Are you plagued by nuisance small fish when targeting specimen barbel? The answer is simple – use a supersized hookbait!
So says successful specialist angler Luke Ayling, from Oxfordshire. Luke has been making the headlines in recent months with the capture of some huge barbel, including a new River Thame record of 16lb 7oz which he followed up with a 16lb 12oz fish from the River Thames. Both fell to massive baits.
Angling Times met up with the Lone Angler-sponsored man to lift the lid on the special homemade golf ball-sized hookbaits that helped him net these stunning catches.
“I originally started using bigger-than-average baits on the hook because of time constraints,” he said. “I often go fishing straight after working a shift instead of going home to bed, so I need to get some sleep in my bivvy. I use baits that won’t be eaten by anythimg small – I don’t want to be woken up unless it’s by a specimen! By using a giant hookbait I knew I wouldn’t be pestered by small fish so I could sleep on the bank, knowing that when I did get a take it would be from the species I was after.”
Luckily for Luke his plan proved to be a masterstroke as he began to bank some big barbel on stretches that held very few of the species. From then on he didn’t look back.
“I now use the technique on a lot of my sessions, particularly in winter in places where there are a lot of chub and other smaller unwanted fish like bream. When rivers are up and coloured, as any specimen angler will tell you, a big smelly bait is easier for barbel to find,” he said.
Unfortunately, hookbaits of this size aren’t readily available in tackle shops, but Luke says making your own is far simpler and much less expensive than you might think.
“It’s basically just a homemade boilie wrapped in homemade paste, but the great thing is you only need to make one mix up. I do this using just a boilie base mix, a couple of eggs, flavouring and a little gloop to make it sticky.
“Once I’ve rolled the boilies I leave them to dry and go hard for a week or so, but you can boil and use them straight away, and any leftover mix can be used as paste to feed or wrap round the hookbait,” he said.
Luke stressed that you can make your hookbaits as big as you want and shape them how you wish to suit your venue or tastes, but his feeding regime is similar to a standard barbel fishing approach: “The idea is to make sure your hookbait is the biggest one in the river for fish to pick out so I don’t feed heavily – I just use a standard PVA stick on my rig.”
Luke fills a PVA bag with Lone Angler Ocean Pride groundbait and crushed pellets and threads it down his short 1ft hooklength so it stays where it’s supposed to.
“Many anglers clip their bags to their leads or on to the hook, but they can come off and trundle downstream. By threading it on, the bag stays where I want it” he added.
As an added incentive, Luke also likes to flick out a few loose offerings of 15mm Lone Angler boilies with his catapult, but it’s important not to feed too much. “In winter you only need a few offerings to get them feeding,” he stressed. “The PVA bag of pellets and groundbait is merely an attractor to help the fish find your hookbait. It doesn’t offer much in the way of feed.”
HOW TO MAKE THE PASTE BASE MIX
1. Everything you need to supersize your baits.
2. First, break a fresh egg into a clean bait box.
3. Add one teaspoon of Ocean Pride Glupe sticky attractant.
4. Use a syringe to add 1ml of Ocean Pride liquid flavouring.
5. Mix everything together with a spoon.
6. Add some boilie base mix – a handful should be enough.
7. Mix again so that everything is properly blended.
8. Knead the mix into a ball with a dough-like consistency.
9. The finished mix all ready to make the supersized boilies and paste.
HOW TO MAKE LUKE'S SUPERSIZED BOILIES
1. Once you’ve made the paste, roll it into balls. Luke likes oversized 26mm baits.
2. Now drop them into boiling water for two minutes to harden them.
3. Drain, cool, and thread them on to a hair rig. Or leave to dry for some time.
4. Finally, use the remaining base mix to enlarge the bait around the boilie.
5. Thread a PVA bag containing groundbait and crushed pellets securely on to your hooklink.
Fishing is all about the choices you make. There are many variables, but in carping one of the key decisions is whether to present your hookbait on the bottom or just above it.
All rigs can tangle or get caught on detritus as the lead plummets through the water, but the buoyancy of a pop-up bait is much more likely to suspend your hook away from such problems. The distance between the lakebed and the bait can be infinitely tweaked, but do wise carp find a ‘hovering boilie’ suspicous?
TO BLEND IN OR STAND OUT?
The problem with pop-ups is that every single one of them is attached to a hook. Your free offerings cannot be suspended off the bottom like the hookbait and some anglers believe this means they stand out like a sore thumb. Conversely, standing out like this can be an advantage as carp home in on an eye-catching offering.
EASE OF USE
The rigs used to present baits off the lakebed needn’t be dauntingly complicated, but they do require a bit of thought. The weight needed to anchor the bait (either with putty, a split shot or sinker) is a consideration, and popular rigs like the chod and hinged stiff rig require concentration and practice to make perfect.
A tub of pop-ups isn’t cheap, but who said all suspended rigs need to be made with boilies? Plastic baits like imitation corn are wonderful carp catchers and will last for session after session, fish after fish. Pop-up boilies are also generally much more durable than feed baits, meaning they can live in your rucksack for years.
The vast majority of loosefeed you introduce into the water will collect on the bottom, and with their tough lips and underslung mouths, carp are also used to foraging for natural grub down here. But rig-obstructing debris also gathers on the lakebed, so bottom baits are best suited to clear areas where you know nothing will foul your hook.
TO BLEND IN OR STAND OUT?
It’s far harder for a carp to differentiate between a free meal and a boilie attached to a rig if both baits look and act the same. Shop-bought pop-ups cannot, and often do not, attempt to match the sinking boilies you pluck from a bag. With a bottom bait, this potential problem is eliminated and the carp has a far harder choice to make.
EASE OF USE
Bottom-bait rigs are generally simple. We’re lucky to sit here in 2014 with access to the knowledge gained by the pioneering anglers of years gone by. We know that anything mounted on a hair rig is very capable of catching fish. Bottom-bait rigs can be tied in seconds with supple or stiff materials, but they all work.
It might be tempting to think popped-up baits are simple, and buoyant shop-bought boilies certainly are, but carp fishing isn’t all about these hardened spheres. If you want to fish tiger nuts, sweetcorn or pellets then presenting them on the bottom is by far and away the easiest way to do so quickly and effectively.
THE NEXT LEVEL: WAFTERS AND CRITICALLY BALANCED BAITS
What do you get if you cross a sinking bait with a buoyant one? A snowman.
No, we haven’t muddled up our Christmas-cracker jokes – one of the compromises between pop-ups and bottom baits is the snowman rig.
So called because, well, it looks like one, the snowman features a smaller pop-up mounted on top of a larger bottom bait. The result is a two-bait presentation that sits ‘upright’ on the lakebed, giving fish more chance to see it.
The buoyancy also counteracts the weight of the hook, theoretically fooling the fish into thinking the mouthful it has just picked up is not attached to anything. With a bit of tinkering, the two baits can be matched so that they fall gently through the water to rest on any bottom debris.
Selecting the right size, colour and type of boilie for the situation being faced can be a difficult decision. We enlisted Iain Macmillan to help dispel the confusion
Boilies are carp fishing’s number one bait, and by a considerable distance too.
As a result, today’s tackle shops boast a bewlidering array of these hugely popular baits on their shelves, with just about every conceivable size, shape, flavour and colour on show. It’s a choice that many novice carp anglers can find a little overwhelming: freezer bait or shelf-life? Sweet, spicy or fishy? Big, small or dumbell-shaped? Bright colours or drab?
To help you to wade through these muddy waters, we enlisted the help of experienced carp angler Iain Macmillan. Ater meeting him on the banks of the picturesque Blackthorn Fishery, near Oswestry in Shropshire, we picked his brains on all things boilie related. Here’s what he had to tell us....
Q When would you use a bright hi-viz pop-up rather than a bottom bait pop-up?
A I’ve used fluoro baits for years, with white and pink being my favourites as they stand out on the bottom. Using a hi-viz pop-up instead of a matching bottom bait pop-up depends on the time of year.
In the winter, when the fish are torpid, or spring, when they are just waking up, hi-viz, high-flavoured pop-ups are best because they can attract cruising fish. In summer and autumn I swap to a pop-up that matches the bottom baits I’m feeding as I think the fish have been hammered on hi-viz baits for six months, so you are offering them something less blatant and they match what the fish are naturally eating.
Q Boilies come in a huge range of sizes, from tiny 6mm match baits through to donkey-choking 26mm, so what is the best-sized bait to use on my local runs water?
A Just because you are using a 10mm bait on a size 10 hook, it doesn’t mean you won’t catch the biggest fish in the lake. Big baits don’t always equal big fish.
The elements to consider regarding size are:
- The size of hook/rig you are using. The boilie needs to be balanced to the rig. A 10mm boilie will not be well presented if it is mounted on a size 4 hook, neither will using a size 10 hook and a 22mm boilie. I’d use a 10mm/12mm boilie with a size 10. For 15mm boilies I use size 8s, and for 18mm/20mm boilies I’ll go for a size 6.
- The range you are looking to fish. I use a lot of 20mm baits as they ‘go out’ easily with a throwing stick or catapult, whereas a smaller bait won’t fly as far.
- Where you are fishing. A handful of 10mm baits in the margins is a better presentation than a kilo of 20mm baits in the margins.
Other considerations to make are the subtleties of your approach – for example, using two 10mm baits or a dumbell bait on the hair rather than one 15mm round boilie might get you a bonus fish, simply because it is a little different to what everyone else is using on the lake.
Q What tips can you give to those fishing boilies?
A Boilies can be used straight on the hair with lots of success, but to give yourself an edge it can pay to try a few different presentations and make the hookbait stand out among the rest of your loosefed items.
Three of my favourite things to do are, firstly, to tip a drab bottom bait boilie with a kernel of fake corn. The bright yellow acts as a target and the buoyant corn helps negate some of the hook’s weight. Alternatively, I sometimes use a small ‘hi-viz’ pop-up boilie to create a ‘snowman’ rig presentation. The final edge I employ is to cut a boilie in half and then mount it on the hair back to back to create an egg-timer shape. This makes it much harder for carp to eject.
Q What differences do colour and flavour make, if any?
A For hi-viz pop-ups, I favour white and pink, although I’ve done well using orange in the past. For bottom baits, I don’t think it makes a great deal of difference as most have muted colours, like brown, cream or green for example.
Flavours are a matter of personal preference. For years, the unwritten rule was you couldn’t use fishmeal baits in winter as they were too filling. You needed to use fruit, cream or spicy flavoured baits instead. This is rubbish – the thing is you just use fewer of them.
