From our Facebook live videos we try to do every Wednesday at 2pm CST. November Carp of the Month winners and drawing for January Sponsors.
On Monday July 19th 2021 some of the most highly skilled anglers from all over the country gathered in Waddington, NY to draw pegs for what would be the longest and one of most challenging carp fishing tournaments ever held on the mighty St. Lawrence River. The first annual St. Lawrence Carp Marathon ran for 6 days starting on Monday at 8am and ending Saturday at 6pm. For many of the teams this was their first time fishing the St. Lawrence, but even the most seasoned local anglers had no idea just how much they’d be tested in the days ahead.
Before I get into that story, here’s a little background on how this tournament came to be. The first annual St. Lawrence Carp Marathon was organized by Ogdensburg local Colin Peters. Making the move from England to New York well over a decade ago, it wasn’t long before Colin fell in love with the St. Lawrence and eventually settled in Ogdensburg, NY where he’s been living ever since. After competing in a number of tournaments over the years including The Wild Carp Classic and The Ed French Open on the Seneca River, the CT Open on the Connecticut River, and of course, The Seaway Sixpack on the St. Lawrence, Colin had plenty of opportunity to learn the ins and outs of tournament fishing for carp. Then the year 2020 happened…with Covid restrictions putting a dampener on just about every aspect of our lives, the annual carp fishing tournaments were just another casualty of those unfortunate times. The WCC and Ed French were both canceled. Leaving anglers from all over the country with a void to fill, but all hope was not lost.
The Seaway Sixpack on the St. Lawrence, normally held in the fall, would be held in July. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of Bob Giordano and his fellow local anglers they were able to get the tournament approved by the local board and department of health. As long as they agreed to follow guidelines such as wearing masks in groups and using hand sanitizer when needed. The Sixpack was a big success. A lot of fish were caught and many of the teams put their 6 qualifying fish on the board, and they did it while following the necessary guidelines. All teams were challenged a fair amount by the elements especially. They were faced with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees most days, and heavy rain about halfway through the event. This was only a preview of what they’d go through a year later.
Later that year, with the Ed French being canceled, Colin decided to take things into his own hands and organize a new tournament dubbed “The St. Lawrence Invitational Showdown”. Just like with Bob’s tournament, Colin worked together with other local anglers and managed to get the event approved and organized within a few short months. The Showdown was another great success and allowed those who would normally compete in the Ed French to compete in a whole new tournament on the most incredible river in the northeast. The St. Lawrence Invitational Showdown would be held again the following spring, immediately following the WCC in Baldwinsville, which was given the green light to proceed after Covid restrictions were no longer as strict.
After the success of The Showdown, Colin had an idea for another tournament. One that would be completely different from those held in the past. A tournament that would prove to be the ultimate test of not only skill, but physical and mental stamina. Thus, “The St. Lawrence Carp Marathon” was born. This was a 6-day “Big 10” event, meaning anglers needed the largest combined weight of their ten biggest fish to win, with 20lbs being the minimum weight for a fish to qualify. Anglers came from all over the country to compete. From Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and nearly half the teams competing were from North or South Carolina. Many of the teams were new to the St. Lawrence, and were blown away by the rivers massiveness and beauty. They arrived at their pegs Monday morning fully loaded and ready to take on this immense challenge. Day one was quiet. Some teams started catching fish right out of the gate, while others took time to evaluate their swim and formulate a plan. The 20lb minimum weight turned out to be a challenge in itself with a high number of fish in the 16lb-19lb range being caught throughout the week. Overall, the first day wasn’t much different than any other day on the river.
On day two, anglers woke up to an incredible sunrise that led to a clear sunny morning but a thunderstorm was predicted to hit in the late afternoon or early evening. I use the term “thunderstorm” lightly. A lot of teams were catching fish somewhat consistently throughout the first half of the day, with a handful of qualifying fish hitting the board before noon. Every peg came with its own set of challenges. Whether it be thick weeds, snags, zebra muscles, boaters, wildlife, or all of the above, there wasn’t a single team that didn’t have to work around some type of obstacle in order to put fish on the mat. As the hours passed dark clouds filled the sky and the wind began to pick up. One team received a call from a friend up river with a stark and straightforward warning..”get ready.”
