Author: Zach Testa

Classic Carp Fishing Video from Bernie Haines

It has taken me some time to finally get this video uploaded for everyone to see. This was produced in 1995. I had to have it converted from VHS to DVD. It’s quite old and the quality is not the best however it has been enshrined in my memory since it was released. Carp fishing at its finest! Rest in peace Bernie, you are certainly missed!

Guide to entry level “Euro” carp fishing gear

We receive a lot of calls and emails about what gear is needed to start “Euro” carp fishing. There are quite a few terms that can become confusing if you are not familiar with them. The amount of knowledge available on the internet can be overwhelming so I will try to explain the basic carp fishing setup for those interested.

Carp Rods

Carp specific rods range from 9ft– 13ft with the 12ft rods as the “standard” length. They are rated in Test Curve. A test curve is a measurement, in pounds and ounces, of the weight needed to pull a rod tip through a 90-degree angle. The test curve measurement is subjective and different brands 3.0tc rods will perform differently due to the action of the rod.  This normally ranges from 2.5tc – 4. 0tc.With advances in carbon and design most 3.0tc rods are considered all-rounders. Moving to a higher test curve will allow you to cast heavier weights more effectively. Lighter test curves will offer more enjoyment in playing the fish at the sacrifice of casting weights and distance. Cheaper rods will have a blend of carbon and fiberglass.

Carp rods under $100

Carp rods $100 – $200

Reels

Carp reels fall into two categories; bait runner/free spool and quick drag (QD). Bait Runner/free spool reels have a separate adjustable drag that is activated by a lever or switch. This drag is used after setting the rod down on its holder and allows the fish to take line under light tension. When you turn the handle, it will disengage which switches the reel to it conventional fighting drag. Quick drag reels have one drag system that is controlled by the front drag knob. These reels normally require one or two full turns of the drag knob to go from locked up to “free spool”. Choosing the style of reel is more of a personal preference and one style is not better than the other. The standard size of a carp reel is the 5000 or 6000 series spinning reels.

Bait runner/free spool reels

Quick Drag (QD) reels

Mainline

The choice of mainline is another personal preference. Braid, monofilament, or fluorocarbon line are the normal choices. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, braid has zero stretch, thin diameter for high strength, and a high price tag. Having no stretch can lead to hook pulls if the drag is not used correctly. Monofilament varies in stretch depending on the brand and their specific design. Most anglers use monofilament as it is the cheapest, most readily available option, and high abrasion resistance. Fluorocarbon offers excellent abrasion resistance, almost disappears underwater, and is supposed to sink faster than the other two. The downside is the price tag and some handling issues when fishing at longer ranges. I recommend using monofilament when starting out for the ease of use and cost. For breaking strains I suggest using the heaviest you can get away with. If you are not fishing long range (100+ yards) Using 18-20lb mono line will give you the greatest chance. If you are fishing around snags/rocks/rivers heavier line will also land you more fish.

Monofilament

Braided Mainline

End Tackle and Rigs

This refers to rigs, hooks, swivels, weights (leads), and those type items. There are a huge number of variables, brands, and styles when it comes to choosing which end tackle is your favorite and works for you. I have included a link that covers the basic hair rig and the components you need for them.

End Tackle / Rig Tutorial

Bait

One of the best baits to start with is regular sweet corn or other particle baits. Most people have maize available at feed stores for a few dollars for 50lb. You need to prepare the maize to release sugars and make it more attractive to the fish. This is done by soaking and boiling or using a pressure cooker. Here is a link to an article by Iain Sorrell about particle baits

Iain’s article

If you have done any research into carp fishing you will have come across boilies. These are basically boiled dough balls. While boilies can be and are very effective they are not something I suggest to people just starting out. The cost and amount normally needed to make them work at their peak is normally not something people just looking to get the rush of catching fish will want to pay. My advice is to find a bait you are confident in and use that until you are ready to expand your knowledge of baits.