There are so many great baits on the market now that it comes down to what you personally like and are confident using.
For me, I use either Dynamite Baits’ Crave or Monster Tiger Nut, the reason being that this gives me two completely different offerings – a strong fish-flavoured bait and a sweet, nutty one. However, if you gave me £10 to go and buy a bag of boilies, I would happily use one of a number of different manufacturers’ baits.
Bait companies do not and cannot make poor-quality baits, as they wouldn’t sell – it’s as simple as that.
My advice would be to try a bait you like the look of, stick with it and get confident using it. Confidence in a product makes much more difference than whether it is black, blue or brown, fishy, spicy or fruity.
Q What is the difference between freezer and shelf-life baits, and is one better than the other?
A There is a perception that freezer baits, which contain no preservatives, are superior to shelf-life offerings. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I prefer to mix and match the two when I am fishing and this is why.
Freezer baits tend to have a softer texture and are a little more subtle in flavour levels and colour, which makes them perfect for sustained baiting campaigns, on harder syndicate waters for example.
Shelf-life baits are much more convenient, as they can be stored for weeks in their bags. They also have high flavour levels and brighter colours than their freezer bait equivalents. This is the reason I fish a mixture of both when I’m fishing.
Shelf-life baits deliver an immediate flavour punch into the water, so they are more instant, making them ideal for the majority of day-ticket lakes.
Freezer baits, being more understated, release their attractors more slowly, so by using a bit of both you always have something going on in the swim.
In essence though, during the 1980s, when there were very few freezer baits available, I caught just as many carp on shelf-life offerings. It really is a case of whether you want convenience and instant attraction, or you are more confident using a softer, more subtle bait that requires more storage and looking after.
After a long winter of polefishing for F1s it was refreshing to dig my rods out again and spend some time fishing the Method feeder.
Over the past few weeks I’ve managed several Method sessions with varying degrees of success, winning one of the matches I fished, and blanking on the next trip!
That aside, I love this tactic as I enjoy spending time experimenting with mixes, pellets, colours and additives.
Many anglers are sceptical about additives in particular.
The problem is, they are looking for a miracle bait that will transform a lifeless swim, and they soon become disillusioned.
What I’m looking for, on the other hand, is an additive that over the course of a five-hour match will help me to put a couple of extra fish in the net.
The way I look at it is that if I’m fishing in a line of 30 anglers, all fishing the same pellets on the Method feeder, where’s my edge?
Yes, I can try and do it a bit better than the other 29, but when it comes to bait I’m offering the carp nothing different to everyone else.
This is where both additives and colours can make a big difference.
Pellets or groundbait?
When most anglers consider Method feeder fishing they automatically think ‘groundbait mixes’.
But in recent years many anglers have switched on to fishing softened micro pellets moulded around the feeder instead, and this has given us some huge catches.
So the million-dollar question now is – which do you use for this tactic – groundbaits or pellets?
Your choice can make a massive difference to your final result.
I can’t give a definitive answer, but what I can say is that if you are in any doubt then opt for pellets.
In the cold, pellets tend to be the better option, although that isn’t to say I won’t have groundbait with me just in case.
The fish will help you decide, and it might be a case of fishing one way for the first hour of your match and see how the fish are responding before deciding whether to make a switch.
Mixing the two
I should also mention that you can fish a mix with both pellets and groundbait. That way you are getting the best of both worlds.
I have to admit this isn’t something I do a lot, as I tend to find one is better than the other. I feel a 50-50 mix is hedging my bets rather than to trying to work out what’s best on the day.
That said, I have had a few good days mixing the two baits, but that is normally with F1s and bream rather than carp.
While there are loads of different types of pellets on the market, I always use the same ones – namely Dynamite Bait’s 2mm XL Carp Pellets.
There are a number of reasons for my choice, the main one being that they are very easy to prepare.
These pellets are relatively low in oil content, which means they soak up water really quickly, and so when it comes to adding liquids, these too are easily absorbed by the pellets.
Another advantage is they are light in colour and so they take on colourings well, allowing you to make unique baits – perfect for gaining an edge.
I’ve used a lot of groundbait over the years and there are some really good ones out there, but I stick to just two mixes now – Ringers Red Bag Up Mix, which is brilliant in summer when the water is coloured, and Dynamite Swim Stim Method Mix, which contains a lot of krill, and can be used all year round.
Guide to additives
There are hundreds of additives to choose from, and trying different flavours is half the fun. When you do stumble on something that works for you, it’s extremely satisfying.
To get the best out of bait additives, especially when using them with groundbait and pellets, you need to add them to your prepared mix. If you add them to the mixing water they end up diluted, so that a lot of attraction is lost.
All my additives are liquid-based and tend to come from the big-carp world.
These thick liquids from Mainline give my pellets a real kick in terms of attraction and also make them sticky so they stay on the feeder on long casts.
It doesn’t matter how good your pellets are if, when the feeder hits the water, they have all come off!
My favourite flavours are Tiger Nut, Activ-8 and Coconut.
Recently I have moved from Dynamite’s The Source to The Crave, and I haven’t been disappointed.
Crave has a spicy smell and seems to be an out-and-out carp attractor. I have picked up very few bream and skimmers when using it.
Mainline’s Meta-mino has a potent meaty/livery smell, and my best results with it have come in coloured water.
Carp can really home in on it, even when visibility is relatively poor.
How much should I add?
I confess there’s no science here, and I tend to add what I feel is the right amount to my bait.
I think it’s a case of adding a bit at a time until you get the result you require. This doesn’t mean pouring the whole bottle on, and with most flavours it’s a fact that less tends to be more.
The Goo Factor
I don’t think any additive has ever burst on to the match scene quite as spectacularly as Kiana Carp Goo.
When it first came out I wasn’t quite sure about it, but now I will always have a bottle or two in my bait bag.
That isn’t to say I will automatically use it from the off – rather, I see it as my ‘get out of jail card’ on hard days, and it has caught me fish enough times to gain a permanent place on my side tray.
One flavour stands out for me, and that is Tutti Frutti Power Smoke.
Tailor your flavor
When it comes to adding the Goo when fishing the Method, there are two ways in which I like to do it.
First, if I’m casting into shallow water, I will tag the Method ball with a small blob of Goo – this way the stuff is released instantly.
However, when casting into deep water of, say, 4ft or more I will seal the Goo into the pellets or groundbait on the feeder.
This is done by ‘double-skinning’ the feeder, which basically means putting two layers of bait on it.
Using a Method mould, the first layer of bait is applied to the feeder, then the Goo is blobbed on, and finally the mould is refilled with bait.
The feeder is pushed into the mould again so the second layer is added to seal the Goo in.
This way the Goo is only released once the feeder hits the deck, keeping the carp near the feeder which is just where I want them!
Colours really make a difference
In a winter match at Earlswood a while back I sat next to the winner and got totally battered! Afterwards, chatting to the angler in question, the only difference I could see between our tactics was that his pellets were a neon-orange colour, whereas I had used just plain micros.
The water was clear on the day, and looking back I’m convinced that one of the reasons he beat me was that his pellets stood out on the bottom and gave the carp something to home in on.
Since that revelation I have put a lot of thought into the colour of my pellets, and if the water is clear I will use bright colours like yellow or orange.
In coloured water, however, I’ll stick to darker colours, usually red, which gives off a very strong silhouette in the murk.
I use Tru Colour Boilie Dye from Mainline as these give me really bright, vivid pellets which are just what I’m looking for. They are very potent, so be very careful when adding them to your bait. You only need a tiny amount to colour a couple of pints of wetted-down micro pellets.
Squatts may have gained a reputation as the bait to use when ‘scratching around’, but match fishing star Mark Pollard reckons they are the key to bagging a big net of silvers right now.
The Shimano-backed ace has racked up an impressive winning streak on a variety of natural waterways this winter, and has proved the true pulling power of the offering with numerous nets over the 25lb mark.
While most of his competitors have taken a negative approach to their sport, Polly has adopted an aggressive baiting regime which has seen him take glory from pegs that had been considered ‘no hopers’ at the draw bag.
One water which has responded to his squatt attack is Factory Bank drain on the outskirts of the Cambridgeshire town of Ramsey, and Mark met up with the Angling Times cameras to display his simple yet unbeatable methods.
Although getting bites on the stretch isn’t difficult, getting among the better stamp roach and perch is vital if you want to outwit your rivals.
“There are thousands of fish in here around the 1oz mark, but if you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to eventually get among the stocks of silvers that are three or four times bigger,” explained Mark.
“To do this I constantly feed squatts throughout the match. Feeding every five minutes isn’t enough, you need to introduce a small pouchful every 30 seconds.”
Such a bold method helps catch everything that swims to begin with, but the constant rain of bait eventually draws in those all-important bonus larger silverfish.
A couple of balls of groundbait were introduced on the 10m line to begin with, but the mix used would dictate whether Mark would have a red letter day or one to forget.
“Use the wrong blend and you’ll ruin your swim instantly as the fish will move off and you’ll struggle to get them back,” he said.
“I use Dynamite Baits Frenzied Hemp Match Black, Silver X Roach for added flavouring, and brown crumb to help bind it all together,” added Mark, who was using 0.09mm Shimano Silk Shock mainline and a 0.07mm hooklink to a size 24 Kamasan B511 hook.
Action was instant, with tiny roach and perch willing feeders in the early stages, but he was confident that a patient mind-set would soon see the stamp of fish increase. In a bid to recognise even the shyest of indications, the 4x10 float had been dotted down to a pimple, but it was a matter of looking for two different types of bite to make the most of the session.
On several occasions the float would fail to settle, with most of the bristle remaining visible, and this signalled that a fish had taken the bait on the drop and it was time to strike. The rest of the bites saw the float sail away traditionally.
After an hour of action, small fish were still coming thick and fast, but to try and find those better stamp silvers Mark fired in a generous pouch of hemp over the target zone.
“I won’t fish hemp on the hook as it is too selective and you will miss out on the small fish early on that will be crucial at the weigh-in. That said, firing an occasional dose over the top usually entices those bigger roach into the peg.”
Shortly after taking that decision it paid dividends, with a series of 3oz specimens coming to the net. While they may not have seemed like monsters, they were three times bigger than what he had been catching, and would certainly help him pull away from his rivals in a competition.
Every now and then he would add an extra section and fish beyond the main zone or to the right or left of it.
