There’s no doubt that our stillwater venues are starting to wake up from their winter dormancy, and the fish are already beginning to respond to a bit of feed. Thankfully, tactics such as dobbing bread are now firmly on the back burner, and one bait is coming to the fore – pellets.
Just lately it seems the F1s can’t get enough of them! It’s strange, All winter it’s been maggots and bread, but I guess now the water has warmed up a degree or two the fish simply want to feed. Pellets are far more nutritious than other baits, so try these early-season tips to get the best out of your pellet fishing now…
1) Soaked micros attract fish faster
I am a massive believer in pre-soaking my micro pellets when I’m fishing and feeding this bait. This starts the breakdown process within the pellet and, perhaps just as importantly, soaking a 2mm pellet makes it sink that little bit quicker. This is vital when fishing for F1s because if the feed pellets sink too slowly you tend to get lots of false indications on the float.
A soaked 2mm pellet increases vastly in size once it takes on water. This means I can match my feed to my hookbaits, as I tend to use expanders on the hook.
2) Expander size does matter
I’m a big believer in keeping my options open when it comes to hookbait choice, so I carry a tub full of different sized – and coloured – expanders for the hook. I use expanders in 2.5mm through to 4mm diameters and normally start on a 4mm pellet.
Once bites start to slow down I will just drop down to a smaller expander to keep the bites coming. On the subject of colour, when the water is clear I like a light coloured pellet. This is purely down to visibility as a light hookbait stands out better.
3) Sprinkling feed pulls in more fish
The secret to pulling fish into the peg is to keep bait falling through the water, and so you need to choose a pole pot which has a sprinkle-type lid to help you feed the peg easily and effectively.
What I like to do is fill the pot up with pellets and then ship out to the required spot. Rather than feeding the whole lot in one go, as with normal pots, using a sprinkle lid allows me to get three or four feeds out of each potful of bait.
4) Pot position is crucial
Loads of anglers get this wrong. For accurate feeding your pole pot should be right at the tip of your pole – no more than an inch back. This way, when you tap your bait out, you know you are doing so right on top of the float. It also means your hookbait is in among the loose offerings rather than being 6ins past them.
This may seem like really a obvious tip, and maybe it is, yet it never ceases to amaze me how many anglers I watch feeding for F1s with pots positioned well back from the pole-tip.
5) Light floats will get you more bites
At the moment, with the water still being relatively clear, I’m totally convinced that light floats produce more bites than more robust patterns. They allow the hookbait to behave in a more natural manner. As a guide I use a 10x11 float in 5ft of water and drop to a 6x11 in 3ft.
There’s no better float than the MW F1 Slim (right). This is a slim-bodied float which has a short tip, offering little resistance on the strike as well as sitting quickly in the water.
6) F1's come shallow, even in the cold
When F1 fishing perhaps the hardest part is working out what depth the fish want to be at on the day. At the moment, with the water still cold, it seems the F1s are at their happiest either across or down the edge. This, I believe, is because the water is shallower here and consequently when the sun is out it warms up that bit quicker.
Once the weather and the water temperature start to settle down, though, you will find the F1s will venture back into the deep water once again.
7) Good anglers move swims regularly
Moving swims is very much part of pellet fishing. What you’ll find is you will get a quick run of fish before bites fade. When they do, the best thing is to start a new line. Take today, for example. I was catching on six pole joints straight out in front for 45 minutes before it died.
I then simply added a short half-butt section and fished half-a-metre past my original line and caught again instantly. If you move and get no response, be prepared to move again until you locate the fish.
8) F1's respond to the 10-second rule
When it comes to pellet fishing I’m a massive believer in making the fish ‘have it’ as opposed to waiting for them to do so – and the best way of doing this is through lifting and lowering the rig. This causes the hookbait to rise and fall in the water, a motion that F1s often find irresistible. Bites tend to come just as the float settles back down again.
The best way is to lift the float 6ins-8ins clear of the water and then slowly lower it back in. I then let the float sit for 10 seconds before repeating the process.
