Author: John Finney

Dusk at the Carp Tournament, Chatfield Reservoir

Learning the Hard Way: Tournament Carp Fishing in Colorado

These past few years, the latest challenge I embarked upon, was the local tournament carp fishing scene. With thousands of hours fishing under my belt, dozens and dozens of of trophy carp banked, I was confident my success would translate into a tournament setting. How wrong this turned out to be!

In 2015 a local outfitter and tournament organizer, Tightline Outdoors, stepped up and added catch and release carp fishing events to their schedule. For Colorado this was a huge step forwards, for the promotion of carp fishing as a sport and for the fish as a positive species and resource in our waters. Having a long history in bass, walleye and ice events, the TLO tournaments differed from a typical carp tournament, being decided by the total length of common carp landed by each angler, rather than a big-4 or total weight approach. Anglers were able to fish in teams, helping to net fish, though the winner was still decided on an individual basis. The event would typically last for 6-8 hours fishing on a single day.

Their first event was held at a venue I was familiar with, Lake Arbor near Denver. I partnered up with my good friend and fishing partner, Ron Altman. We had fished the lake a few weeks before and I caught a couple of fish. Things were looking positive. However, as the tournament ended, I had blanked, my teammate Ron had caught a couple and lost a couple. He did not place high enough to finish in the $$$; those lost fish costing him dearly. My style of fishing had totally failed; the big fish waiting game.

The winners had banked 7+ fish, though only a few fish caught overall in the tournament pushed a specimen size. On the plus side, the teenage son of my good friend Daris, had won the event and the $1000 prize that went with it. Fishing with his dad, they got the job done!

This run of “luck” for me continued into future events, no matter where they were, whom I partnered with, I blanked. My partner blanked. The winners, more often than not, were using simple rigs and bait, usually sweetcorn on the hook or hair. The events were fast becoming a curse for me. I could catch fish at the venue, the days before and after the tournament, but during the actual event, my approach was not simply not working.

I learned over the next few years and after many more blanks, this style of tournament fishing was a numbers game. It was about how many fish you could catch and how fast. Size did matter but numbers mattered more. It was not my usual style specimen fishing. It seems obvious now, yet my mind was programmed to a different mode of fishing; long day sessions of 10-14 hrs, at known or well researched locations. There was also an element of randomness and luck involved. If you selected a tournament swim that held no fish, you were basically done, unless you were able to move. With the short duration of the event, the inability to chum due to Colorado fishing ordinances, you would have a hard time attracting any fish into the area especially if they weren’t already there or swimming through.

By the end of the 2016 tournament scene here in Colorado, I had fished 5 events and blanked in them all. A couple of my angling friends, some of whom I had even helped and offered advice too, had won a few of the tournaments; which did bring a big smile to my face. Though it may have been a little disappointing to always blank, the tournaments were still great to attend, an opportunity to meet and chat with all the other local and passionate carp anglers, share stories or tales.

The final event of that season was to be at Chatfield Reservoir, a location I know very well. This was to be a night tournament, starting in the early evening and finishing around midnight. My fishing partner James and I decided to get in some practice beforehand, fishing a few sessions just into the darkness. This was going to be the first tournament ever for James and I could sense he was excited to take part. We wanted to be prepared and do our best.

When the event started we were fortunate to get to one of the swims I was familiar with, very close to the event HQ. I setup to the left of the swim, James to the right. We knew the fish liked to hang out in the weeds about 40 yards out. As the evening progressed into darkness, James had a couple of runs and two fish landed. I had not even had a single beep off my alarms, even though we were using the same baits and were casting out about 15 yards apart. Around 9pm James had another monster run and the fish tore into the weeds. After a 20 minute battle we were certain the fish was never coming in, stuck fast. James did not give up or relent and 15 minutes later, after giving the fish a bit of line, he had a great fish landed and added to his score. Around 11pm, he had his 4th landed and in the cradle. Right before midnight, I finally had a blistering fast run, my first carp run in a tournament. My curse continued, the fish came off, i had blanked again.

The event was over. However, it was success for us, James had WON the event with his four fish tally. He was beyond happy and multiple cups of victory coffee were consumed. For many of the other anglers they had a rough night, loosing a lot of fish, to the weeds, snap-offs or landing them at the net.

The following season, 2017, there were only two tournaments. The first was to be another night event at Chatfield Reservoir. The second a morning and afternoon session at Lake Arbor. To prepare for the Chatfield tournament James and I fished several full overnight night sessions. We wanted to ensure our tackle and tactics were in place beforehand. We wanted more practice at landing carp during the hours of darkness. We knew we needed to improve our casting accuracy using landmarks against a back lit night sky.

The day of the event, we arrived early at the reservoir. A large storm had just finishing blowing through from the west, the skies ominous with dark clouds, the wind gusting. As the tournament started we were unable to secure one of the better swims near a point, instead we chose to make a long walk and drag our gear way down to the south end of the eastern shoreline. This was later to prove a wise decision as the point certainly produced the #s of fish, yet the anglers there split the many fish between them.

For this tournament I chose to change my approach, rather than my usual boilies, I fished with flavored maize and corn on the hair, soaked heavily in pineapple or tutti frutti flavoring; i also went with a size #8 hook, rather than the #6s I would typically be using. I had an early run, just after darkness. It was a tough battle and netting the fish proved a challenge for James in the waves, but he got her in safely. My first fish landed in a tournament. I was happy beyond belief and celebrated with a victory coffee.

My first carp in the Tournament

As the hours moved on I could see just up the bank some friends of mine catch their first fish apiece. As the night continued they had a couple more runs but unfortunately some of those fish came off or were lost right at the net. Finally, with an hour or so remaining, I had a second run, another single tone screamer. As with the first fish, it put up a great battle and this time James waded out into the water, shoes, trousers soaked to the waist, getting the fish in the net regardless of the waves crashing in. James knew how important that fish was to me and wasn’t about to let getting soaked allow the fish to come off at the net.

My 2nd carp in the Tournament

Hearing reports of the other catches around the lake, I knew I was close to first place by length, my two fish being just over and under the 30” mark. These were above average fish for Chatfield, the average being around 25-28″. As the final horn blew and the event came to an end, we made our way back to the event HQ. I was aware several anglers had also landed 2 carp each, it was going to come down to the inches, literally.

The final tally was in, I had WON my first tournament. VICTORY!


The margin, just 3 inches! The anglers in 2nd and 3rd place, each had lost a fish, towards the end of the event. If they had landed that 3rd fish, they would have won. Ultimately it came down to landing the fish, through the waves, around the snags and into the net. There is always be an element of luck involved in tournament fishing. However, over the years, the same familiar angler names were placing more than once in the prizes. Their approach, skill and tactics, overall leading to consistent success. This event was no different.

The final event of the year, at Lake Arbor, I blanked again. My friend Bleu won, catching the winning couple of fish with but an hour remaining in the tournament.

For me, those years of effort, learning, blanking, figuring out the tactics, making adjustments, getting in the practice on the bankside, especially in the darkness, had finally paid off. I still do not consider myself a tournament angler. I am a recreational fisherman. I enjoy the time on the bank with my friends as much as catching a specimen fish. However, pushing myself to take part in the events has opened my eyes to a whole new style of fishing and approach.

Tournament fishing has given me the opportunity to meet dozens of passionate carp anglers, to participate personally with the community of those who consider carp truly a great sports fish species and are prepared to do battle over them with rod and reel. It also brought me much laughter and playful jests and jibes, especially when I fished each event and returned at the end with a dry net and empty coffee mug.

So what have I leaned over the past 3 tournament seasons?

