I’ll rarely go to a carp match in winter these days without a bulging bag of hookbaits stacked on top of my barrow and that’s because when I’m fishing for just a handful of bites, making a change and hitting upon the bait that the fish want on that given day can turn a blank day into a potential winner.
Too often I see anglers sticking to the same hookbait for the full five hours, working on the assumption that eventually, the carp will find the bait and take it and while that might work in summer, when the water is cold and clear, the chances of this happening are minimal to say the least.
The preferences of carp can change in the space of a week and by that, I mean that when bread may have won the match on one weekend, seven days later it could be a banded pellet or a yellow mini pop-up that catches. Keep on casting the same bait and you’ll simply never maximise the full potential of the peg.
I do have my winter favourites though and Wafters are king in my opinion but bread, corn, a pop-up and even a piece of meat can be the bait of the day depending on conditions and in many instances, the venue you’re fishing.
So this week I’m going to talk through the bait that goes into the van when I’m bound for Barston Lake or Boddington Reservoir, both home to big carp that aren’t the easiest to catch in winter…
Unless I was fishing for F1s or skimmers, I rarely consider using maggots as a hookbait. They’re not much use when I’m waiting up to half an hour for a bite especially if the lake holds lots of roach as these little fish will soon chew a bunch of maggots into skins without a touch registering on the quivertip. They’re really only a last resort if I can’t get a bite on anything else – you’re better off saving them for the pole on F1s venues!
If your venue sees lots of hard pellets fed by anglers fishing the pole or pellet waggler in summer and autumn then a hard 8mm pellet fished in a band could do well as the carp in these waters will accept them as part of their regular diet. They’re small fish-proof and so can be left out for a long time but their lack of colour I think works against them when you’re trying to get the hookbait to stand out.
A winter bait that’s as old as the hills and actually works better in clear water than coloured. A stack of three or four pieces of corn fished on a hair-rig is impossible for a feeding carp to miss and you can even use a piece of fake floating corn if rules allow to slightly pop the stack up off bottom. I always use plain yellow corn as I’ve never found that red or orange colours gives me that much of an advantage.
Much-used by pole anglers for dobbing on snake lakes bread also makes a superb winter bomb bait on big lakes and like corn, it is very visual to the fish. The one down side is that it won’t stay on the hook for ever and can be whittled down by little fish so if you lake is home to plenty of roach, it may not be the best bet. I fish five or six pieces of 8mm punch on a hair-rig and always go for Warburton’s thick-sliced white in the orange bag. One word of warning with bread though - it will fluff up to several times its size when soaked so ensure that you hair is long enough to leave a gap between the bait and hook when the bread is fully fluffed up.
We’re talking standard bottom baits here in 8mm or 10mm sizes but I do think that the plain old boilie has now been overtaken by the Wafter or pop-up. That’s not so day I won’t take them with me for a change bait with orange being a particularly good colour. Ringer Baits have also developed some ‘washed out’ boilies that are faded in colour and so look like they’ve been on the lakebed for ages to a carp, thus not arousing their suspicion. Early tests with these have been promising.
Presenting a hookbait two inches off bottom waving around offers a totally different presentation to the fish, one that can make a huge difference. An 8mm bright pink colour has been very effective in recent years but they rarely work when used with a Method feeder so I use them on the bomb when fished alongside a small PVA bag of pellets or with the pellet cone.
Here it is – the bait that won best match bait in the recent Angling Times awards and even I couldn’t have predicted how popular these would become! A Wafter is basically a pop-up that when fished on a hair-rig becomes critically-balanced to sit just off bottom, meaning that when a fish takes the bait, it feels no resistance as it would from a bottom bait. The chocolate orange variety is bright orange and stands out a mile although on some venues the yellow versions catch well but I’d always start on a single 8mm orange bait when fishing the Method or Hybrid feeder.