9) You'll catch more by dotting the float down
Where pellets are concerned F1s are very delicate feeders, so I fish with my float dotted right down so that you can only see the tip, and I lift at every indication. When I say ‘lift ’I mean exactly that – there’s no need for a hard strike. It’s just a lift of the pole. If a fish is on then I’ll ship it back and if it isn’t then I’ll simply lower the float straight back down again.
Sometimes you’ll lift at the tiniest of indications and think ‘that can’t be on’, only to see elastic stream from the pole-tip and a great big F1 end up in the net.
10) Back shots and a tight line will bring more F1's
Perhaps one of the best tips I have ever been given for F1 fishing is the use of back shots – and when it’s Alan Scotthorne who passes it on you definitely take notice! I fish a string of No9 back shots above the float, with the first one set 3ins above it and the rest spaced at 3ins intervals right the way up to the pole-tip.
Using back shots means I’m forced to keep the pole high and tight to the float. If I drop the pole low, the bottom back shot will sink the float. Using back shots I miss very few bites, as there is no slack line between pole float and pole-tip.
There are several things that you can do to increase the pulling power of your hookbaits, drawing carp towards them and stimulating them to feed. In tests I have found that this can make a massive difference to catches, often doubling the number of fish netted. Try making these fizzing hookbaits that carp really can’t ignore.
Give your zig rigs a makeover this spring with bait expert Dr Paul Garner, by following his spring tweaks for suspended baits.
You’d think that longer days and a hint of warmth in the sun’s rays would see carp catches soar. Trouble is, often the conditions flatter to deceive and many a time I’ve returned been frustrated by my lack of success in circumstances that looked perfect.
Yes, my swim choice may have been spot-on, but my baits were several feet below the carp. These fish spend a lot of time up in the water all year, but bright sunny days will see them anywhere from half-depth to just below the surface. You might see tell-tale black backs lifting slightly above the surface.
Also look out for fly hatches - waterfowl congregate to gorge themselves on this easy meal and the carp won’t be far behind. So what’s the key to unlocking these conditions? Zigging, of course!
Real bait zigs
If your local venue doesn’t allow the use of artificial baits, or you simply have more confidence in using a ‘real’ bait, my advice would be to get hold of some small marshmallows from the baking section of your local supermarket.
These soft, super-buoyant baits are just the right size and can be hair-rigged or side-hooked. On a size 12 hook and 0.20mm line a marshmallow will support up to a 6ft hooklength. Longer than this, and the extra buoyancy of an artificial bait is more effective.
Carp are inquisitive creatures. Watch them up close and you will notice that they will sample anything even slightly edible that is put in front of them. This goes just as much for bits of cork and foam rubber as it does for intricately crafted Zig Bugs. A small piece of black foam is, for many hardened carpers, the only zig bait they use, but I think it can pay to ring the changes.
Changing the colour of the foam, or swapping to cork, can bring extra bites when black is not producing. Zigs are mainly about visual appeal, so using a bright colour can make the bait scream ‘eat me!’. Movement can also be added to a zig simply by impaling a maggot or small worm on the hook. It is surprising how much the wriggling moves the bait around, giving it extra appeal that will last for an hour or more.
I prefer Zig Bugs over straight foam for much of my zig fishing, but not because they resemble any of the carp’s natural diet. I like the fact that the dressing on a Bug disguises the hook, making it less conspicuous. Hook and bait as one also leads to better hookholds than with a hair-rigged bait.
Sold on flavours
A few years ago now I spent a day on the bank with a match fishing friend trying out different zig baits, and the results were quite astonishing. In particular, we were interested in whether flavouring the baits could make a difference. It was a particularly tough day, but we managed to winkle out half-a-dozen carp, every one of which fell to a marshmallow dipped in dilute flavouring.
This is hardly conclusive proof, but it has persuaded me that there are no disadvantages to using flavoured baits, and just possibly they can make a positive difference. The best flavours are those that disperse quickly and rise through the water column. Ester-based flavours, such as pineapple and strawberry, are particularly effective and I will give my hookbait a quick dip in these before every cast.
To feed or not to feed?