Boilies for sale

Bite Alarms

As carp angling has progressed the use of bite alarms has become the standard. They offer you the opportunity to do other things while fishing by not having to focus on the rod tip or trying to hear your drag when you get a run. They are great when taking your family or kids fishing as you can do other things while having the rods in the water. There are many different brands, price points, and features. Some of them have a wireless transmitter that sets off the remote/receiver when you have a run which gives you greater flexibility when fishing.

Bite Alarms for sale

Rod Pods and Bank sticks

These are used to hold your rods off the ground. A rod pod can be used on any surface such as dirt, gravel, mud, or concrete. They normally hold 2 to 4 rods and have adjustable legs and buzz bars giving you different ways of setting up your rods. Most pods do not include front rod rests or butt rest. The front of your rod will rest on your bite alarm or front rod rest. The butt section of the rod is held by a rear rod rest or butt rest. Bank sticks are another option if you are not fishing on rock hard ground or concrete because you push them into the ground. You can also get away with using 1 bank stick for the alarm and leave the butt section resting on the ground. Bank sticks are made with many different lengths and materials.

Rod Pods for sale

Bank sticks for sale

Rod / Butt rests for sale

Fish Care Gear

One of the most important and underused gear in the all of the fishing world. Landing nets, mats/cradles, and weigh slings are not only used to keep the fish safe while out of the water they also allow the fish to be free of dirt and debris for great trophy photos. These items, while made for carp anglers, can be used for any species of fish big and small. They work great for Catfish, Pike, and Muskie. We have covered the basics of fish care and handling in the following article.

The Basics of Fish Handling

Hopefully you have learned about the entry level gear for starting your journey into “euro” carp fishing. While you don’t have to have 100% of the items I have mentioned most people that become interested in carp fishing collect them over time.

NEW PB Koi! Suburban Banks (Video)

There are a few memories that stand the test of time and I can remember very clearly. Due to a traumatic brain injury that occurred while deployed to Iraq during my time in the Marines my memory is not the greatest however there are moments that are so impactful they are solidified for the rest of my life.

This is one of those memories….

Monday October 16th. While driving around with Edwin I remembered of being told by my neighbor of a lake that contained a “large orange fish” and decided that we should make the drive to have a walk around. At this time I have walked around it at least a dozen times and have yet to see anything other than turtles and some small bass. After a lap or two around the lake Edwin spots something in the large weed beds which turns out to be one of the biggest koi I have ever seen. The koi had his shoulders pushed up through the weeds and you could make out that it was quite large.  We purposefully spooked it so we could get a better look. In the crystal clear water it has a deep, bright, glistening orange color like I’ve never see. After seeing the entire fish we estimated that it was around the low 20’s in weight.

We follow the orange koi around to see where it likes to hangout and during this we see something else, something even more exciting. A bright gold koi has his back out of the water just like the orange one before. The adrenaline starts to get flowing as we spook this golden koi. The golden koi is quite a bit larger than the orange ones and we estimated it to be a high 20 or scraper 30! I spent the rest of the day and night knowing that I have to catch these koi. We don’t get many chances for “target” fish here in the US and these just became mine.

Tuesday October 17th. Like any other Tuesday I get to work and can’t get the koi off my mind. One of the perks of the job is leaving to go fishing on random days. The weather was beautiful so Edwin and I skip out and head to see the koi. We decide that with the way they are acting stalking would be the best option. Using my 9ft 2.75tc Scope rod I tie on a long hair rig with Nash Combi link, a size 6 Nash Twister, Yellow Korda kicker, and a 15mm Nash Citruz Cultured hookbait. Edwin readies his rig and we agree that we will walk in opposite direction around the lake and depending on which fish you see first that person gets to try for it. After spotting the fish we spend the next few hours going back and forth between them trying to get one to take the bait. They both had their backs out of the water feeding in the heavy weed mats. We were dropping our baits just below the surface into small holes in the weeds and waiting.

The calm before the storm!