  • It’s a tournament. It is about catching fish and getting them in the net every time.
  • Ensure your tackle is in top condition, mainline not frayed, hooks sharp. A dull hook or line break could really cost you. Every fish is important.
  • Keep it simple, rigs, baits, your overall approach. Tournaments are not the time to experiment with something new.
  • Prepare everything in advance, rigs tied up, baits prepared. You want to be able to switch out that rig quickly, getting that hook rebaited and cast back out with the minimum time of your rod out the water. I have seen people with 3 rods setup, 2 fishing. When they catch a fish, or need to recast, they use that 3rd rod prepared and ready to go to eliminate any downtime.
  • Keep everything you need close to hand and know where it is. Organization.
  • Get plenty of rest/sleep before the event. I once worked a night shift right before a tournament, made the drive up to the event, got setup, promptly fell asleep in my chair for at least a few hours right as it started. I don’t think I had even cast out my lines. Oops!
  • Research the venue, get a map, get a topo map if you can, scour the internet for information on the venue, where the fish are being caught, what baits they are being caught on.
  • Fish to the last minute. As I mentioned above, during one 8 hour tournament, the winner actually caught all his winning fish, in the last 60 minutes of the event.
  • Make sure you have enough bait prepared for the duration and have alternatives if your primary bait simply isn’t working.
  • Plan to get to the event early, at least 30 mins to an hour before the rules meeting. If you plan to arrive on time, get stuck in traffic, something comes up at the last minute, you will be late, missing valuable fishing time at best, be unable to fish the event at all at worst. If you are way early, and have the time, spend this walking around the venue, look for signs of showing fish, bubbling, clouding in the water. This may help you in making a swim choice should you have the opportunity.
  • Travel and pack as light as possible. This has been a huge issue for me and my downfall on more than one occasion. Being able to pack-up and move quickly can be critical to success. I have taken everything but the kitchen sink with me more than once and when I should have moved spots, could have moved spots, it would have taken way too long to pack and unpack.
  • Focus on the fishing. During the actual tournament fishing is your objective, paying attention to the water, your rods, your alarms. Your eyes can be your best tool. If you are looking at your phone, chatting away on FB, posting that twitter post, snap chatting with your friends, you aren’t fishing at your best.
  • Have spare gear if possible with you, rod, spooled up reel, hooks, rig materials. I fished one tournament and had a reel break early into the event. I was basically down to one rod for the duration, reducing my effectiveness by 50%. Lesson learned. Ironically, I had 3 rods but only the 2 reels.
  • Most of all, try to have FUN !

As I write this article I am already preparing for the next TLO Tournament here in Colorado this weekend. I am looking forwards to seeing a lot of familiar faces, catching up with old friends and perhaps making some new ones.

The victory coffee mug will be with me as always!

So, when you see the details of your next local carp tournament posted, and you think to yourself, “tournaments, it’s not for me”, perhaps reconsider,

I am glad I did.



Pictures: Courtesy of Tightline Outdoors.

Rueben Heaton Scale

Weighing In

Spring Bar Scale
Spring Bar Scale

In the late 70s, when I first fished for carp, the most common method of weighing my captures was with a plastic bag and bar spring scale.

These scales are still sold in huge numbers for anglers.

Their popularity being due to a very low cost and widespread availability. Their disadvantage would be accuracy. The spring has a tendency to relax over time and it’s elasticity can be affected by temperature. The display readout has very limited granularity.






Over the last 30 years products have advanced significantly to enable the carp angler safely, securely and accurately weigh their captures, from the latest technology in digital scales to dedicated weigh slings, tripods, crooks and bars.

Today, the most common style of scale used by the modern carp anglers would be the hanging scale, either mechanical or digital. With prices ranging from but a few dollars, to hundreds of dollars, a very high level of accuracy can now be achieved in weighing your trophy capture. When selecting a scale, look for models that include a “tare” feature to zero out the scale, minus the weight of your wet sling.

Reuben Heaton MicroWeigh Scale
Reuben Heaton MicroWeigh Scale
Fox Digital Scale - 60 kg with Case
Fox Digital Scale – 60 kg with Case












Reuben Heaton 60 lb Scale - Korda Edition
Reuben Heaton 60 lb Scale – Korda Edition
Reuben Heaton Flyweight Mk2 Scale
Reuben Heaton Flyweight Mk2 Scale











When it comes to actually weighing the carp, never lip-grip weigh the fish; place the carp in a sling, make sure all the fins are flat against the body, then weigh both together. Make sure all surfaces the carp comes in contact with are wet first and free of abrasive or sharp objects. Keep the fish as low to the ground, or above the mat as possible when weighing. If you are using a sling, and it has zippers on each end, use them to prevent the fish from sliding or wriggling out. There are many weigh slings available at all price points, many of which can also be used as a retainer to keep the fish out in the water, safe and secure before handling.

Trakker Sanctuary Retention Sling
Trakker Sanctuary Retention Sling
NGT Weigh Sling and Case
NGT Weigh Sling and Case

Have your weighing solution setup in advance and ready to go. I usually set mine up before I even cast out. I keep a bucket with water close and refill it on a regular basis to keep the water fresh and cool. Always be thinking of the safety of the fish and the amount of time it is out of the water.

Cygnet EasyLift Weigh Bar
Cygnet EasyLift Weigh Bar
Gardner Power Lifter Weigh Bar
Gardner Power Lifter Weigh Bar















When it comes to lifting up the scale to weigh the fish there are a number of options available. For the most accurate weight you don’t want to be using your hands touching the scale. A simple 10-12″ metal weigh bar, with handles and a hook to attach the scale, works well – the larger versions allow a couple of people together to lift a really big fish.

There are crook/bar solutions, a long metal rod, one end can be anchored on the ground (against your foot), the other with a hook to lift the scale. This gives you a very good lever action to offset the weight and lift right over the mat. These work really well, especially for heavy fish.


Cygnet Sniper Weigh Tripod
Cygnet Sniper Weigh Tripod

Finally there are weigh tripods, with a hook atop to hang the scale from. I have been using the Cygnet Sniper Weigh Tripod for the past few seasons, a very effective and solid solution which meets all my needs. Ensure the tripod legs are stable and secure before use, especially on uneven ground or in high wind. If the legs have feet, which can be pegged down, use the pegs!









Whatever the weigh solution you choose to use it is important to regularly check the calibration of your scales. A simple method to do this yourself is to take a 5 gallon bucket, hang it from the scales and zero them. You can then add progressively gallons of water and check the reading. In the US, one gallon of water weighs 8.34 lb’s, and for each additional gallon; 16.69 / 25 / 33.38 and finally 41.7 lb’s at 5 gallons. You could use bags of sugar, 3 lb, 5 lb’s, or weight lifting weights – basically, any known weight quantity in the bucket.

In the USA, scale certification is now available on any scale purchased from Big Carp Tackle, free of charge when purchasing a new scale. If you have a set of scales that you would like to get ICFA (International Carp Fishing Association) checked and certified, you can send them your scales and get them certified for a fee. The certification is typically good for 1 year before needing to be re-certified. The certification is printed on a weatherproof label and placed on the back of the scale.

ICFA Scale Certification
ICFA Scale Certification








I would highly recommend you watch Brian’s Wingard’s step-by-step carp care series of videos, where he shows you all aspects of carp care; from netting the fish to taking photographs of your captures!


Carp care starts from before you even cast your line out into the water, from the location you fish to the tackle you use, to landing the fish and unhooking, to weighing the capture and returning it safely to the water.




NGT Carp Cradle 304.

Affordable Carping: NGT Carp Care products

When I returned to the sport of carp fishing I knew nothing of the modern accepted standards of carp care. Back when I first started fishing, in the late 70s, early 80s, weigh and retainer slings, cradles and mats, dedicated nets for carp, medicated kits to treat wounds and sores, simply did not exist. The fish were often placed upon a grassy bank and weighed in a simple plastic bag. Kevin Nash had only just pioneered the first commercially available carp sack in the late 70s. We have learned so much in the decades since Richard Walker landed the UKs first 40 lb’er back in 1952 from the Redmire Pool, ironically the very same County I was born in, Hertfordshire.

As I began to catch carp again, my first in nearly three decades, I proudly displayed my capture photos to the members of the Carp Anglers Group here in North America. I had joined CAG but a few months earlier to learn more about carping here in the USA. The feedback I received was not something I expected, or was prepared for; members politely sending me private messages to let me know that the standards of carp care I was demonstrating was sorely lacking!

Learning about carp care, from others.
Learning about carp care, from others.

Surprisingly, especially in a world full of keyboard warriors, this was not done in a hostile manner. There were no personal attacks, no vitriolic replies.

Instead, CAG’s members offered encouragement and provided a more gentle message of how carp care has evolved over the past few decades. They helped me learn the appropriate techniques and tools available to catch, unhook and return the carp to the water in as good, or better condition, than it was caught.