Within minutes anglers were slammed with heavy rain and extreme wind. Pods were blown over, rods were broken, shelters were collapsed, and a number of canvas canopies were destroyed. One team reported that their canopy was blow 30 feet into the air and 40 yards into the woods, taking everything nearby with it. The storm was gone as fast as it arrived, leaving behind an apocalyptic scene at most of the pegs. Nevertheless, teams still caught a handful of fish in the middle of the storm and the weigh marshals were getting calls immediately after it cleared up. Anglers were now faced with having to salvage what was left and to rebuild their pegs. The tournament had only just begun, and despite the sudden devastation, teams picked themselves up, hung their clothes out to dry, and persisted onwards.
Later in the week anglers were beginning to show signs of exhaustion, evidence of just how taxing this tournament would prove to be. Most teams were putting in long hours and finding little time to get any rest. Anglers were persistently baiting their swims, checking their rigs, and constantly adapting to their environment and the carps feeding habits. By Thursday there was a handful of teams with their 10 qualifying fish on the board, and many weren’t far behind. For the teams with little to no fish on the board the feeling of hopelessness started to set in. Many found it difficult to stay positive, and one team even decided they’d had enough and went home by that afternoon. But even for the teams with little chance of getting their 10, there was still a considerable amount of money on the table for Biggest Fish. With only two days left anglers put the pedal to the floor, and the race to the finish began.
Friday was very slow. It was another hot summer day, but with no wind. The lack of wind seemed to shut the fish down for a while and the only thing teams could do is wait until dusk with hopes that the fish would tilt their heads down and start to feed again. Some caught fish that night, some didn’t. Some alarms went screaming at 3am, and some were silent. Saturday was another slow day with a handful of fish hitting the board in the morning, and some stragglers throughout the day. The race to the finish was extremely close with some teams mere ounces away from surpassing another. The teams in first and second place were neck and neck right up until the end. When the tournament came to a close that night and anglers gathered for the award ceremony it was evident that most of them were more than ready to go home and get some sleep. After the prizes were awarded to the winning teams they mingled with each other and slowly started to disperse from the pavilion where the ceremony was held, with no shortage of memories to bring home and tell their friends and family. In a recent Facebook post by Colin he reflected on the tournament and asked himself “will their be another Marathon?” he followed up by saying “let me have some rest and think about it.”
A day later he posted provisional dates for the 2nd annual St. Lawrence Carp Marathon.
On a personal note, I started working these tournaments as a weigh marshal last summer with The Seaway Sixpack being my first, and The Marathon being my fourth. I’ve made some incredible memories and even more incredible friends along the way. I’ve learned more from anglers in these tournaments than I could have ever learned on my own, but this tournament in particular was special. Not only did I make a lot of new friends, but I had the opportunity to get to know anglers from a different side of the carp fishing world and I learned that we have a lot more in common than originally perceived. We swapped stories and shared a lot of laughs, I got to try Cheerwine for the first time, and I received countless offers to come fish down in the Carolinas. The friendships that were kindled as a result of this event far outweigh any monetary payment for my time spent on the river, and I am forever grateful for that.
A big shoutout to those that made this tournament happen. Colin and everyone that helped him plan it out, Jevonnah Foster and her team of marshals, and of course all of the anglers that travelled many miles to truly make this event what it was. This was a week I’ll never forget. Can’t wait to see everyone again next year!
Keep scrolling to see more pictures from the tournament!
No, I’m not talking about my age, although I am getting close to 30..I’m talking about the elusive 30lb+ carp. It seems that, depending on where you live, catching and landing a 30lb carp is a goal most of strive for, and for some of us, it takes years to make that goal a reality.
The image above was my first big carp at 26lbs 12oz caught in September of 2018. I was running with minimal gear at the time. I didn’t even have a proper carp net. But I’d been fishing this newly discovered swim for a few days and had a really good feeling about it. On day 3 one of my rods went off about an hour into the session. After a long fight I finally got the fish into the net and onto the mat. I was blown away. This was the biggest fish I’d ever seen at the time and it left me wanting more. This is where the hunt truly began.
