Ellis Brazier, a three-time finalist in the British Carp Angling Championship, gives you his guide to entering and winning a carp match.
Choose the right team mate
If it’s a pairs match pick a team mate that is up to the job and one you get on with. Carp matches are endurance based, where tempers can flare with tiredness and fatigue. Try to pick an angler who fishes regularly with you and knows how to get the job done. Believe me, there is nothing more annoying than turning up to a match after putting in shed loads of effort for your team mate to take it all as a joke.
There is no substitute for practice. Once you know the venue that the match is taking place on go and practice as much as you can. Try to fish the venue from different swims and at different times so you get a feel for not only what the best tactics are but also what the best areas are. If the venue is quiet then marker as many swims as you can, all and any information could be the key to winning the match.
Make sure you are competent in all aspects of carp angling. I have seen top-rated anglers falter in a match because they were not proficient in certain aspects of carp angling. Read the rules of the match and fisheries, and make sure you can adapt to whatever is required. Beachcaster rig, solid-bagging into weed, long-range spodding, zig fishing (especially under spod mix) – be proficient at it all. If you are unsure about any of these methods then go out and perfect then.
Never have I been to a carp match and used all my bait. It seems a waste at times but I like to make sure I have every option covered because at the end of the match if you have not used it all you can simply take it home. If you have practiced then you should have an idea of what quantity you will need and what type of bait the carp in that venue prefer. Take more than you think you need in case you get the flyer peg and the fish are queuing up. Also don’t neglect the floaters as I’ve been in a few matches when the weather has suddenly gone really warm and the guys who get on the top first are bagging up. Another idea is to bait a venue with a chosen mix for a few weeks before a match. As a pair we once did this on a venue that was a 90-mile round trip every third night for three weeks prior to the match. We came out low down in the draw but sailed through to second and qualified due to the fish having confidence in our bait.
Most carp matches span 48 hours or even more if they are an endurance match. To make the most of your hard work and effort you must get some sleep or the candle will burn out. If you have practiced well or know the water you should have a fairly good idea of optimum bite times. Try to base any rest periods around the least expected time for a bite. If you are fishing a match on a water that is usually day only and you are angling through the night then it’s the night when you need to be awake and watching. I have fished this type of water and the match was won and lost by those who fished hard through the dark hours and those who slept as normal. If you are in a team then take turns to sleep, any way you can keep an eye on the water may be of help.
Food and drink
Make sure at the start of the match you have all the food and drink you need to complete the match without leaving the swim. Isotonic drinks and maybe the odd caffeine drink will help through those hard hours when energy levels start to dip. Take easy-to-prepare stuff and eat foods like pasta that give you energy but don’t distract you cooking for too long. Drink plenty of water when it’s hot as dehydration can affect your performance.
Have a plan
Make sure you check out with plenty of time the way in which the lake has been pegged. Sometimes the organisers peg differently to how you would expect. Check out the pegs and make a list right down to the last few swims. Be prepared for the draw and don’t lose heart if your fancied swim goes to someone else. Always keep an eye on the swim that provides the largest piece of unfished water – as the match goes on, more and more fish will seek the relative sanctuary of this area.
This is all down to your mental state. No matter where you come out in the draw or where you are pegged, keep going to the very end. I have seen so-called decent anglers turn and walk away from a match without wetting a line because they thought the swim they had was useless. It takes minutes to catch a fish and if the match is close a late surge from an unfancied peg can take the win. Any swim can win a match no matter how dismal it may at first seem.