Whether to feed anything when fishing with zigs is a tricky question at this time of the year. In the height of summer on a prolific venue I’d have no hesitation in mixing up a bucketful of very sloppy ‘spod soup’ and raining down a cloud of bait over my hookbaits. The splash of the spod actually attracts carp when they are ‘up for it’. On all but the most prolific venues, though, I tend to be much more cautious right now and leave the spod rod at home.
That said, pinging a few 8mm slow-sinking pellets over your suspended hookbaits can work. The pellets will sink, ending up several feet below the hookbait, so there is little risk of overfeeding, although you might draw some of the carp down to the deck.
Six pellets every 10 minutes is enough to evoke a reaction if the carp are willing to respond to the pitter-patter of pellets going in.
Check out bait expert Dr Paul Garner's best choices for bait this year...
Choosing just five baiting tactics that you must use for when you go fishing has been a surprisingly difficult task for me. It’s a case of being spoilt for choice – after all, there are just so many ways to catch fish and almost as many baits to use.
In the end my list came down to baits that will not only catch you more fish, but ones that will help you bag a new personal best and experience some high-adrenaline fishing. You’ll notice that soft plastic lures for perch fishing appear on the list – although these are artificial baits, they are fished very much like naturals, and are just as effective.
Here are my top five baits to use – you won’t be disappointed!
1) Catch carp on surface baits
There is no better way of catching carp than off the top, especially if you can get them feeding close in. That heart-in-mouth moment when a big pair of lips engulfs your hookbait and the line tightens is a million times more exciting than sitting behind a set of buzzers.
Yet still so few people have caught on to the adrenaline rush – in the main, I guess, because it can be a frustrating tactic as the carp refuse point-blank to eat your hookbait. Take my advice and find a well-stocked venue to begin your surface fishing quest. Take some 11mm floating pellets and catapult these upwind of any carp you spot sunning themselves on the surface. Now wait.
Don’t even think about making that first cast until the carp are charging from one bait to the next in a race to beat their shoal-mates to the free grub. Only then is it time to flick a freelined pellet or marshmallow out – and success will be virtually guaranteed.
2) Target perch on lures
Numbers of big perch are booming at the moment, although history tells us that this won’t necessarily always be the case – back in the 1960s our stocks were almost wiped out my a mystery disease, and that could happen again without warning.
All the more reason, then, to make sure you bag yourself a specimen stripey this year. While the humble lobworm or a small livebait will account for a lot of chunky perch, soft plastic lures take some beating if you want to net a real biggie.
Drop shotting is the method of the moment – but it is not the only lure fishing technique to use. With the weight anchoring the small soft plastic grub tight to the bottom, drop shotting is great on days when the perch are close to the bottom. This is especially the case during cold weather.
Much of the time, though, perch can be found in midwater and a drop shot is likely to present a lure too deep. Switching to a bright green 2ins-3ins long paddle tail lure on a tiny 1/4oz jig head is then much more effective, as it can be retrieved at any depth. Simply count the lure down as it sinks, start close to the bottom and then with each cast reduce the time before you start the retrieve to fish at different depths.
3) Make your own gel hookbaits
With a plethora of brilliant baits available straight from your local tackle shop, you may wonder why I still insist on making many of my own baits. It has to be said that I enjoy ‘messing about with bait’, but I genuinely believe that making your own gives you the freedom to come up with something a bit different from the norm.
I think my home-made gel baits definitely give me an edge. I often use them with the Method feeder, but they are just as useful for other tactics. Using gelatine or Veg-e-gel powder, available from the cooking section of supermarkets, I can set any liquid or powdered additives into a firm bait that literally melts slowly in water. Best of all, I can make a batch of bait in just five minutes. This is very different to other Method hookbaits, and has caught me fish on days when other baits have failed to work and gives me total control of the bait I use.
4) Spray pellets for chub
On my West Midlands rivers chub numbers are booming, with shoals of hungry two to five-pounders providing fantastic sport on float and feeder. These fish have grown up seeing pellets nine months of the year, thanks to barbel anglers. So pellets are obvious baits to target these chunky chevins.
A small Kamasan Blackcap feeder loaded with 3mm pellets works well, but not only more effective, but much more fun is to fish a pellet waggler tight against far-bank overhangs and spray 6mm pellets.
