I will try to cover this off with carp and bream being different entities. That said I have found this time of the year, that if you get the bream in front of you, you’re likely to find the carp not too far away. Obviously, not every venue has bream, and certainly not in sufficient numbers for the carp to swim with them. I say this because, I have found, especially of waters that have a large pike, often the carp swim close to the bream as a kind of safety mechanism. For sure, it is unlikely that there are any pike big enough to trouble a decent-sized carp. However, the carp were not always of a good size and grew up being frightened of pike. Therefore, they have this fear in the psyche.
This, I must say, is just a theory and not based on anything other than my own experiences. Often, when fishing venues for big bream I invariably catch carp, much to the dismay of the resident carp specialists.
It would be impossible for me to suggest the quantity of feed you need to use because ever water has varied stock levels. In addition, different-sized venues will require quantities of feed specific to their individual conditions. For example, the depth, tow, and vulnerability to chilling winds will all be determining factors. Instead, I want to focus on the type of feed used and how to get the best results from it.
So, let’s start with carp baits, as there seems to be more of you out there. What I want to offer up is what works for me based on my experience. Over the years, I have tried every type of feed-bait known to mankind, and some not so well known. Often it has been a case of trying something, tweaking it and trying it again. Knowing where the fish hang out at this time of the year is a must, but added to that you have to trust your presentation and be persistent. The key is to know you have the fish in front of you and are capable of catching them. Ultimately, you are trying to get them grazing of small amounts of feed, stimulating them, so they will hopefully go looking for something more substantial. And that my friends, will be your hook bait.
When the water is cold, fish don’t need as much food, and that’s a given. As a result, you are better of avoiding high-protein levels, high oil levels, heavy hard baits that are difficult to digest and anything that will fill them up to quickly.
So, I will list individual baits and suggest what has worked for me.
Fishmeal is an interesting starting point as there are so many variants available. There are always fads that are driven by the Internet circus or “dvd itus” as I call it. Often these are sending you down an erroneous road for all the wrong reasons. I have found, as part of your mix, plain cheap low temperature fishmeal, the type most tackle shops will stock in small and large quantities. Avoid heavy fishmeal’s such as LT94, Provimi66 and such like. These will just fill the fish up, and importantly they will struggle to digest these baits at this time of the year.
Nash Ball maker, great way to feed in deep water
Pellets are in a similar vein to fishmeal and large, high oil pellets are best avoided, as the fish will struggle to digest these and importantly, become full too quickly. Instead, I suggest light oil, 2-4mm pellets will get the fish grazing. Often these are light in colour, but have a read of the packaging and avoid any with high protein or oil levels. In addition to the go-to fishmeal pellets, bloodworm, scopex and GLM pellets are a great addition at this time of the year. They fluff up nicely, become soft as well as releasing colour, and flavour into the water.
Particles are always in my mix all year round, although instead of buying the ready prepared, I go for cooking my own. I will boil these far more during the cold months, until they are very soft and easily digestible. Often, once cooked, I will add some scopex pellets and molasses to add some colour and flavour to the paticles. A great tip here when you’re buying particles is to avoid anything containing mustard seeds. The good old-fashioned pigeon conditioner is perfect. I always add a good quantity of well-cooked hemp plus some that has been liquidized. It adds a nice light oil, smell and flavour to the water.
A Proper Pea-Souper
Sweet corn comes under the banner of particles, however, I want to mention this bait, along with maize at the same time. I only ever feed a sprinkling of whole corn, instead, I blitz it in the liquidizer and add it as slop to my mix. I do the same with maize too. Although, I have had a fair few winter fish on both baits on the hook, I am a firm believer that these baits are really at their best in the summer months. It is a bit like hemp, as any roach angler will tell you, to catch on hemp, the water needs to be very warm.
Maggots are a must during the cold months, be they dead or alive. Ideally, you want live maggots; however, if your chosen venue is full of silvers, then freeze your maggots to kill them. This not only stops them attracting the nuisance fish, it also stops them from wriggling away. As long as you take them out from the freezer just before going – making sure you allow enough time to defrost – they will be fresh, even though they are dead.
I use a lot of Worms all year round. However, when it is cold, I tend to crush/cut them up into small pieces just to add a twist, that I believe fish find irresistible.
Flavourings are always a good addition to any mix, and often this is personal. Ideally, you want a nice sweet smell or flavour. Any of the fruit-berry-style ranges are good. Personally, I like to add molasses, scopex, strawberry or cranberry.
Boilies are the stable part of any self-respecting carp anglers set up, and rightly so. Although I often fish with bolies, I rarely feed them whole, instead opting for quartering and crushing them. I then add them to my chosen mix. Ideally, you want the fish to go looking for something more substantial, having got the taste in their head, and this will be your hook-bait.
Off the shelf ground baits, work well all year round. However, they should be avoided unless you know exactly what it in them. Read the packaging carefully or ask advice from your tackle dealer. You don’t want heavy, high protein (summer) mixes. These will just fill the fish up.
Brown and white crumb is a great addition, one that is often avoided by carp anglers, even though they know carp love bread. This will without doubt fills the fish up far too quickly. That said, if I know there are a lot of bream about, then I will use this, in some cases a large quantity whereby it makes up for 50% plus of my mix. On big bream venues, I will add to the above and am not averse to pilling in 50-60 balls at the start and topping it up as required.
As always, I hope this helps in some small way. I am asked a lot of questions in the shop relating to this subject, and this is based on what I believe and importantly, has worked for me. Knowing, I like a challenge and habitually choose to fish some of the most diverse and difficult waters. So, with that in mind, it should work elsewhere.
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