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Tackle & Techniques – Asian carp rigs & formulations

Tackle & Techniques – Asian carp rigs & formulations

Jul 30, 2015

The Asian Carp Conundrum…and a recipe for success!

By Mike Pehanich

You see them swirl. You see them eat. You see them leap. But you can’t catch them! Asian carp have befuddled rod and reel anglers with their finicky ways and alien habits — until now! Check out these rigs and bait formulations

Fishermen on every continent love to tangle with big fish, and the brute strength and weighty dimensions of members of the carp family have earned them a faithful following even in North America where sophisticated pursuit of the species is relatively new.

But even the most successful carp aficionados here in America seem baffled by the behavior of silver and bighead carp, the mysterious “Asian carp” species that were unintentionally introduced into North American waters over the past two decades.

Look for silver and bighead carp in promising narrowed down areas.

Look for silver and bighead carp in promising narrowed down areas.

“I’ve tried and tried, but I’ve only caught a couple,” admitted one persistent bank angler who has concentrated his efforts in spillways below dams of Illinois River tributary impoundments. “But they tell me they are plankton eaters, and you can only snag them — which is how I’ve accidentally taken mine.”

But is that last statement true?

Yes and no, say the Asian carp cognoscenti!

A couple of years ago, I spoke with Dr. Howard Tanner, the renowned Michigan State University professor who is often regarded as the father of Great Lakes salmon fishing. He noted that even though the Asian carp species are primarily plankton eaters, their diets expand to slightly more substantial aquatic creatures as they grow.

Munenori Kajiwara, who recently returned to Japan for a visit to favorite waters, notes that the appetite and eating habits of Asian carp offer clues to how to catch them, and there are ways that rod and reel anglers can capitalize on even that plankton “sweet tooth” of silvers and bighead carp no matter how large they grow!

“Silver carp are big eaters,” he explained. “Their mouths are always open, and they are eating as they swim. They are always on the lookout for something to eat!”

He starts by chumming a prime gathering area for his target species — where chumming is permitted, of course.

“I put out one golf ball-size chum clump every five minutes for about 30 minutes,” said Kajiwara, owner of Japan Import Tackle (www.japanimporttackle.com) North American distributor of Marukyu ground and hook baits. “Once you draw in a school (of carp), stop chumming. Just focus on fishing!”

And if it is not legal to chum in your waters? No problem!

“In states where chumming is not allowed, just let the rod do the chumming,” he advised. “Change your bait in shorter intervals. If you change your bait every three to five minutes, you can nearly accomplish the same thing.”

Mixing it up

And that brings us to the lynchpin in the Asian carp catching equation — the bait itself!

Japanese anglers formulate bait concoctions that attract silver and bighead carp but are small enough and close enough to the mini-creatures they normally eat in size and substance to prompt them to strike.

Kajiwara mixes two different formulations using two Marukyu ground bait products: Marukyu Mashed Potato and Marukyu Shirobera. The mashed potato product breaks down into plankton-like particles when submerged in water. The Shirobera functions as a binding agent to control the rate of that breakdown, particularly when fishing in a faster current.

Munenori Kajiwara recommends Marukyu Mashed Potato and Marukyu Shirobera for his Asian carp bait formulations. The Shirobera includes a binding agent that enables the bait ball to stay together in faster current.

Munenori Kajiwara recommends Marukyu Mashed Potato and Marukyu Shirobera for his Asian carp bait formulations. The Shirobera includes a binding agent that enables the bait ball to stay together in faster current.

Still water/slow current formulation (fast breaking bait mix)

On-site preparation only! Do not pre-mix!

Step One: Put 3 cups of Marukyu Mashed Potato into a large mixing bowl.

Step Two: Add 2 cups water taken from the body of water that you are fishing. Lightly mix with your finger for roughly 10 seconds.

Step Three: Let sit for 5 minutes.

Your bait is ready!

Strong current formulation (slow breaking bait mix)

On-site preparation only! Do not pre-mix!

Step One: Put 3 cups Marukyu Mashed Potato into a large mixing bowl.

Step Two: Ad 2 cups water taken from the body of water you are fishing. Lightly mix with your finger for about 10 seconds.

Step Three: Let sit for 5 minutes.

Step Four: Add 1 cup Marukyu Shirobera (a strong binder). Mix with fingers.

Where in the water column?

One clear reason that many carp anglers can’t convert successfully from common carp to Asian carp fishing is where they place their bait in the water column.

Common carp have a reputation for being largely “bottom feeders,” and “bottom” is where anglers typically position their baits.

But the plankton-eating silver and bighead carp eat on the run, so to speak, swimming with their mouths open and capturing as much plankton as they can in their “filters” as they go. Their activity tends to be closer to the surface.

“During the warm water season, you will find the majority of silver carp anywhere from the middle to the top of the water column,” explained Kajiwara, who employs a sophisticated bobber/terminal rig combination that allows him to adjust the level of the bait even in current. “Adjust the position of the bobber to make sure you are attacking the right depth. If you don’t get a bite within 15 minutes, change the depth in one-foot increments.”

Kajiwara has observed that schools of Asian carp positioned deeper in the water column are typically more active than those gathered closer to the surface.

