How To Catch Carp European Style

Alexander Nicolajevitch is spreading the word about how fun it is to catch carp.

Kevin Dallmier | June 17, 2006

What if I told you that right here in Georgia you can almost be guaranteed a 10-lb. fish every time you go fishing. After you say “yeah, right” the next thing I might tell you is while not guaranteed, a 20-pounder ought to come every couple of trips, and at least once every season you might get a fish 30 or even 40 pounds. Obviously, with the weights we are talking about, this isn’t bass fish ing, so you might think that I am referring to one of a handful of large rivers in Georgia known for their catfishing, or maybe fishing reefs far offshore. Nope, this fishing is probably right down the road from your house.

Finally, I might try to convince you that while the fishing can be very easy, it will take rejecting some old notions and learning some new tricks. That last part would probably be all it would take for you to snort in derision at this foolish talk and walk away.

Well, everything in the above paragraph is absolutely true, and I have seen it for myself.

Georgia anglers have a virtually untapped resource right under their noses. The fish we are talking about here is the lowly common carp. “Oh, just a danged old carp you say, not even worth killin’.” While it is true carp may not be the greatest culinary delight that swims, a fish doesn’ t have to taste good to be sporting, and carp are that and then some. On their worst day they pull as hard as any bass of three times the size and are found all across Georgia, often in huge sizes.

Master carp fisherman Alexander Nicolajevitch with a 27-lb. Carters Lake re-reg pool carp.

Carp fishing in this country is generally thought of as something you do when there is no other option. Very simple, too. Ball up some Wheaties on a hook, cast it out and watch half your bait go flying off the hook, then prop up the rod and sit in the shade talking to your buddy. Once sufficient fishless time has passed, load up your stuff and head for the air conditioning and a ball game on TV. That’ s American carp fishing.

Here is carp fishing in the rest of the world. Carefully plan your strategy by researching every aspect of the lake you are fishing, organize your tackle, and scour the internet and magazines for the latest subtle technique that may give you the edge. Study every move professional anglers make (yes, there are professional carp anglers) and hang on every word they speak hoping to learn something from these Zenmasters of carp fishing. Once you are on the water, put into play all you have learned and constantly evaluate what is working and what isn’t and adjust accordingly. When success comes, sit back and revel in how good an angler you are and how great it is when a plan comes together. Sounds a lot like bass fishing, doesn’t it?

On a recent trip to the Reregulation Pool at Carters Lake, I met one of these masters of carp fishing. His name is Alexander Nicolajevitch, and his mission in life is to spread the word about how to catch carp. While I am not completely ready to sell off the sporting goods store worth of bass-fishing tackle I own, I saw real potential in the message Alexander was preaching.

Limber, 12-foot-long rods aid in being able to make spectacularly long casts.

Carp are everywhere, willing to bite when nothing else will if you use the right techniques, and they pull like a mule. Just the ticket for those dog- day weekends when the last time a bass even thought about striking was sometime back in June. You’ve got to find something to fill in the gaps, and the way I figure it, carp are that something.

Alexander emigrated from Europe about three years ago and is just amazed at the quality of the carp fish- ing in this country. He spent more than 10 years as a professional carp angler in Europe, appearing on TV , hosting seminars, and all the other things that pay the bills for a professional angler. Besides carp fishing, he also holds several European fly-fishing titles and has fished all over the world for every- thing from tarpon to trout. Carp fishing is his passion though, and if there is something he doesn’t know about it, in six hours of talking about carp fishing, I wasn’t able to determine what that might be.

There are entire books devoted to just this subject, but the basics are really not the complicated. Let’s take a look at what it takes to get started.

The first thing is bait. If you want to really catch carp, save the Wheaties and canned corn for your own consumption. What the carp really want is a “boilie.” What is a boilie you ask? Exactly what goes into them is a closely guarded secret, but suffice to say it is a concoction of flour, water, coloring, and a flavoring agent all mixed together then boiled to get the perfect consistency. The boilie was created 30 years ago in Europe to catch carp anywhere, anytime and they are easy to use and store. Boilies are the best-selling bait for carp in the world and come in all different sizes, flavors, sinking or floating, etc. Just like plastic worms, you can never have enough boilies — there is always something you need to round out your collection.

A boilie looks a lot like a paint ball. About the same size and brightly colored. They smell good too, especially the fruit flavors! Boilies are carefully formulated to be tough enough to stay on the hook during a long cast (more on that later), stand up to pecks from small bream and pinches by crayfish looking for an easy meal, but still soft enough that they slowly release their scent to attract carp.

Too, they have to be easy to rig. Boilies will last for hours on the hook, so they are economical to use.

