Scott Sweetman - Head Start

Starting a new campaign in the Winter isn’t for the faint hearted. The harsh conditions and long hours of darkness are just a couple of factors that make a lot of anglers hang the rods up until Spring. However, making the effort and taking advantage of the quieter banks can give you a big edge when the carp do start to wake up…

I often find myself starting a new campaign in the Winter. Syndicate tickets are hard to come by these days, and a winter ticket can be the only way in for a full ticket the following season. It’s not ideal starting a campaign in the colder months, but with the banks quiet, it can be the perfect time to build up all the information needed for when things start waking up. And there’s always a chance of a bite!

There are a few things I do in preparation for a new campaign. One of them is to look at Google Earth Pro. I look through the historical images of the lake to get an idea of the topography, so before I arrive, I have a rough idea of depths and if there are any likely looking features to explore.

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Once at the lake, I will have a good look around. Locating carp is without doubt the single most important part of my fishing. I do this by looking as hard as I can each trip, whether that’s searching the snaggy zones, climbing trees to see if the carp are high in the water, or just watching the open water from different vantage points. Regardless of the weather, I am always trying to spend as much time at the front of the swim looking. Any signs can be so significant, especially in the winter.

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Locating carp is without doubt the single most important part of my fishing.

Fishing for liners is another great way of locating carp. If lake rules allow, I will use Subraid as my mainline. Braid has no stretch, so if anything does come into contact with your mainline, you will receive liners. When learning a new lake, I try to fish in different swims at  varied ranges, often with a semi-slack line. If I do receive liners, I will then bring a rod in closer with the hope of pinning down the exact location the carp are holding up. This has really paid off for me on multiple occasions over years, often finding them where I’d least expect to!

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This has really paid off for me on multiple occasions over years, often finding them where I’d least expect to!

Whilst starting a campaign in the Winter, I will also have half a mind on the Spring. What I mean by this is, I will spend time on each trip having a lead around, getting wraps for different spots etc. I am always hopeful to catch on my trips, but I would say just as much effort goes into building a picture of the lake.
There are a few features that are always worth investigating. Snags are a great place to start, especially if they have a decent depth of water around them and receive a lot of sunlight. Dying weed beds and lily pads are other features worth investigating, anything that gives them a bit of cover.
Reed beds are a great feature at the back end of Winter going into early Spring. Reed stems hold a lot of warmth from the sun, making them a magnet for the carp.

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Other features and spots that I find, and feel could be feeding zones, will be logged down in the notes on my phone. I will also take pictures of the tree line horizon in the swims I plan to target, so I can easily pinpoint the spots further down the line when I think the times right.

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During the colder months, I use very little bait. I have a lot of confidence fishing single hook baits or stringers, so getting on the fish is my main focus. My rigs don’t change much throughout the seasons, but I will play around with different hookbaits, often opting for a bright single over a food bait that I favour in the warmer months.

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That said, I have had very productive Winters when I have located the carp early, and regularly introduced bait. It’s amazing what they can still get through in the winter if you keep feeding them, but the key is regular baiting. Making the effort to get down every 3 days if possible, will keep them active. Read the situation based on how many bites you’re getting, and if you feel the bait has been eaten when you come to fish. This is lake and stock dependant, but if you are getting regular bites, keeping the bait going in can really transform your Winter.

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Keeping an eye on the weather is vitally important in the Winter. For example, if we have sustained periods of mild weather with big winds and rain, I will be doing my best to get a night in, but only once I feel the weather has had a positive effect on warming the lakes temperature. I have made the mistake in the past, seeing warm weather coming, and booking time off straight away. Learning from this, I now try and time my trips when I feel there has been enough time for things to kick in, and when I feel the best chance of a bite is.

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I have made the mistake in the past, seeing warm weather coming, and booking time off straight away.

A recent Winter result, taken during a spell of mild weather.

Having the right kit and being comfortable can really make a difference to your fishing. It can be tough to keep pushing on in the cold, but staying warm and dry will make a huge difference and keep you on the ball. I’m a brolly user for the majority of the year, but during the colder months I will use a bivvy for that bit of extra coverage. A decent sleeping bag with a waterproof bedchair cover is also a must for me. Having the right clothing is essential too. Drykore Waterproofs, Polar Kombat’s and Salopettes, Thermal Base Layers and Waterproof Socks are all great bits of kit that I highly recommend.

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To summarise, putting the extra effort in over the Winter will really give you a head start over other anglers come Spring. All the groundwork is done, you will be in tune with the carp’s behaviour and can get fishing on good spots with minimal disturbance.

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