“When you are feeding by a catapult a few freebies will go slightly beyond where you want them too. Quite often the bigger fish will sit back and eat these squatts, and this helps fool them into taking your hookbait.”
Winning weights on the section had been relatively low in recent weeks, but Mark had put together around 12lb of silvers in just a few hours’ sport and used less than a pint of bait despite his almost constant feeding regime.
“In cold conditions you need to offer the fish a bait that is easy to digest, and squatts are small and easy to locate in clear or slightly coloured water.
“They are the perfect choice to keep the silverfish coming this week,” concluded Mark.
Mark’s squatt tips
1 Work out what you want your groundbait to do. If you want it to create a cloud and feed fish up in the water, then lightly squeeze balls of groundbait together. But if you want to concentrate the shoals of silvers on the bottom, make sure your feed is tightly packed together.
2 Squatt fishing requires catching a fish every drop-in and, as a result, it is essential to get into a rhythm. Make sure your pole rollers are positioned well and essential accessories such as a disgorger, shot and bait are all within easy reach.
3 A soft elastic is essential to prevent bumping fish and spooking the shoal. I use a softly-set solid No3 that will net fish from half-an-ounce to 1lb with ease.
4 When fishing with squatts you need to find the shallowest water that the fish will feed in, and 3ft to 4ft is usually ideal. If you fish any deeper it will take a second more for the bait to get to the bottom, and when the difference between winning and losing is ounces, such tiny issues are worth consideration.
5 If fish are feeding at all levels it is best to use a strung-out shotting pattern. This will slow the fall of the hookbait and make it easier for fish to intercept it on-the-drop.
From good old maggots to the weird and wonderful world of kitchen cupboard ingredients, anglers have never had it so good when it comes to putting bait on the hook – and every year new additions are dreamed up to add to this burgeoning bait bag arsenal.
Chances are that if we would eat it then so would a fish, and ranged alongside tried and tested tackle shop favourites there are always plenty of options to try throughout the day.
Here’s an A- Z of fishing baits and feeds to get you started, but an extra half-an-hour spent wandering the supermarket or rifling through the kitchen might just strike gold and make your angling day!
An old favourite of the late Ivan Marks for adding sweetness to bream groundbait, this sugary powder still has bags of pulling power when added to dry crumb, with strawberry, vanilla, chocolate and butterscotch all noted fish-attracting flavours.
What fish won’t eat bread? From tiny pieces of punch for canal roach to a thumb-sized piece of flake for wily chub, bread is a universal bait – it caught the record carp back in the 1950s and remains a firm winner among match and specimen anglers.
These crunchy protein-packed shells are relished by bream, chub and barbel, while canal anglers rely on them for big roach. A great change bait when nuisance fish make maggots unusable, even when they turn dark and float they’ll work for surface-feeding fish.
Commercially-bred ‘dendras’ have more wriggle than lobs or redworms and make big hookbaits for greedy perch and chub. Anglers on commercials have also cottoned on to them, especially when fishing the margins for carp. No wonder they are so popular.
Free and plentiful, elderberries aren’t just for making wine! They resemble grains of hemp, and river roach, chub and dace have a particular liking for them, especially if there’s a tree or two hanging over the water with berries regularly dropping into the water.
From sweet chocolate and berry flavours to sour whisky and liver, there’s a flavour to tempt every fish swimming, even pike and zander! Take your pick from liquids or powders, but go easy on the amounts, as most modern flavours are highly concentrated.
Pre-mixed groundbaits are fine, but part of the fun of ‘crumb’ is that you can make your own from ingredients including breadcrumbs, biscuits, waffles and nuts. Species such as carp and bream prefer sweet mixes, while roach are fans of savoury groundbait.
Herbs & spices
A touch of kitchen herb or spice can pep up a hookbait or feed. Coriander and fennel are used by match anglers for roach, while fiery paprika, chilli powder and turmeric will turn up the heat in winter on bread, luncheon meat and in PVA bags or stick mixes.
When a bait needs to be in the water for hours, or where crays and nuisance fish are a problem, imitation baits look and feel like the real thing, and can be popped-up or fished with a real offering. Every common bait out there has its fantastic plastic counterpart.
Chub love a jelly baby or two fished whole on a big hook and freelined on a small river into nooks and crannies. Carp are also fans of a bag of Bassetts, and a top tip is to get busy with a pair of scissors and carve the sweet into an irregular shape to help lower the guard of the fish.
A boom bait over the last couple of years, carp anglers have long known about krill’s pulling power. Intensely fishy, it can be found in off-the-shelf groundbait and boilie mixes, but can also be bought loose or powdered for adding to any hookbait or feed.
Cubed, riddled, mashed – even fished as a whole block straight from the tin for catfish, meat ticks the boxes for lots of species and can be fished and fed in many ways. You can ‘dust’ meat with powders or fry it gently for a few minutes to release the fatty oils.
Maggots probably caught you your first fish. Sold by the gallon, they appeal to all species. Ladled in for commercial carp, blasted in via a catapult on rivers or crammed into PVA bags for big fish, they’re the bait you’d take if your life depended on catching.
The sweet taste and high oil levels of tiger nuts makes them great for single bait fishing on carp lakes, but peanuts, Brazils and almonds are good too. Pre-soak tigers to soften the hard outer coating and make hooking them on a hair-rig easier.
Fish love oils, which is why crushed hemp, which releases a slick, is popular. Essential oils such as Black Pepper are great base mix additives for boilies or pastes, while pleasure anglers like to coat their pellets, meat and corn in fish oil for added attraction.
Pellets rule the commercials, and are having an impact on canals and rivers for bream. No barbel angler would fish without a bag of potent halibuts. The expander pellet is hard to beat for the hook, and can be flavoured with liquids during preparation.
This cheap and cheerful breakfast cereal is a long-standing favourite with carp anglers, many of whom use it in their spod mixes. As well as bulking out the ingredients, it also helps to form an enticing milky cloud in the water column.
Raid the cupboards for a bag of Uncle Ben’s because cooked rice makes a super feed for pre-baiting in bulk. Once cooked, rice swells to twice its size and can be piled into the margins or mixed with groundbait when carp, bream and tench are the quarry.
A year-round winner, corn’s colour and softness makes it a great hookbait as singles or in a stack of three or four grains on a hair rig. Bulk bags of frozen corn are great for feeding in spring and summer. Experiment by colouring and flavouring each grain.
No roach angler should venture on to a river without these. Tares can be boiled down to super softness for the hook and fished with hempseed. Easier to hook than hemp, they pick out the bigger roach and are a good addition to a particle mix for big carp.
If your budget is tight, buy a large sack of uncooked hemp. Always cook it first in a saucepan of boiling water and a little bicarbonate of soda, otherwise it will float and can’t be digested by the fish. Cooking is a smelly process, so be sure to open a window or two!
Peppers, peas, carrots – you’ll be amazed at what you catch when you delve into the unknown! Veg straight from the tin, in particular peas and small pieces of pepper, find favour with roach, tench and carp and offer plenty of scope for the adventurous chub angler.
Strange that a plain white boilie can outscore its lurid counterparts, but that’s a fact. Visible even in coloured water, an 8mm-10mm mini boilie can be fished as a single on the bomb, under a baggin’ waggler or on a Method feeder wrapped in pellets.
The X-Rap is a best-selling pike lure thanks to the combination of colour, noise and a wide variety of patterns for all types of waters. From those that work the upper layers in summer to deep divers, the unmistakable rattle and vibrant colours catch pike by the hundred.
Much used by the Ringer family in matchfishing, luncheon meat dyed yellow will catch when plain meat fails. To colour it, bag it up with a powdered yellow dye, seal and leave in the fridge overnight. It works really well on carp waters that see a lot of pressure.
A recent development, these imitation insects are for fishing off bottom on a zig rig for big carp. Highly buoyant, Zig Bugs offer the fish a natural alternative to dog biscuits, boilies and pellets, and are available as spiders, tadpoles, beetles and even freshwater shrimps!
Amid the massive array of baits available today, some are genuine ‘all-rounders’. Top of the list has to be the maggot.
Because maggots will attract fish of all sizes they can be a pain in the warmer months, but as life slows down in the winter and the small species become less active, grubs start to become a viable bait for so-called ‘specimen’ fish.
The best carp I’ve caught on double maggot was a 24-pounder, taken on a January morning while roach fishing. I’ve had loads of big carp on grubs, intentionally or otherwise. The key, though, is to find ways to fish with maggots on gear strong enough to land powerful fish –carp, barbel, chub or even tench.
Of course, you could just cram a big bunch of maggots on to the hook, maybe a dozen on a size 8.
This does work, but it has several disadvantages. There is a good chance that the hookpoint could be masked by the bait, leading to missed bites, and maggots are likely to be damaged when you hook them on. Even a big bunch is no deterrent to a determined small roach or minnow that will nibble away at the bait.
I tend to fish maggots on a hair rig, and there are several ways you can do this, also incorporating artificial maggots to ensure you always have a ‘small fish-resistant’ bait out there.
For each species I adapt the way I fish maggots to maximise my chances, based upon how the fish naturally feed and their tolerance of a big bait.
The bigger the bait, the better, as it is easier to find, but this is not always something the fish will tolerate. Here are my favourite ways to target a trio of winter species with maggots.
Chub will take big bunches of maggots, especially after dark, but I find that the smaller the bait, the more success I get when maggot fishing during daylight.
Chub have excellent eyesight, among the best of all coarse fish, and are easily able to suss out a bait that isn’t behaving naturally – and will leave it well alone.
When the chub are feeding confidently, two or three maggots on strong size 16 hook is ideal.
To counteract the weight of the hook I put a handful of maggots in just enough water to half cover them and leave them for about 30 minutes. By then the maggots will have swollen up slightly and have an air bubble inside that makes them float. These floating maggots are kept just for the hook.
I was once happy using a 4lb nylon hooklength for chub fishing with maggots, but as the fish got bigger over the years I started to find this wasn’t up to the job, so recently I have swapped to 7lb braid. I find that this resembles a strand of weed and does not seem to put the chub off.
When the going gets really tough I will scale down to a size 18 hook carrying just a single maggot, and often this tiny bait will bring the biggest chub of the day.
As for feeding, I like to introduce the bait through a standard blockend swimfeeder of around 30g-50g that will deposit all the maggots close to the hookbait.
I also like to recast about every 10 minutes or so to keep a steady stream of loosefeed going in.
