Rather than a do’s and don’ts style pop-up tips piece, I’m going to share with you how I fish pop-ups, why how and where and give you some useful advice to think about. I’m not saying you need to rush out and change your components, switch your rigs up and change the bait you use, but this is more of a food for thought piece that may open your eyes and get you thinking differently about your pop-up fishing.
• When to fish pop-ups
Generally, over the last four to five years I’ve switched mainly to pop-ups and when a carp is a little distance above a bait I think they struggle to know it’s not on the deck anyway. I don’t fish them in weed so much, which you can if your leads light enough and it sinks slowly etc, but I tend to fish them on silt, gravel and holes in the weed. In Spring and Winter, I can often fish them as singles when I don’t want too many free baits out, or like a bright one in Spring that can really stop them in their tracks. I do fish them over bait in the summer and autumn, especially after spawning when they can react well to big beads of bait.
One of the main reasons I like to fish pop-ups is due to using exceptionally sharp, hand-sharpened hooks. With a bottom bait the hook can roll around on the bottom and blunt quite easily but a pop-up will always sit clear of any of this debris. I also use PVA foam a lot to ensure the hook point is protected as much as possible, or a couple of boilies wrapped in PVA mesh. The hook is much more obscured below the bait too rather than to the side of the bait and with a carps vision so limited it can easily be fooled by a pop-up that has a much better hooking potential as it’s already lighter and off the lakebed, hence much better hook holds a lot of the time.
A PVA bag of two boilies protects the hook point until it melts.
• What rig?
As I mentioned in the introduction this is all about how I fish them and not me telling you how to fish them. I know a lot of lads will fish hinged-stiff rigs or chods but I usually fish a coated braid with the hook section peeled back with a rig ring, giving me loads of movement for the hook to set. A boom of four to six inches is usually plenty but on occasion I can extend that if I think the bottom is questionable to present the rig, being too soft or littered with low lying weed. I always use leadcore whenever the rules allow as I don’t think you can beat its sinking properties to keep everything pinned down and avoid spooking the fish, and usually a lead clip set-up.
A simple coated braid with a small sections tripped near the hook and a ball of putty to ver-weight the pop-up.
• The pop-up itself
It’s important to match the size of you bait to the size of your hook, and I’ll usually match a 14 or 15mm pop-up to a size eight hook, sometimes a size six depending on which company and which pattern as the sizing can vary slightly. As soon as the hook becomes too big it doesn’t balance well in my opinion and the buoyancy and its effectiveness can be hampered.
Colour for me, generally, is something I will try to match with my free bait. I’ve been fishing my syndicate for three to four years now and using the same bait, so my pop-up cannot be singled out from a bag of the bottom baits as I know there is only myself using that bait, so it’s an edge on that water, and they’re used to seeing plenty of it as free offerings. The same paste is used to wrap around cork balls to ensure it’s exactly the same and the only time they get hooked on that bait, is when I hook a fish, so I believe they must be confident feeding on the bait. I only carry a variety of the same bait on my syndicate. Small barrels, larger barrels and 15mm bottom baits, then some 15mm pop-ups and smaller barrel shaped pop-ups, all exactly the same mix and colour
Small barrell pop-ups colour match my free offerings.
• Boosting pop-ups
I will always do the same to my free offering boilie as I do with my hook baits, whether they be pop-ups, hardened hookers etc. Using so much bait I tend not to boost my pop-ups unless I’m fishing for ‘bite at a time’ tactics. For me I don’t like to have a really heavily flavoured pop-up over 2kg of boilie as in my opinion this just sends a warning to any inquisitive carp. I’ve long been a user of bottom baits but more recently I use pop-ups more and more frequently and I’ve found just that small variation in height can itself cause the carp to single the hook bait out or pick it up first.
An oil is one thing I will use in the warmer months, whether that be salmon or fish oil of some description and only a light coating so it doesn’t affect the buoyancy of the pop-up too much. If a pop-up takes on too much liquid it will become less effective as a pop-up, which is particularly important when you’re relying on the pop-ups buoyancy for the rig to work effectively like a chod for example. A cold-pressed hemp oil or a coconut oil will work better in colder water for winter too.
If you are fishing a single hook bait then that’s where I will heavily boost a bait and have some in a light liquid soak for much longer periods. A liquid food or glycerine based liquid will make a bait heavier where as an oil will make it lighter so you need to think about what you’re applying to your pop-ups, but I’ll cover that later on.
If the pop-ups get a swig of oil to boost them, then so do the freebies...
• Do’s and don’ts
Some may agree with these and some may not, but these are the rules I try to stick to when I fish pop-ups.
I do not fish a pop-up very high off the bottom, especially over feed you risk hooking a fish in the face. It’s also too blatant in my opinion, unless you’re fishing in thick weed. I’d never cast a pop-up out without checking its buoyancy and balance in the edge beforehand. Oil can alter the buoyancy so always check before you cast it out, every time. I don’t fish pop-ups over particle as a rule as I think they feed much closer to the bottom and I’ve watched fish feed around a pop-up in this situation because they’ve sussed it.
I do fish pop-ups slightly over-weighted, I don’t want the pop-up flying all over the place when a fish comes in, I want it planted on the bottom for the fish to find. I do fish brights on new waters and in Spring at some lakes because they can stop a fish in their tracks at the right time. Certain colours can show themselves but contrast is a big thing, a white bait over a dark silt or a bright orange over a muddy gravel for example.
Not only is it difficult to see the hook when matched with bait size, but it's also hard to see that it's actually an inch or two off the deck.