With autumn now here and the water temperatures dropping, do you look at changing your bait or do you continue to use the same bait throughout the year, with possible alterations to attractors or attractor levels? And do you think there are attractors that are better suited for cold-water angling?
That’s a big question, but I’ll start off with something that’s often overlooked, and something I think is an important part of all good boilies at all times in the year, and that’s texture.
All the better baits that I’ve used have had a nice, loose, crumbly texture, and this applies to summer use as well as winter. Ideally I’d like to be using that kind of soft, crumbly textured, hi-leakage bait everywhere, at all times of the year, but things like nuisance species and range mean that it’s not always possible.
One of my favourite all-time baits is Dynamite’s Red Fish, which they no longer sell, but this spring just gone I drove up to the factory with twenty kilos of fresh herring packed in ice, and with some much appreciated help from the lads using the machinery, I came away with a batch of my old specials exactly how I like them. As well as the obvious attraction qualities of liquidised fresh herring, fish also acts as a binder, and so we only needed to add one egg to each kilo of liquidised fish/water solution in order to achieve the lovely soft, crumbly texture I wanted.
I already know from using that bait in the past that the carp can get through a lot more of it, much faster than they could a tighter textured, normal egg-rolled boilie. By ‘normal’ I mean the sort of bait that you could thread on a Hair and expect to still be on the end 24hrs later. I can’t always do that with this bait, not straight out the bag anyway, only if I air-dry them a bit. That’s the trade off with using a better textured, more palatable bait, but it’s one I’m happy to put up with where possible. If there are no nuisance species like crays, crabs, eels etc., then it’s not a problem, I can just use a bigger Hair stop and get away with it, but on some waters I do find that I have to either air-dry my hookbaits or use a firmer, egg-rolled one over the top. Obviously I’m talking bottom baits here, as when it comes to corkball pop-ups they’re made harder with the use of egg albumen.
Anyway, despite it being a fishmeal, in the past I’ve used that particular bait all year round with good success, albeit in smaller amounts through the colder months, and admittedly through two of the mildest winters on record (06-07/07-08), but then let’s be honest, who wants to sit it out on a big, low stock pit while conditions are sub-zero? Na, I’d have been making sure my gudgeon were lively enough for perching then!
A great summer bait will still catch carp in the winter with no changes at all, especially when it’s been established over months. In the past I often mixed Red Fish 50/50 with my old Chocolate Malt birdfood bait in the winter, which is just as nicely loose textured, and if I’ve been baiting heavily then I’ve often added plenty of particles into the mix too. I think having a decent texture and leak off has a lot to do with it. I look at a lot of ‘normal’ boilies and I’d not want to bait up with them at all in winter, not just fishmeals either. They’re too dense and tight textured for my liking, because that’s how most anglers want them, so they can put them out in a stick and all that, but after a night in the drink, the water has barely made it more than a couple of millimetres into the skin. That type of bait isn’t much good for winter use, as by the time it gets cold the fish already know they can’t easily digest them, and on a lot of waters they’re just left for the birds to eat. It’s convenience ruling over something which can easily be made more effective, and I won’t even get going on shape. Too many of these types of boilies going into a water through the cold can switch them off of round balls altogether.
If you’re fishing somewhere with plenty of carp and you really want to keep them going through the winter, then nowadays I think it’s better to take more of a particle approach, as things like hemp, groats and corn will get eaten much more readily. You’re likely to keep bait in the swim for longer too, as it has to be said that the birdlife on our waters is now worse than ever. And if you still want the convenience of boilies, and you’re in a position where you can roll your own or have a say in how they’re made, then it’s worth replacing a percentage of the egg with water as the colder weather sets in. Any nuisance species will become far less of a problem in the winter anyway, so you can easily get away with a softer bait. Even then it’d be better to break them up, or better still, if it’s close-range stuff and you’re not using a great deal of bait anyway, then just take a chunk in paste form and roll enough free offerings for each rod when you’re there, with no boiling or denaturing of the ingredients at all. All stuff we already know, it’s just a case of putting it into action.
Something else which holds me back from changing baits as winter approaches is the fact that the autumn period is when fishmeals tend to come into their own, when the carp really want them, when they’re packing on weight to see them through the colder months… do I really want to be changing to something else at that point? A lot of the time I’m likely to be moving onto different venues in the winter anyway, at least I am through the colder periods. If conditions turn mild enough to head back then a lot of the time I’d be more likely to use whatever I’d been giving them back in the summer, just in lesser amounts.
Single hookbaits are where I play about with attractors the most, with both bottom baits and pop-ups, and I have one or two old Hutchy flavours that I’ve got mega confidence in through the winter months. If I’m going somewhere new then using single hookbaits, stringers, and light scatterings in those tried and tested flavours is nearly always what I start off with, but if it’s somewhere I’ve already established a bait, then I’ve found it better to carry on using those straight from the bag instead.
I remember having a good autumn at Burghfield on the Red Fish. Basically I’d kept the same bait going into the same swim from September right through until mid November, when cold weather froze the lake. I didn’t do a lot through the winter, just a trip in late December and one or two in February, but though I used my faithful spicy winter specials on at least one of the rods, all the action still came to the straight Red Fish, exactly as I’d been introducing it back in the summer and autumn. It was a perfect example of a well-established bait still ruling the roost.
Like I say though, most of the time I’m more likely to be fishing a different water from summer to winter, and with nothing already established, single, high-attract hookbaits still play a big part in my winter fishing. We all have our favourites, but it’s well known that high leakage alcohol-based ones are particularly effective in the cold, which is why soaking your boilies in off the shelf drinks like Baileys and Malibu is so effective. Some flavours really can make the difference between catching or not, more so in winter than at any other time, so yes, it’s worth experimenting. Keep catching ‘em.