Marker floats and feature finding
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Marker floats and feature finding
By Jeff Vaughn

Canadian Carp ClubThis is a difficult one as a lot of feature finding is about ”feeling” the bottom and it is difficult to explain feelings in words. If you work at it you will soon pick up on what I am trying to say. Also let me say upfront, whilst I use marker floats a lot, I do not consider myself an expert. I read articles in the carp mags where the guy finds a 3 feet wide gravel bar at 80 yards over a silty bottom. I don’t think I would find that unless I got very lucky.

Basically a marker float is a large buoyant float attached directly to your mainline with a fairly heavy lead attached above it on a wide “run: ring. Between the lead and the float is a buffer bead and that is it. (See the photo below)

There are, as in all things carpy, a myriad of different floats and contraptions to improve on the basic, or adapt to different types of conditions. For the lead, between 3 and 4 ounces is best. A true marker lead is designed with the weight at the bottom and has bumps to help you feel the bottom better. If you are fishing over weed you also need some kind of stem to lift the run ring above the worst of the weed so the float can rise without getting caught up. See it is already sounding complicated when it is not. Take a look at the photos below and I think you can see what I mean.



Rod and reel wise. Again as everything in carp fishing, there are purpose made marker rods but actually not (to my knowledge a marker reel !!) The rod can be just a regular carp rod. A true marker rod is normally a faster action with a soft tip. So you get better sensitivity. It is also marked near the reel in 6 inch and 12 inch gradients. So when you are pulling off the line to raise the float you can measure the depth accurately (more on that later) The reason there is no special reel is because any reel suitable to cast the distance you need will do. I prefer a bait runner as it is easier to pull off line and count the depth using this, but you can also open the bail arm or loosen off the drag.

The one thing you absolutely must have is braided line. I use 30 lb braid which is perfect. With nylon you can check depths, but will not get the level of “feel” needed to determine the bottom type. If EVER I needed to fish at massive distances I would drop down to 20 or 15 lb braid simply to cast further.

The marker set up has four main uses. To find depth variations, to determine the bottom type i.e mud, silt, weed, gravel etc. To find underwater features, and lastly as a distance marker for accurate baiting.

To find depths is easy. You simply cast out the rig, tighten down on the lead sinking the float to the bottom, and then slowly pay out the line, counting off the depth against the marks on the rod until the float pops up. If your rod does not have the distance marker simply mark it yourself with tape or permanent marker pens.

You are normally looking for depth changes within your swim, holes, ledges, bars etc. Normally if I am taking a look at a new swim, I will start off at distance and work back towards me. I will “give it a whack” check the depth, wind down and back say 10 feet and check again. Whilst I am winding back, I keep the rod high, wind slowly and am “feeling” the bottom, for hard or soft patches and gravel bars etc. After 10 feet I count the float up again and compare mentally with the last depth. Is it constant? Am I fishing a slope? Have I found a hole or ledge?

If I find something I like I clip up the line into the line clip so later I can cast back to the spot again. I may clip up three or four times at different lengths (obviously why I start off long and work back) Depending on circumstances this may take one cast, but more generally several and sometimes an hour or two. But at the end I will have found one or several spots I like.

Once I have found an area I fancy, I then take a decision which one I prefer sometimes if I am lucky I will find two spots one long and one short, I can then feed both areas and alternate between the two. Because I am clipped up once I have an area in mind I can recast to it straight away, and will then have three or four casts “around” the spot to check how big the feature is. To determine just how accurately I want to fish. One I have fully decided on the spot I will clip up finally and leave the marker float in while I bait up. Again more on that later,

The above all sounds very easy and with some practice it is. However it is all but useless in flowing water and much harder in weedy areas. A word of warning at this stage. The above will not only find all the correct depths, it will also find every snag in the swim. So if I suspect the swim is snaggy I will just have a few casts with a cheap lead to feel the bottom a bit. It is much better to loose a $2.00 lead than an expensive Marker float set up.

When using the rig to determine bottom type, things get a bit more difficult and only practice will really help. The first thing is to feel the “bump” you will read in carp mags comments like “I felt the lead down with a nice satisfying Donk” The Donk in question is the feel of the lead hitting a nice hard bottom with little weed or silt, so you know your rig and bait is not stuck in mud or crap.

