Category Archives: Reviews

Fox Warrior Plus – Rod, Spod & Marker, Net Review

Rod’s aren’t something I’ve written about on the blog before. I’ve covered barrows, bait, line and bite alarms but somehow, haven’t got around to covering rods.

When Tackle Fanatics got in touch to see if I was interested in trying out their Warrior Plus range, it was the prompt I needed so I jumped at the chance.

As an avid fan of the budget Fox Warrior range, a ‘pimped up’ version using the same blank but with full cork handles and a 50mm butt ring sounded like a big plus (no pun intended of course…) I also had the chance to try the 4.5lb TC Spod & Marker rod and the Warrior+ net which are both part of the same range.

Here’s a quick video I put together highlighting some of the features of the fishing rod:

 

My old Warrior S rods are 3lb TC. At the time of buying them I was debating whether to go for the 2.75lb or the 3lb TC. I soon found that heavier leads and PVA bags were becoming more prominent in my fishing and I was glad I didn’t go for the 2.75lb version as I’d have felt rather undergunned.

The 3lb rods just about managed to deliver what I was asking of them but I did consider buying a new set of 3.5lb TC rods. In the end I didn’t bother as the Warrior S 3.5lb rods only came in a 13′ version which for a start wouldn’t have fit in my rod bag! My other issue with a 3.5lb TC rod is the feel when playing a fish, I worried that I wouldn’t feel in contact and the rod would be too stiff.

When I received The Warrior Plus rods, I was really pleased to see that they were 12′ long with a test curve of 3.25lb. For me, this is absolutely perfect and ticks multiple boxes for my fishing.

SS1

Being a fly fisherman before I got into carp fishing, I was used to rods with cork handles. I found it strange that cork seemed to be a luxury on carp rods as opposed to a standard feature. It never caused me any issues with my Warrior S rods but the feel of cork on a rod is much nicer and the quality of cork used on the Warrior+ rods is good.

Yes, some filler seems to have been used but this is pretty standard practise and a lot of my fly rods (I have far too many of course) are the same – you only really find limited use of filler on really expensive rods. I think for the money, the guys at Fox and Tackle Fanatics have done a fantastic job of the handles, they feel great.

SS3

Another difference with the Plus rods is the 50mm butt ring. For those big caster’s (unfortunately I’m not in that club…), a 50mm ring will give you a bit more distance everything else being equal. They do look nice too. I’m not a big caster but I am a tackle tart!

Some of the other features of the rod:

  • Fox Warrior S blank
  • 12′ long
  • 3.25lb TC
  • Low rein carbon composition matt black blank with gloss whippings
  • Anti frap tip ring
  • 50mm butt ring
  • Full cork handles
  • Butt cap with fox logo
  • Line friendly line clip

SS4

So, how did the rod perform out in the wild? Remarkably. I mentioned above that I’m not a big caster but was able to use the powerful backbone of this rod to punch my leads a pleasing distance. The recovery of the blank was good and there was still plenty of feel when playing fish.

For the price (£209.99 for a set of 3 at the time of writing), these rods are amazing value. They are exclusive to Tackle Fanatics and you can buy from their website.

Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 22.15.54

I mentioned above that I also had the chance to test out what Tackle Fanatics have called the Spod & Marker Duo or S&M rod. I think this is good idea to combine the two – although I own both a spod and a marker rod, the marker rod is barely used as I do everything with my spod rod.

The S&M rod performed well with good vibration transmission through the blank for feature finding and an action perfectly suited to casting out a loaded Spomb or Impact Spod.

The rod is 12′ in length with a 4.5lb TC blank. It features a 50mm butt ring and a full shrink wrap handle. The only addition I’d like to have seen is a 12″ mark on the blank for measuring water depth but if I really felt like I needed one, I’d add my own mark to it and as mentioned above, I do all my marker work with my spod rod anyway which doesn’t have a 12″ mark and I get on fine so I really am nit picking here!

Like the fishing rods, this is a fantastic tool and represents great value for money at £74.99 at the time of writing. You can buy one here.

SS5

SS6

The last item I tried out was the Warrior+ net.

The first thing I tend to look at when assessing the usability of a net is the weight of the handle. When I first started carp fishing, I made the mistake of buying a cheap net and the handle was so heavy that it made the process of playing a netting a fish a complete nightmare.

The handle of the Warrior+ net weighs in at just 274g. That’s nice and light which meant picking up and using the net whilst playing a fish nice and straight forward.

The net its self is soft and fish friendly which is really important and it’s 95cm deep which is reassuring for when a fish is in it.

The arms are 42″ long which is a really nice balance between fitting in decent sized fish and fitting in your peg! The spreader block is made from a plastic moulding which feels really solid but as the same time light weight which is a big win.

Other features of the net include carbon fibre arms with metal connectors and mesh-saving angled ends and a stink bag to store it in.

Like the rest of the Warrior+ range, the net is a solid people of tackle and represents fantastic value for money. At the time of writing, one can be yours for only £39.99 – click here to buy.

SS7

SS8

To read more about the Warrior+ range, visit the Tackle Fanatics website.

Until next time, tight lines…

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Best Carp Fishing Barrow – A Review of the Most Popular Models

Other parts of the NCA carp fishing tackle buying guide:

Part 1: Line

Part 2: Bite alarms

Part 3: Bait

Part 4: Barrows

If there’s one downside to carp fishing it’s the amount of gear involved.

If you’re sick of feeling like you have run a marathon every time you get to your peg and you’re looking to buy a barrow to help, this roundup is for you.

These days I try to travel as light as possible so I can move easily when required but even though I fish light, a barrow is still absolutely essential.

On some lakes you’ll fish, the car park can be pretty close to some of the pegs so you might get away with it in this situation but in most cases, a bit of a walk is required and it can be back breaking work without a barrow.

You also want to be able to move quickly when you see fish at the other end of the lake and you’re less likely to make the move if you need to carry it all on your back and/or make multiple trips.

You might think that a barrow is a barrow but from first-hand experience I can tell you that’s not the case! A friend of mine bought a cheap one off eBay a couple of years ago and used it for the first time on a weekend session we did at Stanwick Lakes. Can you guess what happened? Yep, the handle snapped and it ended up in the bin!

You don’t have to pay through the nose for a good barrow though and in this post I’ll talk about 4 popular models that all have their own different features so you can choose which one is most suited to your individual requirements.

Carp Zone Barrow

This is the barrow I use and I’ve been delighted with it. As a tight fisted Yorkshireman I like to get value for money and before buying this, did some extensive research and found out that this barrow has a LOT of fans in the carp fishing community.

There are no bells and whistles with this so things like rod rests are not present but what you do get is a well built barrow for not a lot of money.

Here are some of the features at a glance:

    • Compact when folded
    • Chunky front wheel which is placed strategically to take as much weight as possible off your arms
    • Extending side and front bars
    • Height Adjustable legs with mud feet
    • Removable handles
    • Under bag
    • 2 x cords with grab hooks to secure your gear

Carp Porter Mk2 Fat Boy

The Carp Porter is probably the most well known barrow in the UK. This barrow is very well reviewed and has stood the test of time. It’s based on the standard Mk2 but has a chunkier wheel and a frame with additional reinforcing.