The photo above is only a few minutes before absolute chaos erupts! As the golden koi inches towards my rig my heart is pounding and my body is shaking. I watch as the line quickly slides into the gap in the weeds. I raise the rod and connect into the fish. I have never been more thrilled to set the hook than I was at that moment and even more so that it was all captured on film! The fish charged to the bottom off the weeds and stormed off into the lake. I knew I was in trouble so I had to wade out waist deep in the silty weeds to free the line all the while I can feel the power of the koi through the line in my hands. I realized our initial guess on his size was off when he swam only a few short feet in front of me. This was an exceptionally large koi. After a very nerve-racking battle it ends with the koi safely in the net. I stood there for a few minutes in disbelief of what just happened. After calming down we get the scales readied and zeroed. That moment of clarity comes when Edwin reads off….36 pounds,  mere ounces off from my PB. In this few moments with the fish safely in the retention sling we get call David and Jake to come witness as well as my wife and kids. Enough of the story as the video explains the rest! On with the photos!! At the time of writing this we cannot think of a larger koi being caught in the United States.

The second part of this story is Edwin’s as he, later the same day, captured the orange koi!

Order of The Carp – 2017 Austin Team Championship

With another great event in the record books and a sliver of free time, it’s time to put together my (Zach) 2017 Austin Team Championship experience. This year I was teamed up with fellow Big Carp News contributor Evan Cartabiano. Having never fished with him before is a little nerve wracking as you never know how you’ll get along with someone on the banks. I feel that we hit it off pretty well and I’ll enjoy further time on the bank with him. The Big 6 format I think is a big improvement over an overall weight as it give everyone a chance to pull out a win or upset/comeback. It’s not as daunting going into the second day with only 1 or 2 fish on the board because a good second day can put you right in the top!

Due to family commitments I was not able to get down a day early so that left me driving straight thru and arriving after 5 pm on Wednesday the 22nd. Here’s a tip for anyone that is heading down. DO NOT go to the Walmart that is near the hotel to get your fishing license!!! I do it every year and I now average probably over 2 hours to get a license. This year the system was “down” and I had to go to a different store. Last year it took over an hour to find someone in the store that knew how to do it. Every year I think I’ll be fine going there and every year I get the same results and next year I will not be trying it! After securing my license and getting back to the hotel it was time to mingle and partake in a few drinks before hitting the bed for the early peg draw in the morning.

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Day 1.

1st peg drawn. We pull the old power plant, a peg I have caught fish before (broke my pb 35lb 9oz) and if worked can produce some decent fish. 2nd peg drawn is 18. The is a down from I35 bridge and is in a pretty unassuming area behind some luxury apartments. This is the peg we return and ends up being put back a handful of times. It also ends up producing the big carp and 1st place in the event for the team that finally chose it!! Talk about upsetting. We grab our stuff and head to the old power plant. It’s not a long haul to carry any gear and the car is withing 50 yards so it is convenient. As the sun rises Town lake returns to its river roots and is ripping current. The issue with this peg is that it’s a narrow area and we needed 6+ ounces to hold bottom as well as being loaded with snags. I lost more tackle in the first few hours than I lost all of last year. Evan managed to pick up a few grass carp from out of the current while I caught a lot of tree limbs and rocks. He struck with the first carp of the day at a lovely 23lb even. After having a bit of time to think I decided to take a rod to place it on our far right next to the old power plant building. There was an area of slack water and we knew it would have to produce a fish. After placing my rig and some bait in the area the wait was on. The rest of the afternoon was pretty quite by us and while we were sitting on the grassy hillside chatting away we hear a faint bite alarm and had forgotten that we had put the lone rod just at the edge of hearing range. The area the rod was in was quite tight for 12ft rods and I had regretted not leaving my 10ft Nash Scopes in my van. After a pretty stressful fight we got the carp netted and weighed in at 21lb even. It sure felt good to get a fish on the board and know now that I would not blank (unlike last year!).

We did the normal BCT thing after the first day and headed to the Clay Pit with a few friends. Luckily this was a pretty easy, hilarious (thanks to Mark), and sober evening which is not always the case at the ATC. We managed to get our heads down relatively early for the next morning.

Day 2.