Expect bold bites as the chub compete for the free food. For best results keep a constant flow of pellets going in – the longer you feed, the more the chub will lose their natural wariness and the more fish you will put in the net.
5) Use boilies for specimen barbel
If a big barbel is at the top of your bucket-list for 2017, take my advice and use boilies. You may not catch as many, but my trials have revealed a massive increase in the average size of the fish I have caught on big baits.
Don’t be afraid to go-large either – 18mm or 20mm baits, fished either singly or doubled-up, make a decent mouthful for a double-figure barbel. Expect to catch few male fish under 7lb, but the large females will be suckers for a decent meal.
Most barbel tend to be caught on savoury-flavoured boilies, simply because that is what most people use, but dare to be different. Sure, you will catch on meat or fish-flavoured baits, but curry spices work great, especially in colder conditions, and I have found sweet flavours to be equally effective. Chances are no one else will be using them.
There is no point in feeding hemp or pellets if you are fishing with large boilies. Stick to just large baits, introducing a handful of bait on a PVA stringer and catapulting the odd boilie upstream to top-up the swim.
Are you looking for for an edge when it comes to being on a commercial fishery? Then follow match ace Steve Ringer's top 10 baits that he uses when fishing for carp on a commercial as these tips will give you the advantage that you need.
1) Margins – big baits means more bites
When fishing in the edge, one of the hardest things is getting a carp to pick up your hookbait, especially when a lot of them are feeding. I would go as far as to say there is nothing more frustrating than being able to see carp in the edge and then not be able to catch them. This is where a big ‘target bait’ such as 10-12 dead red maggots really comes into its own.
If you think about it there are going to be lots of maggots on the bottom so if I fish just two or three on the hook it’s going to take a while for a carp to find them. Fish a bunch, however, and bites can be instant! That’s how much of a difference it can make.
2) Blow up your pellets
A few years back I was doing a lot of straight lead and pellet fishing but always felt I was missing an edge over other anglers who were fishing the same tactic. Then one day when I was packing up I noticed a few pellets had fallen under my seatbox. What struck me was the size of the pellets – they had taken on water and were almost twice the size.
This got me thinking as the same thing had to be happening in the water once the pellets had been on the bottom a while. I therefore decided to pump some hard 8mm pellets and leave them in water so that they ‘blew up’ into massive, soft pellets.
Once I got the process of prepping the pellets rightthe results were staggering and I was getting more bites than ever before on my ‘new’ blown pellets! I had found the edge I had been looking for and ever since that day when lead and pellet fishing I always have a few ‘blown’ pellets with me.
3) Hard pellets - noise is the key
When the fishing is hard and there isn’t a lot happening I am big believer in trying to draw a few fish into the swim and the best way to do so is to make a noise with hard pellets. I pick up my catapult and ping just 3-4 pellets on top of the float every 20 seconds.
The reason this works is that carp home in on the noise of the pellets hitting the water but at the same time I’m not putting lots of bait on the bottom and risking killing the swim. Size-wise this tactic works best with either 6mm or 8mm pellets because anything smaller doesn’t make enough noise to help pull a fish or two into the swim.
4) Coloured water equals red meat
I love fishing meat but it loses its effectiveness when the water is extremely coloured. When this is the case I will take a handful of my 6mm cubes and dye them red. The reason being when the water is very coloured red offers a strong silhouette and gives the carp a bait they can really home in on.
I was always sceptical about red meat in the past but I’ve had good results using it too many times in coloured water conditions for it to be coincidence. I use Ringers Red Liquid to dye my cubes and will only dye my hookbait meat and not the cubes used for feeding.
5) Foul-hooking? Hemp is the answer
I’m often asked how to prevent foul-hooking carp when fishing meat close in?
My answer is to use hemp. But, and it’s a big but, it has to be used in the right way. If you feed it little and often along with the meat then there is a danger the carp can get preoccupied on it and you won’t be able to catch them.
It’s much better to use hemp purely as settling bait. So at the start I will pot in two thirds of a large 250ml Drennan pot of just hemp to form a bed. Then if I start to catch a few and then start to suffer from foul hooking, I will simply introduce another big pot of hemp to settle them back down again.