Fast forward to June 10th of this year (2021). I’m fishing one of my go-to local swims. This spot has always produced a lot of fish but nothing of any substantial size. I was lucky to get one in the low 20’s from here on occasion. Something was different about this day. The weather was perfect, it was quiet, and the carp were showing. I casted my middle rod to the far side of the bank, a risky move due to snags but I knew that’s where the fish were. Nearly 2 hours into the sessions my middle rod went screaming! When I picked it up I felt an incredible force on the end of my line. “This is definitely a big one” I said to myself as I attempted to steer it away from a downed tree close to the swim to no avail. This crafty carp buried itself deep in the tree branches, leaving me with a tight line and potentially no fish on the other end. Moments before this happened my right hand rod started ripping. I set the middle rod down with the drag loose and tended to the left hand rod. It was a small carp, maybe around 12 pounds, so I quickly let it go while watching for the other line to start moving..which it did! By some miracle this carp managed to free itself from the snag! Now it’s back on! The fish nearly got snagged again but managed to free itself a second time. After a really intense fight the fish was in the net. 29lbs 12oz. Exactly 3 pounds heavier than my previous PB, but not quite 30lbs. The hunt continues..
Fast forward again, but this time only one month to July 10th. I took a ride to another favorite local swim for a 24hr session. This spot is great for longer sessions because you can fish right out of the car. When I arrived I was on the phone with a friend so my initial setup was a bit sloppy being that I was distracted. I put a salty-pineapple flavored tiger nut topped with a single pop-up corn on each rig. I casted one to the left, about 10ft off the bank, and the other to the right also 10ft off the bank. No method mix or pack-bait, but I did throw a few handfuls of range pellets over each rig. The fishing here is always slow, I usually only average one fish per session and they never EVER bite in the middle of the afternoon. Well apparently today was different. I saw a few fish jump while sitting in the passenger seat of my car, but nothing too crazy. I wasn’t even sure if they were carp or not. I couldn’t have been here for more than 45 minutes when the left hand rod took off. I ran over and swiftly picked it up, the fight was on. Oh, and not to mention, I was at a bit of a disadvantage in this situation because I was using my new 8ft stalker rods instead of my usual 12ft rods…making this a much bigger challenge than usual. The fish ran to the right for what felt like forever, just pulling line like it was nobody’s business. For a moment I thought it was gonna spool me out. Eventually it slowed down and I was able to start carefully walking it back up the bank. It’s hard to say exactly how long it took to land it but it sure felt like a while. Now I’m standing in the water with my heart beating out of chest looking over the fish in total disbelief. “This might just be..” I thought to myself as I lifted the fish from the water and carried it over to the mat. This carp was long, and mint. Not so much as a missing scale from this one. Now ready to weigh the fish I lifted the scales and watched the dial wobble until it settled at 30lbs 8oz. Finally, I got my 30, and in my home state of New York no less. Upon release the fish swam away calmly while I sat on the bank still sweaty and shaking from the adrenaline rush. This is what we live for isn’t it? Whats next? 40? Only time will tell.
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Welcome to the Big Carp News Pod Cast! We are delighted to share this content with you! Bringing you a number of podcasts over the coming months, connecting you with guests from all over the USA. Talking on everything from the History of carp angling here in the USA right up to current times and everything in-between!
So whether you are out on the road, out on a session waiting for the fish to show up or just relaxing in the comfort of your own home. Take the weight off and sit back as we are delighted to connect you with a number of guests here on the Big Carp News Pod Cast.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Parco Del Brenta Sept 2016
The carp mecca of Parco Del Brenta can be found an hour’s drive to the North West of Venice not far from the famed walled city of Citadella in the Padua region of Italy. This 35 acre gravel pit is fed by the cool waters of streams originating in the Dolomite region of the Alps to the north. The high mineral content and alkaline pH result in a remarkable environment that provides the ideal conditions for carp to reach immense size. I first heard about this extraordinary venue from my good mate Frank Warwick after he first fished there last year. The photos he shared of some of the incredible inhabitants plus his enthusiasm for the lake were truly infectious. Frank’s kind invitation to join a group of anglers he’d put together to rent the whole lake for a week this past Sept was too good to miss.
All I had to do was get there!
