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Top 5 carp baits for winter fishing

Carp bait
Carp hooked on worms (Image credit: Angler's Mail)

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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 are more likely to find something they will get caught on if you are asking different questions. Making a change can change your fortunes.

Here’s the baits I rely on most at this time of year…

Maggots for bait

Maggots (Image credit: Angler's Mail)


The blanket change in winter carping has been widespread use of maggots, and the greater understanding that carp are prepared to eat the little wrigglers almost no matter how cruel the conditions or low the water temperature.

Where venues have few nuisance fish and you can get away with maggots, they are probably the finest carp bait you can pack in your kit in the colder months.

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 big bags of maggots are a method that you can almost cast 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!

Hemp for bait

Hemp (Image credit: Angler’s Mail)


I have always challenged the long held belief that particles are a warm water approach and the winter is more about boilies. I find carp preferences absolutely the other way around.

Hemp is an amazing bait whatever the conditions, 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.

Lobworms for bait

Lobworms (Image credit: Angler's Mail)


If catching carp was as simple as putting a hook bait on that either a carp would or wouldn’t eat then I’d probably fish worms almost every day.

Carp love a lobworm more than pretty well anything else you can offer them. 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 will be finding 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.

High-viz pop-ups

High-viz pop-ups (Image credit: Angler’s Mail)

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.

Boilies for bait

Boilies in the bag (Image credit: Angler's Mail)


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.