Keep Ringing the Changes – Winter Carp Fishing

Jimmy Greaves famously said “Football is a funny old game” and those words could so well have been pointed towards carp angling.  Winter carping in particular can be a prime example for throwing up unpredictable outcomes during those long dark winter months.

I love my winter angling, always have. I have tried to analyse this as to why on many an occasion when I am sat there with painfully cold toes and fingers that don’t want to set about packing the frosty gear away. Over the years I have justified my winter angling by telling people I love the fact that it is just me against the fish a lot of the time rather than me trying to slot into a decent area amongst lots of other anglers as can be the case during the summer months.

To be honest my love of the winter is much more deep rooted than that though. I love the rawness of it all. I love being out when nature is trying to persuade us to stay indoors. I love the sun rises and the sunsets which so often give a much more powerful image than many of those in the summer. But above all I have the memory and the knowledge that most of my P.B. carp right from the early 80’s have slipped into the net during the winter. Even my biggest fish from overseas have been winter captures. My personal best U.K. French, Slovenian and U.S.A. fish have been winter fish.

Winter Carp Fishing Tips

Always looking for clues

Carp feed in the winter, carp have to feed in the winter. If they don’t feed they die, quite simple really. But although they feed they can be a little particular and surprisingly stubborn some days and often you need to keep ringing the changes to tempt that chance.

With well over 30 years of winter carp catching experience behind me you would have thought I would have certain methods and baits that will work everywhere. Well, I have but I will be the first to admit that no two days are the same and often I have to keep tweaking things with hook bait colour, bottom baits, pop-ups, snow men, trimmed baits, big baits, little baits, it goes on and on but for some reason the carp constantly change in what they want.

Or do they?

I have been thinking about this quite deeply these past few weeks. I have been fortunate to have been catching the fish during a period that I haven’t seen another fish caught yet the last 3 have all been on totally different coloured hook baits. Same rig, same flavour, but a different colour and interestingly the last 2 have come from re-casts to exactly the same spot as I had been fishing but with a different coloured hook bait.  The simple change in colour has triggered the response.

Winter carp fishing tips

The Pimple Pops catch me so many fish and are perfect for ringing the changes in colour.

I have been baiting lightly, just 2 or 3 casts with a Mini Spomb on the actual fishing rod and then the hook link clipped back on and a rig following over the top. My Spomb mix is made from scalded Naked Hemp (hemp without the shell) left to cool back down in the water and then I add various Magnum White products…Broken and crushed boilie, Maximum Action Pellets and Micro Feed then leave everything 24 hours to soak the hemp juice up. White is a superb base colour to fish over. It is a colour that triggers a natural feeding response. Carp eat a lot of bird muck from both ends. Hopefully I need to say no more.

winter carp fishing tips blog

Orange on top of white triggered this one

So, although I have the background feed there giving a very clear visual which the carp are obviously homing in on I find I get a pick up much quicker by fishing a different coloured bait over the top of it. Almost the daisy in a field of grass if I were to fish for cows but often that daisy has to be replaced by a buttercup to get a quicker take.

I think what is happening in this situation where the approach that was good enough last trip isn’t working this trip, isn’t so much to do with the method not being right, but more to do with different fish being present.  Different things trigger different fish. This is so noticeable when you look at repeat captures of a particular fish on one bait yet another bait will constantly repeat capture a different one.

carp fishing in winter tips blog

Yellow and white the week before

If it isn’t working for you, keep juggling things around, keep ringing the changes for I have yet to go anywhere where one presentation and one bait will be the best for them all. Some fish like it nailed on the bottom, some like a big bait yet a shoal mate may prefer very small. Keep ringing the changes even when you are catching. You may be surprised just how much more the alarm may ring.

