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Many small day ticket waters across the country are renowned for being quite tricky places to outwit our beloved species – the carp. In this article I will run through my tactics on how I look to tackle such lakes.
As at the start of any session locating the carp is paramount. Many people overlook this on small waters with the thought process of ‘oh it’s only a small lake they’ll get on me at some point’, but I can assure you that this is not always the case. Generally the fish are easier to find on a small lake, so take an hour or so to work out where they are holding up. On small day ticket waters there will normally be a group of fish predominantly in one area I have found, so don’t just act on the first fish that you see – give it a bit of time and wait until you are sure that there are numbers of fish in the area, thus giving you the best chance of a couple of bites. Of course this isn’t always possible as in some lakes the fish are a lot less active than in others (also dependent on the time of year), but it is still always worth looking until you are certain that you are ‘on ‘em’! I have spent a few sessions fishing a small day ticket water on the Elphicks complex in Kent over the past couple of years, and with keen observation I have built up a good picture of where I am likely to find the fish & how to get bites at different times of the day during the course of the session. Firstly, wind direction is key. Most small day ticket lakes are purpose built and shallow so the fish will usually follow the wind, especially if it is a new wind. On a recent session to Elphicks the wind had been blowing a South Westerly for over a week and a few hours before I got down there it switched to a warm North-Easterly. Even before arriving I almost knew that the fish would be in the corner of the lake the wind was blowing into and I was correct. Also, signs of fish aren’t always one slipping it’s head out of the water – look for the more discrete signs such as patches of bubbles, vortexing in the margins, the reeds knocking or silt being kicked up. After fishing somewhere a couple of times you work out where you are likely to get bites, but I feel that this is magnified in small lakes. Precision is a must a lot of the time, and getting on the exact spot is the difference between getting a bite and not. For example, I know when fishing on Elphicks that to be in with a good chance of getting a bite in the day I need to be inches from the island/red lined margins. Even if the rig lands a foot off away from the feature I know that this will not do – a lot of the time you need to be landing the rig so that it almost brushes the island margin/reeds to be in with a chance of a quick bite. Also, remember that a lot of the islands/margins that you fish up to in these small day ticket waters are undercut & the fish are sitting there to escape angling pressure, so try and put one right on their nose.
It is vastly important to be discrete on small lakes and not to make too many casts. Rule number one is to use a light lead – there is literally no need to use a 4oz lead on a small water. I personally use a 1.5oz to 2oz lead, and only increase this if I find that I am getting aborted takes or loosing fish (as fish can be quite riggy in small lakes). Generally I will not spend time feature finding on a small day ticket lake, causing a lot of disturbance in the process, unless of course it is an established lake with features. If it is a purpose built lake then a solid bag towards signs of fish usually does the trick, catapulting either 10mm baits or 15mm baits one at a time over the top. If I am fishing to a margin the washing-line rig is the preferred method, as I believe that fish in such small waters are line shy and can easily move to an area where there is no angling pressure if there are lines in the water. With this in mind, if I cannot use the washing-line rig then I always fish slack-ish lines, so there is a bit of a drop on the bobbin but not so much slack that the alarm would not sound should a fish be in the area or eject the rig. I have always found short rigs to be favourable in small waters, preferably inside a solid bag for peace of mind that it will be presented perfectly every time. Fished in conjunction with a drop-off inline lead, I believe this is the most deadly tactic that you could use. One final thing to note is not make too much disturbance. If you are turning up at a lake and scouting an empty swim, sometimes the fish can be right below your feet, so stay back from the water’s edge and as always don’t neglect the putting a rod in the margins. As you can see from the picture below, I did exactly this – literally dropping the rod inches from the bank, which resulted in this cracker!
One thing that is almost synonymous with small waters is not to over bait. Although there can be some big fish in these small lakes, it is best not to get carried away and think that as they are big they eat a lot of bait. I typically start with around 20-30 baits over each rod, scattered around the area if it is an open water spot or tight together if I am fishing against a margin. If I am fishing in the edge then I like to use a mixture of baits as you will see below, usually comprising of sweetcorn, pellet and crushed, halved & whole boilies. I have recently started to use the Creamino in the Baitworks range, dosing it with both the matching sweet cream oil and a small amount of the glug. On my first session using the bait at Elphicks I managed to have nine bites in 48 hours comprising of a low 30, four mid 20s, and the remainder low 20s and high doubles whilst the rest of the anglers around the pond managed just a couple of bites. The results speak for themselves! Oh and one furhter thing – don’t feel tempted to break out the spod rod, this will usually result in the fish ‘doing the off’ up the other end of the lake.
As mentioned above, I favour short rigs inside a solid bag when fishing small waters. I am not one for chopping and changed my rigs too often as I have confidence in the small amount of rigs that I use, which are typically a German rig or 360 rig. I tie these so that they are a maximum of three inches long so that when the fish picks up the bait they instantly feel the force of the drop-off lead. I believe that this is especially important when fishing lakes where there is a barbless rule. Hook-bait wise, I normally use a small bait of 10-12mm in size. The high-viz Scent from Hell wafters are a personal favourite of mine, especially in orange which has done quite some damage over the years. I also favour the high-viz Scent from Hell pop-ups on the 360 rig, but usually trim these down so that the hook only just sits up off the bottom. If match the hatch is the order of the day, then again I will whittle the hook-bait down. Not only is this more inconspicuous, but I find that smaller baits generally have a greater hooking potential.
I hope that this article has provided some helpful hits and tips that will equal more fish on the bank for you, but this is just my approach to tackling small day ticket waters – not the carping bible! Of course there are times where these approaches may not be suitable or differ, but over the fair few years that I have been targeting carp I have found that these tactics have served me well.