Want to keep catching this autumn? We reveal a host of bait tips to help you put fish of all species on the bank over the next few months
I keep a selection of many different baits in my freezer, although there are some that I never leave home without.
For static fishing, my favourite baits are large sardines, while the next best are mackerel heads and tails (below). Smelts are great for wobbling, and cast a long distance when frozen. They are also very visible, which does mean that they can be prone to catching lots of small pike.Herring, sprats, launce and trout are also good stand-by baits.
There’s nothing more natural in fishing than a worm and, although they’re not the first bait you’d think of for roach, they are especially productive on commercials in the cold. Nip off the head and fish it like a caster with your hook point out of the side.
If it’s a case of catching fish quickly, you can even land a few fish on each worm before the hookbait needs replacing.
This is a tactic used by a lot of carp anglers. Rather than try to add flavour to the seeds, put a couple of fresh chillies in your pot when cooking hemp, which will give it a spicy boost that’s perfect in cold weather.
It’s almost impossible to flavour your worms, and most of the time you don’t need to, but a sprinkling of chilli powder on top of your chopped worm can impart a powerful scent. This can be a great tactic when the fish have seen a lot of chop.
GO NATURAL WITH ELDERBERRY
Always look to natural baits when the going gets tough ¬ elderberries are a prime example. Hook them in the same way you would tares ¬ and if you’ve got a bush overhanging the river, then you know the roach will feed on them.
USE A BAITDROPPER
If you’re fishing water deeper than 4ft or 5ft or any fast-flowing water and want your feed to hit the bottom in your peg, not yards downstream, then use a bait-dropper. They can be used on the pole or running line and you don’t have to use a carrier such as groundbait, which can attract small nuisance fish into your swim.
A good trick to complement your hookbait is to use the liquid from the soaking process. Leaving the wheat in a warm place for four days or longer produces a thick, milky liquid which carp find really attractive. It can be used to mix up your groundbait for your feeder or for cupping-in.
ALWAYS TAKE A LOAF
Probably the most versatile bait you can get, it’s always worth taking bread with you to the bank. Big and visible, bread can be used as flake for big roach and chub,or punched out into small or large discs for smaller fish.
You can also flavour your slices of bread ¬ add your favourite flavour to an atomiser of water and spray on to the slice to dampen it slightly.
PVA BAG YOUR LOBS
Specimen anglers targeting bream will often use air-injected lobworms as hookbaits, but these big baits can be difficult to cast any distance.
A trick some anglers use is to roll the wet lobworm in groundbait to dry it out so it doesn’t melt the PVA bag, hook it up, and then drop the baited hook and the lead into the PVA bag with a few pellets or dry casters.
This neat package can be cast a long way, and once the bag has melted, the worm is left hovering above a bed of bait.
On small rivers, when fishing with maggots and casters, it can pay to use just a single maggot or single caster on your hook, even if you are fishing for big, greedy fish like chub. This tricks the fish into thinking the hookbait is another free offering.
GIVE THEM FISH
Most anglers don’t realise how predatory chub are. Just like pike and perch, they can be caught on live or dead fish baits. Some huge chub have fallen to small bleak livebaits but one of the best deadbaits are pieces of mackerel.
Use a chunk or a strip of this oily fish on a size 6 or 8 hook.
Small perch will grab at larger pieces of worm then move away quickly from the main feed area, while bigger perch will sit directly over the feed and wait to be provoked into striking at a piece of worm.
A feeding compromise between the two is ideal, so finely chop the bulk of your feed then add four to six larger hooksize segments of approximately 2ins-4ins in length to the feed.
MIX YOUR MAGGOTS
A good trick when fishing for chub is to feed mainly whites and 10 per cent reds and then fish a red maggot on your hook. This will attract the fishes’ attention as it will stand out in the crowd.
Minced steak is a brilliant bait for feeding as small, golf ball-sized balls.
Chop the meat up into small pieces and add some very fine maize to break it up. When you feed a ball into your swim, or via an open end feeder, it will break down, releasing the meat particles. The maize will form an attractive cloud, too.
DON'T FILL YOUR FEEDER
In cold water, maggots don’t crawl ¬ so if you want them to come out of your feeder quicker, then leave some room inside your feeder.
By only filling your feeder three quarters full, you allow water to flow through it and wash the maggots out.
TRY A PELLET STRING
One 20mm pellet can be just too big for the fish to take sometimes, so for most of my pellet fishing for chub and barbel I use strings of smaller, 8mm pellets fished on a short hair.
LIQUIDISED OR PUNCH
Punch crumb has a coarser texture and is slightly heavier than liquidised bread, making it perfect for moving or deeper water, or in bigger-fish situations.
Finely-liquidised bread is a superfine feed best suited to canal fishing and the cloud it produces attracts fish quickly and holds them for long periods in your peg without having to refeed.
LOB IN A FEEDER
Attract fish but don’t give them anything to eat by roughly chopping a lob and putting it inside a small blockend feeder. The fish can’t get at the bait in the feeder, only your hookbait.
WHEAT FOR BIG FISH
Wheat is certainly one of the most neglected of all seed baits, yet it is very cheap and can be very effective for a whole range of species, not just roach.
Soak the seeds in salty water for 24 hours and then boil for around 10 minutes. Take off the heat when the seeds are soft enough to hook. Carp, tench, chub, bream and barbel are used to hoovering up particles, so are less wary of small, loosefeed-sized baits.