Best fishes
Shaun Harrison
Quest Baits


12 thoughts on “Keep Ringing the Changes – Winter Carp Fishing

  1. Paul Cooper says:

    Nicely written piece Shaun. I would like to create a discussion with you on this subject but I agree with everything that you say. Pimple pops certainly have an edge in the colder months. I was fishing Blue Lake for the first time along with Ron, Jim and Dean. Although the others were picking up the odd fish, my double pimple pop set up saw me landing fish after fish. Good piece of armory to have in your tackle bag.

  2. Shaun Harrison says:

    Thanks Paul, your comments are much appreciated. The Blogs work well when others pick up on certain points and give their view point which then creates the all important discussion. As you know I try hard to play the devils advocate in many cases and often just to see if people are led along or stand by their views.

    I’m bound to say the Pimple Pops are excellent but coming from someone involved in their own bait I take that as a massive compliment.

    Thank you.

  3. roy clarey says:

    i really like your pimple pops
    do you think a good bed of bait is necessary? some say singles some say chuck it in still, even when its cold!! ive managed to winkle 1 out this winter which im very happy with as i know its hard this time of year but very rewarding when you manage to get one on the bank, any advive is always helpfull, especially from people with so many years experiance…

  4. Shaun Harrison says:

    Hi Roy,
    To be fair I have caught on the Pimple Pops in most ways you can imagine both over bait and out on their own.

    I do normally use 2 on the hair and always 2 different colours these days simply because over the years I have found I get takes quicker with mixed colours.

    These are something I had on my ‘secret list’ for years. I always used to hand roll a few ‘special hook baits’ and usually very small. 10 mm has always been about as big as I go hook bait size which surprises many. Even my big overseas fish have fallen to small hook baits so the 6 – 8 mm Pimple Pops aren’t particularly small compared to a lot of the baits I have used in the past and I even trim the Pimples smaller still at times.

    My very first cast with one into Grenville which is a large 72 acre pit with depths to 35 ft plus was made as the sun was setting and was punched out around 160 m to an area most struggled to reach (they help with long range casting creating less drag behind the lead) in an area they often showed over in the first hours of the morning. I thought the bright colour and water undisturbed all night might get me a take. It had been out less than an hour by which time it was pitch black when the first fish found it in the deep water and a near 30 lb carp was soon smiling with me for the camera.

    So, they are more than just a visual, they send out food signals too as I have now caught lots in the middle of the night on them with no other baits around them.

    Having said that I much prefer to fish over bait as I feel I am cheating them not giving them something but legging them up on the hook bait only approach.

    All I would say really is to fish them like you would any other bait. I catch with stick mixes, heavily baited areas, light scatterings as well as simple stringers and on their own. A lot of anglers do really well using them in place of artificial corn as a sight bob, but I must admit this is probably the one way of fishing them that I have used the least despite knowing how effective it is. I do sometimes use them snowman style with a trimmed 10 mm bottom bait.

    It is rare I ever cast out without at least one rod having my Pimple Pops on it at any time of the year and in any country.

    Hope it helps, there really isn’t a right or a wrong way, they just like them.

    Best fishes

  5. Shaun Harrison says:

    You could always try rolling your own too. I often roll more aerodynamic shapes than round when I need bigger baits but need to cast them a long way. These already have the fluorescent dyes added

  6. roy clarey says:

    thankyou shaun.
    that is more than helpfull, i will put that in my head for the next time i go… i dont have any waters that big in sufolk, the biggest and best water around here is suffolk water park which is a great water and some stunning fish, just one more quick question, do you go with a 8 or 10 hook when just using the pimps…
    thankyou once again shaun, its always good to hear from a experienced angler

  7. Shaun Harrison says:

    Hook sizes vary with each manufacturer or more accurately and to the point each supplier as every company seems to stick their own sizes on them as there is no ‘official scale’. I used to use the Ashima C310’s for years which was sold under the banner of other companies too. I used them with double Pimple Pop in a size 4 but the other companies sold them as a size 6 yet these days I am using the PB hooks and I need to go to a size 8 for the same sort of gape.

