Winter carp – Top 7 tips!Yellow caramel nut wafters. These are airball wafter and drop nicely through the water on the cast. The light pink colour works well for me at this time of year along with white baits.
- These work well fished with just a couple of matching freebies and some boilie crumb in a PVA bag – I’d add a matching glug to improve the attraction. You can read my guide to the best small boilies here.
2 – Find the rubbing spots!Every lake will have spots that the carp like to rub themselves against. These can be very hard to find – have a look at my Youtube video below where I show you a spot I’ve found underwater that has all the trademarks of a rubbing spot!Here you can see the type of spot I’m talking about on from my YouTube channel
3 – Glug, Glug and more GlugI’ve mentioned this a couple of times already but a top tip is to make sure you keep glugging your baits on every cast and mix the flavours up. In winter you can’t just nail a load of spod mix in to attract the fish so adding extra attractants like boilie glug to your baits is essential.This is essential to getting the maximum attraction into the water. You need to avoid oils at this time of year too as they do not absorb into the water as well. Getting more scent into the water can help produce extra fish in your sessions.You can read my guide on boilie glug here.
4 – Watch the waterIt’s tempting to download the latest game of thrones and just watch that on your tablet while fishing but watching the water can have good long term results. As soon as you see any sign of a carp then get some bait over in that direction. A tough winter session can be very quickly changed by spotting a showing fish and either casting a hook bait to it or moving to that area of the lake. From the video above they may even show you where their rubbing spot is from this.
5 – Start lateOn the colder days, the carp are more active in the later parts of the afternoon until a couple of hours after dark. It’s best not to rush off out to catch them at 7 am as you’ll be hitting the wrong time and freezing by the peak time. Again this goes back to planning your sessions to get more carp.
6 – Keep goingThis is one of the best winter carp tips I can give. Keep the rods going in and out of the water to try and find the fish. They don’t move as much in the winter so take a view of your swim and keep moving your hook bait around to find some fish.You may even find a few holed up together and after a fish, it’s worth probing the same spot again. I’d say cast in every 30-45 minutes moving slowly around the swim looking for bites. A zig rig can work well in winter too, I personally only use these as a back up on really tough days but they can entice the odd fish out.
7 – Zig it up!Some people seem obsessed with the idea that in the winter carp just sit on the bottom in the same place, but I don’t find that to be the care. Ignoring the zig rig is a big mistake in winter carp fishing in my opinion. It’s not the first method I’d try on arrival at a lake but is one I’ll use throughout the day. Get a glugged popup on and try and different levels in the water and see if it gets any bits.
8 – Be preparedAs the boy scouts motto goes you need to get yourself prepared for winter fishing. Whether it’s nice commercial water you are going to or a lake in the middle of nowhere make sure you get ready before you go. In the summer I’m all for chucking it all in the back of the car and sorting it when I get there, but not the winter.Preparation is the key to success and not freezing your you know what’s off!Make sure you have plenty of warm clothing, hot drinks and if you’re going for a winter night session a decent warm sleeping bag!That’s the end of my 7 best winter carp tips. Good luck if you’re our fishing and send me a tweet of what you catch to @casual_carper or find me on Instagram “@CasualCarper“.
Winter carp bait tacticsAs well as my top 5 tips I’m sharing my favourites tactics for winter carp too. These are ways that I’ve caught in difficult sessions. I do find winter fishing tough and I’ve had a few blanks over the years but it’s best to persevere and not get downhearted by the odd blank!
Tactic 1 – Salted Caramel and Nut Boilies, PVA string, matching glugAs mentioned above this is all about keeping it small scale and these 15mm boilies on a PVA string do the trick perfectly. I’ll only string 2-3 extra boilies and then give them a good glug of flavouring. This really helps to enhance the bait and get those all-important bites.Here’s what you need –High-quality boilies – My range hereKorda total dissolve – PVA string hereMatching Glug, or alternative glug
Tactic 2 – Dead maggotsA massively overlooked tactic in winter in my opinion. Depending on the range I’ll either fish a clump of these on a size 12 hook or use a maggot ring. Pour boiling water over the maggots or freeze them overnight to kill them. If you’ve never fished this way to get ready for a smell sensation! (not in a good way!)
Tactic 3 – Popup over PVA bagI’d again go for a popup of 12mm or 10mm in this and often use a white or light pink popup which is great visual bait. These are fished with a really small PVA bag of low oil pellets along with some glug again. If the bites are quiet this is the method I’ll turn to try and get some bites. You can mix this up and use a stick mix or some crumbed matching boilies in the bag along with some glug. All I’m looking for in the winter is a mouthful of bait for the carp, just enough to tempt them to take it.New for this season – I’ve been enjoying using bait sprays to give my hook baits an extra edge. It’s one that helps make the hook bait stand out more and can get you quicker bites in the summer. I’ll be testing it our more over the winter and will update you on how it goes. It is PVA friendly so you can spray your free offerings and bags in it.
Tactic 4 – Small boilies, spod mix and maggotsThis is one that I’ve seen some good catches on Instagram (like my page – @CasualCarper) and is a good one for the winter – obviously, your bait could get obliterated in the summer on these tactics. You scale down the bait to a 12mm boilie fished over a very small amount of bait including (or a mix of) spod mix, corn, pellets and maggots. You can then fish the small boilie on the hook with a corn stopper – or with a fake corn popup for a critical balance.Tips – A good tip for catching carp on this method I’d to use a popup over the bed of bait. Then add a small amount of tungsten putty and just let it popup about 1-2 inches rather than a full hook length worth.