The beauty about investing in the Carp Porter system is that there are plenty of add ons available should you think you need them. The products are also well supported with spare parts available.

The Mk2 Fat Boy comes with a bag, bungees, a spares kit and unlike the Carp Zone barrow, a Y bar to rest your rods on.

Other features include:

  • Corner locking handle which increases stability when lifting
  • Height adjustable Y bar to rest your rod bag on
  • Extending front and side bars to take larger bed chairs
  • Flat folding design with removable wheel
  • Compatible with the range of Carp Porter accessories (including the a motor to give you a hand pushing it!)

Although more expensive than the Carp Zone, I still feel like this barrow offers excellent value for money.

TF Gear Juggernaut

The Juggernaut is the only three wheeled barrow in this roundup. It’s aimed at those who carry a lot of kit and/or need to travel a fair distance to their peg and I’ve seen it described as the 4×4 of carp fishing barrows!

Because of the fact that it has three chunky wheels, there is no lifting involved – you simply push it along. Turning is easy with this barrow as slight downward pressure on the handles will lift the front wheel, you then just point it in the direction you want to go.

What you gain in size and ease of pushing though you lose in weight and setup time. The barrow is quite heavy and with three wheels to attach, it takes a few extra minutes to build up but if you can live with that and want an easy life getting to your peg then this could be the perfect barrow for you.

Here are some of the features:

  • Chunky wheels
  • A lower set of handles attached to the standard ones for picking up the back wheels when required over less even terrain
  • Foot brake to stop the barrow from moving

Fox Specimen Explorer Barrow

In complete contrast to the Juggernaut, this barrow by Fox is built for those anglers who are always  on the move and like to fish from the barrow.

Although primarily designer for the day session angler, the barrow can be converted to ‘session mode’ and will take a bedchair thanks to the extendable front barrow bag rack.

There is a large, removable bag which has top and side access meaning that even when the barrow is fully loaded, you can access the items inside the bag.

There are also two mesh side side pockets which will each hold a 5 litre water container or items of tackle around the same size. Again, these pockets have both top and side access.

I have to say, I REALLY like this barrow – the design really has been thought out. Another feature I like are the four welded loops which you clip the barrow straps to and the straps aren’t the usual bungee type material so should be more solid as a result.

Until next time, tight lines…

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Best Carp Fishing Baits 2017 – There’s More Choice Than You Think…

Other parts of the NCA carp fishing tackle buying guide:

Part 1: Line

Part 2: Bite alarms

Part 3: Bait

Part 4: Barrows

Coming from a predominantly fly fishing background, bait was something that I needed to thoroughly research and get my head around before being able to use it properly. I’m glad I persisted though because with the right bait, your job as a carp angler gets a whole lot easier.

A Mixture of Different Coloured Boilies

I think there’s something of an art to baiting well and your learning will never stop. Because there are so many baits available to the carper, I wanted to put this guide together to help you make the right choice for a variety of situations and times of year. Some of this comes from experience but some I’ve learnt from some exceptional anglers such as Tom Maker, Mark Pitchers and Nick Burrage who I’ve been fortunate enough to fish with.

At the end of the guide I reveal some of the different baiting strategies I’ve picked up along the way – this is going to be an in-depth guide so hats off to those who make it that far, you deserve a nice scaly 30lb’er if you do!

Without further ado, let’s crack on – if you want to read about a specific bait, feel free to jump straight to that section using the links below.

Bait delivery methods and tools you mustn’t be without

Boilies

Particles

Live baits (maggots, worms)

Plastics & foam

Pellets

Baiting strategies

Bait Delivery Methods and Tools

An important part of baiting is accuracy and distance and there are various tools to help you achieve that. Here is a list of what I consider to be essential pieces of tackle along with a link for you to have a look at some of the products on offer from Amazon – a site I find myself buying fishing tackle from all the time these days as all the main tackle brands are available there and the prices are great.

  • Throwing stick – if you fish with boilies a throwing stick is absolutely essential. You can achieve a great distance with a good stick but it should be used when you’re looking to achieve a spread of bait over a wider area (a popular approach). If you’re looking for accuracy, a spod or catapult might be a better option
  • Spod/spomb – as mentioned above, if you can cast accurately then with a spod or a spomb, you’ll be able to bait accurately. Have a look at the link below to see what Amazon have but also checkout my review of the Fox Impact Spod too.
  • Catapult – ah, the trusty ‘catty’! With a good catapult you can achieve good distance as well as accuracy. I find myself carrying a number of different ones and some are made for different distances as well as bait types (you can get boilie ‘pults and particle ‘pults) There is plenty of choice on the market but be careful about buying the cheapest you can find – the elastic won’t last two minutes

Boilies

Boilies have become the most popular carp bait on the planet (I personally use them more than any other bait). Here’s why I think why:

  1. They’re convenient – shelf life versions super convenient and even frozen boilies don’t need much management, stick them in an air dry bag and hang them from the nearest tree for the duration of your session. Easy
  2. They’re good for the fish – OK OK, I accept that there are still some low quality, shelf life boilies on the market but generally they’re much better than they used to be. The frozen variety doesn’t contain any preservatives and modern day shelf life baits from the big companies have just as much nutritional value than their frozen counterparts. I use shelf life boilies exclusively (mainly Stickybaits Krill in 12mm)
  3. They’re not messy – admit it, none of us like sticky sweetcorn hands
  4. They need zero preparation and last for a long time
  5. They are easy to bait over your spot
  6. They can be adapted and altered in any way you like if you have some basic gear
  7. They are versatile – grind them, chop them, crumb them or use them whole. Use them in a spod mix, a PVA bag or fire them out whole
  8. They catch fish – boy do they do this well

Sizes

The standard size for a boilie is 14/15mm with 10mm and 18mm also being quite common. My favourite? 12mm. I like boilies this size because 1) it’s a less popular size 2) I don’t fish in France for 60b monsters so feel no need whatsoever to fish with a gobstopper on my rig and also it’s just that bit bigger than a 10mm’er meaning it’s fine to use as a hook bait and tubs of popups are readily available in that size.

I choose Sticky’s Krill boilies because they come in 12mm shelf life, have matching 12mm popups but also have pink and white popups in 12mm that are a different colour but the same flavour – something that I’ve found works quite well.

Don’t be afraid of mixing up your sizes when baiting, I regularly fish 12mm and 10mm together. I use Sticky’s 12mm Krill with the Nash Crab & Krill 10mm red boilies. These come with a small pack of popups so I’ll bait the 12mm and 10mm together giving a different size and colour combination and then the hook bait is a snowman style rig with a 12mm bottom bait and a 10mm red popup so both baits match my freebies.

Flavours & Smell

Flavours and smell in a boilie is a funny thing, some people insist on one type of flavour/smell combo and other on something completely different. I personally like a fishmeal based boilie and the associated smell and flavour as opposed to the sweater baits that might smell great to us but we’re not carp. You see so many people sniffing their baits with a smile on their face because it smells like Baileys or some other human associated thing! Fish might like it too of course but I’ve always had more success with the stinkier fishmeal based stuff so I’ve stuck with it – confidence is a wonderful thing.

You can always alter the flavour and smell of your boilies of course with the various dips and sprays that are on the market. In all honesty I have never really taken to using them – I just haven’t seen a noticeable difference in my catch rate to warrant spending any more time with them. I do know people who use them religiously though and that’s fine, whatever works for you is always there best option.