To feel the Donk or a Plonk, a Thud or some Mud you have to do the following. When you cast you must feather the line (slow it down before the lead hits the water) so as you lead hits you are on a tight line. As the lead sinks gently lift the rod so the line is always tight and you will feel the lead hit bottom. If you get a nice donk you are in a clear hard bottom. If you feel the lead slowing down and it stops before you feel a donk you are in weed. If after it lands you feel a soft plonk, and on pulling back on it you feel the lead pulling out of some soft stuff you are in mud or silt.

The next part of feeling the bottom is the same as and normally done at the same time as looking for depth changes. As you are winding back your 10 feet to check the next depth you keep the rod high and “feel: what is happening to your lead. If it is bumping along the bottom freely you are on a hard bottom, if it feeling lumpy it is rocks, if the lead is getting slightly stuck, freeing easily and then sticking again, you are on a soft bottom or light weed. If it is clogging up badly you are in weed, if you “feel” it is sinking deeper, it probably is and you have found a hole (you check this by counting up the float) and if it all locks up and does not move you are screwed and I will sell you a new Marker float rig.

I also very often use my marker kit to pinpoint my pre baiting, or bait while I am fishing. Sometimes it is just a range marker and sometimes it is on a bottom feature I cannot see from the bank. Either way I will have clipped up my marker at the spot, taken a mark on the far bank, so every time I cast I simply line up with my far bank point, and cast until I hit the clip. If I am feeding by catapult I will leave the marker there. If I am spodding I will either cast the spod on the marker (and then clip up the spod) or quite often will have run out my marker along the bank or back in the garden at home and already clipped up my spod. Once clipped up I have no need for the marker in the water.

Probably the most difficult condition to use the marker float is in weed. If the weed is dense and thick, the float will not come up and probably this is not a spot you should be fishing, but amongst most weed beds are holes and areas of sparse weed growth, very often these spots have been cleaned by feeding carp and this is a spot you very much do want to fish. To use a marker in weed you need the lead to be on some form of boom. i.e the lead has either a six inch wire “extension” or a plastic extension, sometimes with a buoyant top to it between the lead and the run ring. (you can see some of thee above) It is well worth learning to use your marker to find holes as the following true story demonstrates.

Two years ago, after great fishing in May we had a sudden cold snap, the water temperature dropped 8 degrees in two days and the fishing went bad. At the time I had Geezer Grant out with the Carpology team and I was tearing my hair out. There was one area where we saw a fair amount of carp topping, but it was a densely weeded area. Geezer went around with his marker rod and found a hole in the weed. The hole was I guess less than 3 feet across and 40 yards from the bank. We baited it for 3 days and watched it grow from 3 feet to maybe 10 feet as the carp ripped up the reeds to get the baits. Geezer then fished it and had three 30`s….Superb angling !!

Another small story. Two of my best visiting anglers Bill and Darren attack each swim with a lead before fishing. I will take them to a swim and explain what I know about it. They will then have a cast around with a lead (actually for them no marker floats since they are only looking at bottom features rather than depth) They will then decide where to fish. Many times this is not exactly where I would choose, but ALWAYS they catch more than any body else. Last year Bill found a new spot we had never fished before and despite a miserable hangover caught 49 fish off it in one day. Not to be outdone Darren fished it the next day and caught 53. They were fishing a ledge I never knew existed.

My last point is a note of caution. The marker float is an essential piece of kit if you do not know what is in front of you. However sometimes it can take a couple of hours to really look at an area. Two hours of chucking in 4 oz leads is not conducive to instant action!!! Every new swim I have not fished is thoroughly explored with the marker kit, BUT not on the day I am planning to fish it. If you need to use a marker on the same day you are planning to fish keep the casting to a minimum. In the above story, Bill and Darren cast perhaps three or four times before choosing their spot.

Here are some great articles to get you started!

Casting   |   Feeding   |   Fish Location   |   Fishing the Method

Fishing With Corn   |   Flavouring Baits   |   Float Fishing for Carp

Float News   |   Getting an Edge   |   Hook Baits

Quiver Tipping for Carp   |   Spodding   |   Marker Floats and Feature Finding