So, run the hook through one of these boilie things, chunk it in the water, and the carp come running? Not quite, there are a few steps in between. Ideally, the first step is to sweeten your hole. This is kind of like chum- ming in saltwater. Find a likely look- ing spot, and get to work. For the best fishing, Alexander recommends that you fish a windblown bank, especially if the wind has blown the same direction for several days.

Alexander’s rod holder featured electronic strike detectors and a wire arm on the line to detect slack line if a fish comes toward the bank.

“The carp, she is lazy,” Alexander said, “and doesn’t like to fight the cur- rent. She will just let the wind push her wherever it wants her to go, and most of the carp’s food will get pushed by the wind too, so the bank where the wind blows into is always good.”

Once you have found a good spot, start baiting the area to draw in the carp. You can bait with just boilies or mix them with whole-kernel corn to make them go farther. Ideally, you should do this for several days before your fishing trip, but even putting out some bait when you arrive and throughout the day is better than none at all.

There are several ingenious (and fun to use) tools carp pros use that help with getting the bait exactly where you want it and to hit the exact same spot every time you freshen the baited hole. My favorite was the “throwing stick,” a short curved piece of thin-walled pipe that you loaded with one or two boilies and then with a short, sharp stroke sent them flying out over the water. Amazingly accurate once you get the hang of it.

Another device is a curved scoop on a five-foot handle. Scoop up some of the mix and launch it — good for volume but not as accurate. The most ingenious of all is the “spod.” The spod looks like a six-inch plastic bomb, complete with fins for aerodynamics. The rear where the harness attaches is open and the front comes to a blunt point and is bright-colored foam. Tie the spod to a heavy casting outfit, load it up with bait, pick your target somewhere on the other side of the lake, and bombs away!

When the spod hits the water, the foam tips it up so it drops its contents all in the same place. The bright foam is visible from a long distance so you can use it as your casting target to put your boilie right on the prebaited spot. Clever, huh?

Terminal tackle the carp pros use is simple but very important. The rig is basically a fixed-weight rig with the weight attached to a swivel tied to the end of the main line. The weight usually is three to five ounces, and it can be flat in situations where there is cur- rent or teardrop-shaped for greater casting distance where current is not an issue. Carp pros use plastic-coated weights. The dark plastic camouflages the lead and helps prevent the carp’s keen nose from detecting the lead.

A scoop on a 5-foot-long handle, or a “spod,” which is a 6-inch plastic missile, are used to spread “chum” from the bucket onto the water you want to fish.

Special clips are available that allow the weight to break free if it becomes hung, thus preventing the loss of the whole rig. The leader is a length of braided line. Alexander prefers 45-lb. test for the leader and 25-lb. for the main line. At the end of the leader is the most unique feature of the whole technique and is called the “hair rig.”

“Most American anglers are used to running the hook through the bait,” Alexander said, “but the carp, she is smart and if she feels the hook on her lips, she will spit it out. A carp feeds by suck, spit, suck, spit, suck, spit. Each time she sucks in the bait she is tasting it, and if she likes it she will take it deeper each time until she finally takes it all the way. But, if she feels the hook, she won’t take it deep enough to get hooked.”

This is where the hair rig comes in. On the business end of the leader is a needle-sharp Gamakatsu, size No. 1 for most boilies, down to size No. 4 for “micro-boilies.” (Y es, Gamakatsu actually makes a hook specifically for boilies.) But, here’ s the kicker, and this is a trick that has applications for a lot of different types of fishing if you think about it. The hook is snelled onto the leader leaving a tag end loop of several inches. To rig the boilie, a small crochet- hook type device is pushed through the boilie, the line loop placed in the hook, then the line pulled back through the boilie. Place a small stopper on the loop, snug the boilie up against it to keep it from sliding off, and you are good to go.

Why go to this all this trouble? Remember how a carp (and many other fish) feed. Suck, spit, suck, spit. When the carp has tested the bait and found it is something it wants to eat and doesn’t get scared off by feeling the hook, it will suck the boilie deep and turn to swim off. The hook is now perfectly positioned just inside the fish’ s mouth. Even if the fish finally feels the hook and figures out something isn’t right, it will try to spit the boilie, but since the hook isn’t in the boilie, the chances for a hookup are still good. As the fish swims off, the heavy weight fixed on the line (not sliding) together with the needle sharp hook will oftentimes do most of the work of hooking the fish.