Finally after weeks of anticipation I’m desperately weighing and reweighing my bags to squeeze in every last item of tackle before heading off for my flight to Europe and arrival at Venice’s Marco Polo airport. Once I’m checked in my only concern would be a not insignificant amount of carp gear going AWOL…
As I emerged from passport control into the chaotic crush of the baggage claim area I was relieved to see some familiar faces. After anxiously waiting on our bags and with everyone’s present and correct we made our way outside to meet up with our hosts and mini bus driver. Our first (and last) night would be spent at a nearby farmhouse B&B before heading to the lake the following morning. After settling in and grabbing a shower it was to time to head in to the local town for dinner followed by a good nights sleep.
We woke refreshed and ready for the week ahead. But first things first… Guy Aitkins and myself jumped aboard Chris Thompson’s van for a run to the local supermarket to get some extra supplies. Suitably loaded with beer, rum, soft drinks, snacks, cans of tuna & sweetcorn aboard we headed off to Parco to join the rest of the crew.
After months of anticipation we’d finally arrived and promptly set off for a walk around the lake perimeter. At each of the swims Frank and local expert Nicholas Holzer gave us their ideas on how to approach them. Even though we’d all studied the lake map and pestered Frank for details in advance there still seemed to be a load more questions to ask! The Parco water is a chalky blue green coloration and the banks are lined with bushes and reeds as well as some quite large overhanging trees in a few places. Many of the swims are suitably reinforced along their edges as the bank drops down steeply to depths of at least 12-14 feet and in the southern part of the lake to around 30 ft. In the warm afternoon sunshine the lake looked stunning and I couldn’t wait to get started!
As most of us had chosen to ‘pair up’ and with 22 swims to divide up among 15 of us it was agreed that a peg draw was the fairest way to decide who would fish where. All our names went into a bucket and the first drawn would get their choice of swim and so on. Guy Warwick’s name was first out so he and dad Frank naturally went straight for Peg #1 – a peninsula that has a commanding position and is known for doing very well. And so the draw continued until finally Guy Aitkins and myself chose peg 20 from the few remaining. I’d been looking forward to sharing a swim with Guy after first fishing with him and Frank in Romania. He’s not only a first class angler but more importantly a pleasure to be with, plus he might just come in handy making cups of tea and netting my fish…
It was almost 4pm by the time our gear had been transported around the lake and dropped into the swim. However we soon concluded that fishing six rods from #20 would be a potential nightmare with so many lines in the water plus it was likely to put us in conflict with the swims immediately to our right. In the end we agreed that it would be better if I moved further down the bank and set up in #21 and hopefully we could still socialize and help each other land fish etc.
If you look at the lake map you’ll see that Peg # 21 has a bay to the left which is well known as a ‘refuge’ for bigger fish, especially at night. There are two water inlets at the end of the bay that flow in from an adjacent stock pond. The entrance to the bay is about 100 yds wide and is bounded on the opposite side by the peninsula which has peg #22 half way along and Peg #1 on the end. The tip of the peninsula has a submerged bar at 12-14 ft deep that extends across the lake to the opposite bank. Since Frank & Guy had their lines out along the other side of the bar I decided I should put a couple of rods close to my side of the bar and then also place baits across the entrance of the bay in the hope I might be able to intercept any fish coming in and out with my left hand rod. The dense bushes, trees and submerged roots to my left would mean that it could be a big problem if I hooked a fish that decided to run into the bay as there would be no way to follow it!
By now it was getting dark and with only two rods out I decided to leave the third till morning and make myself comfortable for the night. I soon had the bivvy up, gear & bait stowed and then, receiver in hand, I wandered up to chat with Guy were we sat back to enjoy the very tasty ragu pasta delivered to our swims as part of the meal package. Sunday morning arrived and as the sun rose I looked out over Parco and saw several huge forms break the surface before crashing back into the depths. Sadly these fish were nowhere near my baits!
The morning soon gave way to a hot sunny day and I figured it was time to get on with the game plan. Guy & I made up a stick mix with 4mm pellets, tuna, hemp oil, sweetcorn plus some finely ground hemp seed along with a few other ‘goodies’. Once we got going it didn’t take long to knock out a couple of dozen PVA mesh bags each. We also got some 10mm halibut pellets from our good friend Henrik that would soon prove to be hugely attractive to the carp in Parco!
