Fishing for carp in the winter months can be a difficult and tricky affair. Due to the difficulty of winter carp fishing, many anglers just don’t fish them during this time and instead dedicate their efforts from spring to autumn.
But, carp still actively feed in the winter, and big fish can be caught. Let’s look at the best winter carp fishing rigs, and then we will take a look at some tactics to employ to accompany these rigging choices.
1. The Zig Rig
The Zig Rig is an excellent tactic for fishing for carp in the cold winter months.
The rig presents the bait higher in the water column and can be deadly on winter carp that are located suspended off the bottom of the water column at different levels, which is a common place to find them in the colder water temperatures.
The zig rig is pretty simple.
It’s essentially a long hooklink with a floating or buoyant bait presentation like a pop-up boilie or a piece of foam made to look like larvae or other aquatic insect prey.
Foam usually works better as it holds its buoyancy for a much longer period of time.
Your main line simply runs to a weight, in this case we recommend on the average a 1 to 1.5 ounce running lead. We also recommend running about a size 8 swivel off of the running lead to your lead line which should be anywhere from 8 to 10 pounds or monofilament or fluorocarbon line.
You can make the lead line as long as you need, but we recommend not to exceed 10 feet in length as 10 feet or longer can cause issues when it comes to netting or retrieving your hooked fish.
For hooks, use around a size 12 of wide gap or kurv shank hook.
2. The Chod Rig
Chod Rigs are great for presenting your bait just above bottom litter and debris such as leaves of weeds which have been deposited through autumn and winter on the bottom of the water you’re fishing.
Chod rigs can be somewhat tricky to tie, but with a little practice are pretty easy to master.
Most commonly used with a cork ball style pop-up or pop-up boilies, the Chod rig is a single hook rig that is perfect for fishing over a bait spread like boilies on the bottom or simply on its own.
Commonly these rigs are fished using a leadcore leader “helicopter style” with the rig running freely on the lead by using a swivel.
This free running rig is very effective, with the carp feeling very little to no resistance when it first picks up the bait, giving you very stealthy presentation. The rig can also be fished “naked” with no leader if desired.
Chod rigs have a much shorter lead line when compared to rigs like the zig rig, only being a few inches in length, just enough to get it up off the bottom a bit, allowing it to not get lost in the debris, but also helping it stand out among the other bait that you might have laying near it.
3. Stiff Hinge Rig
The stiff hinge rig which was made famous by carp aficionado , 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 smaller hardcore following of anglers who swear by its effectiveness.
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 anywhere from 1 to 5 inches from the bottom and has more flexibility in this regard.
Typically, the boom section is a stiffer material such as 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 also allows for the boom to hug the contour of the bottom a bit better if that’s something you desire.
This is a great rig over the spinner rig or other styles of rigs if the bottom makeup is softer or silty, causing the wire section to virtually disappear in the silt and giving a very stealthy presentation.
4. PVA Bag Rig
So far all rigs mentioned in this article are ones that keep your bait presentation and varying lengths, up and off the bottom of the lake. But that isn’t always necessary, and carp will feed on the bottom in the winter months as well depending on the conditions and bottom composition, like sandy areas free of debris.
The PVA bag rig is nothing new to carp anglers and is one of the most popular methods by which to fish for carp.
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 braided line, with a leader setup of lead core line at a foot in length.
Once the PVA bag dissolves, you’re left with a small hooked piece of bait amongst your bait pile, giving you a great chance to get it sucked up by a carp, while using the most delicate and stealthy presentation possible.
5. The Mag Aligner
The mag aligner consists of a PVA bag melt of Maggots with 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 smorgasbord.
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, and guaranteeing your setup is fish ready every time.
Winter Fishing Tactics
The best winter fishing rigs would be nothing without some decent tips and trips for fishing throught the winter months. You’ll find the most important winter fishing tactics below but if you are looking for some more then take a look at my top 11 winter carp fishing tips.
Winter fishing can require long periods of waiting for fish to turn on and finally deciding to feed. Due to the colder water temperatures all fish become lethargic, feeding in shorter windows of time and conserving as much energy as possible.
That means you should conserve and keep your spirits and energy up as well. Make sure you bring something warm to drink, a thermos of tea, food to snack on, this helps keep you warm as well, a propane heater to warm up with or even a tent, and obviously warm clothing.
This will give you the ability to last longer on the bank, and ensure that you are there when that precious short feeding window opens up, giving you a chance at some fish.
Carp are typically more active later in the afternoon in the winter compared to the warmer months of the year. So sleep in, and don’t hit the bank at 7 a.m. as you’re probably going to be there at the wrong time, and packing up to go home before or during the time you should be fishing.
Carp also have a tendency to feed into the first couple hours of darkness as well, so get out in the afternoon, set up and enjoy the sunset.
Carp aren’t nearly as mobile as they are in the warm water months, and stick to the same areas most of the winter. This means you need to cast your presentations around regularly throughout your session to cover more water and find the fish.
You might in the winter months find multiple fish together, so if you catch one, try fishing that same spot, because if there was one, there might be 4 or 5 more.
We recommend casting to a different location every 30-45 minutes if you aren’t getting any positive fish sign or takes, working your baits slowly at various depths and along swims.
Once you find the fish in these winter months your casting is going to need to be bang on. Take a look at these tips on casting perfectly every times to ensure you are on the fish every cast.
Fish feed lightly in the winter months, so there’s no reason to spod a ton of bait in a spot, this is why we recommended some smaller PVA bag rigging options above. Keep the bait and hook size on the smaller side.
If you haven’t tried any of our rig picks for winter carp fishing, or don’t carp fish in the winter months much, give these rigs and tactics a try, you might be pleasantly surprised at the results.
Winter carp fishing can stave off cabin fever during the winter months, and give you some nice carp fishing photo’s for the album.