Margin Fishing for Big Carp
Margin fishing for big carp is a tactic that is underused on most lakes. Anglers tend to turn up at a swim, cast the rigs into the horizon and sit on the rigs, without any thought as to the fish in the margin, right under their feet.
Stalking leads on from watercraft. Looking around trying to find fish in the lake before setting up is the number one rule of carp fishing.
But being set up with a carp stalking gear could grab you a quick bite.
What you have to remember with carp is that they are very timid creatures and will seek cover and protection where possible, so can be difficult to get to at times. Although, we can take advantage of this by targeting the fish under the cover of trees and under lily pads in the margins.
When it comes to big lakes, where there are big carp, it is typically easier to locate the fish in the margins than it is in open water.
The margins are a huge source of food for the fish due to anglers throwing in their bait at the end of their session, so giving the impression to the fish that you have just thrown your bait in at the end of a session will give them confidence in feeding. But, little do they know that you have a trap waiting.
Fishing the margins typically refers to stalking, but also means casting your rigs to the left and right of your swim.
Best Bait for Margin Fishing
You will see a lot of match anglers fishing in the margins, but they would mostly be float fishing for smaller species.
When it comes to margin fishing for big fish, the rig tactics and bait aren’t hugely different to your normal baiting methods. Although, you won’t need masses of bait thrown in.
When you are catching fish in the margin, you are typically fishing for a bite. You are picking the fish you want to catch and setting a trap for that particular fish.
Boilies and pellets are great for margin fishing but remember you are trying to get the fish’s confidence and tempting them in for a quick bite.
Broken Boilies and Boilie Crumb
Breaking the boilies up will get the fish rooting around trying to find where the scent is coming from. This has a huge benefit if you are sticking with certain areas and feeding the swim as time passes. But if you are stalking, the added benefit is that the crumb will slowly fall through the surface of the water, rather then plonk into the lake as whole boilies would do.
As the fish are swimming around picking up the boilie crumb and comfortably feeding on the bait, in theory, they will eventually come across your hook bait, which will be sitting proud, ready and waiting, and because they are comfortable feeding in the margin, there is a high chance of the carp picking up your bait.
Mixed Sized Pellet
Pellet is great for breaking down and leaking out attractants, although they don’t last as long as broken boilies would. Pellets leak out oils into the water columns to draw the fish into the area.
By adding different sizes, your hook will take the fish by surprise as they are picking up differently sized (and weighted) baits. Pellets should be trickled in over time and topped up throughout the session to keep the fish coming back grubbing around. Using different flavor is another thing you could try, using mainline pellets in different flavors and sizes will keep the fish interested.
One tip I have with the pellet is to add vegetable oil to the pellets just before you put it into the lake, not a lot, just enough to give the pellet a glaze. This will slowly leak extra attraction into the swim and draw more carp in.
Prepared Particles and Nuts
Prepared particles and nuts are a great attractant for margin fishing and stalking. The bait is differing in size and can be slowly trickled in. Carp love crushing the nuts and will spend their time picking through the bait until they find your rig.
The key word is “prepared”, make sure the bait has been prepared before using it. Hemp, maize and other particles need boiling before you can use it, else it will swell up inside of the fish which can be deadly. Crushing nuts can be very effective as all of the natural oils will leak out over time.
Check the lake rules for things such as tiger nuts and peanuts as they are sometimes banned.
Maize is a great hook bait as they typically left alone by nuisance fish like bream.
Margin Fishing With Groundbait
Ground bait can be used for margin fishing to introduce balls of bait with not a lot of food content. This means, there will be tons of attraction in the swim, but not a lot of food content to fill up the fish. This will keep them hanging around for longer looking for more food to munch on.
It can also be used with maggots. If you mix up ground bait to the correct consistency, then introduce the maggots when you are making the ground bait balls, you will encapsulate the maggots. Then throw the balls into the swim, and once the groundbait breaks down, the maggots will disperse in the swim, drawing the fish towards your hook bait. Using maggots as a hook bait, in conjunction with the maggot balls will obviously make sense.
Ground bait can also be used with method feeders, which removes the need for PVA products.
Margin Fishing With Sweetcorn
Fish love sweetcorn, it’s very well documented. The bright yellow bait seems to catch the eye of the carp, although nuisance fish also like sweetcorn too.
It’s better to add a few kernels of corn to other food items such as pellet rather than using cans and cans of corn, else you will draw in all of the small fish, who will just wipe out your bait.
Sweetcorn works really well as a hook bait if you are lowering the bait on to the nose of a waiting fish.
Baiting Strategy for Stalking The Margins
When stalking in the margins, the name of the game is patience. Don’t put bait in the water until you find carp in the general area. Some anglers will leave bait in certain spots and check back to see if the bait has been taken by the fish, but on big waters, that’s a lot of wasted bait.
Instead, I will look for fish nearby, or at least signs of fish at a minimum.
Using polarised sunglasses, I will walk around the edges of the water, climb a few trees to see if I can spot any fish in the margin, either feeding or sunbathing.
If I can see fish, I will trickle bait into the lake and watch to see if they take the bait. I will wait and see if they respond to the bait. If they move off, I’ll move off too and look for more fish. If they show an interest in the bait, I will lower a rig in as they drift away and wait for them to return.
There is a huge chance that if you find a cleaned off or polished spot on the lake, and you put bait down, the fish feel comfortable feeding there and it’ll only be a matter of time before the fish come back to feed on that spot.
