Hemp is still a bait that so many anglers steer clear of when it comes to fishing for roach.
The seeds are fiddly to get on the hook, and when the angler finally gets a bait in the water he’s unable to catch anything.
That’s far from the truth. It may not every day that sees hemp work, but when you’ve got a swim producing a fish a cast on maggots and casters, there’s no reason why changing to hemp should lead to a halt in bites – provided of course, you’ve been feeding hemp from the word go.
This week’s coach is a real blast from the past – Pete Jayes. The Leicester angler has enjoyed a glittering career stretching back to his days with Ivan Marks and the Likely Lads.
Here are his top tips for catching big roach on ‘the seed’ this autumn…
Present it correctly
“Whereas maggots and casters are best fished overdepth, I think hemp works brilliantly when presented just off bottom and run over just a few feet of a river swim as opposed to way down the peg.
“I try and get the grain on the hook to act in the same way as the loosefeed underwater. Hemp on the riverbed won’t move with the flow, due to its weight, so why should the hookbait?
“I think roach line themselves up in the flow waiting for the hemp to arrive – if the bait acts suspiciously they won’t look at it.”
When tares work
“I never fish hemp without having a few tares with me because they are a brilliant hookbait that picks out the bigger roach in the swim. They are a much bigger bait than a grain of hemp, and they’re also easier to get on the hook.
“Once the roach are lined up on hemp it’s time to try a tare on the hook. I prepare my own, but to make them even softer I will freeze a few and then defrost them before use.”
“I always have two pole rigs on the go for hemp work because no two days are ever the same.
“You have to try different depths and shotting patterns to make the hookbait behave as much like the loosefeed as you can.
“I’ll fish a 0.4g bodied float plus a much lighter 4x14 slender Preston Innovations Chianti model. Both are shotted using nothing larger than No10 shot, as this allows me to move them up and down the line for different presentations. You can’t do that with heavier shots.”
“Varying how many grains of hemp you loosefeed is the road to ruin. I reckon roach like a constant stream going in – the more regular the feeding is, the better the fishing will be, so I fire in around 12 grains every run through and never alter this.
“Should I think that a change needs to happen, this comes by altering the shotting on the rig rather than how much I am feeding.”
Light lines, small hooks
“In keeping with the delicate presentation that I am trying to achieve, my lines and hooks have just as much finesse.
“A hook that’s too big and a line that’s too thick will make the hookbait act unnaturally underwater, so typically I fish 0.10mm mainline to an 0.08mm hooklink.
“Your hooks should be very light as well, but they need to have a wide gape to help the hemp sit properly.
“For me the best out there is a Kamasan B511 in a size 20 or 18.”
Like most anglers I love fishing for roach, and while other species may grab my attention throughout the year, my season wouldn’t be complete without a campaign for these amazing fish.
We often take roach for granted, given that they can be found in almost every river, lake or canal, but this disguises the fact that they are superbly adapted to such a wide range of different environments.
One of the factors that enables roach to be so successful is their ability to eat a wide range of different natural foods. If you look at the mouth of a roach it isn’t specialised, which hints that roach are the all-rounders of the coarse fish world. Roach are equally adept at feeding on small snails as they are bloodworm.
Emerging insects will get them to rise in the water column to feed, whereas an abundance of caddis larvae may seem them feeding on the bottom. Roach will even chomp mouthfuls of algae from the surface of water plants and stones, even though they can only digest the tiny animals that are hidden within.
It should be no surprise that roach will feed on a wide range of different baits too, but choosing the right one for each situation can make all the difference to your catches.
By thinking about how the roach are behaving in each season we can see why our tactics need to change throughout the year.
This year I am expecting some great river roach sport, thanks to the regular rain giving running waters a welcome tinge of colour.
This definitely improves roach sport, which reaches a climax as the light-level falls in the evening. Seed fishing with hemp and tares is what autumn evenings were made for, although a handful of casters for hookbaits will see bites often easier to hit and can bring a bigger stamp of fish.
Other alternatives to try at this time of the year are stewed wheat and groats, both very cheap to buy and easy to prepare, along with elderberries that make a useful hookbait.
Feeding little-and-often is the key with all of these baits. A pinch of seeds every minute will get the roach competing. If you are impatient, try starting with a maggot on the hook, as it can take a while for the roach to feed confidently on seeds.
At this time of the year the roach are often feeding on tiny black water snails, which I am sure explains the effectiveness of these dark baits.
