Margin baits for shy biters

Tench and crucians are species synonymous with summer.

Crucians, in particular, are making a resurgence around the country and there is now a good chance that you will find some in a fishery close to you. Despite these two species preferring the warmth of summer they can be finicky feeders, thanks in part to the abundance of natural food. 

Back in spring fairly crude tactics work well enough, but now a more measured approach is required.

Often, tell-tale knocks on the float will give away the presence of the fish, but hittable bites can be few and far between. 

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Soft baits are definitely the way to slow down difficult-to-hit bites from both tench and crucians at this time of the year. I think a soft bait feels more natural, so the fish hang on to it that bit longer. 

When the fish are feeding well the bites are sail-aways – the float simply buries as the fish moves on to the next bait. 

There are a few soft baits that you can try. A small pinch of paste is one option, soft hooker pellets are another. Both these baits are easy to prepare, although you can buy them ready-made if you prefer. I like to prepare mine fresh to get the consistency just right.

Making my own bait also means that my feed will contain the same ingredients as the hookbait – a custom-matched pair. 


I like to use pellet powder to make my paste. You can soften the whole 3mm pellets up by soaking them in water overnight, but to get a finer and more consistent bait, grind the pellets to a powder – it really makes a difference. 

You can add other powdered ingredients to your pellet powder, such as krill or liver powder, to boost the paste.

A soft paste can be made by adding water to the pellet powder. You might find that this bait is a little too delicate and difficult to keep on the hook, so to overcome this, instead of using water to make your paste, trying using egg white instead. The albumen in egg white is a brilliant binder, and will transform the consistency of any paste.  

Alternatively, add two tablespoonfuls of wheat gluten powder to a pint of ground pellets and mix with water. The gluten acts as a binder by forming strings of protein in the paste, making it soft but much longer-lasting.



If I am using pellet paste I will feed nuggets of the same and fish with a piece about the size of a grain of corn. The smaller the bait, generally the better the bites, but this has to be balanced against using robust tackle, especially hooks no smaller than a size 14. 

Groundbait paste is another option, especially if you want to lay down more of a carpet of fine feed and fish a matching bait over the top. You can make groundbait paste using egg white or gluten. 

Dynamite’s Swim Stim Green is a perennial favourite of mine for this tactic, once again with a small amount of krill powder added. 



When big fish are in the swim I like my hooker pellets to be slightly more robust than normal.

This comes down to confidence, as often the float will dip and bob as fish bump the line. I want to ensure that the hookbait is still secure and that I can leave the float out until I get a proper bite. 

Jelly pellets are ideal for this style of fishing, having that extra robustness that I crave. As the name suggests, these are much more rubbery pellets, made by adding some gelatine to the liquid used to pump the pellets ,which then sets to a jelly-like consistency. 

Of course, because I am pumping the pellets I have the option to add extra liquid attractors, and will generally use a small amount of sweet flavour, such as Scopex No.1, to counteract the slightly bitter taste of the gelatine. 

You can use larger pellets, but I have found 6mm baits to be perfect for both tench and crucians at this time of the year, with a noticeable drop-off in the number of bites when bigger baits are used. Rather than introduce too many baits at the start, I prefer to drip-feed pellets a pinch at a time, adjusting the feed rate depending on the number of bites.

Unlike carp, which will come up in the water to intercept pellets fed this way, leading to line bites and foul-hooked fish, tench and crucians will tend to stay on the bottom to feed.