Barbel fishing bait | TOP tips for barbel paste

Barbel love paste, whether it is wrapped around a boilie or on it’s own, it’s a must have bait for any barbel angler. To help you make the most irresistible barbel bait around we’ve put the best tips for paste together to help you. Take a look below and let us know how you get on.

Paste is very much a bait for all occasions, if it’s warm or cold you can’t go wrong with it.

But many anglers seem to think that it is only something to slip on the hook when carp are the target – they couldn’t be more wrong!

All fish love a nugget of paste, from shy-biting crucians to big roach and massive tench. It’s all down to the softness of the bait and the scent trail it gives off as it slowly breaks down in the water. 

The minefield comes, though, when deciding which type of paste to use because this is a bait that can be tinkered with to achieve very different results.

The softness of paste can be regulated, as can its colour, scent, consistency and breakdown rate. 

Fortunately, it is very easy to get hold of a paste that will cover every eventuality. Here is Angling Times’ big-fish man Jake Benson’s guide to picking the right paste – every time. 

Stringy paste

There was a time when very few pastes existed if you wanted a tough bait that would stand up to being cast out on float or feeder. 

Not now, though. Several companies produce pastes with an added secret ingredient – normally plant protein extract – which gives the paste a tough, almost stringy texture. 

Such pastes can be used straight out of the bag and feature a fibrous texture that can be stretched apart in your hands without the bait breaking apart. 

These pastes are not only good for long casts, but also come in handy when trying to avoid small fish that would otherwise whittle a soft paste down to nothing.

Stringy paste.jpg

Pellet paste

Many commercially available pastes are made from ground pellets – and for a good reason. 

Fish love pellets, and in many fisheries they see an endless supply of them. It’s so easy to make a crunchy pellet-based paste that’ll appeal to bream, tench, crucians and carp.

A coffee grinder is a must-have here to reduce a couple of pints of 4mm hard pellets into a powder (you can pick from halibuts, plain coarse or coloured and flavoured carp pellets). However, to get that all-important ‘crunchy’ texture it is important to leave a few lumps of larger bits of pellet in the mix. 

To bind the crushed pellets, whisk up two egg yolks. At this point you can also add a teaspoonful of any liquid additive such as molasses or hemp oil to boost the pulling power of the paste. Slowly add the powder to the egg mix until a soft paste is formed. Keep kneading the paste until it attains a soft, putty-like consistency. 

Groundbait paste

To create a super-soft paste you only need to slightly over-wet a carp-style groundbait. Because of its soft consistency, this type of paste is ideal for fishing at short range for crucians, tench and big roach. 

The finished product will be almost runny, but with just enough body to stay on the hook. You can further enhance it by rolling or dipping the paste in hemp or micro pellets. 

Groundbait paste.jpg

Ready-made paste or DIY?

Is it better to make paste fresh on the day or buy it ready-prepared? You can’t beat fresh paste made to your own specifications and you’ll know that the consistency is just right for the job in hand. Ready-made pastes don’t offer this, but it does no harm to have a tub stashed away in the bag in case you run out of your home-made mix.

Ready-made pastes.jpg

Boilie paste

Made with eggs instead of water to make it much tougher, and using the same ingredients as top boilie recipes, this is a paste to wrap around boilies or large pellet hookbaits. 

It’s designed to break down more slowly than traditional pastes, so you can leave a wrapped hookbait in place for several hours, happy in the knowledge that the wrap is still pumping out plenty of attraction. Big-carp anglers use these, but they’re also deadly for big bream and tench.

Boilie paste.jpg

Chub Fishing Baits | Best baits for big chub

We asked bait expert Paul Garner what his best baits to go chub fishing with were and he came back with five amazing chub baits that will make sure you land your biggest ever chub on your next session. 

The scorching weather of the past few weeks has had a big impact on my river fishing so far this season.

For more great tips from top anglers head to this year’s The Big One Show

A nice chub caught on a free-lined bait.jpg

With barbel off the menu, I have spent some enjoyable evenings stalking chub on my local rivers instead. The low, clear water conditions have been perfect for this, with the dark shadows lurking under the overhanging branches of bankside trees giving away the presence of my quarry. 