The depths of winter are my favourite time to fish for roach because they can be relied to feed in conditions that most would regard as hopeless. In fact, really cold weather can be the best time to target specimen roach because, for some reason, the small fish will go off the feed, but the specimens will still take a bait, especially in the first hour of darkness.
With small fish out of the equation, this is the time of year to use maggots both as feed and on the hook. I like to carry a mixture of white and red grubs, normally flavoured with pineapple, and use a combination of the two colours on the hook.
For river fishing you may find that dace and chublets make maggot fishing tricky. If this is the case then switching to bread can be more selective. Rather than use flake, as many roach anglers advise, I tend to use an 8mm punch of bread instead, finding the smaller offering more acceptable in the cold. Feed a mixture of fine punch crumb and liquidised bread that has been dampened down enough to hold together when squeezed firmly.
With natural food at a seasonal low, roach have to use all their resourcefulness to find enough food in winter. Often they will be full of algae, which has little nutritional value, but which does hold some tiny invertebrates that they can digest. I am sure that it is the lack ofbetter quality natural food, combined with the desire to feed, that makes roach so catchable in the depths of the winter.
Water temperatures tend to rise much more slowly than air temperatures, so by the time my spring tactics come to the fore, the rivers will have closed and so my roach fishing will take place on stillwaters. With spawning taking place around mid-May, the roach will be looking to eat well at this time of the year in order to build up their reserves. Larger baits such as worm and caster can be the roach angler’s best friend during this period. Try using a cocktail consisting of half a dendrobaena worm tipped with a caster on a size 14 hook.
Evening fly hatches will see roach shoals coming up in the water and often topping on the surface at dusk. Try fishing two casters on the hook, which is a slow-sinking hookbait, and feed pinches of caster over the top to attract the larger roach.
Very few roach anglers bother fishing for the species during the summer, but they could be missing out. A lot of big roach are accidentally caught by carp anglers using particle baits and mini boilies so I would base my tactics around these baits.
I have found sweetcorn particularly effective on rivers during summer. Try fishing the first couple of hours into darkness with a light scattering of grains and some hemp. This has worked particularly well for me.
Mini boilies are probably the most selective big-roach bait there is. I stick to 10mm baits, given the relatively small mouth of even a two-pounder.
For many anglers, now is the time when sport is at its very best.
Most species are feeding up hard to pack on weight for winter, and a well-presented bait will see plenty of action. We start with 15 autumn-gold nuggets of advice from big-fish expert Dr Paul Garner...
1) Try dead maggots or worms
Two baits stand out for crucians right now – two dead maggots fished over a light scattering of groundbait can work wonders, but a close second comes half a dendrobaena, hooked at the broken end to leak off the juices.
2) It's a wrap for barbel
When boilie fishing for barbel I rarely cast out without wrapping some matching paste around the hookbait. This can work wonders if the fish are proving finicky. A useful trick is to use a 12mm hookbait wrapped in paste, but feed 15mm baits.
3) Gob-stoppers trick wily carp
With everyone using boilies of 18mm or less, you can fool wary carp by going large and 24mm or even larger baits. Scale up your hook size ti match the big bait.
4) Enjoy traditional roach sport
Many of our larger rivers are teeming with roach at the moment. One of the nicest ways of catching them is to use loosefed hemp with prepared tares on the hook.
Start with a pinch of hemp every cast and fish a matching grain on the hook. Once you start getting bites regularly swap to a tare and your reward should be a bigger stamp of fish.
5) Big bream are feeding up
A windy autumn can see shoals of big bream feeding hard. I lay out a big spread of bait to hold the shoal.
Into the mix go a tin of sweetcorn, two pints of dead maggots, some mini-boilies and soaked flaked maize. Bind the lot together into balls with a mix of brown crumb and layers mash.
6) Mid water baits for Rudd
For consistent autumn rudd sport try using a 10mm pop-up or a lump of breadflake on a 12ins-36ins hooklength, so the bait is presented in midwater
7) Stock up now
Get your deadbaits stocks sorted now to ensure a ready supply for winter. Big smelts are always in short supply, so order early.
Split bulk baits into small airtight bags and freeze down. Dip each bait in cold water before freezing, as this will stop them getting ‘freezer burn’.
8) swap to a cone
A pellet cone is a much neater presentation than the Method feeder, and really comes into its own in the coming weeks, especially on venues where the carp have seen it all over the summer months. Vary the size of the cone to control the amount of feed you introduce.
9) The subtle snowman
Very often carp never actually get the hook into their mouths, just the boilie. This can be even worse with a snowman presentation. So try my ‘subtle snowman’ (below), made by cutting a 15mm boilie and a 15mm pop-up down to form a single back-to-back bait.