Honestly, if instead I had received a hate storm of feedback it is unlikely I would have continued on with the same passion in my angling endeavors today. Any enthusiasm I had for sharing my captures would have stopped, as would my contributions to the many forums and local fishing communities.

Over the past few years I have learned so much more and now endeavor to share this with others, encouraging and educating on what is appropriate or recommended, especially with new anglers to the sport.

The most common feedback I now receive when recommending the use of mats, cradles, slings and carp friendly nets to new anglers is,“it’s too expensive!”

I can appreciate where this is coming from. My first round of carp care equipment, retainer sling, carp cradle, a good net, cost me well over $300. This may not sound like a terrific sum of money to some, but to me, it certainly was. However, years later, there are now good companies out there providing affordable ranges of quality carp care products that even the most frugal of anglers can afford.

Over the past couple of seasons I have been putting Next Generation Tackle’s (NGT) range of carp care products to the test, both in my own angling and when out with others on the bankside. I was especially interested in both their functionality, durability and price point with a focus on those new to the sport, or the budget conscious angler.

Carp Cradle and Weigh Sling in Use


I am passionate about demonstrating that carp angling can be affordable for all and NGT’s products fill this niche for me. I use their products in my everyday angling and when taking new anglers out onto the bank for their first time carp fishing.  This allows me advocate to the new angler that they don’t need to sell their car, or children, just to get into the sport to see if they enjoy it !




I have been using the NGT 6 ft Carp net handle, the 42” Carp net with metal spreader block and a basic net float.

NGT 6ft Net HandleNET Net with Metal Block

Personally I prefer a net with the metal spreader block and threading. These are the two components most prone to failure, especially when a new angler tries to lift the fish out of the water still in the net, by the handle. The single piece handle is sturdy with little flex and the net arms fit easily into the spreader block. Sometimes I do regret not getting NGT’s net, with the longer telescopic handle. There always seems to be times when a 6 ft reach is just is not enough. The mesh is not as fine, or soft, as that of a more expensive product but it still lands the fish without their fins getting caught.

After 2 years use, with well over 150 carp landed, the mesh is now worn and ready to be replaced. Consequently, with NGT constantly working on their products and innovations, this year I will be upgrading to the new 42″ Specimen Net, with a Dual Net Float System, eliminating the need for a separate float.

NGT 42in Dual Net Float System













Mats & Cradles:

I have used many of NGT range of mats, and their 2015 award winning Cradle, for over a season now. The most simple, and affordable of which, would be the Quickfish Mat. An inexpensive, no frills lightly padded mat, that folds down for easy storage and transportation.

Quickfish Mat




If the beginning carp angler can afford nothing else, then the Quickfish Mat works and is a huge upgrade from simply lying the fish in the dirt or upon the rocks.








However, when I am using a mat, I do prefer one with sides. This helps to stop the fish from sliding off the mat and keeps some water on the fish. Thus, I have also used the Beanie Unhooking Mat.

NGT Beanie unhooking mat




This mat has plenty of support beads for padding and side walls. Measuring in at 24″ x 48″ x 5″ it is plenty big enough to accommodate a pretty decent sized carp though with the beads it does not roll up all that well (end up folding mine in half for transport atop the wagon).







For me personally, I prefer to use a cradle over a mat. I like to keep the fish elevated off the ground, padded, secure and at a height better suited to me for handling the fish. I also enjoy having the cradle stable and level, especially on uneven ground. Thus adjustable leg height is a must. When taking that important capture shot, I only need to lift the fish a foot or so up above the cradle and can easily lower it back down if it becomes too lively. Perhaps i’m getting old but leaning over at mat on the ground wears my back out quickly!

In 2015 NGT released a new product that immediately caught my eye, the framed Carp Cradle. This proved to be well worth the investment. Made with a strong, yet light weight aluminum frame, soft PVC durable material, the cradle folds down easily for transport and is very quick to setup.

NGT Carp Cradle 304

The height adjustable legs come with mud feet. The attached cover folds down and be used as a knee pad. The cradle incorporates soft, but strong, rubber mesh in the bottom corners allowing for drainage.

Having used a few other styles of cradle in the past the NGT Cradle hits just about every mark for me.




If I had to find a criticism,  I would be that NGT needs to release a larger version!

The current 304 model is 101 centimeters wide, including side walls and frame. The cradle easily holds carp of up to 36″ in length comfortably. Perhaps an XL model will eventually be made for those real big slender torpedoes?

Having used this cradle now for over a season I can see why it was voted for, and won, the Angler’s Mail Award as “Best Cradle of 2015”.


Weigh Slings:

Never, ever, weigh a carp using a scale with the hook through the carp’s lip or use lip grips. This is so totally unnecessary and causes damage to the mouth of the fish. For a big heavy carp, they could easily rip through mouth causing permanent and disfiguring damage to the fish. It’s simple, please, just don’t do it, instead get yourself a weigh sling or combination weigh / retainer sling.

Having previously used a retainer style sling it was a change to use the NGT Carp Sling System. The sling comes with zips on either side allowing you to put it on the mat (or in my case, the cradle), place the fish on the sling, zip up, weigh via the handles and release it again safely afterwards. There are fiber glass rods running through the two upper seams for added strength. The system even comes with a stink bag, which I highly recommend the use of after a long hot day of catching.

NGT Carp Sling System




I did find during the prior seasons fishing that I missed the retainer element of a sling system, when I had a double run for myself or when with a guest we both had fish on. Yes I could sack a capture if necessary but i’d rather use a retainer sling.







For the 2016 season I am looking forwards to getting myself the newly released, NGT Captur Floating Sling and Holding System. This sling incorporates 8 independent floats to ensure it stays afloat even in the harshest of conditions. With a double zip and locking clip there is zero chance for the fish to escape the sling in the water.

NGT Captur




Included are a 6 ft rope and peg to secure the system to the bank. There are removable bars that hold the system open at all times. Constructed of fish friendly materials, with a fine mesh running along both the sides and bottom of the system, there should be fast drainage for weighing and after the release. There are 6 Carry handles which cover all contingencies and yes, this sling is large in size, ideal for specimen fish. Heck it even comes with a carry case!




In closing, carp have a protective slime coat over their scales. This is the carp’s first line of defense against infection and disease, shielding the fish against such organisms in the water. The coat also prevents the loss of internal electrolytes and fluids. Any removal of the slime coat can make the carp more susceptible to disease, bacteria or fungal infections. This could potentially lead to the death or disfigurement of the fish.

Carp should never be placed upon a dry surface such as the ground, dirt, rocks, a boat deck or anything that could pull the slime coat from the fish. Everything that touches the carp needs to be wet first, from your net, to your mat, sling or cradle, including your hands. Carp care does not have to be expensive. There are plenty of products available at very affordable prices.

I would also recommend for the new carp angler reading this article, checkout this great essay by BCN Contributor, Iain Sorrell. Carp Safety – Going Beyond the Mat

So when you next see a post, or image, or angler on the bank that does not portray the standards of carp care you expect to see, please take just minute to pause. To think of how you first learned or were helped to understand by others. Encourage others, offer advice in a positive and non-confrontational manner.

The majority of anglers are usually open to feedback depending on how it is presented to them. Catch & release anglers do really care about the welfare of the fish. Perhaps they just need a gentle nudge in the right direction.

We all started our carp care careers somewhere.


Peter's mirror carp

Brothers in Arms, Brothers in Carp (Video)

As I have written about many times before, fishing for me is about family, fishing with friends and having fun. For some it’s a weekly card game at their house, for others, a game of pool down the local pub. Whatever the chosen medium, it is often the just excuse to spend some quality time together.

My brother Peter and I were always close as children, he being the older by a couple of years. When my fishing addiction started I was but 9 years old. Fishing was something Peter never was interested in. He accompanied me on trips to Stanborough Lakes, our local day ticket water. Though he did not fish himself he would keep a watchful eye out, to make sure I did not fall off the bank into the water and made it home on time.

As we grew older, as with many siblings, our interests and circles of friends diversified and I did no longer needed a chaperone. The years passed, we finished school, acquired jobs, bought houses and both got married. The mayhem of our busy lives took over and our work was all consuming. Though we lived but a few blocks apart we rarely spent any time together except for a quick night down the pub, a meal out at the local Chinese or dinner at our mums. I moved to the USA and we now live on two continents, almost 5000 miles apart.

