Winter Cod baits is definitely a question anglers ask when their thoughts turn to the winter Cod run. Do we really need to change the baits we use when targeting Cod. There is no way surefire way of knowing but some anglers swear by the different baits or cocktails they use in winter.
Cart is a good example of a Winter Cod bait. Cart is a bait which continues to gain popularity and is seen as the killer Cod bait. This is basically the innards of the edible crab and is used widely across the North East coast but it is now popular around the entire UK coast.
Is it just a fad? A newish style of bait that passes with word of mouth as the one to use. Anglers will try anything to try and increase their catches but there are just too many variables to know for sure.
What we do know is that fish will follow a scent trail to a food source, same as a shark to a chum bag. If we are lucky they will just happen upon a bait, we don’t want luck as anglers we want results. The effort, time and often money invested needs to pay its dividend…hopefully.
In theory and practice cart as a bait should and does work as an effective attractant. It basically has the same/similar scent trail as the prey Cod are likely to feed on in Winter. Winter or Summer? They will eat crab year round as opportunist predators so its already a known food source.
By removing the exoskeleton of the crab we are taking away the scent barrier. The moist insides of the crab cart will release its scent over time and draw fish in. Just like a skipper may tell you to change baits often as it becomes washed out over time. The same principle applies to all baits to varying degrees, fish do have a fantastic sense of smell regardless. They will find your bait even if it is washed out so changing out bait on a regular basis can only help.
Large baits will have a bigger initial release particularly fish and crab, with a more stable scent trail. Worm baits due to their nature can be washed out quite quickly but will still give off a small scent trail. The saying is big baits, big fish. Certainly it can only help when using a bigger attractor to help fish home in on your hook bait.
I don’t take a lot of fish, only what I know I will use for bait or the table. I always check the stomach of Codling to see what they have been feeding on. On numerous occasions I have had a peek and there will be only hardback crabs. Nothing else, incidentally all of these have been taken from around the mouth of the river Mersey during Winter. All fish are opportunistic feeders and will feed on whatever they come across, we just need to help them find our offerings.
Winter Cod Baits work well as yin and yang – cocktails. A mixture of two baits with different scent releases. Worm baits with Mackerel or Bluey to create bigger, bulkier offerings work really well from experience. It really is all about helping fish home in on your bait.
When fishing I sometimes try little experiments to see how they pan out, sometimes to the detriment of my sessions. Intentionally or not I’ve caught Thornback Rays in summer and Cod in Winter upto 4lb on tiny 1.5 inch sections of Lugworm.
Why am I mentioning this after advocating big winter Cod baits? Sometimes the fish just don’t shoal in for various reasons. Other sessions they can appear in numbers. How many times do you see a great report from a venue to see it drop off on the following tide. Having a big bait can only help increase your chances whatever the circumstances.
OK, so this not a Cod story but one of a brave whiting, fighting against all odds. Well, not exactly. Basically I want to highlight in the best way I can how important using scent is to help fish find food.
Its Winter, its night time, I’m using a tiny piece of Lug as bait and I caught a perfectly healthy looking but blind Whiting.
I witnessed 6 anglers fishing a closed match and all but one were doing well. They were all using blow Lug and Mackerel except the guy who left his Mackerel in the car. To keep in the game he made the 15 minute walk back to the car. Its the little things that can make all the difference.
Winter or Summer, stick with decent sized baits and change regularly particularly if using worm unless you have it bulked. You are swapping your bigger summer species for the winter Cod is how I look at it. If the fish are there you can only try to stack the odds in your favour. Try to take a few different kinds of bait too as simply changing bait type can increase catches.
I don’t believe there is a magical winter Cod bait but there’s definitely a few things you can do to try and increase your catches.