Winter Changes - Andy Bennett

Now the winter is setting in, it’s time to start thinking about scaling everything down. This includes your feed, hooks, line and float sizes; all these combined will get you extra bites on those cold, harsh days.

I’ve been fortunate to win my last three matches by following these simple steps. I’ve also managed to frame in my previous six matches, which has given me a healthy 24-point lead in the Matchman Of The Year table.

There's a few key things I look for in winter, the first being the different lines to fish. At this time of the year the water is very clear, which means that the fish need a certain amount of water above their heads to feel safe. With this in mind, I never fish in less than 2.5ft when fishing a typical canal-style lake, which is where most of my fishing is done through the colder months.

I will keep my options open and I always have a number of lines in 2ft 6in - 3ft 6in. This is the depth I'll be looking for, as I know the fish will feel safe there. I will then have a positive line in the deep water, which I always like to feed maggots over, as there’s no selective species I’d be targeting and because they fall very slowly, they offer a lot of attraction falling through the swim.

When fishing across to the far side I normally bait with a mixture of pellets, maggots and corn, which can all work, but this varies from venue to venue.

Never ignore the margins, if you stick to the simple rule of finding that killer depth, you can catch a lot of fish from the margins in the coldest of conditions. Once you’re fishing in the right areas of your peg, then all you have to worry about is your presentation and feeding.

How much to feed is the million-dollar question, as every peg will have a different number of fish in it. So, the main thing is to take it easy, but don't be scared to feed more if they respond to it, don't just feed, say, ten pellets every chuck in because it worked first hour of the match. Rig wise I always fish 0.15mm main line. Now, this might sound heavy, but it has its advantages because its stiffer than say 0.12mm, and I believe it falls that little bit slower and keeps the rig a little bit straighter when falling too. Because it’s stiffer, it also helps with tangles and makes the whole rig that bit more robust too. The 0.15mm N-Gauge is perfect for this, as you can still get small shot on the line and because of its suppleness, when attaching your hook length loop-to-loop, it forms a nice tidy knot, unlike some lines. This is why a lot of people step down to finer lines, making their rigs weaker.

Hook length choice is simple while there are still some bonus carp to be caught. I fish 0.11mm N-Gauge to either size-18 or 20 LWGs for pellets and double-maggot or corn, then, for single maggot, I step down to a B510, which is a slightly narrower gape hook. Once the bonus fish disappear, I'll step down to Daiwa 0.10mm Matchwinner, but I never drop below 0.10mm, as I’ve lost too many big fish in the past fishing really light, so I want to give myself a chance of landing these.

All this is pointless if your elastic isn't balanced though, so for now I use pink Hydro, but will step down to yellow when it gets really cold and they stop fighting. One last thing to mention is floats. Make sure you dot them to a pimple, as the amount of bites you will get where the float almost wobbles or dips slightly can lead not only to some of the bigger fish, but it makes you strike at bites you would otherwise wait for to develop and, believe me, they won't, as the fish will spit the bait out at the first sign of resistance.

Tight lines Andy Bennett