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Carp Baits And Catfish Tactics For Big Fish! - by Tim F. Richardson

I’m like any other passionate fisherman in that I love to be at the waterside as often as possible, not necessarily fishing, but simply taking in the energy of the surroundings. There’s much to be said for this kind of ‘tuning-in.’ Very often it’s the build-up of thousands of hours of experience at waters, that leads to development of instinctive actions and luck and following such intuitions in your fishing definitely go hand in hand.You can read and read the carp magazines for instance, repeatedly and fill your head with everything under the sun from the latest rig ideas and commercial baits on offer to ‘sexy’ bait adverts! You can read how the prevailing ‘big names’ are ‘purportedly’ (as well as genuinely) catching their carp. You may be in complete ignorance of the many advantages over the humble ‘average angler’ many ‘profile anglers’ may have which in combination make a tremendous difference to consistency and big fish results. You can read and read but discover that what you read stimulates inner conflicts in your mind as different contributors pedal their ‘advertorials.’ Finding ‘unbiased’ media contributions is often like finding a needle in a haystack these days. Should I use a plastic bait? Should I use a ‘food’ bait? What about pellets? Should I use a ‘stiff rig’ or a ‘combi-link,’ this rod or that reel, this alarm or that one? ‘So and so’ puts out loads of free bait but then he’s sponsored by a bait company and gets free bait. So what’s best? Context and timing and being in the ‘right place at the right time’ really matter. Getting the right formula of factors together is all part of the jigsaw that is carp fishing. Some say location and bait are the two most important factors. Well a very sharp reliable hook and loads of confidence help a little too.There is one thing I do know about carp and that is they can be very crafty. Nothing replaces carp behavioural observation in the presence of anglers and our boats, lines, rigs and movements on the bank, despite however much ‘camouflaged’ clothing and gear you buy. Yes, carp are conditioned to survive and they have a considerable armoury and evolution at their disposal. But so have we. One of the keys to successful fishing, is to use the fishes own essential requirements, senses, behaviours and conditioning against them. We’re actively involved in their behavioural ‘programming’ anyway, by casting a line, baiting up, hooking fish and generally messing with their natural environment so ‘natural feeding’ is I’d say this rubs off onto many a fisherman too. If these guys with a genuinely potent fishing edge go and tell thousands of competing fellow anglers, before it had been well and truly exploited? (Especially if any kind of ‘vested interest’ financially or otherwise is involved.) Many such anglers feel the requirement to maintain ‘above-average’ catch results in the public eye and to continue to appear consistently successful.All this is well and good; many anglers can keep catching above average catches because their ability and experience are greater than average. There are some truly amazing anglers about. But the important point is they are not all ‘name anglers’ and indeed many wish to keep a low profile. This is especially useful on waters which get heavily pressured. Sometimes it can seem that the well-known anglers appearing in the papers and magazines every week are some kind of ‘elite.’ How do they get access to those syndicates and hard to join waters, how do they afford to live while fishing pretty much full-time, what about all the travelling costs, tackle and bait costs etc, etc? The fact is, they mostly get there by their own efforts and if you are doing very regular fishing, then any extra money for articles, ‘consultancy’ or even in the form of free bait, can make a significant difference. It is very hard to succeed in carp fishing because it requires some degree of sacrifice of other aspects of life. For example, I was speaking to a friend of top carper Terry Hearn one time and he was saying how he had forgone girlfriends in order to be able to focus on becoming the best, or words to that effect. At 21 I planned most of my life’s activities around carp fishing after a near-death experience left me questioning what would be most important thing in my life if I lived. My sacrifice was to have a markedly reduced income as a result of focussing on fishing not making money. However I think you’ll find that anyone who has a very real near-death experience will relegate money to the bottom of their list of valued things in life. It usually takes an unusual type of person to reach the ‘top’ in any endeavour and carp fishing is just the same. In most areas of life, it is often the ‘mavericks,’ ‘eccentrics’ ‘characters’ and ‘great minds of their time’ that reach the ‘top.’ In fact, what they do can actually define where ‘the top’ is. There are very striking similarities between modern carp fishing and athletics. I’ve spoken with double Olympic gold medallist Kelly Holmes. I’ve trained alongside Eamon Martin, London marathon winner in 1993. I’ve asked Tessa Sanderson, Olympic javelin gold medal winner in 1994, why she continued to train hard having achieved her dream. It seems to me that they ‘became’ what they do. Kelly signs her books with a stick figure drawing of a runner. That is what she made herself become by repetitive practice even since her school days, refining everything including her mental attitude and confidence apart from just her times, physicality, running form and style.I was watching a programme about the 3 British sporting heroes, Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett and Steve Cram. These guys dominated middle-distance athletics from the late 1970’s to around 1985 and kept swapping world records over about a 7 year period. They all won BBC personality of the year awards, although their personalities were each very different. For example, Sebastian Coe was a ‘reporter’s dream’ and made himself very accessible and giving loads of details about his training, times, races and other activities, while Steve Ovett was dubbed ‘the bad boy of athletics’ because he would not co-operate with the press. Like the pop star Madonna, Seb Coe was in the publics’ mind and awareness very consistently as a result of his abundant and continuous media exposure. The thing is, far fewer people have even heard of the name Steve Ovett. But does public perception based upon the many skewed and self-interested media pieces and pictures really match the truth of this man’s ability? I know for a fact that the genuine talent entering TV talent shows are most often rejected in favour of far less polished and able contestants for ‘entertainment value’ while the seasoned professionals and national competition winners can get rejected. So, sure Seb Coe ended up with 15 world records and 2 Olympic gold medals, but Steve Ovett was far more interested in competition and winning races, not in leaving an ego fuelled legacy of a long string of world records. I guess you see the parallels in modern carp fishing?Steve Ovett would do a half marathon the weekend before a world class mile race as part of his preparation, an act which basically tears up the training rule book according to Seb Coe. Steve’s training regime was so extreme that many of those talented runners who trained alongside him ended up abandoning top level running owing to self-inflicted like stress fractures and so on. Steve Ovett completely annihilated the great Henry Rono in a race which made Rono look stupid even though Rono was in the middle of a run of shattering 4 world records over 4 widely different distances that year and was reigning supreme. In fact, Seb Coe sated that Steve Ovett was the most talented athlete he’d ever run against. Ovett himself said of the much anticipated clash between the 2 of them at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, that which ever distance had been run first; the 800 or 1500 metres, he would have won the first final – that’s how sure he was of his ability, confidence and preparation. (He won gold in Seb Coe’s favorite distance with Coe being the world record holder.) When it came to the Olympic Games 4 years later in Los Angeles, the 3 British guys who were favourites in the 1500 metre race these 3 titles: world record holder, world champion and Olympic champion. Not bad, but the relevant fact is that each of these guys wished to better the other and this truly ultimately drove them all to greater heights of success, the only significant obstacle to their personal success being the other athletes. The thing with fishing is that carp fishing is now very frequently competitive between anglers in this way too and not merely about competing with the fish’s natural instincts and angler trained danger associations. There are very many variables to get right too for consistent success which cannot be controlled, especially the weather and the question of actually getting on fish on a busy water. The romantic notions of a ‘tranquil lake relatively un-touched by fishing and holding monsters,’ is pretty much a dream and long gone for the majority of carp anglers now at least in the UK. The increasing development of so-called ‘commercial fisheries’ to cater for the burgeoning influx of new carp anglers should not be criticised too much. Sure there are the lethal risks from foreign fish to consider, but then just how English were the ‘Leney’ fish to a purist’s thinking? They had a potential to affect the already resident ‘wild carp’ for instance. The point is that the commercialisation of carp fishing in the UK and parts of Europe has turned it into a creature with an insatiable demand. There are not enough big fish waters accessible to so many keen anglers, so the banks get overcrowded to the detriment of all and competitive and inconsiderate behaviour has become an expected unfortunate phenomenon on many public waters. How many times have you set-off