Sunday, 21 June 2009

Viper Icon Bait Boat

Bait Boats, like them or not they are now a big part of the carp fishing scene. There are a lot of anglers out there that don’t like bait boats but I believe it’s the user that’s the problem, not the boats themselves. Owning a bait boat doesn’t give you the right to fish anywhere the boat can reach, you should always stick to the confines of your swim and not venture into another anglers water, if you stick to this simple rule then you will avoid crossed words with other anglers, I’ve actually been the angler without the boat and I certainly didn’t appreciate some knob thinking he could fish in my swim as well as his own, if you own a bait boat, please don’t be that knob!.

Viper Icon Bait Boat

Last year I joined a syndicate lake, the lake in question has 3 sets of power lines running parallel down the lake, it quickly became obvious that the carp where regularly sitting in safe areas of the lake which couldn’t be reached by casting. Any attempt to cast to these fish holding areas always meant a brush with the power lines so I avoided these swims and really struggled to catch. The lads who where consistently putting fish on the bank where all using bait boats and simply sailing them under the power lines and onto the fish. I had no choice in the end, it was either join them or keep on blanking so I had a look at what bait boats where available and eventually settled on the budget Viper Icon Bait Boat.

The viper icon bait boat has a single hopper.

The Viper Icon bait boat is a cracking little boat, ideal for fishing in the UK. There is only one hopper on the Viper Icon so its one trip per rig when getting baits into position. A bait boat is simply a tool to be used when necessary so I only use the Viper Icon when I need to get my baits under the power lines, if I can actually cast to a chosen spot then I will, so one bait hopper is plenty enough for me. Its rare to actually put out more than 2 rods with the bait boat as I usually cover the margins and fish over bait with my third rod.

The battery compartment on the viper icon bait boat

Bait boats all suffer from one problem, they really do hammer the batteries. The Viper Icon is no exception and the battery meter on the front is very handy to have, if the battery meter is showing anything other than green then I wouldn’t risk putting the boat out, I have run a battery flat on the Icon and it was a real pain having to go for the syndicate boat to retrieve it, in fact I was lucky to have access to a rowing boat so be warned and only use a bait boat with a well charged battery.

Bait Boat Batteries, it always pays to have spares!.

The battery problem with the Viper Icon bait boat eventually led me to seek out a couple of spare batteries just in case I had a good session and had to use the boat a little more than expected. I like my fishing tackle to cost as little as possible, that’s why I went for a Viper Icon in the first place and when it came to finding spare batteries that old favourite Ebay was the cheapest place I could find them. There are plenty of 12v 7 amp hour batteries on ebay but they require a few more little modifications before they will fit the Viper Icon bait boat.

Spare viper icon batteries need velcro to hold them in place.

The first modification is to add some velcro to the battery, as you can see from the pictures, the Viper Icon battery velcro’s to the battery holder and fits inside the boat. The batteries come without leads too and again these can be bought off ebay for a pound or two and soldered to the battery terminals as I’ve done in the pictures. The price of a couple of spare batteries, some velcro and a few connectors to fit the Viper Icon boat is not much more than the price of just one battery from Viper themselves so it really is cheap, if you buy more than 2 batteries its even cheaper!.

Solar charger, worth having if you are fishing long sessions!.

As well as a couple of spare batteries for a bait boat, its also handy to have a solar charger if your doing long sessions, I don’t personally fish for more than one night at a time and the spare batteries mean I don’t need a solar charger but I found one on ebay that was so cheap I bought it. Solar battery chargers are the biggest rip off of all, I bought mine from an ebay shop that specialises in camping accessories and they sold 12v solar chargers for caravans, they work perfectly with the batteries required for a Viper Icon bait boat and my little 2 watt solar charger was just £12 and that included delivery!. A 10 watt version nearly as powerful as the ‘solar suitcase’ sold by Viper was just £38 on ebay so again a massive saving . My little 2 watt solar charger takes quite a while to charge up a battery but for me, I’m happy if it gives me that little bit extra in a battery to get one more trip in, that’s all I ask and all I need as I carry a few spare batteries.

