There are many contradictory opinions about particles in winter, with some pundits saying they are a big no-no and others telling you they are better by far than a boiled-baits approach! In fact both are effective and while boilies may rule the roost on one water, particles may be dominant on another. And of course, there will certainly be waters where BOTH boilies and particles work well in the colder months.
Now as we move into the winter we can more or less guarantee that the hardest carp fishing period of the year is fast approaching and you need everything to work in your favour if you want to be successful. So what do you ask of a winter particle bait? Well, this may stand you in good stead
1) It must smell good.
2) It should be as fresh as possible
3) It should be easy to ferment (where applicable)
4) It should have a reasonable level of nutrition.
5) It should be cheap, but not nasty!
Let’s go through these
For the most part untreated particles don’t have much smell to them, at least from a human standpoint. Flavouring particles is the obvious solution but on the pressure waters you should ask yourself if the use of artificial flavours to add smell/taste to particles might not be a cause for suspicion of the bait by the carp. It is also possible that commercial flavours, especially those at the lower end of the price scale, may actually mask the natural attraction of particle baits. For instance, if you are using seed blends such as partimix I do not recommend using flavours because the blend has a wonderful delicate and unique smell all of its own and carp find that particularly attractive. Therefore be aware that in some cases flavours will only mask the natural attraction to the detriment of the bait itself.
I think this aspect of a particle bait is largely ignored, as most anglers appear indifferent to the look, shape or colour or otherwise of their particle baits. In winter the lake water is generally clearer, and while carp are not primarily vision feeders, they are curious creatures and will investigate a bright bait carpet. For instance, a big carpet of the multi-purpose particle will stand out prominently against any light coloured lakebed, while bright coloured blends will do a similar job on darker ones. In fact red is one of the best winter colours but don’t forget the other bright colours such as orange and yellow.
Some particles work well when they are fermenting, however, recent experiment has shown that this is not universally the case. Seed baits such as hemp seed, Maples, Tares are best served fresh as a daisy. The same applies to tiger nuts. One of the best winter baits around. Try mixing prepared nuts with a small amount of particle. This gives the best of both worlds, as the resulting bait carpet will be both nutritious and highly visible.
You can encourage the fermentation process by using heat. The standard method of preparation for most particles is to soak them overnight then boil them for 15-30 minutes. This is usually sufficient to start the fermentation process off. Some particles should be drained of water to encourage the process.
Most people think that particles are pretty low in nutritional terms. I suppose they are if you compare them to a top class fishmeal or HNV boilie, however, pulses, seeds and cereals are full of protein and other important nutrients and have the advantage over some other types of baits in that they are easily digested. The seed blends are also pretty nutritious so you can still give the fish a decent feed in winter without having to cough up a fortune.
Blends such as partimix or a combination of seeds and pulses fulfill all the important criteria in that they are visual, small good, ferment quickly, are reasonably nutritious and they cost pennies compared to boiled baits. If you are on a budget this winter give particles a try they may just be the edge your looking for.
So to sum up, just about any blend of seeds or mixes and blends will be great for winter fishing, as they are invariably nutritious and easily digestible and will almost certainly fool ultra cautious carp. The wide range of shapes, sizes and aromas produced by a carpet of say, a partimix, creates confident feeding on the bait carpet and a particle or boilie hookbait fished over the top is almost certain to produce a positive response. The addition of particle and the addition of salt, chilli flakes or sweeteners after boiling will give the bait an added boost in winter.
Of late the consensus has swung in favour or using particles in winter.
Tiger nuts were once thought to only work at their best when they were fermented (covered in slime!). Nowadays many of the top anglers have found that in fact they are more effective when used as fresh as possible.
So to sum up, the use of particle and nuts in winter can really be the answer to your question, try a winter campaign of particle if not tried before, see for yourself, but never forget to purchase particle and nuts from a reputable company, ensuring fish welfare is paramount and at the very top of your list.
If particle is not for you at the end of your campaign, then you are sure not to have spent furtunes trying.