With modern technology, telephone, internet, video conferencing, social media, my brother and I have been able to stay in touch on a regular basis. Ironically we perhaps talk more now than we did when we lived together. We have seen each other a few times over the last decade and a half, a couple of trips back home to the UK for me and for Peter out here to Colorado. However the trips are always a stress filled chaotic jumble of travel, trying to fit in seeing all the family and friends, a few meals out together, perhaps a movie. We never really had any quiet time just for the two of us.

It had been over three years since my brother and I had last seen each other. This May we were presented with a rare opportunity. My brother was coming out to Denver for a business meeting. He managed to schedule arriving early so we could spend some time together. Peter has been a huge supporter of my CarpQuest endeavors, he even produced the title sequences you see on all the videos. Knowing how much I would enjoy his company on the bank side he offered to come out on a session with me, to be a part of CarpQuest in person.

Now as Peter had never fished before in his life the pressure was really on – not only to get some carp landed but to help my own brother catch his first ever fish! A few days before his trip our conversation was rampant, as was the obvious excitement for both of us. Once Peter arrived in the USA, and after but a day of rest from his travel, we had the SUV overloaded with all the fishing gear and were to depart.

We got up at an ungodly 3am for the long drive north to Adams County Fairgrounds. I had chosen this lake for a variety of reasons. The venue was not usually crowded on a weekday and we were hoping to film some content for a CarpQuest episode. The Fairgrounds, whilst I would not call it a runs water, can really produce the fish on a good day. The carp have a reasonable average size for Colorado, in the mid-teens with the potential for a 20 lb’er. With a short walk to the swim the Fairgrounds would be a good place for Peter to get his first experience of fishing for carp.

Dawn at Adams County Fairgrounds, CO
Dawn at Adams County Fairgrounds, CO











We arrived just before dawn to give us the best chance to see a few fish showing early, highlighting the areas to target. Our efforts were rewarded, along with a stunning view of the sun rising from the east, we saw a few fish jumping and rolling off to the left of a peninsula. We unloaded the SUV and hauled it around to a suitable spot. Peter had asked to fish with all the entry level NGT tackle I had for guests so I got him setup with a couple of rods and we got them cast out to where we saw the showing fish.

For this session I had decided to go with particles and sweetcorn as bait, simple but previously effective at this venue. With Peter perched eagerly in his chair I got my rods out to the right of his spot and we both sat back to enjoy the morning.

Peter Finney, relaxing in his chair and enjoying a morning of carp fishing!
Peter Finney, relaxing in his chair and enjoying a morning of carp fishing!













The hours drifted by. There was only a light wind with the sun making rare appearances from behind the clouds above. The earlier signs of carp activity did not translate into any action. We spent the quiet time chatting but I knew, what we were needed, was a run and a carp on the bank. After a couple hours, with no signs of action, I decided to move us down the peninsula.

Adams was more an afternoon bite water and I wanted to get us setup at the new spot, in position, ready for prime bite time. It was not a long walk and we had everything relocated, lines cast out again within 30 minutes. Peter was quickly realizing that fishing for carp is not as easy as it looked on the videos. There is a lot of time spent waiting, and waiting, and waiting! Noon passed us by and we had a snack on some sandwiches.

Soon after lunch the weather turned with dark storm clouds moving in to our north and south. This was actually good as this venue also fishes a lot better in poor weather. With a few drops or rain striking the umbrella we started to see fish showing out in the lake, right on top of our spot. I had high hopes it would only be a matter of time before we had fish-on!

Just before 1:45 pm my left hand rod had a screaming run. Picking up the rod the strong fighting fish peeled off line against the drag, 20 yards, 30 yards, 50 yards, before it finally stopped. I could tell it was a big strong fish. Given this was our first carp of the session the pressure to get it on the bank was high.

Slowly I worked it in towards the bank with a few big swirls visible on the surface. Peter went to get the net as we entered the final phase of the fight. With the prized fish 20 yards out from the bank the rod snapped back and the fish was off – the hook pulled. I was gutted. Hours of waiting, finally a run, a carp on and it was gone.

Of all the fish I have lost, over the years, this one really hurt. Not only had I lost the fish but I could see the disappointment on Peter’s face. I was pretty sure he thinking he was not going to see a carp at all before we went home for the day. I hoped this would not be the only run of the session!

I got the rod baited back up and cast back onto the spot. Thirty minutes later I had another run on the same rod. I played this one in much more carefully, slacking off the drag as the fish neared the shore. Peter grabbed the net and the carp obliged and swam in. To say we were both overjoyed, would be an understatement.

John with a 33", 18 lb 10 oz common carp.
John with a 33″, 18 lb 10 oz common carp.











I look at look in the net and could see it a long, slender, common carp – a great first fish for Peter. The fish measured in at 33″ and 18 lb 12 oz. We were both elated at our first capture. We returned the carp to the water and got the rod cast back out again. With our first fish landed we really wanted to get Peter his first carp. It was time for some victory coffee!

As I was filming a brief coffee making segment Peter’s bite alarm let out a piercing tone and he was fish’on. He played the fish in gently, surprised when he felt the power of the fish. They don’t call carp the “World’s Greatest Sportsfish” for nothing! For his first ever fish, I must say, Peter reeled it in like a pro with a look of real determination on his face.

I grabbed up the net. As the fish came close in to the shore I got it landed. Relief, exultation, joy, we both laughed. Peter had his first carp in the net – job done! Peter got to hold his first carp with a huge smile on his face. Though not a monster fish the 28″, 14 lb 10 oz common had put up a great fight for him.

Peter with his first ever fish, a 28", 14 lb 10 oz common carp.
Peter with his first ever fish, a 28″, 14 lb 10 oz common carp.












We finally got to drink that victory coffee and were now not only Brothers in Arms but Brothers in Carp!

As we were finishing up the victory coffee the session really came alive. Peter soon had his second common carp on the line and in the net. This time it was a real feisty 29″, 15 lb 8 oz common.

Peter with his 2nd fish, a great 29", 15 lb 8 oz common carp
Peter with his 2nd fish, a great 29″, 15 lb 8 oz common carp












We had barely got Peter’s fish back in the water when my rod took off with a great run, a real screamer. A beautiful 33″, 21 lb 4 oz common was in the net without delay. The session was on fire!

John with his 33", 21 lb 4 oz common carp.
John with his 33″, 21 lb 4 oz common carp.












All the fish in the session were falling to the same bait and a simple rig made from Ambush Tackle; #6 Wide Gape Teflon Hook, a short line aligner, 10″ hook link to the anti-tangle sleeve, safety lead clip with a 2 oz weight. I really like to keep things simple, especially when taking people out fishing for their first time.

For baits we were using sweet corn, on the hair, popped up with a single piece of plastic corn – this was paired with an oats & panko pack bait flavored with CC Moore’s Milk & Nut Crush. Effective, simple and got the job done nicely!

Peter's 3rd fish, fins-up, 14 lb 8 oz common carp.
Peter’s 3rd fish, fins-up, 14 lb 8 oz common carp.











Peter was unstoppable, soon he had a great looking 29″, 14 lb 8 oz common in the net, what a great fish and his 3rd for the day.

The rain storm intensified and I hoped it would stay off us long enough to get a few more hours fishing in. Sadly, the Colorado weather did not cooperate. I could see a few flashes of lightning in the distance. Whilst I do not mind fishing in wind and rain, once the lightning starts it’s time to get those rods broken down and take shelter.

As the session came to end we started to pack away the gear. Peter was obviously not yet done for the day, his bite alarm sounded again. With the rain now pelting down, thunder ringing out above, Peter reeled the fish in. We quickly got it in the net. The last fish of the day, Peter’s 4th of the session, was a real surprise as well. A fully scaled mirror carp.

Peter's 4th fish and best of the day, a stunning 32", 22 lb 10 oz fully scaled mirror carp.
Peter’s 4th fish and best of the day, a stunning 32″, 22 lb 10 oz fully scaled mirror carp.