FLAVOUR YOUR PELLETS
My pellet flavouring consists of two tablespoons of molasses and half a teaspoonful of powdered betaine mixed into a cup of warm water.
I then put a pint of pellets in a large bait tub, add the liquid to the pellets and shake well so that all the pellets are covered.
After about an hour the liquid will have soaked into the outer skin of the pellets and they will feel slightly damp to the touch. Leave them in the fridge overnight and they’re ready to use.
If you know the fish like your groundbait, then make a paste bait from it. Put the groundbait through a flour sieve to remove any lumps that may impede the hook.
You can use either egg or water to mix the paste, depending on the consistency required. Wrap it around a boilie or paste spring.
Steak can be a great hookbait for chub, but can cost you fish if it’s not hooked properly. Fish a triangle-shaped piece of steak as it won’t flip back over and mask the hookpoint.
SINK AND FLOAT
Bread has lots of advantages over other baits. The most important of these is that you can instantly change the buoyancy of the bait. Just by squeezing the bread to remove some of the airpockets, the bread will sink faster and hold in position. With just a couple of swan shot to balance the bait, it is possible to keep the bread searching for fish right around the swim.
It’s much easier to colour and flavour baits that don’t already have a strong natural colour or smell, so I normally use herring or sprats as the silvery flanks of these fish take a colour exceptionally well.
Half fill a shallow tray with cold water and add a couple of teaspoonfuls of powdered dye - pink or red are good as they stand out. Then add flavour. If you’re using concentrated flavours add a couple of teaspoonfuls, or half a bottle if it’s a liquid-based additive. I have been experimenting with baits flavoured with anchovy essence which does hum, but the pike like it!
Lay the baits in the tray so they are completely covered and stick the whole lot in the fridge for about an hour so they have time to take on the flavour and colouring.
ADD SOME LEAM
A good trick some anglers have for catching perch in the cold is to feed black damp leam and chopped worm in a cloud.
Put a small amount of loose damp leam into a dry pole pot and sprinkle a pinch of finely-chopped worms on top and then cup this in.
Carp anglers often complain of catching too many chub or bream when they’re fishing for river carp ¬ so why not take advantage of this?
Brightly-coloured pop-up boilies are a must-have in your bait bag this autumn. They’re easily spotted by greedy fish and will also wave enticingly in any float. Fish them on a 6ins to 1ft hooklength so they sit above any weed on the bottom.
The darker, often floating casters are frequently ignored by most anglers, but can be a great bait for wary fish. That’s because they fall slowly through the water and will rise enticingly up in the water if fish are feeding and stirring up the bottom. Counter-balance the floating nature of the bait with a medium wire hook.
If you’ve not caught after an hour or so of fishing, don’t worry. Keep the feed going in because the chances are that fish are still swimming around and you just need to attract their attention. Even fish hiding out in weedbeds will eventually come out and investigate a steady stream of bait falling past them.
The problem could be something as simple as the light conditions.
Many species, especially perch and roach, only really become confident as the light begins to fade at the end of the day, or when cloud cover arrives overhead.
When rivers are flooded, it can pay you to fish a big, smelly bait which the fish can home in on. Halibut pellets are normally thought of as a barbel bait, but they catch a lot of chub, too. Drill them out carefully and fish them on a hair-rig.
Adding spices such as turmeric increases flavour and also degreases your maggots, helping them sink quicker. It will produce a nice plume or cloud as the maggots escape from your feeder. Simply cover the maggots in the powder and leave them overnight to get a nice coating.
Check your local supermarket for cheesy crust loaves which combine two of the best chub baits of all time.
Hook the crust by passing it once through the back of the bread and then turn it back, making sure that the hook point is clear of the bait to ensure you hook fish cleanly.
MAKE THE PERFECT CHEESE PASTE
Few moments in fishing are as exciting as catching a fish on a bait that you've made yourself. Chub are suckers for a lump of cheesepaste, and here's a great cheesepaste recipe that always seems to produce the goods throughout the colder months...
Start off with a smelly cheese - Danish Blue or Blue Stilton, but any strong-smelling cheese will do.
Remove any rind and if the cheese is really soft you can rub it through a fine cheese grater.
Alternatively, cut the cheese into cubes and microwave on half power until it has melted.
Colour your paste dark red so that it is less likely to scare away timid fish.
Add a quarter of a teaspoon of red powder dye to the cheese and stir in well.
You can add flavours at this stage - garlic oil is particularly good, but take care not to add too much as it is incredibly potent.
To make the cheese into a usable paste it needs to be stiffened up and shortcrust pastry works wonders for this.
It can be bought from any good supermarket for a couple of quid.
Lay the block of pastry on top of a work surface or a chopping board and roll the block flat with a rolling pin.
Once you have rolled the pastry flat so that it is approximately 3mm - 5mm thick, place your cheese mix on to the flattened pastry.
Gently smear it all over the pastry using the back of a spoon.
Make sure the cheese paste covers the whole of the pastry.
Fold in the edges of the pastry and start to form a ball.
Knead the ball to spread the cheese mixture throughout the whole of the pastry.
Seal it in a plastic bag to stop the paste from going hard until it is required.
Any excess can be stored in the freezer in lumps large enough to see you through a typical session.