Colours

This is another personal thing! There are various theories about what carp can and can’t see. I remember a talk I saw by Rob Hughes who was talking about the visibility of certain colours deteriorating when certain depths are reached – red was one that you had to be careful with when fishing at depth. From that talk, I seem to remember that pink was a good option from a visibility point of view.

I personally like a bait somewhere in the middle – not too bright and not too dark. Carp have a great sense of smell so I’m more bothered about getting that element right. Let’s also be clear – carp are aquatic hoovers and pure eating machines so if it’s there, they’ll know about it. Whether they eat it or not in a completely different matter!

Time of Year

There are different types of boilies designed to be used at different times of the year. In a nutshell, winter boilies will be made with a milk based base as opposed to a fishmeal one meaning that there will be much less oil content. In cold water, the oil in bait can congeal and put the fish off feeding hard. Baits like Mainline’s Cell doesn’t use a fishmeal base so can be used all year round which has probably contributed to its popularity but there are plenty of other baits that fit in the all year round bucket.

Some anglers will continue to use the same boilie all year round, the theory being that if it’s worked well through the spring and summer and the fish like it then why stop using it for the winter. My view on this is that confidence is massive in fishing and can give you a real edge so if changing boilies in preparation for the winter will knock your confidence, it probably make sense to stick with what’s been working for you regardless of whether it’s a milk based on fishmeal based bait.

One thing you do need to think about when using boilies in the winter is your baiting strategy – I’ll cover this later in the section about bait application but you need to remember that fish hold up in certain areas and feed much less in the winter so piling in kilos of bait on a spot isn’t the one when temperatures are low.

Which Boilies are Best?

In my freezer/fishing cupboard at the moment are bags of Sticky Baits Krill and Mainline Cell. These are proven baits and used by some of the best anglers across the country. I have a lot of confidence in both. Outside of the two big bait makers, there are also great baits available from companies such as Nutrabaits, Trent Baits and Active Bait Solutions just to name a few. As I say though you won’t go far wrong with anything from Sticky Baits or Mainline. You can find a great selection of their products on Amazon using the links below – there are some great deals to be had.

Browse Mainline’s product range

Browse Sticky Baits’ product range

Particles

Particles have been used to catch carp since the beginning of the sport. The name ‘particles’ is a catch all for any sort of natural, food bait. Examples include:

  • Sweetcorn
  • Maize
  • Chickpeas
  • Hempseed
  • Groats
  • Maple peas
  • Tares
  • Tiger nuts

Particle baits can be very cost effective especially if you’re happy to put the work into preparing them yourself. Preparation is key because for most particle baits, they can be used in their raw state – some form of soaking and boiling is required. Different baits require different preparation required so please do your research first. To give you an idea of what’s involved though, here’s a video by Hinders detailing how to prepare hempseed. I’ve done this before and you end up with a lovely bait that carp adore.

Preparing your own bait also enables you to add things to it – flavours, colours, salt etc which can make your bait stand out on the lake bed.

Mixing different particles together is always a good idea – I like the analogy of the buffet, if there’s only pork pies there and you happen not to like pork pies you’re going to go hungry. If though there’s also some pizza, sandwich, crisps and buns you’re much more likely to like something and have a munch – it’s the same with fish, offer them a few different things and increase your chances of getting them feeding! It’s also a good idea to mix up colours and sizes and I always try to match my hook bait with something in the mix. If I have two rods over a spot, I’ll have a different hook bait on each rod but again each will match something in the mix. Don’t be afraid to mix other types of baits with your particles too – a mixture of boilies, hemp and sweetcorn is super simple and massively effective.

It’s probably worth keeping in mind that if you’re baiting a spot with a lot of particle to attract fish into the area, keep your rigs short as the fish will be moving slowly across the spot.

If you don’t want the hassle of having to prepare your particles, there are ready made bait available off the shelf but you’ll pay more for them. I find myself though sticking with sweetcorn these days, it’s cheap, all carp love it and there are some excellent plastic baits available to fish over the top of it. I buy frozen bags from the supermarket which are around £1 and contain 1kg of sweetcorn. Where else can you get a kilo of bait for a quid!?

Here is the rig I fish over the top of sweetcorn, shown to me by Mark Pitchers. It’s super simple, well balanced, requires no putty to anchor down the corn (the a size 4 SSBP hook is just right to balance two pieces of the plastic) and it massively effective. The plastic used is the Evolution Plastic Corn Stack. Simply cut off one of the ‘grains’ for a size 4 or use all three for a size 2 hook.

Sweetcorn Carp Rig

Live Baits

No post about bait would ever complete without mentioning live baits i.e. maggots and worms. I personally think both are underused, particularly worms – doing things different in carp fishing can be a serious edge. I’m not actually going to talk too much about them though. Why? Because I came across this Carp TV video on YouTube where Joe Morgan talks all about carp fishing with worms and he does a better job than I ever could so, over to Joe…

Maggots do tend to be used more than worms but mainly in winter when they’re particularly effective. It’s worth pointing out at this point that if the lake you’re fishing contains a lot of smaller fish of any species, you might want to think twice about fishing with maggots as it will attract every fish in the lake and could ruin your chances of carp bite. If though the lake contains mainly carp, maggots could be a great bet.

There are various different things you can do with maggots including:

  • Flavour them (turmeric is good!)
  • Use them in your spod mix (dead or alive)
  • Put them inside a PVA bag
  • Use them in combination with other things as hook bait e.g. side hook a couple of maggots onto a corn rig if you have both corn and maggots in your mix
  • Use a maggot clip to bunch up a good number of maggots on your rig

I mentioned earlier using maggots dead or alive. Both can be advantageous in different situations – sometimes, a pile of wriggling maggots can be irresistible to fish but if you’re fishing a lake in which the bed is made up of deep silt, live maggots can bury themselves in it. Carp do of course feed in silt but you lose some visual impact.

Should you go for red or white maggots? Well, I have always fared better with red so stick with them. That doesn’t mean that white won’t work and I’d still fish with white maggots over some other baits but again it’s your choice – whichever you have more confidence in is likely to yield better results for you.

Plastics & Foam

Why would a fish possibly try to eat a plastic piece of sweetcorn!? Well, they do and I’m a big fan of the benefits that plastic baits bring to the table.

First of all you can get sinking or floating versions. Secondly, they come in all sort of shapes, sizes, colours and flavours. Some of them even glow in the dark! Thirdly you can flavour them how you wish (try Hinders Betalin & Black).

Here is a list of my favourite uses of plastic baits:

  • Use popup plastic (such as a sweetcorn imitation) to tip off a boilie and negate the weight of the hook
  • Fish a corn stack mentioned above over a simple spod mix containing sweetcorn or just sweetcorn on its own which is still massively effective
  • Use Korda’s plastic popup maize critically balanced with a PVA stick of sweetcorn
    • Have a look at the video below for how to make your sweetcorn PVA friendly – pretty neat and you don’t see many anglers doing it which can give you a nice edge

As well as the more obvious plastic corn and maize you can also get plastic maggots, casters, bread, pellets, hemp, tiger nuts, luncheon meat, worms, dog biscuit and even mussels!