“That’s why I usually start with the deepest part of the water column that I think the fish might have positioned themselves, and I will move my bait upward until I find the most action,” he explained. “If a lake or river is 10 feet deep, I will start with my bait three feet off the bottom and gradually move it up. Once you have discovered the right depth, you can lock in and keep catching fish!”

Once “locked in,” he rarely has to change that position, unless conditions change. Silver carp swim in large schools, and the bite tends to last a long time.

“Depending on the size of the fish you find, you can easily catch 10 to 20 fish,” he said.

The Zero G Rig

The rig he employs for silver and bighead carp is another key to catching these light-biting fish. Ironically, the rig is complex and so heavy with terminal elements that it seems to belie the premise that it is designed to detect delicate bites.

His carp rig is comprised of a two-part terminal rig plus bobber, carefully balanced and weighted to detect the light bites of the plankton-eating carp.

His carp rig is comprised of a two-part terminal rig plus bobber, carefully balanced and weighted to detect the light bites of the plankton-eating carp.

No matter! Keep the faith! The rig works!

For better understanding, think of the terminal rig in two parts — actually three parts when you include the bobber. But let’s start with the terminal portion consisting of a top and bottom part. See accompanying photo.

Top

The top portion is a bait-holding leader, identified by the red braided line. It includes a coil bait holder and a balancing sinker positioned between a swivel on each end of the braid. The weight of the sinker will vary with the size of the bobber and the size of the bait you use.

For example, a 1/2-ounce sinker should match well with a 1-ounce bobber and 1/2-ounce bait.

You can expect the leader to absorb a lot of punishment, so select a strong braided line of 40-pound test or greater.

Bottom

Select 16-pound test monofilament or fluorocarbon line for the hook line, the bottom portion of the rig. (Fluorocarbon may be more abrasion resistant but the more buoyant monofilament line may help suspend your bait more effectively.) You can bump up the line strength if you are targeting very large fish.

Add a strong but fine wire #2 or #4 hook. Kajiwara recommends a Mosquito-style hook. Select and attach a perfectly balanced floating foam to the hook so that your baited hook will perform “zero gravity” (Zero G) duty. That is, it will neither float nor sink but merely suspend in the water column — a compelling reason to go with a small light-wire hook.

Carefully add the appropriate bait — Shirobera or plain mashed potato mix — to the hook.

Bobber selection

“Silver carp are plankton eaters,” Kajiwara emphasized. “Their bite is so fine, so light, that the angler must pay the closest attention for even a slight movement.”

For this “light bite” detection, he uses a highly sensitive pencil-style bobber (see photo) about a foot long with a color-coded top stem to provide evidence of a strike even if the bobber does not drop entirely below the surface.

Use thin pencil-style bobbers (a.k.a. floats). The models shown here are color-marked on the top stem to detect very light bites.

Use thin pencil-style bobbers (a.k.a. floats). The models shown here are color-marked on the top stem to detect very light bites.

“The average bite you will see is a one-inch movement. That is, your bobber will submerge just one color,” he explained. “If you use a large ball-style bobber, forget it! It will be almost impossible to detect the bite!”

The bite

As particles disperse into the water from your bait ball, the Zero G rig remains hidden inside the resultant bait cloud. The silvers or bighead swallow it along with the surrounding bait particles.

“They think it is plankton, but really it’s a serving of mashed potato particles,” said Kajiwara. “If they notice the hook, they will quickly spit it out! Your reaction time must be quick. The bite may last only one or two seconds. If you detect the smallest movement of your bobber, you need to set the hook instantly! Expect to experience many ‘line bites,’ which are merely fish bumping your line. You have no choice but to set the hook. Again, you will miss on a lot of bites and snag a few. That’s just the nature of silver (Asian) carp fishing!”

Where to find them

Silver carp swim in very large schools. Sometimes their mass habits betray their presence.

If you are fishing a large body of water, take a strategic approach to your fishing.

“I like to start with the narrowest point of the river, such as a water intake or outtake (see photo) where fish can’t help but concentrate,” said Kajiwara.

A perfectly balanced floating foam helps suspend the bait in the water column. Adjust to the level the schools prefer.

A perfectly balanced floating foam helps suspend the bait in the water column. Adjust to the level the schools prefer.

 

 

Be ready for big fish…and big fight!

The Asian carp species grow fast and grow large, so be prepared for strong surges. Select tackle that will absorb the run of a big fish.

“These carp grow large, and they are relatively strong,” noted Kajiwara. “Depending on the equipment (rod, reel, line) you are using, you may need to adjust the drag and fight the fish carefully.”

He broke into a grin and paused. Finally, he confessed that he doesn’t always follow his own advice when it comes to equipment.

“While I was fishing in Japan, I was playing with a cane pole,” he began. “A 20-pound Silver carp took the bait. I was running around the river with the pole upraised in my hand. It took me 30 minutes to land that fish! If you are capable of running, fishing for Silver carp with a cane pole is an adventure you just might want to try!”

Marukyu baits are available at Lee’s Global Tackle (www.leesglobaltackle.com; phone: 847/593-6424) and Wacker Bait & Tackle (phone: (708) 450-0305).

For additional information on Marukyu’s JPz and other Marukyu, Nories, and Ecogear lures, contact Munenori, Kajiwara at 630/299-6508.

 

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