for your chosen water only to find the spots you were hoping for already occupied? How many times has an angler crossed your lines deliberately to try to poach fish from your swim? How many times have you gone to a water and found out a baiting team have recently ‘hammered it’ on subsidised bait and the lake’s carp have now ‘closed down’ refusing anglers baits and even going so far as to change their old behaviours and routines?The arts of goal-setting, consistent action and constant improvement are some of their skills. The commercialisation of carp fishing means that specific products are promoted in almost every article written, making them ‘advertorials.’These carry very much influence with the carp fishing ‘masses’ as glossy magazines are all the rage these days and many are ‘connected’ in any of a number of ways to tackle and bait companies, for example. Advertising from bait and tackle companies are a very significant income, so it’s not surprising that the larger companies that most regularly pay for the most advertising space can seriously influence various aspects of magazines in their favour, not just to better the competition, but even in some cases to in effect being able to prevent new companies joining in ‘the game.’ So, often it’s what is not included in a paper or magazine (or web page) than can really matter. In terms of how up to date an article or advertorial may be, often advertising copy and other material is submitted many weeks and even months in advance of the issue it will be finally released in. Again, if you are thinking of jumping on a ‘bandwagon’ this time lag needs some consideration about its implications and disadvantages too. In fishing terms and catch terms a huge amount of very big changes can happen in just 2 days in carp fishing. Even on one particular water, a month or 2 months from the time an article is submitted can mean situations can become completely different when compared to those reported in the published article. One good example is how a new bait that took very much effort and time to establish produces the big fish in a water for a select few individual anglers. But having achieved their goals, they change onto another new bait which has also been introduced along with the original bait. Introducing new baits while fishing a going bait is a very proven method of keeping excellent and highly consistent results coming. Such ‘secondary’ bait establishment can range in time from just a week perhaps to a whole season or more depending on the water. The confidence you get from introducing a bait over a period of months without fishing the bait itself is very exciting, especially when you see fish ‘getting on it’ big time. This doe not mean other aspects of your fishing will also need refining or changing though! I remember reading about a couple of the of the ‘Mainline’ boys pre-baiting the ‘Grange’ in Essex over a number of weeks in the close season. They discovered the fish were really feeding well on the bait in the first half hour it was introduced, polishing it off very enthusiastically. Such confidence was amassed in the anglers that they expected to ‘slay’ the water and catch the biggest fish in the lake with ease.This is the real world however and these fish simply stopped responding in such a way when the presence of footfalls and lines and leads in the water announced the arrival of anglers on the banks. It was some time before a fish was hooked on the bait despite the close season feeding with gusto and it proved to be one of the smallest in the lake. It took much more feeding of bait and intense regular fishing efforts in the end to catch that big fish. The bait had paid off eventually and in style and the big fish was caught repeatedly on the bait. This bait was released on the general public later. My point about some commercial baits and their ‘advertorials’ is that often, you just don’t know exactly how much of that bait has already been used to catch your water’s residents before. This is an important in regards time lags and publics results on newly released baits. There often seems to be ‘field testers’ for various companies on many big fish waters often competing with each other for dominance and control of the lake and in such cases I’d really wonder about the ‘pros and cons’ of using baits they might conceivably have already used in the past.There are of course some commercial baits; ‘instant attractor ones’ and even some ‘food type baits’ that just do not get the fish going until a tonne of the stuff has regularly been put in. Many commercial baits just do not work the first hour, day or week for that matter. I remember doing regular 24 hour sessions on one water testing a selection of one big companies leading baits. Each completely failed to catch. However at the same time, the old established bait still produced fish. Having said that, one of these baits worked instantly first time of trying on a large pit. Yes, it could well be down to factors like bait and water pH and so on that the leading commercial