Tactic 5 – Ground baitIn winter getting the smell of attractants into the water can be tricky, as you don’t want to pile in masses of bait. A good trick is to use a bread crumb ground bait mixed purely with liquid additives and not many if any, free offerings. The smell will do the job of attracting the carp to and an area where they find your hook bait. As its winter the smaller fish won’t pick off the ground bait like they would in the summer.
Best winter rigsIn winter everyone knows to scale down as mentioned above, smaller baits and smaller hooks work but being flexible with your rigs will really help you catch more carp too.
Rig 1 – Micro chod mk2This one comes from renowned angler Adam Penning and was featured in Carpology recently. This is a rig I’m a big fan of in winter. The hinging of the hair keeps the bait presented nicely away from the lead core and works well with small popups and wafters. Here’s how the rig looks –You can read how to tie this rig here. This is one well worth checking out and playing around with to see how to get it set up to suit your fishing. I like to mix it up with a slightly longer hook link to sit it more prominently in the water depending on where I’m fishing and what the bottom is like.
Rig 2 – Single maggot on the hookWhilst this isn’t specifically a different rig it just gives you another option. Take a hook link without a hair and a hook size or 10 or 12 and feed the maggot into the straight of the hook. Fish with a PVA bag of dead maggots on a standard ledger rig for great effect.In winter you won’t have the problem of smaller silverfish and perch taking the maggot-like you would in spring/ summer if you do try a maggot clip to use a bunch of maggots on a hair rig instead.
For me, Lake Bled in Slovenia is one of the ultimate destinations for big carp fishing in Europe. It’s an epic location with some massive carp in the lake. It’s 145 hectares so can be hard water to go at. It is on my list of places to visit for a fishing holiday.
Read on for information on carp fishing at the lake and ideas on where to stay.
Header image cc from faithcarptackle.com
Here is how the lake looks from the mountains above –
The most iconic part of the lake is the island and church in the middle of it. This is an epic backdrop for your catch photos and it can be seen from all around the lake.
Carp fishing at lake bled
You can carp fish all year round at lake Bled although it is busier in the summer with tourists. You may want to find a quieter location during this time. It is believed that Autumn is the best time to fish the lake, mainly September and October. The weather dips in the winter, snow is rare, but you would need to be prepared for the cold. In the spring the weather is changeable and wet!
Lake Bled Carp Fishing Tickets
There are limited tickets to fish on the lake so you will need to book in early. The tickets have set rules and regulations.
Carp fishing is currently €57 for 1 day, you can fish 2 rods for that price. You cannot bait the lake outside of your permit. Children are allowed to fish with you and can have a float rod license. Under 15’s cannot fish for carp on the lake (Due to the size of the carp!) .
You can check availability and book your tickets here. (It’s in English and Slovenian)
Lake Bled Carp Fishing Rules
There are a lot of rules for fishing the lake. A lot of them are about keeping your pegs tidy and not making a mess. The lake is in a Solvenia national park so they expect you to respect the area. You can find the full rules here. (Again in England and Slovenian). You cannot take a cooker, stove or have an open flame for cooking so you will need to take your food with you for the day.
Lake Bled fishing holidays
There are a few local guides where you can book to fish. They will show you the best spots and help you during the trip. They can sort everything from all your bait and equipment down to your food and of course your fishing permits.
Here are some companies that offer this
Where to stay?
With Lake Bled being a popular holiday destination there is a good choice of places to stay, especially if you are hiring all the equipment that you need. The accommodation ranges from lake-side campsites through to luxury hotels. The lake itself is just over an hour from the nearest airport and can be driven to from the UK via the Channel Tunnel – although this is quite a road trip!
Range of accommodation in Bled –
- Campsites: Check out Sava camping – an eco campsite on the shore of the lake
- Hotels: See booking.com for availability
- Villas and houses: There is a lot to choose from on Airbnb from cheap accommodation right through to high-end luxury houses with breathtaking views over the lakes and private swimming pools – stunning!
Hopefully, I’ll get a trip to Lake Bled booked in soon and try and catch some epic carp!
Margin fishing is an excellent way to catch carp and you can improve your chances greatly by learning to understand the margins better and the areas to target. Margin fishing is something I’ve been focusing on for years and I have been prolific in these areas. The important thing to remember is that not all margins are created equal, learning to understand them and find the betters spots will help you land more fish long term.
My top 7 margin tips
Here are my top 7 tips
1 – Find the clear hard spots
This is exactly the same as if you have a marker rod out in the middle. The margins are made up of a very similar consistency and depending on the lake you may find a lot more debris, twigs & breaking down leaves, in the margins. There will, however, be some very hard clear spots where the fish will have been feeding and keeping clear.
To find these spots I get a braded marker rod and add a 2.5oz lead and just bounce it around on the bottom going up and down the margin. I’m feeling for clear areas where the lead almost bounces on the bottom – these are the spots I want to find. Once I have found an area I’ll move the lead around and judge the size of the spot. If I think its a good spot I’ll get some bait on it at this point and carry on. Over time I’ll make up a picture of the margin on either side of me and where to target.