At 32″ she weighed in at an impressive 22 lb’s 10 oz. This was the first mirror carp I had seen come out of this venue in over 60+ captures. I strategically forgot to tell Peter at the time he had actually beaten my PB mirror, which was 18 lb’s! Not only was this a great looking mirror but it was also a Colorado Master Angler award fish for Peter !

Though the first 8 hours of our session had been uneventful the final 2 hours had certainly made up for it. Peter was beyond happy with his first ever fishing trip. He had banked 4 fish, with a PB common at 15 lb’s 8 oz and a PB mirror at 22 lb’s 10 oz. I was very proud, he had fished like a seasoned pro and put some great fish on the bank for his first time out.

As we finished packing up in the storm, Peter remarked, “Now I understand why fish for carp, why you do it!”

We spent the whole drive home chatting about the session, Peter’s excitement was still overflowing at his captures. We both agreed, in almost 50 years, this was the best day out we had both had together.

Over the past few years I have taken many anglers fishing for carp for their first time. This trip for me was the most rewarding. I not only got to spend the day fishing with my brother. We had talked more to each other than we had in decades. We also caught some beautiful carp together.

Peter and John, Brothers in Arms, Brothers in Carp!
Peter and John, Brothers in Arms, Brothers in Carp!













A few days later, after Peter returned home to the UK, he contacted me to ask what tackle he would need to take his daughter out carp fishing for her first time. Perhaps, in years to come, she will one day embark on a Quest for Carp of her own, with her children!

Sometimes, all it takes is the commitment to get out there, spend time with your family and get your lines in the water. If you catch a fish, that’s great, if not, you still get to spend quality time together. I would highly recommend not waiting almost half a century to do it, like we did.

Here is a link to the Special episode of CarpQuest we filmed during the session.


I hope you enjoy watching as much as we did spending this unforgettable day together.



Affordable Carping: NGT Bite Alarms

Often when I am out fishing other anglers will come over to see what I am fishing for. Their interest is typically drawn to the “euro” style carping setup I am using. Many anglers here in North America have never seen a rod pod before, or an electronic bite indicator and the only people using 12 ft rods are beach fishermen casting far out into the surf.

After explaining that I am fishing for carp they take a closer look at my “euro” setup. Their immediate comment is always – “how much does all this cost ? that looks very expensive!” They do not ask what each item is, how it is used, the purpose, all they care about, is the cost.

Yes, a full carping 3 rod setup, could cost as much as a small family hatchback – if you went with all premium, high end and name brand products! However you do not need to go ALL-IN on your carping tackle when you first get interested in the sport. Many people simply cannot afford to spend high dollar on their tackle purchases, especially when they are first getting started and do not even know if they will stick with it long term.

An item of particular interest to new carp anglers are the electronic bite indicators. This is another critical item of our tackle that you can spend insane amounts of money on. From an entry level alarm costing a few dollars to the top of the line, wireless alarm offerings, from Delkim, Fox, Nash, Chub and other well known name brands.

When I first returned to carp fishing I did not immediately go out and spend hundreds of dollars on my alarms, instead I purchased a couple of simple, roller wheel style electronic alarms – they worked well and certainly got the job done. It was only last Christmas that I finally got some Delkim’s as a present from my wife.

When I am recommending an entry level carping setup to others, when it comes to bite indication, I usually always start with a simple, no frills, roller wheel style electronic alarm in conjunction with a hanger or swinger.

During my visit a month ago, to Big Carp Tackle here in the USA, I able to spend some time looking at the wide range of electronic bite alarms available from Next Generation Tackle. They are very affordable, they work and they get the job done.

For the angler just getting into the sport, or on a tight budget, these alarms are a great choice.

NGT VX and VC Alarms - 1








The most entry level alarm would be the NGT VX-1. The alarm is waterproof and comes with a green soft protective case. It is as simple as you get, with a volume control, latch LED (green) that stays lit for 20 seconds and run LED (red). When you are looking for a basic alarm, that sounds on a run, no frills. This is as basic as it gets and works well.

NGT Bite Alarm VX-1








Next up would be the NGT VX-2 alarm, as with the VX-1 alarm, it is waterproof comes with a green soft protective case. The VX-2 brings a few more useful features, in addition to volume, latch LED and run LED, you also have a dial for variable tone and a jack plug to power external illuminated indicators.The VX2 alarms are also offered in a blister-pack that comes with 2 x VX2 alarms and a pair of simple chain indicator hangers, even comes with the batteries for the alarms!

NGT VX-2 Bite Alarm









The VX2 alarms are offered on a blister-pack that comes with 2 x VX2 alarms and a pair of simple chain indicator hangers, even comes with the batteries for the alarms!

NGT Blister Pack - 2














The top end alarm in this range would be the NGT VX-3 alarm. As with the previous models this waterproof alarm is supplied with a green soft protective case. The VX3 has volume and tone controls, latch LED and run LED, jack plug for external illuminated indicators and finally, an auto-nightlight, which senses light levels and turns on an LED for visual rod location at dusk and off again at dawn. Very useful if you are fishing into the darkness hours.

NGT VX3 Bite Alarm








The NGT VC-1, 2 and 3 range of alarms have identical features to the VX alarms, but are offered in a camouflage case coloring.

I have three of the NGT vx3 alarms and they have not let me down once over the past year of use – though I did freeze one solid whilst ice-fishing – certainly not the alarms fault!

In short the VX range of alarms from NGT offer outstanding value for money and will work with both mono and braided lines. Battery life is good, I only replaced mine once during an entire season. The only thing these alarms do lack, a feature more common on high end offerings, would be a sensitivity control.

Perhaps NGT will release a VX-4 offering with this feature in the future ?



Delkim EV Plus & Accessories

Delkim EV Plus Review – Part 1

Delkim EV Plus

The Delkim EV Plus is the “entry” level option in the Delkim “Plus” range of electronic bite alarms.

The other models in the range are:

  • the Standard Plus which has all features of the EV Plus with an additional level of sensitivity control, variable LED modes, low battery warning and battery fail alert
  • the TXi Plus which has all features of the Standard Plus with built in integral FM Transmitter and anti-theft alarm

The main difference between the Delkim bite alarms and others brands is that the Delkim has absolutely no moving parts in it’s sensor technology. Unlike roller-wheel based alarms the Delkim uses a sensitive piezo electric sensor which detects proportionally both line movement speed and subtle vibrations.

I have been using Delkim EV Plus bite alarms now for about 6 months, having switched over from the conventional roller-wheel style alarms. I must say, though I was dubious to begin with, I am now a convert to the vibration and motion sensing electronic technology.

A year ago I took a roller-wheel style bite alarm carp fishing here in Colorado, in the depths of mid-winter. The roller wheel on the alarm froze solid- not what I wanted to happen – but in all fairness, I should have expected it, the temps were way below freezing at the 9000+ ft reservoir we fished.

Delkim EV Plus Piezo Sensor

In the image above you can see the ceramic “V” part of the Piezo electronic sensor. When the rod is placed atop the alarm the line will rest against the V. It should be noted that the ceramic piezo sensor is fairly delicate and you should not abuse it – e.g. on no account should you rub your credit card, thin twigs or pieces of paper over the sensor to hear your alarm sounding! This will only result in a costly repair bill from Delkim to replace the now broken sensor.

The sensor is suited to all forms of fishing line, mono, fluorocarbon and braid – not foreign objects! The maximum angle of attack, up/down of the rod on the top alarm is about 30 degrees, beyond that the line angle against the sensor may be inappropriate to allow for accurate detection. Butting your eye rings up against the sensor will also cause a decrease in sensitivity of the alarm due to the severe line angle this generates against the sensor.

Delkim EV Plus Rotary Controls

One feature I really like are the rotary controls for adjustment of sensitivity, volume and tone (S, V, T).

Yes, the Delkim EV plus is an ultra sensitive alarm but it does allow for fine sensitivity adjustment to prevent false bite indications. I have read a number of reviews where people have complained that Delkim alarms are way too sensitive – my thoughts on this would be, that’s why you have that sensitivity control !

I usually start with my Delkim alarms set at sensitivity 3 or 4, adjusting up/down depending on the conditions, wind, wave action and amount of line movement required to provide the bite indication I am looking for. Only on a very calm day, if I am fishing at long range, or slack lining, do crank up to the sensitivity to detect the most subtle of line vibrations. I have on occasion also turned them up to maximum to give me an idea if there are any fish in area of my baits, knocking into the line.