Location is rarely a problem with chub – you know they are never going to be far away from cover at any time of the year, and a good flow will attract them too, even if the water is only knee-deep. Persuading them to take a bait can be a different proposition, though, especially if they have been fished for, as their superb eyesight and uncanny ability to spot anything out of the ordinary can make them frustratingly difficult to catch. 

With time, and a steady supply of maggots or casters, you can overcome this natural caution and often catch most of the fish in a shoal, but I prefer to roam the river, looking for fish and making just a cast or two in any likely-looking spots before moving on to pastures new. 

Fishing like this, especially if you can follow the path of the bait and the reaction of the fish, can teach you a lot about the behaviour of the wily chub in your local river.

Choice of bait is important, and although I will normally only carry one or two types with me at any one time, there are five that stand out as the best for summer chubbing. 


Not for the squeamish, but by far the most effective chub bait that I have ever used, slugs elicit an instant reaction from chub that has to be seen to believed. 


The loud ‘plop’ of a slug hitting the water will attract any chub in the swim and within seconds those white rubbery lips will engulf a freelined bait. If you don’t get a bite on a slug then you can be pretty sure that there are no chub in the swim! 

While my garden is full of slugs in the spring, hot weather can make them difficult to find, just when you need them most.

Look in any dark corners of the garden, especially first thing in the morning. Compost containers are often home to loads of slugs and are the ideal places fom which to collect them. There are several different species, and the chub love them all! Store your slugs in a cool, dark spot and they will last for several days.


When I find it impossible to collect slugs my second choice, although it can be hit-and-miss, is worms. You won’t find a worm that is too big for a chub, so go for the largest you can find, as this will add casting weight. 

The bigger the worm, the more it can resist the attentions of small fish. Just as with slugs, you are likely to get a bite on the first or second cast as the chub home in on the splash. If no reaction is forthcoming it’s best to move to a new spot and try again.

Hooked once through the ‘saddle’, worms will last for several casts if they aren’t gobbled up first. Although not as dense as slugs, worms can still be lobbed a reasonable distance without any additional weight needing to be added.



I always keep a couple of tins of meat in the car. Although not the most effective chub bait, a cube of meat can save the day when other baits are hard to come by. I treat meat just as I do slugs, hooking a large cube on to a size 8 hook and freelining it into any likely-looking spot. One benefit of meat is that its light colour is very easy to follow as it slowly sinks and drifts downstream. 

Often, the bait will simply disappear as a chub swallows it. 



On larger rivers it can be difficult to spot chub, especially if they are holding station in mid-river. In this situation you can still freeline a bait and simply watch the line for bites, but often a different approach is more effective. 

On hot, windless evenings chub will often take emerging insects off the surface and we can make use of this behaviour to catch them. The crusts of a fresh loaf make the ideal bait, pulled into chunks and allowed to drift downstream. Pay particular attention to crease lines, where chub are likely to hold station. 

Follow the crusts downstream until you spot the tell-tale splashes of chub picking them off. Once the chub are feeding confidently like this the hookbait is likely to be taken straight away. 



For sheer fun and excitement, few methods beat light lure fishing for chub. A splashy lure fished on or just beneath the surface will often bring a response. Try fishing really shallow swims where the broken water gives way to a steady glide. Often chub will be here feeding on minnows and other small fish. 

Alternatively, try using more imitative lures – grasshoppers, crayfish and tiny fish patterns – that can be mounted on a 3g jig head and bounced across the bottom of shallow swims. 

Expect the unexpected, and don’t be surprised if this tactic catches other species too. 

How to make the ultimate cheesepaste!

There are lots of different ways to make cheesepaste, but this method not only produces a very smelly bait with the perfect consistency, but it is also very easy to produce.

It makes enough bait to last for a good few chubbing sessions. 


1) Finely grate a quarter-pound of Cheddar cheese and a similar amount of Stilton. 


2) Sprinkle half-a-teaspoonful of squid powder over the grated cheese.


3) Add two heaped teaspoonfuls of grated parmesan cheese to the mix.


4) Mix powdered pastry mix with water and a teaspoonful of hemp oil. Knead until it feels like putty.


5) Roll the pastry out flat and add the cheese mix on top (no, you’re not making pizza).