Barbel are not the most finicky of species, but it still pays to use a fairly subtle maggot approach.
I have caught quite a lot of barbel by fishing big bunches of maggots on the hook, or by threading a dozen on to a piece of cotton thread and tying this to the hook, but I reckon that it is equally as effective, and far easier, to just use three or four maggots on a size 12 or 14 extra strong hook, along with a floating artificial maggot fished on the hair. This rig is dead simple to tie and works a treat, as long as the small fish are not too active.
I never fish for barbel with light tackle, so the hooklength is made from 10lb fluorocarbon and the hook is tied on with a knotless knot to form a stiff hair. I then thread the artificial maggot on to the hair and superglue it in place just below the bend of the hook. The artificial helps balance the weight of the hook and even if the real maggots are picked off by small fish there will still be a bait in the swim.
I then just put a few real maggots on the hook. Don’t be tempted to add too many – it doesn’t seem to make a difference to the barbel, but it could stop you from getting a good hookhold. The more confidently you can get barbel feeding, the easier they are to catch, so keep a steady stream of maggots going in via a large (up to 2.5oz) blockend feeder.
I really cram the maggots into the feeder as this slows down their escape slightly, so I can leave the feeder out for about 20 minutes between casts.
I like to use a decent number of maggots on the hook when I’m targeting winter carp – anything from about six to 20 maggots is about right – and you will be quite surprised at just what this quite large bait will turn up in the way of other species too!
By far the easiest way to fish a big bunch of maggots is on a maggot clip, and I carry several different sizes of this useful little device so that I can match one, and the hook size, precisely to the number of maggots I am using.
For example, when just half-a-dozen maggots are going on to the hair I will go down to a size 12 hook and the smallest clip in my repertoire, while with 20 maggots a medium-sized clip and a size 8 hook are about right.
The buoyancy of the bait is once again very important – you want to make it as easy for the carp to suck up the grubs as possible.
It doesn’t take a lot for the fish to hoover up the free offerings, so a slow-sinking bait is more likely to be taken in – carp very often spend time in the upper and middle layers of water in colder weather. As such, I add small slivers of rig foam to the maggot clip between the maggots to add buoyancy.
Clips are a little bit prone to tangling, so I tend to use a stiff hooklength made from 10lb-15lb fluorocarbon and fish with the hair quite short.
I dispense with the feeder when carp fishing and normally attach a PVA bag of maggots to the rig instead. I find this will break down, leaving a nice patch of maggots on the lakebed.
Having the confidence to cast out a single hookbait with no loosefeed relies solely on your complete trust in the bait you’re using.
After all, more often than not you might only be casting once every 30mins, so using the wrong bait for one cast can be very costly.
So how do you choose the right hookbait? There are lots of things to take into account including conditions, water clarity, and the fish you’re targeting. This week I’m going to run through my top five hookbaits, when to use them, and the tricks to keep fish coming.
When to use: Gin-clear water
Tricks to try: ‘Corn caterpillar’, long hooklengths
One of the greatest winter hookbaits of all time, corn is the ultimate clear-water bait. Bright-yellow, it stands out like a sore thumb. I reckon that carp in winter rely heavily on sight feeding, so in coloured water it’s not a bait I’d choose – but in clear water little can beat it.
I think nothing of having up to three grains on the hair. These can be fished either in a stack or lengthways - a trick I call the corn caterpillar. It’s purely a case of offering the fish something different to what they are used to seeing.
A long hooklength tail of 18ins-plus is also important when fishing bomb and corn as it allows a slower fall of the hookbait, and I’m convinced carp follow the bait down before they take it.
A useful little tip with corn is to try and select the biggest, brightest grains for the hair because these will stand out the best in the clear water.
This might seem trivial, but believe me, this can make a big difference when it comes to getting a bite or two on a cold day.
When to use: Clear water, fished off bottom
Tricks to try: Pop them up just 2ins-3ins
Pop-up boilies are the new kids on the block when it comes to match fishing hookbaits, but they are deadly effective.
I never fish without taking a few tubs of boilies these days.
There are loads of different types, colours, flavours, and shapes to choose from, but flavour doesn’t seem to matter much – it’s all about the colour.
Pink, orange, and yellow are the stand-out colours that have caught me lots of fish, but through trial and error I’ve found that different colours work on different venues, so it’s important to go through the card until you find out what works on the day. Pop-up boilies are very much a clear-water hookbait, giving the carp something to home in on. You can pop up a boilie straight off the lead, but my best results have come popping one up just 2ins-3ins off the bottom. This is done with a 12ins hooklength and two small shots the right distance from the hook to keep the bait at its chosen depth.
When to use: Any time
Tricks to try: Go bigger with hookbaits
On venues I fish the carp seem to love pellets all year round, even in the cold.
The problem I always had was that although I caught a few carp on 8mm hard pellets I always felt a softer bait would be better.
After all, a big soft pellet has to be easier for a carp to digest than a rock-hard one.
It was then that I came up with ‘blown pellets’, basically 8mm hard pellets which have been put through a pellet pump, taken on water, softened in consistency and increased in size.
These blown pellets give the fish the impression that they have been on the bottom a lot longer than they actually have, which causes even the wiliest old carp in the lake to suck them up without suspicion.
As a rule, I like to fish a single 8mm blown pellet on the hair – after all, a blown pellet is a big bait on its own – but if I’m struggling and I feel there are carp in the swim, I will give two a try.
Sometimes it really can be a case of the bigger the better in terms of hookbaits, even though the water temperature is so low. With blown pellets, this is definitely the case.
When to use: Coloured water
Tricks to try: Strong flavours, cylinders, freezing
Meat is an underrated bait in the cold, and I have had some big weights on it over the years, including this winter.
Not only does it get you bites when other baits fail, but it seems to pick out a better stamp of fish. I’m not sure why, but it has happened too many times to be coincidence.
I like to fish it punched, and use homemade 8mm and 10mm punches so I’ve got two size options for hookbaits.
In coloured water I like to give it a flavour boost so it gives off a strong scent that carp can pick up easily.
Three flavours that I have every confidence in are Mainline Activ 8, Cell, and Dynamite’s Krave.
To glug the meat I separate it out into little tubs, add a squirt of flavour then give it a shake. Put the tubs in the freezer, as this helps draw the flavour into the meat.
When to use: Clear water, fished off bottom
Tricks to try: Use sinking discs on shallow pegs
This is my ‘get out of jail card’ and has been so again this winter. In fact, I’d go as far to say that provided the water is clear, then one bait guaranteed to get me a bite in the cold is three 8mm discs of punched bread popped up off the bottom.
Note, though, I said ‘as long as the water is clear’. Being bright-white in colour, bread is very much a visual bait which stands out extremely well. In dark water it loses its effectiveness.
It’s also a bait you can leave out for ages. Once in the water it stays popped up and becomes soft, so it can be sucked in by a carp with minimal effort.
Although popped-up bread is my personal favourite, bread fished on the bottom can also be deadly.
The way to achieve this is to microwave the bread but then totally flatten the slices to remove all the air from them. This will make the bread sink, but once in the water it will still fluff up.
I then fish three 8mm discs as before. This is a tactic which is very effective on shallow venues where popping the bread up well off the bottom isn’t an option.
Times change, even for a five-times World Champion. New methods and baits need to be mastered to keep pace with the modern match scene, and that’s exactly the situation I found myself in this winter when fishing the Hayfield Lakes Pairs Series.
I’d thought that bloodworm for roach and skimmers would play a big part, but after the opening round, when carp fed all around the lakes and relegated my 15lb of silverfish to nowhere in the section, a radical rethink was needed – I’d have to catch some carp!
At Hayfield the fish run big and show a liking for swimming around a few feet off the bottom, so baits fished on the deck are often left untouched. Popped-up baits rule, but I’d hardly ever used them before.
However, on the winter commercial fishery match scene they’ve become more and more popular and productive, so I had to bite the bullet, trawl the carp section of the tackle shop for baits and dips and get experimenting.
I also tapped up anglers like Steve Ringer, who know a bit about pop-ups and carp. Armed with his advice and a bagful of weird and wonderful hookbaits, I was ready to do battle on the Island Lake at the Doncaster water.
KEEP ON CASTING
Luridly-coloured boilies and pellets or white discs of bread are unmissable in clear water, which is why pop-ups work.
You rarely feed anything when fishing these, and it isn’t a tactic where you cast to the same spot time and time again.
Each cast should go to a different part of the swim. In cold water fish are unwilling to move any distance to pick off a bait, but not unwilling to feed. That means a bait could well sit a foot away from a fish but never be taken. Land it on its nose, though, and a take should be pretty quick in coming.
If you see a carp top, reel in and cast to it immediately as this will be a feeding fish.
In 10ft of water the fish could be anywhere, and that means a lot of playing about with the way you pop up the bait. However, I’ll also use my quivertip to ‘read’ where the fish are in the water column. A knock on the tip but no take tells me that the fish are perhaps under the bait, hitting the line, so a shortened hooklength is the first port of call. No bites but fish moving tell me to lengthen the tail and fish a bait higher in the water.
Tosave time I carry dozensof ready-tied hooklengths from 1ft to 6ft long in a carper’s rig bin. These can be changed in seconds by using a snap link and hooking the loop of the hooklength on to it. These aremade from 4lb-5lb Drennan Supplex to a super-sharp size 12 or 14 Drennan Power Hair Rigger hook.
I’ll start at a foot off bottom and give each cast around 20 minutes before winding in and recasting. Often the first cast of the day is the most important as it will land somewhere near a fish and find it at its most willing to feed, so be fully prepared early doors.
Just like when fishing on the deck, you’ll typically get a nudge on the tip before it pulls around or drops back. Slow line bites that gradually pull the tip around should be ignored.
This is where it starts getting complicated and it can all be too much to take in, given the sheer variety of size, shape and colour of baits. As ever, keeping it simple is best and I’d limit myself to bread, boilies and pellets for popping-up, always starting on three 10mm discs of bread punched out and allowed to swell up in the water into a hi-viz mouthful for the carp.
Large floating expander pellets of around 12mm-14mm diameter are also a good bait, especially on waters that see a lot of pellets piled in. These are fished as singles, drilled out and mounted on the hair.
That leaves boilies to cover, and while I’m unsure that carp can sense flavours quickly, they can certainly pick out colours. I’ll carry yellow, white and red mini boilies and dumbels in 8mm-12mm sizes and try them all as singles throughout the day.