The Delkim EV Plus alarm is pretty darn loud, it can belt out an ear piercing 100 db of sound – quite useful when fishing in windy or very noisy situations. I usually keep mine set between 1 or 2, which is plenty loud enough for me. If you were using the TX Plus Micro Transmitter option then you likely would set this down close to, or at, 0. This would prevent others from hearing your alarm sounding.

The adjustable tone control is useful if you want to differentiate between multiple alarms on your pod, or from other alarms sounding out there on the bank. I personally prefer a tone setting of between 3 and 4 – this results in a reasonable pitched beep and that all too familiar Delkim screaming run sound.

Battery life is excellent from a single 9v. I have been using these alarms heavily and they are still on the original batteries half a year later.

Delkim EV Plus LED's

The latch/run LEDs are super bright. I have fished at night with the Delkim’s and have had no issues seeing the alarm lights through the darkness. There is nothing better than seeing and hearing the Delkim EV Plus alarm screaming with a run and the LED’s blazing away in the darkness! The EV Plus has static night lights which are always on, glimmering in the dark. I do admit I would have preferred the variable LED mode options available on the higher end Delkim models, the Standard Plus and TXi Plus.

The Delkim EV plus does have the capability to be paired up with the additional TX Plus Micro Transmitter module, which turns this alarm into a full wireless alarm solution. There are connectors on the bottom of the alarm to plug-in the TX Plus Micro Transmitter and the Nitelite Pro Illuminated hanger optional accessories.

Delkim EV Plus connectors

The alarm is well built and has survived my “usual” harsh treatment without issue – I am typically pretty hard on all my equipment!

All Delkim alarms are backed with a 2 year warranty, should the device fail.

The EV Plus is all weather resistant. However this does not mean you should submerge it in the water and expect it work afterwards! If you’re alarm does get drowned, you should allow it to dry off completely before attempting operation. Placing the device in a bag of uncooked rice, for 10-12 hours, helps with absorption of some of the moisture.

In closing I am very impressed with the Delkim EV Plus. The alarm performs exceptionally well in a wide variety of conditions. When I am out fishing alone, or without “guests”, this is my go-to alarm of choice!

Delkim EV Plus Alarms at Adams Co


I do take a lot of anglers out with me who are new to carp fishing or who simply want to learn and see Euro style tackle, baits and tactics in use. I consequently have multiple complete setups for them to use. I do still use roller-wheel style alarms for my “guests” as honestly for the cost of a Delkim EV Plus alarm, with all the optional accessories, you can purchase a whole entry level carping setup to use, rods, reels, alarms, butt rests, even a rod pod !


Here is my video review of the Delkim EV Plus alarm.

In part 1 of the video review I go over in detail the features of the alarm and briefly show some of the accessories available.


In part 2 of my review of the Delkim EV Plus alarm I will be going over in more detail the accessories you can purchase, show you how to install them and discuss how they work.

Products seen in the video can be found here Big Carp Tackle

My Website


John Finney

A Wise Man asks for Advice

When I first returned to the sport of carp fishing my baits and approach were very simple, a hook, a night crawler and a run rig. I certainly caught a lot of fish and this immediate success certainly helped fuel my ongoing passion.

My work schedule at the time allowed me to get a lot of morning sessions in at a local lake. After a few months I began to notice the carp at this venue were getting far harder to catch. There were days when I would watch the carp feeding, approaching my trap, only to swim away at the last minute. The arms race had begun!

I changed tactics and baits, from the worms, to using plain sweetcorn on the hook. This was an instant hit, highly effective and yet more carp were landed. The only issue I noticed was far too many hook pulls. I switched again, this time to sweet corn on a hair rig, popped up with a piece of fake corn. The carp continued to suck down the baits eagerly and the rate of hook pulls greatly diminished. My catch rates were good but I felt they could be better.

With more research on North American carp angling tactics I soon learned about pack baits. These are very commonly used across the states, especially for the paylake style fishing. The pack bait approach was similar to the method feeder, and ground baits, I had used long ago in the UK. The main difference I could see was that the “pack” was molded around the hook bait, or as the paylakers would call it, the “pickup”, rather than a feeder or the lead. The benefit of pack baits here in Colorado is that it meets the local regulation requirement of the bait “must be attached to the hook” when cast out, Colorado has anti-chumming laws.

Here are a couple of the pack bait recipes I used.

Basic Panko “Pack”

1 lb unflavored panko bread crumbs, 1 tin creamed corn,  1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp flavoring

Flavorings, common ones I use are cinnamon, or liquid food grade pineapple and banana

Combine dry ingredients and mix well, combine wet ingredients and mix well, mix both together. Store in zip seal bag.

Panko and Oats “Pack

1 lb of old fashioned oats, 8 oz of plain panko bread crumbs, 1 tbsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon,
1 tsp chili flakes, 1 tin creamed corn, 2 tbsp karo syrup.

Combine dry ingredients and mix well, combine wet ingredients and mix well, mix both together. Store in a zip seal bag.
I find this mix is best after at least a few hours to allow all the liquids to be fully absorbed by the dry goods.

Both mixes can be kept in the fridge for up to a week, though they tend to dry out requiring a little additional liquid to be added before use. Combined with plain sweetcorn on the hair, cheap, effective and gets the job done!

The results of using pack baits were immediate and very impressive, my catch rates went through the roof and I felt as though I was now ahead of the never ending carp arms race with the local fish. Not only did I change to using pack baits but I also switched from the run rig to a fixed/bolt rig style and approach.

As this first season of angling came to a close I observed once again the carp were becoming wise to my traps. Over the winter I contemplated some new tactics and baits. When I fished in the UK, back in the late 70s, boilies were in their infancy, not a commonly used carp bait and not commercially available. I honestly had no experience in using them.

As winter faded the spring thaw melted the tomb of ice covering my local lakes. I decided, with my typical gung-ho approach, to switch from sweet corn and pack baits, to the humble boilie.

As the season started, and over the next few months, I tried a literal plethora of different sizes and flavors of boilies, from nearly every commercial brand available here in the USA. I even delved into some homemade offerings. With the no chumming laws, and without the pack baits, it was literally the hook and a boilie vs. carp.

For many sessions, I sat upon the bank and watched the carp approaching my baits, give them an inquisitive sniff, and then turn away. It was as if they did not recognize the boilie as a food source! Yes, I did finally catch a carp on one of my homemade garlic boilies, I also caught a slew of trout and a couple of catfish, either on the homemade or the commercial brands. I went so far as to experiment with using boilies with the panko or oats pack baits. This did get me another carp, but otherwise, my catch rates had dwindled to almost nothing. That I started to do better with the inclusion of the pack baits, should have been an indicator that something needed to change.

To say I had lost any confidence with boilie fishing would be an understatement. After a few months of experimentation the boilies went into the trash and the flavored corn and maize were once again on the hook, paired with the pack baits for the remainder of the season. The rest of the year was certainly good. I ended with 100 carp landed, a state record common carp at 37 lb 5oz and was a very happy man indeed!

Wintertime is hard for carp angling here in Colorado. The lakes and reservoirs are frozen over and there are few opportunities to pursue our chosen quarry, unless it is upon the ice shrouded rivers, streams or through a hole drilled in the thick ice. It is however a great time to review, contemplate and plan for the upcoming years fishing.

I am a math junkie and I spend far too much time reviewing and analyzing data and metrics. Those who know me well consider me to be obsessed with statistics! Looking back at my stats for the 2013 season I noticed a familiar trend. I was catching a lot of carp but I was also catching a lot of small specimens. The pattern of a typical session would be the catch sizes would steadily increase throughout the day, with the larger fish coming right at the end, or a single big fish at the start of a session followed by all smaller ones. My findings were basically, without a doubt, the flavored corn and pack baits were catching a lot of fish, yet it also catching a lot of smaller specimens (and nuisance fish, trout!).

For the 2014 season I decided once again to select a variety of boilies to deploy. This time the boilies were to be fished alongside the corn and pack bait offerings, one rod setup with each.

I really wanted to learn what flavor combinations could work. I had no illusions that the sweet corn and pack baits would likely to catch more fish but would the boilies reduce the small fish captures and produce an average larger size? Could I find a flavor profile that worked?