You can also get selection boxes containing different plastic baits – have a look here to see what’s available.

So, we’ve covered plastic so onto foam baits. Foam like plastic soaks up flavour well and comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours. You can also cut it to suit your requirements. The most common uses of foam baits are:

  • Zig rigs – foam is massively buoyant so is perfect for fishing zigs
  • To critically balance a rig – that might be by drilling out a boilie and inserting some foam or using a piece of yellow foam on the hair of a sweetcorn rig
  • To tie flies or ‘zig bugs’ as they’re known in the carp fishing world
    • Look out for a future blog post where I’ll be tying my own zig bugs and showing you how to do the same – its cheap to get started, doesn’t require masses of skill and is very rewarding

Pellets

How could I write a piece about the best carp fishing bait without covering pellets?! Along with sweetcorn, this is one bait that all fish just seem to love. When fishing for stocked fish, the likelihood is that they have been raised on pellets so that goes some way to explaining it.

Pellets are produced by a huge range of companies and are available in a whole host of size from 1mm to 20mm. There are oily version, flavoured versions, soft and hard versions – basically, if you know what size, consistency and make up you want, you’re likely to find a pellet to match your requirements.

With pellets, I also like the fact that you can get them with different breakdown speeds which is great for a spod mix as you can have a mixture of crunch and slop in there.

Large Fishing Pellets

My favourite uses for pellets in fishing are:

  • Mixing different micro pellets and fishing them in a solid PVA bag
  • As mentioned above, using them as part of a spod mix
  • Using a chunky pellet on the hair – this isn’t done often so again can be a nice edge
  • Using micro pellets on a method feeder (what, you don’t fish the method for big carp?!)
  • Using a mixture of sizes and breakdowns for margin spot feeding

The most common pellets you will come across are halibut, carp, trout, expanders, hemp, soft feed and CSL.

You can find a good selection of pellets here.

Baiting Strategies

Now that you have a good idea about what baits are available, it’s now time to talk about some of the ways you can use them. I’m going to use boilies in these examples but most strategies aren’t bait specific so pellets, particles, naturals etc would work equally as well.

Strategy 1 – the ‘greedy guts’ method

There is generally always one to two fish in every lake that like a good old feast. When they come across a dirty great plate of food they just have to eat it. It’s those fish we are targeting with the greedy guts strategy.

The mechanics are very simple – find your spot and pile a couple of kilos of boilies (or your preferred alternative bait) on it. If you’re spodding, you need to be accurate here as the effect we’re looking for is as if you’d just tipped the bait over the edge of a boat in one go onto the spot. Clearly the easiest way or achieving this is with a boat but that’s not always possible. Get your rig in the middle of the pile and sit back and wait for the big lad to come along and find it.

Strategy 2 – catch out the careful ones

This is in some ways opposite to strategy 1. What we’re looking to do here is catch out those cautious fish who are holding back from the main pack in a feeding situation. These fish tend to ‘snatch’ at the edges of the spot so bait up, get one rod in the middle of the spot and then a second at the edge with the straggler baits ready to surprise Mr Careful Carp.

Strategy 3 – give them a snack, not a feast

I like to fish for one bite at a time and I prefer to do that with a small amount of bait. That could be anything from a couple of broken up boilies in a PVA bag next to my rig or a couple of spods over the top. What it’s definitely not is filling in a spot and then sitting on it for days – that’s definitely not my kind of fishing.

It might sound like a complete contradiction to strategy 1 but it’s important to have different tactics in your armoury to suit the lake you’re fishing on and the conditions on the day.

I hope you enjoyed this overview of carp fishing bait and it’s given you a few ideas to apply to your own fishing.

Until next time, tight lines…

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What are the Best Bite Alarms? A Review of the Best Sets 2017

Other parts of the NCA carp fishing tackle buying guide:

Part 1: Line

Part 2: Bite alarms

Part 3: Bait

Part 4: Barrows

Choosing the right bite alarm can be a tricky affair – I know, I’ve been there. Not only is there lots of technology to try and understand but the models on offer can be quite overwhelming and with the price of a quality alarm set, you need to get it right or it could be a costly mistake.

In a hurry? To see our recommendations at a glance, here’s a handy comparison chart along with a link to where you can buy each one. For more detail about the alarms and why they’ve made it into this roundup, keep reading…

 Delkim TXi PlusFox NTX-RAce i3Steve Neville mk3
BUY HEREBUY HEREBUY HEREBUY HERE
Roller/Vibration SensorVibrationRollerVibration & rollerRoller
Tone Control?YesYesYesNo
Volume Control?YesYesYesYes
Sensitivity Control?YesYesYesYes
Selectable LED Colour?NoYesYesNo
Receiver Range200 metres500 metres500 metres500 metres
Battery Type Alarms1 x 9v2 x AA1 x 9v1 x LRV08
Battery Type Receiver1 x 9v3 X AA1 x 9v1 x 9v

Bite alarms are an absolute must in carp fishing, not only do they let you know when a fish has taken the bait but they also alert you to activity in the area in the form of line bites. Also, there’s nothing more special than hearing the sound of your buzzers going into overdrive as a fish rips off with your rig!

4 of the Best Bite Alarms

The focus of this roundup will be on the premium end of the scale, models that have stood the test of time. I truly believe this is the only way to go with bite alarms – ever heard the expression ‘buy cheap buy twice’? Well, I bought cheap and bought 3 times. I started with a budget set, then replaced that with a mid-range set and ended up replacing that with a premium set. It was a false economy, I should have just bought what I always knew I’d end up with right at the beginning. I recommend that you do the same.

So, what is the difference between a budget and a premium set of alarms? Well, in the main it’s the quality of the components and resulting reliability. You’re also buying into the technology. When you buy a set of alarms, you’re also paying for all the R&D that went into bringing the product to market. The production cost per unit is likely to be quite low but the proprietary features generally aren’t which is why good quality sets can be expensive.

Hopefully by the end of this post you’ll have all the information you need to make your decision. I’ve put a lot of work into finding and comparing different parts of each set being reviewed. So, without further ado, let’s get into the first bite alarm and the one I ended up investing in, the Delkim TXi Plus.

Delkim TXi Plus Review

This alarm is probably the most well known and talked about bite alarm on the market. Founded in the 1970’s by Del Romang and Kim Donaldson, the company is still very much a family affair who’s sole focus is around bite alarms. Their product range includes alarms, indicators, cases and snag bars. Technology used in their alarms includes the Delkim Radio system and a unique, Piezo vibration sensing system. The benefits of this over a roller based system is that the line doesn’t have to actually move for the unit to indicate activity.

Features of the TXi

2 x sensitivity ranges (high and low)
Anti theft alarm – should somebody turn the unit of in an attempt to steal it, a loud siren sound should alert you to it
Variable tone range allowing you plenty of choice (I personally have it on around number 4!)
Wide volume range – from number 1 to number 6, believe me these things go loud should you wish to set them that way
6 LED colour options – purple, red, white, blue, green, yellow – ensure you match the colour to your bobbins for maximum carpiness and bank-side respect
LED night mode – these look super cool when it’s pitch black outside
Good weatherproofing
2 year guarantee

Whilst I was researching this alarm prior to me actually investing in a set, I came across a couple of negatives. A few people mentioned that you can get false bleeps when it’s raining and the alarms can actually be TOO sensitive. I have experienced some false bleeps when it’s pouring it down but it doesn’t happen all the time and it’s never bothered me in the slightest. I’ve also managed to avoid the alarms being too sensitive, there’s a high and low sensitivity setting along with a 1- 6 dial to turn up or down the sensitivity within the high or low setting you’re in. A quick tweak to those settings and no false bleeps regardless of the weather. I want my alarms to be sensitive though, I like to know when things are happening in the swim.

