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"The Baiting Pyramid" - by Mike Wilson

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"The Baiting Pyramid "

by Mike Wilson

AlthoughOne of the big waters I used to fish regularly contains a head of carp ranging from low doubles to thirty-pound fish.
There is nothing unusual about this as many large waters up and down the country are in the same category, where the controlling club had a regular stocking policy. Our problem was how to consistently pick out the better quality fish. Many rod hours can be spent on a fishery and up to a point there is an element of luck as to the weight of the fish caught. Obviously the experienced carp angler will get a greater number of takes over a season and therefore catch that many more fish. At the end of the day, by sheer numbers of fish on the bank, a proportion will be better than average.

As experience grows so, generally, does the overall result. For anglers seeking the better fish any way of reducing the luck element is of prime importance.This article is based on my belief that anglers can be selective, and catch big fish by design from these large waters. My theory behind this belief is based on a characteristic found in many gregarious animals. This is the dominant position taken up by sheer power and size over another species. It isn't quite, however, the bully syndrome found in man. That is due to lack of discipline and greed not normally found in the animal world. No, this is similar to the situation commonly found, for example, in a water-hole in Africa.

During the day various herds of animals, driven by thirst, arrive at the water-hole. Each group, depending on how high it is in the "Pecking Order", either waits for others to finish or moves in and takes over the prime positions. This happens irrespective of the fact that they may be totally outnumbered. Finally a small herd of elephants may appear and although not predatory to (say) a herd of impala, their sheer size will oust the greater numbers of impala.

Similar examples can be seen daily in the animal world. Watch birds feeding in your garden and note how some will dominate others. If we logically follow this through we can see how a large carp, or group of large carp will dominate smaller fish in certain feeding situations.

I have watched, on a few occasions, a large shoal of fish up to low twenties. Each time when a smaller shoal of larger twenties decided to 'move in' the large shoal moved away. These in turn moved out when an even smaller group of bigger fish decided that they wanted to feed. This cannot be just coincidence. Obviously, I can only assume that this pattern is followed as a normal feeding routine.

Subsequent results however, convinced me that this was so. I see no reason why this pattern shouldn't be followed in waters elsewhere, where fish range from low doubles upwards. On the waters I've fished it is also significant to note that the carp appear to shoal up 'tighter' in autumn when the temperature drops. Catches of two, or three, or even more twenty-pound plus fish in a few hours has been comparatively common.

Being convinced of the logic behind these facts and assumptions, the next problem was how to utilise this knowledge. I formulated a baiting programme which I termed the Baiting Pyramid.

I based the programme on the assumption that the longer I baited a swim the more fish would find it, in turn pushing the less dominant species out. Too much angling pressure in the early stages of baiting would spook them and the bigger fish would move away. It was also important to get the maximum number of fish feeding, as the more fish that confidently fed on the bait, the less chance there was of spooking all the fish after hooking one.

Having formulated the tactics I prepared for the experiment. I was fishing a big lake and as can be expected the fish would move around on the wind if the temperature was right. I had no intention of chasing the fish. Indeed, if the theory was right, I'd get them to come to me.

Choosing a swim on the East bank which was full of variable depth features, I started the baiting. It was the first week of August, not a particularly productive time in my experience. I baited up daily with upwards of twenty-pounds of maize. The maize was first soaked for twenty-four hours, then pressure cooked at fifteen-pounds per square inch for half-an-hour. The process was then repeated. Any further additions or attractors were 'boiled in' for twenty minutes just prior to baiting up or fishing.Twenty minutes is purely arbitrary, and is dependent on how soft you require the final bait.

Maize was chosen for a number of reasons. Bearing in mind that amount I intended to use over the three months or so, cost was paramount.

Secondly, I doubted whether there were many others who would be prepared to go to the trouble of preparing it. It really can be an absolute pain doing this every day.I like a very soft bait to begin with as this attracts the roach and bream. I've found that constant activity of feeding bream acts as an attractor in itself. I've lost count of the number of times I've finally caught a carp after ploughing through the bream all night.

Unlike many I do not object to catching the odd bream if this eventually brings about the desired result. As it happened my wife got bait production off to a fine art, cooking large quantities during the day. Incidentally, I cannot subscribe to the view that fermenting maize is any better for carp, I've only had limited success with it. This also applies to all the legumes I've used.

Six weeks after the start of the programme a couple of evenings were spent in the swim to see how the bait was working. The evenings were cold with a north-westerly wind. I didn't expect much but was well pleased with three fish to eighteen pounds. The baiting programme was beginning to work. If the theory was right I could expect better fish as they pushed the others out. Each night I watched the water for a while after baiting-up. There certainly appeared to be plenty of activity judging by the "heavy rocking" coming back to me.

Constant baiting, and not overfishing the swim for fear of spooking them, meant I 'held' the fish for a further six weeks. It would have been so easy to have fished the swim each night as the water had little carp angling pressure but I doubted the wisdom of such action. It was interesting to note that on the nights I fished I had more than one chance and multiple catches were almost the norm. As can be expected the bites were not much more than one or two inch pulls, denoting very confident fish. This suited my style of fishing as I prefer to strike at any movement at all. Because of this I failed to hit a few early bites due to the lack of sensitivity of my Optonics. This was soon overcome by making breaker wheels out of milk bottle tops with eight blades instead of the customary four. Another tactic I have used on these delicate bites is to put the Optonic beyond the rod tip. But this requires a lot of messing about setting-up, not to mention a reasonable amount of back space, which I rarely have.

Strangely, I cannot ever remember having a bite-off. This may have been due to my tactics as I know of others who have been bitten off. Perhaps they were waiting for runs which rarely materialise from such confidently feeding fish, unless they are spooked. A change in terminal rig would, no doubt, have encouraged runs, but at that time there was little need.

During the period of this experiment I amassed a total of twenty-three fish; ten doubles, seven low/mid twenties, culminating in six carp over twenty-nine pounds. The last, a low thirty, being taken a day before frosts put paid to my carp fishing for the autumn.

It may all be luck of course, and I might be totally wrong on the theory. However, I have tried it on a different water and am now convinced in my own mind that this is one way of sorting out the larger fish from big waters.

Mike Wilson

August 2005
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