Viper icon comes with a nice carry bag.

Having looked at spares for the bait boat, it’s worth remembering that the handset also runs off batteries and that Viper don’t supply rechargeable batteries or a charger when it comes to the handset. Again I found plenty of suitable rechargeable handset batteries and a charger on ebay really cheap and its worth getting a couple of sets of 8 rechargeable batteries, one for current use and a standby set in case the batteries you're using go flat, there’s nothing worse than running out of batteries, specially when the carp are feeding!.

Radio gear for the viper icon bait boat.

In conclusion I’d recommend a Viper Icon bait boat to anyone, it’s a simple no frills bait boat that does what its supposed to. Spare batteries and other accessories can be bought easily and cheaply off ebay and it’s a bait boat that certainly won’t break the bank. Since using it my catch rate on the syndicate has gone up as I can now reach the fish when they are held up in areas I can’t cast too and above all, it means I can put my hook baits and rigs in place safely and accurately, if your thinking of buying a bait boat, give the Viper Icon the once over because it’s a really good buy.

Tight Lines

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Day Ticket Carp Fishing Session

I must admit I’m not a big fan of day ticket carp fishing, mainly because of the silly prices fisheries are charging for a 24hr session these days!. If I do fish a day ticket water I want to be sure I’m on the type of water that offers me big fish, after all, if I’m paying over the odds, I want to be in with a chance of a big carp. I’d actually given up day ticket carp fishing many years ago when I thought Linear Fisheries were getting greedy and starting to charge too much, my opinion of Linear hasn’t changed and I haven’t been there for a while now.
The one day ticket water that persuaded me to part with my cash again was the famous Cemex water known as Sandhurst. I’ve fished this cemex carp water a couple of times now and on Friday 24th April 2009 I headed back down to Yateley for my third go at this amazing big fish carp water.

The journey to the lake was uneventful, the only thing that crossed my mind on the way down there was how on earth long distance carp anglers ever managed without a Sat Nav!. My trusty Tom Tom took me straight to the lakes gate and at around 3pm on Friday afternoon I met up with 14 of my mates as we’d booked the lake for our exclusive use.

I had a good walk around, the carp seemed to be fairly well spread and the whole lake seemed to be fishing quite well, the only area that looked devoid of carp was the famous swim known as bailiffs, whilst fish showed everywhere else, this normally productive peg looked like a dead duck as far as catching carp was concerned!. Eventually we drew for swims and I couldn’t believe my bad luck, on my last trip to this cemex water I’d drawn last out of the bag and had to watch as all the decent pegs disappeared. This time I came out second to last and suffered the same fate!. I ended up stuck with ‘bailiffs’ and I knew straight away I’d be in for a struggle, what made it worse was the lake fishing very well and I had to watch as my mates banked an amazing amount of big carp, I haven’t counted them all but over the weekend at least 16 x 30’s came to the bank along with an obscene amount of 20’s!.

My own fishing over the weekend was poor, I was right about the bailiffs swim not having any fish in front of it and I struggled big time. The best I could manage was a lost fish in the early hours of Saturday morning, I had a one toner on my left hand delkim which was fished on a silty patch at around 40 yards. I hit the rod quickly and it thumped over nicely as I struck into a solid lump. I was really pleased to be into a fish given how bad my peg was but that happiness lasted roughly 20 seconds before I felt that sickening feeling as everything went slack and the hook had pulled. I wound in and examined the rig and hook point and I could find nothing wrong so I rebaited and recast the rod.

Nothing happened the next day, at 1pm I wound in and went to the barbeque the lads had organised, I wasn’t feeling too good, I had a headache brought on through lack of sleep and I felt a bit sick, with this in mind I went easy on the food, just a couple of burgers and sausages washed down with a bottle of oasis rather than a beer. After the barbeque I took a couple of headache tablets, retied all my rigs and cast them out. As the evening wore on I began to feel a lot better, I had a bit of a sleep and when I woke up I had just one thing on my mind and that was moving asap as there was still no carp around!.

