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Best carp bait for winter fishing

Best carp bait for winter fishing - carp hooked on worms
Improve your catch rate in the colder months with the best carp bait for winter fishing (Image credit: Angler's Mail)

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If you're looking for something to keep the carp biting during the colder months, look no further than the best carp bait for winter fishing. 

Carp activity tends to be at its lowest through the first two months of the calendar, and the truth is that by this point many of us are looking for something, or more accurately anything, to get a bite.

I’ve seen very clearly over the years how picky carp are about what they choose to eat in colder weather, and bait choice more clearly than ever makes the difference between catching and blanking.

Whatever you do, always use different carp baits on all your rods. If you aren’t catching at least you're more likely to find something they will get caught on if you're trying different things. Making a change can change your fortunes.

And if that doesn't work, well, here's the best carp bait for winter fishing I rely on most…

Best carp bait for winter fishing - maggots

Best carp bait for winter fishing - carp love maggots no matter the weather (Image credit: Angler's Mail)

Best carp bait for winter fishing: maggots

Carp are prepared to eat maggots almost no matter how cruel the conditions or low the water temperature, which is why the little wrigglers are one of the best carp baits for winter fishing.

Mag-aligner bags are just devastating, and the more widely maggots are used, the more carp seem to become fixated on them. When working at their best, you can cast big bags of maggots almost anywhere and catch any carp that is nearby.

Where nuisance fish complicate matters, you can still rely on a big bunch on the hair for bonus winter action, or top a grain of plastic off with a couple of wrigglers to add a bit of movement that can be deadly.

When you’re firing big PVA bags of grubs out regularly you might need 4-6 pints per day to serve two or three rods – which is expensive but you’ll probably be having the results of your life, which makes it worthwhile!

Best carp bait for winter fishing - hemp

Best carp bait for winter fishing - hemp holds feeding carp and can’t easily be eaten by birds (Image credit: Angler’s Mail)

Best carp bait for winter fishing: hemp

I have always challenged the long held belief that particles are a warm water approach and winter is more about boilies. I actually find carp prefer the absolute opposite! 

Hemp is one of the best carp baits for winter fishing and, although oily, hemp oil seems to be acceptable to carp in cold water – remember the tremendous winter results on the original Dynamite Stick tactic where Nick Helleur was casting out groudbait sticks laced with high levels of hemp oil?

It behaves differently to fish oils in colder weather, not thickening up the same way, and is amazingly nutritional.

Carp I have fished for vote that hemp oil and hemp is a good thing to eat in winter, and if I had a pound for every winter carp I’ve seen crapping hemp out on my mat over the years I’d be a lot better off.

Hemp holds feeding carp, can’t easily be eaten by birds, can’t easily be seen in clear water and goes through them apparently quite easily.

If you put it in they eat it. It remains a staple feed choice for me especially when fishing close spots tight to cover.

Best carp bait for winter fishing - lobworms

Best carp bait for winter fishing - carp can't get enough of lobworms, the problem is, everything else love them too (Image credit: Angler's Mail)

Best carp bait for winter fishing: lobworms

If catching carp was as simple as putting a good hook bait on then I’d probably fish worms almost every day. Carp love a lobworm almost more than anything else you can offer them, which makes them one of the best carp baits for winter fishing. 

A big fat lob, with the tail snipped off brings out an almost predatory feeding instinct. The problem of course is other fish, and sadly, virtually everything that swims also loves a lobworm, so if you have perch and roach present in numbers you'll find it hard to present a lobworm confidently.

Around the edges or under a float it’s easier because you know more accurately if you are being interfered with. With heavy lead rigs your worm can be stripped off by a perch with no indication.

Try snipping lobs into sections and making a huge bunch on a hair, it can last long enough to catch a carp or two even where nuisance fish are in abundance. You can also try snipping lobs into smaller pieces and compressing them in sections of Fox Arma Mesh before threading them on.

Best carp bait for winter fishing - high-viz pop-ups

Best carp bait for winter fishing - high-viz pop-ups are the most common winter bair (Image credit: Angler’s Mail)

Best carp bait for winter fishing: high-viz pop-ups

High-viz pop-ups must be the most common cold water approach for carpers everywhere. And why not – they just keep on catching. But some of their apparent effectiveness is down to blanket use. If that is what most people are using that is what most carp will apparently be caught on.

Pop-ups do tick a lot of boxes, and they offer a very visible bait, one that is often loaded with effective attractors, sits off bottom where it is even more obvious to even a half-interested carp, and they can be cast anywhere and left out for long periods quite confidently.

I always have a selection of colours in a pot, invariably reaching for white or pink and still finding White Chocolate the best.

Best carp bait for winter fishing - boilies in a bag

Best carp bait for winter fishing - you can't go wrong with boilies (Image credit: Angler's Mail)

Best carp bait for winter fishing: boilies

Honestly, boilies are one of the last things I consider on my winter bait menu. If you fish the same water every week and keep baiting with quality boilies the carp will keep eating them, but very few of us are in that position in terms of time or money.

If a carp is prepared to eat a boilie, I’m confident I have as good a chance as anything by sticking a 200 gr little pouch of 10 or 15 mm tangerine dream or coconut crème baits in my bag.

One pouch gives me enough hook baits and freebies for crushing in bags and sticks to last trip after trip. And that’s generally the limit of my involvement with boilies in the winter! A handful of bright high attract baits are always kept to hand.