This morning we pulled Peg 18 again, which we put back the prior morning, and was 1st place after day one. We also drew one of the I-35 swims which had zero action the day prior. It was obvious which one that we would choose. Peg 18 is a nice easy peg to fish. Located behind a luxury apartment complex with a nice running/walking path makes for easy access. The 2 “issues” would be the lack of a bathroom unless you went quite a walk to the gas station and the kayak rental place down the bank which could be a hassle if it were the weekend. We only had one lady get into our lines which for Austin is amazing. We had a few fish crashing at distance while we were setting up and we managed to hold a few in the area when we started baiting. I had the first run of the day pretty quickly. Just as Evan scooped my catch into the net his rod peeled off. Now I had to scramble to unhook and retain my fish while Evan battled his. We were totally prepared with only setting up one net as well. In quick time we had Evans fish netted and retained. We were lucky because as we netted the second fish Kevin just happened to be walking by so we were ready for photos. My fish definitely had been eating bait while swimming around as it decided to relieve itself not only inside the cradle but all over my arm when I raised it for the photo. The morning looked quite promising with a brace of 20’s. Unfortunately no matter what we tried we could not get another run and spent the day watching the scenery and talking about all things carpy and some things that weren’t.

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The fishing had come to an end and we headed back to the hotel to regroup and freshen up for the banquet. The restaurant was pretty awesome and I’ll have to go back one day. The hospitality is one of the selling aspects of the whole event as everyone feels like family. I wish I could have more positive things to say however I started to suffer from an extremely painful migraine and headed back to the hotel to crash as early as I could. I am positive that everyone had a blast at the banquet and after, I unfortunately could not join them.

All in all it was another awesome year at the ATC and the organizers were top notch again, like always! We hope to see you down there next year!

New to Hair Rigs? Info, setup, and the basic tackle you will need.

There is a ton of information available to the new carper it can be overwhelming and almost off putting. While there are probably hundreds of rigs you will come across they almost all got their start from the basic hair rig and evolved over the years. We receive questions almost daily about what tackle is needed to start using a hair rig. The purpose of this article is to give a basic list of the items needed (at end of article) , a little advice, and setup of the bolt rig.

Let’s start with a photo of a basic hair rig which is tied with the “Knotless Knot”. This creates the Hair in which the bait is placed. There are thousands of “how to” videos on tying the hair rig such as this one from our fellow contributor Brian Wingard.0f4fc2bf6cb39487477f7c188bbd86ef

That is the basic hair rig and over time you will learn to adapt hair length, rig length, material, and the other factors that can make you more confident on using it.

Next we move onto the lead setup. The weight of the lead can be up to you based on how you like to fish as well as the distance you are casting.  The basic setup can be achieved in two different styles. The first is called a running rig. This is the same as a Carolina rig that you would use for bass. Instead of the lure you would tie the hair rig onto the free end of the swivel and the inline lead would slide up and down your mainline. carolina-rig

The second setup is called a Bolt Rig. This is done the same way you do the running with with the only difference is the lead is semi fixed so the lead does not easily slide on the line. Using this method with a 2 ounce or heavier weight will accomplish setting the hook when the carp takes the bait resulting in very hard runs.  This can be achieved by using leads that have a plastic or rubber insert through them that allows the swivel to be held inside the lead (by friction) until force is applied then the swivel will pop out of the lead.

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Example of an Inline lead bolt rig. Before casting out the swivel is pushed into the bottom of the lead.

There are a few other setups such as lead clips and helicopter setups which you can look into however the two methods shown are the basic setups. Make sure when using either rig that fish can take line from the drag of your reel. If the drag is to tight the fish will pull your rod into the water!

Now to put bait onto the hair rig. This is demonstrated in Brian’s video and I’ve added the following photo to reference. It’s true that you can use a straightened out hook as a baiting needle however a made for purpose baiting needle makes the process a little easier as the hook has a larger barb that can tear the bait apart when sliding against it.Baitingupthehairrig

 

The last item you need is a bait stop. This is placed at the loop in the hair and the bait it pushed against it to hold it onto the hair. This can be a piece of grass or heavy mono. The ones you can buy make it very convenient as you wont have to find something random to use.