6) Feed heavy close in to get out of jail
Every now and again in a match you need a get- out-of-jail card and, while most people use the margins for this, I prefer to fish short on a top kit straight in front of me. I mix hemp, corn and meat and simply lash it in to create the impression of someone packing up and throwing all their bait in.
I normally kick the swim off with three big handfuls of bait and go straight in over the top because quite often I will get a quick response from a fish within seconds. From that point on I will keep lashing the bait.It’s an approach that doesn’t always work but it has paid off on many occasions for it to be my ‘go to’ line when things aren’t going to plan.
7) Pack in the particles for bream
The secret to building a big weight of bream is particles particles – casters, pellets, worms etc. I pile in the particles in the first hour to put a bed of bait on the bottom. To do thisuse a bigger feeder and cast more often. Then when the bream turn up, perhaps 90 minutes in, I have a lot more bait on the bottom to hold the bream for longer.
8) Corn – two grains are better than one
Sweetcorn is a fantastic bait all year round but it’s particularly effective at this time of year. The interesting part about corn is that when it comes to fishing it on the hook then I always tend to find that two grains are without doubt better than one.
Loads of times I have caught on corn and alternated between single and double on the hook only to find two grains constantly produced quicker bites and bigger fish. There are two possible reasons for this, firstly the bigger bait stands out more over the loose offerings so the carp spot it that bit quicker, or it could be that everyone tends to fish a single grain of corn so two grains gets treated with less suspicion.
9) Stand out or blend in?
When fishing the Method or Hybrid feeder there are loads of different hookbaits you can use but I like to simplify things by dividing them into two camps, blend-in and stand-out. Blend-in baits are those such as hard pellets that match the pellets on the feeder. When the fishing is hard this type of bait takes some beating.
The reason for this is that when the fishing is hard there aren’t many fish in the swim so those that are there can afford to be picky about what they pick up. Hence a blend-in bait works well as it can trick even the wariest of carp.
If, however, there are loads of fish in the swim then stand-out baits such as mini fluoro boilies or bread really come into their own. These work because they are highly visible and give the carp something they can really home in on.
10) Give your meat a double cut
A couple of years back I spent a lot of time at Tunnel Barn Farm fishing meat into the shallow water across to far banks and islands. The problem was I struggled to hold the fish in the swim for long periods when feeding 6mm cubes.
What I needed, of course, was to create a cloud to firstly draw the fish in and then hold them in the swim once they arrived. To achieve this I decided to create a meaty mush by passing around a third of my 6mm meat cubes back through the cutter again, giving myself a feed made up of different sizes which almost exploded on the surface of the water.
This was added to 8-10 6mm cubes in my pot so when it was fed the cloudy mush pulled the fish into the swim and once they arrived they followed the 6mm cubes down to the bottom so I could catch them!
Maggots and pellets are without doubt the top springtime baits on commercials, but could the deadly duo be made even more effective? You bet!
Gallons of each are piled into our favourite fisheries and while bites are almost assured when using them both, your catch returns could be given an even bigger boost by making a few simple yet underrated tweaks. Maver-backed matchman Jake Robinson has been almost unbeatable in recent months, scoring numerous victories in competitions that have been contested by some of the country’s biggest stars.
Rather than apply tactics straight from the textbook, the Staffordshire-based rod has dared to be different and that bold approach has served him well time and time again. “Flavourings are often dismissed but I’ve worked on four different combinations that will work wonders at this time of year when big nets of carp, F1s and silverfish are in mind.”
“By giving my maggots and pellets a colourful and flavoursome edge, I’ve been able to keep the success coming, even when I’ve found myself on pegs described as were no-hopers.”
1) Luminous maggots
Red maggots are the number one choice of thousands of anglers, but could you make them even redder and increase their pulling power? “Red maggots straight out on the bait box aren’t particularly vibrant and I’ve found that adding a bright red liquid to them has several benefits.”
“First of all it makes your hookbait and loosefeed stand out a mile in clear water and the cloud also lingers to draw in fish that would be unaware of the feast waiting for them.” A whole bottle of Bag’em Matchbaits Red Aggressor liquid is added to two pints of maggots the night before a session, swilled around and then left to rest overnight. By the morning your bait will stand out a mile!