6) Mix and knead the pastry and cheese well until an even consistency is achieved. 

Six bait tips to help you catch big fish

What a year 2017 was for big fish! We've asked bait expert Dr Paul Garner to give us his expert opinion on some of the best baits he has used over the past year. Maybe you can take some of these into 2018 and lad yourself some amazing big fish. 

2. roach pellets 2. - softened expanders will catch a wide variety of different fishjpg.jpg


Tight magazine schedules often mean that I find myself on the bank having to catch fish for the cameras way before the fishing has really switched-on for the year. So it was this spring when, with the water temperature still in single digits, I visited the lovely Milton Lake at Old Bury Hill Fishery in Surrey. 

The plan was to catch tench, crucians and perhaps roach using a chopped worm and caster approach. Only nobody had told the fish! 

With just a single net roach to my name on a dendrobaena I switched lines to a shallow spot tight to the reeds where I had been trickling in a constant stream of 4mm expander pellets laced with flavour and sweetener. The aim was to pick up a few of the lake’s crucians, but when the float shot under I found myself playing a big roach instead. After that the bites became more timid as the crucians moved in and I spent a lovely afternoon trying to hit as many bites as possible. The odd marauding tench kept me on my toes amid a rapidly growing tally of bars of gold. 

The moral of the story was that it is rarely too cold for soft pellets, especially if you flavour them. What I didn’t expect was that, on this day at least, the pellets would so comprehensively out-fish my more natural baits.



The first few weeks of the river season were unusually warm and on the usually prolific River Wye, rolled meat or trotted punched salami scored best with lethargic barbel.

Tiny meat baits have caught me many different species, often of prodigious proportions. For barbel it was more about using a familiar bait in a different way. Regular doses of hemp and punched meat, with a tiny piece of meat on the hair, became my go-to tactic right through the low water of summer.


4. silkworm 2 - dry and soaked baits.jpg

hunting through the shelves of my local koi emporium a few years back I came across a carp treat that was set to revolutionise my summer surface fishing.

Looking like something out of a sci-fi movie, silkworm pupae are a well-known gourmet treat for pampered Japanese koi. Carp go loopy for these thumbnail-sized floating insects, but straight from the shop they are crispy and break up when you try to hook or band them. Soak them for an hour, though, and they soften up enough to be hair-rigged, yet retain their buoyancy – perfect. 

On a magazine shoot for Improve Your Coarse Fishing at Chad Lakes in the Cotswolds the fish were proving difficult to tempt off the top. A few hours later, and with five fish under my belt, it was job done, thanks to my bug-baits. 



Pike are generally thought of as being rather daft and easy to catch, but sometimes, on some venues, I beg to differ. Of the numerous pike that I have caught more than once on lures, not one has ever been caught on the same type of lure twice. 

One fish that was caught at least six times over several years by several anglers came out on tactics as varied as a fly, a jig and a crankbait, but never the same thing twice! Coincidence? No way!

The same can apply to deadbaits, and on a busy venue I will swap to unusual species once the pike have been fished for over a few weeks. In early spring, in very cold water, the problem is compounded by the low temperature reducing the metabolism of the fish. Needing very little food, and sometimes failing to pick up baits off the bottom, pike can be hard to catch. Now I always use critically balanced baits in the spring and I catch my share of big pike, like this immaculate 32-pounder from Chew Valley Lake last February.

5. day ticket carp - a cracking carp from one of my day ticket sessions.jpg


A bout of illness kept me off the bank quite a bit through the summer, and to say I was itching to get back fishing would be the understatement of the century!

Short-session carp fishing proved to be the perfect medicine, with plenty of bites keeping me busy and some surprisingly good fish putting in an appearance. 

My tactics were just about as simple as they come – a hair-rigged wafter boilie on a nylon rig and a lead big enough to cast the required distance. 

No pop-ups, Ronnie Rigs or Chods in sight! On these prolific venues the key to catching more than the odd fish was to keep the bait going in. Using a Spomb to thwart the seagulls, a couple of handfuls of Scopex Squid boilies would be fed after every bite to keep the fish coming back for more. Bites would often come as the Spomb was still crashing down, proving that the fish were attracted, rather than repelled by all the racket I was making.

