There's little point getting your rigs and feeding right if the bait on the end of your hook isn’t right – and that’s especially true in winter where feeding spells are short and opportunities to catch rarer.
Texture, colour, flavour and size all play their part, but with a bewildering array of hookbaits on the market it can be a minefield picking the right one in a match where time is against you and you need to hit the ground running.
Phil Ringer can help though! The Ringer Baits boss has been involved in the bait trade for decades as well as fishing at the highest level home and abroad.
Here are Phil Ringer’s super eight winter baits to pack away in your bag this weekend.
There aren’t many venues where boilies don’t work, but I’ll only fish them when I’m confident of catching. All-year-round I’ll fish an 8mm boilie, but I do know some anglers who scale down to a 6mm bait. I think this defeats the point of using a boilie – to catch a better stamp of carp by using them as a single offering and playing the sit and wait game.
There are hundreds of coloured baits out there, but the big success story in 2012 was the fluoro orange boilie. I spoke to an angler only the other day who won his match in the freezing weather using one – I can only think that this is down to the lurid bright colour. In clear water much of your carp fishing will be purely visual. The fish aren’t moving that much so if they’re near your hookbait, one that stands out will make them have a go. I don’t have much faith in flavours and glugs, but by all means use them. In cold water just make sure the liquid is of a thinner consistency to permeate the water more easily.
Years ago the thought of catching a carp off bottom in the cold was ridiculous, but we now understand that carp spend much of their life swimming and sitting just off bottom. That makes a pop-up deadly – especiallyin winter when fish are lethargic. Sometimes, a bait fished up to halfway off the bottom will catch, but I tend to start by popping up by 1ft, pinning the line to the bottom with a small piece of soft putty or a split shot. Top colours for this are fluoro orange or occasionally pink and I’ll still use an 8mm bait.
I’d never, ever feed meat in the cold! There’s too much fat in it and even a couple of cubes could fill a carp up for the duration of the match.
Fished as a hookbait, it’s a different matter – but even then, I’d tend to use it when the water starts to slowly warm up and the appetite of the fish increases after a cold spell. Fished on the bomb as punched pieces of 6mm or 8mm they’re hard to beat, but straight from the tin I’d dye and flavour it.
Ringer Baits developed the Cold Water Expander because most pellets on the market contained too much fish oil and fishmeals that didn’t work well in cold water. By using hardly any oil you create a hook pellet that’s not as likely to fill the fish up and produces a lighter coloured bait which carp seem to prefer.
If you use a 6mm pellet in summer, drop down to 4mm. Mine are prepared straight from the bag with a pump. More water and pumping produces a pellet that almost drips off the hook, ideal for short range fishing, but if I’m shipping out to an island at 16m I’ll pump the pellets fewer times to give me a tougher bait.
Where allowed, expanders make a great feed, potted in at around half a dozen each time. Some anglers also mash up expanders using a groundbait drill to create a type of slop for shallow water.
As for colour, I prefer plain out of the bag baits, but my brother Steve loves dying his pellets yellow while my dad Geoff swears by red. To dye the pellets, add colouring to the water you use for pumping.
The best winter bait ever – fish can see it easily and it seems to catch bigger carp.
Despite its hard skin, corn is an incredibly soft bait. I use the Jolly Green Giant brand and take time sorting through the tin to find a soft medium-sized grain. This ensures that the hook pulls through the grain fully on the strike. I fish the grains as single or double on the pole, or anything from one grain to a stack of four when using the bomb – it depends on the size of fish I’m after. For F1s and stockie carp a single grain is fine, but for big carp four grains fished on a sit-and-wait basis seems to outscore smaller baits.
More of a feed than a hookbait, but it’s great when used with maggots for small fish. Because all species will eat casters you can’t overfeed the peg. I can’t say I’ve caught many carp on them, but for days when a few roach are on the cards there’s little to beat them fished as single baits on light rigs. For feed I’d ping out a dozen every few minutes.
You may think they’re only good for canals, but if the weather is brutally cold I make sure I have fluoro pinkies with me. I’ve lost count how many times a pinkie has got me a bite when nothing else will, fishing it on proper scratching gear with a size 18 or 20 hook to 0.10mm line.
Not as effective in winter as many believe, I reckon maggots seem to work in a window of a few weeks. Yes, they’ll catch everything and get you a bite, but where carp are concerned you’ll get plagued by small fish in milder weather, so a larger bait is better.
Dead maggots have built up a bit of a following for winter skimmers in conjunction with groundbait, fished as a bunch on the hook or on a small feeder.
For carp and F1s I’ll always pick lives because of the attraction they provide with their movement. I use a single to get my first bite, then step up to a double or treble for proper carp!
Red maggots seem most popular but on certain waters, but at Tunnel Barn Farm anglers dye theirs yellow while white maggots score heavily at Partridge Lakes. The best advice is to experiment.
This has been a big carp bait for match anglers in recent years and if I had to get a bite in winter to win £1,000 off someone I’d use bread!
Forget about using it on the bottom though. Instead, bread scores best fished well off the deck for carp swimming about in the various layers. Use it as as a popped-up bait, sometimes up to half depth although start at 1ft off the bottom and slowly lengthen your tail as the match goes on.
You’ll need to fish a big hook because bread will swell to three times its size once it has fully absorbed water. Hair-rigs should be a good 2ins to leave enough hookpoint showing.
A typical hookbait will be two or three discs of between 8mm and 12mm that I punch out using old sections of pole. Thick Sliced Warburton’s White is my preferred brand and I flatten it slightly with a rolling pin the night before to makemore compact discs that’ll stay on the hook on casting.
You can colour the bread by rubbing in powders such as turmeric.