Once a spot has been identified I’ll try and drop my rod straight on it and walk my rod back to ensure I’m on the exact spot I’ve found. Once I have a rig on I like to drag it across the spot just to check for any debris and make sure the bait will present perfectly on it. If the spot is not that clear I sometimes use a boilie crumb mix on the spot a couple of times to see if the carp will feed and clear it.
Depending on where I’m fishing I like to have two or three margin spots that every time I’m at the lake I can drop some bait on and keep them feeding on the spots – as long as I’m not impacting anyone else who is fishing there. On a syndicate water, I’ll sometimes do this even when I don’t have time to fish if it’s a quiet lake. I continue this throughout the winter and have found winter spots that work really well even though they are shallow and close to the bank (You can see all my winter fishing tips here)
2 – Look for new reed growth
This is one more for the spring. Reeds are always a great spot to fish in the margins as the carp will often hunt them for food. Finding clear spots in front of them will usually result in a bite with the right bait on a spot.
In the spring I find these areas are particularly productive, this is just as the reeds are starting and may not have broken the surface of the water. Get a decent pair of polaroids on (Like these from Fortis) and find the reed or other plant growth.
3 – Washed out baits & small amounts
Most places you fish have bait being knocked in and dropped in the margins, but not in large amounts. Most places say to take unused home with you but a lot of it ends up in the water. To stop the carp from being wary, fish small amounts of bait – a small handful of boilies will do (8-12 boilies).
To wash them out place them in some water mixed with a matching glug for a couple of days first. This will take the colour out of them but leave the attraction in. This will make the bait look like it has been in the water for a long time and make the carp less wary. Fish a washed-out hook bait in with it for an amazing presentation.
4 – Get in the lake (If allowed)
If you are allowed in the lake in waders, get in and have a feel around with your feet. I’ve learned a vast amount about margins and features from walking around in waders. If you are not allowed in, in general, then make sure you are there for any work parties. Alternatively, especially on club waters, offer to tidy up the margins and remove the debris, this will give you a chance to clear the area you fish and find some spots at the same time – win-win!
Again, make sure you consider your own safety before getting in the lake. Check the depth with a landing net pole to make sure it is safe. It is always a good idea to have a mate on the bank in case you start sinking, get snagged, or drop into a deeper spot!
5 – Lay a trail
When you’ve found your spot then start thinking about where the carp will be coming in from. The basic idea is that it’s preferable having them coming from the other direction to your line. This does depend on a lot of factors and knowing how the fish move around the lake.
With margin fishing, I always think that the carp are more patrolling looking for food than going for big beds of bait. I like to lay a small trail of bait coming to my hook bait. I’ll go an extra 5 to 10 meters down the bank and drop the odd boilie in and build them up to the spot. This gets them taking bait without being spooked as they work their way around to your bait. It also increases the trail of scent for them to follow.
6 – Hand place your rigs
This is one of my ultimate fishing tips – as long as it is SAFE to do so – don’t go falling in a deep margin trying to be clever!
If you are really tight in the shallow then leaning over and placing your rig means you know it is presented absolutely perfectly. You can even hand place your free offering around it if it’s a really tight spot. If it is safe to do so have a feel around the spot for any debit or hook snags and clear them out first. Then place your rig exactly where you want it to be, you can try and find a lump or bump to hide your lead behind.
7 – If you see them, feed them!
I’m often at lakes when I spot fish near me feeding right under your feet. In these cases, I try to get them feeding before a rig goes anywhere near them. If they look to be feeding then there is already some food down there. I start off with just a couple of pellets or boilies and try and get them in as quietly as I can. If they take them or stay in the area I’ll add a couple more and build them up to get the carp feeding confidently. Once they’re taking the bait I’ll then very quietly and gently lower a rig in and sit back and wait for the run.
If there does not appear to be any fish in the margin try dropping a small amount of bait in and keep your eyes peeled for any signs of action!
I hope my tips were helpful. If you have any questions about this or carp fishing in general please get in touch on social media –
Let’s all agree from the start, boilies are the ultimate carp bait. Fished correctly nothing catches more carp around the UK and Europe than boilies and related hook baits.
But with so many available how can you know which are the best boilies on the market?
Here’s my guide to my bait and how to best fish it, it’s broken down as follows (Scroll through to what you are looking for)
- Best small boilies (12mm and under)
- Mid to large size (14mm+)
- Best freezer boilies
- Best popups
- Best wafters
Best boilie guide
As a day session angler, I’m really keen on smaller boilies and have used loads of different ones. Smaller boilies are a killer bait for winter carping. I always carry some 12mm boilies and hook baits on day sessions – they can be good for getting a bite if it’s a quiet day. My choice for the best small boilies is – Nash – Scopex Squid. These are awesome smelling bait that and the 12mms are nice and soft. They come with a full range of matching liquids and hook baits too.
A bag will last me a few sessions in winter and I generally fish them in a solid bag or small bed of broken boilies. When fishing the bottom baits I’ll occasionally use them in a method or pellet feeder as a hook bait (See my guide to the best feeder pellets here). I always get great results at the lakes I fish with these boilies and they are my go-to small bait. You can mix it up and fish a 12mm snowman which can give you an edge on some waters.