These sessions were brilliant fun and I started filming them for my YouTube channel - dr paul garner. I have lots more day-ticket venues lined up for 2018, including some that hold mightily impressive fish, and you can bet I’ll be using simple baits and tactics.

6. perch lures - small jigs are a really versatile lure.jpg


For decades we have treated lure fishing as a second-rate tactic, but take it from me, for electrifying predator action this winter it’s the way to go. Not only will this mobile approach make the best of the short winter days, but there is nothing to touch the adrenaline-inducing ‘hit’ of a fish on a lure. 

There’s never been a better time to take up lure fishing. The amount of information available is at an all-time high, so whether you choose to spin, chuck lures or drop shot, you can learn the right way to go about it. 

The highlight of my autumn were the incredible perch that I chanced across in a large reservoir. Working a soft plastic Pulse shad close to the bottom I had a faint tap as soon as I stopped winding and let the lure flutter down to the bottom. 

After such a gentle bite I wasn’t expecting a personal-best perch to pop up in front of the net but a giant it was, proving the effectiveness of my favourite perch baits. 

The best three ways to prepare your bread when fishing

During the cold winter months there is no better bait to use than bread, its flexibility in the way that it can be prepared and used makes it an essential bait to take on the bank with you this winter. We've asked our regular bait expert Dr Paul Garner to show us his top 3 ways of using bread while fishing. 


In fast-flowing or deep rivers your feed can get washed a long way downstream, taking the chub with it rather than pulling them upstream towards you. 

Bread alone will work in water up to 4ft deep, as long as the flow isn’t too strong. Beyond this I will use brown crumb to stiffen the feed so I can form it into soft, fast-sinking balls. A cloudier mix that breaks up well can be made by handfuls of instant dried potato, such as Smash, to the mix. 

When I get to the bank I cover a broken-up loaf or two with river water, leave it for 10 minutes, then squeeze it in an sieve or carp sack that holds back the fine particles but lets the water pass through.

Bread can be quite tricky to use for the first time. Stick with it, though – as a cheap and effective chub bait it really does take some beating.

Tear the bread into small chunks and soak in river water.

Tear the bread into small chunks and soak in river water.

You can use neat bread for shallow swims, where it will reach bottom.

You can use neat bread for shallow swims, where it will reach bottom.

Allow the crumb a few minutes to soak up the excess water.

Allow the crumb a few minutes to soak up the excess water.

Tear the bread into small chunks and soak in river water.

Tear the bread into small chunks and soak in river water.

For deeper or fast water add brown crumb to stiffen the bread.

For deeper or fast water add brown crumb to stiffen the bread.

The finished feed holds together and only breaks up on the bottom.

The finished feed holds together and only breaks up on the bottom.


You can mould flake around the hook shank for chub. Their cavernous mouths will easily handle a 50p-sized piece. Match hook size to the bait – for big baits a size 8 is about right, for large punch go down to a 12.

I feel that a large piece of punched bread is much more effective than flake. Because the punch evenly compresses the bread it tends to stay on well, even when just nicked on to the hook. 

Flake, pinched around the hook shank, can stay on better, but at the expense of producing a soft, neutrally-buoyant bait. 

Traditional bread punches tend to be a bit small for this job. I use 10mm punches, and will often cram to or three pieces of bread on to a size 10 hook to give a more substantial bait. 

Larger bread punches are best for chub fishing – or make your own.

Larger bread punches are best for chub fishing – or make your own.

The dry punched baits might look out of proportion on the large hook...

The dry punched baits might look out of proportion on the large hook...

Double or triple-punch the bread to build up the thickness of the bait.

Double or triple-punch the bread to build up the thickness of the bait.

...but in water they quickly expand and cover much of it.

...but in water they quickly expand and cover much of it.


Sliced bread can be made a lot more user-friendly by wetting and compressing it the day before you go fishing. This produces a much denser bait that holds together. 

First, remove the crusts from a few slices of thick white bread then soak them for a minute in cold water. 

Remove the slices of bread and place them on a board covered with a couple of pieces of newspaper. 

Add more newspaper on top, along with another heavy board to compress the slices. Leave overnight and by morning you’ll have slim slices of damp bread that make perfect hookbaits.

