The carp’s love of bread has been well documented and the gurgle of a gluttonous carp slurping down a hunk of floating crust is one of the sounds of summer.
But there’s always been a flaw with bread crust, flake or punch – most other species love the white stuff, too.
Small rudd, roach and bream love pecking at mushy bread and in lots of fisheries hoardes of silverfish can whittle away a hookbait in minutes, leaving the angler with an unbaited hook.
The soft texture of bread also means it’s prone to flying off the hook when a float, feeder or leger is cast out. Even if the bread stays on the hook during the cast it’s easily torn off the rig when it hits the water.
Indeed, it’s the fear of sitting behind an unbaited rig that has convinced many anglers to dismiss bread as a hookbait.
Well here we meet a man who has created such a brilliant bread method that he’s even banned it at his own fishery!
Meet the bread man
John Bennett is the 60-year-old owner of the well-known Rolfs Lake fishery near Wheatley in Oxfordshire and the man who has taken the art of bread fishing into new territory.
A regular fisherman at the 40-peg venue prior to taking control of the pool in December 2007, John knew that bread remains a great bait for carp and he also recognised the fish in his own lake loved it.
Although floating baits are banned at Rolfs those who did persevere with sinking bread punch or flake bagged tremendous catches.
Furthermore, if John tossed a bit of bread on to the water when the lake was closed or free of anglers, the fish went crazy for it and instantly slurped in down.
But, as every angler who’s fished with bread for any length of time realises, the fact that it gets blitzed by small fish and doesn’t stay on the hook very well made it difficult to efficiently fish with.
“Like many modern lakes Rolfs is not a ‘carp only’ fishery. There are masses of silverfish and they often pounce on normal bread hookbaits as soon as they hit the water,” John explained.
“You get loads of tiny taps on the quivertip as roach whittle away the bait, or your float dips and bobs as they nick the bait.
“It’s a nightmare, even though the carp love bread I often couldn’t keep a bait in the water long enough for the big fish to find it!”
Putting his grey matter to work the Swindon angler began developing a new presentation for bread that would make it impervious to small fish yet maintain its attraction to carp.
His idea was to somehow compress the bait to make it firm enough to resist small fish and being ‘cast off’ the rig. After much experimentation the ‘Mushroom’ was born.
Made with a Seymo Lunch Punch bait punching tool he created a hookbait with a tough ‘stalk’ of compressed flake topped with a ‘cap’ of softer bread (see sequence).
This Mushroom is tough enough to withstand the attentions of small fish and the force of casting but it still retained a soft enough cap to be tempting to fish that love the soggy texture of waterlogged bread.
“The Mushroom solves all the problems of bread fishing,” said John. “The punched stalk is amazingly tough, it means you can cast the bait as far as you want and small fish can’t whip it off the rig.
“However, the cap is a little thinner and less compacted than the stalk so it softens a little and swells up as water soaks into it.
“This gives little fish something to nibble at which I think actually advertises the bait to larger carp swimming nearby. I often get little taps on the quivertip as silverfish nibble at the bread until a carp comes in and sucks up the whole bait.
“You certainly know about it when a carp’s grabbed the bait – nine times out of 10 the rod whips round and you’ve got to grab it before it goes swimming!”
Showing how to punch out the mushroom-shaped nugget of bread, John threaded it on to a hair-rigged leger and blasted the rig right across the pool to the far bank margins where the branches of a stumpy tree trailed in the water.
The tough stalk of the bait prevented the monofilament hair rig cheese-wiring the bread on the cast while the ‘drag’ of the bait as it flew through the air ensured the leger and hookbait remained separated and didn’t tangle.
When the rig hit the water two distinct splashes could clearly be seen as the leger, then the hookbait, landed.
The Mushroom had ticked another box in the ‘advantages’ table – its shape, size and weight means it’s a great anti-tangle set-up.
Settling down to watch, his gently curved quivertip John explained how he expected line bites and taps on the quiver to register first.
Even though a deluge of rain had pushed up the water level of the stream-fed lake by four inches in the previous 36 hours, he was still hopeful the longer daylight hours would stir the carp from their winter slumbers.
Sure enough, five minutes after casting a couple of slow two-inch pulls on the tip indicated fish had brushed against the line.
A few minutes later a series of taps indicated small fish had found the bait and were trying to nibble away tiny sections from the swollen cap of bread.
Then it happened. Without any warning the top half of the rod wanged round and John grabbed the reel seat before it headed lakewards.
There was no need to strike, the fish had taken the bread so positively it had hooked itself, John picked up the bent rod and tightened the line into the fish.
After a five minute battle that saw the lethargic carp plod up and down the margins of the lake as if it was waking up and didn’t quite know what was going on, he guided a gorgeous heavily-scaled mirror carp into his net.
Weighing 11lb-12lb the fish was in prime condition and as he reached into the net to unhook it John pointed out the bread Mushroom which was still on the hair rig.
“The stalk of compacted bread is so tough that the bait is usually still on the hair when you land a fish,” he said.
“When they’re really having it I’ve often caught two or even three fish on the same hookbait. I unhook the carp and chuck out the same Mushroom again!
“I can’t think of any other bread hookbait that stays on the rig so well that you can recast it.
“Which bread you use isn’t vital but ‘budget’ loaves are usually best as they have a doughy, sticky consistency. When you use the Lunch Punch on them they compress better to form a harder ‘stalk’.
“To be honest, the Mushroom is so effective and it was dominating the fishing so much on here that I decided to ban it. There’s lots of carp in here and nobody was using any loosefeed because they were just using a few slices of bread. The fish weren’t getting enough food!
“It is a brilliant method though and in lots of lakes it’ll be a great way to avoid the silverfish and pick out the carp.”
Easy to learn