10) Feed, feed, feed for chub
The key to unlocking brilliant autumn chub sport comes down to how you feed. The simple solution is to drip-feed as regularly as you can. This could be as little as three pellets or maggots every few seconds.
11) Fry-feeding perch
Now is the time to target perch, which predate heavily on small fish which are in the margins over the next few weeks. Use small lures for this – a selection of bright green and more natural hues.
12) Go soft for roach
On many fisheries roach have developed a love of pellets. This can cause problems with fast, hard-to-hit bites. This phenomenon is simply down to both baits being hard, and to combat this try using soft hooker pellets – I find 4mm baits are best.
13) Flavoured meat in floods
Try to coincide barbel trips with the river falling back after a flood. If you have to fish as the river rises, stick to a straight lead and a large smelly bait such as Crab & Krill flavoured luncheon meat.
14) Slug it out for chub
Dew-laden mornings will see hundreds of slugs and snails attacking your garden plants. Rather than chuck them over the neighbour’s fence, why not collect them for an afternoon’s chub fishing?
15) Try red corn down the edge
A float down the edge works for carp that feed in the margins at dusk.
Add a few drops of boilie dye to a tub of corn the day before fishing and you will be left with a lovely dark-red bait that is eaten with enthusiasm.
With Autumn upon us it is time to start thinking about big perch and what baits to use when trying to lure a a PB into your net. We have taken a look at the best baits to be using right now when it comes to catching big perch.
Few perch can resist a worm, with big lobworms picking out the specimens, while smaller redworms will catch smaller fish when the going is tough.
Perch will always chase a lure around, and small spoons and spinners take their share of fish – just be sure to use a wire trace in case of pike.
If fishery rules allow, a small live roach or minnow fished under a loafer-style float will produce, fished close to ambush spots.
Commercial fishery perch seem especially fond of a tiger prawn fished on the float or sometimes freelined at close range.
Many anglers think that paste is for commercial carp fishing only when really it can be used in all types of carp fishing and is definitely a worthwhile tactic to look at next time you are on the bank. We've gone to paste expert Colin Spencer who will real how he has perfected this simple and extremely effective bait
“One of the most frustrating elements of paste fishing is trying to work out what a bite is. The float will constantly bob around when there are carp around the hookbait, but you are looking for it to dip quickly.
“My rig has no shot down the line, with the weight of the paste cocking the float. A fairly slimline float works best, typically a 0.2g version threaded on to 0.17mm mainline straight through to a size 16 Guru Pellet Waggler hook.”
Vary your paste
“If I am getting plagued by small fish or I’m having to wait a while for bites I’ll stiffen some of the paste up by adding more groundbait.
“If the fish are coming thick and fast then I’ll do the opposite and add more water to a batch to make it slightly sloppier.”
“Feeding is just as important as the hookbait. On a prolific venue, don’t feed much or you’ll be dogged by foul-hookers and line bites. I just place a small amount of corn and pellet in a pole cup, place my paste hookbait on top and cup it all into my target zone.
“Then I’ll repeat this process after each fish.
“I’ll stop feeding altogether for a while if I have a run of foul hookers in order to force the fish into taking my hookbait.”
Make Colin's paste
Pour a whole bag of Dynamite Baits Green Swim Stim groundbait into a shallow, round bowl.
Add four pints of lake water to the groundbait.
Mix vigorously so the water is evenly distributed.
After 15 minutes the mix will have stiffened up – perfect.
Mould the paste around a size 16 Guru Pellet Waggler hook.
When it comes to trying to bag up on bream, it's difficult to know what the best bait to use is. Wonder no more as we have gone to bait expert Dr Paul Garner to find out what the best bait is when it comes to bream fishing.
On a natural river or gravel pit, 100lb of fish averaging 4lb is my benchmark for a seriously good session. My tactics are nothing revolutionary, but I do make a few tweaks that make a significant difference to my results.
The centre of attraction
Bream are big fish that make a lot of wake as they move around – this can send groundbait and pellets in all directions. Rarely will a Method feeder deposit a neat pile of feed next to the hookbait, except if a fish cruises in and picks it up immediately. How far the bait spreads out and how long this takes depends on the number of bream in the swim.
To combat this I pack some of the bait tightly on to the feeder and either leave the hookbait hanging free, or load it right on the outside of the feeder. Try it – your catches are sure to improve.
Boilies and pellets seem to be becoming just as high up the menu for bream as they are for carp, but these baits are not always my immediate choice. Sweetcorn is another very effective bream bait – and underused at that.
