Scott Sweetman reveals his winning winter baiting tactics!

Winter can be a difficult time of year due to the long dark nights and the cold and wet weather, the fish are a lot less active, which makes them a lot harder to find and inevitably a lot harder to catch

This is why during the winter I tend to change my targets slightly - I try to look for lakes that have good winter form and that hold a few more fish than I would usually fish for, this gives me a better chance of getting some action through the colder months and keep getting out there and enjoying it even though the weather isn’t great.

For me, some of my most successful winter campaigns have come due to pre-baiting spots or areas of the lake. Pre-baiting during the colder months has lots of advantages, one being that the carp are a lot less active and they tend to group up, so if you can manage to get them feeding in a particular area of the lake there is a good chance that they will not move too far away from the baited spot and with a constant trickle of bait you can keep them feeding and, if all goes to plan, the bites will keep coming.

Another reason I like to concentrate and bait an area throughout the winter is because most of my fishing is done when getting to the lake after work, which inevitably means it will be dark, so if I have already found spots and baited prior to my trip this makes setting up in the dark a much easier task. It should only take a couple of cast to get fishing effectively by using the distance sticks, it also means I already know what swim I am heading to and I am a lot less likely to move than I normally would be during the spring and summer due to the long hours of darkness and carp less likely to be showing and moving around the lake. This means I can take that bit extra - clothes/ ground sheet and food - to make the cold sessions more enjoyable.

There are a few important factors when deciding where to bait, it’s not just as easy as throwing it in anywhere - you need to be sure the carp are finding the bait you are putting in. There are a few things I like to take into consideration when picking an area to bait.

If I can I try to find a slightly deeper spot or gully as I feel when the water temperatures drop the carp will head to the deeper water at the times I am fishing at night giving me the best chance of catching, If I was only doing day sessions I may look for sheltered shallower areas on bright sunny winter days the sun will warm them areas up first. Other things to look for when picking a spot is to try and find a bit of cover, be it a snag or marginal bushes - somewhere the carp don’t have to travel far to get a bit of sanctuary. Also an area that other anglers are not fishing, you do not want to be putting in all the prep work to turn up and find someone in the swim you want to be. Also, only ever bait up if it doesn’t affect another anglers fishing, One other thing to think about when baiting in the winter is to use small amounts of bait - the carp are a lot less likely to get through lots of bait, so I will try and judge how much to put in due to the amount of fish there are in the lake.

An example of when this worked for me was a couple of winters ago I fished a small, 4-6-acre lake with a fair few fish in, with the target of catching a few fish and also catching a winter 30. I spent the first few trips on the lake doing day sessions getting about the lake to get to know the place and keeping an eye on any fish movements and also where the other anglers where fishing,

After lot of watching I decided to opt for the end of a small channel off of the main lake, it was deep and sheltered from the wind, the thinking was that the water there might be a little more settled and comfortable for the carp and one other key factor was that it wasn’t getting fished. The spot was an underarm down my margin towards an overhanging bush, the lakebed had a gravel shelf away from me and dropped down in depth to hard silt behind, I was able to bait the spot quick and easy.

I baited with ¾ of a bucket of hemp and 3k of Sticky Baits Vortex boilies every couple of days, making sure that I left the last bait up at least twodays before fishing, I used a spod to underarm out the hemp and I was able to use as scoop to throw the boilies all over the area.

The rigs I went in with were fished rotary-style straight on the fluorocarbon mainline. I used supple hinge rigs, with 15lb N-trap and 25lb Mouth Trap to a size 6 Choddy hook,. I fished the pop-up section really short as I felt the area was getting cleaned off and I didn’t want anything to blatant down there.

The first night I fished on the spot after a weeks’ worth of baiting was in the middle of January, the swim was now really flooded so to get the right angle on the rods so I could fish both rods down the margin I had to set my rods up in the water where the swim was flooded. I set up camp right on the edge of the water with the waders ready to be jumped straight into should a bite occur.

That night the anticipation was building as I was certain they would have seen the bait, in the early hours I had a screaming run which resulted in me scrambling to get my waders on and get out to the rod. The result was a really nice scaly mid-20, which was a result as I knew the bait was getting eaten and that they were visiting the area during the night which was good as I was only doing overnighters. Another good sign by catching that carp was that it was passing the bait on the mat, which again just confirmed they had been eating the bait.

I re-baited when I left and continued to bait during the week. Friday came along again and I was racing down to the lake, two underarms later and I was fishing. The first take came within an hour of setting up and I continued to get bites right through the night, that night went on to produce six carp which included a couple of upper doubles, a recapture of a leather I had prior to the baiting, a couple of lovely mid to upper 20s and a corking 33lb 12oz mirror which was a January 30lber and a little winter target achieved. They had clearly got on the bait - to have six bites in a night in January was good going. I continued to keep the bait going in and was soon back down the lake after work on the Friday, that night produced another three carp one was a stunning 25lb linear and another mid-20 mirror,

That was the last trip of that winter but it was a really pleased with the action through a tough time of year as come February I like to get back onto my main target water. But I thoroughly enjoyed my winter, catching lots of carp in short overnight sessions. The time and effort baiting really helped that winter and I left full of confidence ready to tackle the much tougher tasks ahead.