Fishing with Tight or Slack Lines: My Thoughts

If there’s one thing that divides carp anglers its slack vs tight line fishing. The other thing is barbed vs barbless hooks but we won’t go there right now! The theory behind slack line fishing is that when using a heavy line like fluorocarbon the line will, when sunk lay on the bottom of the lake where the fish can’t see or feel it. People believe that carp will spook off a tight line meaning you have less chance of them taking your hook bait and getting a bite. This is something that drove me mental when I first got into carp fishing – I read as much as I could find on the subject and still struggled to make a decision about what road to go down. I have to confess that I’ve always been biased towards tight line fishing just because that’s how I started doing it before starting to research the negatives and positives of fishing like that.

After reading all that material I found that nobody actually described the process between casting out and switching the alarm on. I aim to cover here how I do it – I’m no Dave Lane but I have done my research and come to my own conclusions so you might be able to take something from this post.

If you’re interested in what line I have used and like, see this post on the best carp fishing line.

OK so first of all, let’s see what the pros say about it.

Tom Maker on Tight Line Fishing

Danny Fairbrass – Advantages of Slack Line Fishing

That’s 2 very good anglers with completely different opinions – they both catch their fair share of carp! The video from Kevin Nash below is fantastic; this introduces another spanner in the works ‘semi-slack’. As if it needed confusing even more!

Nash mentions flying backleads in the video which is another consideration. When I first started thinking about the whole tight vs slack thing a backlead was a possible solution, although it was a clip on one under the rod tips I was looking at. The conclusion I came to was that I’d have better line concealment and it would be easier when playing fish but at what cost to my bite indication? A backlead right under the tip introduces a massive angle in the line and angles in the line are bad for indication. Another thing that put me off using fluorocarbon and fishing slack lines was the whole sinking the line thing, people were quoting 30 minutes for their line to fully sink – seems like a lot of messing about to me!

So, after all this I wanted to fish tight lines – no backlead and my rod tips pointing straight at my lead. This would give me the best bite indication and I didn’t have to wait half my session for my lines to sink. Decision made I had to figure out a ‘workflow’. Here is what I do, step-by-step.

  1. Cast out and feel the lead down
  2. Put the rod tip in the water so it touches the bottom in the margin
  3. With my hand gently tug the line so that the 2 ‘v’ shapes move towards each other
  4. Once the V’s meet and all the line is under the water, pull some line off and put the rod on the rest
  5. Engage the bait runner and by hand slowly tighten up
    1. You don’t want it so tight that the rod tip is bending, just ‘nip’ it
  6. Pull a little bit more line off (literally a couple of inches) and put the line in the clip on the rod
  7. Clip the bobbin on and turn on the alarm
    1. As in the Tom Maker video above, I use the Fox Springers
Green bobbins with green Delks - tackle tart!

Green bobbins with green Delks – tackle tart!

I now use the ball clips instead of the slik clips but other than that, this is how I now setup.

I’m fairly happy with how I do things now, the only thing I do wonder about is how much of the line is off the deck near the rig. I’ve started using leadcore to help with this and it all depends how deep the lake is and how far out you’re fishing. If you’re fishing at 30yds in 15ft of water there will be more line off the deck than if you’re fishing at 90yds in 6ft of water. I actually went to the trouble of creating a spreadsheet which calculates this – very sad! I’m hoping to share it on the blog at some point in the future so look out for it (UPDATE – here it is!). Here are the results based on the example figures above. Remember that these are absolute worst case as they don’t take into account any sag in the line due to the weight of it or the leadcore.

30yds15ft 90yds6ft

Do carp actually spook off tight lines? If I’m being honest I haven’t observed them enough to know, maybe they do. What if though they actually saw the line and just avoided it – are they more likely to spook off a tight line they couldn’t see? An example which was given to me was that if you were walking down the street and tripped over something you didn’t see it would give you a big old shock, if however you saw a rope at waist height you would simply go around/over/under it and carry on walking.

I’ll leave you with a link to a recent blog post by Simon Crow on the same subject. It makes for very interesting reading.

Until next time, tight lines…