I know it has been said a thousand times before but in carp fishing location really is everything. In the summer you can sometimes get away with bad location choices as the carp are far more active, so if you sit in the same swim for a few days then eventually the carp may turn up. However, at this time of year the carp can go weeks without vacating a small area, so it is of utmost importance that you try to find them before setting up. This location process can start before you have even left the house by doing some Internet research on Facebook, Twitter, forums, etc. to find out what pegs have been producing fish in recent times. This type of knowledge really can be gold dust in winter.
Once you have arrived at the fishery you need to spend some time walking around, watching for the slightest sign of activity, be this as obvious as a carp jumping out or as subtle as a couple of pin prick bubbles breaking the surface. Spend plenty of time watching the area that your research suggested may be where the fish are, and if after an hour or two of watching the lake nothing has shown then set up as near to the latest ‘going area’ as possible. Throughout the session keep watching the lake and, if you see signs of carp elsewhere, pack up and move. Remember that 10 minutes in the right place can be far more productive than 48 hours in the wrong place!
2. Fine down
At this time of year the vast majority of venues will have gin-clear water, thanks in no small part to the lack of fish feeding and stirring up the lake beds. With this in mind our end tackle will be more at risk of spooking carp than ever, so I always like to take a few precautions to ensure I stay one step ahead. Firstly I will use fluorocarbon, either as main line straight through or as a leader. This winter I have been testing an exciting new leader material from Fox, which is all I can say, but believe me, it really does take things to another level and recently helped me bank my biggest ever January carp! In addition to the leader I also make sure that my rig is as low-key as can be, so firstly I often use the Camotex Soft in Light Camo, as I know from my own tests and those of Rob Hughes that it blends in with all manner of lake beds. I scale this down to the 15lb version for winter and, when bottom bait fishing, couple it with a smaller hook of around a size 8. If I was using a pop-up I’d still go for a larger hook as my hookbait will hide the hook beneath it.
Again many of you reading this will think I’m trying to teach you how to suck eggs, but I’m sure there is still a large number of readers who have no winter experience and will need to be armed with this knowledge! Maggots are just a devastating winter bait and really can get you bites when all other baits are firing blanks. I don’t know quite what it is – whether it’s how easily digestible they are, or perhaps it’s because they’re alive – but what I do know is that carp everywhere love them! Depending on the stock density of the venue I am fishing, I will often start a session with 10-20 spods of maggots and then fish a small PVA bag of maggots over the top, with a maggot hookbait. If the carp are having it then I will introduce the maggots on a little and often basis to try and get a hit of fish.
4. Increased bite indication
At this time of year the carp can be very dormant and when they are hooked will often not bolt off like they would do in warmer months. It is not uncommon for a carp to sit and shake its head to try and rid itself of the hook, and in these cases if you have poor bite indication you could be missing lots of chances to bank that all-important winter carp. In order to make sure I have the best chance possible of knowing when a carp picks up my rig, I implement a few tactical strategies. Firstly I will fish with a running lead setup, as this means that the carp cannot use the weight of the lead to eject the rig or as a pivot point. This means as the fish moves the rig my main line will be pulled, which will cause my bobbin to move and my alarm to bleep. In addition I don’t fish with stupidly slack lines (I used to but saw the errors of my ways) and instead go for a semi-slack line. I use a light, Slik Bobbin with the line pulled into the clip on the bobbin and then set the sensitivity of my NTXr to the fullest (unless it is blowing a gale). Finally I place a line clip on my rod a few inches away from the alarm to create a nice angle in the line where the bobbin sits. This angle further improves indication and ensures my bobbin moves at the soonest possible opportunity.
5. Get on the Zigs
At this time of year the carp can often spend a large proportion of their day well up in the water and away from the lakebed. This means that presenting baits on the lakebed may be a complete waste of time, so you need to make sure you have other tricks up your sleeve. This is where the mighty zig rig comes into play. I have caught so many carp at this time of year on zigs, it’s crazy, and with every year that passes I think more and more anglers are realising just how effective they are. I always carry a selection of different colours of hookbait with me then chop and change colours and depths until I find the combination that works on that particular day.
How to construct s zig rig
- STEP 1: Start by attaching a size 8 Arma Point SSSP hook to some Zig + Floater Hooklink using a palomar knot
- STEP 2: Cut the hooklink to your chosen length and then slide a Zig Aligna down over the eye of the hook
- STEP 3: Place some foam into the Loading Tool and pass the Tool through the loop in the Zig Aligna
- STEP 4: The loop will then trap the foam in place and you can then cut it down to size
- STEP 5: Tie a loop in the other end of the hooklink and thread on an XL Anti Tangle Sleeve
- STEP 6: Your zig rig is now complete and ready to catch you an untold number of winter carp!