Back in my swim I began to catapult out the halibut pellets toward the left hand side of the swim in a line starting from the margins out to about 50 yds. I set up a #6 PB long shank rig complete with hair and line aligners on an 8” hook length of 25lb PB Jelly Wire. On the hair went two pieces of Enterprise washed out pop up corn balanced out with some tungsten putty. A 2-3” PVA 35mm mesh bag of our stick mix on the hook bend completed the deal and was cast out about 15yds. I didn’t want to fish any closer to the margins as the fish could all too easily hit the snags.
On the middle rod went a blow back rig with one of Guy’s special home made pop-ups while on the other a 20mm Spotted Fin Catalyst bottom bait. These were cast out about 85 yds to the near edge of the gravel bar in about 20 feet of water and free samples scattered over the area with a throwing stick.
As the heat of the day receded and welcome shadows made sitting by the rods more comfortable I began to look forward to getting stuck into my first fish. At about 4:30pm the left hand rod beeped once then slammed round hard. I was on it immediately and even with the clutch wound down tight this fish kited straight into the near margin. I could feel it ploughing through the tree roots etc and despite trying all the usual tricks for a couple of minutes it became clear that it was gone. I wound back in, checked the line for damage and put on a fresh rig before casting back out. A couple more pouches of pellet went in and I sat back hoping I’d be luckier with the next fish. 30 mins later and the same rod went off again and this time the fish tried the same trick as the first but I clamped my hand hard on the spool and backed up the bank hoping that everything would hold together. I could feel the line rubbing against the roots but finally the fish did the decent thing and headed out into deeper water. The power of this fish took me quite by surprise and I was truly relieved when Guy turned up and did the honors with the net. After weighing and photographing I gently released a stunning mirror. At 37lb it was not big by Parco standards but a good start and a sign of bigger things to come… I hoped!
There were already reports of some cracking fish being caught around the lake. Guy had had two mirrors to 46lb while Mark Brain had scored big time with his first Parco fish at almost 68lb. Steve Briggs had had a 45lb fish on his first, but as it sadly turned out, only night before having to head back to England. Meanwhile Frank & Guy in #1 and Henrik & Chris in #13 were starting a run fest of big fish!
As Monday morning broke I watched several fish crash over the left hand rod and at around 7:30 am it was away. Sadly I lost two fish in quick succession as they kited hard left and once again buried themselves in the margin roots. Eventually I landed a couple of fish in the low to mid twenties before the heat of the day brought the action to a close. The late afternoon bite started with another run on the left hand rod and I found myself connected to a fish that simply tore off 50 – 60 yds of line with contemptuous ease as it powered towards opposite bank. For the next 20 minutes we did battle and at no point did I believe I was anywhere near getting the upper hand. It would simply peel of 20 -30 yds of line whenever it wanted and all I could do was work it back towards me before it took off once again. The 3.50 rod was continually bent hard around and I could feel the rod butt digging into my thigh. There was something about the raw power of this fish that was truly remarkable. Just as Frank came around from his swim to see what was going on it turned to make another run and the hook pulled. There was a deathly silence and all I could do was drop the rod in utter frustration and walk away. I was simply gutted. Guy and I saw this fish a couple of times and while our estimates of its weight varied we both agreed this was indeed a very big common of around 48” in length.
Once I’d regained my composure and re-rigged (this time with a #4 instead of a #6 hook) I got the rod back out and catapulted out several more pouch fulls of the Halibut pellet. Another run soon followed and after a rather less intense battle I was rewarded with a stunning common that went 39.12 on the scales (It measured 39” in length which gives some idea as to what the fish I lost might have weighed).
Tuesday morning passed quietly so I decided to wind in, grab a much needed shower then take a wander around the lake. Chris Thompson and Henrik Hansen had been working their swim with almost non stop Spombing and had been well rewarded for their efforts. Chris had also landed a new PB common of 69lb – just one of four fish he’d had over 50lb! Meanwhile Frank and his son Guy were continuing to land some cracking fish to just under 50.
I returned to my swim around 2:30pm and Spombed out some bait over the two right hand rods then catapulted more pellets over the left. Over the next 4 hours I had a 23 mirror on guy’s special pop up at range near the bar as well as a 29 lb mirror plus two more commons at 35 & 37lb on the left hand rod. It then went quiet for a couple of hours before another run on the left hand rod produced my fifth fish of the evening and the first at 40lb plus – a picture perfect near scale less mirror. I was elated!