Remove crusts and place each slice in a tub of water for a few seconds.

Remove crusts and place each slice in a tub of water for a few seconds.

Cover with more newspaper and lay a piece of board over the top.

Cover with more newspaper and lay a piece of board over the top.

The bread should be compressed and damp to the touch.

The bread should be compressed and damp to the touch.

Lay the wetted slices of bread on a few sheets of newspaper.

Lay the wetted slices of bread on a few sheets of newspaper.

After a few hours, remove the board and unwrap the slices.

After a few hours, remove the board and unwrap the slices.

The bread is tougher than normal flake and can be torn into pieces.

The bread is tougher than normal flake and can be torn into pieces.

The 10 best chub baits

If one species can be relied upon above all others to keep providing brilliant sport right through the winter it has to be chub. 

Whether the rivers are low and clear, or high and murky, chub can be caught, although you have to be on top of your tactics to score consistently. 

No other species can be caught on such a wide variety of baits and tactics as chub – you really could spend a lifetime getting to know each and every option, but here are some of my favourites that have been honed to catch chub both large and small whatever the weather may throw at us. 



If you have ever suffered from the frustration of ‘unmissable’ chub bites that have seen you striking into thin air then join the club! 

This has long been part and parcel of fishing with larger baits, especially boilies, because the chub can easily pick them up in their lips, leaving the hook hanging outside the mouth. 

This is especially true if you are hair-rigging, so my first suggestion would be to switch
to paste and bury most of the hook inside. Mould the paste around a piece of cork so that it only just sinks and you will hit a lot more bites.



The colder and clearer the river, the smaller the bait I will use for chub. When it’s like this the fish won’t be inclined to gobble up a big bait, but feed regularly with maggots and you can get the shoal going. 

To avoid spooking the chub by running a float over them, try a small Blackcap feeder coupled with a 4ins hooklength and a size 18 hook, with either a single real maggot impaled on it, or its fake counterpart fished on a short hair. 



If I had to use just one boilie for chub it would have to be Scopex Squid – the unmistakable pong of squid powder really turns chub on. 

Rarely, though, will I use a standard boilie on the hair. Instead, I wrap a 12mm wafter in soft paste to give it extra pulling power. 

A small PVA mesh stick filled with broken-up boilies and bits of paste can also be added to supply some feed tight to the hookbait.



If the river is high and coloured then a big bait is going to score best for chub. 

Go for a matchbox-sized lump of meat, a paste-wrapped boilie, a big lump of cheesepaste or steak. 

Anything, as long as it is big and smelly, will put you in with a good chance of success. Forget about loosefeeding in these conditions and stick to just the hookbait.



Chub are suckers for light prebaiting in the days leading up to your fishing. I can’t think of any species that responds so quickly to an easy meal. 

The only problem can be estimating how much bait to introduce, especially if other people are fishing the same stretch. 

An easy answer to this is to bait up with paste, as this will last only a couple of hours in the water before it is either eaten, dissolves, or is eaten by small fish. 

A dozen nuggets of bait per swim is all you need to make a difference. 



Big chub grow fast on a high-protein diet that often includes dead fish, and a great many outsize fish have been caught on deadbaits meant for pike and zander.

Try a section of a soft fish, such as sardine, fished on a single hook. 

A chunk of lamprey about an inch long is my most successful chub deadbait, and works particularly well on rivers that sustain a good migration of these creatures.



I know a lot of anglers who struggle using bread on the hook. Pre-packaged bread tends to have a very light texture, full of holes, that breaks down really quickly. By contrast, a proper baker’s loaf will be heavier and stay on the hook better. 

The best hookbait of all, especially for trotting bread, is Sensas Paindor Bread. 

This dehydrated bread needs to be soaked in water before use, but once prepared it stays on the hook fantastically well. 



Lobworms can often be difficult to get hold of in the winter, just when they come into their own for chub. 

Dendrobaena worms are a poor substitute, but try several on the hook or, better still, a large maggot clip, and your results will improve.

Four dendras on a clip will create a big bait that chub cannot resist.



Put a loaf of sliced bread in a bucket and soak it in cold water for about 10 minutes, before draining off the excess by gently squeezing it.