Through the cold spring I stuck with my plan. I soon discovered it was very hard not break down and switch both rods over to the corn and pack bait offerings. It was not a case of the corn out-performing the boilies, it was more that I couldn’t catch a carp on a boilie at all!

Finally I found a flavor profile of boilie that the carp seemed to relish, sweet, very sweet, with both tuitti fruit and then white chocolate flavors consistently putting fish upon the bank. Ironically the particular brand of boilies I was having the success on, NGT, sold-out, go figure – the carp gods truly despised me. I was left looking for yet another commercial brand to try.

I discussed my saga with a good friend, BCN News Contributor, Brian Wingard. His help and advice over the past year with my CarpQuest had been invaluable. He is a fountain of knowledge which he shares without bias.

Now I knew Brian had put some tremendous carp upon the bank with the bait ranges from CC-Moore, be that Equinox, Live System, Odyssey XXX or N-Gage XP. He suggested I give them a try, this time with a PVA stringer of baits, or small PVA mesh bag of additional offerings versus just a boilie on the hair.

It would be fair to say I am a skeptic. I am one of those people who want to see results in person, not on video or a blog. Though I do trust the advice of my friends I also prefer to form my own opinions on a product.

So, having looked through the entire CC Moore product range, I selected their glugged hook baits. Never doing anything by half, I acquired all four different flavors!

Equinox - Copy - Copy - Copy Live System - Copy - Copy Ngage Odyssey

Once they arrived, they looked great, smelled great and were very cost effective. I was excited to test them at a venue I knew was packed with hungry carp.

Again, after a few sessions, I was unable to get a single run. A little disillusioned, and wanting to again to see carp in my net, I relapsed and returned to the flavored corn and pack baits. It was not long before I had carp upon the bank. Though it was great to be catching again I felt like I had not really given the CC Moore products a fair try.

To say I am stubborn would be an understatement. So, after a couple of months with fish again on the bank, I was ready to return to the boilie project. This time, rather than just go all-in again on every flavor profile offered, I took the time to look at each of the CC Moore product ranges, paying particular attention to the flavor profile.

Remember, the carp I had previously caught on boilies liked sweet baits. So, to compare the four …

o   N-Gage XP is highly digestible bait based upon proteins and feed stimulants which come in the form of spirulina, N.Z green lipped mussel extract, hydrolyzed proteins, pepper meals and their FeedStim XP and Feedstim powders.

I had caught well on GLM infused maize in the past so this range had potential for me.

o   Equinox was another highly digestible bait, that is soluble and will eventually break down even in the coldest of waters. It contains carbohydrates, spices, fruit extracts, yeast, natural feeding triggers and Robin Red.

The fruit extract note appealed to my eye for sure.

  •   Odyssey XXX contains high amounts of GLM and Betaine along with proteins, bird foods, yeast and low temperature pre-digested fish meals. The bait has a particularly strong fishy aroma as a result.This range was very interesting to me, especially as it has a high GLM content. I had excellent success the previous year with GLM infused maize and corn hook baits.
  •   Live System has a distinctive sweet, yeasty aroma with ingredients including proteins, bird food, cream powders and corn steep liquor powder. The footnote on the description stated, If you’re looking for a bait that can be used throughout the year without any pre-baiting or a boilie that can be fished alongside another bait, then Live System is the ideal choice for you.
  • Yes, I am a skeptic, but the Live System description matched exactly what I was looking for and literally leapt of the page at me.

The decision was made, I was going to go all-in with the Live System – I am sensing a pattern here as I sit and write this article!

Rather than obtain the various boilies, pop-ups, pellets and glugs separately I went with their “Session Bucket” option. It contained everything I needed to get started. Paired with some PVA mesh and string, I was now feeling confident.


I selected another run’s water for the trial. This venue had provided me with my best carping ever in Colorado with carp on the bank vs. hours spent fishing. I was not so concerned with the size of fish at the venue, rather the quantity of fish and their apparent greedy nature and ease of capture.

Again, I decided to fish with the panko/oats pack bait and corn with one rod, the CC Moore Live System boilies, PVA mesh, pellets and glug, on the other. I arrived at the venue just before first light and was setup quickly with both baits out there, perhaps 10 yards apart. I really wanted the carp to be able to choose which they preferred. 

After an hour I had the first run, a nice common on the sweetcorn. Half an hour later, a second run on the sweet corn and another carp was on the bank. Fifteen minutes later, a third run, yet another carp for the sweetcorn.

I do admit that after a few hours fishing it wasn’t looking good for the boilies!

Finally the boilie rod took off and I landed my first carp on the Live System, a real nice 17 lb common.

Half an hour later another run with the boilies and a second carp, this time, 16 lb’s, was on the mat. For the remainder of the session three more commons fell to the boilies. I even banked a nice 8 lb channel cat on the boilies right as I was packing up.

The day ended with 5 carp on the boilies and 3 on the sweet corn. I had almost caught more carp in a single session on boilies than I had in the past two years. The sweetcorn captures had an average weight of 11 lbs, those on the boilies, almost 15 lbs!

Fish 2 - Copy Fish 1 - Copy - Copy

Once bitten, twice shy, is a motto of mine. A single good session was no proof for me that I had selected the correct flavor profile. Thus I decided to return again to the same venue a fortnight later, fish the same spot, with the same process and see what would transpire.

The results from the second session were even more impressive, 0 carp fell to the corn based offerings and I had 4 runs, landed 3, on the Live System boilies, with an average weight of almost 17 lbs. I also caught my second largest carp ever, a fine, 28 lb 12 oz gravid female.

Fish 3

I was a now VERY happy man.

I honestly did not think that a boilie project was going to work and I could catch carp on a consistent basis with them. What it took was the correct approach and tactics. The addition of the PVA mesh offerings with bait glugged pellets, as opposed to just a single hook bait, was the key factor. It was also I had taken the time to do some research on a flavor profiles that might be better for the carp in my area.

It was not that any of the previous ranges of boilies I used were bad – though it could be said my homemade vindaloo curry boilie were a creative failure, even if they smelled good enough to eat!

It was that I was using them in a very ineffective manner. With the local carp only having ever fed upon naturals, perhaps a few bread and corn offerings, they had never seen a boilie before.

With no pre-baiting campaign allowed, my single boilie offerings were never going to produce the same results as sweetcorn and a pile of pack bait. As soon as I started to enhance the boilies appeal, either with glugs, dips, small PVA freebie offerings of pellets and mixes, it was carp on!

For the rest of the season I stuck with the boilies. Yes, my catch rates dropped overall, as I had suspected they would. However, the average size of fish landed increased by more than 20%. Nuisance captures of trout are reduced to almost zero.

I have also started catching more catfish – I not sure if this is a good, or bad thing!

Catfish - Copy - Copy

Do I still use sweetcorn and pack baits? For sure, especially when I am hitting up a new venue or taking another angler with me to quickly get them into their “first carp”.  However, for the majority of my angling, the boilies will now be out there in the never ending quest for that next big carp capture.

Next season I plan to do more testing to see which flavor profiles work better in the spring, summer and fall. Which flavor works best at a certain location, or with a particular additive? The learning process never ends and I am looking forwards to the results.

Dean Brookes, BCN Editor, has a couple of great articles here at BCN on the topic of boilies. Well worth reading to gain a better understanding.

  •   The Art of Boilie Fishing: Origin’s
  •   The Art of Boilie Fishing: Types and Varieties

The morale of this story is that when trying something new, be that baits, rigs or tactics, put in the effort to do some research first.

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, be that from a friend, on a fishing forum, your local tackle shop/vendor or even a fellow angler on the bankside. You will certainly save yourself a lot of time, money and headaches on the bankside.

In my case, this would have been a season of frustration with but a humble boilie!


Fear of the Dark (Video)

Fear of the Dark

by, John Finney

No, not the Iron Maiden song; rather my first experiences of night fishing for carp.

This has been a crazy year for weather in Colorado. First with the never ending freezing winter followed by boiling hot days, cold nights and record rainfall, dust storms and electrical storms, high wind; sometimes all in the same day. The volatile conditions have made this year’s fishing a real challenge. After many a day session blanking this summer, burning up in the heat, without hide nor hair signs of a carp, it was time for a change – for me that would be, night fishing!