When I woke up on Wednesday morning I reflected on the advice from both Frank and Nicholas that I should move swim. While #21 was producing some nice fish they thought I should move to #22 as Nicholas had had some proper beasts from there in the past. A quiet morning with no further action finally convinced me and I was soon loading up the gear to make the move. Nicholas warned me that the action only started after dark so once he’d helped me move my gear and set up my bivvy (properly this time… as Nicholas is quite a perfectionist!) I went to chat with my new neighbors, Frank & Guy, who were continuing to haul some impressive fish. They would cast out 8-10 Spombs of bait and often before they’d finish one of the rods would be away and quite often two more would roar off while one fish was being landed. It’s one thing to be enjoying the action on a ‘runs’ water but quite another when the fish are mostly in the 30 – 50lb range!
As the evening drew in Nicholas returned and brought me a couple of Fox tri-lobe method feeders. I’d already passed the test on making up a pellet method so now it was just down to finding a suitable rig. In the end I borrowed one of Nick’s which comprised a supple 5-6” braid hook length tied to a #6 Fox SSBP Arma Point with a piece of neutral buoyancy imitation corn on the hair. The key would be casting the loaded feeder with the hook buried in the side to a spot on a narrow shelf just a few feet from the reed lined bank. A couple of casts soon had the distance worked out and a piece of electrical tape on the line with a distant tree top as a background marker would ensure that it would be easy to clip up and recast in the darkness. I walked along the path behind the bank I would be casting to and gently tossed in a few handfuls of the halibut pellets. Now it was time to wait. Nick advised I hold off until after 9pm before casting out so we sat back, chatted and enjoyed our Lasagne dinners. Finally it was time and I nervously lined up the tree marker and fired the heavy method feeder into the inky blackness. I swept the rod over to my left and allowed the tip to be pulled back gently as the line tightened on the clip and everything landed nicely on target. At around 10:30 pm my Delkim began to beep intermittently as the nitelite bounced up and down. This seemed to continue for at least a couple of minutes before finally the nitelite rose steadily and the rod bent around. I wound down and immediately felt everything go solid. I was convinced the fish had buried itself in a snag but slowly, very slowly I began to feel it move toward me. After about 5 minutes of slow progress I finally had the fish in the depths in front of me where it proceeded to make some powerful runs for another 10 minutes and giving me some extremely nerve wracking moments, especially once I’d caught a glimpse of its immense bulk in the light of my head torch! Finally, and with typical professional efficiency from Nicholas, it was in safely net and I could breath again. After zeroing the sling we lifted it carefully into position and watched the dial hover just a fraction over 55lbs to record my new PB mirror. The sheer bulk of this fish was astounding and I struggled to stop it toppling over as I tried to balance it for the photos. As we watched it swim away into the dark depths I thanked Nicholas for his help and we celebrated with a large & well deserved tot of rum.
At around 2:30 am with fish crashing along the far bank I had another run that resulted in yet another stunning mirror. This one at 40:12 – what an amazing place! At 4 am and with no further activity I reluctantly wound in my rods and slept soundly till past 8am.
As there was no likely hood of a day time bite I relaxed, showered, caught up on some emails then wandered around the lake. I spent the afternoon chatting and taking photos for Frank & Guy as they continued to haul at an amazing rate. Since I was only fishing one rod in #22 I also baited up the swim #2 immediately behind me (on the peninsula). I positioned one rod just in front of a gap between two overhanging trees and the other at about 60 yds to the right.
At 6pm everyone wound in and gathered for a social and BBQ under the awning of the ‘club house’ hosted by owner Antonio Pettenuzzo & his family. We were treated to some first class ribs, sausages and pork steaks cooked by Riccardo and of course there were plenty of new PB’s to be toasted & celebrated! At around 9pm I dragged myself away from the partying and got ready to take advantage of the night time bite in my swim. I’d already baited up in the afternoon with some more halibut pellets along the margins and again before casting out. I soon had a method ball in place and the indicator began twitching almost immediately. Barely two minutes later I was into the first of 7 fish that were to come over the next 5 hours which included four twenties, a 33 mirror, 33 common and a 43 mirror. At around 3:30 am with no further action I wound in and was soon fast asleep. I woke just before dawn to an alarm sounding from #2 and found myself attached to a solid feeling fish from the margin swim. This turned out to be an immense American channel catfish – one of several that have been stocked (along with a few sturgeon to over 50 lb). In my haste to get back to sleep I slid this beast back without thinking to take a photo. A little after daylight I caught a second much smaller cat that weighed 16lb so I can only guess that the first was easily around 25lb!