2) Pineapple pellets
There is an obsession with fishmeal products on commercials but going the other way and using a very sweet flavouring or additive can often score heavily. “Fish stocks have become accustomed to fishmeal and I think doing something different with your pellets helps attract the wary and often bigger fish into feeding confidently.”
Rather than dampen your micro or 4mm pellets with water, slowly add Pure Pineapple liquid and mix it in. Once all the bait is thoroughly soaked, place the bait lid on, leave to settle for 15 minutes and you’ll then have softened pellets with a difference.
3) Blood red expanders
There will be some days when no matter what you try, you just can’t convince the fish to feed. During those sessions, it is key to make sure that the fish notice your hookbait quickly and don’t fill themselves on loosefeed. “I often feed normal micro pellets and place a vibrant and unmissable target bait on top of that. A blood red expander is much better than anything else in my experience.”
Pump your expander pellets as you normally would and then sprinkle a teaspoon of Super Sweet Meat and Maggot dye over the top. Place the lid on the tub, shake for 30 seconds and you’ll then have blood red expanders that no commercial fish will be able to resist.
4) Yellow micros
When you are fishing in shallow water up against an island or the far bank of a snake lake, it can pay to introduce a colourful cloud. Introduce a couple of spoonfuls of yellow Super Sweet Meat and Maggot dye to your loosefeed. Don’t mix it in too heavily, keeping the powder visible.
“Each time you feed, a small amount of powder will be introduced neat and that creates a cloud that lingers in the swim. Red and green are common colours on commercials but yellow is underrated and as fish don’t see it that often is the reason it is so effective.”
Are you struggling on a water that is heavily fished? Then this bait may be for you seeing as big carp can become wary of standard boilies. So why not try out this unusual bait that may make it easier and give you that killer edge on heavily fished venues.
So in order to keep the bites coming, you need to be one step ahead and offer the fish something a little different. In early spring, one of the best ‘alternative’ hookbaits is Peperami. Peperami is nothing particularly new as a bait, having first found a place in the carper’s bait armoury around a decade ago. Yet to this day its use remains sporadic at best, with most anglers reaching for plastic corn as their first port of call as a ‘change bait’ from boilies.
Such anglers could be missing a trick, because as well as being a durable, cheap and highly attractive hookbait, Peperami is a also a highly adaptable offering that can be used in all manner of different ways. Here we highlight five ‘rami’ tricks for you to try.
1) Fill a pva bag with chops
A small mesh bag containing small chops of Peperami and a pinch of low-oil pellets is a fabulous winter loosefeed. Don’t overdo it though, or you’ll satisfy the fish’s appetite before they get to your hookbait!
2) Grate for extra appeal
For a hookbait full of attractive scent yet low on food value, grate the rami finely, add a few grains of corn and seal a little parcel of the mix in a fine stocking material, tied off with some dental floss and then hair-rigged.
3) Pair rami with a spicy groundbait
A cylinder of Peperami fished in conjunction with a red groundbait laced with chilli powder is an excellent tactic. The highly-attractive mix will draw carp into your swim, where the only sizeable item of food they’ll find is the hookbait.
4) Make a balanced and ‘skinned’ hookbait
To give the fish something totally different to think about, try skinning or coring a couple of rami sections with a meat punch and hair rigging them laterally, with a small slice of cork on top to help critically balance the bait. A deadly set-up!
5) Make a peperami pop-up
To take the buoyancy theme one step further, remove the central cylinder of a rami section with a meat punch and insert a cork plug. This will pop it up off the bottom, right in the carp’s line of sight. Balance the bait with a shot
Roach anglers have never had it so good when it comes to the choice of baits that are on offer. Where once the menu would have been quite limited, in recent years new baits have earned their place alongside the old staples.
Here is my selection of the best roach baits to try, and why each one is so effective.
Just as dark-coloured dead maggots catch a better stamp of roach than white maggots, so casters will catch bigger fish too. Ask your local tackle shop for freshly turned casters, as these will sink well, and their dark red colour makes them ideal for roach.
