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!