Fishing for Carp by Using “The Method”

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Carp Article #5 Photo 1

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth article in a series of tips by Wayne Boon of the American Carp Society designed to introduce and instruct anglers on the new age of carp angling.

In our last article, we covered the virtues of PVA (or Poly Vinyl Alcohol) in the last article – which, as a quick refresher, is a bait-carrying product that totally dissolves when it comes into contact with water, leaving no traces and is totally environmentally friendly.  It is commonly used to cast out pellets and other dry baits to accompany the baited hook.

In this article, we’re going to cover another very useful baiting technique called “The Method” which is similar in concept (except for the ingredients) to the oat and grits pack bait that you may already be familiar with using with a hair rig setup.

Now, let’s look into exactly what “The Method” is and how to use it to catch more carp (Cyprinus Carpio).

How To Fish “The Method

Basically, what we’re trying to do when fishing “The Method” is to create a very competitive feeding situation for the Carp in the area we’re fishing.

You’ll often hear the term “pre-occupation,” and this is just one in the same thing really. The carp are so busy competing with each other for the morsels of food you’re presenting that they tend to make mistakes and get themselves hooked. 

That is if your baited hook rig is doing its job….

Note:  Please check with your local Fisheries Department to make sure pre-baiting or chumming is legal in your area before employing this tactic.

So, this begs the question: how do we get them into this frenzied state and force them to make an error?

Obviously, you must be fishing in a swim/peg that is likely to contain underwater features that carp favor frequenting and feeding on. There is no use in fishing even the best techniques in an area where the carp don’t feed.

How we find where the carp like to feed is a whole other complex issue that we briefly touched upon in previous articles and will discuss further in another future article.

Next, we need a food item that will keep them busy for a while but not fill them up. This is where the method mix comes in.

“The Method” involves molding a paste or pack bait around a purpose-built cage on your hook length. 

You could alternatively just mold the mix around your sinker/lead weight before casting. Then you cast the molded mix along with your baited hook into the area you’re fishing.

Once the mix hits the bottom of the lake, it starts to slowly break down into a nice pile of attractive food items for the carp all around your hook bait.

More handmade balls of “method” mix are then slowly but consistently thrown in around where you’re fishing to ‘build’ the area into a very attractive place to hangout for the hungry carp.

Note: A sturdy rod is needed to cast a fully loaded method cage out.  It could weigh around 5 or 6 oz.!  A 2.75 lb. test curve rod is recommended as a minimum.

Now, let’s talk about a typical basic mix that has worked well for us over the years.

To start with, soak a wild birdseed food in salty water for at least 24 hours (though 36 hours is preferred)0, so plan ahead.

You can find the birdseed in most large grocery stores in the pet food section.

Dry, Wild Birdseed

Dry Wild Bird Seed

Use two tablespoons of salt (non-Iodine salt! Do not use table salt. Human food-grade sea salt or rock salt is good) per 5 gallon bucket of water. Some folks use even more, but we encourage you to experiment yourself to find a level you’re comfortable with.

Note: Try not to use water from your kitchen faucet, as it’s more than likely going to be chlorinated and/or have fluoride in it. Use rain or lake water. Try taking a few buckets of lake water home to use if you know another session is in the cards soon. If you do use tap water, let it sit outside in a bucket under the full sun for a few days to remove the chlorine.

If you also use hemp or any of the larger particles in your mix such as maize, garbanzo, or any other kind of beans, please make sure they have also been boiled at a vigorous boil for at least 30 minutes in addition to their 24-36-hour soak. 

Note: This boiling process has the added benefit of releasing all the natural sugars and amino acids that are present in the seed, which is great news because they are the major attractants and feeding triggers for the carp.

Birdseed after a 36 Hour Soak

If in any doubt, do both the soak and boil to ensure the safety of the fish you are trying to catch.

Note:  Please don’t skimp on the suggested time here because you need the seed to be thoroughly soaked and expanded before presenting it to the fish. If not, you are feeding the fish seeds that may seriously harm them. When dry seeds of any kind are soaked (re-hydrated), they expand in size by somewhere around 20+% of their original dry size.

You don’t want any fish with a gut full of semi-soaked seeds for obvious reasons.

Typical Flavors and Attractants

It’s a great idea to add flavor to the water that you soak the seeds in.

Three of our “off the store shelf” favorites are liquid molasses, vanilla extract, and Superior’s Vanilla & Butter Nut flavor, but use whatever you’re already comfortable with.

Here are some examples of flavor and attractants that are typically present in many carp angler’s bait fridge:

  • Breadcrumbs are often used to bind the mix and hold it onto the cage.  This ingredient is again obtainable from the grocery store or you can make your own by drying out sliced bread in the sun or in the oven on a low heat and then crunching it into crumbs.
  • Other binders commonly used in place of or in combination with breadcrumbs are Layers Chicken Mash, soy meal, and Panko, among many others.

Place the amount of soaked seed you need into a bowl with a little of the water they were soaking in and then slowly add the bread crumb and mix thoroughly.

Add the Bread Crumb

At this stage, you can add any other ingredients you want to try such as sweetcorn, fishmeal, CSL/pakka/hemp pellets, betaine, cold pressed hemp oil. etc.

And it’s a big “etc.”

