BRADLEY WEGNER executes a precise baiting campaign on small margin spots to catch Northamptonshire day-ticket carp.
Dull Hook Baits
Bright pop-ups can often put fish on edge when they warily feed in the margins. Bradley coupled his Krill Micromass and chopped boilie mix with a dull dumbbell hook bait.
I started my fishing on Elsons, the historic Northamptonshire venue on the Stanwick Lakes complex, around one year ago. I remember the first glance I had of the lake, strolling down the shabby old track to the first corner, with the spring sunshine beating down into the shallow bay. Instantly, I could make out dark shapes drifting over the low-lying silkweed in the bay. To the left, an old, half-sunken tree lay across a small area of the bay; shelter for the wary old carp.
The venue is around six acres, with a larger bowl-type end with varying depths, narrowing up at the other end with slightly deeper water. All of the water is accessible from the bankside, which makes accessing spots in open-water easy for all. The real draw is the marginal areas, which can be very extremely hard to access in places with extruding snags and small inaccessible areas from pegs around the lake. When I first walked the lake it became obvious that the fish enjoyed spending time over these areas and feeding due to the dug out, polished lake bed, where the clay-like substance on the bottom had been exposed. The water clarity helped pinpoint l fish because in the right light at certain times of the day, I could spot individual characters in the edge. I soon began to build a picture of areas where certain fish spent time.
Bradley began to bait tight spots under the cover of the trees
I did fish overnighters the first year but my main aim was to learn the water and monitor the fishes’ behaviour and their reactions to changing conditions. Certain spots became apparent that fish would feed harder, with less caution. I started to bait these likely looking areas. Some were more accessible than others, so I could easily observe where fish had fed and where bait had been left. Because the lake is relatively small, it was easy to pop down on an evening, complete a few laps with bait and keep checking the spots for activity.
Throughout the course of the year, I had built a strong mental picture of the lake. I knew the likely areas where fish would turn up and at what time. I did catch a few the first year on Elsons but most importantly I had noted a few areas that would be perfect to target the following spring.
Elsons is renowned for fishing hard during winter, but having such a mild one I decided to stick to my initial plan and begin right at the beginning of the year. I managed a few opportunities on zigs but I was ultimately waiting for the right time to start baiting the marginal areas, using the days at the lake to search for signs of fish, or fish that looked like they had started visiting the margins.
Spring came and the lake was a totally different picture. With longer days and warmer temperatures, the fish were making regular visits to the marginal areas. It was the perfect time to start fishing. With the spots having been prepped for a few weeks with chopped and whole baits, I felt it was being established as a regular food source. I had a variety of marginal areas going by this point. If the fish hadn’t turned up to feed over one area on my days off, I had made sure a few other spots could potentially throw up a bite. This was an important. I wanted to ensure that there were other opportunities. The spots I baited were spread out across the length of the lake, which meant that certain areas would fish better with changing conditions. I had seen fish in all of the spots at some point during early spring. It was now a matter of time before catching one from the edge.
I started my marginal campaign in the central area, a large sloping gravel area that had been dug out over many years by the fish under the cover of a large overhanging tree. This divided the lake in two, between the narrower deeper end and the shallow, wide main body. I chose this area initially because I knew it would be a good ambush point because they were becoming a lot more active with the warming temperatures. The spot is nestled between two large tree trunks that slope away from the bank and provide great cover for lowering a rig straight onto the spot.
The fish began to visit the edges with the increased spring temperatures; the result was this awesome 26lb common
Around mid-afternoon during one of my laps in search of feeding fish, I spotted a group with their heads down feeding hard over the bait I’d introduced earlier. I nipped back to my brolly and rigged up my short rig and heavy inline on my stalking rod. A few handfuls of bait went in the pocket and I made my way back, ensuring not to make any sudden movements when approaching the spot. They were still feeding hard and the water was becoming increasingly cloudy. I could still make out the shapes on the bottom as their tails repeatedly flicked.
I waited about 10 minutes before they started to drift straight out of the swim and I carefully lowered the hook bait where they were feeding. A crumbed handful of bait was placed over the rig and I perched behind the tree trunk, brimming with anticipation. It wasn’t long before they were back and not more than five minutes later my short rod pulled round viciously. After a short-lived battle a perfectly proportioned 26lb common glided over the net cord and I was delighted.
After returning it, I introduced more bait and went off to check the other areas. Nothing else materialised but I was more than happy to have caught one.
I managed another stunning scaly fish off the same spot the following week before things started to go quiet over that area. It’s amazing how in tune the fish seemed to be when feeding in the margins. They would quickly suss a spot out when a few had been caught over it.
It was time to focus on another spot I had been prepping with chopped Pacific Tuna baits, located right in the corner of the lake; the shallowest area where the old fallen tree shelters a small, quiet bay. It normally takes the fish a little longer to turn up here during spring because it shallows right up. As soon as the first warm winds start to push down into this area the fish are soon to follow. They love the cover of the old tree branches, which have now settled perfectly to provide an ample viewing area of the spots at close quarters. This marginal area is unique, with shallow water and low-lying weed right up to the tree, but after that there’s a maze of branches and small clear spots. Some of the spots have been hollowed out to form craters. It’s amazing watching them using the sunken tree roots and branches to clean leeches off after winter.
I found a small but polished spot right on the edge of some sunken branches that I decided to bait. I wanted the carp to build their confidence and get used to regularly eating the bait before I made any attempt to catch them. I was happy to bide my time and fish elsewhere on the lake, leaving them to feed undisturbed in the sanctuary of the roots. I regularly checked the spot at all times of the day to see what had been going on.
A few weeks passed and the spot was rocking. Fish were visiting on a regular basis and the lake bed was becoming even cleaner. More importantly, I had seen my target fish feeding confidently on more than one occasion.
Waking one morning after doing the night straight from work, the conditions felt perfect for fishing the spot. A warm wind was blowing directly into the corner. I hopped onto the long branch that goes out towards the spot and at first sight all the bait I had introduced the previous day had gone. I broke a few more Tuna baits and flicked them out tight to the spot before nipping back to get my rod.
On my return, a small mid-double common was circling the spot. I waited for it to move off before I lowered my rig into the area. The lead touched bottom with a soft thud. I spotted a fish moving slowly towards the spot and it wasn’t a mid-double, it was big. My heart raced as it lowered itself closer to the lake bed. It was Scar, my target, and it was no more than three feet from me, dropping down slowly above my bait. I watched it suck my bait in but nothing happened. Was it hooked? It didn’t seem to be fazed but when I looked closer I could clearly see the hook in its mouth. It started to casually swim off then suddenly started shaking its head; it was hooked! I wound down to the fish and the rod went into full battle arch. Making sure not to give it any line in the tight spot, I quickly stuck the net in the water, made one huge scoop as I pulled the fish over the net cord and she was in.
The incredible Scar common at 39lb stalked feet from the bank!
I lifted her out and secured her in the margins while I waited for friends to help with the photos. I was over the moon. The margin spot had produced the lake’s biggest resident at over 39lb in no more than five minutes!