Paul Garner explains what his favourite hookbait is and what makes it so perfect.
What makes the perfect hookbait? Mine would need to have the right texture, breakdown speed and buoyancy. It would be easy to hook, of a perfect flavour and colour, and I’d want to be able to change the size and shape quickly.
That’s a big ask, and most baits fall down on one or more counts, yet I’ve been using one that fits the bill perfectly for two years.
Initially developed for fishing the Method for crucians, my set gel baits have become firm favourites and have caught me loads of different species, from carp and tench to chub and barbel.
The beauty of these baits is their versatility. Easy to make, they can be adapted to suit almost any situation and can be used with a huge range of additives for true customisation.
Gels are long-lasting in water, staying intact for several hours. The outside becomes almost slimy as it absorbs water and begins to break down, creating a lovely flavour trail.
I do believe that fish generally prefer softer baits, and gels offer the perfect compromise between a soft outer skin and a rubbery structure.
WHAT IS IT?
The secret to making my gel baits is a product known as Vege-Gel that you can buy from most supermarkets.
I came across this gelatine substitute when first playing around with set baits, and after some experimentation I found that it worked perfectly. The active ingredients are natural gelling agents that set when heated. Vege-Gel is used in baking, but by increasing the concentration it sets to make the perfect hookbait. Better still, just about any liquid or fine powder can be added to give it a distinctive flavour.
PURE AND SIMPLE
Making gel hookbaits is very easy if you follow my method. On its own the gel has virtually no taste and a clear colour, so it takes dyes and flavours very well.
In fact, if you want a really bright bait, adding half-a-teaspoonful of powdered dye will give you an incredibly vivid colour.
The same applies with liquid flavours and additives. The bland base means that the flavour really comes through. Keep levels very low, though, as it is very easy to overdo the flavour level.
I normally stick to about half the manufacturer’s recommended level. Food dips and liquid foods, which are not so concentrated, are ideal for these baits, giving more margin for error and a much rounder flavour to the bait.
You are not limited to just liquid additives in gels. Powders such as krill, squid and liver can be added – and what about groundbaits?
Imagine being able to use a hookbait that has exactly the same smell as the groundbait that you are introducing! All you need to do is add a handful of dry groundbait to the gel liquid and you will produce baits with the same flavour and colour as the feed. This has proved a useful tactic when fishing groundbait on the Method feeder for bream, as the fish just hoover up the whole lot without even noticing the hookbait amid the crumb.
Another gel technique that I have been trying out is hookbaits incorporating micro pellets.
Initially, I ground the pellets down to a fine powder before mixing them into the bait, but although this worked well, it was time-consuming. Eventually, I tried adding tiny 1mm-2mm micros, and they worked a treat!
Once again, the finished bait perfectly matched the feed, giving me a really distinctive hookbait.
The bottom line is that you can use just about any additives you like to gel baits, and by altering the amount of water added go from a super-soft to a firm finished bait that can be tailored to the style of fishing that you are doing.
Recently I have been using larger baits to target bigger carp, and this has been very successful too.
For bigger fish I make the slab of bait slightly thicker, and once it has fully cooled I cut it into cubes and fish it just like luncheon meat.
My results have been excellent, so why not give it a go?