Big Carp | About John Llewellyn
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About John Llewellyn


My story…by John Llewellyn

Age 59. Carp fishing for nearly 47 years

UK PB: 52lb 4oz (Bruno from Dinton Pastures).

French PB: Mirror 80lb 8oz. Common 65lb. Grass carp 57lb.


I caught my first ever carp on a piece of bread at Darenth in 1967 when I was 10. I caught a few more at Horton Kirby whilst fishing for whatever came along but it wasn’t until I joined Kingsmoor Anglers in around 1970 and I began fishing at Moorlane lake that I really began to fish seriously for carp. I caught my first 20 at Moorlane in the winter of 1972 on a tiny piece of luncheon meat.  I caught three over that magic weight that winter which was a right result.  I started to get amongst some bigger fish when I began fishing at Taplow gravel pit near Maidenhead. We were using ‘special pastes’ moulded around the hook at that time as we hadn’t yet found out about the hair rig and boilies.  I have always been fascinated by bait and at that time my favourite ‘special’ was ground trout pellets with added PYM (a birdfood conditioner). I used to mould a big ball of paste around the hook and then dip it in the PYM powder before casting out – I caught loads on that. I tried adding curry powder and that was awesome. I did go a bit overboard on the levels though and the bait was so hot it would burn your mouth out – but the carp still loved it! Great days.

I lived in Switzerland for two years from 1977 to 1979, working for Nestlé in their research laboratory at Vevey on the banks of lake Geneva. I was involved in research essentially on sugars, sweeteners and taste enhancers. It was fascinating and I learnt a lot about different ingredients and taste enhancers that can make a real improvement to a bait. I also learnt invaluable lessons about how to combine ingredients to achieve balanced nutrition and how certain ingredients work synergistically, making a marked improvement in taste. They were valuable lessons that I have been able to put to good use when formulating my bait recipes. There is no doubt that the better the bait, the more the fish want to eat it and the easier they are to catch. And that’s particularly true when targeting the bigger fish.

Top quality Food baits like the Hydro are important if you are targeting big fish

Top quality Food baits are important if you are targeting big fish. Mixing bait sizes helps too.

Big fish are older, more experienced and more wary but they also have to eat more. Their sensory organs are well developed and extremely sensitive to natural food signals like amino acids, ribonucleotides, bile salts and so on. They can detect these components well before they suck in a bait. If it ‘smells’ right they will then suck it in, using the taste buds mainly in the palatal organ in the roof of the mouth to determine if it really is a good food item. If they don’t like it they simply spit it out. If they recognize it as good food they will suck it back to the pharangeal teeth to be crushed and swallowed.  They know exactly what’s good and what isn’t. Give them the nutritious food they are looking for and they will feed confidently, making them much easier to catch. 

I came back to England for several years and then in 1986 I decided to move abroad again, this time to live in Paris. I lived there for two years, following my dream of an Olympic medal at fencing. I had competed in the Olympics in Moscow 1980 and again in Los Angeles 1984 and I knew that Seoul in 1988 would probably be my last chance at the Olympics. The French were the best in the world at that time so I decided to follow my dream and move to Paris to train with the French Olympic team and give myself the best chance in Seoul – that’s another story!

1989 and Carpro my first attempt at selling carp bait

1989 and Carpro my first attempt at selling carp bait

In between the intensive training sessions and competitions I spent as much time as I could out fishing. The park lakes in Vincennes and Boulogne on the outskirts of Paris held plenty of carp and I also started fishing the river Seine. There were no ‘commercial’ waters and very little carp fishing information available at that time – it was pioneering time and it was all still waiting to be discovered. I was making my bait in my kitchen and ‘emptying’ the local waters on my home made boilies. Word soon got round my local lakes and I started making bait for a few friends. Demand grew and I set up a small company to make a bit of pocket money, supplying boilies and a few bits of kit. I called it Carpro. It was an immediate success but as the demand grew I found it was beginning to compromise the main reason I was in France which was a two year training program to prepare for the Olympics in Seoul. I wanted to concentrate on the training so I reluctantly decided to stop the bait making, or at least put it on hold.