    I tend to use larger hooks than most but measuring the gape of one that currently has 2 x Pimple Pops attached to the hair and will be cast out this week-end it is 10 mm but tapering back to 8 mm. It is a size 8 PB Super Strong.

  8. Shaun Harrison says:

    I meant to say I had a catch report a couple of weeks or so ago from Lee Wheeler who had done a quick overnighter on the Suffolk Water Park and had a 30 on a Ghurkka Spice tipped with a Pimple Pop.

  9. Paul Cooper says:

    Playing the devils advocate is what blogging is all about. Ideally we need to get lots of readers involved with honest opinions and not just the bloggers, patting each other on the back. I find it more entertaining and interesting when there is a bit of controversy about a topic. Fishing is a continual learning experience and no individual will ever know it all. All that we can do is write down our thoughts, opinions and experiences and sit back and wait for a response.

    As for Pimple Pops, I always carry a selection in my tackle bag as well as your Chilli Chocolate 10mil pop ups. I like my baits to be critically balanced and both baits give perfect presentation for my style of fishing. Obviously I mainly use my own baits, but will I will not hesitate to use your pop ups if the situation requires it. I do like to fish different baits and presentations at the same time, so I very often swap and change them during a session, until I find a winning combination.

  10. Shaun Harrison says:

    Excellent and very true post Paul. If only others would admit to what they use at times. I must say I find it frustrating when I know someone is catching on my gear but they can’t mention it because of upsetting their Sponsors etc.

    Lots of ‘profile’ anglers buy bits from me. Mostly the Pimple Pops, Naked Hemp and Micro Feed being the main ones that come to mind. I don’t mind them not mentioning them but find it frustrating when they claim captures to be on other things. Pat on the back time Paul, you are big enough and honest enough to say what you use. A Pimple Pop capture over a bed of your bait I see as one of your bait captures, it is your bait they were eating after all and the Pimple Pop simply an aid to presentation.

  11. roy clarey says:

    i was at margot last april, and the first time i had fished the lake, both previous times i had been to france i had blanked, little did i know i was in for a busy week!! i had gone there with a lot of Ghurkka Spice and rajha spice in 10mm and 15mm, using them as my main baits but opting for a white and pink pop up dipped in ghurkka glug, after a long drive down there and sorting out swims i managed to get my rods out in the evening not knowing what to expect from the week, i fished to the only island on the lake, at about 11pm the first night my alarm decided to give me a single tone, so after rushing to my rod with no shoes, so the soaking socks thing happened as to many of us it does… i managed to pull in what i thought wasnt a very big fish untill i netted it and lifted it to the cradel, it may have only been a grass carp but i got it on the scales and at 52lb 10oz i was over the moon… during the week i had 24 fish in total, so i have total confidence in both of them baits, and the fish seem to love them to, i would of added a photo but cant attach a file….

  12. Shaun Harrison says:

    Excellent Roy. I perhaps shouldn’t have a favourite bait but if I were really pushed it would be the Ghurkka Spice which was very much a bit of self indulgence when I put that one together for a particular situation . It has remained the bait I feed the most

    I find this an interesting subject where anglers become very confident in one bait but another angler will totally swear by a different one. Ron Key who fishes a lot of Angling Lines venues would be lost without Chilli Chocolate and in more recent times the Magnum White as well.

    One of my French consultants swears by Special Crab yet our biggest seller for many years was Rahja Spice (you only get biggest sellers with baits people catch a lot on and keep re-buying). The matter of fact everything is more than proven before release and really it ends up a case of what smells right to the angler.

    As Jeremy Clarkson would say…

    I’ll end on a bombshell, the bait I have caught more fish on than anything else is our Fruity Trifle yet I rarely ever feed them with much of it! I love Fruity Trifle as a total different hook bait amongst a bed of something else. I add a handful to whatever bait I am using and then rely on the fish looking for the little fruity red ones – works for me 😉

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