Now that we know a little about the terminal tackle required, which is really very basic, let’s talk about rods and reels. You can probably get by just fine with the tackle you already have, especially if you have a large spinning outfit in your arsenal. But, if you want to get serious about carp fishing, there are a few improvements you might want to think about. Alexander’s setup included four 12-foot spinning rods paired with large spinning reels. The rods don’t have to be broomsticks, and in fact were fairly limber. The long rod gives you casting distance and lots of leverage when fighting a large fish. Since the rod doesn’t have any- thing to do with detecting a strike, and you aren’t constantly casting, the latest space age super-sensitive material isn’ t needed, so even such a long rod is relatively inexpensive. But, cast they can. European anglers don’ t zip around their lakes in high performance boats like American anglers. When you can cast 200 yards, you don’ t need to! That was not a misprint, I personally witnessed Alexander throw a boilie rig dang near out of sight with his long spinning outfit. Long casts with specialized equipment, while fun to make, have their advantages and disadvantages.

Terminal tackle for carp: a weight of from 3 to 5 ounces, a No. 1 Gamakatsu hook, and a “boilie.” looped onto the end of the line.

“Sometimes, you can’t get close to the best fishing areas,” Alexander explained, “so you have to be able to cast to them. Anytime you see a carp jump, you want to put a boilie there, and sometimes that place is a long ways from where you are. The problem with long casts is that the longer the cast, the more obstructions there are between you and the fish which means your line can get snagged, so I like to keep my casts as short as the situation allows.”

Once a fishing area has been selected, properly baited, and your bait cast out, you simply wait for a strike. Like typical bottom fishing, the best way to go about it is to have a reel with a baitrunner feature which allows the fish to take line without pulling the rod into the water before you can snatch it up. Some larger baitcasting reels have this feature, and some large spinning reels do to. If your’s doesn’t, don’t worry. The same results can be had by simply loosening the drag to the point where line can be easily pulled off the spool. When it is time to set the hook, just hold the spool with your hand, rear back to drive the hook home, then tighten down the drag for the fight.

The last piece of equipment you might want to consider in your carp starter kit is a rod holder and strike alarm. The tried-and-true forked stick stuck in the mud will work, and one of those little bells you clamp on the end of your rod might work, too. But, that is the horse-and-buggy approach in a NASCAR world. For just a little money you can get an electronic strike detector that either clamps to the rod or is part of a collapsible rod holder. Lay the line over the roller on the strike detector, and when the line moves at all, a beep sounds and a small LED light comes on. It is far more sensitive than your eye could ever be watching for a rod tip to move.

Being a professional angler, Alexander’s setup is even more clever. Besides the electronic strike detector, Alexander’ s rod holder featured a heavy wire arm about a foot long attached right alongside the strike detector. The end of the arm was crooked so it could lay over the line on the rod. The arm featured an adjustable counterweight. After studying this contraption until curiosity got the best of me, I finally had to ask the question. Alexander patiently explained,

“What happens when the carp is taking the boilie and moving away?” My answer was the strike detector would sound off since the line was turning the roller, thus triggering the alarm. After nodding affirmatively, Alexander asked the next question. “What happens if the carp takes the boilie and swims toward you?”

After a few seconds of thinking about that one, the light bulb came on, and my answer was “nothing happens, the line isn’t getting pulled out, so the strike alarm doesn’t go off.”

“Exactly,” Alexander nodded, “but with the weighted arm hooked over the line, any time the tight line goes slack, say when the carp takes the boilie and comes toward you, the weighted arm takes up the slack and moves the roller which makes the strike detector go off no matter which way the fish goes.”

See, there is more to this carp fishing than first meets the eye.

So do these techniques work? A day’s carp fishing at the Carters Reregulation Pool yielded four landed fish, all over 10 pounds and one big 27-lb. fish. We had several breakoffs and several good strikes that we missed. Alexander said it was one of the slowest days he had experienced in a while, and we still landed more pounds of fish than most folks do in a month of fishing.

Carp fishing, European style, isn’t all that complicated and if you enjoy fishing you will enjoy learning about the methods to make it work for you. A fresh way of looking at things is always good. Learning European carp tactics will not only greatly improve your carp-fishing success, there are some lessons to be learned too that can be put to use to improve the old meth- ods we use to fishing for bass, bream, crappie, or whatever your favorite species is.

Right now is the best time of year to catch carp. Water conditions are good with comfortable temperatures and good dissolved oxygen, so fish are actively foraging and feeding.

Take some of the basic lessons passed on by professional carp fisher- man Alexander Nicolajevitch and start your education in a totally new realm of fishing that is about to make the jump across the big pond and take America by storm. Carp are big, strong, found nearly anywhere, and no one is fishing for them. What more could you ask for? The good old days of carp fishing are happening right now, and you can get in on the action before the crowd arrives.

Carp fishing supplies and some great advice on everything from spods to throwing sticks to corn pellets and how to use them can be found at Alexander Nicolajevitch’s website

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