With just one more day and night remaining I decided to spend the afternoon fishing a couple of rods back towards my old swim (#21) from the side of Frank & Guys Peg #1 as we’d seen some serious fizzing over the area I’d originally been baiting. I was casting almost 90 yds to place the bait just off the far margin and after a couple of hours I saw the line tighten and was on it just as the alarm sounded. A battle royal ensued with the fish making a desperate attempt to reach the snags. I finally managed to drag it away from the immediate danger and thought I had everything in hand as it kited back and forth about half away across the entrance to bay. Then I felt something seesawing on the line and realized the fish had taken me around an obstruction of some sort. I tried everything but after several minutes it was obviously deadlocked and was finally forced to pull for a break. After re-rigging I was back in action and soon had a second run that took me straight in to the snags and came off. Fortunately it proved to be third time lucky on the next take and after another epic battle I happily steered a lovely photogenic mirror into the net that went 32lb.
As the day wound down Frank, Guy and myself sat back and enjoyed a fabulous sunset as we reminisced on what had been a truly incredible week. After yet another memorable supper, this time a risotto made with the wild mushrooms collected by Giorgio earlier, I prepared myself for a final night of action with a double espresso followed by a tot of rum in an effort to keep me going till dawn. On peg #22 it was back to the single rod fishing imitation corn & pellet method while on the other side from #2 it was the same method plus a 10mm wafter in the margin and a 20mm SF bottom bait with one of Frank’s soon to be launched special pop-up range as a snowman on the distance rod. At around 10pm the single rod on #22 came to life with the nitelite doing its familiar dance as a fish plucked and sucked at the method ball. After a couple of minutes the Nitelite fell still and remained motionless for a couple minutes more. As I bent down to pick up the rod for a bait & recast it was quite suddenly and violently pulled around. Fish on! Another battle royal ensued with this fish absolutely refusing to give up. I struggled to get it into the net on my own but after a couple of attempts and some anxious moments it was finally in. Yet another cracking fish. This time a two tone mirror that tipped the scales at 42.02. Sadly this was to be my last fish from #22. Instead of the usual fish crashing of previous nights it became ominously quiet and my only other run came from the distance rod on #2 which turned out to be a small mirror of around 17-18lb. The one & only fish I’d had under twenty pounds all week.
And so my week on Parco had come to an end. As the dawn heralded in a new day it was time to pack up and make way for another group of lucky anglers to enjoy this extraordinary lake. Over the past 22 years living in the USA I figured there was no way a European fish could possibly match some of the long, lean & mean carp we encounter, especially in the big rivers. But I’ve gained a totally new respect as a result of how hard these Parco carp can do battle. They simply don’t want to give up – Ever! In the end I landed 8 twenties, 8 thirties, 4 forties and a new PB at 55lb and captured a host of memories that will last a lifetime. But best of all and as with all great angling adventures I got to share time on the bank with some great friends, both new & old.
Frank & Guy Warwick, Guy Aitkins, Chris Thompson & Henrik Hansen, Bill Rawlins & Mark Thompson, Dayle Davenport, Mark Brain & Garry Turner, Chris Hoppley & Derek (Dez) Bell, Steve Featherstone, , Steve Briggs, Iain Sorrell.
Once you arrive at Marco Polo airport in Venice the folk at Parco have everything organized. Our package included transport to and from the airport plus two nights at a local bed & breakfast. On top of this I added the food (which included a cooked breakfast and evening meal delivered to your swim) and tackle rental options. The amount will depend on the number of anglers fishing the lake but you can expect to pay (in Euros) somewhere in the region of US$ 1,000 for everything.
The tackle package certainly makes traveling a breeze. It included a set of three Free Spirit CTX 3.50 rods plus a matching Spomb / Marker Rod, landing net, weigh sling, mat or cradle, a very nice Nash Bivvy, Bed Chair, Sleeping bag, even a regular bank side chair & table. They even give you a box with a kettle, stove, gas canister, mug, knife, fork & spoon plus condiments, a water container & cooler (on request). So in the end I only had to take a set of reels (loaded with a minimum 0.35 mm monofilament line) a spomb/spod reel, my Delkims, bank sticks, Spomb, marker float together with a selection of rigs, end tackle plus some leads & back leads. One item I did not bring that was certainly needed… a set of scales! Hopefully Parco will make a few sets available in the future.
