What to do when carp aren't biting - Carp swimming under water

When you know there is plenty of carp swimming below you: you’ve caught fish here before, you can even see them, but they are still not biting.

It can be incredibly frustrating.

Sometimes, no matter what you throw at them, the carp won’t play ball and pick up any of your hook baits. When this is the case, you can do plenty to try and turn the blank around and get some carp in the net.

In this post, I’ll cover what to do when carp aren’t biting to hopefully save you a few very frustrating days on the bank.

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  • What to do when carp aren’t biting?

    Sometimes, even the smallest of tweaks can make the difference between the carp taking your hook bait and not.

     Unfortunately, there are so many things you can try to change that it is difficult to make the change that is going to make the difference between carp or no carp.

    But, you need to try.

    Below I’ll cover 8 things you can try when the carp aren’t biting.  These are:

    • Trying a different swim
    • Scaling down baits and rigs
    • Casting to different areas of your swim
    • Trying a zig rig 
    • Try stalking
    • Keeping track of weather conditions
    • Change up your hook bait
    • Educate yourself

    1. Try a Different Swim

    After spending time baiting a swim and casting around trying to find the fish, it can be extremely disheartening to pack up your gear and move to a different swim in another part of the venue.

    That’s not to mention the time and effort it takes to pack away all your gear and set it up all over again.

    More often than not, I see anglers sticking in the same swim, gambling that the fish are eventually going to show up at some point during their session. 

    Most of the time, this is not what happens. 

    If you start to see a swim with fish showing and plenty of activity or the guy five pegs up from you packs up and leaves after consistently putting fish in the net, you better believe you’re better off going there.

    An extra half an hour packing up and moving swim to catch some fish is far better than another few hours frustrated and bored with no fish in the net.

    Take the hit and move!

    2. Scale Down

    What to do when carp aren't biting - Rig and different hookbaits

    On the other hand. If you see plenty of visual signs of fish in your swim and the anglers to the left and right of you are catching in the same vicinity, it may not be a case of packing up and moving swim.

    A simple change like scaling down the size of your hook, lead and hook bait can be enough to put fish in the net.

    The good thing about this is, that it only takes a few minutes.

    Once carp become wary of large and blatant rigs from overfishing, it can be very difficult to trick them into taking hook baits. 

    By downsizing, your rig should blend in more, and the presentation looks more natural in the carp’s eyes.

    3. Cast Around

    Many people will turn up to a peg and pinpoint a specific area in the swim they think holds fish. Bait it up with freebies, and then continue to fish this spot all day. Fish or no fish.

    Madness, don’t do this.

    If the fish aren’t biting, cut your losses and start casting around your chosen swim until you find the fish.

    This is also when it pays to be constantly focused and watch the water in front of you to try and spot any signs of fish showing. 

    If you spot some fish, cast to them; sometimes, it can be self-explanatory.

    4. Try a Zig Rig

    As carp are bottom feeders, it’s common for people to consistently target them with bottom rigs and completely neglect the mid layers of the water.

    Although carp are well-known as bottom feeders, this is not the only place they feed, and they probably only feed on the bottom 40-50% of the time.

    A lot of the carp’s time is spent mid-water rather than on the bottom, so if the carp aren’t biting, then this can be an option.

    Zig rigs can be great all year round and allow you to target higher in the water until you find the depth at which the carp are feeding.

    Don’t be afraid to play around with the depth of your zig rig until you get yourself into some fish.

    If you’re unsure how to tie and zig rig then you can have a quick watch of the video below.

    YouTube video

    5. Try Stalking

    What to do when  carp aren't biting - carp visible in shallow water

    Stalking is another great method if you just can’t get the carp to bite.

    Stalking is moving around the water’s edge stealthily, looking for any showing fish close to the margins and in shallow water.

    Usually, the weather has to be just right to find carp cruising and feeding on the surface in shallow areas to make stalking worthwhile.

    The warmer months are usually more suitable for stalking carp. When the sun warms the waters around the edges, the carp will happily spend time here feeding on any natural (or artificial) foodstuffs around the edges.

    If you find carp in the margins while stalking, all you need is a hook tied onto your line with a piece of bread attached.

    You can even try throwing a few balls of bread before casting to encourage the carp to feed. Once they’re actively feeding on the floating bread, cast in your freeline hook and bread.

    6. Switch Hookbaits

    This is another simple change that shouldn’t be avoided.

    In overpressured venues, you should always be trying to opt for something outside the norm that the carp are well used to seeing and become wary of.

    Even if it is resorting back to something as simple as sweetcorn that many anglers are now abandoning for modern baits like boilies and pellets.

    Even changing to hair rigged nuts (if the venue allows) such as peanuts, tigers and even brazil nuts. I bet many of you didn’t even realise this was an option.

    Good, this can be why they can be so effective; no one is using them at your venue.

    Another way to change up your hook bait is to dip it in flavourings and add a “groundbait crumb”. Essentially just a liquid-dipped hook bait covered in ground bait. 

    This may just work and is something that can be tried easily to differentiate your bait from everything else in the water.

    Even a change of flavour or colour of hook bait can make the difference, so don’t be afraid to keep changing until you find something that catches. Then stick with it until the bites stop coming.

    7. Check The Weather Conditions

    What to do when the carp aren't biting  - Man Carp Fishing on sunny day

    This is not necessarily something that can be done when you’re already fishing a venue and the carp aren’t biting, but it can have a massive effect on if you find the carp biting or not before you arrive for a fishing session.

    The weather and seasons greatly impact carp’s behaviour, so by planning fishing sessions around favourable weather conditions, you have more chance of putting fish in the net in the first place.

    In my and many anglers’ opinions, atmospheric pressure is one of the biggest weather considerations regarding how the fish will behave on a given day.

    If the barometer shows movement, either upward or downward, get your gear to your favourite fishing spot.

    Any time the barometer shows strong movement, it will typically mean that the fish have a serious case of the munchies.

    If you’re interested in learning how the seasons and other weather conditions can impact your carp fishing, then take a read at a few of these posts:

    8. Educate Yourself

    Have you ever considered maybe you don’t have enough knowledge about carp fishing?

    Anglers often find it difficult to work out exactly why carp are not biting and, even before that, struggle to evaluate new water to have the best idea of where to find the feeding carp.

    It can be difficult to find a broad range of carp fishing knowledge you need on the internet today without months and months of sporadic research.

    Lucky for you, I’ve put together a 144 carp fishing guide eBook that will provide you with all the knowledge you need to consistently put fish in the net.

    So, next time the carp aren’t biting, consider picking up my eBook and improving your knowledge and your chances of success in your next session.

    If you’re interested, you can take a look at it by clicking the link below:

    Guaranteed Carp: The Comprehensive Carp Fishing Guide

    That’s All

    This post should outline a few things that you can give a go, some easier and less time-consuming than others. I’m sure if you manage to get through this list, you’ll know exactly what to do when carp aren’t biting.

    I hope you’ve found some useful stuff here; if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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