Fishing for carp during the cold season isn’t easy, but with the right types of bait, you can improve your chances of catching winter carp significantly. In order to put you on the right track, I have written this little article on the very best baits for carp in winter.
When it comes to winter baits for carp fishing, it is crucial to use both smaller sizes and bright colors, as the carp simply feed less and visibility underwater is generally lower this time of year. Use baits with fruity or nutty flavors and soak them well before your session, so that they can release even more scent into the cold water.
Continue reading this article for specific tips on which baits to use and how to prepare your swim for winter carp.
If you are fishing your baits directly on the deck, meaning if you fish over an even and clean bottom structure, a small single boilie can be a deadly choice for winter carp.
I have found that sizes of 10-15mm have produced a lot of bites on cold winter days.
As the fish feed much less this time of year, it would be unwise to offer them bigger baits. Boilies of 16, 18, or 20mm, which work great during the rest of the year, are simply a little too much for the rather inactive winter carp, and chances are that they will decide against it.
On the other hand, a single small boilie, lying around all by itself on the bottom, can be just the right type of snack for a cold water carp that slowly moves around in your swim!
As a general rule, try to fish with baits that have either a strong fruity or nutty flavor. These tend to work absolutely best in cold water conditions.
Here are a few well-producing winter carp boilies:
- Mainline High Leakage Pineapple Boilies (Check on Amazon)
- Dynamite Baits Red Amo Monster Tiger Nut (Check on Amazon)
- Cold Water Green Beast (DT Bait Developments)
Pro Tip: Use high-viz boilies in colors such as green, yellow, orange, or white. This will enhance your bait’s visual attraction in the darker winter water!
All the above information on boilies also holds true for pop-ups. When fishing over debris, such as dead weed or roots, or over soft and uneven silt bottoms, small pop-up are your absolutely best choice.
Not only will they be right where many carp will hold up during winter, but they also have the extra advantage of being even more visible in the low light conditions underwater.
For this type of carp bait, color plays an even more important role, and pop-ups of a yellow or white color have, by far, produced the most bites for me during winter sessions.
As for boilies, the bait size should be around 10-14mm and the flavor of your pop-up should be fruity or nutty.
Here are a few of my all-time favorite winter pop-ups:
- Sticky Baits Manilla White Ones Pop-Ups (Check on Amazon)
- Mainline High-Visual Pop-Ups (Check on Amazon)
- Cult Classic Pop-Ups Peach and Orange (DT Bait Developments)
If you rather want to go with a natural bait, then the tiger nut is something you’d definitely want to put on your rig!
Being a classic winter bait, the marble-sized tiger nut does not only have the perfect size for a winter bait, but it also has an irresistible flavor and scent to it.
It has a strong almond taste that is mixed with a sweet, sugary flavor, and due to its crunchy texture, it’ll virtually stay on your hair forever.
Its intense sweetness will spread in the cold water of winter and has the power to attract even the most inactive of carp, also thanks to the fact that it is packed with amino acids and contains a high level of energy.
Zig rig foam is a highly effective, yet often underrated winter bait for carp. As most anglers will target the fish on or near the bottom, they will never even consider fishing a zig rig.
And while many winter carp will indeed get caught on bottom rigs, you shouldn’t disregard the fact that they can occasionally be found in the upper water layers, or even just below the surface.
Especially on warmer days, when the winter sun is hitting the upper water layers or areas with vegetation (reeds, weeds, or overhanging trees), carp will sometimes feed on an insect or two that has suddenly come to life in the somewhat warmer water.
It is here that the zig rigs rather long hooklink, as well as the foam’s buoyancy comes into play.
Instead of actual pop-ups, you can downsize your baits even further by using fake sweetcorn on your hair rig.
A couple of pop-up sweetcorn hovering just off the bottom can be a brilliant bait for winter carp.
These types of baits are well-visible, soak up and keep flavors over a long period of time, and are resistant to tugs by smaller fish.
Pro Tip: Pre-soak your fake corn in some fruity bait dip to make them even more delicious and smelly. Stick a few small holes into them with your boilie needle, in order to allow them to take in some of the liquid.
For venues that do not contain smaller fish that can steal your baits, a bunch of white maggots can be your secret weapon for carp in winter!
While being rather odorless, the maggots strengths are:
- constant movement
- richness in protein
All of the above are highly valued by cold water carp and I have caught plenty of big specimens on these tiny live baits.
You can present them on the hair or directly on a #8 wide gape hook in combination with a method feeder rig or a float setup.
Best Loosefeed for Winter Carp Fishing
When it comes to loosefeeding during your winter session, you should do so with either sweetcorn, hemp seeds, nuts, or crushed boilies (the same you intent to fish with).
Avoid using oily and fishy particles this time of year, as the carp generally avoid such flavors in winter. Also, the fishy scent and the oil of these baits will have a hard time spreading in the cold water, so they won’t be able to attract fish that are further away.
How to Bait Your Swim for Winter Carp?
No matter if you are pre-baiting your swim, baiting it up just before fishing, or loosefeeding during your session, it is crucial to remember the golden rule for winter carp fishing:
LESS IS MORE!
The last thing you want to do is to overfeed the carp once they have found your swim. Trust me, only a little too much feed out there will be enough for them to shut down totally. And it can take many days before they get hungry again!
Instead, offer them small handfuls of feed, just enough to keep them interested in your swim. Often, just one handful (or one catapult) per rod is totally enough for a carp to stay engaged for hours.
After a take, just cast out a new handful and then just let it do its job down in the water, which is to attract the carp to your hookbait, not to actually feed it.
Remember, due to their reduced metabolism, they are not the feeding machines we know them to be during the rest of the year. So keep the feeding to a minimum, as every take is extremely valuable in winter!
Essential Tackle Tips
If you’re looking for solid and reliable carp fishing equipment, these tips might be useful for you.
The following tackle is of top quality and sells at a very decent price on Amazon.
I have been using this setup myself for many years and have caught plenty of big carp with it.
Rod: Daiwa Black Widow
A very strong and beautifully made 12ft 3lb carp rod with a ton of backbone and a great bend. Casts anything up to 5 oz extremely well and lets you navigate and control your fish smoothly and effectively. Fits both open and snaggy waters.
A reliable standard-sized baitrunner reel that works great for short to medium-distance carp fishing. Loads around 200 yards of 15-18lb monofilament mainline. Handles any wild run very smoothly! Fits the Black Widow rod perfectly.
Mainline: Daiwa Sensor 15lb
One of the strongest and most durable monofilament lines out there! Sells at a very good price and will last you for many fishing trips. Has just the right amount of stretch to perfectly hook and fight every fish.
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Featured image courtesy of Matthew Pugh