PITCHERS PERFECT | Pop-up Fishing

It seems that these days, in modern carp fishing, the humble pop-up is the go-to approach hook bait-wise for the majority of anglers out on the bank, from fishing highly stocked runs waters to tricky gravel pits.

With this said, I am actually the opposite, with a pop-up being my last resort in situations where I believe I will be at a disadvantage by using a bottom bait presented on the deck. It is only around this time of year that I begin to think about using pop-ups more so in my approach, for a number of reasons that I will touch on throughout this insight.

So, why is it that I start to think about using pop-ups when winter is just around the corner. Well, first and foremost, my trail of thought leads back to presentation; I will always advocate using a bottom bait where possible, especially during the warmer months when the fish are eating bait in and feeding harder for longer periods of time. My attentions generally turn to pop-ups when the seasons begin to change; leaf matter builds up in the lake, weed dies back and covers the lake bed, and those spots that were previously fed on begin to gather debris as winter approaches.

What this means is that where usually I would have quite happily used a bottom bait, I feel I now have no other choice than to use a pop-up in order to ensure the hook point is sitting proud of any debris that could potentially hinder my chances of a bite occurring. You need to ensure that the hook point can fly freely into the carp’s mouth, without any hindrance of weed and debris, and at times the only way to achieve this is by using a pop-up approach.

When fishing up to margins or trees where there is the likelihood of debris having been deposited from falling leaves, a pop-up will ensure you are effectively presented every time. Likewise, when you are casting to showing fish and there is likely to be silkweed or chod present, a balanced pop-up will ensure your rig settles perfectly presented over the top.  

Before I step into talking about rigs, I want to focus on my preferred choice of pop-ups. Now, this is a subject of personal opinion and there are certainly no rules as to what works and what doesn’t; every lake is different at the end of the day and the carp will no doubt respond to different colours. What I would say is certainly important is confidence in what you are using; there is no point carrying every type and colour of pop-up under the sun, as you will end up confusing yourself and doubting your methods every time you are out.

I have always stuck to three colours and I believe that these have covered my angling in all types of situation; yellow, white and washed out pink. Over the years, I have tried a manner of different colours - oranges, reds etc - but I have always reverted back to these three colours. Why? Because I am confident in using them, they catch and that means I do not worry about chopping and changing too much. Once you are confident in using a colour, stick with it and build confidence in that colour until you no longer doubt and feel as though you need to be changing.

The majority of my angling throughout the warmer months is done so with matching hook baits. What I mean by this is hook baits that are perfectly matched to my loose-feed free offerings. These will either be in the form of a bottom bait or a corkball pop-up when I feel a bottom bait is not suitable. But as we move into the colder months and the amount of bait I use dramatically decreases, I then look to replace those matching hook baits with bright ones in either yellow, pink or white. In the winter my aim is to ensure these hook baits are as visual and appealing as possible, especially as the carp’s senses begin to dull.

To achieve this, I want a hook bait positioned off the lake bed, visible and hard for the carp to miss; emitting powerful food signals and visual stimulants. This will be my go-to approach during the winter months, when I am working hard to find where those fish are held up and roving these bright singles around to pinpoint their whereabouts.

The height at which I fish these pop-ups, and by this I mean how far they are suspended off the lake bed, will be solely determined by what I am fishing over. If the lake bed is low-lying weed or choddy/silt, I will fish a low- lying pop-up, maybe one inch off the lake bed. If the lake bed is thicker weed, then I will simply increase the height the pop-up is positioned at, to maybe two to three inches. While doing this, I will also increase the length of hook link section to combat the increased level of debris present.

This leads me perfectly on to the type of rigs I use in conjunction with pop-ups. As you will know, my approach is always kept very simple; in fact, I only have two rigs in my armoury that cover ALL of my pop-up fishing on any venue that I fish at home or abroad.

The first is my go-to rig, which I use for pretty much 90 per cent of my angling these days, and that is my doubled over hinge rig. This is the rig I will use in most situations, from light blanket weed to heavier weed and debris. I feel that the doubled over section of Rigidity aids the hooking properties of this presentation, and by altering the length of the boom material it is suitable for fishing over a manner of different lake beds. With this rig, I will always try to use the biggest hook I can get away with, but obviously this depends on the size of pop-up to ensure it is held up effectively.

My second pop-up rig is what I would choose to use when fishing over cleaner lake beds, but with light matter still present that may affect my presentation if I were using a bottom bait - lake beds such as silt and light debris, where there may only be a scattering of leaves or a few potentially hazardous twigs present. This rig is a simple knotless-knot style arrangement, with a split shot positioned below the hook, leaving a small section of the link exposed. I would choose to use this rig inside solid PVA bags or on its own in the right situation.

As a general rule of thumb, I will use a size 4 stiff rig beaked point for my doubled over hinge and the same size, in the standard beaked point pattern for my alternative pop-up arrangement.

A size 4 would be suitable for a highly buoyant pop-up, such as a Northern Special Plus+, where I am likely to leave the bait in situ for a prolonged period of time. I would drop down to a size 5 for a 14mm standard buoyancy pop-up and a size 6 for a 12mm pop-up hook bait.

When using my doubled over hinge rig, I will add or remove the amount of putty in order to balance the hook bait, whereas when using a split shot I prefer to whittle the bait down until it balances perfectly.

This finally leads me on to the boosting of my pop-up hook baits, which is something that I do at all times of year for both my match the hatch and highly visual hook baits. I genuinely believe, certainly in the winter, you cannot have an over-boosted hook bait. The more attraction being leaked from that hook bait in my eyes, the better.

For boosting my match-the-hatch hook baits I will add a very light glaze of CC Moore Hot Chorizo liquid to my corkballs. I will allow this to soak in for around a week before finishing the baits off with a light dusting of GLM powder or Crayfish Meal.

When boosting my bright, coloured hook baits, I use the matching hook bait booster to crank up the attraction. Be careful not to flood the hook baits with liquid, but instead just a light glaze each time. These can then be pimped with the addition of betaine powder, to enhance the sweet, soluble signals emitted by the hook baits.

Now is the time to be putting those pop-up hook baits to good use and this certainly features heavily in my approach during these colder months. As with all my fishing, location is key, but once you have found them, if the situation dictates the use of a pop-up, be confident in what you are using and consider exactly what you are fishing over.

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