Fine Margins!

Fine Margins!

Margin Fishing is usually associated with big weights of big carp, but that doesn't always have to be the case as Graham West proves with his unselective margin attack!
Often associated with targeting big fish, margin tactics are responsible for lots of big weights but that doesn’t always mean using heavy tackle according to MAP-backed Graham West!Margin fishing is without a doubt one of the most effective styles to master on commercial waters, responsible for huge weights of big fish throughout the year, a great last hour fishing within a few metres of your seatbox can see you on your way to match fishing glory in double quick time!

On mixed venues where there is a huge head of silver fish plus lots of bigger carp too, striking the balance can be tough, but according to Graham West, fishing for silver fish in the margins with lighter tackle can be the key to consistent results and with the right technique, landing these huge bonus commercial carp is easily achieved using light but balanced tackle. As we head into the cooler months, the need to continually put fish in the net has never been greater, and by making the most of the abundance of silver fish available to catch on commercial venues, it’s possible to fill those gaps that are often wasted while waiting for bites from carp.

As we all know these are usually caught early and late in matches during the colder months, so by keeping busy and fish going in the net you can stack the odds in your favour. We joined Graham at Lake John in Essex to see how in recent weeks, he has been putting some excellent results together in open matches at the venue with his non-selective margin attack.

Catch Everything

Lake John is famed for its massive head of silver fish which is dominated by skimmers, roach and tench.

Big weights of these alone win plenty of matches at this venue, but once the colder months come around and the carp are feeding with less aggression, they become even more important to your match plan, with a bonus carp being extremely valuable to your overall result. You then have a dilemma – do you gear up to land your bonus fish and miss out on a load of skimmers which are averaging well over a pound, but land every carp you hook or do you stick with lighter tackle, get more bites and put fish in the net more consistently.

It’s a simple answer for me, on venues like Lake John where you’re not fishing for 200lb but 120lb is a big weight putting fish in the net consistently is the key to doing well over the course of five hours. We’ve all experienced it in the winter months when we’re fishing silver fish matches where carp don’t count, you can pull and pull and pull with lighter tackle and its extremely hard to part the hook length.

With a little bit of time and patience, I’ve managed to land carp up to 20lb in matches in recent weeks on light rigs and elastics.

Balanced Tackle

Starting with my elastic choice, I’ve got two rigs set up for the session – the first for fishing in the shallowest water includes a 4-6 TKS Solid Core Hybrid elastic and the other on my deeper line features an 8-10, both of these are super soft and set through a full top kit which is importantly, fitted with a side puller. On both rigs, I’ve got 0.15mm MAP Optimum Power main line down to an 0.13mm hook length to a size 16 hook. Down the left side where the water is a little shallower, I’m using a 4x16 Edge float, which is super positive offering me lots of stability when the fish are feeding in close proximity to the rig.

Shotting is super-simple too, just a big bulk of number 8’s to get the bait down through the smaller fish to where I expect the bigger skimmers and carp to be feeding, by having such a big bulk any indication of a fish taking my hook bait is massively magnified giving me positive bites. To the right, the water is considerably deeper at around 4ft, I’ve changed the float to a 4x16 diamond float, this is a little longer and in greater depth, gives me a little more stability. By having two lines with two different depths, it’ll give me a bit more scope to work out where these fish want to be, and usually one will outperform the other. When fishing mixed venues there’s a huge advantage to fishing lighter, not only am I going to put fish in the net consistently – lighter elastics mean that I’m bumping less fish too.

Eventually you’re going to encounter some carp, but you needn’t panic when you hook one, simply keep some spare sections to hand, keep the pole low and just take your time, with less pressure on the fish they will always slow down allowing you to get back to your topkit and utilise the puller kit to get them under more control. If I was to use heavier elastic, I’d be putting more pressure on the line, even with thicker diameters so by using light elastic you’re not actually putting that much pressure on the rig at all.

With modern Hybrid elastics having incredible stretch factors, the fish can swim some 15 metres out of the peg before any duress is placed on the hook hold.
Having landed fish to 20lb on this set up in recent weeks, I’ve got a huge amount of confidence in fishing like this, and providing that there’s no snags and the fish is hooked in the mouth I feel I can land everything I hook over the course of the match.

Landing The Beasts!

To land big carp on light gear, the technique has to be right – whether you’re fishing like this or for small fish and a bonus carp comes along, the fundamentals are the same.

During the Autumn and Winter, these are game changing fish and even a single carp can be enough to tip the match in your favour so it’s crucial that you give yourself the very best chance of landing them. When I hook a carp, the main thing I need to have is spare sections available to ship on, there’s no point having a full 13m pole behind you as getting the sections on at an angle will be impossible so have the sections laid out two at a time to make life easier.

Using heavier tackle, the fish will run hard once they’re hooked, but on light elastic they don’t always know that they’re hooked as the resistance is so little, so it can be from one extreme to the other – a slow plodding fight or they’ll tear off.

In any case, my standard way of subduing big fish on light gear is to keep the pole low with the tip in the water, add sections where required and the most important aspect is patience, don’t rush a thing! Once the fish has had its first swim out of the peg, just slowly ship the pole back – breaking down regularly in case you need to add sections.

Then very carefully, start to strip the elastic through the side puller to get the fish closer to netting range, I find that the carp tend to surface quite a long way out on light elastic so a nice long landing net handle makes scooping them up first time much easier.
The Session

To kick things off I fed two balls of groundbait to my left where I was going to start, and a further four on the right-hand line where I was hopeful that by feeding a larger volume of bait and letting it settle for longer, I’d be able to catch a bigger stamp of fish. This was a mix of Sonubaits Pro Green Fishmeal and Method & Paste Green which is perfect for margin fishing, on the left I didn’t add any feed to it, but to the right I fed some micros and some corn in the mix which is great for holding fish.

Starting on the left-hand line, I’ve baited up with double red maggot and I’ll be loose feeding some maggots and casters over this line regularly.

It can pay to have two completely different lines as I have today, as each day is different and it’s then possible to swap the other line if one is better on the day. I was into bites straight away, and I was soon catching plenty of roach, perch and the odd skimmer too, a great start and a weight was steadily being put together.

Ringing the changes with hook baits allowed me to suss out how to catch a better stamp of fish with worms picking up the odd better skimmer but it seemed to be a case of topping up with groundbait which really bought the skimmers in with regularity. With this in mind I had a drop in on the right-hand line where I’d fed more groundbait with corn on the hook, this produced a great run of bigger skimmers in the deeper margin and it’s these which can help you to a huge weight on the right day. With the loose feed stepped up on the shallower swim, I’d caught a silver fish every single chuck for three hours across both lines, but it wasn’t until later that I saw a few tail patterns from some big carp which had decided to have a feed.

It wasn’t too long before I hooked a bonus carp, and this fish wasn’t happy at all, forcing me to ship on sections and after taking my time to make sure I landed the fish it was soon snugly in the landing net. Having landed a carp of around 13 to 14lb on light gear, this would be huge in a match situation on a venue like this and a potential match winner. Unfortunately, my next carp was foul hooked and was lost, but that’s the nature of margin fishing.

I finished up with a few more quality skimmers to end the session and with 40lb+ of silvers in the net, plus that carp, I’d caught a framing weight or one that would win sections on many venues around the country. It just goes to show, that by having a non-selective approach and catching everything that comes your way on commercial venues is an amazing way of gaining consistent results – and if you manage to land your bonus fish, you’re putting yourself in with a great chance of winning more matches.