Margin Fishing for Big Carp

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    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.

    Looking around and trying to find fish in the lake before setting up is the number one rule of carp fishing.

    But being set up with 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.

    Margin fishing typically refers to stalking, but also means casting your rigs to the left and right of your swim.

    Carp Margin Fishing
    Don’t ignore the margins, the fish will feed off of the bait that anglers throw into the swim after their session

    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 from 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 than 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 flavours 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 great attractants 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 are 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 ground bait breaks down, the maggots will disperse in the swim, drawing the fish towards your hook bait. Using maggots as 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 pellets 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 onto the nose of a waiting fish.

    Baiting Strategy for Stalking The Margins

    When margin fishing, 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 the 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, and 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 fishing in the margins
    Tight, quiet corners are great for Margin Fishing

    Carp Stalking Rod and Reel

    Tackle For Fishing In The Margins

    If you are fishing in the margins of your swim, your 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 in 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 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;-

    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 onto the spot quietly and then feeding the 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 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.

    Margin Fishing Rigs
    Margin Fishing Rigs can be simple and easy to tie

    Carp Stalking Techniques

    Find The Fish

    Finding 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 so 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. They 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 a 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.

    15 Tips for Margin Fishing for Carp

    One of the best ways to catch large fish such as carp is by learning how to understand the margins and the areas to target. This is something I have been doing for a long time and I have been able to land a lot of fish in these areas. It is very important to remember that not all margins are equal. Learning how to identify the better ones will allow you to land more fish.

    1. Keep A Look Out For The Spots That Have Been Cleared by Feeding Carp

    The consistency of the margins is like that of the open areas of the lake. Depending on the lake, you might find a lot of debris and broken leaves in the margins. However, there are also some areas where the fish are keeping clear and feeding.

    To find these areas, I usually add a 2.5oz lead to a marker rod and bounce it around on the bottom. I’m usually looking for areas where the lead completely hits the bottom, and I can feel a thump through the rod. Once I have found a good spot, I will start moving the lead around and see if it fits the size of the area. I will then build a picture of the area on either side of me and start fishing it.

    After I have found a good spot, I will start dropping my rod straight on it and walk back to make sure that I am on the exact spot I found. Once I have a rig on, I will start moving it around to check for any debris. If the area is not clear, I will use a boilie crumb mix to see if the fish will feed and clear it.

    I like to have several margin spots that I can drop the bait on every time I am at the lake and keep them clean and feeding. If I am not affecting anyone else’s activity, I will keep doing this. Sometimes, I will even go to a syndicate water and feed these spots even if I don’t have time to fish. During the winter, I have found that these areas work well even though they are close to the bank.

    2. Use Small Handfuls Little and Often

    It is rare to find large amounts of bait being dropped in the margins. However, introducing small handfuls of boilies in these areas when margin fishing will keep the fish from being wary and encourage them to feed.

    Another method of encouraging fish to feed is to use washed-out bait, you can wash out the bait by soaking it in a tub of water over time, then mix it with a glug to reintroduce the flavours. This will help remove the colour from the bait and make it look like it has been floating in the water. For an amazing presentation, try using a washed-out hook bait.

    3. Have a Feel Around

    Take your landing net handle and prod around in the margins to find the harder areas of the lakebed. These will likely be where the fish have been feeding, and they’ll likely return for food.

    If you are allowed to use waders, you should get in and have a good feel for the clear areas. Since I have learned a lot about the features and margins from walking around in them, you should be there for any work parties that you can get involved in.

    You can offer to help with the margins by either cutting them back or removing the debris. This will allow you to find some good spots and keep the area looking clean.

    4. There Is No Need for Casting Your Rig

    Placing your rig in the shallow will give you a good feel for the area and ensure that it is presented perfectly. If it is safe to do so, you can also hand-insert your free offering around the edge of the spot. Before you start fishing, make sure that you have a good feel for the area by checking the depth with a landing net pole. You can also try and hide your lead by finding a lump or a bump in the surface.

    5. Blend Into the Surroundings and Be Very Quiet

    The key to this type of fishing is to avoid charging into the swims and chucking a huge amount of bait into the water. Instead, focus on fishing the margins and staying back from the edge. This method requires a bit more patience as you will be moving around the lake slowly and carefully. To avoid getting spotted, keep moving slowly and carefully.

    6. Find the Fish and Keep Them There by Feeding Them

    When I see fish feeding under my feet, I try to get them to feed before my rig moves too close to them. If they seem to be feeding, then there is food in the area. Usually, I start with a couple of small boilies or pellets.