The units feel well made, the battery life is superb, the multi-tone sounds beautiful and they look the business. Syncing up with the RX Plus Pro receiver is really easy too.

You can buy a set of 3 alarms with a receiver here.

Fox NTX-R Alarms

The NTX-R alarms are Fox’s top spec bite alarms. I’ve been on tutorials with a couple of the Fox consultants (Mark Pitchers and Tom Maker) and both used and rated these alarms. The main piece of technology used in this unit is the D-Tec Sensing System (DTSS) which do away with the need for reed switches, these parts are normally the first to break in other alarms.

A particularly cool feature for the tackle tarts amongst us is Colour Sync meaning that the LED on each unit can be set to whatever colour you wish. Got a new set of shiny bobbins? No problem, simply change the colour on the NTX-R and boom, they match! This might sound like a trivial thing but with the Delkims, once bought into a colour scheme you’re stuck with it so choose wisely. FYI I went for green Delks and yes, I also have green bobbins – it’s a must!

Other features include:

Drop back differential
Volume control with silent mode
Tone control
Anti-theft system
Intelligent Sensitivity Control
Power out socket
Range test facility
Auto night light
1mm weather resistant seal

Unlike the Delkim alarm, the Fox NTX-R uses a roller wheel containing 4 magnets to detect line movement. Some people are sceptical about roller wheels in general because they can freeze in super cold conditions but in reality, this is rare.

The receiver used with this alarm is the Fox NTX Receiver and you can buy either 3 or 4 rod sets which come with the receiver and a hard case.

The more common 3 rod set can be purchased here.

Ace i3

Less popular than the Delks or NTX-R’s but still top end bite alarms and those who use them rarely move away from them which speaks volumes about the quality of the units. A lot of thought has gone into these alarms. As well as all the things you’d expect like volume, tone and sensitivity adjustment, there are some unique features such as a light to indicator to signal a low battery and a mute button on the side which will give you 30 seconds to get your bobbins set without annoying everybody else on the lake – brilliant!

Like the NTX-R’s, you can select what colour you want the LED to be which is nice.

One of the major stand out feature of this alarm is that it has a vibration sensor as well as a roller wheel giving you the best of both worlds. Simply switch to the one you want to use and away you go – the vibration is better for snag fishing or fishing in really cold conditions to avoid any missed takes if the roller wheel freezes up.

Early models had a nylon locking collar which was prone to breaking but Ace fixed this and now use a stainless steel locking nut and stud.

The RX One is the receiver Ace have produced to pair up with this alarm.

Steve Neville mk3 Bite Alarms

These alarms are a bit of a carp fishing icon and almost have a cult following. That’s not to say that it’s simply nostalgia that sells these units because it’s not – they’re well built, reliable and have some good features but you’ll find less bells and whistles than on the alarms reviewed above.

Working on a roller wheel system and bite indication is highly sensitive because of the 4 magnets used in the wheel. The range is particularly impressive with a 500m maximum range (although you should never be this far from your rods!) The alarms have a built in receiver so can be used with the Steve Neville receiver and you also get an adjustable volume control, silent mode and a system to avoid false bleeps.

Which Bite Alarm?

So, having heard about some of the high-end alarms on the market, which one is for you? Well, I’d say that all the units featured in this roundup are in a similar price bracket and reliability should be a given. The Ace i3 has the most features but can be hard to get hold of. The Neville’s have less shiny features but look great. It depends what’s most important to you. As I mentioned earlier, I ended up buying the Delkim TXi plus’. Why? Because Delkim have a great reputation, they are a bite alarm specialist, look great, have plenty of features and have you ever heard a screaming, dual tone run of a Delk? It’s better than the most beautiful music you have ever heard. Have a listen…

See what I mean? Beautiful!

To help you make up your mind, I’ve put together the following comparison table.

Until next time, tight lines…

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Fox Impact Spod Review

The Fox Impact Spod has been one of the most eagerly awaited products of 2015. Ever since the announcement that Fox have designed a bait delivery device which will be sold under license from Spomb, the forums along with various social media platforms have been buzzing in anticipation. The reason that it’s been sold under license is that Spomb have a patent which protects their IP and clearly Fox needed some of those protected features to produce the Impact Spod. It sounds like a deal where everyone’s a winner so hats off to both companies for making it happen. Another winner of course is the carp angler who now has another tool in his/her armoury when it comes to dispensing bait at range.

Fox have released a medium and large version and I finally got my hands on a pair this week (mid-December 2015). In this review I will go into each feature of the Impact Spod in depth, compare them against the Spomb and try to answer as many questions as I can within the content.

First Impressions

When I first picked up the Impact Spods in the shop they looked great but felt quite ‘plasticky’. I know I just made that word up and these things cost between £11 and £13 so were never going to be made from the recycled dashboard of a Mercedes but that was my first impression. In reality I’m sure that the material has been selected carefully and will be fine for the job. The mechanism worked well and the workings of the opening button on the front are covered. Because of this I’m confident that bits of particle won’t get lodged in the button and stop it working which has happened to me with a Spomb before.

Size

As mentioned earlier there are two sizes available – medium and large of which I bought one of each. Maybe Fox are undecided about a small version which is why they haven’t released one but have kept the option open by releasing a medium and large. 

Impact Spod vs Spomb - Sizes

From left to right: mini Spomb, medium Impact Spod, midi Spomb, large Impact Spod, large Spomb.

As you can see by the image above, the large Spod is similar to the large sized Spomb and the medium Spod is similar to the medium sized Spomb with the mini Spomb being somewhat smaller. Capacity wise, the table below shows the difference in how much bait each one can hold compared with the Spombs. 12mm Sticky Baits Krill boilies (shelf-life) were used for this and the weight of the bait compared.

 Bait Capacity (grams)Bait Capacity (ounces)
Mini Spomb37g1.3oz
Medium Impact Spod69g2.43oz
Midi Spomb74g2.61oz
Large Impact Spod125g4.4oz
Large Spomb114g4oz

Weight

This is the bit I was the most interested in as my ‘workflow’ goes like this:

1.) Cast out a lead to find my spot. This is done with my normal fishing rod and monofilament. Yes a marker rod and braid would give me more feel but I can normally find a spot like this and it sets me up nicely for the next step

2.) Clip up so I can hit the spot again

3.) Cast out and ensure that I’m getting a consistent drop

4.) Attach a mini Spomb and put some bait on the spot – because of the size of the mini Spomb it casts fine with my 3lb TC rod

5.) Attach my rig and cast out to the spot

Simple but effective, accurate and suits my style of fishing (I’m not one to be putting kilos and kilos on a spot). Can the medium Impact Spod be cast with my rods like the mini Spomb can? I don’t like my workflow being messed with! Here’s a comparison table of the weights of each fully loaded Spod/Spomb, again Krill boilies were used for this test.