Best full-size boilies
I’m saying full size for anything 14mm+ as I class anything under that as a small boilie. This section is basically what I think is the absolute ultimate must buy boilie.
And the winner is…
CC Moore Live system
It’s fair to say CC Moores Live System boilies are my favourite boilie and these have accounted for some big carp around the world. They are a unique bait with an incredible smell and excellent consistency.
These are part of an incredible range of baits from CC Moore in this flavour with the stick mix being one of my favourite products to use. Here’s the full range –
- Shelf life boilies in various sizes (15mm – 18mm – 24mm)
- Matching Popups
- Balanced wafters
- Bag mix
- Base mix for rolling your own
- Freezer bait paste
- Hardened hook baits
- Airball popups
- Pre glugged hook baits
- Dumbell boilies
The bag mix is fantastic for your PVA bags and it creates a good area of attraction around your bait to create a cloud of attraction. There are not many others on the market that combine these flavours and the difference gives you a good edge on harder waters rather than fishing the same baits everyone else is using.
If you want the best bait to catch more carp then I’d say you cannot go wrong with these – in summer, winter, autumn or spring!
I could have done a whole separate page on pop-ups with the amount of weird and wonderful baits there is on the market. I’ve tried fishing with the odd fluro mixed colour ones but just find they don’t work, well they didn’t for me anyway. Ones like this are not making the list!
I’m sure someone out there loves these baits but it’s not me.
My favourite pop-ups are – CC Moore diary supreme pop-ups, washed-out pink colour. What I love about these are the colour and strength. The elite range can stay in the water for up to 24 hours and work really well with the matching glug. The 12mm is a great bait for the cooler months and is my preferred hook bait all winter. I’ll then switch to the larger sizes in the summer months.
These can be fished effectively on their own or over a bed of bait and work best with an added glug or bait spray booster. The 12mm version make great baits for a snowman rigs over a size 18mm/ 20mm boilie. These are excellent as a hook bait in a solid bag. As soon as you open a pot of these you’ll see why I rate them so highly. They are good sweet-smelling bait that is visually attractive.
Best Cheap boilies
Important – when I say cheap I mean ways to find good value quality boilies, I do not mean the £3 a kilo crap off eBay!
1 – Starmer baits – Starmer baits have a good range of quality boilies but with a bit of searching you can find 5KG bags of their offcuts and overruns at a great price – Check for stock here. With offcuts, you’ll never really know what you’re getting until they arrive and from experience, you’ll get some odd shapes and the occasional sausage in there. These are great boilies for feeding and mixing up how you fish. I’ve had some decent sessions on these.
2 – Premier baits – Randoms – Premier baits are one of my favourite frozen boilies manufacturers and for the best value freezer boilies you will not beat these at £17.50 per 5KG* (*Price correct at time of writing this blog, shipping is extra). These are again overruns from their mainline and are excellent boilies. Find them here.
Again you don’t know what you’re fishing with and will have a mix of boilies on the lake bed but at this price for the quality, you cannot go wrong. If available you’ll find them in the left-hand menu of the premier baits website.
Best freezer boilies
For big carp fishing and long sessions you simply cannot beat freezer baits. The quality of the baits are instantly noticeable and with a little prep and an air-dry bag (I use this one) then you’ll soon see the benefit of these baits.
1 – Premier Baits – Matrix Plus
What a bait the matrix is, I’ve caught loads of fish using these baits and were allowed I’ve some mates who take them to France every time they go. The Matrix plus is an advanced version of the original Matrix which is even more potent and took 2 years of testing before launch to make sure it was perfect.
The smallest amount you can buy is 5kg which comes in at a very reasonable £40 (Correct at time of writing and subject to change). Sizes go from 14mm up to 24mm and if you order 20kg or more then you’ll be able to split sizes. At a maximum, you can order 50KG for £290 which works out at just £5.80 a kilo – which is a great value.
The method feeder is a popular type of open feeder than can be used for mixed coarse and small to mid-sized carp (if used correctly). There are various different types of method including the flat bottom method, banjo feeder and others. Here I’ll cover my top tips for method feeder beginners and give you an idea of how to use this method effectively.
First, let’s start with the most simple question
What is a method feeder?
A method feeder is an open feeder for pellets or ground bait where your bait sits on top of the feed. These are available as either an inline feeder or attached – called an elasticated feeder.
Top method feeder tips for beginners
Before we get into the different types of feeders you need to think about the type of water you’re going to fish and what you want to catch. As a rough guide, smaller feeders will be better suited to smaller lakes as casting distances are limited, as you would expect.
Recommended method feeder setup 1 – Preston innovation method feeder
This feeder is made by Preston Innovations and is by far my favourite feeder. It comes in two types – inline feeder (recommended) and elasticated – also know as a banjo feeder.
There’s also a separate mould to shape the pellets to present the bait perfectly. This is a really easy feeder to fish with a soaked pellet and small hook bait – 12mm boilies work perfectly along with 4mm pellets. As a method feeder for beginners here’s a step by step guide to fishing using this rig and all the components you’ll need.
What you’ll need (see below) – Method feeder in either 15g, 30g or 45g, pellets, short hair rig (Korum quick stop – short, size 10, 10LB break), plus usual terminal tackle you’d find in your box (rubbers, swivel etc).
