A lot of waters around the UK and in France are barbless hooks only now. I think that this is a good thing. I know it is a very contentious issue, but I want to briefly touch on why I think this is. By enforcing the barbless hook rule you are practically eliminating 95 per cent of all tethering and towing because the carp will always get rid of the rig. People who usually argue against this will use Drayton and the old Horseshoe fish as an example. However, you can actually come up with 20, 30 or 50 venues that have had barbless hooks only for years and the fish are absolutely immaculate. With a barbless hook, you get the fish in the landing net and go to unhook it, but quite often it has already unhooked itself. This just goes to show that eliminating that tethering is so good and is actually what causes most of the damage. Anyway, to combating the rule of barbless hooks and how can you convert more bites to fish on the bank. There are a few things that will help you do this and it is all general common sense, but most people of today choose fashion over this. Using slack lines is now cool and the sole reason for using them is this. They are undoubtedly the worst thing to do when fishing with barbless hooks, though. The only time to use a slack line is if you are fishing in the edge or with naked chod rigs. By fishing with a slack line, you are giving the carp a lot of chance and movement for them to get rid of the hook. I learnt this quite a few years ago on Thorney Weir, which is a busy and pressured water with a barbless hook rule. It was a cold winter’s night and I would occasionally get what I thought was a liner. I would reel it in and the lead was half off the clip to show that I had in fact been picked up and spat out. People often put those sorts of things down to the wind or liners, but quite often this is fish spitting out the rig. In this case I tightened my lines right up and it didn’t happen again. The only beep I got was a bite and I caught a few fish doing so.
A tight clutch will keep that hook in firmly.
Now I will always fish tight lines when using barbless hooks. When people tell you that it spooks the fish, ignore them. Even if it did, you will still get more bites fishing tight than you would slack, that’s for sure. Another good tip is to use a style of hook that I tend to favour anyway and that is a beaked-point end. I think that your landing ratio on beaked instead of straight points is far superior. Some say that a straight goes in easier but I don’t think that is true. You can sharpen beaked points easier and they will still prick the flesh as good as, or better than, any straight point. If you look at any weapon that is designed to catch hold of flesh it is always shaped like a claw, and this is what I want. I think the fish find it much harder to shake or spit one out, so it is worth using a hook you are confident in with a beaked point. Using a tight clutch will really help you, regardless of how you are fishing, barbed or barbless. I learnt a long time ago while speaking to my old friend Colin Davidson that fishing tight clutches ended up with more fish in the net. You are giving the fish a lot more resistance to deal with from the get-go and they find it hard to eject the hook. I couple this with a Strongarm line clip and the whole setup is designed to bed that hook in as deep as I can. It sounds brutal putting it in to words but that is what we want, a good hook-hold that won’t come out. You want that fish nailed by the time you pick the rod up. It is imperative that you have a backrest that will grip the rod tightly. I then set the clutch so that the fish will be able to take line but only under a lot of pressure. I don’t fish it locked up, but just tight enough to take line but not pull the setup in the lake. When you walk a dog and it is straining on a lead, this is what I want with the carp. A heavy bobbin will help too. Light bobbins are not serving many purposes, so I would suggest getting a heavy bobbin so that you will know what is going on. Make no mistake about it, fish are getting away with it all the time and people make it easy for them with slack lines and light bobbins. Another thing that can help is a larger lead. In fact, fishing a tight line and a big lead is very effective because nobody is doing it. I did this on Cleverley Mere last year and it worked brilliantly, even though it is incredibly pressured and you are allowed to use barbed hooks. You are giving the fish something different to deal with, which often turns into more bites. The thing to remember is that once the fish bolts with the rig in its mouth, it’s game over. However, some carp don’t bolt and they will sit over the rig and try and spit the hook. They don’t panic, which can make it very hard for us to catch them.
Larger leads help drive the hook home
With a big lead, though, once the fish has picked up the rig and is met with that big lead, the hook will drive home much deeper than a smaller lead. You can see it happening on underwater films or in the edge; they are masters of their environment and can deal with so many things. There is no definitive solution; you are just trying to stack all the odds in your favour. We are talking about very pressured lakes where the fish are used to dealing with barbless hooks and, trust me, they can. You have to up your game to try and catch more.
They are pretty common these days and in my opinion a rule that doesn’t need to be in place. I don’t think they are bad for the fish and places like Bayeswater are proof that the fish are in mint condition, even if people use them. I suppose it comes from old times when people were not preparing things like peanuts and tigers properly. Yes they can be harmful when used incorrectly, but if you use them from a creditable company such as Hinders, you will be told exactly how to prepare them. Alternatively, you can buy them prepared and they will be totally safe. I just wanted to clarify why so many fisheries have these sorts of bans and it is usually down to the worry that people will use unprepared nuts.
Sometimes it pays to be different, even if the fashionable trends say otherwise.
Tiger nuts and peanuts are two of my all-time favourite baits. When they are banned, you can be sure that they have been used on there at some point before the ban was enforced, so they will recognise the taste and smell of them. So picking a bait with a nut element to it is key. A bait like the Manilla is very rich is nut meals, predominantly peanut meal. Carp become addicted to them and by using a bait that is high in those tastes and smells, it will be sending off those food signals for you and allow you to keep within the rules. I fish a lot of waters, so always have tiger nuts in the garage.
Add some tiger juice to the boilies to add some of that sweetness.
If I am going to somewhere that has a nut ban, I like to scoop some of the juice from the tigers and coat it over my boilies. All those sugary juices will go in to the bait and I am then left with boilies full of peanut meal with the added taste of sweet and sugary tigers, lovely! The only thing that we can’t simulate is the crunch factor, but by doing what we have done, you are not far away from using something that carp find attractive about nuts.
LEADCORE AND LEADER BANS
This is very common and is down to anglers not setting them up properly. Safety is the most important factor and, unfortunately, when in the wrong hands, leadcore especially can be dangerous. There are a few ways of getting round this. If it were just a case of leadcore being banned, there are a number or good alternatives. A leadless material has all the elements of the leadcore, minus the actual lead inside. It doesn’t have the density but you can incorporate that into the leader by holding putty over the kettle and working some into the leader. The other option is a heavy fluorocarbon leader. It is a lot less obtrusive than leadcore and by using it in 60lb, I am going to stick my neck on the line and say that it would be as strong, or even stronger than leadcore when it comes to abrasion resistance.
Two great alternatives if leadcore is banned.
I use a good 4ft length and blob a couple of small lumps of putty up the line just to make sure it is all nicely pinned to the bottom. If you are using a helicopter system, it is essential that you use something that will safely pass over the connecting knot. I use the fluorocarbon to deal with the thick weed that you have to cope with in summer. I still have a small piece of tubing at the bottom, the fluorocarbon is there to protect my main line and ensure I don’t ever get cut off. If there is a total leader ban, I would simply thread my line straight into the tubing. Again, though, a few lumps of putty up the main line helps pin everything down and prevents the fish making contact with it, especially when using tight lines. The tubing is even more important if you want to use a helicopter. Having the swivel running along your line when playing a carp can damage it and you run the risk of it being under too much pressure and snapping. If you are fishing a lake with lots of weed, you must use a thick line. People shy away from them because they don’t cast as well as thinner monos, but how many people reading this actually fish over 100 yards? A good 0.40mm, 20lb line will cast 100 yards and give you so much more protection if you have not got a leadcore or fluorocarbon leader as protection. A thicker line will sink better, has much better abrasion resistance and will land you more carp.
Fish safety is the most important thing, which makes strong and reliable tackle an absolute must.
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