Mash the bread up and you have the basis for a fantastic feed that creates a cloud of particles as it breaks up and is washed downstream. 

For deeper rivers, mix a small amount of brown crumb with the bread mash so that it holds together better and reaches the river bed before breaking up too much.


Catching a chub too quickly can be the kiss of death on many rivers, as the rest of the shoal will spook, but it can be difficult remaining patient.

I overcome this by starting to introduce a pouchful of maggots as soon as I arrive at my peg and then keep a steady supply of grubs going in while I am setting up my gear. 

By the time you come to make your first run through the swim the chub should have settled – expect that float to dip on the first trot through.

Best winter baits for fishing

For many anglers, now is the time when sport is at its very best.

Most species are feeding up hard to pack on weight for winter, and a well-presented bait will see plenty of action. We start with 15 autumn-gold nuggets of advice from big-fish expert Dr Paul Garner...


1) Try dead maggots or worms

Two baits stand out for crucians right now – two dead maggots fished over a light scattering of groundbait can work wonders, but a close second comes half a dendrobaena, hooked at the broken end to leak off the juices. 


2) It's a wrap for barbel

When boilie fishing for barbel I rarely cast out without wrapping some matching paste around the hookbait. This can work wonders if the fish are proving finicky. A useful trick is to use a 12mm hookbait wrapped in paste, but feed 15mm baits. 


3) Gob-stoppers trick wily carp

With everyone using boilies of 18mm or less, you can fool wary carp by going large and 24mm or even larger baits. Scale up your hook size ti match the big bait. 


4) Enjoy traditional roach sport

Many of our larger rivers are teeming with roach at the moment. One of the nicest ways of catching them is to use loosefed hemp with prepared tares on the hook. 

Start with a pinch of hemp every cast and fish a matching grain on the hook. Once you start getting bites regularly swap to a tare and your reward should be a bigger stamp of fish. 


5) Big bream are feeding up

A windy autumn can see shoals of big bream feeding hard. I lay out a big spread of bait to hold the shoal.

Into the mix go a tin of sweetcorn, two pints of dead maggots, some mini-boilies and soaked flaked maize. Bind the lot together into balls with a mix of brown crumb and layers mash.


6) Mid water baits for Rudd

For consistent autumn rudd sport try using a 10mm pop-up or a lump of breadflake on a 12ins-36ins hooklength, so the bait is presented in midwater


7) Stock up now

Get your deadbaits stocks sorted now to ensure a ready supply for winter. Big smelts are always in short supply, so order early. 

Split bulk baits into small airtight bags and freeze down. Dip each bait in cold water before freezing, as this will stop them getting ‘freezer burn’.

8) swap to a cone

A pellet cone is a much neater presentation than the Method feeder, and really comes into its own in the coming weeks, especially on venues where the carp have seen it all over the summer months. Vary the size of the cone to control the amount of feed you introduce. 


9) The subtle snowman

Very often carp never actually get the hook into their mouths, just the boilie. This can be even worse with a snowman presentation. So try my ‘subtle snowman’ (below), made by cutting a 15mm boilie and a 15mm pop-up down to form a single back-to-back bait.


10) Feed, feed, feed for chub

The key to unlocking brilliant autumn chub sport comes down to how you feed. The simple solution is to drip-feed as regularly as you can. This could be as little as three pellets or maggots every few seconds. 


11) Fry-feeding perch

Now is the time to target perch, which predate heavily on small fish which are in the margins over the next few weeks. Use small lures for this – a selection of bright green and more natural hues.


12) Go soft for roach

On many fisheries roach have developed a love of pellets. This can cause problems with fast, hard-to-hit bites. This phenomenon is simply down to both baits being hard, and to combat this try using soft hooker pellets – I find 4mm baits are best. 


13) Flavoured meat in floods

Try to coincide barbel trips with the river falling back after a flood. If you have to fish as the river rises, stick to a straight lead and a large smelly bait such as Crab & Krill flavoured luncheon meat. 


14) Slug it out for chub

Dew-laden mornings will see hundreds of slugs and snails attacking your garden plants. Rather than chuck them over the neighbour’s fence, why not collect them for an afternoon’s chub fishing? 


