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Winter bait rambling 2022/23

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A question I am asked every year is what bait will I be using this winter?

Although still rather mild, I thought I would tap these words out to hopefully get you thinking as well as potentially saving a few more from asking.

Full moon, a frost and a U.K. 40

For years now when asked what I thought my own personal edges in carp angling are, I have without hesitation answered winter fishing. Personally I love it, less people, less insect bites, carp looking their best and on and on. I guess the fact that every P.B. for over 30 years were winter fish, including my overseas ones too, yes, I even use holiday time up to go winter fishing.
Experiencing nature in all its forms is something I need in my life and selfishly love the fact that I don’t have to share water space with so many anglers once the cold, short daylight hours and often wet bivvy bound weather kicks in.

DSC 4271

It is rare you are bivvy bound for long.

Being bivvy bound sucks, but that is the only negative I have about it and that certainly isn’t every session occurrence. I really could write a full piece about what I prefer about winter angling over summer angling, but that is not the point of this piece which started with a question.

By far the two most important things which make so much difference between success, or a constant string of blanks, is presentation (far more important in winter than in the warmer months) and bait. So many baits work well during the warmer months but just aren’t the things to use once the water cools. Yes, the carp will still eat them, but by using them, you could be narrowing your chances of catching as many as you could do with more suitable cold-water baits once the temperatures plummet. Intrigued – read on...

Carp being cold blooded are forced into their slower way of life. They have no choice in this, but it is a major thing to take account when it comes to rigs and baits. Everything the carp do is slower, their metabolism is right down which doesn’t just mean that they are moving around less, it also means that their inner workings are much slower too. Everything they eat takes much longer to pass through them, thus longer before they need to feed again. I beat my drum every year about it, but still I cringe each time I see big oil slicks coming out of the bait that anglers are introducing in the colder months, many of which simply clog up inside the cold body of the fish (being the same temperature as the water). This makes digestion an even bigger issue and indeed dangerous for the carp being stuck with food in them that they are struggling to pass through. Many will probably need reminding (or teaching) that carp do not have a stomach, all comments of a boilie belly etc are nonsense. What they do have is a digestive tract/intestine twice the length of their body that the food must pass through. They do not have stomach acids to break troublesome food items down like other animals do. One angler baiting with the wrong difficult to digest bait, particularly when putting out a quantity of bait, can stop the fish that feasted upon it from feeding for a very long period.

Yes, the angler may have caught on an unsuitable bait (the carp didn't know it was going to have digestive issues when it ate it) so naturally will repeat the process, but before long there will be a large percentage of the carp in the venue, not needing to eat. Remember that carp are generally shoal fish and depending upon the stock in the lake, will depend upon how many you have stopped feeding. If 15 fish all got their heads down and one was caught, then that’s 15 more that no-one else is going to be catching next week.

The above is an easy answer as to why my best winter angling has always been on venues that few others target in the winter, or those that see little bait. I hear many say that the fish turn off bait once it stops going in and that is folk lore. I have turned up at several venues over the years after fancying a change of scenery mid-January when I know the chances of anyone having put any bait out for a couple of months to be rather unlikely and have caught from the off. I'm not talking hungry carp concentration camp waters either where the carp have to feed whenever possible. I’ve had a few winters over the years where I have been the only angler fishing a venue and caught consistent all winter with the pleasing sight of my bait coming out of their vents whilst on the mat. It is so nice being in control of the food being fed.

The first winter carp I landed was in the snow in 1977, here we are 45 years later and there have been very few winters when I have been distracted away from the carp. 

1984 and a lake record that had my bait trickling out its vent.

During that time, I have learned quite a lot through trial and error and I’m now at the stage that I don’t bother to, because I don’t need to, mess around with bait all the time. Yes, I will still try bits out on carp I can watch, but from an angling point of view and for many years now, I have carried the same two baits, each winter. Magnum White and Rahja Spice. These are both digested quickly so are safe to feed. This is important to me as I like to be able to trickle a little bit of bait into different areas at different times. Not large amounts, but I like them to have the odd safe freebie in areas with no lines.

No pelvics

The Mangrove's 'No-Pelvics' in its glorious February colours.

This year will again be no different. The Rock Pool Rahja (very different type of bait to Rahja Spice. I had the name written on my office wall for 3 years before I had a bait to put to it) has been an incredible bait for me these past couple of years and has certainly sorted out some of the larger fish from the venues I fish. I always seemed to need to catch a lot of carp between each big one, but that hasn’t been the case with the Rock Pool Rahja. Because of this, I will continue using it this winter on at least one rod but every bit of bait that gets introduced will see some Magnum and/or Rahja going in as well. I like to have a change of colour of hook bait and these 3 will do me fine this year. If all the takes come on the Magnum White and Rahja Spice, then it will be 100% with what I have 100% cold water confidence in. No pellet, no particle, just small amounts of food they enjoy and benefit from, with bonus baiting between trips, as the three venues I intend to switch between this winter are close enough to allow me to do that.

Best wishes and fishes
Shaun



About the Author: Shaun Harrison

shaun profile pic

Quest Baits boss Shaun Harrison has put over 40 years of experience into developing his range of carp baits ” This bait range is the culmination of the bait knowledge I’ve gained throughout my carp fishing career, a journey which started in the 1970’s. It has truly been a long and winding road – frustrating at times, fascinating and rewarding at others….. Our range you’ll only find proven baits, the ones I use myself 

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