Loads of carpers read a bit about winter zigs but never really believe in it enough to give the method a committed try during the colder months.
Three years ago I fished zigs exclusively through an entire winter, and my results were conclusive enough that for the last three winters ALL I have fished has been zigs. It’s not a nothing is feeding last ditch resort for me, zigs have become my first choice tactic from November to March.
Compared with the fish caught on standard bottom rigs, I caught DOUBLE the numbers of carp the first winter on zigs compared with boilies and pop-ups. If it didn’t work I wouldn’t still be doing it. And if you aren’t, here’s why you should be…
In cold water carp come together, it might not be the entire stock of a lake, it might just be year classes of fish or it might be two or three distinct groups, but one thing is for sure, where you find one winter carp you will find plenty.
I’ve seen the Go Pro footage on Youtube where you can find dozens and dozens of carp just sat in a ball together, and there have been times I’ve used an echo sounder in the depths of winter and the readings tell me the same thing, carp are well off bottom and often really close together.
But finding them isn’t catching them, and the problem is that you might find 30 fish all tightly shoaled together but that doesn’t mean you are going to convince any of them to drop down and feed on something that is underneath them, no matter how attractive.
If you can present a hook bait in front of a carp’s nose, you can guarantee stacking the odds much more in your favour than fishing on the bottom. Something attractive, colourful and smelling and tasting good that is in front of a carp’s eyes is often enough to get it to open its mouth, a bait on the bottom is asking them to do a lot more for you.
Winter zigging is like lure fishing for carp. Anything buoyant that they might find attractive enough to move a few feet or a few yards to try and eat will catch you winter carp. The 10mm Instant Action pop-ups are great, Rainbow Pop-Ups give you lots of colour options, or try bright foam, or try Zig Bugs. All of them work.
I use Zig Bugs the most because I’ve got so much confidence in them but it’s not because of the natural food angle at this time of year – they aren’t looking for or finding any great abundance of natural food in the water column. But Zig Bugs give me an easy way of changing the colour of the hookbait, just snip one off and retie with purple, red, yellow, whatever. It’s hard to find conclusive patterns when you often get few winter bites anyway but colour can make a difference.
I rate black as the best of all in clearer water, and plenty of bugs have a lot of black on them, with flashes of colour that can also help.
The new Ziggaz and Ziggaz foams have stopped me being completely reliant on Bugs, they are another great way of changing colours instantly, just slip one foam out of the Ziggaz sleeve and change it for another. The duo tone finish means the coloured half of the Ziggaz Foam is always visible from above if a carp is looking down at it, the black half ensures it is always silhouetted against the surface if a carp is below.
Keeping eyes peeled for showing carp, and casting hookbaits at them is a big part of any cold water carping. The difference is that just because you see a carp show, it doesn’t mean your rig will be anywhere near it if you throw a bottom bait at it. The carp that just rolled could be sat six feet off bottom in 12 feet of water. Anywhere I see shows I cast zigs to and keep changing depths and hookbaits until hopefully I get a take.
Once the weather has become consistently cold, where the carp are is where the carp are. They will move at times, but it’s also likely they will spend long periods in the same area. Using Spot On Stix to measure and record the wraps to keep landing rigs amongst carp is really important, and using Spot On line marker for the same reason. Get a fix on where carp are showing, measure it in wraps, mark your line and then use the marker to explore a bit longer, shorter, and also left and right to try and really pin down where a group of carp might be sat.
One of the things I like most about winter zigging is that it’s a busy, active way to fish which stops me getting cold and also bored. Instead of putting a pop-up out on the bottom and leaving it for 12 hours, I try and recast zigs every 15 minutes in rotation, so I’m always doing something.
Often, the first FIVE minutes after a zig has been cast is often the very BEST time to get a bite, and after that I think the chances of action steadily drop off. Treat recasting zigs as like playing battleship.
Recasting and moving a bait just a few feet can put you right on the nose of a carp instead of several feet away, and a bait landing and settling can often prompt a carp to snap at it. You’re not going to unsettle carp that are half comatose, they have decided where they are comfortable and you aren’t going to convince them to move by casting amongst them.
Movement is another great edge when zigging, and tweaking a hookbait so it ‘bounces’ in the water and resettles has caught me loads of winter carp. With Zig Floats you can just tweak the main line regularly to twitch the hookbait around – I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had the line pulled out my fingers by a hooked carp when doing this. With fixed zigs lift the rod, and a half turn of the reel handle is enough to bounce the lead back along the bottom a few inches and also bounce the hookbait – which can induce a take almost like going piking!
Where do you start with the depth to present your winter zigs? The best starting point is half depth, but a major part of the approach is being prepared to change the depth you are fishing until you get a response from the carp.
The easiest way is using adjustable zigs with a Zig Float. Feed it to the surface and then adjust it back down using the reel spool while the rod is on the rests, measuring off how far sub-surface you are fishing. It’s the best method by far on waters where there are major depth changes, otherwise you are never entirely sure what depth you are catching at.
For venues or swims where the depth is fairly uniform you can use fixed zigs, and just lengthen or shorten links, making a note of the length of link that produces. Even six inches up or down can make a difference.
I’m a huge fan of booster liquids, because anything I can do to make a hookbait more attractive and a carp more likely to move towards it can only help me catch more – it’s never going to put them off or catch you less.
The Zig Juice sprays are brilliant, Nectar is my favourite and has caught me loads of winter carp sprayed on a Zig Bug. Keep an eye out for the new range of Nashbait Ace Card additives coming soon – dipping or soaking in Plasti-Soak and Tangleberry will catch a LOT of carp for people, either giving Zig Bugs a dunk or the Ziggaz foams or even pop-ups. This range of additives contains some of the very best liquids that have ever been sourced, and zigging with single baits is the perfect place to use some of them.