Although a year-round tactic, Mark Bartlett believes that zigs are never more effective than right now…

That’s right, the months of January through to March are definitely the time for anglers to be breaking out the zigs, not least because so many other tactics are ineffective at this time of year. The reason for this? Simply the fact that carp spend very little time on the bottom and certainly rarely feed for any significant spells.

So, it surely follows, that if the carp are off the bottom then so too should your hook baits be. And yet, ask yourself when was the last time you fished a zig rig, as in my experience it is still the most underused tactic in carp fishing. If you are using zigs on a regular basis then you’re well on the way to catching a few cold-water carp; if not, then you are probably missing out big time.

So, why is it that so many anglers neglect zig fishing? Well, I think it’s a combination of things including a bit of fear, maybe a little laziness and also not knowing how to get the best out of it in terms of tactics and employment of zigs.

Let’s start with the most often asked question and that is what depth to start off with zigs at the beginning of a session. This crops up all the time on many anglers’ social media feeds and in the magazines and suchlike.

The first thing to bear in mind is the type of venue you are fishing. If it’s the modern, commercially-dug waters then you’re probably dealing with nothing more than 4-6ft in depth, which mean the carp are never too far from your baits whatever depth you fish so its easier to locate them. Or, let’s say, it’s harder to get it wrong! One or two principles apply here as well as at other waters, which I’ll get to. Find out what is getting caught and how: if there are lots of bites coming on bottom presentations then fish those or very short zigs. Carp do not move around with their bellies on the bottom, they are at least a few inches or more off the lakebed, even when being caught on the bottom. Imagine how far their mouths (or their eyes, more importantly) will be off the lakebed and fish your baits at this height, off the lead.