That said, we advise tkeeping it simple at first.

Keep adding the bread crumb slowly while you’re mixing. If you need more water add very carefully a few drops at a time while mixing.

You want to end up with a consistency that will mold well around the cage and stay together during your cast but not take any more than about 5 to 10 minutes to totally breakdown and fall off your cage once it’s hit the bottom of the lake

Method Mix ready for Balling

You can test the time it takes your mix to break down by just balling a little of it up and throwing it in front of your rods to see how long it takes to completely break down.

Note: Keep some of the soaked seed back for use later in the session.

Now that we’ve got the mix together, let’s look at the business end of the rig and how to present your hook bait. The section below shows the typical component parts of the Method rig.


****Method Rig Components****

Method cages come in various designs and sizes.  Sizes between 1 oz. up to 3 oz. in weight are common. The one shown above is typical in design.

We like the heaviest version available (2 to 3 oz.) so that the feeder cage acts as a bolt rig. This is where the weight and bulk of the feeder cage sets the hook as the carp “bolts off” after picking up the bait, feeling the point of the hook and panicking. 

Choose your hook (size 6s & 4s work well) and tie the hook length material you’ve chosen using the “knotless knot” with a hair. Alternatively, if you’re not a “hair fan,” no problem! Just tie the hook with your usual knot and side-hook the bait making sure the point of the hook is showing. 

Tie the other end of the hook length to a size 8 swivel. 

The hook length

Tied Hook Length

As shown above, thread an 18 to 24” length of rig tubing (discussed in an earlier article) onto the end of your mainline to stop the line from getting behind the carp’s scales and pulling them off during the fight.

This also gives the line a lot of added abrasion resistance when fishing rocky or snaggy areas. 

Next, take the method cage and thread it onto your mainline as shown pushing the rig tubing into the rubber tail at the top of the method cage, dab with a spot of super glue at the joint where the rig tubing pushes into the tail rubber at the top of the method cage to secure, and then tie the mainline to your hook length via the swivel. 

Threading the Rig Tubing and Method Cage onto the Mainline

Tie the Mainline onto the swivel at the end of the Hook length

Attach Hook Length #1

Push the Swivel up into the Method Cage

Now gently push the swivel home into the soft rubber grommet at the base of the cage.

Almost all method cages have the soft rubber grommets in their base for this purpose, and the same thing goes for the newer method weights that are on the market now. 

Note: Regardless of how you rig up the method cage, make sure that it is semi-fixed to your mainline. 

In other words, if you break off after hooking-up and the fish is swimming around with hook in its mouth and the method cage is trailing behind it, make sure that the method cage is rigged as above so it can easily pull free of the broken line when it gets caught up or snagged on an underwater structure. 

This will ensure that the fish doesn’t get tethered to the snag and die a slow, hungry death. 

Next, as the following three photos show, pack the mix quite tightly around your method cage and bait the hair with the bait of your choice and cast out to your chosen feature. 

Partially Loaded Method Cage

Partially Loaded Method Cage
Baited and Ready to Go #2

Load one side of the cage slightly heavier than the other and pin the hook in the mix on the lighter side. This ensures two things:

  • First, that your rig doesn’t tangle during the cast
  • Second, that the hook bait always ends up on top of the cage facing the surface of the water and the fish when it lands on the bottom of the lake. 

It’s also a great idea to attach a PVA nugget onto the baited hook as we detailed in last month’s article and then cast out to your chosen spot. After a couple of minutes, the PVA nugget will rise to the surface to give you the exact location of your bait. 

When this happens, if it’s legal in your state to chum, be ready to catapult or spoon up to 10 balls of the method mix out to the spot where the PVA nugget hit the surface to get things started. 

Then recast your hook bait with a reloaded method cage to the same spot every 10-20 minutes for the first hour or until you have the fish in front of you feeding. 

After you start getting bites with a few fish in the net already and feel the carp are feeding while “elbowing” each other out of the way to get at your bait, reduce the method mix going in and occasionally spod/spoon/catapult some of the soaked birdseed you kept back earlier out into the swim to keep the carp busy routing around in your swim for the small particles and seed. 

The trick at this stage is to just put enough food in to keep them competitively looking for food and in front of you, but not to fill them up. 

Until you get used to fishing this way we suggest literally sitting on your hands while waiting for a “screaming run” because you tend to get a lot of knocks, nudges and beeps on the alarms when the fish are bumping the method mix off the cage to eat it. 

Wait for the one tone scream of the alarm denoting a “full-on” run pulling yards of line from your reel before you are tempted to lift your rod into the fish, although technically, the weight of the method cage acts as a bolt rig and hooks the fish for you as the fish “bolts” in a panic. 

We wish you much luck, have fun!

All the best and many tight lines…

About Our Organization:

The American Carp Society was formed in 2002, with the goal of promoting and educating the public on the sport of specimen Carp Fishing in the USA.

The Common Carp (Cyprinus Carpio) is one of the hardest fighting freshwater fish in the world and is now being pursued by anglers of all persuasions, from fly fisherman to dedicated Specialist Carp anglers as a sport fish. The American Carp Society is a membership based organization and is responsible for promoting the sport and ensuring careful stewardship of both the specimen fish and its environment for the future generation of American Carp Anglers.


Email:  [email protected]


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