Scratching A Winter Bite – Gaz Fareham

14th December 2018

With falling temperatures and carp at their peak weights after a summer of feeding, I believe it is never more important to ensure you are using a baiting situation that is working hard for you and is suited to the cold-water temperatures, slower metabolism of the carp and their nutritional requirements.

Through December, January and February carp are usually at their least active, but also potentially their biggest weights for the year having stock piled up on naturals and boilies through the autumn months. Whilst it might be trickier to get a bite during these conditions, with less anglers on the bank and the quarry at their absolute prime and peak condition it can be well worth the effort to capitalise on milder spells and good conditions and if you can get something going it can be incredibly rewarding fishing. That and it’s also a great excuse to escape the boredom of dark evenings at home in front of the TV.

For a long time now, I have based my winter approach on a few simple things; boilie crumb, corn and maggot and I’ll break down each aspect and explain why now. Boilie crumb is a superb winter bait, especially if it is a boilie that is suited to cold water use like Manilla with a low-fat content, high digestibility properties and a quick breakdown rate. I rarely actually put any whole boilie in during the winter and for a long time have relied on crumb to do the work for me.

I don’t usually fish over much crumb during my actual sessions, but I do like to give any areas I am fishing a good hit of pure crumb before I leave, or even a few days in advance of a session if I can make it down to the lake. The tiny particles you get when using pure crumb work their way into whatever substrate you are fishing over, meaning that the spot will continue to pump out attraction for a prolonged period and keep the carp working for their meal – it is maximum attraction but with minimum food. I have found that areas prepped and primed with big hits of crumb will keep carp in the area for sometimes weeks at a time.

Rather than using a Krusha I tend to use a food processor at home to get a perfectly blended crumb nice and quick, just taking my boilie out of the freezer in advance and blitzing it down in small batches. Pure crumb is quite dry and doesn’t sink that well if spombed out dry, so I tend to dampen it down slightly with either a liquid food like a liquid liver, or the cloudy Manilla liquid, always being careful not to make it too stodgy or lumpy and to keep the crumb texture to get a spread of the tiny particles.

The second key addition to my approach is sweetcorn, usually liquidised with a sprinkling of whole grains. I rate corn massively in the cold and it just seems to be one of those baits that is timeless and never loses its appeal, it’s also cheap, readily available and something of a forgotten bait as well. As well as being sweet, highly attractive, and digestible, it’s also bright, which with the dulled senses in the cold water is also something of an advantage, a sprinkling of corn in the mix in clear water is a sure-fire way to perk the interest of anything passing by.

The last addition, and something I am never far away from in the winter, unless they are banned, is maggots. Personally, I prefer whites as I like the added visual aspect you get, especially over silt, although I know a lot of guys that swear by red, potentially linking in to the similarity between them and bloodworm, a rich natural resource the carp are likely to be harvesting through the winter in the silty areas.

Maggots are just an undeniably devastating winter bait, but when used in conjunction with the crumb and corn I feel they become even better, with all three elements working together in different ways to hit a number of bases on the attraction and nutrition front.

My typical mix for a few nights fishing often consist of 6 pints of maggot to 500g-1k of Manilla crumb along with a pinch of corn and a tin or two of liquidised corn. I don’t actually make up the mix until I need it as the liquid from the corn will make the maggots float if you leave them in a damp mix, and it is also a recipe for thousands of escapees. I keep the elements separate until I need them and then make up the required amount for each bait up.

When it comes to rigs and hookbaits, I tend to fish either a 12mm balanced hookbait over this mix or my maggot rig on the Amnesia-D. In addition to this I always nick on a little PVA bag of crumb and maggot to give the hookbait a little extra boost. GLM powder is superb for drying off your maggot hookbaits as well to avoid any PVA melting dramas, simply you’re your hookbait into the pot and shake, by doing so you take away any risk of any holes or breakdown via a wet maggot or hookbait coming into contact with the mesh.

All in, this is a mix and tactic I would happily take anywhere, from a tricky UK day ticket, to a pressured low stock syndicate and have absolute faith in its cold-water attractiveness, not only that but it has caught me a couple of my biggest UK carp in some of the most testing and trying conditions from waters with little or no winter history.

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