 Loaded Weight (grams)Loaded Weight (ounces)
Mini Spomb61g2.15oz
Medium Impact Spod106g3.74oz
Midi Spomb113g4oz
Large Impact Spod177g6.24oz
Large Spomb172g6.1oz

So, my mini Spomb will definitely still get some use although the medium Impact Spod loaded with boilies is only 3.74oz so should still be fine to cast with my 3lb TC fishing rods, just…

Bait Delivery Bag

Plenty of options!

Ergonomics

One of the design features of the Impact Spod is the one handed operation and yes I can confirm that it’s much easier to do anything with one hand than the Spomb is. Another feature is a larger swivel which might make it slightly easier to loop/tie onto the line but I’ve never had an issue with the smaller swivel on a Spomb. Fox say that they are ‘intrinsically buoyant’ so will float into the margins should you crack off during a cast – I’ve only just got these so was limited to a test in the kitchen sink but it did seem very buoyant whereas the Spomb immersed with water almost immediately and ended up with the majority of the body under the water. I filled the Impact Spod with water too (it was good that this didn’t happen without my intervention) to see if it would sink. As you would expect it was nowhere near as buoyant but did still float. In reality this won’t be an issue of course as they would be open after dispensing the bait but I wanted to push them and see what would happen and the Impact Spod stood up to the test. As far as casting goes I’ll have to update this post once I get out with them but talking to Mark Pitchers on a recent tutorial, he said they fly great.

One of the things I saw a couple of people online say when they first got hold of the product was that the springs seemed a bit lightweight. I didn’t notice to be honest and only time will tell how robust they actually are. They don’t need to do much though so I’m sure they’ll be fine.

Spod Spring

Fox Impact Spod vs Spomb

All in all I think this product is great but will I be throwing away my Spombs any time soon? No, not only will I still use the mini one as already discussed but also both Fox and Spomb have said that they can give very different results in terms of the spread of bait that can be achieved. The Spomb is said to be better for tighter baiting and the Impact Spod for a slightly wider spread – this was pointed out in the joint press release. Do I think the Impact Spod will be a hit? Absolutely, the guy in the tackle shop told me they’d been selling like hot cakes and based on what I’ve seen so far, I’m not surprised. If want to buy one or two of your own you can get them here.

Other useful links:

Fox Impact Spod (Fox website)

Spomb (Spomb website)

Until next time, tight lines…

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Best Carp Fishing Line – My Top 5

Other parts of the NCA carp fishing tackle buying guide:

Part 1: Line

Part 2: Bite alarms

Part 3: Bait

Part 4: Barrows

When fishing for specimen sized carp, the line you use is of the upmost importance. You must have confidence in your line when casting and playing fish. Whilst there are some great lines on the market, there are also some which you want to avoid. In this roundup of the top 5 carp fishing lines we will compare diameters, breaking strains, suppleness, durability, visibility and how well each one sinks. All of these lines are very popular and are made by top brands – most are monofilaments as opposed to fluorocarbon, I may do a round up of fluorocarbon lines in a future post.

A common question that people seem to ask is what breaking strain should they go for. For me the answer to this question is the heaviest you can get away with. If you’re casting short distances, a 20lb+ breaking strain line would be my first choice – when I fish heavy I’m more confident. If you’re casting a fair distance then you’ll probably need a thinner diameter line so going down to a 15b or even 12b line may be required. When using a thin diameter/low breaking strain line with a heavy led casting big distances you should think about using a shock leader – the last thing you want is a 4.5oz lead breaking the like and flying backwards during your cast. It’s worth noting that most venues state in their rules a minimum of 12lb breaking strain line but where I can I always try to fish much heavier than this.

For this roundup we’re going to compare 15lb breaking strain versions of each line where possible although some lines like the first one are slightly higher than this.

Fox Exocet

The Fox Exocet line is used by top anglers such as Tom Maker, Adam Penning and Mark Pitchers. I’ve spoken with Mark and Tom personally about this line and both have said that it’s strong, hard to see in the water and sinks like a brick. Available in breaking strains from 13b to 23b there’s a line to suit every occasion. Fox pitch this as a distance casting line which is especially true at the thinner end of the diameter scale. I personally use the 23b version, like I said above I like to fish strong.

Exocet is green in colour, is highly abrasion resistant and is very supple. You also get 1,000m to a spool and it comes in a nice presentation tin.

ESP Syncro XT

This is another favourite of mine and I currently have it spooled up on 3 of my reels. It’s quite supple, sinks well and is very strong especially in the knot strength department – I use it in the 18lb version. ESP have this year released a new version of this line which I’m yet to try out but I head good things about it and the likes of Gaz Farnham, Kev Hewitt and Martin Bowler have all been involved in the testing of it, not bad eh! They claim that the loaded version is a better colour, sinks faster and is harder to see sub-surface.

Korda Touchdown

A recent addition to Korda’s range of lines and one that I’m particularly excited about. The name touchdown came about because of the low stretch properties of the line – the theory being that it’s easier to feel the lead down because of the low stretch in the line. In all honesty I’ve never had trouble feeling down the lead with a normal mono but I do fish tight up against islands and far margins at some of the venues I fish so a line with not a lot of stretch helps with accuracy. I also like using a mini Spomb which I can cast with my fishing rod and a low stretch line means I can find my spot, bait up and get my rig out with the same rod within 3 or 4 casts – my kind of fishing!

Gardner GT80+

The GT80+ has evolved from the GT80, a very popular line. The line is a copolymer which includes an additive which makes it sink faster. Supple, heavy, smooth and great knot strength is what you get with this line and there are clear and green versions available.

Daiwa Sensor

Being one of the cheapest lines on the market it’s easy to think that Sensor is an inferior product but that’s absolutely not the case. When I first got into carp fishing I used Sensor on all 3 of my reels and found it great. When reading the forums, people generally say good things about it and it’s stood the test of time. It’s available in 2 colours – brown and clear and a range of breaking strains.

Carp Fishing Holidays UK – The NCA Guide

If I said to you that I was going on holiday to do a bit of carp fishing you’d probably ask if I was going to France or Hungary. A 3 or 4 night session is normal for some anglers in the UK so a week might not feel that different. For a lot of us though, a week’s fishing whether in the UK or abroad would definitely be classed as a holiday – especially as the longest session I’ve ever done is 48 hours! I wanted to look into carp fishing holiday options in the UK and thought that I’d share my findings by writing a mini guide. Although there are northern waters in the guide, there are also others further south. After all, if you’re doing a week, why not travel a few hours in the car or van to get there?

Let’s start with a northern water though and one that gives the possibility of banking a fish to rival the weight of some venues across the channel.

Please note that you should contact the venues mentioned below directly about your specific requirements before planning anything, I cannot accept any responsibility for incorrect information or ruined holidays!

