Harsh winter but glory in spring. Winter is definitely my favourite time of year when it comes to catching carp as the fish are at their biggest weight. They’re in peak condition and there are the beautiful sunsets and a lot fewer anglers on the bank, unlike your summer scenario when most swims are taken and it’s a case of dropping into any free swim even if you’re not truly happy.

I like to get down at first light when the birds are just singing and there’s still a mist rising off the water. “oh and of course lets not forget a hot cup of coffee in hand on my stroll around the lake”. My first task is to locate the fish if possible but it’s not always that easy when it comes to winter. And if I see no signs of fish I’ll usually set up in the middle of the lake where I have a good view of the water keeping a close eye out for any signs and I’ll be ready to move on to them if needs be.

After having an exceptionally good Spring and Summer through to Autumn on my new syndicate water I was coming off a difficult winter pretty much fish less so I decided to start pre-baiting ready for early spring. Now, of course, it was still very cold and wet with mud everywhere so there still weren’t many anglers coming down and opted for a pre bait campaign on several spots without any prying eyes.

Now having a full-time job as a carpenter and family commitments it’s not easy pre-baiting your target water especially if u don’t live near it. I live 45 minutes away from mine so as much as I would love to go there two or three times a week I could only commit once a week or twice where possible. I started pre-baiting mid-February as I had just booked three days off work starting March the 5th for three nights to go fishing. Now the first thing I’ll do is make up some bait. I start with one of my favourite boilies to use the VNF from Xcelbaits. I put about 2kg in a bucket followed by 2 litres of water then add some of their VNF bait soak with its super sweet aroma and highly digestible values. It’s perfect for the cold water temperatures. I use about half a bottle each bucket of bait I make and I’ll let this soak for a couple of days knowing this will allow the boilies to soak up all flavours and make them softer so I can mash them up a little. ( I will explain this further in a moment ) When getting to the lake to pre bait I will add two big spoons of hemp using my baiting spoon and a couple of tins of the supermarket’s finest sweetcorn. I add both these when down the lake as I like to keep them as fresh as I possibly can.

People sometimes over complicate things when it comes to pre-baiting. I keep it simple and easy and I have found it to be deadly in the past. Now I mentioned before that I like to mush up my boilies and this is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it keeps my bait on a nice tight baited area when spodding it out. I don’t like my bait all over the place so being accurate is key in my eyes and it also makes it just that little bit harder for birds to pick them up and clear your baited spot.

I had just got down to the second gate for my first pre-baiting session and even when I’m not fishing I always have this butterfly feeling in my stomach hoping nobody is there. As I drive up the last hill keeping my eyes looking straight ahead I see nobody in the deserted car park once again and I prefer it this way as I can pre bait without any other anglers watching. I got my bait in hand and my trusty spod\marker rod out clipping up on my 3oz lead ready for me to find some good gravel spots to pre bait up and present a bait on when I’m due to be fishing next. After about 50 minutes I had found some spots I was happy with. The two other spots I found were tight in the margins so I used my baiting spoon to pre bait these areas as it was easy.

I repeated this for just over three weeks Keeping my same routine on the same days at the same times to the exact three spots I had found on my previous adventure. The only thing I did differently was managing to get down an extra day one week the night before I was planning to go fishing and put in some more bait.

I set my alarm for 5 am knowing I wasn’t going to sleep that night and was filled with excitement hoping my hard work will pay off. I tucked myself into bed and shut my eyes to wake up at 4.31 am, grabbed a shower and made a coffee before jumping into my van for my adventure. I got down to the lake and was surprised that my first choice swim I had been pre-baiting was taken but that’s angling I suppose so decided to set up in the very last swim where I had been pre-baiting the margins and a deep spot in open water. I set up all 3 rods using my favourite D-rig and places my VNF wafters from Xcelbaits on each. I got all 3 rods bang on the spots and knew it was time to grab myself a warm drink and relax. As the hours passed and not a sign of a fish I were starting to think I could have made a wrong decision. But feeling confident in my angling and was still hoping for that one bite that could happen. 11 pm and I decided to get into the bag to wake up the next day to motionless bobbins and decided to move to my second pre-baited area. I set up again keeping the exact same tactics that I am confident in with all 3 rods out on the spots again. so sat back and just dreamt for that one toner that we all love to hear. It was about 3 pm so I decided to cook some dinner (fajitas being my favourite) And had checked my weather app and noticed that the wind was changing the next morning from north to south and the pressure was dropping to about 1002 hpa.

As I woke up on my second morning feeling refreshed from a good night’s sleep I just knew I wasn’t on the fish so I reeled in my rods, grabbed my bucket and set off for a walk around the lake. As I got round to my first choice swim I had been pre-baiting previously I noticed it had become free and I watched the water and within 15 minutes I see a fish rolling on my pre-baited area. I dropped my bucket and jogged back to my swim to pack up and make the 3rd move of the trip. As I wheeled my gear around to the new swim I was sweating buckets and feeling full of confidence after seeing a fish.

I dropped my rucksack down and took a big deep breath and said to myself “this is it I hope” I tied up fresh rigs with fresh wafters on and got them all out to the intended spots. After about 3 hours I sat on my bed and decided to buy some more fishing gear I didn’t need then out of the blue that one toner we all love to hear. I jumped up and my phone flew across the grass as I was now connected up with a good fish.

After about a minute I knew it was a big fish as it was weighty and moving very slowly towards some snags. After about a 15 minute battle I had scooped her in my net. I was shaking as I took a look at my prize and I knew what fish it was. I called my friend Dale Glover who was also fishing but in another area of the lake and said “can you come here I think I have a 40lb+ in the net and take some photos” Dale came straight over and together we weighed the beast that went to 44lb. I was so excited and I could also tell Dale was too as we took the photos and slipped her back in the water. A memory of Dale saying to himself out loud “ I’ll see you soon” as we shared a great memory that day and one that I’ll never forget. Dave Bell.

Xcel Baits

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