ALTER THE SHAPE
Rather than chucking out a normal round boilie I’ll alter the shape of it using a craft knife on the bank, carving it into a square shape to try and mimic a pellet.
This is a trick a lot of top carp anglers do, and if it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for me. You can do the same with pellets, while the flattened elongated dumbell boilies offer the fish something different too, and are well worth a cast or three.
Does feeding work? My answer to this would be ‘no’ on the whole because you’re relying on the attraction of the pop-up to catch.
However, if there’s nothing to lose then a few 8mm hard pellets pinged in every 10 minutes can draw a few fish in, especially on balmy winter days when the carp might be hungry and starting to think about going after some food.
While it remains cold though, leave the catapult in the bag.
Be prepared to accept that pop-ups aren’t the be-all and end-all. There will be days when they don’t work and the carp will be feeding on the bottom, but working this out is easy –
the tip won’t move and you’ll start worrying!
The remedy is simple, though – a change of bait to traditional pellet, meat and corn fished on the deck.
An 8mm or 10mm punch of meat, two grains of corn stacked back-to-back and single or double 6mm drilled hard pellets are all good fish-catchers, used on a short 12ins hooklength, and when you change to fishing on the bottom you can also feed a little more, ideally with a tiny PVA bag of pellets to encourage the fish to get their heads down.
Spicy meat-flavoured dumbbell, pineapple pop-up, oily floating pellet, white chocolate dumbbell, toffee/chocolate flavoured pop-up, mini fishmeal pop-up, three 10mm bread discs make a good change bait from boilies and pellets
There's little point getting your rigs and feeding right if the bait on the end of your hook isn’t right – and that’s especially true in winter where feeding spells are short and opportunities to catch rarer.
Texture, colour, flavour and size all play their part, but with a bewildering array of hookbaits on the market it can be a minefield picking the right one in a match where time is against you and you need to hit the ground running.
Phil Ringer can help though! The Ringer Baits boss has been involved in the bait trade for decades as well as fishing at the highest level home and abroad.
Here are Phil Ringer’s super eight winter baits to pack away in your bag this weekend.
There aren’t many venues where boilies don’t work, but I’ll only fish them when I’m confident of catching. All-year-round I’ll fish an 8mm boilie, but I do know some anglers who scale down to a 6mm bait. I think this defeats the point of using a boilie – to catch a better stamp of carp by using them as a single offering and playing the sit and wait game.
There are hundreds of coloured baits out there, but the big success story in 2012 was the fluoro orange boilie. I spoke to an angler only the other day who won his match in the freezing weather using one – I can only think that this is down to the lurid bright colour. In clear water much of your carp fishing will be purely visual. The fish aren’t moving that much so if they’re near your hookbait, one that stands out will make them have a go. I don’t have much faith in flavours and glugs, but by all means use them. In cold water just make sure the liquid is of a thinner consistency to permeate the water more easily.
Years ago the thought of catching a carp off bottom in the cold was ridiculous, but we now understand that carp spend much of their life swimming and sitting just off bottom. That makes a pop-up deadly – especiallyin winter when fish are lethargic. Sometimes, a bait fished up to halfway off the bottom will catch, but I tend to start by popping up by 1ft, pinning the line to the bottom with a small piece of soft putty or a split shot. Top colours for this are fluoro orange or occasionally pink and I’ll still use an 8mm bait.
I’d never, ever feed meat in the cold! There’s too much fat in it and even a couple of cubes could fill a carp up for the duration of the match.
Fished as a hookbait, it’s a different matter – but even then, I’d tend to use it when the water starts to slowly warm up and the appetite of the fish increases after a cold spell. Fished on the bomb as punched pieces of 6mm or 8mm they’re hard to beat, but straight from the tin I’d dye and flavour it.
Ringer Baits developed the Cold Water Expander because most pellets on the market contained too much fish oil and fishmeals that didn’t work well in cold water. By using hardly any oil you create a hook pellet that’s not as likely to fill the fish up and produces a lighter coloured bait which carp seem to prefer.
If you use a 6mm pellet in summer, drop down to 4mm. Mine are prepared straight from the bag with a pump. More water and pumping produces a pellet that almost drips off the hook, ideal for short range fishing, but if I’m shipping out to an island at 16m I’ll pump the pellets fewer times to give me a tougher bait.
Where allowed, expanders make a great feed, potted in at around half a dozen each time. Some anglers also mash up expanders using a groundbait drill to create a type of slop for shallow water.
As for colour, I prefer plain out of the bag baits, but my brother Steve loves dying his pellets yellow while my dad Geoff swears by red. To dye the pellets, add colouring to the water you use for pumping.
The best winter bait ever – fish can see it easily and it seems to catch bigger carp.
Despite its hard skin, corn is an incredibly soft bait. I use the Jolly Green Giant brand and take time sorting through the tin to find a soft medium-sized grain. This ensures that the hook pulls through the grain fully on the strike. I fish the grains as single or double on the pole, or anything from one grain to a stack of four when using the bomb – it depends on the size of fish I’m after. For F1s and stockie carp a single grain is fine, but for big carp four grains fished on a sit-and-wait basis seems to outscore smaller baits.
More of a feed than a hookbait, but it’s great when used with maggots for small fish. Because all species will eat casters you can’t overfeed the peg. I can’t say I’ve caught many carp on them, but for days when a few roach are on the cards there’s little to beat them fished as single baits on light rigs. For feed I’d ping out a dozen every few minutes.
You may think they’re only good for canals, but if the weather is brutally cold I make sure I have fluoro pinkies with me. I’ve lost count how many times a pinkie has got me a bite when nothing else will, fishing it on proper scratching gear with a size 18 or 20 hook to 0.10mm line.
Not as effective in winter as many believe, I reckon maggots seem to work in a window of a few weeks. Yes, they’ll catch everything and get you a bite, but where carp are concerned you’ll get plagued by small fish in milder weather, so a larger bait is better.
Dead maggots have built up a bit of a following for winter skimmers in conjunction with groundbait, fished as a bunch on the hook or on a small feeder.
For carp and F1s I’ll always pick lives because of the attraction they provide with their movement. I use a single to get my first bite, then step up to a double or treble for proper carp!
Red maggots seem most popular but on certain waters, but at Tunnel Barn Farm anglers dye theirs yellow while white maggots score heavily at Partridge Lakes. The best advice is to experiment.
This has been a big carp bait for match anglers in recent years and if I had to get a bite in winter to win £1,000 off someone I’d use bread!
Forget about using it on the bottom though. Instead, bread scores best fished well off the deck for carp swimming about in the various layers. Use it as as a popped-up bait, sometimes up to half depth although start at 1ft off the bottom and slowly lengthen your tail as the match goes on.
You’ll need to fish a big hook because bread will swell to three times its size once it has fully absorbed water. Hair-rigs should be a good 2ins to leave enough hookpoint showing.
A typical hookbait will be two or three discs of between 8mm and 12mm that I punch out using old sections of pole. Thick Sliced Warburton’s White is my preferred brand and I flatten it slightly with a rolling pin the night before to makemore compact discs that’ll stay on the hook on casting.
You can colour the bread by rubbing in powders such as turmeric.
It hasn’t been a great year for chub fishing so far, thanks to the almost unprecedented high water we’ve had to endure for months on end.
However, as we enter the coldest time of the year there will be windows of opportunity when chub will be very much my number one target.
On a low, cold and clear river, breadflake will normally be the first choice of bait, but this year the chances of us getting those conditions are slim, so smellier baits are definitely the order of the day, and that means the good old cheesepaste will be getting an airing.
One of the major benefits of cheesepaste over other chub baits is the strong aroma that quickly wafts downstream, drawing fish in from quite a distance. In low, cold-water conditions, this is not going to make a massive difference to your catches, as the chub are going to be loathe to leave their positions. When the river is carrying extra water and colour, however, a smelly paste comes into its own.
Now, every chub angler has their own favourite cheesepaste recipe, and many a night has been spent in the pub with anglers extolling the virtues of one variety of cheese over another. Personally, as long as it is a nice and smelly variety, I don’t think it makes a great deal of difference, and I will happily use whichever is cheapest. Normally, this is any left-over Stilton, or other blue cheese that has survived in the back of the fridge over Christmas!
More important than the variety of cheese that you use is how you make your cheesepaste, as you need to have a reasonably soft consistency that will let the flavour flood out, without it being too soft that it falls off the hook.
Getting your paste just right takes a bit of practice, but is worth experimenting with. It also makes a difference whether you are moulding the paste around the hook or using a corkball or paste cage (left) to mould it around. If you are getting sharp pulls but missing bites then the chances are the chub are just nipping at the paste, and you will get more hittable bites if you fish the hook buried in a small piece of paste. If the fish are feeding more confidently then it is easier to use a paste cage and have the bait moulded around the hair, rather than all of the hook. A bigger bait, about the size of a ten pence piece or bigger, works well when the chub are feeding hard.
You can make your cheese paste even smellier using any number of additives, but a couple really stand out as being chub-magnets. Several of my friends swear by adding a couple of drops of N-Butyric acid to their paste. But be warned, this is without doubt the smelliest and most horrible smelling additive going, so be sure to keep it out of the house! I was told about squid powder a couple of seasons ago and my chub catches have definitely improved since I have started adding just half a teaspoonful to my cheesepaste. The squid powder is such a good chub attractor that I now leave it out of my barbel baits as I just get pestered by chub!
One other thing worth bearing in mind is that chub have very good eyesight and I am sure that on heavily-fished rivers cheesepaste begins to lose some of its effectiveness simply because nearly every time the chub pick up a piece of white paste it has a hook in it. In clear conditions, therefore, try adding some red or brown dye to your paste to darken it down and make it that little bit different from everyone else’s.
Cheesepaste fishing is normally great if you have a short attention span, as often it doesn’t take the chub long to home in on the flavour trail.
On a cold winter’s morning hopping between swims, spending anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes in each spot is normally all that is required to see if any chub are at home.
It’s a brilliant way to spend a short January day, and as long as the river is not a raging torrent, cheesepaste will do the business!
Most anglers will bait each swim with just a few chunks of cheesepaste by hand before fishing. However, when using such a potent hookbait I prefer to be more accurate with my baiting and instead of loosefeeding I mould three or four pieces of paste around a short length of PVA tape. I thentie this to the lead or nick it over the hookpoint. When cast out, the PVA will soon melt and leave the free offerings right next to the hookbait. Hey presto – perfect presentation every time!