With care, the classic combination of corn and a dendrobaena worm can be effective, but take care if you are fishing at range, as the shock of the feeder hitting the water can dislodge even these tough worms.
A bunch of dead maggots is another useful alternative. I prefer red, as they stand out less well, making them less vulnerable to the attentions of silver fish.
Four dead maggots on a size 12 hook is a formidable bream bait, especially when the water is clearer than I would like.
I keep pellet hookbaits relatively small for bream. An 8mm pellet is about right, even for big slabs. Only when I’m targeting double-figure fish will I go bigger than this, as I feel I miss fewer bites on the smaller baits.
Boilies follow a similar rule. An 8mm or 10mm bait is ideal for bream, preferably a wafter, as I am sure that I hook more fish on these semi-buoyant baits.
The flavour of the boilie is almost irrelevant, as I will be boosting it anyway and this will mask the locked-in smell.
Pellets revolutionised bream fishing and today it would be difficult to think about not using these fishmeal-based baits.
Within reason, the more oily the pellets, the more bream will be attracted to them. Halibuts are perfect, but expensive to use on their own, so if I want to prebait, for example, I will use them in combination with cheaper baits, such as corn and flaked maize.
A spod is the bream angler’s best friend when fishing at range. If you clip up at the same distance as the rods that are actually fishing it’s easy to hit the spot every time, giving you a precisely controlled bed of bait. A spread of bait can be achieved in just 10 minutes, and it’s far more accurate than using a catapult. A bag of pellets and two tins of corn will be plenty for a day session or overnighter, as this will be topped up with bait from around the feeder.
Plain brown crumb is the ideal base for groundbaits, especially if you combine it with liquid molasses to produce a classic bream combination. I like to use a 50-50 mix of crumb and a fishmeal-based groundbait such as Sensas Crazy Bait Gold, Dynamite Marine, or Sonubaits Supercrush.
Sticky sweet feed pellets
Combining savoury fishmeals with sickly-sweet liquids might seem strange, but bream love the unlikely mix. I guess that the sweetness takes the edge off the bitter taste that many pellets have, especially those that are high in oil. This combination creates a potent feed pellet, ideal for spodding out or using on a Method feeder.
Use a coffee grinder to reduce a couple of handfuls of 6mm feed pellets to a coarse powder.
Add two tablespoonfuls of demerara sugar to the pellet powder and mix well.
Dissolve two tablespoonfuls of liquid molasses in a pint of lukewarm water.
Add a teaspoonful of liquid betaine to the water. Bream love the stuff!
Soak a bag of 6mm feed pellets in the liquid for six minutes, then pour off any excess water.
Add the powder mix to the damp pellets and shake to evenly coat the pellets in the powder.
When rivers are low and clear and the chub and barbel play hard to get there’s one fishing bait that I keep up my sleeve. The classic combination of hemp and casters can send even the most wary river fish loopy, and with practice you can work them up into a feeding frenzy. The key to this style of fishing is to be confident in what you are doing…
Keep the cost down
Big fish love the taste of casters, but they can be expensive. For a full day’s fishing I would reckon on taking four pints, and maybe double that of hemp. Buying hemp in bulk and preparing it yourself keeps the cost down, and any left-over bait can be frozen and kept for the next trip, as I find both baits just as effective when they have been stored in this way.
Sit on your hands
It’s possible to get immediate bites when fishing hemp and caster, but this isn’t always a good thing. One benefit of using any small bait is that the fish will gain confidence in feeding on it over time.
The longer you can sit on your hands before catching that first fish, the more confident they will have grown and potentially the more you will catch. Think of this style of fishing as feeding a line, but not fishing it until later in the day. The longer the fish have to settle on that line, the more readily they will bite.
There are a couple of ways you can slice this cake. If you want to keep busy and the river is large enough, why not spend a couple of hours running a float down the inside line while feeding farther out? Alternatively, and often the only viable approach on small rivers, feed hemp and casters and don’t start fishing for an hour or more. It’s surprising how quickly time passes, and by feeding as soon as you arrive, by the time you are ready to go plenty of time will have already have elapsed.
At close range you’ll probably be able to loosefeed hemp and casters by hand or catapult. This creates little disturbance and creates a line of feed trundling down the swim.
In deeper or faster rivers a bait dropper makes life much easier – let it settle for a few seconds before lifting it out to give the bait time to escape tight to the deck.
On big rivers, switch to a blockend feeder and make regular recasts before attaching the hooklength. Aim at the same spot every cast and look out for tell-tale line-bites that mean the fish are nosing around.
