped in for a chat said, “You gotta fish tight to the snags on the left, mate.” The challenge had been set! I fished one rod 20 feet off the snags, but the other two were placed in very open water. It wasn’t just to prove a point, because I genuinely felt that the fish were more likely to feed in that area.Thankfully the following morning I had two bites, one on each of the open water rods. All I received on the snag rod was liners, which said to me that, yes, they do get in there, but not to feed. They had been caught in there too often before, and they used the area only to get from A to B or rest up. I’m not saying that they never get caught in there, but if I had put all my eggs in one basket and fished two or all three by the snags I would have missed out on a chance of a bite in the less pressured open water area. More to the point, would I have had three bites if I had put all of them out in the open water? Funnily enough, the open water spots I had chosen were not the clearest of spots either, landing with a bit of a squelch as opposed to the approved carpy donk. Once again this proves that doing something different works; fishing in amongst the weed and not on the heavily fished clear areas or gravel bars that would have been the obvious choices.

So, I’m sure you’ve gathered by now that I’m not one for following the crowd unless it is to my advantage, which to be honest is becoming a less frequent occurrence these days. I could go on and on (more than I have already!) about all the different things I’ve done trying to be different. Some worked and some failed miserably, but hopefully in these few words I have given you the incentive to go out and dare to be different!

I love the expression on this carp’s face
You can guarantee one of these rods is doing its own thing

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