    If the fish are still in the area, then I will add a couple more boilies to the area in order to build up the confidence of the fish. After they have taken the bait, I will slowly lower the rig and wait for the run.

    7. Find the Emerging Plantation

    Another great spot to target for spring is the reeds as the fish will often look for food in these areas. Placing the right bait in front of the reeds will almost guarantee a bite.

    During the spring, these areas are often productive as the reeds are starting to emerge. You can also find the growth of various plants in these areas by getting a pair of polaroid sunglasses.

    8. Why Margin Fishing is So Effective?

    During the winter, the fish will often hide out in the pond looking for deep water to rest. As the water warms up during the summer and late spring, the fish start exploring the edges in their search for food. Having the fish at your feet when margin fishing makes this method of fishing very exciting.

    During the Spring and Summer months, I will often fish in the margins. This method allows me to stay mobile and find a bite at a time. If you can accurately bait and use a simple washed bait, you can easily catch a few fish.

    9. Tempt the Fish in With Free Baits

    For margin fishing, I prefer to lay a small trail of bait that will lead to my hook bait. This method works well as it allows the fish to take the bait without being spooked. I will usually go around five to ten meters down the bank and drop a couple of small boilies to build up the trail. This will allow the fish to follow the scent of the bait.

    10. Don’t Start Fishing Until You Find the Fish

    Upon reaching the lake, I will typically check around for the signs of the fish. These include the rolling and rising water levels. I will also apply a small amount of bait to the area if I can find the fish. Just a couple of handfuls will do the trick, as you are only looking for one bite.

    ​11. Bait a Few Areas and Keep Moving Until You Find Them

    When margin fishing, If you don’t see any signs of the fish, then look for areas that are likely holding spots, such as the trees and the edges of the pools. I usually use a couple of handfuls of mixed corn and pellet. Be careful not to put too much bait in the water, as the fish might get fixated on a single type of bait.

    12. Visit Each Spot Regularly Throughout the Day

    I typically find that it is worth putting up several different spots and spend around 30 minutes in each swim. I use a single rod, and this method allows me to stay mobile and find a bite at a time. The rod that I use is around 10 feet in length. Multiple fish are typically caught during this type of fishing.

    It is very satisfying to have a few fish in one go, as instead of waiting for the swim to recover, you just move on to the next area.

    13. Clever Tactics When Margin Fishing

    Make sure that you are aware of the birdlife in the area. If you can, try and do it discreetly. Although it seems logical, I have witnessed many people do this while the swans are only a few yards away. One of the advantages of this method is that the birds will not be able to reach the bait as it is tipped over. The spoon also helps quiet the sound of the bait hitting the water, which can attract all the birds in the lake.

    I also try to make sure that everything is completely pinned to the bottom. This method is carried out using a heavy-fluorocarbon main line and some chunks of putty.

    The washing line trick is a great way to keep the line out of the water. This method works well for me as the only section of the lake that is directly in contact with the water is the last few feet. To do this, I just cast to the far bank and then walk around with the rig.

    After I have placed the bait on the bank, I carefully clip the line onto a strong-arm clip. When the fish bite, the line will pull out and I will be able to come in contact with the fish.

    14. Margin Fishing Rigs – Which to Use?

    Since margin fishing is not going to involve casting your rigs into the horizon, I typically use a simple blowback rig that is mounted on an inline lead. If you are planning on using a different type of rig, then make sure that it is appropriate for the lakebed.

    If I could get away with it, I would highly recommend using this setup for all types of carp fishing. Unfortunately, the characteristics of the lake and the silt can sometimes prevent me from using this setup.

    The advantage of using a short rig is that it eliminates the need for the fish to move before they encounter the lead. In addition, the lead system of this type of fishing has very little movement compared to other types of lead systems.

    Many people use lighter lead in the margins. I prefer to use a heavier lead as it tends to have better properties when it comes to hook-up. This assumes that I am not dropping the lead while feeding the fish.

    15. Keep Your Rigs Simple and Discrete

    One of the best ways to watch feeding fish in the edge when margin fishing is by freelining. This method is very simple and allows you to cast directly into the water without any disturbance. This method can be used when you are casting or stalking the fish. One of the most important factors that you should consider when it comes to using this setup is the size of the hook. I would recommend using a size 8 or 6.

    Further Reading


    I have made a lot of mistakes during my fishing sessions and don’t want you to make the same mistakes. I’ve learned the hard way over 20 years of fishing most weekends, testing, tweaking, and testing again and now want to help you excel with your carp fishing.

    If you need any help, you can reach me at Fishing Again’s Facebook page

    Last Updated on January 31, 2024 by Shane