BBQ in the Cemex Sandhurst car park.

One of my mates was also keen on moving, he’d had 2 fish from peg 11 but he wasn’t happy, the swim he moved to was the second pipe, I’d looked at this swim and hadn’t fancied it so when he left peg 11, I moved onto the road bank and set up again, the move was a quick one, I was only fishing under my stealth brolly so I was packed and round the other side of the lake in no time. Once settled in I got the rods out and just sat watching the water. I couldn’t understand why my mate had moved out of peg 11, there were fish in front of it and the swim looked good for a carp.

I stopped up late that night to watch a film on my Ipod and it was midnight before I got my head down, I hoped for a fish as we got towards first light as this seemed to be a good feeding period on the lake. I didn’t have to wait that long, just an hour after settling down to sleep my middle delkim suddenly burst into life and my line was peeling off my infinity bait runner at a fast and steady rate. There was no way this fish was anything but a carp, the hookbait was a 16mm snowman presentation, a real mouthful that was meant for a carp. I hit the rod and sure enough there was a dead weight attached to the other end. I kept the pressure steady, not too much as I didn’t want a repeat of the hook pull I’d had earlier in the trip. The carp kited left towards peg 12 and I had to drop the rod tip and apply some severe side strain to stop the fish kiting through my mates line next door. I managed this but my heart was in my mouth!, everything held firm and I managed to get the carp close in and ready to net, the fish ploughed up and down the margins for a while and all the time I kept praying it wouldn’t come off. I don’t have many hook pulls, my rigs are extremely efficient and its amazing how one lost fish can play on your mind. I had no problems with this fish and after a long fight under the tip I eventually netted the fish.

I was relieved, despite so many fish being caught by everyone else I’d struggled and this fish had saved me from a blank session. I grabbed my head torch and using the more discreet red led lights I set up my unhooking mat, got my scales ready and sorted out my camera ready for the photos. The carp was a mirror and it was well nailed, no chance of loosing this one!. I weighed the fish at 22lb 14oz, not as big as I’d hoped but it had prevented a blank session and considering how bad I’d drawn, I was well pleased with this fish!.

22lb 14oz Cemex Sandhurst mirror carp.

I rebaited the rod with another snowman hookbait and cast it back out. The rest of the night passed uneventfully and I slept in until well gone 8am. I was due to be off the water at 4pm that day but I wanted to leave earlier to avoid any rush hour traffic. I had some breakfast and began packing up, there were quite a few carp in my swim cruising round in the upper layers, these fish appeared over all 3 of my baits during the morning and I left my rods out as long as I could whilst I packed the rest of my gear away. Sadly nothing happened and at midday I wound my rods in and packed the last of my gear into the car.

Sadly I believe this will be my last trip to Cemex Sandhurst. Just like Linear Fisheries, I believe Cemex are now getting greedy. The introduction of the Cemex plus ticket at a cost of £35 per year has meant a big increase in the price of fishing not just Sandhurst but all Cemex carp waters so for a second time, I’m now retiring from day ticket carp fishing to concentrate on my club and syndicate tickets. In this day and age £25 for 24 hours fishing is just wrong, putting an extra £35 on top is down right despicable and I hope Cemex come to their senses and abolish this fee, one things for sure, I’ll not consider returning until they do.

Tight Lines.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

JRC Stealth Brolly Review

Spring is well under way now and summer is just around the corner, after a winter of day only carping I’ve started fishing nights again in the last month or so and I’d forgotten just how handy it is having a decent brolly for overnighters.

The JRC Stealth Brolly is my chosen system for overnighters, the stealth covers my bedchair and sleeping bag easily and leaves me with plenty of room to store my gear at the back of my bedchair. What I like about the stealth brolly is how fast you can get set up, I’m a short session carp angler and I’m always watching the water and looking to move onto showing fish, the speed of which I can put up and take down a stealth brolly really does help me stay on top of things and I can’t recommend this carp shelter come brolly highly enough.