HOW TO MAKE MY DEADLY CHEESEPASTE
1 Break up about 4oz of blue cheese in a microwaveable bowl. If the cheese has a rind, then this is best removed.
2 Heat the cheese for about a minute to melt it – you are looking for a runny mixture. Then add a dollop of margarine.
3 Remove the crusts from a few slices of fresh white bread and either break them into small pieces or liquidise them.
4 Add any powdered additives to the bread and shake well, and add any liquid additives to the runny cheese.
5 Add the bread to the cheese slowly and mix. Keep adding the bread until you get a firm consistency that’s easily moulded.
6 Wrap the paste in cling film or a bag and store it in the fridge. I like to make up small batches and use them within a few days.
Big specimen carp aren't always caught on boilies - they do eat other bait too, including maggots. This means that a carefully presented maggot or two can prove the downfall of the biggest fish in the lake, but you have to be a little clever in how you do this or you'll just catch roach, perch or gudgeon.
The perfect way to avoid smaller nuisance fish is to use a fake or imitation maggot as they can withstand beign pecked and sucked by small fish.
Then, on top of that you will have to use a large hook for two reasons: firstly a big hook won't be taken into the mouths of smaller fish, and secondly, if you hook a very big carp you'll need a large, strong hook to get the carp out and on your unhooking mat.
The rig below shows you just how to use an imitation or fake maggot bait easily and effectively.
1. Take one of the specially designed Enterprise Tackle fake grubs and carefully thread it onto a lip-close baiting needle.
2. Thread the rubber grub onto your supple hooklink staying as close to the skin of the grub as you can, this retains as much of the hook gape as possible.
3. Tie a size 10 hook onto the link with a grinner knot. Slide the grub over the hook eye and down the shank. The hooklink should exit on the point side.
4. Thread two live maggots onto the hook along with a big PVA mesh bag filled with maggots. The hookbait just gets wolfed down with the freebies!
5. Try varying the colour of the grub depending on the water clarity and the lake bed.
In winter the water does go very clear and carp have excellent vision, using different colours of maggot might produce more takes.
Have you ever wondered how to fish for carp and barbel with a wriggling bunch of maggots on a hair rig? Well here's how you can do it easily and quickly using Korda's brilliant Maggot Klip.
All too often anglers feel they need to resort to either boilies or a drilled halibut pellet to catch big barbel and carp, but that's the wrong way to approach these species.
Often these big fish have seen boilies and halibut pellets many times before, ending up on the unhooking mat, straddled by an angler holding a pair of forceps. A thinking angler will have realised this and come armed with something different - maybe a pint tub full of juicy, wriggling maggots.
A bunch of maggots can often lead to the downfall of big carp and barbel, but knowing how to present these live baits effectively can confuse many anglers. Thats' why the brilliant Korda Maggot Klip was crated.
Here's how to use one...
1. A size 10 hook and a Korda Maggot Klip are all you need for this rig. I favour using the Klip on a supple, coated braid or a light fluorocarbon in the winter when the water is gin-clear.
2. My favourite sizes of Klip are the small and x-small. It works on a simple latch principle, the maggots are threaded onto the sharp point of the Klip and then the gate is closed, easy as that!
3. Simply tie the Klip to the end of a length of your chosen hooklink with a suitable knot, this is a three turn grinner. It takes seconds to tie and is very secure.
4. Set where the Klip is required in relation to the hook and tie off with a standard knotless knot. I like a reasonable length hair to keep the maggots away from the hook point.
5. Now thread some maggots on the Klip. Try not to burst the grubs, they stay active for much longer and will be more attractive to the carp. A big ball of wriggling maggots is better than a bunch of dead ones.
6. Shut the gate closure once you’ve put as many maggots as you want on the Klip. It is the quickest and most secure way to attach maggots to a standard carp rig. As the main picture shows, you can also use a lump of cork to pop-up the bait.
One thing that is vital at this time of year is your bait choice. In winters gone by one of my favourite baits for scratching time has always been a little sliver of Peperami, or as I refer to it - ‘Rami’.
I don’t know whether it’s the garlic, spice or oil content but it’s a superb winter bait and can often get you a bite when fish won’t look at a conventional bait.
MONO 'RAMI RIG
1. Peperami comes in a few different guises. I always have a few of the mini packs tucked in my rucker, even through the summer, they are an ideal convenience hookbait for diffi cult times. Give the hot versions a go over some ‘chilli hemp’.
My chosen components - delicate hooklinks and size 10 hooks.
2. 10lb fluorocarbon is an ideal hooklink for such a small, delicate bait. This soft version is especially good.
3. I start by cutting a small sliver about half a centimetre thick off the sausage.
4. This is about the size of sliver I use, tiny!
5. Thread it on through the intact skin and fix with a boilie stop as normal.
6. A simple knotless knot is all that is required. Because I use such a small bait a light, simple presentation capitalizes on its subtlety. A bigger hook or a thick coated braid would defeat the object.
COMBI 'RAMI RIG
1. The second way I use Peperami is as a slightly larger combination bait. I use this when I want an extra little bit of visual appeal. A section about 1cm is used here.
2. Peperami is full of oil but if you leave the skin intact it can only escape through the ends. I roughly chop all the skin off to
leave a ragged piece of meat to increase the surface area.
3. To provide the visual hint to the hookbait I use one of the new tiny plastic corn pieces. I permanently leave a few grains of plastic in with my pop-ups so they absorb some of the smell too.
4. You’ve now got a lovely little hookbait that gives visual and food signals out.
5. Once again I use a small size 10 Wide Gape hook to make the set-up as discreet. A knotless knot is also used.
6. Small, smelly, oily and ideal for a winter bite or two.
HOW TO MAKE A 'RAMI PVA STICK
Spoons, plugs, spinners, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, poppers, shads, jigs, micro jerks, floaters, divers, jointed, trolling – there are so many different pike and predator fishing lures out there that picking the right one to use is an absolute nightmare for the newcomer to lure fishing. Here we explain everything we know about lures and how they perform.
We won’t detail colours of lures in this article because that is something that varies on any given day and there isn’t a definitive ‘best colour’. If there was, all lures would be that one colour! Instead this in-depth article details what to look out for when buying lures to catch pike, zander, chub and perch.
In the main lures can be split into five different groups: plugs, spinners, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and shads. And of those groups there are many variants. Take plugs for example – there are floating plugs, sinking plugs, jointed and diving plugs.
Here we’ll cover them all in detail to explain how they all work and perform, plus we’ll show you how to retrieve each style for the maximum effect.
Plugs can be bought in single bodied or jointed form. They perform the same but you'll find the jointed lures wriggle and can produce more fish.
You’ll find that most plugs have metal or plastic lips protruding from the heads. These lips are designed to either make floating plugs dive to a specific depth when they are wound back, or the lip will ensure that sinking plugs maintain their depth when they are cranked back or trolled behind a boat.
Some plugs to not have lips. These are floating plugs designed to catch fish in the surface layers because they do not dive under the surface very far – only inches in most cases. Great for summer pike action.
The angle of the lip will determine how deep floating lures dive. If the lure has a long lip that points straight out front it will dive very quickly indeed and will be designed for winding down to depth of around 10ft or even more. These are perfect in winter when the predators will be lying at the bottom.
If you see a floating lure that’s lip points downwards it will be a shallow diver – it will dive quickly to around 4ft deep maximum.
There are lips set at 45 degrees to the body – these will dive to around 6-8ft, so all depths can be covered by a variety of floating diving plugs that have different lip angles.
Sinking plugs will continue to drop to the bottom until you start retrieving. If these lures didn’t have lips they would simply come straight up to the surface, but the force of the water against the lip pushes the lure down. The combined effect of trying to wind the plug to the surface against the force of the water pushing down on the lip makes the lure travel in a straight line. It will only begin rising upwards when it nears the angler and the upward pull from the reeling beats the downward force on the plug’s lip.
The lips on plugs vary massively. The uppermost plug has a long, straight lip that will make it dive very quickly to extreme depths. The lower plug has a lip that protudes downwards and this will make the plug dive to only a few feet. A good combination of lip patterns will ensure that you can cover a multitude of depths.
With care, sinking plugs can be worked at any depth. All you have to do is to count them down. As soon as the lure hits the surface start counting and start the first retrieve when you reach two. On the next cast aim at the same spot, count to four, then start retrieving. If the water’s deep enough do the same again but count to six.
Doing this ensures that your plug works at different levels of the water, giving you a higher chance of retrieving your plug right alongside a pike.
Some plugs are jointed versions. They perform exactly the same as the above descriptions except they wriggle when they work through the water. They are very popular lures because of this added attraction.
Benefits of spinners and spoons
These are very simple lures that can be used throughout the year. They are easy to fish with and easy to work through the water – all you do is wind the spinner in.
As they are made from metal they sink very quickly so you’ll have to count them down again from the instance they splash down to ensure that the spinners are working at the required depth, and once you’re happy that the lure has fallen to the right depth you must start retrieving steadily.
As soon as spinners start moving they will rotate and this creates a series of flashes as the shiny metal base and coloured top spins. It’s these flashes that attract the predators.
Fishing with jerkbaits
A decade ago jerkbaits were out of reach for most anglers as they required incredibly powerful and specialist rods that are only any good for jerkbait fishing, super strong traces of 100lb-plus breaking strain, 100lb braided mainlines and powerful multiplier reels. Now times have changed and thankfully any lure fisherman can use the new breed of micro jerkbaits on the market.
Years ago jerkbaits used to weigh between 6-12oz and cost £25 or so apiece. Now you can buy much smaller mini jerkbaits that weigh the same as most plugs and cost under a tenner – perfect!
These lures catch loads and loads of fish, and that’s a fact. The reason why is because these lures don’t travel back to the rod in a straight line or upon a straight plane – they dart sideways, up, down, they even sometimes turn right around and flip over. They really are amazing.
To make these lures perform as haphazardly as that requires a completely different technique. Instead of winding the lures back they should be flicked back using short and sharp flicks of the rod. The rod should be jerked downwards to make the lure shoot forwards, then the angler will have to lift the rod and wind in some line then jerk the rod down again.
The results can be amazing – we would definitely advise you give these tremendous little micro jerkbaits a try.
You will need to use a braided mainline though because mono will stretch and absorb some of the action made by flicking the rod tip down.