baits did not produce first time of trying. At many heavily fished waters carp can seem to get onto one particular bait and this is the one to be one simply because there is so much going in it is regarded as essential natural food. I’ve seen it with instant baits, food style baits and pellets too. I guess carp are wired to take advantage of abundances of foods. In baits terms it may seem illogical that a bait with a very well designed nutritional value, mineral and vitamin content etc and pumping out attractive substances like amino acids and oils, would not be an instant winner. This is certainly one to ponder. Carp feeding behaviour and preferences can certainly alter in response to fluctuations in abundances of natural food supplies and anglers’ baits, seasonal temperature and pH changes and so on. It is noticeable how many big fish get caught in the winter months around December and January if at all in a season, when natural food is often harder to reach, like bloodworm buried lower down in the deeper water silt. It may well be that at such times, the lowered metabolism and energy intake of the fish and frequent immobility, leaves them more vulnerable to parasites, infections, diseases and so on. At such times anglers’ baits supply nutrition and even movement stimulation which is more beneficial to them in boosting activity of their immune systems even if very little bait gets digested. There’s loads more to this stuff.Along the time-line of bait establishment however, where does your use of a particular commercial bait fit in? Is it at the beginning (ideal!) In the middle, or the ‘tail-end’ (not recommended!) You could judge this by the new adverts for a new bait along with a new bait being promoted in a magazine mean using the new bait is a ‘safe bet’ and be successful. Have field tester ‘done that bait’ already on your water without your knowledge? Anglers change allegiances to baits and companies frequently. If you do know, were their flavour levels, concentrations and components the same as the publicly available version? Homemade baits easily dismiss this dilemma.But one simple point might ‘cloud’ things a little more in some cases. It might surprise many that due to effects like the advertorial and advert lead-in time ‘lag’, much of what is ‘doing the business’ and catching outstanding fish currently, is not always accurately portrayed in the papers and magazines (through no fault of anyone’s.) There is mostly a time lag, by which time, the prominent anglers will have moved onto their next edge or edges. Some people are far more talented than the majority and often this is the ‘edge’ in itself. Their perception of the current changes and most likely opportunities caused by what has just passed is often the key to their correct actions and thinking leading to their continued consistent success.Having said that, of course, many of these anglers have far more time or money or opportunities at their disposal and can leverage their insights to the maximum. It’s well-known that very many big fish captures have been as a result of sitting on waters for exorbitant lengths of time on big beds of bait. Leading anglers like Dave Lane can do it, but other talented anglers get their share by their excellent watercraft and angling skills fishing ‘attractor baits’ just at a week-end. I’ve fished alongside many great anglers who are not in the magazines or any adverts and their generosity in sharing their enjoyment of this great sport is to be commended. Having looked at another hugely competitive arena, that of pop music ‘from the inside,’ it is very obvious that who you know ‘in the know’ is a pivotal factor regardless of talent, training and experience. I’ve practiced with the professionally trained opera singer and coach of the number one group ‘sugababes’ and had some hilarious staged antics in ‘reality TV’ as well as had training with other professional vocal coaches on that show and others like it. Appearances especially in the media, really are deceptive my friends. Even TV competition ‘auditionees’ can pretend to be idiots for effect. Many of my friends perform professionally and play at being an amateurs on such shows because they know how to ‘play the game.’ We fishermen tend to exploit whatever we’ve got to get an ‘edge,’ because more often than not we are not really competing with the carp so much as the impact of other anglers on their natural senses and defences. The secret is in the 'becoming what you do, ' where fishing becomes an instinctive process. It makes you think!This fishing baits secrets books author has many more fishing and bait ‘edges.’ Just one could impact on your catches!By Tim Richardson.

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Tim Richardson is a homemade carp and catfish bait-maker, and proven big fish angler. His bait making and bait enhancing books / ebooks are even used by members of the British Carp Study Group for reference. View this dedicated bait secrets website now! 

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