The JRC Stealth Brolly easily covers a Bedchair and Sleeping Bag

The stealth also has an infill panel available to turn it into a bivvy but to be honest, I never used mine such is the protection you get from the standard brolly with sides. You only need six T-Pegs and two adjustable bank sticks to fully secure the stealth brolly, although personally, I rarely use more than the 4 pegs you really need to secure the built in storm sides. These 4 pegs on there own mean the brolly is very very secure and I’d only use the extra two pegs in extremely high winds.

At the moment, Britain is plunging into recession, this doesn’t necessarily mean lower prices for our fishing gear though, our currency is extremely weak at the moment and as such, imported goods are tending to cost more. Most of our tackle manufacturers shipped production to the far east many years ago to help boost their profits and these same companies are now being forced to put up the prices of things like bivvies and brollies. The JRC Stealth Brolly has been around a while now and as such, its price has reduced considerably over the last few years. This makes the stealth brolly an extremely attractive looking investment if your on the lookout for a shelter for winter day fishing sessions and summer overnighters.

My JRC Stealth Brolly from the side, no Bedchair showing means you're nice and dry and 4 t-pegs is usually enough to secure.

The stealth doesn’t cost the earth and its very practical, being a brolly it will fit in the centre of your holdall no trouble at all so there are no extra bags to carry like you’d have with a bivvy, ideal if your travelling light and looking to move quickly. I’ve actually had my stealth brolly for 5 years now and I’ve no intention of changing it. Next time I need a new shelter I’ll certainly be buying another one the same as I need that ability to move quickly and to keep an eye on what’s going on. You can see more of what goes on around you from underneath a stealth brolly than you can sat in a two man bivvy. This itself has the potential to put more fish on the bank, it’s so easy to miss a carp rolling if your inside a bivvy but even lying in your sleeping bag you can still see a lot of water from under a brolly and I find this invaluable when it comes to my short session fishing.

If you’re looking for a brolly, give the JRC Stealth Brolly a serious look, in this day and age its cheap, practical and ideal for a carp angler!.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Winter Carping Pt7

After opening my 2009 carp account with a 14lb 6oz common last week I was back at the lake the following Saturday which was the 24th January. On my way to the lake is was getting increasingly agitated as the fields either side of the road were white with frost. The closer I got to the lake the worse the frost seemed to be and I had a nagging feeling that I might be driving towards a frozen lake!. I was already most of the way there so I didn’t bother turning the car round and going home. When I arrived I found the lake half frozen but fishable although I needed to do a bit of work to reach the area I wanted to fish.

The angler who was on last week was on again, he was in the bay but he didn’t have a lot of water in front of him and I scratched my head wondering why he hadn’t dropped into my open water swim instead?. The answer to that question came soon enough as a carp rolled against the ice in the bay, I looked at the rolling fish and sure enough another 3 shows followed in quick succession. He’d beaten me to the fish again. I’m not one for getting up early to go fishing, I usually arrive at the lake sometime between 10 and 11am and this early bird was beating me to the fish!.

As well as no carp, my swim also had other problems namely a lot of ice that needed shifting, between me and my usual winter hotspot was a strip of ice that was roughly 20 yards long and about 10 yards wide, this sheet of ice was blocking me from casting so I needed to move it. I cast over the ice and slowly retrieved my rig until it got caught up in the ice. At this point I dropped the rod tip to water level and slowly applied pressure to the rod. At first nothing happened but after a few seconds the rod tip began to spring back so I applied some more pressure and again slowly the rod tip began to spring back. I literally pumped that big sheet of ice into the margins were I could break it up. It took me 15 minutes to move the ice from 40 yards out into the margins. It was 15 minutes well spent as I could now cast my rig onto my favourite spot which I duly did.

