Tom Maker explains how keeping it simple but effective with his go-to mix will keep the bites coming in the colder months
Keep it Simple with Tom Maker - Text Only
Pretty much every venue that I have fished in recent years is well stocked. I purposely go fishing to lakes where I feel that I have a chance of catching a fish or two. This is so important at this time of the year, when a lot of anglers are struggling to catch, with the majority with their rods still hung up for the colder months.
It is late winter going in to early spring and this is the time of year when getting it wrong can be so easy. Reading the situation is key, but simple when you make use of your eyes and ears. If they are showing like mad and the weather is warm and mild, there is a good chance of catching some fish on the bottom. If it is cold, sunny and still, with little showing, there is more of a chance on the zigs.
When I say use your ears, I mean listen out for what is being caught. If someone is catching a few on the bottom, it is a good indication to know how you should approach it. If one angler has caught one fish at 60 yards, another lad has had three at 80 yards, it may tell you that the fish are further out in the pond.
Watch for shows, but speak to anglers too and get a good indication of what is going on out there. When I know there is an opportunity to catch a few fish off the bottom, there are only two ways that I would approach it.
Firstly, single hookbaits. I would only do this if I didn’t know the venue, or I felt that a bite was really hard to come by. When the lake is fishing really slow and nothing is getting caught, roving round and casting single pop-ups to likely looking areas can get you a few bites.
My go-to rig is the 360-rig, which is fished with a trimmed Signature Pop-Up. I prefer to trim the bait to the point where it critically balances, which helps me achieve really good hook holds. I am not relying on putty or shot to get the bait down, it sinks slowly itself under the weight of the components to the rig. I do alternate from the Signature Squids to the fruit ones, depending on the venue that I am fishing one will work better than the other and vice versa.
The other tactic I use is to fish over a baited area, which is my go-to on lakes such as Linear Fisheries. I take the time to find a spot at a decent and comfortable range to fish. Being able to do this at over 100 yards is a huge edge, especially on the busy day tickets, as the majority of the fish will be out in the middle of the lake.
I am looking for a clean baiting area, which depends on the lake as to what the bottom is. Sometimes I like the silt, and other times opt for the gravel. Once I have picked the spot, I clip all the fishing rods and spod rod to that distance and cast my three singles out to the same spot.
Then it is time to bait it and this is where it is so important to go easy. I make up a mix that has helped me have some of the best winter sessions. I begin by adding plenty of sweetcorn. I buy the tins in bulk, so that I can have them in the van at all times. Carp love sweetcorn, it is easily digestible, visual and full of sugar.
I then add some 12mm and 16mm Manilla boilies, crushing some of the 16mm baits in my hand. I have roughly a 50/50 mix with the corn and the boilies and the only additive left is Cloudy Manilla. This is a wonderful sweet, sugary liquid that compliments both baits brilliantly. That thick, gungy syrup that comes from corn and Cloudy Manilla, just smells and tastes incredible. It adds a nice cloud to the water, which goes through the water column and eventually to the bottom.
As soon as anything comes over the top of the baited area and feeds, that cloud will lift up again and send those food signals through the peg. To the bucket I add some lake water, so that the liquid is just reaching the top of the bait. I give it a mix around and ideally do this the day before I go fishing. The boilies will be lovely and soft, which makes them even easier for the carp to digest.
I go through quite a bit of bait throughout a session, but the way I feed it is different to many. I take a lot from the match anglers in the way that they feed the peg. Putting in half or all of your bait at the start of the session could quite easily kill it. I want to build the peg up, create competition for food and draw in increasing numbers of carp as time goes on.
If you have got your location right, there will be plenty of fish out there, it is just a case of creating that competition. I know they will want to eat it, but by putting it all in to start with, you are limiting the amount of fish that you are going to catch.
I start off by putting out 10 large Fox impact Spods out there as accurately as I can. Now when you see the amount of bait that is on the bottom, it is more than you may think and is extremely visual and attractive. If nothing is happening for a few hours and I feel I should have had a bite, I introduce just two more, just to get a bit of fresh smell out there.
Equally, if I catch a fish, I give them another 3 Spods just to top it up. If you are doing this throughout a 24-hour session, you will end up using a fair bit of bait. However, the action will often increase and you know that the carp are eating it.
I am sure that there can be up to 40-50 fish feeding on me at any given time when the spot is rocking, so creating that competition will get you quicker and more positive bites. While shooting this feature I have done a couple of nights on Brasenose Two, implementing the baited tactics I have explained in this feature. I didn’t fish the nights, but during daylight hours I caught 21-carp, three of which being over 29lb. For this time of year, I had great fun building up the peg activity with increased bites throughout my stay.