Each card has plenty of bait stops.
Each card has plenty of bait stops.

 

Now that you have a understanding of the basic hair rig  and its setup I’ve added links to where you can purchase these items. I’ve linked to pre-tied hair rigs as well. Buying a few different ones can help you get a grasp of how they work.

BAIT STOPS

PRE-TIED RIGS

BAITING NEEDLES

LEADS / WEIGHTS

The Basics of Fish Handling

I wanted to touch on a subject that comes up almost daily, carp care or fish care for that matter.  The fact that we carefully handle carp in America is something that is not seen outside of our community as carp anglers. According to the US Fish and Wildlife services, in 2015 there were 28,463,499 licensed fishermen in the US. The niche that we have as carp specific anglers is only a few percent of that total. An overwhelming majority of the anglers in the US have never heard of or seen a unhooking mat/cradle or fish friendly mesh nets. It’s true that many species of fish could benefit from the carp care gear that we use. I would much rather see a large catfish resting in a cradle than a dirt or gravel bank as I am sure everyone would. I’ll approach the subject in the most basic terms as I can. Carp care also falls into rig safety which Iain has covered in this article. Let’s move onto the first item, Nets.

koi1

A fish friendly net is key to not only keeping the protective coating of slime but is the start to taking great looking photos. The slime coat acts as a lubricant while the fish is swimming however it’s more vital role is to protect the fish from any bacteria/virus/infection from attacking the fish. The loss of this slime coat can lead it a whole multitude of injuries and infections which you may not see on the bank however the fish may become ill and die within a few weeks which is the opposite objective of catch and release fishing. The “knotless” mesh nets do not scrape or damage the slime coat unlike the knotted nylon nets that you can readily purchased at any tackle shop. The chances are that if you have a net with the damaging nylon net you can retrofit a fish friendly mesh onto your existing frame and go on fishing. The euro style nets with the large arms can take practice to use and it’s inevitable that it will break if lifted incorrectly which many new users do. Rubberized nets can also be used however I personally prefer the softer, fish friendly mesh. The focus is to get the fish safely into a fish friendly net to move onto the next item,an unhooking mat.

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Fish friendly net

 

Unhooking mats are something that almost no one outside carp fishing have seen or used. There are folks in the US that think everyone should know and have one when they are first starting. That is a very big demand for them to know of something that they have probably never knew existed. Beginners can become very discouraged when attacked for not having a mat or holding a fish safely however it is something that must be taught and learned as there is no standardize test when you purchase a license that covers fish care. I have personally spent an unknown amount of time politely informing people of better fish care and not just for carp. I’d bet that unless you started carp fishing with someone that had one, there’s a photo or memory (you may not admit it) of you handling a carp with poor technique, I know I have and I’ve been specifically carp angling over 20 years.

I’ve gotten a bit off topic so I’ll come back to the unhooking mats. The unhooking mat is a padded mat that is laid on the ground (see the first photo of the butterfly koi) to protect fish from dirt, gravel, sand, pavement, etc.. from damaging the fish while it flops or removing the slime coat. You will want to put some water on the outside of the mat to aid in the slime coat not getting damaged. If you have a fish friendly net and then lay the fish onto the sidewalk you’ve lost the fish care battle.  A mat can be made from a yoga mat or even a pillow that is put inside a garbage bag for a quick fix. There are plenty of cheap mats available for around $10-$15 that will take care of the basic needs. No need to buy into an expensive mat when you are just getting started.

quickfish
Basic unhooking mat

 

Another version is the cradle. These are designed to keep the fish elevated off the ground to reduce and damage from flopping around as well as protect the slime coat. Cradles come at a high cost (size and weight also) but when dealing with larger 25+ pound fish they excel and give you peace of mind that the fish isn’t going to slip or jump off the mat and get injured.

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36+ filling the cradle

 

Depending on your situation and how you fish one may be better than the other. If you carry all your gear, then a regular unhooking mat is the way to go. If you don’t mind hauling a larger and heavier one, then cradles cannot be beat. I personally would opt of a cradle all the time but times like stalking do not make carrying one very easy so I take a mat.