Erics Willows Lake

Willows is fast becoming a well-known big fish water by anglers across the country, not just in the north and there is talk of a potential UK record being broken there in the next few years if the fish continue to grow at the rate they are doing. The current lake record stands at a staggering 58lb and there are 16 known 40’s swimming around this 25 acre lake. The lake is very rich in natural food which is a result of the extensive weed. Weedy lakes can put anglers off but because of the cover and food it provides for the carp it means that you can fish for these monsters without having to wait years to get your name down. The lake was once run as a syndicate but the owners made it day ticket a couple of years back to fund an otter fence. There are 350 fish to go at and the peg has 20 pegs but the management only allow a maximum of 15 anglers on at any one time which means you still have plenty of water to go at and if the fish have moved, you have a good chance of moving into a peg closer to them. Although you can’t book the lake exclusively, you can book in advance to ensure you get a peg and they do a Sunday to Friday deal at £100. You do need to call the management to book this and a one-off membership fee of £50 is applicable but that means that you can fish it at any point after you have joined on a day ticket basis. There are boats on site which you can use for finding spots, baiting up and netting fish caught in weed but you will need to take your own life jacket which is required to use the boats.

http://www.ericswillows.com/prices/

Richworth Linear Fisheries

Probably the most famous of UK day ticket carp venues, the Linear Fisheries complex is home to 8 day ticket lakes with carp to over 40lb. There is something for everybody at the complex – Brasenose 1 and 2 for those who like to fish for big hits to St Johns for those who want to target bigger and particular fish. St Johns is home to the Big Plated which I’m sure needs no introduction. Because the tickets are transferable between lakes, you could split your holiday up and spend a few days targeting a biggie and a few days seeing how many you can catch. The complex is very impressive with some great facilities. The first thing I noticed about the place was how well maintained it was and everything was well thought out. Most well-known carp anglers have fished there at some point and a lot fish there regularly. Some of the Korda Underwater series was filmed on St Johns so is worth a watch if you’re planning on going there for your holiday. Linear do an offer for those wishing to holiday at the complex with a buy 6 and get a 7th night free deal. The complex is close to the Oxfordshire town of Whitney where you can call to stock up on essentials if you need to.  Like the Willows, you can’t book a lake exclusively but would you want to when so many options are available?

http://www.linear-fisheries.co.uk/index.cfm?fuseaction=main.holidays

Yateley Pads Lake

The two venues above don’t come with the option of exclusive use but Yateley does. This historic 4 acre carp venue holds no less than 32 fish over 30lb – that’s almost a third of the total stock! As mentioned above the lake can be booked exclusively for a maximum of 10 anglers so if you can get a good group together it could be quite cost effective. Yateley might be a bit of a drive for those of us based in the north with it being in Hampshire but it will probably be quicker than going to France. Plus, I’ve driven from Leeds to Oxford and back in a day for a few hours fishing at Linear so stop complaining!

http://www.yateleyangling.co.uk/social/fishing-venues/lakes/yateley-pads-lake

Elphicks Fisheries

Elphicks claim to have the modern angler in mind. By this they mean that access to the swims is easy and the car parks are close by. For some this might sound a bit commercial but isn’t a holiday supposed to be relaxing! A lot of French venues are similar to this anyway. There are a number of lakes on the complex, some of which contain some absolute monster carp. The biggest fish in the North Lake is 62lb 8oz, West End 52lb 12oz and 46lb on Pullens. The lakes are available to book for exclusive use and as recommended with all the lakes featured on this page you should speak with the management about your specific requirements.

http://www.elphicks-fisheries.co.uk/

Churn Pool

Churn Pool isn’t the place to go if you’re looking to catch massive carp but it’s certainly setup to accommodate anglers looking for a UK carp fishing holiday. Facilities include a toilet block, gas

Up to 5 anglers can book the lake for exclusive use and there are carp to target up to 37lb. Some of the fish are really old, scaly warriors so if you’re looking for some stunners to add to the album then Churn Pool could be the venue for you. You can buy a range of Baitworks boilies on-site should you wish to save some room in the car. Churn Pool might be a good option if you enjoy a bit of stalking in the summer and a lot of carp are caught this way at the venue.

http://www.churnpool.co.uk/carp-fishing/

UK Carp Fishing Holiday Tips

So, you’ve decided on the venue, what next? Preparation of course! You should do as much research as you can about your chosen venue. Before deciding on the venue you should have at least found out how the lakes fish at the time of year you’re planning to visit. It’s no good booking a week on a lake in a month where it doesn’t tend to be very productive. Read their website, speak with the owner, read forums and try to speak with anglers who fish there regularly if possible. Also, try to find out what methods the fish respond to. Ever spodded slop over zigs? If not and you’re planning on a doing a week on one of the Brasenose lakes at Linear in the summer then you might want to have a read up on it! Bait too is a consideration; if a certain bait dominates on a particular water then you may want to take some with you even if you don’t start off on it. I have to admit that I’m a big fan of Sticky’s Krill but if I was due to do a week on a Cell dominated water then I’d take some with me just in case I started to struggle – if you can’t beat them, join them and all that! You will want to have options but this is where your research comes in.

Another thing to consider is the gear you take with you. If the swims are a long way from the car park or the terrain is tough to push a barrow around then you might just want to take the essentials so that you can move more easily if fish are showing in a different area. If you can park next to your swim then you might want to take all the tackle you own just in case! Sitting there wishing you had brought an item of tackle though is the most frustrating thing in the world so this needs careful consideration.

It’s important to ask yourself what you actually want out of your holiday, is it to catch the biggest or most amount of fish or is it more about a good laugh with your mates? I’ve been guilty of pitching up next to friends for the social and then moaning about my results. If you’re hoping to catch as much fish as possible then the social aspect should come second to getting on the fish. Different people want different things from fishing holidays though just like any other type of holiday, some like the beach, some like hiking – take from it what you want and plan accordingly. Regarding peg choice, you might find that a few of your group want a particular peg and in that scenario it’s probably best to draw for them. Hopefully that will avoid a few arguments!

It’s important that you speak with the management about the facilities on site or nearby so that you take enough food and water to last you the week. Some venues have more facilities than others and whereas a lot of French holiday venues offer catering packages it’s likely that you’ll be using the stove at your peg when session fishing in the UK.

The last thing you should plan is the travel. Fishing in the UK (mainland anyway) means you don’t have to worry about ferries and passports but it still requires some planning. Think of all the gear you take and then times that by the number of people in your group and all of a sudden there’s an awful lot of gear you need to fit into your van/car. A Transit (not Connect) sized van has 3 seats and should conformably take the gear of 3 anglers. If you don’t have a van then a trailer might be an option but this will require a tow bar and you’ll need to look into what you can legally tow on your driving license. The advantage of going in a group is that the fuel costs can be split and it’s a good opportunity to talk tactics on the way and you can share the venue research you have done to give you all a better chance at making the session a successful one.

So, what are you waiting for?!

Hopefully this guide has given you the inspiration to look further into a carp fishing holiday in the UK. The venues may not contain 70, 80 or even 90lb carp but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a session here in Blighty. We have some stunning waters here and some great carp living in them so before arranging your next French trip just consider how enjoyable a holiday could be a little closer to home. Your mates might take some convincing especially if they’ve fished abroad in the past but they might be surprised about what the UK has to offer and in the case of the Willows and Elphicks they might even beat their French PB with an English one! Nine times out of ten when I see an angler being interviewed and the question comes up “UK 40 or a French 70” the answer is the UK 40. English carp are a bit special so have a think about targeting them on your next holiday.