My fishing has always been short sessions, grabbing a spare moment whenever I can, or escaping for just a few days. It’s still the same today.  I’ve learnt to adapt my fishing and my bait and bait application to get the best out of the short time available. Over the years I’ve fished hundreds of different types of water all over Europe and in England and I can highlight a couple of essential keys to success wherever I have fished: firstly it has to be location, fishing in the right area and finding the feeding spots. And secondly, there is no doubt that good quality bait is an essential factor in catching big fish and certainly in catching them consistently. Of course a monster can be caught on a piece of plastic with a PVA bag, or a couple of grains of sweetcorn, or a zig rig. I’ve caught plenty of carp on those tactics and I would fish that way if I thought it was the best way to catch the fish I was after. However, all the anglers I know who catch big fish consistently use good bait and by that I mean good quality ‘food’ boilies.

John Baker lives less than 5 minutes from me and I’ve known John for a long time. JB started one of the very first commercial bait companies, ‘Bait ‘78’, back in 1978. JB is less well known these days by younger carp anglers but his name is well known amongst the older generation. He still runs his own bait company John Baker Baits, selling a small, specialist range of flavours and ingredients. JB has been part of the carp scene since the early days and his knowledge on flavours and attractors is second to none.

A true English beauty

A true English beauty

It made sense to talk to JB about baits for Big Carp and we combined our ideas and experience to develop a small range of recipes using JB’s specialist flavours.  These are baits that carp will instantly recognize as good food, picking them up the first time they come across them and then searching the area for more. I have always been driven by wanting to be the best at what I do and that also applies to bait. I won’t cut corners on quality and I go to great lengths to ensure that our baits are the very best available.

I continued my fishing in England as well as abroad, catching plenty of lovely fish to over 40lbs. I also love fishing for other fish and over the years I’ve caught barbel to 16lb2oz, chub to 7lb2oz, tench to 9lb8oz and perch to 4lb11oz. In 2006 I decided to target my English fishing on the big fish in my local Dinton Pastures. I had a really good season on there, catching 9 fish in just 21 nights. I spent quite a bit of time not fishing, walking around regularly to keep in tune with the water, to get to know the areas and to trickle a bit of bait in for a couple of days before fishing. I only fished single nights, picking out the best weather conditions to maximize my chances. The fish I was after came very early in the morning during a wild January storm, Bruno at 52lb4oz. My English  PB and what a fantastic fish.

I am fortunate to have an amazing team of anglers across Europe in Team Big Carp with top anglers in France, Italy, Spain, Belgium and the Czech Republic, as well as in England. Heading our team in the UK are myself, John Baker and Terry Edmonds. I first met Terry many years through Steve Harrison. Terry had been helping Steve with the development of a range of beach casters and I booked a lesson with him as I was keen to improve my casting. Many of you will know of Terry through his fantastic casting skills but he is also a very experienced angler with plenty of nice fish under his belt from some very hard waters. Many of the team write in the specialist magazines and they help promote Big Carp products and represent the company on the bank and at shows. They also help with testing and developing of new ingredients and baits which gives invaluable feedback as they are fishing a variety of different waters.

The fantastic 'Bruno' from Dinton at 52lb4oz

The fantastic ‘Bruno’ from Dinton at 52lb4oz

I’ve been carp fishing now for over 40 years and I am still as mad about it as I was as a teenager. I’ve no idea how many big carp I’ve caught over the years but as well as my UK fish, I’ve caught loads of 50s, several 60s, 70s in both Italy and in France and a PB of 80lb8oz. I am totally confident in my bait which means I can fully concentrate on all the other important aspects of my fishing: location, baiting strategy, presentation, etc…

I’m still as mad about my fishing now as I have always been.  I still love fishing for the barbel, chub and perch and recently I’ve been targeting some big tench and eels.   I often just grab a couple of rods from the garage and go fishing.  It’s in my blood and I love it!

Hopefully meet you on the bank sometime.