Here's how jerkbaits work underwater. Some jerkbaits sink while others float, but they should still be fished in the same manner, which involves flicking the rod tip downwards sharply to force the jerkbait through the water. This action will make the lure dart about all over the place.
Fishing through weed with spinnerbaits
Amazingly these V-shaped lures with their inward-pointing hooks do catch predators. They are quite specialised in that not many anglers use them, probably due to the strange shape and not knowing just how affective they can be.
But spinnerbaits are great fish catchers as – like a certain lager - they reach the parts other lures can’t. Because of the inward-pointing hook they can be worked really close and often through strands of weed – the lure just bounces through the green stuff. And in winter, when the pike sink to the bottom and tuck themselves up right in the strands of weed, these lures can be very effective indeed.
To fish them correctly requires using the countdown method (detailed above) to ensure that the lure works at the right depth. When it’s steadily wound back to the rod tip the lure spins and flashes as the metallic spoon attached to the body catches any light at the bottom of the water.
Here's how spinner baits perform underwater. They should be counted down to the bottom and then retrieved steadily with the odd pause to make them flutter through any weed on the bottom.
Bumping the bottom with shads
Borne from the sea angling world, shads have found a large following among coarse predator anglers. In fact, once an avid lure angler discovers just how lifelike and effective these simple rubber, wobbly baits are they find it difficult to switch back to the old-style of lures.
The vast majority of shads are based upon two pieces – a flexible rubber body and a weighted head that has a long but powerful single hook.
A typical selection of shads. You can clearly see the metallic, weighted heads, the large single hook protruding from the back and the colourful rubber bodies. As the hook remains uppermost, you can bounce these shads along the bottom, safe in the knowledge that they won't become lodged in weed.
Shads can be caught complete with the hook embedded within the body and the weighted head in place, or they can be bought separately which is a good thing because often the hook far outlasts the plastic body that can quickly become ripped to shreds by pike’s teeth.
When rigged-up correctly the hook should protrude out of the top of the plastic body so that the lure can come to rest on the bottom with the hook pointing upwards, well out of the way of any weed. This makes the lures perfect for bouncing along the bottom to create plenty of disturbance and even small clouds of silt eruptions from the lake or river bed that will attract the attention of nearby predators.
For this reason they are ideal in the depths of winter when the pike lay close to the bottom.
Splashing the surface with poppers
In summer and autumn, when the pike can sometimes be seen close to lilies and weeds, inches underneath the surface, you will do well fishing with poppers. These small lures are purpose-built to attract pike near the surface.
They are tubular lures that are extremely buoyant. They don't have lips to make them dive, but they might have flattened noses, concave noses or even propeller-type blades at the back. All those features are designed to create as much disturbance on the surface as possible.
The principle behind poppers is to make as much noise as possible. And to do this the lures should be cast out, the line should be straightened to the lure and then quick, short, sharp flicks of the rod tip will make the lure dart forward a couple of feet making a terrific splash as it moves. It's those splashes that will grab the pike's attention.
Braided mainlines work best with poppers as they have no stretch, so any movement on the rod will be transferred directly to the lure making it move even more violently than could ever be achieved if you use mono mainlines.
There are many different types of surface lure - some resemble frogs, some resemble water voles, while others resemble fish. they are definitely worth a try when pike fishing in the summer months as the takes can be explosive!
Here's how to fish a popper. After casting, it's best to leave the popper floating for a few seconds to let any nearby pike respond to the splash. They should be retrieved with short, sharp flicks of the rod to make maximum disturbance on the water's surface.
Top tips to ensure you get the most from lures
Replace rusty hooks
If the hooks of your lures rust take steps to change them. Work the split ring from the lure and carefully remove the rusty treble hook. Replace it with a new, shiny treble of the same size as before.
Polish your spoons
Both spoons, spinners and spinnerbaits rely on the flash of light made by the rotating blade to attract fish, so you must ensure that the lure is kept clean and shiny before clipping it to your trace and casting out.
Use a trace
Regardless of whether you are spinning for perch or chub you MUST use a wire trace. A pike could easily take your lure and bite straight through the mainline if you aren’t using a trace. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Pop-up the hook
If you are noticing ‘taps’ on the lure from fish hitting it as it’s being retrieved, but you aren’t gaining proper takes, try this neat trick. Cut off a small section of rig foam and slide it over one of the points of the trailing treble hook. This will lift the treble hook and provide far more hook-ups from any fish that hits it.
Store them separately
Lures can quickly turn into a tangled mess when stored withing the same tackle box compartment so either buy a multi-compartment box or hang your lures around the lip of a bucket to avoid making a mess.
Try a rattler
In murky water or when fishing lures really deep down, predators may not be able to see your lure approaching, but by using a lure featuring a rattle within the body or a rattle clipped to the trace the fish will hear the lures long before they manage to see them.
Pinch down the barbs
A lot of lures feature massive treble hooks which have huge barbs. These hooks can be very difficult to remove from fish so pinch the barbs right down using a strong pair of pliers.
Remove the third hook
Lures having three sets of trebles can be a nightmare to unhook, so why not remove the front-most treble? Pike take lures from the rear, so the front treble is near redundant anyway!
You don’t always need big lures to catch huge pike. Providing the lure you are using is presented correctly you should catch, and that is regardless of the size. All you need is the confidence to fish the lure you’ve just clipped to your trace!
Most artificial rubber or plastic sweetcorn grains, maggots, casters, pellets and the like float and that gives anglers a challenge when it comes to presenting them correctly.
Such artificial baits like bread and dog biscuits don’t pose so much of a problem as they are designed to be fished on the surface anyway, so you don’t have to make great alterations to your rig – you can simply fish these baits as you would fish real bread or dog biscuits.
Most other artificial baits need treating differently though, to ensure that you present them as close as possible to how the natural baits look when they come to rest on the bottom.
HOW TO DO IT
Let’s take a grain or two of artificial sweetcorn as an example. First of all you are going to have to fish the rubber or plastic corn kernel upon a hair rig because there’s no way that your hook will ever pull out of the bait if it were side hooked - you’d lose every fish that you hook.
Now, once the bait is on the hair rig it will float unless you alter your rig slightly so that the bait is pulled down to the bottom.
To do this you need to create an anchor for the bait and two of the best forms of anchor are either split shot or tungsten putty. Kryston make arguably the best and it’s called Heavy Metal. This malleable tungsten putty can be rolled between your fingertips to warm it up slightly, then it can be rolled onto the hooklength to create a streamlined weight.
WHERE TO ANCHOR YOUR BAIT
This is quite critical as the position you place your anchor will determine how far the bait sits off the bottom. And then you will have to take into account the make-up of the venue’s bottom. Is it free from weed? Is it silty? Does it have an abundance of Canadian pondweed on the bottom? All these things will make a difference to where you position the anchor for your bait.
On clean and clear bottoms placing your split shot or tungsten putty anchor around 2in away from the hook works well. This will make the bait sit off the bottom by 2in, obviously!
A 2in lift off the bottom isn’t going to look too unnatural, and believe us you’ll get plenty of runs with a bait presented that far off the bottom.
If the venue is silty we would recommend having a 4in to 6in gap between the hook and the anchor weight/s as the weight may sink into the silt but the distance between the weight and the hook will ensure that the bait sits proud of the silt where the fish will be able to find it.
If the venue is very weedy try using a gap of 12in between the hook and your anchor weight so that the imitation bait rises up through the weed and doesn’t become entangled within it.
HOW MUCH WEIGHT TO USE
The amount of split shot or tungsten putty you will need to use down the line will depend upon the buoyancy and size and number of fake baits that you intend to use. As they all vary slightly in buoyancy the only way to find out is to bait your hair rig with whatever fake bait you’re using, add a little weight onto the hooklength and lower the hooklength into the margins to see how the bait performs under the weight of the shot or putty that you’ve used.
The rule of thumb here is to use just enough to pull the bait down – don’t use excessive amounts of shot or a big lump of putty as it’s not necessary. In most situations a BB shot will be enough, or a chunk of putty the size of a 1p.
THE RIGHT HOOKLENGTH
The key to success here is to use a flexible hooklength, so that rules out thick fluorocarbon as that stuff just refuses to bend!
The best hooklength to use is braid as it is soft, supple and will bend really easily at the shot/weight to create a hinge up towards the popped-up bait.
Monofilament is second best as it prefers to lay straight and won’t produce a perfect L-shape at the point where the weight is placed.
As regards the length of the hook link material, that’s up to you. Generally speaking a Method hooklength will be anywhere between 3in and 12in, a specialist semi-fixed bolt rig hooklength will be around 4in to 8in, while a general purpose feeder/leger hooklength will be anywhere between 12in and 3ft. The choice is yours.
POPPING UP OFF THE LEAD
This is a technique that many anglers use when fishing the Method. The buoyant fake bait is fished upon a short hooklength of between 2in and 6in that is tied directly to the bottom swivel of an in-line Method feeder and no weight is used to anchor the bait to the lake bed. Once the rig is cast out the groundbait around the frame feeder breaks down and the fake bait rises upwards to sit between 2in and 6in above it.
It seems baffling that any fish in its right mind would ever be caught on a fake plastic bait, but the fact of the matter is they do, and many thousands of huge fish are caught each year on artificial fishing baits.
For hundreds of years pike anglers have been catching their quarry using fake baits, either spinners, spoons or lures, with fantastic results. So why shouldn’t other non-predatory coarse fish suck up a fake bait?
It stands to reason that they should, after all a fish is a fish regardless of its species and where it lives.
The only reason that pike anglers catch fish using artificial baits is because they cast out their baits to the right place at the right time. Some say they catch the pike because they have made the pike angry, but that’s incidental – the bait still has to be in the right place at the right time.
And that’s all there is to catching coarse fish using plastic baits – they have to be cast and presented correctly in the right place at the right time – just like any other bait.
ADVANTAGES OF USING FAKE BAITS
The number one reason why anglers use imitation fishing baits is because they are trying to target specific species such as carp, bream, tench or barbel and they do not want there bait to be chewed and ruined by smaller fish such as rudd, roach, gudgeon or skimmer bream. And one way to prevent that happening is to use a tough, fake bait that cannot be chewed and destroyed.
Other reasons include the ability to easily present a popped-up bait off the bottom where the fish can easily see it, and there’s also the advantage that imitation baits can’t be knocked off the hook or break down like bread, dog biscuits or pellets do.
Finally, you try casting a piece of side-hooked bread crust 50 yards to surface feeding carp. It’s impossible – but not when you use fake bread.