Step by step guide
- Soak the pellets – You can do this at the bank but I prefer to soak them overnight depending on the pellets, just pop them in a tub covered in water and they end up as a nice sticky paste the next morning – perfect. If you’re using fin perfect stiki method pellets then you can do them on the bank in 10 minutes.
- Setup the inline feeder – Add the feeder onto the line, add a tail rubber and tie it to a swivel
- Add the hair – Loop the hair over the swivel, I use Korum quick stops as it means I can quickly change baits or add new baits after I catch.
- Setup the bait – Hair rig your boilie or pellet to the quick stop and place it in the bottom of the mould. Take some of the soaked pellets out and fill the mould with it – squash it down as much as you can but leave some out. Place the feeder over the top and press it out of the mould leaving you with a perfectly filled feeder with your bait sitting on the top. It’s a great idea at this point to add some liquid attraction over the feeder, especially if you are fishing for carp. I like to mix Beta Stim liquid with the water to soak the feeder with an extra attractant or pour an extra bit over the top (slowly) before casting out.
- Cast it out! – Then sit back and wait for the fish to bite!
Here’s what the finished article looks like
This is a 30g inline feeder with a 12 boilie on a 4″ size 10, 10lb break, Korum quick stop. This is done using slightly different pellets to add some variation to the rig – Skretting pellets. These are 8mm pellets that have been soaked overnight and are more a paste than the fin perfect pellets. As the video shows below they have a great effect under the water, rising out of the feeder and keeping the bait well presented.
Here’s what the rig looks like underwater (Filmed on a Water Wold HD underwater camera + carp bottom kit)
Some more tips
- How far should I cast a method feeder? – Don’t try and give it all you’ve got in the cast! Get the right weight of feeder and a swift flick should be all that’s needed. Don’t settle for a “that will do cast”. It takes a little time to set the feeder up, if you cast short of your target don’t be tempted to leave it, reel it back in, refill, then recast.
- Why do the pellets keep coming off my method feeder? – Getting the consistency right is key to success, too dry and it would hold in the feeder to wet and it won’t shape. As a general rule cover the pellets plus 1 CM if you’re soaking overnight. If you are struggling try using the fin perfect pellets mentioned above as the 2mm pellets are really easy to soak.
- How often should I cast a method feeder? – You should be regularly casting your feeder out, this is not like bating a spot and waiting for the carp to come in. Every 30 minutes is a good guide but on some waters, you can cast as often as every 5-10 minutes to get more bait in and find the right spots.
- Feathering – This is a technique of slowing the line down as it is about to hit the water. This means you are less likely to lose all your pellets on impact with the water. This takes some practice to finesse. (Here is a YouTube video showing you how it’s done – video here).
- What size feeder should I use? For me the optimum feeder is 30g, I do not feel that I need anything heavier unless there is a strong wind or I am fishing on a steeper slope underwater.
I hear a lot of people talking about naturals in carp fishing but I felt I knew very little about them. It is usually the case that I hear “It’s a tough water as they all feed on naturals”. So I set out with my Water Wolf underwater cameras to film at a lake I know that is full of naturals to record them and see what I could learn.
For this, I recorded around 60 hours of footage in various spots from weedy to clear to find what they were eating and where. What I found has caused me to rethink my whole baiting approach to these kinds of waters to better reflect what the carp are eating.
The lake I filmed in is a small lake that is very weedy at most points. It is a private water that does not get fished very often, it is mainly used as a stock pond for the other lakes. in the summer the blanket weed is so thick that other than a couple of margins it is almost unfishable. The lake is on a natural underwater spring which keeps it flooded with fresh clear water.
Whilst it is only a small lake the weed and the spring make it perfect for naturals and for the carp. The stock consists of two low twenties that have never seen the bank and one high twenty that I have had out on the surface previously.
I filmed this across my Water Wolf cameras, in some cases the footage is very clear and in others it’s a little murky as you would expect at the bottom of a lake!
Here is what a learned from 60 hours of footage.
My tips for fishing lakes with lots of naturals
1 – Not every clear spot has lots of naturals!
This one surprised me a little as there were only three clear spots in the lake. This leads me to assume that they would all be feeding areas for the carp, but this wasn’t the case. In two of the spots, there was a decent amount of naturals in the water but not loads.
In the third spot, I found I can only describe it as looking like an underwater disco for worms and invertebrates. On this spot, there were numerous worms, bloodworms and lots of other invertebrates. It was incredible to watch the amount of movement in the water in this area. It was behind a weed bed and very close to an island. It looked to me to be the area that the spring water was coming through into the lake. The nutrient-rich water would attract the invertebrates and in turn, it would attract the carp.
As a comparison, the other clear spots were visited by the carp around once every hour or two and on some days not at all. The spot that was packed with naturals was visited almost every half an hour where the carp would have a quick munch and then move on.
Unfortunately, other than using an underwater camera there is no way of telling this! My advice would be to focus on the clear spots where you are catching more if you don’t have a camera but that’s pretty obvious anyway!
2 – Most natural food is dark coloured
Some baits are much better suited to waters where naturals are present. Personally, my go-to bait is a white popup or wafter on a lot of waters, I like how it stands out and the carp can’t miss it. After reviewing all the footage I’d say that could be the worst choice of bait on this type of water.
