Top 10 great baits in tough winter conditions

ANGLER’S MAIL magazine is No.1 every week throughout the year for top advice and fishing tips. And we know you need help to catch when the going is hard…

Tempting lethargic fish to feed in winter can be particularly tricky as most species’ metabolism slows right down in colder water.

They need far less food than they require during the rest of the year when they are much more active, so to cajole them into feeding you need to alter your feeding approach as well as selecting the right bait.

Here Angler’s Mail reveals ten great baits that have a top reputation of catching even the most stubborn of fish in tough winter conditions.

1 Salt
The addition of salt to baits is a great attractor at any time of year, but it really comes into its own during cooler conditions when you want to create a small area of maximum attraction. Forget chemical-laden table salt and opt instead for sea or rock salt which is easily incorporated into pastes or groundbaits or sprinkled onto maggots, casters, pellets, hemp or corn. Small PVA bags of pure salt are perfect to use with any hook bait and are a little-used but devastatingly effective winter edge.

2 Bread
Bread is a top winter bait especially on the rivers where chub and roach both adore flake, crust or punch. Although mashed bread is widely used as groundbait when bread fishing, for winter use a finely liquidised white, sliced loaf which produces smaller particle sizes and is less likely to fill up a feeding fish; remove crusts from the slices for an even finer mix if the going is really tough. A PVA stick of compressed crumb is a little used but brilliantly effective winter carp tactic – use in conjunction with a single grain of white, rubber corn.

3 Chocolate malt
Choccy malt breaks all the rules.  Unlike all other flavours which can be counter-productive if used in excess, it is impossible to add too much. For a brilliant winter carp puller add 20 ml of the gorgeously sweet liquid to an egg and mix up with a proprietary fluoro-white pop-up mix to create small – 10 mm is ideal – pop up boilies. Reserve a bit for paste too.

4 Lecithin and alcohol
Oil-based flavours and attractors and fishmeals lose their attractiveness as oils become more viscous in cool temperatures. To ensure flavours leach out and are not locked into bait add lecithin granules (from a health food shop) to fishmeal groundbaits and pastes. Alternatively, mix up paste baits with alcohol to ensure excellent dispersal – a tot of the odourless vodka is the usual choice but experiment with whisky or gin for a really different scent.

5 Maggots
One of the very best coldwater carp catchers. A mesh PVA bag of maggots, in conjunction with a bunch of grubs on a hair-rigged maggot clip, is one of the most reliable of winter carp tactics. Maggots are easily digested, colourful and loved by carp. Cast regularly and tightly to build an area and don’t forget to include a couple of rubber grubs on the rig to balance the weight of the hook.

6 Spices
Spicy flavours have long had an association with winter fishing and with the proliferation of Asian stores there is a bewildering range of brilliant additives with which to spice up your baits. A sprinkling of turmeric on maggots, a shake of garam masala in groundbait, chilli-laced hemp, coriander flavoured corn, meat dusted with garlic salt and pastes made with belachan paste are just some of the spicy options – which are only limited by your imagination.

7 Paste
Hi-attract paste hook baits are only one part of the winter paste story as the versatility of the bait lends itself to a number of different applications. Most notably it can be used as a ‘plug’ for watch-style leads or as a wrap around for any bomb or hook bait; it can even be ‘blobbed’ onto PVA stringers. The paste used in this way gives a longer-term leakage of flavour-charged particles into the swim and acts as a great fish-puller, especially in the rivers. To give a more rapid breakdown for non-hook bait applications mix pastes with water rather than eggs.

8 Corn
For coldwater commercial carping there are few baits to beat a simple grain or two of sweetcorn. Corn is easily digested, highly visible – even in coloured water – and, unlike maggots, resistant to the attentions of small silvers. A couple of grains hair-rigged through the middle sit perfectly on an 18 but, if the going is really tough, a single grain presented lengthwise on a size 20 should do the trick.

9 Liquids
Solid PVA bags are not just for filling with solid baits. The tactic of filling bags with neat liquid flavours and attractors has brought me winter bites by giving a massive explosion of attraction with no feed. Make sure you use PVA-friendly mixes and experiment with different mixes: condensed milk combined with chocolate malt is a good starter for carp.

10 Peperami
The spicy meat snack checks all of the boxes when it comes to winter fishing, despite the fact it is on the oily side. Highly attractive to carp, chub and barbel it can be whittled down to tiny chunks for use with scaled down line and small hooks, yet it still packs a serious punch in terms of attraction once the outer skin is sliced off. Try a thin slice as a topper for half a 10 mm pop-up boilie for excellent winter carp results.


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  • andy perry

    simple to find baits and cheap to buy, lovely bait tips and i never knew about the salt as an additive. thank you very much for the inspiration i needed for this weekends trip.