I keep a handful of casters back from the main feed and store them in a bait tub filled with water to keep them fresh and stop them turning.
Unless I am loosefeeding I will mix the hemp and casters together and feed them like this. Because they sink at different speeds, keep them apart if you are loosefeeding.
Three or four casters on a size 10 hook don’t look too unappealing, but there are better ways to present this bait that eliminate problems with small fish.
A favourite trick is to superglue three or four casters to a short hair rig. This is particularly effective when feeder fishing for barbel and not only keeps the bait on, but gives you a more substantial bait.
My normal hook choice is a forged size 10. I glue the casters to a piece of rig tube on the hair, which gives a stronger fixing. Alternatively, thread a plastic caster on to the hair and glue the bait to this.
Plastic casters are quite buoyant, so three will counterbalance the weight of the hook, making it easier for the fish to pick up. Artificial casters are my go-to hookbait when feeding these baits.
How to glue casters to a hair rig
Rather than try and cover every way that you can hook casters, let’s look at some of the best ways of presenting this bait for larger fish, such as chub and barbel.
Thread a 10mm length of 1mm diameter rig tube on to your hair to form the base that the casters can be stuck to.
Dry a pinch of casters on blotting paper to remove any moisture.
Add a blob of superglue gel to the tubing.
Carefully glue two casters side-by-side to the base of the rig tubing, like this.
Once the glue has started to set, add two more casters to the top of the tube.
TWO OTHER TRICKS TO TRY...
Simply hair-rig two to four rubber casters sideways on. Use a size 12 hook for two baits, a 10 for three and an 8 for four rubber baits.
Attach bait bands to a hair rig by tying them into an overhand loop. Casters can be added to each of the bands using a banding tool.
Dynamite Baits specialist Paul Elt has got a great bream spod mix recipe that will pull the slabs into your swim and is a key part of you trying to land a specimen bream this season. Follow our simple step by step guide below to create this irresistible spod mix.
Mix 1kg each of Dynamite 6mm Halibut pellets and 4mm Halibuts.
Add a bag of CSL Spod Mix to the 2kg of pellets.
Two or three tins of corn give great visual appeal to the mix.
Half a jar of Frenzied Hemp goes into the mix, plus all the juice.
Finish off with a good glug of CSL Liquid Carp Food.
When it comes to Carp fishing bait it can be as simple as hair-rigging a boilie straight from the bag and waiting for the alarm to sing or putting that extra time and effort into adapting your tactics, and especially your baits, to the conditions in front of you. There are literally hundreds of little tips that can be employed, Which is why we want to take a look at some of bait expert Dr. Paul Garner's best kept secrets that are guaranteed to catch you more carp.
1) Don’t neglect meat
In a world where carp fishing is dominated by boilies it is very easy to overlook how effective meat is as a big carp bait. Easy to flavour, of an ideal texture, and with masses of natural attraction, meat has a lot going for it. The biggest problem can be that it’s quite a soft bait and can be whittled away by smaller fish. To avoid this, use larger chunks.
To stop meat flying off on the cast try frying it to give it a tough skin. A large boilie stop is also critical. I use pellet stops, which not only have a large surface area to hold the bait on, but also pull into the bait, leaving it virtually invisible.
2) Slick-up floaters
Adding a small amount of fish or hemp oil to floating pellets can boost their attraction. Just add a tablespoonful of oil to a kilo of pellets and shake well so that they are evenly covered.
Another benefit of adding oil is that it will flatten the water surface on windy days, creating a slick that makes it much easier for you to spot the hookbait.
3) Why carp love hemp
Hempseed mimics tiny freshwater snails, and carp can become preoccupied on it to the exclusion of all else. The oily liquid produced when hemp is soaked is also incredibly attractive to carp and contains amino acids and natural omega oils. I’ll often use just a handful to kick-start a swim that I am baiting with boilies. The hemp will pull in the carp and stimulate them to start looking for food, in this instance a scattering of boilies.
4) Shelf-life or frozen?
Modern preserving methods mean that shelf-life baits often contain very few additives. They rely mainly on being dehydrated to stop them from going off. This is the same drying process that is used with pellets, and in itself does not put the fish off.
So if tiny amounts of preservatives do not affect these boilies, what are the advantages of using freezer baits over shelf-lifes?
They tend to be softer, and get to work faster in the water as they release their attraction. Freezer baits do need to be kept frozen, though, and should be discarded once they have been out of the cold for more than a few hours.
So for short sessions it’s frozen, but on longer trips it’s shelf-lifes.