One of the final pieces are weigh slings. These come in many different forms and prices. Some are no more than a fish friendly sack while others have bars with floats to retain the fish in the water while getting the camera setup. It depends on your situation and how you like to do things on which one will be the best fit for you. They are used to hold the fish safely without damaging the slime coat (there’s a trend here!) and aids in getting the most accurate weight possible. I like to get it wet and let it drain the extra water off. Next I put it on the scale to zero out the weight of it. Then I transfer the fish into the weigh sling as seen above. Then zip up the sides so the fish won’t slip out and you can accurately weigh your catch.sanctuary_retention_sling1

 

I’ll mention the fish care antiseptics quickly. These are available through several companies and are used to protect and help heal wounds. Not only the area where the hook was but also any damage such as missing scales or injuries that you may see on a fish. They work like Neosporin that you would put on yourself after an injury. While you may see this as slightly extreme when it comes to the life of an old, large fish it may keep them healthy or may save a young one that has an infection from a run in with a boat for example.

 

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Now that we have transferred the fish safely from the net and onto your mat/cradle with its slime coat intact we can get ready for a good-looking photo. It’s always good to have a small bucket or water container on hand to pour some over the fish before you lift it to wash off any leaves, grass, or debris that has gotten onto the fish. This gives the fish a clean shine for the camera as well. I’ve used this photo (credit to Carpology) to show you the best way to hold the carp however it’s the basics for holding any fish safely and in a great photo pose.

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Following some basic ideas of fish care you’ll not only have better looking photos to show and remember but you’ll also be keeping the fish healthy for years to come. After all the photos and memories will be seen for years to come so why have the photo of the fish of a lifetime to have dirt and grim ground into the fish and it looking unsightly when you could take a few extra steps and have a beautiful photo.

A few things not to do with carp:

  1. Carp have soft mouths without a jaw structure. Lipping or using a Bogo grip type device will damage the mouth.
  2. Holding a fish vertically, especially large specimen, can damage their organs. Their bodies are not made to counter the effect of gravity and not designed to support their weight outside of water. Holding them vertically pushes all their internals down and can injure them.
  3. Do not hold any fish by the gill plates that you are releasing. This will cause damage to their gills and cause mass bleeding.

A quick note to those that practice good fish care already. There are many ways to approach the topic with someone without coming off as confrontational. I’ve seen it many times over the past 20+ years. When you attack someone that does not know how to handle a fish correctly they shut down and do not want to listen to anyone after that about fish care. They are excited about their catch and want to share it. No need to crush them because they don’t have the knowledge. It’s our jobs as ambassadors to the sport to inform and influence them to change their ways. You’ll find a much better response if you don’t start a fight because they are uninformed (like I would bet you were at one time) about the proper techniques.

Ridgemonkey Modular Hookbait Pots (Video)

  • Ideal for storing all kinds of pop-ups, wafters, bottom baits, imitation plastics and much more! With each section featuring a high-quality seal so all manner of glugs and flavouring can be used without fear of spillage.
  • Bait storage just got organized! No more loose jars rattling around in your rucksack with one of these – designed to screw together with a twist of the hand, the system comes complete with removable internal glug cages and a hard-wearing carry case.
  • 4x  150ml Hookbait Pots
  • 4x Glug Cages
  • Carry Case
  • Approximate dimensions: 220mm x 70mm

Available at Big Carp Tackle
 

What’s in your box Zach? (Video)

I’ve had a few requests to see what I take on sessions so I made a short video. I said the wrong thing a few times such as the first black box being Ambush when it is NGT. The second was the Solar baiting needle does not include a gated needle. Guess I need to write myself a script! Links are provided in the description of the video to several of the items I personally use.

I have used the Nash Tackle hooks and hook lengths with great success (see my Idaho article). The Rig Station is great as it doubles as a bivvy table with adjustable legs. The JAG hook sharpening kit is vital for super sharp hooks which convert into more hookups.