The folks at Parco also give you a bag of 15mm hook bait boilies, 12mm boilies and some pellet to get started. You can buy additional bait as needed which also includes prepared hemp and maize. Fortunately some of our group were driving to Parco and offered to bring extra bait which included some of the excellent Spotted Fin Catalyst range that Frank is helping to develop.
A trip to the local supermarket to grab, snacks, milk, fruit and some beers added another $40 plus I also bought a few tackle items, coffees and beers on-sight.
Lastly it would be crazy not to visit Venice when you have such an ideal opportunity. After our last night at the B&B we arrived back at Marco Polo airport mid morning and dropped our bags (6 euro each) at the luggage storage. It was then a short 5 minute walk before hopping on a water taxi for a 15 minute ride straight into the middle of Venice for the day. We ate lunch by one of the canals, wandered over bridges, around the local stores along the maze of narrow lanes and admired the architecture that surrounded the many squares before heading back for our flights home.
There have been several inquiries on creating a how-to on creating leadcore leaders and how to splice different materials. This is something I do quite often as I do like using leadcore when the situation calls for it. Purchasing the leadcore in bulk spools can help save a little bit of money as well as letting you create longer lengths than the pre-tied leaders.
First step is to get the items you need together. For splicing leadcore or other materials you will need a gated needle. Using a regular gated baiting needle can work however using a specific splicing needle makes it quite easier as they are much finer than a regular needle. For this demonstration I used the Solar Micro Splicing needle which come 2 in a pack.
Next you need to pull back the braided material to expose the leadcore. The amount of lead to cut off will be up to you and after some practice you will find what works the best for you.
I will create 2 different connections that I use. The first is attaching a swivel/link clip to one end. You will now take the splicing needle and tread it onto the braided section which is now hollow from removing the lead from the center. Like before this will become easier with practice and you will figure out the best for you situation.
It takes a little bit of work to pull the tag end though the rest of the braid. Just continue to work it until the tag end is fully inside the braid. Depending on how long the tag end was you may be able to pull it back through the hole that the needle created where you inserted it.
The final step is to tease the material so that you get a smooth transition from the thicker section to the main part of the braid. This connection will have the swivel directly in contact with the leadcore and there will not be a loop for free movement. This is how I prefer my connections to the swivel.
The second method I will show you will create a loop in the end. You can still attach a swivel with the loop or create it to have a loop to loop connection with your mainline.
Everything you need will be the same except you will need an item to create the size of loop that you require, most of the time I use a tail rubber. The first few steps are the same. Remove the inner leadcore and thread the needle through the braid.
Tease the tag end through the braid once again until you can pull the needle out and finish the splice. Now you have an open loop to use for a loop to loop connection. If you wanted a swivel/clip attached to the loop you would thread it onto the tag end before placing the tail rubber and pulling the tag end though.
I hope this article will help you if you ever need to splice leadcore. It’s something that is very easy and once you do 2 or three of them you’ve pretty much got it figured out.
Well I’m retiring my Berkley hook sharpener. After seeing Zach retouch his hook points on the bank I decided to get a JAG hook sharpening kit. It comes in a small pouch. The kit includes a vice , jeweler file ,2 polishing stones , jeweler’s eye / magnifying glass and the solution marker for coating the exposed hook.
I like sharpening my hook trokar style for one reason. I don’t want the tip of the hook breaking off in the fishes mouth. By doing this style the hook will actually go through with less resistance. It’s like a hypodermic needle.
How I sharpen the hook. I get my hook of choice which is a size 2 Korda wide gape hook for demonstration. Put on the supplied hook vice. I start out with the jeweler’s file .I tilt the vise up and start doing passes at a 45°angle on both sides of the hook point till I get my desired trokar style shape . Then I finish I up with the two polishing stones. Afterwards I’ll coat it with “the solution ” marker to make it rust proof again. Most manufacturer’s use water proof coating from paint to teflon. Or you can use petroleum jelly or chap stick. Do your self a favor and get one. It can give you a better “edge” on fishing.