5) Give boilies a good soak
Shelf-life boilies are produced by air-drying. This removes much of the moisture from the baits, giving them a hard texture and a firm outer skin. While this stops them going off, it does mean that it can take quite a long time for them to soften in water and release the locked-in attractors.
To overcome this problem it’s always best to soak your baits the night before a trip in a bucket of water– try not to use chlorinated tapwater if you can help it.
Much better is to use the water left over from cooking particles, such as hemp. Alternatively, add some boilie dip to the water to not only soften them, but also give your baits an extra boost.
6) How much bait?
Carp eat a lot – up to three per cent of their body weight every day when conditions are right – but does this mean that we need to use a lot of bait to catch them?
Most carp recognise pellets and boilies as food, so one bait put in front of them can be enough. Introducing more can be important to hold them in the swim and to encourage them to feed confidently.
I tend to introduce no more than a handful that I think one carp can eat. Often my hookbait is among the last to be eaten, meaning that I have enough bait out there to interest the fish but don’t have to wait long for a bite.
7) Prepare salty particles
Salt is a popular additive for particles and spod mixes, but it’s not just a matter of adding a handful to your bait.
The best types are sea salt and rock salt, both based on sodium, a tricky element for freshwater fish to consumer. These salts also contain useful trace elements that the carp may be able to detect in the water. Avoid common table salt, as this is much less effective.
Because salt can dry out particles and prevent them from splitting, always add it after the baits have been cooked – ideally as they are cooling down, as this will help the salt to dissolve. Add a tablespoonful to each pan for best results.
8) Mix up your feed
One of the most important things I have learned about surface fishing is how carp can become very picky about what they eat. They can easy become preoccupied with tiny baits.
To overcome this problem I vary what I feed. At the start it’s almost exclusively with tiny Riser pellets, but as the fish gain confidence I quickly shift to a 50:50 mix of Riser pellets and 11mm floating pellets.
Eventually, if the fish are competing for the bait and feeding hard, I switch to just the larger baits, as these better match the size of my hookbaits.
9) Always carry paste
A wrap of paste can double the number of bites, thanks to its fast leak-off of attraction – often far more than from an equivalent boilie or pellet.
Most bait companies produce a dedicated paste that matches their boilies, which makes sense to use, but there are alternatives.
A paste made from ground pellets and bound together with egg works very well indeed. An even simpler option is to cover your bait with some cheese spread!
10) What size boilie
Boilies come in a wide range of sizes, so which is right for your fishing?
It’s worth bearing in mind the size of fish you are after. For single-figure fish, 8mm-10mm baits are best. A double will easily eat a 12mm-15mm bait, a twenty 18mm and beyond.
Boilies were originally developed to help deter species other than carp, so if you are being bothered by bream, switch to a larger bait. While 15mm boilies are by far the most common size used in the UK, why not try something different?
Few anglers use 20mm or even 24mm boilies, although even a modest-sized carp will consume these easily.
11) Add some fish
All coarse species love the taste of fish, and carp are no different. Try adding a small amount of cooked fish to your spod and PVA bag mixes to give them a real boost.
Tuna is the oily fish most often used for this job, but other cheaper and more sustainable options do it just as well. Try tinned pilchards or sardines in oil or brine as a substitue for tuna.
Mash the contents of a tin up with a fork and add to your spod mix.
12) Perfect tiger nuts
Tiger nuts are almost impervious to small fish, are very attractive to carp, last indefinitely on the hair and are cheap to buy. You only need a handful for a session, often mixed with some hemp if you want to introduce more feed. Tigers can be bought ready-prepared but I still like to make my own, which is a simple process.
Start off by soaking the dry tiger nuts for a minimum of 24 hours. This is to allow them to swell up to their full size, as they come in a dehydrated form. Next, boil them for at least 20 minutes. They will not go soft, unlike other particle baits, but boiling will ensure that they are cooked through and cannot germinate or swell further.
Finally, freeze them in small session-pack batches ready for use.
13) Try a zig
It takes confidence to cast out a single piece of rig foam or a trimmed-down pop-up on a long hooklength and expect to catch a carp in mid-water but believe me, it is a tremendously effective tactic at certain times.
The secret is to understand when it is most likely to work.
In spring, when the sun is warming the upper layers of the water, carp will often be found up in the water, especially in swims sheltered from any cold winds.
In the middle of summer carp will once again come to the top on hot, sunny days to absorb the sun’s warmth and feed on the surface.
