Carp fishing in many ways is a simple process compared to the summer months and in other ways can give to illusion of the opposite.
Your tactics in the winter months need to change to consistently catch carp, and so does your bait selection. So, what is the best bait for carp fishing in winter?
Carp Feeding Behaviour in Winter
Before we get started on what is your best bait options in winter, we need to discuss how carp behave in winter when it comes to feeding.
Due to carp being cold-blooded animals like most fish and reptiles, and this has a considerable impact on feeding behaviour. When the water temperatures drop the metabolism of carp slows down to conserve energy.
When this slow down occurs carp feed considerably less than they do in the winter months, with only 1 or 2 feeding windows occurring each day and lasting for as little as 15 minutes.
This means you have to be at a spot with carp at these exact times. The good news to this is once you figure out these feeding window times, they can be very consistent, allowing you to narrow down exactly when you should be fishing, and when you should be at home.
Baiting should also be kept to a minimum in the winter months, due to carp feeding considerably less over baiting will fill them up quickly and more than likely ruin your entire fishing outing.
We recommend baiting with smaller PVA bags and to do very sparingly throughout your fishing session, potentially only once or twice. If you fish in the same spot frequently fish will remember that there is indeed food there regularly, and you will get fish in the area frequently.
Best Baits for Carp Fishing in Winter
Many bait choices made for catching carp in the warm water months will still work for carp in the winter months, but there are some that really shine in the cold water period. Let’s break down our top choices for bait selections in the cold water period.
Hemp is an amazing bait year-round, although many anglers do not consider hemp as a prime winter bait. This concept is slowly changing with more and more carp anglers using hemp in the winter months and seeing that it is indeed a great winter bait choice.
Hemp is very oily, and unlike fish oils in cold water conditions, hemp oil does not thicken as much as fish oil.
Hemp oil is also great for holding carp in an area for a long period of time, and if you fish an area with hemp consistently, fish will be in that area regularly as they grow accustomed to it.
Earthworms or “nightcrawlers” if you are American, are a natural food source for carp and a favourite at that. Earthworms will work in the colder months as they do in the spring and summer.
Many of us as anglers can over-complicate bait selection at times, with all the fancy flavours and bait types, but at the end of the day a juicy bait presentation with worms, especially with tails cut off, brings out a predatory feeding instinct in a carp and they simply love them.
The only downside to fishing with worms is that just about every other fish in the lake loves them too, which can make it difficult to keep your hooks baited.
This bait selection is quite possibly the most popular bait choice among carp anglers in the winter months. And let’s be honest, they keep on catching.
If this bait selection keeps catching fish, obviously anglers keep on using them, but it could also be said that they appear to do so well in the winter months due to it’s blanket use, the more you use a particular bait, the more chances you have to catch a carp on them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best choice for that given time.
High-viz pop-ups do meet a lot of important requirements for winter fishing though, it’s obviously highly visible is typically packed with flavour and scent, and sits a little off of the bottom, this piques the interest of even fairly neutral carp and can help entice bites.
The great thing about these pop-ups is that they can be used virtually anywhere, and they can remain in the water for long periods of time.
Boilies are also an incredibly popular bait choice and one that is obvious to many anglers reading this article.
While boilies are incredibly effective year-round and in particular the warm water months, the fish have been seeing and feeding on these baits for a long time now, and throwing something different into the mix can have surprising results.
If you are fishing boilies or plan to, then your selection in terms of sizes and flavours are off the charts these days, and you can find just about anything, we personally like tangerine and coconut flavours in the winter.
Along with the High-viz pop-ups, standard boilies should be in your bait selection in the winter months, which will allow you to experiment if other bait choices aren’t as effective as they should be.
We saved the best for last, maggots. Maggots have become an increasingly popular bait choice in the winter months, as many anglers have become aware that no matter the cold water conditions, carp always seem to respond very well to them.
Fishing them is also quite simple, rig them on a bait holder or simply put two or three on a small hook. Maggots are something that every angler should bring with them in the winter months, as they are in my opinion the most effective bait for this time.
Winter Bait Rigs
If you’re going to be fishing throughout the winter it’s not quite enough to know what baits will be the most effective. If your baits aren’t presented properly there’s a high chance the carp will avoid your hookbait.
The following rigs are ideal for fishing into the winter and should work well with the best baits for catching carp in winter.
The spinner rig is one of the most popular rigs in carp fishing today. The rig’s composition allows you to tweak the overall rig by changing hook size, boom section material, pattern, overall rig length, and your lead system.
It’s a great rig for using those bright high-vis pop-ups just above the bottom, and as we mentioned earlier, that’s a deadly winter presentation.
The Mag Aligner
The mag aligner consists of a PVA bag melt of Maggots, and as mentioned above, maggots are in my opinion the best winter bait for carp. The hook rig itself which is situated in the PVA bad has a single artificial maggot rigged with a smaller size 8 or so hook.
It’s a simple rig using a larger PVA bag of maggots that canvases the bottom when the bag melts away, with your presentation simply laying amongst the buffet of maggoty goodness.
This should be rigged with a helicopter-style setup, using an inline lead and a large metal ring. Carefully insert the hook point in the bag ensuring the hook link section is straight and impossible to tangle after the bag dissolves this will ensure your setup is fish ready every time.
Stiff Hinge Rig
The stiff hinge rig which was made famous by carp aficionado Terry Hearn is fairly popular among some carp anglers during the cold winter months but seems to be fairly niche in the carp angling community, with a small number of anglers who swear by it’s effectiveness, but is definitely a rig that is very underrated.
The rig is fairly simple and is made up of two sections: the hooklink and the bottom section. Whereas other rigs like the spinner rig are fished much closer to the bottom, the stiff hinge rig can be fished from 1 to 5 inches above the bottom and has more flexibility in this regard.
Typically, the boom section is a stiffer material such as a stranded wire that leads up to the baitlink of 1 to 5 inches in length. But users can also use something a little more on the flexible side such as braided lines. This stiff material choice is where the rig derives it’s name and is great to run the high-vis pop-ups that we talked about earlier.
PVA Bag Rig
The PVA bag rig is nothing new to carp anglers and is one of the most popular baiting and rig methods in the carp fishing world.
If you remember from earlier in regard to limiting the amount of free bait during the winter months, you will see why we are fans of fishing PVA bags in the winter.
In the winter we prefer to use smaller PVA bag rigs with small single hooks, using bait such as a single piece of fake corn or a trimmed wafter hookbait, with short rig lengths of no more than 5 or 6 inches. The hooklink is usually a braided line, with a leader setup of lead core line at a foot in length.
Using PVA bags allows you to bait in small amounts, and ensure that your hook is directly among that bait, giving you the best shot at holding and hooking winter carp.
As mentioned earlier bait selection is essentially the same in the summer months, but there is definitely a difference in what baits work the best in the cold water. But as I always tell fishermen seeking information, fish don’t read magazines or internet articles, so don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and experiment on your own.