For many carp anglers, overnight sessions are the norm, rather than the exception. Yes, I have fished into the hours of dusk before, nothing remarkable there. However I have only fished once through night, but a few years ago, to test out some tackle and lighting options.

You may ask yourself, why?

Well, there were many reasons, safety being the primary concern. Many of the more urban Colorado venues are not the most hospitable as twilight descends, that’s the polite way of putting it. Many other urban lakes have limitations on the hours you are permitted to fish, no night fishing, or dawn to dusk angling only. Once out of the city there are then other factors to consider, the obvious one for us here is, the wildlife. I am fortunate enough to live in a state that has mountain lions, black bears and coyotes, to name but a few. This is not to say you are animal food the minute you set foot outside the city limits, but you do need to be more aware of your surroundings and appreciative that we are living in a wilderness.

Here was a picture I took a few years ago from my driveway, black bears in our garden!

Pic 1

None of these things were a consideration when I fished, back in my homeland of England as a youth. The only wildlife to be wary of there was a stray dog, or an annoyed mother goose, if you setup too close to her nest! Was I being paranoid? Hopefully not, though I do acknowledge I was being overly cautious.

Given the safety issues I decided it was important to team up with another angler in the upcoming night fishing operation. With my variable work hours this was a difficult proposition. I was fortunate,  a passionate angler new to carp fishing. He was eager for the challenge and happily offered to join me for an evening session that worked with my hectic schedule – btw, thanks Ron Altman!

In advance of the trip we discussed what changes in our preparation and gear would be required. From lighting, to shelter, devices to heat up drinks, camcorder lighting, head lights and warmer clothing. Fortunately we were both very familiar with the venue and swim. If we had not this knowledge then certainly we would have scouted the venue and swim in advance during the daylight hours, or arrived at the location much earlier. I can imagine nothing worse than turning up at a new venue in the dark, no clue of the layout, swims, parking or even rest areas. With the date set, we readied our gear and finally descended upon Chatfield Reservoir, CO – armed for battle!

We arrived at the venue a few hours before dusk and were greeted by the usual Colorado early evening thunderstorm. Thankfully the storm was moving out of the area and we were able to safely head down to the shore after a short wait. In light rain we setup the shelter, ground sheet, rod pods, prepared our rods and finally the baits were cast out.  All our necessary gear was setup within reach, the carp mats and cradle, a pair of landing nets (in the event of a double run), camera tripods, lanterns, everything we thought we would need. It would be fair to say we had gone a wee bit overboard in our preparation and gear – better to over engineer than not be ready!

Feet up, we watched the sun setting against the mountains and waited for the highly anticipated carp action.

Pic 2

Ron had brought with him an underwater camera. He bravely waded out into the reservoir and setup the device in 4 feet of water; dropping his bait down so we might catch a glimpse of any fish that came to investigate. I do admit to misjudging just how deep the water was. As Ron waded out into the reservoir he almost vanished beneath the surface as it got deeper, and deeper, the surface edging ever closer to the top of his waders!  A good lesson in just how well I actually “knew” the depth and layout of our swim – which I had plumbed before, with a marker float. I was very supportive from the bankside in offering encouragement, “just a few feet further”, I would call out, through the fits of laughter.

Pic 3Pic 4

A cable ran back to the shore from the camera to a monitor, we called it, our “Carp TV”. I must say, it worked remarkably well, with a good field of view and resolution. As dusk fell, and the light diminished, we saw bass, perch, crappie and, we think, a carp that swam high overhead. Sadly we had no way of recording the footage from the monitor –  something for us to consider for the future trip.

We both fished with two rods. Ron setup his first line with sweetcorn on the hair, popped up with some plastic corn, panko/oats flavored pack bait. His second with a pair of 15mm Nash Instant Action Coconut Crème boilies, again with the panko/oats pack as an attractant. I fished one rod the same as Ron, popped up sweetcorn and the other with pair of NGT 16mm squid and octopus boilies, both with panko/oats pack.

Most nearby shore anglers and park visitors departed as the light faded away, though a few stayed, their bonfires blazing upon the shoreline and casting a red glow into the night. We both thought it was against the State Park regulations to have open fires upon the shore. This was soon confirmed as a pair of State Park Rangers stopped by to talk to us briefly then headed on to cite the enthusiastic fire makers. With all the dry weather we have in Colorado, the terrible wildfires of the past few years, it was sheer madness to build a fire on the narrow shore with trees limbs dangling overhead! The camp fires were soon extinguished. A few hours passed and neither of us saw, or heard, any carp action before us.

We decided to wind in our lines, check the baits and cast them out again. I went again with one rod on the popped up sweetcorn but switched the other from the squid and octopus to a pair of NGT white chocolate 16 mm boilies topped with a 12 mm fluro pink pop-up – a real mouthful for the local carp. My logic being “bigger baits = bigger fish” – which certainly has not often proven to be the case.

 Pic 5

It was just after 9pm.

The white chocolate had barely been in the water for five minutes when the Delkim bite alarm screamed with a fast take, run lights flickering brightly into the dark. The battle was on! Line peeled off against the drag and the fish took a good fifty yards before slowing from that initial powerful run. In the darkness I found it difficult to see the angle of the line to water which made bringing it back in harder than I had expected. Only in the dark do you appreciate how many visual clues you rely upon when playing a fish.

Early into the fight I could tell this was a good sized fish for Chatfield, though I was not 100% certain it was actually a carp; in the back of my mind I was thinking, it’s a channel catfish. The run was straight out from the bank with very little sideways action. Carp at this venue are notorious for kiting to the side and then straight into the bank, the shallows, gravel and rocks.

After about five minutes I had the fish in close and Ron waded out with a net. We could finally see those welcoming carpy scales glittering in the torch light – moments later the fish was in the net. We placed the carp in the cradle and could at last see this was a good common carp capture for Chatfield. The average carp from this venue runs around 10 to 11 pounds with both commons and mirrors. There are many nice mid to upper doubles and more rarely a 20. This was a very long, slender, healthy looking male. He weighed in at 24 lbs, 8 oz on the Heaton scales and was an impressive 36” in length.

Pic 6

This was one angry fish. I am not certain if it was just annoyed at being brought form the darkness into the light of our lanterns, or was simply having a bad carp day. It took quite a while to finally calm down in the cradle. A few other anglers and beach goers stopped by to admire our capture, many had not seen a carp before, let alone, a 20+ lb fish. I took the opportunity to talk to them about carp and carp fishing. I use every opportunity I can to showcase the species to others in a positive light. Carp have a bad reputation in Colorado, deemed responsible for every and all ill that befall any body of water. Attitudes towards them are changing slowly though, in their favor. For me the past few years have been a project of one angler educated at a time, and in turn, one more potential catch & release carp fisherman for the future!

With some video footage taken we returned the fish to the water in a retainer sling. We continued to fish into the early hours of the morning but no more carp were to grace our nets. Tired, a little damp and cold, we called it a night around 2am and packed up, heading back to the car park for the long drive home.

We had learned much from our first night of fishing. We were well organized in advance of darkness falling. We had a plan on what to do when we hooked into a fish and knew where we were going to land them. The cradle setup, nets and sling were ready, bucket for water nearby. The swim was kept clear of obstructions with nothing underfoot to be tripped over – given we also had a gas lantern, last thing we wanted was to step atop it and start a fire.

I learned that though we had lanterns galore I still did not have enough, or appropriate, light for filming. I also totally forgot to take any still photos of my capture, in the all elation of the seeing that 20 in the net. This had been my first carp capture at night. To say I was a very happy man, is an understatement. The memory of my first carp, landed in the darkness, will stay with me for many years to come.

As I think about it now, a few weeks later, it had not simply been the safety issues that had discouraged me from fishing into the night, or an irrational “Fear of the Dark”. It was the lack of experience, or more importantly, confidence, in adapting to the new conditions and challenges the darkness would bring. In the end, everything worked out well. It was a good session, a fine carp was banked and I once again got to spend time on the bankside with a friend.

Will I fish again at night?  For sure, I am already planning the next trip … this time, with more lighting, and hopefully, more fish!


I highly recommend, if you haven’t tried night fishing, give it a try …