Until next time, tight lines…

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Dave Lane Book Review: An Obsession with Carp

Dave Lane needs no introduction; mention the name to any serious carp angler and the response you get is likely to contain the word ‘legend’. I’d read a lot about Dave (I’ll pretend we’re on first name terms) in the magazines and had seen a few videos with him in them but had never read anything about his background or how he got into carp fishing. My friend Dan had started reading his first book An Obsession with Carp and was really enjoying it so I thought it would be rude not to buy my own copy and give it a go.

dave_lane_an_obsession_with_carp

The cream of carp fishing for me is angling for big, old fish from low stock, tough waters. Unfortunately this isn’t the type of fishing I’m able to do. For a start I’m in the wrong part of the country but the main reason is that I just don’t have the time. I literally only manage a day or 24 hour session once a month. Because of this I find myself fishing club or day ticket waters close to home. Knowing that Dave was a full time angler and fished the tougher waters, I wanted an insight into what life was like for this privileged being. As it turned out it was mainly spent in the pub! What a life eh…

The book starts out with Dave talking about his younger days and how he got into fishing. Like many anglers (excluding myself) he was a young lad who went fishing with his father and ended up getting interested in carp as he got a bit older. Once the book gets onto carp fishing you get a real feeling about the places he describes. Some of the venues covered are classic, English carp fisheries including Harefield, Horton and of course the legendary Wraysbury. Even more exciting are the fish which Dave goes on to catch from these venues – ever heard of Mallins, Cluster, The Pug, Mary? Of course you have!  There are no technical rig diagrams to show you how these fish were caught but Dave allows you to get into his head and throughout the book you pick up plenty of insights into how he approaches his fishing. The thing that really stands out is how hard he works at his fishing, other than a natural gift this is obviously another reason why he’s so successful and catches so many fish. The other thing that’s apparent as you work your way through the pages is that there was a massive sense of camaraderie with plenty of other anglers being mentioned and all in a good way. From what I’ve seen of the modern day carp scene there just isn’t the social side of it like the more experienced guys talk about from the early days. It’s a shame really but then again with my limited time on the bank I wouldn’t be winding in to go to the pub that’s for sure!

Dave’s writing style is brilliant and I have to say he’s very funny. Some of the stories had me in stitches and it really does help to connect the reader and keep them engaged. His crap cars, fat dog and love for Guinness make for some fantastic tales!

In summary I thought the book was excellent. I read it twice in quick succession and once you get into it, it’s hard to put down. I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who wants an insight into carp fishing in the glory days when Mary was still with us and Wraysbury was at its best. As a holiday or bivvy book I don’t think it could be beaten. The book is available from Amazon and I’ve provided both the Kindle and Hardcover links for you below if you want to read this awesome book yourself, you certainly won’t regret it.

Kindle version

Hardcover version

Until next time, tight lines…

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Venue Review: Raker Lakes (Wheldrake, York)

Raker Lakes was a venue I hadn’t heard much about but it was when I was looking for a day ticket carp lake within an hour of my house that I came across their website. Their specimen lake is called Kingfisher but whenever carp anglers mention the place it’s always just referred to as ‘Raker’. The website stated that there were 220 fish in the 6.5 acre lake with 70 of these being over 20lb. All the carp in the lake are ‘simmos’, a fast growing breed of carp developed by Mark Simmonds. Some people don’t like this strain of carp because the fish can look very pasty and sometimes odd shaped but some can grow into very pretty fish and looking at the pictures in the catch report on the Raker website suggested that they had some very pretty ones. Time for me to have a session there…

First Impressions

A booking system is in place for weekends which means that you have to ring up on the first day of the month to book a peg for the following month. This just doesn’t work for me; I’m not able to book my fishing that far in advance so I can only fish Raker when I have a day off mid-week which is very rare. I understand the need to run such a system because the demand is so great so I’m not saying that this is a negative I’m just saying that for me personally it doesn’t work. Anyway I managed to book one of those rare days off work and decided to give it a go. The lake is about 50 minutes from home so closer than anywhere else I fish, this was a big bonus and as I was getting closer it was getting more rural – perfect, I hate any sort of urban fishing environment! The venue is very secure with 3 gates to open before you got to Kingfisher Lake and fencing all around the complex. The gates are locked on an evening so nobody can enter or leave the complex, again adding to the security of the place.

Pulling into the car park I could see the lake and a small outbuilding which was obviously the ticket office. This turned out to also be the toilet but it was all clean and the ticketing process was simple – fill out a form, stick your £20 in the envelope and post it through the metal box outside. There were a couple of ‘house’ barrows in the car park which was a nice touch, I remember how much of a nightmare it was before I had a barrow so to have use of one there was a massive bonus. As you might expect Raker gets busy so the first thing to do was have a walk around the lake to choose my peg (more a case of ‘see what’s available’ as can often be the case at busy venues). Whilst walking round the lake everyone was very friendly and was happy to give advice. I’d done some research beforehand to see where the fish had been caught in April for the previous 4 years. The catch reports from the website gave me the data I needed, it just needed cleaning up in Excel and putting into graph format. There was definitely a relationship between the information I got off the other anglers and the graph that I made so I knew they were an honest bunch and giving me reliable info. If you’re interested, here’s the graph.

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Peg 12 was the one I’d heard the most about, it definitely seemed to be the ‘hot peg’ and the one that everyone wanted. The graph supports this but if a peg is constantly being fished then it’s likely that the most fish will be caught here! Pegs 2/3 and 14/15 are double pegs so options are available for those who fish with a friend. I ended up in peg 16 which was right next to the car park, the picture below shows how close it was.

I just want to clarify that I didn't choose this swim purely because it was next to the car park!

I just want to clarify that I didn’t choose this swim purely because it was next to the car park!

All of the pegs had ample room for the bivvy and I particularly liked the flag stones positioned in a ‘U’ shape with grass in the middle meaning it’s easy to get the banksticks on the buzzbars into the ground – I much prefer this than using a pod but on some venues a pod is the only option.

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The ground in the pegs are gravelly which means your bivvy pegs, once in are very secure. On such a pressured lake it’s a good idea not to get the hammer out to put the pegs in and it is possible to do it without but your hands might be a bit red afterwards!

Gravelly, spacious pegs. As you can see I’m not the tidiest of anglers!

Gravelly, spacious pegs. As you can see I’m not the tidiest of anglers!

Looking out from every peg is a lovely bit of lake with features in every swim. There are plenty of nice margin and island features and that’s where the fish are generally caught from. Spodding isn’t the done thing here and most people fish hi-attract singles, stringers, PVA bags etc… mainly against the different islands. It’s all about accurate, short range casting here meaning the fishing distance is a comfortable one so leave those 3.75TC broomsticks at home!

 

My first 24hr session there resulted in a blank and I’ve been back since for another 24 and I lost one which I caught in the margins. I plan to go back before the end of the summer and hopefully catch my first Raker carp. Overall the place is a very well-run fishery and currently my day ticket lake of choice in Yorkshire. If I wasn’t so obsessed with Brandesburton 3&4 I’d fish there much more often. I am soon to fish Ladywood Lakes in West Yorkshire which is another popular day ticket lake so it will be interesting to see how it compares with Raker.

http://rakerlakes.com/

PS, please don’t be as stupid as me and try to stop the marker braid mid-flight – it hurts! Lesson learnt.

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Until next time, tight lines…

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