WHY TO FISH TAKE THEM?
There’s no scientific reason why fish take fake baits – the answer is quite simple and not mysterious in any way. They simply fool the fish into thinking that the bait is just the same as natural baits like corn or man-made baits such as pellets.
So long as you are fishing in the right place at the right time and your bait looks natural in the water a fish will come along and take it.
ADDING SCENT TO FAKE BAITS
Most fake baits are simply look-alikes. They don’t smell like the real thing. So in order to attract the fish into your swim out of visual range you’ll have to introduce some scent or face waiting a while for a fish to pass and spot the bait.
This can be done to two ways: you can either flavour the fake bait or you can introduce real items of scented attractants or feed baits.
Flavouring your fake bait isn’t the best option as sooner or later the smell will have fully dispersed. To flavour the baits simply store them in a small canister (a camera film pot is ideal) floating in a liquid additive that suits the bait.
The second method is the most successful though where you feed the real thing around your fake bait – like real grains of corn over the top of your fake corn bait. Or try using a groundbait, a bed or hemp, a bed of pellets or a PVA bag filled with good attractors known to tempt the fish you are targeting.
We’ve all used supermarket baits at some time or another, be it sweetcorn, luncheon meat, bread, mackerel or dog biscuits, but there are loads of other baits on those shelves that will catch plenty of fish.
Variations on a similar theme seem to produce the most fish. Take luncheon meat as an example. We’ve all used that at some time or another, but have you tried Peperami? This tough meat has an added kick and can produce runs from carp, barbel and chub when run-of-the-mill luncheon meat fails.
Cheese is another great bait that has given anglers countless personal best chub when fished as a paste, but have you tried cubes of Cheddar or Gloucester for carp? It’s deadly in the summer!
Here’s just a selection of different baits available from supermarkets, and a brief description of how to use them.
A fantastic bait alternative in the winter and spring when plain-flavoured baits cease to work. Try small lengths of it legered for chub and barbel, or small chunks hair-rigged and fished alongside a PVA bag of pellets and Peperami pieces, or alongside a Method feeder for carp.
During summer small cubes of either Cheddar or Gloucester tossed into the margins of a carp fishery will soon draw the attentions of those large carp that cruise along the edge. Try fishing a larger chunk of cheese on a waggler rig or pole rig right over the top of the cheese pieces and you’ll be surprised by the results!
NOT one of the most popular of supermarket-bought baits, but Macaroni cheese can be devastatingly effective for carp and tench. It’s a very soft, sweet smelling bait that lends itself to close range work using a pole rig because it cannot be cast as it’s so soft. Bites are near unmissable as the hook pulls straight through the soft cheese, and the best way to hook them is to pass a large, round bend pattern straight through the inner, following the curve of the bait.
These are fresh/frozen prawns and cockles, not pickled versions. They make superb carp and tench baits when floatfished during the summer and autumn. Due to their near neutral buoyancy these baits come to rest gently over weed and are therefore ideal for use in the margins or very close to lilies.
This tasty fish has become a firm favourite among both match and specimen carp anglers as it makes such a brilliant attractor when mixed with groundbait or used in conjunction with pellets and a little groundbait for spodding. Remember to pick tuna chunks in water, not brine.
We all know that dog biscuits are a firm favourite for surface fishing for carp, but occasionally you need to introduce another type of bait to persuade the fish to feed avidly, and that’s when cat biscuits come in. They are smaller, often differently-shaped and they smell strongly too, and that combination will help give the carp a little more confidence when it comes to feeding again.
These tiny floating morsels are another great bait to feed when surface fishing. They aren’t ideal for catapulting though as they are so small and light, but when placed in a PVA bag together with a dry pebble they can be fired long distances where the PVA melts and the bait disperse. Carp and rudd love ‘em!
Cooked rice is cheap, bright white and makes for a brilliant bulk feed to add to your groundbait when prebaiting for carp, bream or tench. Simply simmer for 12 minutes and it’s ready. Allow to cool and then add to your already dampened groundbait. Rise is pretty useless on the hook though as it’s so small, but it’s perfect for feeding.
A box of semolina has two uses for the angler. It makes a superb base mix to which you can add different colours, additves and flavours when making your own boilies, or it can be mixed quite stiff with other attractants to create a unique paste that only you know the secret to. These boilies and pastes can be used to great effect on specialist and commercial carp waters.
A match anglers favourite. Although pretty dreadful to use as it makes a right mess, catfood in gravy provides a supply of perfect-sized chunks of soft meat that carp adore. It’s so soft that casting is virtually impossible so catfood is best used on pole tackle, but remember to step up your elastic and mainline strength because you’re very likely to encounter plenty of big carp when using this phenomenal bait.
Often called calamari in supermarkets, squid makes a terrific catfish bait. You’ll need strong tackle and a very large hook to present a squid, but it’s well worth it as the results can be astounding.
This is another great catfish bait, undoubtedly due to the strong aroma leaking from the liver. You can vary the size of the liver chunks to match the size of the hook you are using, but whatever size you decide, make sure the hook you use is a strong one or the catfish will straighten it in seconds. Liver is best fished down the marginal shelf or tight to snags, throughout the night.
Anglers of old used to fish with par-boiled potatoes when targeting big carp to great success, but nowadays potatoes tend to be used by some match anglers. Well… not exactly whole potatoes, but small cylinders of raw spud extracted from the whole potato using a meat punch. These small cylinders of potato can be side hooked and make a brilliant tough pellet alternative for fishing for carp up-in-the-water. The pale colour of the bait ensures that the carp can see it clearly. Soem anglers dye their potato pellets with strong black coffee to turn them brown to match the colour of fishmeal pellets.
Meatballs are a firm favourite among barbel anglers. Meatballs are the perfect size barbel bait, they hook well, they smell strongly and there’s ample baits in a couple of cans to last you a whole session. A great bait to use on its own when rolling baits down a river towards a likely-looking feature, or as a large target bait over a bed of pellets, hemp or particles.
These white and pink sweets make a brilliant alternative to dog biscuits, bread and pop-up boilies when surface fishing. They float for ages, they are sweetly flavoured, they are brightly coloured and they can be side hooked or hair-rigged… they have everything going for them as a summer carp bait to use on the surface.
Found in the isles containing world foods, oyster sauce is a thin, brown liquid that has a great deal of potency. It’s a superb additive that can be used to enhance groundbaits, Method mixes and even flavour pastes and pellets with. Not a cheap additive, but a little oyster sauce goes a long way, and it will last for ages too.
Although many thousands of carp are caught each and every year using standard Chum Mixers used straight from the bag, flavouring and colouring these baits can give you the edge if you are looking to catch a really huge carp that has seen normal Chum Mixers before.
Here’s what you need to do…
You will need a clean tub, your Chum Mixers, weighing scales, measuring jug and your chosen flavouring.
Add a teaspoonful of your chosen flavouring and colouring to 250ml of water.
Weigh out 1lb 8oz of Chum Mixers, place them into a tub, add the liquid, seal the lid and shake thoroughly.
When the baits absorb the water they will become spongy, coloured and are now ready to be used.
Bob Nudd is an expert when it comes to fishing for roach, skimmer bream and chub with punched bread, and here's his guide on how to use this deadly winter bait...
Bread punch is particularly good for roach in clear water on virtually any venue. It will catch other species of fish, too, including chub and bream, but it really is a winner for roach regardless of whether it’s a canal, lake, drain or river you’re fishing. Instant action is also likely – bites often come from the very first cast of the session!
You may find, after throwing in or cupping in one small nugget of punch crumb or liquidised bread that you will get a bite within a few minutes. That's great - but chances are this will not continue through the whole session.
What often happens is the angler will catch really well over a bed of bread crumbs for between an hour or three, then bites will begin to dry up.
That's the time to switch over to another bait that you should have fed earlier... pinkies or casters further across the canal, sweetcorn in the margins or a lake, or maybe casters in the centre of a river. They all make great change baits that you can resort to using when those bites over bread begin to dry up.
Here's my top-10 tips to better punched bread fishing this winter...l
Commercially available punch crumb, like the Van Den Eynde punch crumb I use, won’t fi ll the fish up as much as liquidised bread. It’s easy to prepare – just add water a little at a time and sieve the lumps off with a pinkie riddle.
1) Tip your punch crumb into a round bowl or bucket.
2) Add water a little at a time and mix the crumb thoroughly.
3) Sieve the mix with a pinkie riddle until it can be made into a ball with a gentle squeeze.
Use medium sliced Warburtons or Sainsbury’s Long Life bread for the hook. These two stay on the hook better than other breads I’ve used. If you can’t get one of these two, make sure whatever bread you use for the hook is medium sliced.
Use brass-headed bread punches, as these punch the bread more effectively than plastic ones. Always punch your bread out on a flat surface. I use a table-mat on my side tray. As a guide, a 3mm or 4mm bread punch is best for roach.
Your bread feed may dry out during your session. If this happens, give it a quick spray with an atomiser to bring it back to its original form. Adding extra water without one will cause the bread to go lumpy.
Because bread is quite a light feed, it can flow out of the swim before hitting the bottom on rivers or other venues that tow. To combat this I add some 3mm aquarium gravel to my feed to give it extra weight and help it sink to the bottom quicker.
Liquidised bread is a cheap and easy feed, but I use it only when I’m fishing for big roach. To prepare it, simply cut the crusts off a loaf of thick sliced bread and place them in a food blender. Often, the cheaper your bread, the better it is for liquidising, because it tends to be dryer than the expensive stuff and makes a lovely fluffy feed.
Positive pole rigs with olivettes and the last dropper shot 4ins away from the hook are best for bread fishing. The punch crumb feed attracts lots of small fish as well as the bigger ones, and the smaller samples often sit up in the water. A positive rig shotted with an olivette will whizz past these fish and give you a fighting chance of a bigger sample or two.
To help keep your bread on the hook, pop it into the microwave for 20 seconds or so. This makes it tackier. Some anglers then prefer to roll their bread with a rolling pin to help it stay on even better, but I’ve found this leads to a lot of missed bites.
Mix your punch crumb prior to fishing to enable all the water to be fully absorbed. Generally, the bread needs several hours to absorb the water properly. If you mix your feed in advance you can stick it in the freezer and thaw it out as and when you need it.
Keep your slices of bread for the hook in a polythene bag while on the bank to prevent it from drying out, and take it out only when the slice you are punching has dried out, or you have caught loads and punched too much out!