In general, the foods the carp are eating are brown coloured or red colour. The darker colours are more like the larvae and the mites and the red as the worms and there is one small red mite that swims around usual within a foot of the bottom. I have not seen anything white or yellow or a washed-out colour in my filming.
To work from this I have started to use darker hook baits in these types of lakes. This has been the same with baiting up areas, I have gone from yellow baits to much darker baits and I have glugged them in the matching dark boilie glug. I’ve been baiting up with crumbed down glugged boilies in PVA mesh as most invertebrae are small.
I’d recommend something they are used to like these bloodworm wafters from CC Moore (Get them here)
3 – Nothing is a uniform shape!
There is nothing natural about a round bait on the bottom. I’m not saying you won’t catch on them though, just that you may catch more fishing other shapes.
For these kinds of waters, I’m now fishing darker trimmed popup and balanced wafters to more mimics natural foods. This helps the bait blend in more with what they are used to seeing and feeding on. The movement seems to be key as a lot of what they are eating naturally is moving.
4 – Most things move slowly
In general, the food in the water moves at a slow pace and can take minutes to move a few centimetres. This is the case for most of the invertebrate that lives on the bottom. The mites that swim in the water move quicker and in a more flick like movement in general.
To better mimic this in a bait, as mentioned above, a hinge rig would be my go-to rig. It blends but sits up a little and the rig allows for some natural movement in the water.
5 – Do some pond dipping or raking
Grab a small net and have a dip around in the margin. The best option is to sweep under any overhanging grass or around any weeds near the margin. This will show you what is in the water at that lake and you may find there is an abundance of a particular species. You can then use this to mimic in your baiting setup.
Alternatively, if allowed, throw out a rake and pull some weed into the side. Then drop it in a clear tub of lake water and give it a shake around. This will show you what is living amongst the weeds. The carp will feed on a lot of what you find.
What do carp naturally eat? (UK)
Carp have a very varied diet and as you may know, they will try to eat almost anything they see. You can see on YouTube people catching them on random hook baits such as Haribo and boiled sweets.
Carp are omnivores and will eat a mix of invertebrates as well as some plants and algae.
Here’s a guide to some of the invertebrates that are naturally in a carp’s diet. Some of these are in the video above showing how they behave underwater. Some of these I haven’t caught on camera as they will vary lake by lake.
- Caddisfly larvae
- Freshwater clams
As well as the standard invertebrates there are a number of things carp will eat if they see them –
Dragon flys or damsel flys
Fruits or berries that land in the water
I’ve been using an Actor bait boat for a while now and I’ve got some tips for you that will help you get the most out of our boat.
Top 6 Bait Boat Tips
Once you have selected and purchased your bait boat then you need to make sure you are getting the most out of it. Bait boats can be a really effective way of catching more fish when used to the maximum. Here are my top tips for your bait boat –
1 - Get to the places casting can't reach!
If yo have a bait boat then use it to get to areas where others can’t! Check for branches in the water, but your boat should go under trees where you’d never be able to cast and where carp will never have been caught!
By targeting theses areas you can maximise your catch rates fishing outside of where others can fish.
Another option is to go right up to overhanging bushes and drop it as tight as you can get it. This just gets you close to the areas where the fish have not been caught. In theses areas bait will drop that has been over thrown and the carp will be used to feeding confidently in these areas.
On a lake I regularly fish there is an solid gap between two overhanging bushes up a side margin where the fish confidently feed. Because of the bushes and surrounding trees it is impossible to cast to regardless of how good you think you are at casting. The boat can get in and drop bait and rigs on the hard spot. There is no underwater snags so you can turn the corner drop the bait and tighten up without snagging anything above the water.
This is an area that regularly produces a fish which on tricker water can be the difference between a blank and a decent session.
If you can cast to an area you want to fish then I find it’s quicker to just cast, use the bait boat where it is needed to get an extra edge.
2 - Use a bank stick for far margins
This carries on from the last tip really and is about accuracy. You can secure a bank stick to the front of your boat and get yourself to within 30cms of the bank.
One of the challenges of bait boats, without gps, is seeing how close you are to a margin in the distance. With a bank stick tapped on to the boat you can go until it hits the margin and then drop on the spot. This is an area that is castable but getting really tight to a far margin is difficult even when clipped up.
This again gives you an edge over the wary carp and with a short bank stick you can keep hitting the same tight spots over and over on every session.
3 - Use a cardboard flap!
If you are on a busy lake then a taped piece of cardboard over the hopper can be a bait saver. On some waters, where they are used to seeing them, the wildlife will come and try and eat from the boat while it’s on its way out! A quick bit of tape to cover the bait and you won’t have these issues.
4 - Use a seperate line to save battery
This is more a tip for longer sessions and weeks away in France where charging is an issue. If you are running multiple trips to 3 spots over a 48-hour session then battery life can be an issue, even if you have a spare or a charge pack.
To do this simply tie a spare rod to the boat out of the way and then when you have dropped reel it back into you. This is also good for boats that don’t have a GPS in the event that one of your rods goes whilst you are driving the boat back in. It will cut the battery use down by around 45% which is a good thing where needed.
