Mid winter is always a tricky time to judge bait application, especially when fishing with boilies. If I have kept the boilies going in the lake in certain areas since the onset of winter then I’m happy to carry on baiting these areas, because if I have got things right then the fish should have accepted my baiting campaign as a food source and will repeatedly visit the area to reap the larder. However, if I haven’t baited or fished the water much over the past few months then I’m reluctant to put much bait in at all, well not boilies anyway.
If I do want to fish over a bit of bait to get the fish grubbing about then I tend to bait with a an easily digestible food source, such as maggots, corn or a groundbait type feed such as breakdown pellets. I know that is a strange thing to write in a boilie company sponsored Bait Clinic, but I wouldn’t want to mislead people into over baiting a water and ruining the fishing for everyone. But after saying that I can think of a handful of waters where the Carp will respond to a few kilos of boilies at this time of year. These waters are all relatively shallow, high stocked, but above all they have previous winter form for producing Carp. I still won’t bait heavily on the day, although I’d be happy to visit the lake three days before the session and spread two or three kilos in a likely looking area or better still, a known winter spot or somewhere that signs of fish have been noted.
It pays to try to find out if anyone else is baiting the water too. If they are then it’s best to reduce the amount I put in. However I reiterate, I always do my homework and ensure the water has produced fish to this tactic in the past or 3kg of boilie could kill the action for everyone for a week or two. A lot has been written in the past about the types of boillies to use, in cold water. I won’t go into great depth because it’s a well illustrated topic, so all I will say is I steer away from oily or high fishmeal boilies.
It’s not just the digestibility that makes maggots, corn and groundbait good winter baits, it’s also because they get other fish feeding. I don’t really want to be catching silver fish, Bream or even Perch when I’m Carp fishing and it can be irritating to know that other species are chomping their way through my expensive loose feed maggots, but I know that the activity caused by silver fish feeding will encourage the Carp to move in. So sometimes I have to wade through a few nuisance fish and wait in the hope of a Carp coming along.
Whether I’m fishing over boilies or any of the other baits I have mentioned, I will invariably have a boilie on the hook. I’m a big fan of using balanced pop ups in winter, this is due to the fish being cold blooded and so they tend to move and feed more slowly, with less enthusiasm in the cold water. Critically balanced baits can often be sucked into the mouth of a fish more easily and increases the chances of a hook hold. I’m a massive fan of bright baits in winter and the colour can often be enough to encourage a pick up, I believe the flavour is secondary. There are however are a lot of proven flavours that work in cold water, Pineapple, Tutti Fruiti’s, etc. However I tend to use The Edge from Aqua Dynamix all year round, because I have a lot of faith in it. But another bait from the Aqua Dynamix stable that is worth considering is the Maggot, which goes well with live maggots, because it is leaking out liquidised maggots juice into the swim, that have been blended into the boilie.
Although, as already stated I use a balanced boilie hook bait for all my fishing I like to change the size and shape of it depending on the free offerings. Whilst using a single hook bait or fishing over boilies, I’ll use a whole 12mm pop up, fished quite low to the deck. But If I’m fishing over maggots or corn I cut down a pop up on a small hook, usually a size 10, until it slowly sinks under the weight of the hook. I usually end up with a very small bait indeed, which helps me to get a pick up when I’m fishing over smaller food items, although I do tend to put a few broken baits in my mix to get them used to picking up boilies.