The second rod went out to the left as close to the edge of the ice as I could cast, as the ice melted I would recast this rod as far over to my left and as far towards the bay as I could possibly get as this was the area the fish were occupying and I had to get as close to them as possible to give myself a chance of catching.

The angler in the bay was having a good day, I saw him land at least 4 carp and I suspect he may have had a few more besides the ones I saw him land. This would be the kind of result I’d expect to have if I was on my own but my late arrivals meant a second best swim for me. I badly needed rid of the ice as it was preventing me from getting a bait into the area the carp were holding up. Just after midday I had the good fortune to feel a breeze on my face, over the next half an hour the breeze got stronger and slowly but surely a massive raft of floating ice slowly moved away from the bay and started to break up. By 1pm the lake was completely ice free!.

I wasted no time, as soon as I had a clear path to my left I wound in the roving rod and whacked a rig and mesh bag as hard as I could towards the entrance to the bay. The rig landed perfectly so I made a decision to leave it there for the rest of the session, I was still slightly off the fish but with an angler in the bay and no ice to hide under I was convinced the carp would push out to were my left hand bait was, with the hotspot already covered this was to be my last roll of the dice for the day and it was time to sit it out for that all important run.

By 3.30pm I was looking at my watch and thinking I’d blown it, there were carp in the area I’d cast the roving rod but nothing had happened, the hotspot rod had also remained spookily quiet and with less than an hour of my session left I was beginning to resign myself to a blank. Its funny how fishing goes sometimes, you expect a run and it doesn’t come, you don’t expect one and all of a sudden your bite alarm springs into life!. That’s pretty much how it was on this occasion, it was 15.50pm when the left hand rod tip suddenly pulled round and the alarm sounded. All I could think about was how much of a relief it was to finally get a run!.

The carp swam towards me very quickly, from roughly 100 yards range it was under my feet in less than a minute, I knew what was coming so I loosened off the clutch on my reel and sure enough, as I gained contact with the fish close in it ran hard and I had to give line quickly. The carp wasn’t a particularly big fish so I had it under control quite quickly, experience has taught me to loosen the clutch when a fish swims towards me because they invariably run when they’ve put up so little fight. With the carp in the margins I just kept a steady pressure on and wore the fish down until it popped up on top and went into the waiting landing net.

I was relieved to say the least, I really thought I was going to blank and I really didn’t deserve that!. I secured the net and got on with setting up the scales and camera. The carp weighed in at 13lb 6oz, another average size fish for the water. I have to say I made a complete mess of the pictures, for once I wasn’t paying attention and in my haste to get the fish back to the water I didn’t take the angle of the sun and the position of the tripod into consideration. The result being a shadow across the carps tail that is in the shape of the tripod. I realised I’d done this but I wasn’t going to subject my carp to any more time out of the water than necessary so I made do with the pictures I had and released the fish back to the water.

This 13lb 6oz January winter carp saved a blank!

With one carp caught I suddenly felt another fish might be on the cards, my hook bait was still on so with time running out I quickly attached another pva mesh mesh bag and whacked the bait back out to the same distant spot. Again the cast was good and I sat down to see if my last half an hour would produce a bonus fish. Instead of packing up at 16.30pm I made do with putting my gear away and sitting it out a bit longer, I was convinced another run was just minutes away and I ended up staying until 17.00pm in the hope of another bite. Despite half an hours overtime the run never came and I finally conceded defeat and packed up.

I did my usual stint with the spod before leaving for home and it was completely dark by time I left. On the way home I thought long and hard about fishing this water for the rest of the winter. With another angler consistently being there earlier than me I was going to struggle and that’s something I’m not used to on this water having had it to myself for so long. I already have my fishing plans in place for 2009 and I’ve started to consider a change of venue for the rest of the winter. I’ve got a week or so to sit and reflect on the change of scenery I’m thinking about, it will certainly mean less runs but at the same time, bigger fish than low twenties would be a very real possibility and right now the thought of somewhere new to tackle is very appealing.

Tight Lines

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