5 - Use small solid bags
Just because you are dropping from a bait boat does not mean that your rig will always land perfectly. From experience, it does most of the time if you are over a clear spot but sometimes you will find some debris in these areas too.
Using a small solid bag just for your hook bait can help to add some extra attraction right by the hook as well as ensuring it all way lands right. It also helps with covering the lead when you tie the bags correctly.
6 - Control the line out
This is one especially for windy days and takes a little practice to get right. Rather than just letting the line pull you just lightly hold it and let put just how much it needs. This stops you from getting a massive bow in the line and means you can tighten up much quicker.
It can be tricky to do the first couple of time while driving the boat but is worth the effort to learn how to get it right.
I hope this has been helpful to you! In the main I like bait boats and think they have their uses, getting the right approach with them is key.
The snowman rig is a hugely popular rig for big carp. It’s one I use regularly to mix it up when the bites are hard to get. But I’ve got some tips and tricks to get even more bites from this rig – plus videos of each of these variations underwater on my youtube channel.
What is a snowman rig?
A snowman rig is a 2 boilie setup with a standard boilie at the bottom and a smaller pop up at the top. It makes the presentation standup odd at the bottom and looks just like a snowman, hence the name.
Here’s the idea of how they should look
There is also a reverse snowman with the smaller popup on the bottom and the main boilie above. This does not look like a snowman but is quite an effective presentation when fished correctly. It really helps if you have some boilie extenders to hand in to make the presentation better.
You can see my guide to the best carp boilies and popups here to help select the right bait.
Snowman rig fishing tips
1 – Practice & test them every time
This rig takes a little time to perfect. Where possible I’d always put the rig in a clear margin so you can see how it’s set up. If it’s not balanced right the popup can pull the whole rig up and that’s not the idea. In this case, you can add some tungsten putty by the rig to hold it down, or use a different popup – preferred way.
You can test them at home in a bucket of water to make sure you get the balance right. I’d advise checking every rig when you’re on the bank just to make sure they are balanced perfectly. It is simple to either add more putty or trim them slightly to get them sitting perfectly.
2 – Snip them a bit
This is a tip I picked up from a carp mag a few years ago (I read a few so I can’t remember the exact one). Snip the ends of each boilie to make a smother presentation rather than 2 balls on top of each other. This really sleeks up the presentation and can help you get more bites.
If you want to really mix it up then you can trim the baits to be random shapes and sizes but still act in the same way. Chopped baits can be a real edge on some waters.
3 – Mix it up
You don’t have to stick to the standard rigs, sometimes it’s worth mixing up your snowman rigs to get a bite. Try different sized boilies and see how they sit in the water. I occasionally use what I call the “fat snowman” rig with is a 14mm dumbbell with a 12mm popup on as below. You’ll need to use a Boilie extender for some of these depending on your hair length.
You can also mix up the colours and set up. The same rig metrics can be applied to a rig with buoyant corn on the top of a boilie. Here are some colour examples –
My personal preference is to fish a lighter colour bait on the top. This has always done me well in the past and seems to catch the carps attention.
To test things before I go to the lake I also have an old fish tank with some gravel filled with water. I’ll quickly add the bait to the hair rig at home and sit it in to see how it looks. This saves lots of precious time on the bank and means I can repeatedly test rigs and setups.
I’ve also been playing around with a carp fishing wafter snowman. This plays differently in the water due to the added buoyancy of the wafter. I carve a small opening in the bottom of the wafter ad add some putty once the hair is in. This helps keep it upright but get is moving up and down in the water more than a standard snowman.
You can pick up old tanks on eBay really cheap and as long as you have the place to store them it’s a good way to test things out where you can see the rig/ bait.
Here are some of the rigs filmed underwater on my Water Wolf HD – see review here. (I know the hair is too long, you don’t need to point it out!)
There are loads more videos on my YouTube channel, just search “Casual Carper” to see them all.
4 – Fish it over a lot of bait
In the warmer months, I think the snowman rig is the perfect option to fish over the top of a large bed of bait. The presentation keeps it sitting proud and means it can be one of the first things they see when they come in to feed.
In the winter months, I’m happy to fish a snowman as a single in a tiny solid back of pellets. This gives a good level of attraction and still has the visual appearance underwater. For an extra bit of attraction glug the bottom boilie in advance.
Here’s my guide to the ultimate method mix for carp. This has been honed over the last few years and is flexible for changes when sticking to the planned core ingredients. This includes the SECRET INGREDIENT which will give you a compact mix in the cast making an open feeder more effective than ever!
Casual Carpers ultimate method mix
Here are the base ingredients –
Carp method mix – Bait tech super method is my current base mix of choice – Buy it on Amazon here
This is a great mix of hemp, molasses, 5 spices and other natural ingredients. Bait-Tech stuff is usually good quality and I really like this as a base for my mix.
1 tin of sweet corn – This does not need to be the flavoured variety or anything specific, a standard tin will do. You can use maize or flavoured corn if you want to mix it up more. A mix of smaller and larger corn can often work well.
1 tin of frenzied particles (or any tinned particles/ hemp) – 600g tin – buy it on Amazon here
A good squirt of liquid pineapple (again or similar) – I choose pineapple as it’s usually sweet and sticky and carp love it.