Trick them into Thinking its Home Time
Another baiting method is more of a bait & commit type of method. You are trying to trick the fish into thinking you have packed up for the day and thrown your bait into the water. After all, that is what 90% of anglers do at the end of the session, which the fish will then feed freely on as most of the time there are no rigs in the water.
This method takes more patience but could lead to multiple captures.
You still need to find the fish before you commit to a swim to fish, but when you find them, literally empty lots of ground bait out of your bucket, don’t ball them up. Throw in particles and a handful of boilies. Then use sweetcorn or maize on your hook so it matches the other bait. Make sure your line is completely slack and stay away from the water so you don’t spook the fish, then just sit and wait. This method is more suited towards the end of the day but has proved very effective for me on certain lakes.
Carp Stalking Rod and Reel
Tackle For Fishing In The Margins
If you are fishing in the margins from your swim, you ordinary carp tackle will be sufficient. You will need some snag ears if you are fishing at 90-degrees to your rods (if your rods are pointing the middle of the lake, and your rigs are off to the side). Fishing in the margins is not much different from fishing in the middle of the lake when it comes to tackle.
Stalking, on the other hand, is a different altogether.
What Is The Best Carp Stalking Rod?
Stalking rods need to be shorter than conventional fishing rods, 6-ft to 9-ft rods are better for getting into tight overgrown swims, or areas with lots of trees.
I highly recommend the Nash Dwarf or Nash Scope rods. They are perfectly suited to stalker fishing.
A Nash Scope at 9-ft and 2.75lb test curve rod would be my go-to rod if I was specifically stalking carp. If they are lots of overhanging trees, I will scale down to a 6-ft rod.
What Is The Best Carp Stalking Reel?
Because you are fishing with a lighter, shorter fishing rod, you need to match it with a lighter, but powerful reel.
My choice is a Daiwa Tournament SS2600, but some people think these reels are a bit of a fashion statement. If you think they are, my other choices would be;-
- Shimano 4000d
- Shimano Exage 4000
- Shimano 5000 Gte-b
Any of these will balance nicely and still have enough power to pull a fish towards you on a short rod.
Margin Fishing Rigs
When it comes to margin fishing rigs, not much needs to be changed. The one difference is making sure you have completely sunken the line.
The idea is to make sure the line is lifted off of the surface as opposed to pinned to the floor.
The issue with pinning the line is that you could have branches or a raised lake bed between you and your rig, leading your line to sit off of the bottom. This will spook the fish if they touch the line. Instead, make sure you are using a sinking line and giving the line a lot of slack so it can sink naturally.
When using bobbins for margin fishing, you will likely set them so that they are on the floor, you will see a run, but not necessarily a backdrop. But if you are watching the line for movement, this will be a better indication than bobbins.
I do use snag ears if I can’t get the rods pointing at the rig. I also use back leads, not to pin the line down, but to make sure the line is out of the way of any overhanging branches in the margin on the bank.
A subtle, balanced bottom bait rig will work most of the time. I would also use a 360 rig if I want to present a pop-up bait.
When it comes to casting, when stalking, ideally you will be lowering the rig on to the spot quietly and then feeding line out so you can place the rod on your bank sticks or on the floor. But if you are casting up a margin, most of the time, you will only need to an underarm or side cast. Using an underarm or side cast will create less disturbance than an overhead cast. Overhead casting is very difficult for short distances and will create a huge splash which will likely spook the fish away.
You will not need a large lead. A small 2-oz lead will be more than sufficient as you will only need the lead for setting the hook, and not for casting. If you try to cast short distances with heavy leads, the accuracy will be greatly reduced. Smaller leads will also create less disturbance.
When fish are feeding in the margins, they won’t be moving around as much as when they are feeding in open water, so having a short hook link around 4-inches will set the hook quicker than a 7 to 8-inch hook link.
Carp Stalking Techniques
Find The Fish
Find the fish, not a swim is the number one rule in carp fishing. It is the number one rule in stalking carp too. Put your polarised sunglasses on and locate the signs of carp.
If you can’t find them, keep doing laps, don’t just settle for a swim.
Keep On The Fish
The next rule is to follow the fish. If they move away from your spot, be prepared to move too to keep on top of them.
If the fish are no longer in front of you, pack your gear up and find them.
Keep Quiet and Move Slowly
Take it steady when you are walking, no talking, and creep up to the margins as not to spook the fish if they are in the margins.
If you are talking to your friend and not paying attention, you could be doing laps of the lake and never see fish because you’ve scared them off before you’ve even got to the bank.
Don’t Wear Bright Clothes
Trust me when I say the fish can see you on the bank. The will find it even easier to find you if you are wearing bright clothes.
Wear colors that match your surroundings, usually brown, black or dark green.
Give Your Line Lots of Time to Sink
Buy line that will sink well such as Korda Touchdown. You should also add putty and back leads to ensure the carp don’t come in contact with your line.
If you don’t, you will spook the fish and also get lots of false bleeps.
Remember The Baiting Tips From Above
All or nothing (well, almost nothing). Try very small amounts of tight beds of bait to tempt a bite from passing fish, or, if you are later into your session, trick them into thinking you have thrown all of your bait in, ready to go home.
Keep an eye out for polished spots of gravel, these are like dinner plates for carp, and they will likely be back to feed when they get hungry. These are the spots where you could put small amounts of bait and keep checking back to see if it has been eaten.