Both these times are ideal for zig fishing and either a lone zig, or spodding soup over the hookbait, can be a very effective tactic.
14) Double-up for big fish
There’s a lot to be said for the old adage ‘use big baits for bigger fish’, especially where carp are concerned. Carp have big mouths and so can easily handle larger baits than we might commonly imagine.
While 15mm boilies might be the most commonly used, why not double up, fishing two on a hair to give yourself a larger bait? Alternatively, try using a 15mm bottom bait and a 10mm pop-up to create a slow-sinking ‘snowman’ presentation.
15) Flavour fake baits
Fake baits work very well straight from the packet, but I also like to keep some soaking indefinitely in a tub of Betalin for those days when they need an extra boost.
This is particularly true when zig fishing, as the sickly-sweet flavour of this additive slowly leaches out of the bait, creating much more attraction than the single unflavoured hookbait could ever do.
Another favourite is to soak bottom-baits in Crustacean extract. This super-pongy additive is loved by carp and is perfect for flavouring plastic corn, giving it a massive edge over unflavoured plastic.
16) Which colour is best?
Fashions in bait colour come and go, yet some general rules still apply when it comes to choosing the right one. Because carp are cold-blooded, their senses become dulled in winter, so bright coloured baits make a lot of sense.
This is the time to concentrate on using white and pink baits on the hook and as feed.
In summer, darker colours are often more effective. Try browns, purples and reds at this time of the year. Especially in clear water, these darker colours are less likely to spook the fish when they are feeding over a bed of bait. It is worth trying one bright bait on the hook, as this can often bring a fast bite.
If you are looking for an edge, then try making some baits in a less popular colour. Green and blue are bait colours that the fish rarely see, but they can prove to be very effective.
17) Use stringers
A very neglected tactic, but one that I use a lot, is to attach a three-bait PVA stringer to the hook. This can be wrapped around the hook to ensure that no weed can catch on the hook point as it sinks. The extra weight of the freebies also means that the rig is much less likely to tangle on the cast.
Having a little pile of baits with the hookbait at the centre can often bring extra bites, as it makes the hookbait really stand out.
18) Make a wafter boilie
Wafter hookbaits are very much the rage at the moment, for good reason. These semi-buoyant hookbaits only just sink, making them much easier for carp to suck in, as they balance the weight of the hook well. Using wafters not only means that the chances of the hookbait getting into the carp’s mouth are higher, but it also goes further in, giving improved hook-holds.
Not all baits are available as wafters, but you can make your own. Use a boilie corer to remove the centre of a boilie and then insert a matching piece of rig foam. By adjusting the amount of foam used you can control the buoyancy of the finished bait very accurately.
19) What type of pop-up
When I want a really bright hookbait that will stand out to any passing carp, a shelf-life ‘airball’ pop-up is the best option. These baits are really bright, stay buoyant for a long time, and can be left out for days on end if need be. If I want a pop-up that matches my freebies, a cork ball or cork dust pop-up is a better option.
Make these by moulding a small amount of boilie paste around the hookbait and then boiling it to make a pop-up that perfectly matches the feed. Cork baits stay buoyant for a long time, but the skin of boilies will eventually break down – okay if you are leaving them out overnight, but not if you want to leave the baits out indefinitely.
20) Add some flake
A tactic that the carp are unlikely to have seen on most venues is fishing a single boilie hookbait over a carpet of boilie crumb.
Make crumb by blitzing boilies in a food-processor, or buy it ready-made. Try not to reduce the bait to dust. I like to have a mixture of particle sizes, from lumps of boilies down to a crumb.
Because crumb is quite a fine feed it will get moved around by the undertow and by carp in the swim, so it is best to bait up little-and-often. Try introducing a couple of handful every hour or two for best results.
Method feeder fishing is in full-swing, but despite it being a fiendishly simple tactic, it can be more tricky to master than many imagine. Carp have become accustomed to finding bland feeder pellets dotted around a lake every single day, and those tip-slamming bites become less frequent.
So try these simple bait tips and I guarantee you will see your catches go through the roof.
STICK TO IT
Getting your pellets dampened just right is essential with the Method. The reason it works so well is that it presents a concentrated pile of feed with the hookbait dead-centre.
If the bait flies off the feeder in mid-cast, or as it sinks through the water column, you are reducing the effectiveness of the rig and spreading the fish out.
I still see anglers trying to keep their pellets as dry as possible. In theory this sounds good, as the bait will break down fast, but often it doesn’t hold together.
With modern ‘sticky’ pellets, although the bait holds together firmly, it starts to absorb water as soon as it is cast out and it is
this effect that ensures the feed breaks down quickly.