Carp paste powder (about a third of what you’ve used as method mix) – This by Ringers will do the job or any powered paste. This is my secret ingredient.
The Carp paste power is what makes it really sticky and compact together on the feeder and hold in the cast and on impact. I find with just a method feeder mix with any decent length cast the feeder tends to lose some on impact with the water. This is more for if you are fishing at range or want to pack a lot of feed onto your method feeder.
I usually make this the evening before I go fishing to give it overnight to take on more flavour and compact down.
Start with the method ground bait and paste power in a large tub or bucket. Then add a tin of corn and the particles and give it a very good mix round. Make sure all the liquid from these goes into the mix as well.
Then start adding the pineapple glug until the mixture starts to stick together in the turn. One key thing of this mix is to not add any water – everything that’s in it has a flavour for the carp. If you really need to, dilute the glug with water at a 50/50 ratio.
I then put it in the tub to take it to the lake and stack other tins of bait or a bait box on it to flatten it down. When you arrive at the lake just give it a quick stir with a bank stick and off you go using it. The flattening down seems to get a better hold of it – this is not tested and just my opinion.
In this setup to match the Pineapple, I will use one of my trusty 15mm carp wafters and I will trim it down to around the size of a large piece of corn. I like how the wafter sits on top of the mix and will be moving around with the fish stirring it up. Alternatively, you can use corn or maize as hook bait.
Then as the casual carper says – kick back and catch carp!
Yesterday I headed out for my first ever river fishing session on the River Sow in Stafford. Until this, I’d only ever fished lakes and canals (I did a lot of canal fishing when I was younger and occasionally go with a lure in the winter these days.
After some research, I settled on the Sow as I’d seen it flowing through the park when I’ve been in Stafford. I’d read that it was free to fish so thought that would be a good place to start my river adventures. I’d watched endless youtube videos of lure fishing in river tips so felt prepared and ready to go.
If you know the area I parked down at the Windmill chippy end and walked through the town along the river to Asda and back for my fishing. Here is a video I did of the session, read on for more information on the river and my session.
Fishing the Sow
I started at the windmill end going over the bridge by Sainbury’s and then along the park section. Here is the first section I tried –
Having never fished a river I was surprised by the number of lilies in the water. I had a range of lures with me including –
- Mayfly nymph
- Small crayfish
- Large crayfish
- Micro lures (Small fish types)
- Spikey shads
- A range of spinners
I started off with the mayfly nymph as this one made the most sense to me to use. It looked natural and was around the right time of year. My first cast was just at the top end of the picture above around an overhanging tree and boom I felt a bite straight off! It was only small and came off quickly but this filled me with confidence for my trip knowing I’d had a take. At this spot, I swapped around with lures but couldn’t find any other bites happening so I carried on along the bank.
My first ever river fish
A little further along I found a deeper section where the deep part was right under my feet. This was just behind the car park before the park starts. After dropping the lure into the deeper water and having a jig for 30 seconds my fish ever river fish was landed. It was only a smallish perch but it was very welcome!
It had nailed the nymph lure and large hook. I have a trace on this setup as I had been told there was a few pike in this section – I’ll come to that later….
This spot did me well with another perch coming quickly after the first. I also returned to it on my way back up the river and caught another 2 in quick succession before heading home again.
Victoria Park fishing
I was soon into Victoria park and I was amazed at the amount of fish I could see in the Sow. I’d read about the fishing on some forums and most people were moaning about the lack of fish and how pollution and the otters mean “it’s not like it was 20 years ago”. I always take these with a pinch of salt!
Through the park section, I found it was packed with roach and quite a few at a decent size that I’ll have a crack at next time I go down. There was lots of perch in sections and after a while, I spotted a pike hiding in the grass waiting to pounce. I’d estimate it was in the 8-10lb range. I had a go with a lure but with it being surrounded by weeds it was impossible to get it close enough to catch it.
As I walked around this section I noticed numerous pikes in the weeds and swimming around. These were mostly jacks with the first one I saw clearly the biggest compared to the others.
The town section
There are some parts of the town section (Where you have to go into town to keep on the river path down to Asda) where you cannot fish. I’d find a good spot, again with plenty of roach and perch just after the cinema and Nandos –
Here I caught 2 more perch with the biggest of the day coming to a mayfly nymph again. This perch shot straight across a clear spot to take the lure as soon as I made the splash dropping it in.
Still not a massive perch but it was the best of the day and a new river PB (joking, I didn’t weigh it!).
After this, I strolled back along with pike lures on but never managed to get any takes. I’ll be back to try and catch the pike again soon, probably when there has been some rain and the river isn’t crystal clear.
I took 2 more perch from the spot mentioned above and then headed back to the car. I caught 6 perch in total in 3 hours and I’m happy with that for my first river session. I’ll be heading back down again soon to try and catch some bigger perch, some pike, and some of the larger roach. I think it will be a good spot for river piking in the winter looking at the number of jacks there were.
If you are thinking of going down to the Sow give the town center a go, with some practice and experience I’m sure 6 perch will be easily beatable! I also have a ticket for Doxley marshes where they have a section of the sow, I’ll do another blog when I’ve been there looking for more pike and some chub.
Any questions use the comments section below or search casual carper on social media.
Thanks for reading!