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 fish have been hammered on hi-viz baits for six months, so you are offering them something less blatant and they match what the fish are naturally eating.
Q Boilies come in a huge range of sizes, from tiny 6mm match baits through to donkey-choking 26mm, so what is the best-sized bait to use on my local runs water?
A Just because you are using a 10mm bait on a size 10 hook, it doesn’t mean you won’t catch the biggest fish in the lake. Big baits don’t always equal big fish.
The elements to consider regarding size are:
- The size of hook/rig you are using. The boilie needs to be balanced to the rig. A 10mm boilie will not be well presented if it is mounted on a size 4 hook, neither will using a size 10 hook and a 22mm boilie. I’d use a 10mm/12mm boilie with a size 10. For 15mm boilies I use size 8s, and for 18mm/20mm boilies I’ll go for a size 6.
- The range you are looking to fish. I use a lot of 20mm baits as they ‘go out’ easily with a throwing stick or catapult, whereas a smaller bait won’t fly as far.
- Where you are fishing. A handful of 10mm baits in the margins is a better presentation than a kilo of 20mm baits in the margins.
Other considerations to make are the subtleties of your approach – for example, using two 10mm baits or a dumbell bait on the hair rather than one 15mm round boilie might get you a bonus fish, simply because it is a little different to what everyone else is using on the lake.
Q What tips can you give to those fishing boilies?
A Boilies can be used straight on the hair with lots of success, but to give yourself an edge it can pay to try a few different presentations and make the hookbait stand out among the rest of your loosefed items.
Three of my favourite things to do are, firstly, to tip a drab bottom bait boilie with a kernel of fake corn. The bright yellow acts as a target and the buoyant corn helps negate some of the hook’s weight. Alternatively, I sometimes use a small ‘hi-viz’ pop-up boilie to create a ‘snowman’ rig presentation. The final edge I employ is to cut a boilie in half and then mount it on the hair back to back to create an egg-timer shape. This makes it much harder for carp to eject.
Q What differences do colour and flavour make, if any?
A For hi-viz pop-ups, I favour white and pink, although I’ve done well using orange in the past. For bottom baits, I don’t think it makes a great deal of difference as most have muted colours, like brown, cream or green for example.
Flavours are a matter of personal preference. For years, the unwritten rule was you couldn’t use fishmeal baits in winter as they were too filling. You needed to use fruit, cream or spicy flavoured baits instead. This is rubbish – the thing is you just use fewer of them.
There are so many great baits on the market now that it comes down to what you personally like and are confident using.
For me, I use either Dynamite Baits’ Crave or Monster Tiger Nut, the reason being that this gives me two completely different offerings – a strong fish-flavoured bait and a sweet, nutty one. However, if you gave me £10 to go and buy a bag of boilies, I would happily use one of a number of different manufacturers’ baits.
Bait companies do not and cannot make poor-quality baits, as they wouldn’t sell – it’s as simple as that.
My advice would be to try a bait you like the look of, stick with it and get confident using it. Confidence in a product makes much more difference than whether it is black, blue or brown, fishy, spicy or fruity.
Q What is the difference between freezer and shelf-life baits, and is one better than the other?
A There is a perception that freezer baits, which contain no preservatives, are superior to shelf-life offerings. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I prefer to mix and match the two when I am fishing and this is why.
Freezer baits tend to have a softer texture and are a little more subtle in flavour levels and colour, which makes them perfect for sustained baiting campaigns, on harder syndicate waters for example.
Shelf-life baits are much more convenient, as they can be stored for weeks in their bags. They also have high flavour levels and brighter colours than their freezer bait equivalents. This is the reason I fish a mixture of both when I’m fishing.
Shelf-life baits deliver an immediate flavour punch into the water, so they are more instant, making them ideal for the majority of day-ticket lakes.
Freezer baits, being more understated, release their attractors more slowly, so by using a bit of both you always have something going on in the swim.
In essence though, during the 1980s, when there were very few freezer baits available, I caught just as many carp on shelf-life offerings. It really is a case of whether you want convenience and instant attraction, or you are more confident using a softer, more subtle bait that requires more storage and looking after.