Casters have a couple of advantages over maggots. First, the hook can be completely buried in a caster, ideal for fishing in clear water for wary roach. Casters also stay put on the bottom and won’t bury under stones or weed. Hemp and caster is a classic combination and my go-to roach bait for river trotting
No self-respecting roach angler would leave home without a pint of freshly cooked hemp.
Roach love the taste but interestingly, when I have filmed fish underwater feeding on the seeds, they will often pick them up and spit them out repeatedly before eventually swallowing them. I think this is why bites with hemp on the hook can be really fast dips on the float and hard to hit. As a roach attractor hemp is unbeatable, and I will use it in combination with all the other baits in my top 10 to concentrate roach in my swim
There isn’t a roach alive that won’t eat maggots. Try using a single grub for small roach, stepping up to two or three for bigger fish. Regular feeding is key to building up a good catch – a dozen maggots every 30 seconds is a good starting point.
I clean mine in fresh maize flour and boost them with a few drops of pineapple flavour the night before fishing. To sort out a bigger stamp of roach, try using red maggots or a bunch of dead maggots hard on the bottom. Being less visible, these baits will be less likely to be picked off by small fish, which feed mainly by sight.
4) Hooker pellets
Roach are turned on by the taste of fishmeal, and my local River Severn is turning up increasing number of specimen redfins on pellet baits intended for barbel.
These being hard baits, roach do tend to spit them out, giving fast unhittable bites. A partial solution is to use the softest hooker pellets that you can. I pump my own, which tend to be softer than pre-prepared baits. A 6mm pellet on a size 16 hook is about right. Try adding sweet strawberry and pineapple flavourings to hooker pellets.
Traditionally used as a hookbait when feeding hemp, the slightly larger and softer tares are easy to hook and stand out well as they sink through the water. Tares are very cheap and easy to prepare. Just soak them overnight and then boil for a few minutes until they soften.
Some anglers add a teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda to darken the colour of the tares. Tares don’t seem to have a great deal of attraction in their own right, so combining them with hemp is essential. As a hookbait, they tend to attract better bites than hemp.
A very under-rated roach bait, but one that has caught me some lovely specimens from stillwaters and rivers. Two grains might seem like quite a big bait, but will catch roach from 1lb upwards and be immune to the attentions of smaller fish.
Specimen carp venues are the ideal places to fish this bait for big roach, as many carp anglers will incorporate corn in their spod mix but never use it on the hook – giving the smaller species a free meal and effectively prebaiting your swim.
Worms will catch every fish that swims, androach are suckers for these baits. In fact, in some venues aquatic worms and midge larvae make up a large part of the diet of roach. Chopped worm and caster is a classic combination of feed and hookbait, ideal when you want to put together a mixed bag of fish.
To be more selective for roach, try fishing half a dendrobaena over hemp. Don’t be afraid to use the largest worm that you can for roach, as this will often single out the larger specimens
It is no surprise that 10mm mini-boilies have accounted for some of the biggest roach in recent times. These relatively large, hard baits are very selective for specimen roach, as smaller fish simply can’t fit them in their mouths. Scopex Squid and Tigernut-flavoured baits have both worked well for me.
It isn’t just carp venues where the roach fall for mini-boilies. I caught my biggest roach from Lochnaw in Scotland on a boilie, simply because it enabled me to single out the larger fish from among the millions of tiddlers that pounced on more traditional roach baits instantly.
French match anglers, who know about these things, have long used groundbait to attract and hold roach in their pegs. I use Sensas 3000 Gardons (roach) as the basis for my groundbait mix, adding lots of crushed hemp in shallow water, or when using an open-end feeder.
Roach up in the water are attracted by a light, cloudy mix, but on the deck I stick to dark red or black mixes. When expecting to catch on the bottom, I know the roach will settle over dark feed.
For some reason, bread in all its forms is a brilliant roach bait in running water, but is very inconsistent in stillwaters. The one exception is punched bread, which can be very good whatever the venue. Punch is, of course, just small pieces of flake, and I think its small size is the reason it works in lakes as well as rivers.