If the fishery insists that you use its own pellets there are a couple of things that you can do to make them bind together properly. Use a sprinkling of pellet bond, Horlicks, or PV1 to enhance their stickiness. Alternatively, mix a handful of the fishery’s micro pellets in with any larger baits. This is particularly good with 6mm feed, as the gaps between individual pellets are quite large and are filled in by the micros.
A large Method feeder deposits quite a lot of pellets in the swim, but it can take time to get the swim rocking simply because there isn’t enough feed out there. To overcome this I will start off by making 10 quick casts with the loaded feeder and no hooklength attached.
Give each cast a minute or two for the pellets to absorb water and loosen up before retrieving. You’ll often find that by the time you are halfway through baiting up, a few line bites will indicate that the carp are getting their heads down.
By not fishing straight away I also find that the carp tend to be more confident, and I will catch more when I do bait the hook.
FLAVOUR YOUR FEED
Making your feed stand out on venues where you have to use the fishery’s own pellets is an absolute must. Why would I want to use the same bait as everyone else when I can use something better?
Rather than just use a flavouring I like to add something that not only tastes good, but improves the quality of the bait. Fish sauce, used in oriental cooking, is a great pellet additive and only costs a couple of quid for a year’s supply.
Boilie food soaks are also ideal – just add a teaspoonful to the water before preparing your pellets and the goodness will be drawn right into the centre of the bait.
VARY YOUR HOOKBAIT
If ever you needed proof that changing your hookbait can make a big difference to your catches, try experimenting with the Method. A flurry of fish on one hookbait colour will often fade out, only to be revived by switching to something else.
This doesn’t just apply to carp – bream can be just as fussy when it comes to hookbaits.
Colour does seem to be the main attribute of the bait that makes a difference, and I am happy to use quite a range of different flavours. This stands to reason really, as the hookbait is just the ‘cherry on the cake’. The pellet feed attracts and holds the carp, while the coloured hookbait grabs their attention.
Wafters have become very popular in the last couple of years and very effective they can be too, not so much because the fish prefer to eat them, but because they make hooking fish more efficient. These semi-buoyant baits are easier for the carp to suck in, meaning the bait and the hook sail further back into their mouths, giving more and better hookholds on short hooklengths.
Of course, there are days when the carp will be prepared to eat everything you throw at them, but remember, even small carp will have seen a Method feeder approach almost all of their lives. Little wonder, then, that they have grown a bit cagey.
Mixing things up and trying to improve your baits, as well as ensuring they actually work as intended, can often make the difference between a reasonable day and a red-letter one.
Preparing pellets for the Method feeder can take a bit of practice before you get the correct consistency. Follow these steps and you’ll get it right every time.
Small pellets bind together the best, but they can be the least attractive to the carp. Start with 4mm pellets, but be prepared to add a few 6mm baits to give the carp something larger to feed on.
To make the fishery’s own pellets more attractive, start by adding a tablespoonful of fish sauce to two pints of water in a bait tub. You can buy this cheaply in supermarkets or delicatessens.
Soak your pellets in lake water for a few minutes, making sure they are completely covered. As a rule of thumb, soak 4mm pellets for four minutes and 6mm pellets for six minutes.
Drain the water off using a fine sieve, as here, then put the lid on the bait tub and allow the pellets to soften for a minimum of 20 minutes until they have a nice sticky consistency.
If the pellets aren’t binding together very well, give them a light dusting with pellet binder or PV1 binder. Mix this in and add more if need be.
Always keep your Method mould clean, and compress the pellets firmly on to the feeder. If the pellets stick to the mould, lightly coat it in fish or cooking oil.
When fishing with meat there are a few things i like to do, the first is frying my luncheon meat. Most of the time I am more than happy to use meat straight from the packet or tin, but there are times when altering its appearance can bring extra bites.
However I am a big fan of flavouring these baits rather than colouring them, although red meat seems to be all the rage. Do yourself a favour and try giving them a flavour boost too. You don’t have to restrict yourself to savoury flavours either. Sweet additives, such as Scopex No.1, are just as effective, so don’t be afraid to ring the changes. Check out the step-by-step guide below
Chop a tin into 6mm cubes the night before fishing – a meat cutter makes this an easy task.
Add a teaspoonful of flavouring to each tin in a sealed bait container and shake well.
Add a squirt of liquid colouring. Once again, shake well to apply the additive evenly to the cubes.
For an extra twist, add a pinch of powdered additive – squid, and fishmeal groundbait, are great.