Catch More Carp this Winter on Maggots

At this time of year, when the nights get longer and colder and the water temperature starts to plummet you really do need to think about switching over from pellets to more natural baits such as maggots. 

Steady trickle

Pellets although fantastic in the summer become less effective in cold water and difficult for the fish to digest and pass so introducing too many can be detrimental as they will simply lay in your swim and spook the fish. Maggots however, fed on a little-and-often basis will attract all fish, not just carp into your swim and if any do find themselves wriggling around on the bottom will soon bury within the lake bed, so by keeping a steady trickle falling through the water column will soon activate your swim and produce lots of bites.


Feeding tactics

I prefer fresh red maggots in the winter, as opposed to whites in summer and for a five hour match/session would take at least three pints. Feeding these really does depend on the weather conditions and how many fish you have in the swim as on some days feeding a few through a pot and concentrating the feeding zone to a tight area can be best, yet on others catapulting a wider spread will work. A good winter tactic is to start a session on the feeder, hopefully pick up a couple of early carp whilst feeding maggots accurately on the pole line. I usually start by catapulting maggots, which will drag a few fish in from further afield before concentrating my feed more accurately with a small feed pot as the session progresses. 

Working it out

For today’s practice session I’ve come to Tyler’s Common in Essex which is a typical carp dominated commercial where matches are held on a regular basis, and have chosen to fish Willow Lake which is stuffed full of carp in the 2-5lb bracket. As it’s a practice session I’m not going to cast a feeder rod out as I need to work out just how quick I can get the 13m pole line working as this will give me a good idea when best to switch in the next match.

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Keeping it steady

The rig I’m using is simply a 4×10 float shotted with a bulk of three No10’s around eighteen inches from the hook along with two No11 droppers. Mainline is Cenex 0.16mm Hybrid Power Mono connected to a short 0.12mm Hybrid Power hook length which has a Sphere size 18 hook finishing the rig off.  As it’s really windy I have chosen to add two tiny back shot above the float, spread out and not too close to the tip of the float as this will allow me to hold the float in position and up in the water in the gusty wind. As for elastic I’ve scaled this back to balance up with the delicate rig and have chosen Stretch 7 yellow. This works perfectly with my Sphere Zero-G PT+ pole and by adding a Flat Butt Pole Protector helps even more in keeping the pole steady in the high wind. 

Laying it in

The wind is really gusty, cold and strong today so I have chosen a swim, one that I have never fished before with the wind off my back. It’s really shallow, just two and a half feet at 13m so I’m guessing that the fish will be reluctant to come really close in, in fact I might have to venture even further out. It’s important to keep lifting and laying the rig out so that the bait slowly falls through the water mimicking the freebies that I’m catapulting in every thirty seconds or so. It’s taken around fifteen minutes to start getting bites, albeit from silver fish and a further fifteen to connect with the first carp but the constant firing of half a dozen maggots is working its magic. Ninety minutes in and it’s a carp a cast proving that when the water cools down feeding little and often is the key in unlocking a swim. 

Get on the maggot

There are lots of other anglers around the lake, most are using two rods, alarms and probably boilies or pellets and in the whole of my four hour session I haven’t seen another fish caught! Time to get on the maggots I think!

Loss of concentration

One thing I did notice and wasn’t surprised at was the owner bought me down a cup of coffee around two hours in and having had a brief chat and not fed during this period the fish had drifted off taking a good fifteen minutes to get them back and feeding confidently. 

Positive routine

Although today hasn’t been under match conditions I’m guessing that I could have put together a really big weight if it was a match, proof that by getting into a routine, feeding small amounts of bait on a regular basis and having faith that the fish will turn up is so important if you want to get the best from every session. 

 Alex Reynolds

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Alex’s Tackle

Sphere Zero-G PT+

Sphere Flat Butt Pole Protector

Stretch 7 Yellow Elastic

Cenex 0.12mm/0.16mm Hybrid Power Mono

4×10 Float

No10/11 Shot

Size 18 Sphere Barbless Hook


Alex’s Bait

Red maggots

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