River roach, though, are much more willing to take a bigger bait, and a piece of fluffy bread flake the size of a 20p coin is ideal.Feed is liquidised flake, fed either through a small open-end feeder or a tiny bait dropper to ensure it reaches the bottom quickly without first dispersing.
One of the easiest changes you can make to many baits is to alter the colour, but does this really make any difference to catches? I don’t think that fish are attracted to any one colour, but some are definitely more visible than others in different venues, and this can influence our results.
On heavily pressured venues, using a colour that is different from the norm can also catch you more fish, especially if you use some of the more obscure hues.
What can coarse fish see?
Coarse fish have eyes that are not much different from ours. However, they can see some ultraviolet light beyond the blue end of the spectrum that we can see, useful in deep water where most light is at this end of the spectrum. Rather than what colours fish can see, we would be better asking what colours are visible in the murky depths of a river, or the clear water of a lake? Light at the red end of the spectrum is actually absorbed quite quickly. If you go down to 30 feet then even in a gin-clear lake, reds will appear as shades of grey.
Most of the time, though, we aren’t fishing in water anything like this deep, so the colours we see are not that different to what the fish will be seeing too. At night colour becomes less important. Even though fish can see quite clearly on even a moonless night, they will see in black and white, with bright colours appearing as lighter shades of grey and dark colours like red appearing almost black.
Paul's top tips for dyeing your baits
Many baits will take colours easily, and some anglers who have experimented with unusual combinations have enjoyed surprising success until the fish become ‘wised up’ to them.
Why not experiment yourself, with simple food colourings? The sky’s the limit!
Tommy Pickering gives his opinion on the best hookbaits that you should be using right now if you are wanting to catch consistently.
The rise in temperatures in recent weeks has stirred fish stocks into feeding, but careful consideration still needs to be given to your bait choices if you are to succeed. Pick the wrong hookbait and there’s every chance that your target species will ignore it and leave you struggling for action. If I had to pick five baits to see me through the next few weeks, these are what they would be...
These pick out the biggest silverfish in the shoal – the orangey-brown ones are best. Double and single caster works on a size 16 or 18 hook when roach and skimmers are the target fish.
Fish consider these their main food source. Hard pellets in a bait band score on bomb, waggler or pole for quality carp and F1s. Soft expanders are a better option for bonus tench and skimmers.
In winter this can be fantastic on the bomb for commercial carp and F1s or river barbel. I push a tin through a meat cutter to create 6mm or 8mm cubes. Avoid cheap, fatty brands that tend to float.
Maggots tend to attract small fish to start with but bigger bonus fish may then move in. Dead maggots are extremely effective when used as a hookbait on the Method feeder.
In clear water, a grain of corn stands out a mile. Use it on the bomb on a size 16 or 18 hook when casting around to find a shoal, or loosefeed it sparingly on the pole line through a small cup.
Bread is one of the best winter baits for carp. Its complex structure of means that it is light in water, making it easy for carp to pick up, and big baits can be used as it has very little substance. Bread lends itself to a whole host of tactics, so why not give it a go?
Follow these six simple and easy steps to be able to create the perfect rolled bread hookbait.
If the bites dry up on bread, try adding a couple of maggots to the hook. ‘Bread with legs’ is a classic cocktail bait at any time of the year, and one that can see you catching a wider range of species than bread alone.
I use both corn and wafters for hookbaits, and will change my hook based upon which bait I’m using. When fishing corn on the hair I’ll use a size 18 Super MWG.
If I change hookbaits from corn to a yellow wafter I will switch to a size 14 QM1 hook and a 0.17mm hooklength – still 75cm long, of course.
In terms of hookbait choice, contrary to popular belief corn gives you quite a few! To simplify things, though, there are three I like to concentrate on...
1) Corn stack
2) Dumbell wafter
3) Corn string
You can use maggots on their own, but on well-stocked lakes where the carp are used to finding plenty of bait I will bulk out my feed a little.
The idea is to get the carp grubbing around and homing in on the maggot hookbait. This mix is ideal for use in PVA bags and for spodding out.
Follow these easy steps below to have your big carp mix ready in minutes.
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 fis