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Cod are the main target species through the winter months and these top tips and advice on bait, rigs and venues will help you bag more fish!

Cod are greedy, fast growing fish that will eat just about anything they come across, including worms, crustaceans, brittle stars, herring, sprats, sandeels and squid. Larger cod tend to feed more on fish because they’re protein packed and help them grow; cod have even been known to swallow white plastic drinking cups! While cod may occasionally take a single worm or small bait, with their huge appetites and mouths to match it’s best to use big baits to get the best results. Big baits also put a better scent trail in the water for the fish

Reels And Line

For fishing over clean ground, a 6500-sized multiplier or 7000 to 8000-sized fixed-spool reel loaded with 12lb to 18lb line is all you need. Monofilament is best on multipliers but fixed-spool users can gain distance by using braided lines as they’re much thinner than mono of the same breaking strain. If casting from a beach, always use a shockleader with the rule of 10lb of breaking strain for every ounce you’re casting, so a 6oz lead will need a minimum 60lb shockleader for safety. Tactics for rough ground are different because casting distance isn’t as crucial as it is on a shallow, sandy beach. Fast-retrieve multipliers in the 7000 size loaded with 30lb to 40lb line will be needed to cope with abrasion and heavy hauling.

Rods

Cod inhabit and feed over many different types of ground, from shallow sand and shingle beaches to deep-water rock marks, so choose the right gear for the job. For clean ground, regular beachcasters that will cast 4oz to 6oz are fi ne but shallow beaches may need long casts of 100 metres or more on calm days. Fishing rough ground requires a more powerful rod with a stiffer tip to haul your rig and fish out of the gullies and kelp. When you get a bite you need to wind down, lowering the tip, then lift sharply and keep winding to keep your gear and fish above the snags.

Baits

The most common and most effective baits are lug, squid and crab, either on their own or in a cocktail of two or all three. White rag constitute a must-have bait for the match angler; a lug bait tipped with white rag can make the difference between a few fish or nothing. Whites are difficult to find and dig and very expensive if you can find somewhere that actually sells them. A whole squid can be a very effective bait for big fish but, due to their size and shape, they’re difficult to cast far. Other baits that work well in some local areas are blueys, mussels, razorfish and clams. If you can fish deep, clear water, pirks and soft pastic lures are a sporting way to catch cod. Livebaits are a very good tactic for sorting out the bigger fish; the rig will have a small hook baited with worm to tempt a small pout or whiting next to a big hook to catch the cod. This method calls for a lot of patience but uses very little bait; all you have to do is cast the rig out and wait until you see the rod tip rattle as a pout takes the worm. Ignore the little bites and leave the little fish out there until Mr Cod finds it, then you’ll see the rod tip slam over – make sure you have the drag backed off otherwise your rod could be dragged in.

Rigs

One of the best rigs for cod over clean ground is a clipped-down rig, either with a single hook or Pennel rigged hooks. Because the clipped-down bait is streamlined, it’ll cast further and protect the bait when it hits the sea. Pulley rigs are best for rough-ground codding because the weight of the fish will lift the lead clear of any snags.

Hooks

It’s pretty simple to choose the right hook because big baits and big mouths require big hooks, so sizes 2/0 to 4/0 are good sizes for codling but if you’re using big cocktail baits then go for 6/0 to 8/0; basically match the hook to the size of the bait you’re using. Also, thick-wire hooks can be an advantage because, although cod are big and powerful, they do have fairly soft mouths that can tear if the wire is thin and you pull too hard. Another reason to use good-quality, strong hooks is when you’re trying to land a good fish; fine wire hooks are okay for codling but will straighten out if you’re trying to pull a bigger fish through the backwash.

Time and Tides

Local knowledge can make the difference between fish on the beach and a blank session, so do your homework to find out whether the fish feed over the low tide or high tide for best results. Night fishing will usually produce more fish when they move closer to the shore to feed, but in rough, windy conditions when the sea is heavily coloured, good catches can be made during the day. Cod fishing can be best just after a few days of strong onshore winds that have stirred up the sea bed and washed out worms and shellfish, providing an easy feed.

Terrain

The best place to find the fish is on or near features. This could be a worm bed, a gulley scoured out by the current or boulders and rough ground. These features will either trap food that is being carried by the current or offer somewhere to hide for shrimps, crabs or little fish. The cod will know this and regularly hunt for food, in a similar way to us knowing where the café is for breakfast.