Winter seems to be that time of year when most anglers pack away their fishing gear and start cleaning their rifles. It is the start of hunting season in South Africa which means that the bushveld and plains are going to be a lot busier than the waters. Even though hunting is a huge passion of mine, winter is also my preferred time of the year to be at the water’s edge. There are a number of obvious reasons for this, which include fewer anglers, boats and bank side noise.The winter weather also remains pretty constant, except for a few cold fronts that pass through every now and again which can mess it up a bit, especially planned sessions.
Winter is also the time to bring out the boilies, especially the fishmeal based big carp catchers. South Africa’s healthy barbel population makes it almost impossible to try out your favourite boilie, especially on our bigger waters up north. Even in winter one can be plagued by barbel in our warmer regions as it doesn’t get cold enough to make them disappear, which is why tiger nuts become the preferred bait on these waters. There is no doubt in my mind that carp will pick up a boilie if he gets to it first, but I believe the barbel population far exceeds that of the carp, so basically it’s about all who gets to the bait first. Many years ago when I used a hair rig for the first time it was up a Klaserie Dam and my chosen hook bait was an almond flavoured boilie, which put a 16kg mirror on the bank and started my passion for big carp fishing. I’m sure it was the first time a boilie was used at the dam, and even though the line laid for a few days, it produced the biggest carp a had ever seen. The method was simple, one boilie on the hair and about five boilies pushed into the mieliebom.
Big carp have very strong teeth like molars situated deep in the back of their throats which are capable of crushing mussels, crabs and freshwater shrimps. They also feed on smaller fish and water insects, in fact they can and will eat just about anything. Big carp success in Europe is due to the simple fact that boilies can be made in accordance to the natural food that carp feed on in various waters, and at certain times of the year. Big baits catch big fish which means bigger boilies can be rolled and used with confidence knowing that when that alarm sounds, you’re into a big one. Three 30 or 40mm boilies rigged up onto a long hair is quite a common practice on those big ‘wild’ European waters. Boilies have accounted for many big carp in South Africa as well, but mainly in our local municipal dams where the ever present barbel don’t seem to be too much of a nuisance.
The summer months a fruity boilie can be quite effective, but again only on a hand full of waters. The fruity flavoured boilies generally also account for the smaller carp, which I think mainly has to do with the different flavours used by conventional anglers during the warmer months. Fishmeal based natural coloured boilies, which are normally different shades of brown, are used by most big carp boilie anglers. I know of chaps that add a fruity flavour to their fishmeal based boilie and have incredible results with this combination. The trick is to get the flavour balanced almost perfectly so that the fruit and fish complement each other. In other words, the fruit must not overpower the smell of the fish, and vice versa. To give you an example; pineapple is a very strong flavoured fruit, so you will need to match it with a shrimp or mussel flavour to have them work well together. If you do not roll your own boilies, then simply select a fishmeal boilie as your bottom bait, and then snowman it with a fruity smaller sized pop up. This is a combination I have used on many occasions and it has put a couple of big ones on the bank.
This winter I plan to fish a couple of waters with boilies and my strategy is going to be quite simple, and you are welcome to try it on one of your lines to see if it works for you. Please share your experiences with us to see if it helped, or perhaps if you tweaked it a little to make it work for you.
When I plan a session I will walk through the shop and have a good look at the different boilies on the shelf. My mind then starts working overtime to select the right flavour to use at my chosen venue. Once the selection is made, usually 15mm bottom baits and 10mm pop ups for the snowman presentation. The bottom baits are put into a bucket, about 2 or 3 kilos, and then I will empty out a bottle of oil with the same flavour over the boilies and shake the bucket around to coat all the boilies with the oil. At every opportunity I get, the bucket will be shaken around to ensure that the boilies are absorbing as much of the oil as possible. I’m not a big feeder and I believe the carp eat a lot less in the winter, also the reason for my boilie size choice. When those oily boilies are introduced into your chosen venue, you will have a small amount of bait slowly releasing just enough attractant to drawn those big ones closer to your hook bait without over feeding them. The pop ups I use come with a small bottle of flavour booster, so after I have drilled a hole through the pop up, I simply drop in a drop or two of the booster down the hole before it goes onto the hair. This will give you a slow leakage affect out of your fruity pop up to add to the slow leak from the oiled fishmeal boilie.