The first shallow movements in spring will be to shallow, warm backwater areas (A). Protected bays (B) will be next. By early summer, carp find nearby mainlake flats (C), and by mid to late summer they spread to islands (D), and more distant flats.
Flats Fare For Carp
Marabou, bucktail, or plastic trailers mimic what carp feed on and slow the drop rate of a jig. Simple nymph and streamer patterns and smaller marabou jigs on the end of a fly-line drop even slower. The two jigs on top are von Schrader's homemade carp specials.
Cruisers: Casts must be placed close, but not on top of cruising fish. Aim ahead of and beyond the pack. A jig landing 4 to 6 feet in front and slightly beyond is perfect (bull's eye).
Feeders: You can cast well beyond a feeder and reel back to it, as it tends to remain in an open spot for long periods. Otherwise, the rule for cruisers applies. Remember, however, that slow jig drop weight is the best trigger most days. A jig placed within 4 to 6 feet might draw an aggressive response. Any closer and carp spook.
Top English angler and English fishing editor Bob Roberts has baited a few carp in his day, including Great Lakes carp. He says seeds, corn, beans, and full-kernel wheat make proper baits. A good bait for starters is hardened field corn. Cover it with enough water to allow for expansion and soak it for about two days. Then boil it for an hour or until it's just soft enough to push apart with your thumbnail. Before draining, stir in a flavor enhancer, like vanilla, or any common flavoring used in cooking. Or try the taste sensations designed for carp in Europe. As a common guideline, add about a teaspoon of flavoring for every pint of bait.
"Much better to underdo the flavoring," Roberts said. "If you overdo the flavoring, it's like too much salt and vinegar on the chips. 'Scuse me, you call them fries, don't you? Too much salt on the fries as opposed to just right, you see? They spit it out if it's overdone."
Baiting An Area
Bob Roberts suggests baiting an area roughly the size of a tennis court. "If you group it all in one spot, carp will eat it all too quickly," Roberts said. "Spread the bait properly and less bait will occupy more fish for a longer period of time. Use enough to attract, but spread it so carp cruise the area. That way you get a definite pull. Carp pick up the bait and move on, providing a distinct bite.
"It doesn't really matter where you place your rig within the spread, but hot spots will appear as the day progresses, so cast to different spots after each fish and each miss until you can identify these spots." They could be soft-bottom spots in a hard-bottom bay, or vice versa, Roberts adds. "Find these spots by 'leading,' using the sinker as it drags bottom to identify changes in bottom makeup. Watch the rod tip. It will bounce more as the lead encounters gravel, less as it drags through silt."
In rivers, carp guide Bernie Haines spreads bait in two basic fashions. "If you aren't certain where carp are swimming through an area, put the bait in a line extending from shore that leads carp in or out to the hook," Haines says. "If carp are some distance from shore, take a boat out some 30 to 100 yards, drop the bait in a bull's-eye pattern less than 10 yards in diameter, then drop a marker buoy a prescribed distance from it. From shore, use enough weight to reach your target and drop your rig in the center of the bull's eye."
If carp are feeding on the surface? "Bait the area with dog biscuits," Roberts says, "very small ones, about 1/2-inch in diameter. With the right tackle, you can cast a small float to control the hook and bait at some distance. Simply bait your hook with a small square of dog biscuit. They float, and carp suck them right off the surface." Walkin' the dog biscuit for topwater carp action!