15) Try red corn down the edge 

A float down the edge works for carp that feed in the margins at dusk. 

Add a few drops of boilie dye to a tub of corn the day before fishing and you will be left with a lovely dark-red bait that is eaten with enthusiasm. 

Top Summer Fishing baits

Check out the best fishing baits around that will guarantee you success on the banks! Bait expert Dr Paul Garner talks us through what his top fishing baits to use this summer will be and what thinking outside the box can deliver. 


scale down your cubes

Scale down cubes.jpg

Luncheon meat is an incredibly effective bait, and lends itself to being used in many different ways. Over the past couple of years I have been fishing tiny cubes or punched cylinders of meat for all manner of different species, and it seems it’s often hard to beat. 

To produce plenty of hookbaits and feed, simply use an MAP meat cutter to chop up a full tin into 4mm baits. These tiny cubes will catch just about every fish that swims. 

fish a classic combo

Maggots and casters

My go-to baits for summer barbel are hemp and caster. This classic combo of very small baits encourages the fish to feed even with the sun on their backs. 

I normally use a bait dropper to introduce a 4:1 mix of hemp and caster, three loads every 15 minutes for a minimum of an hour.Then superglue three real casters or two fake casters on to the hair and hold on to your rod

mix tougher paste

There is a real skill in fishing super-soft paste down the edge for carp. With practice you can use a paste that literally melts off the hook, but for us mere mortals this can be a frustrating game. 

Fortunately, right through the summer much firmer baits work well. These can be moulded around the hook and swung out without using a pole cup. Fibre pastes work especially well. Its stringy texture adheres to the hook, only falling away when you lift the rig out. 

blitz some corn

Messy, maybe, but liquidised sweetcorn gives you a fantastic edge when fishing for big carp, match-sized fish, tench or bream. 

Cheap and nutritious, you can use it in spod mixes, to create a cloud when fishing zigs, cupped into the margins, or mixed with groundbait.This salty-sweet, pungent bait will drive the fish wild.

feed while trotting

Running a big Avon float down a pacey glide is just about as good as summer fishing gets, but you go through a lot of bait. Each run through will see a good pinch of bait introduced before the float is released. 

To keep the cost down I use hemp and 6mm Halibut pellets as my feed, with a 6mm or 8mm pellet on the hook. Don’t mix the hemp and pellets together as they sink at different speeds – the pellets need to be introduced further upstream than the hemp so that they reach the bottom at the same point down the peg.

beat weed with bags

Presenting baits properly in weed can be a nightmare. I use a small solid PVA bag with the entire rig inside. To ensure that the bag packs down really tightly, fill it with micro pellets or damp groundbait – this will ensure that the bag flies straight on the cast. A small trimmed-down wafter boilie is the ideal hookbait inside a solid bag. 

Flavour your meat

A lot of polony and luncheon meat goes into commercials in summer, so try colouring and flavouring your chopped meat to give it a new lease of life. Add a teaspoonful of flavour per tin, shake well and leave overnight.

Don’t be afraid to try some unusual flavour combinations. Scopex meat works just great, especially when you add a dash of super-sweet Betalin to it.

Use your loaf

As a hookbait for surface-feeding carp bread takes some beating, especially on urban venues where the local birdlife waxes fat on the stuff. 

On the river, too, bread can be an excellent way of targeting chub, both on the surface and trundled downstream under a heavy chubber float. And if big rudd are your chosen target a loaf of fresh bread should be an essential in your bait bag. 

Spice up barbel baits

Once the river season is a few weeks old I will soak pellet and meat hookbaits in a spicy concoction that appeals to barbel. 

To a bottle of hemp oil add a teaspoonful of chilli powder and the same of garlic powder. Shake well and you have enough bait soak to last all season. The three ingredients combine in a manner barbel find hard to resist.

switch to pellets for big roach

Summer hemp and tare fishing will catch roach even when the water is gin-clear. The only problem is that bites can be lightning-fast and easy to miss. I think this is because roach don’t particularly like the hard texture of hemp and tare hookbaits. 

Instead of using seeds on the hook, try a 4mm hooker pellet instead. The softer the pellet, the more bites you will hit. 

get bream feeding on the method

The flat Method feeder has revolutionised carp fishing since its inception, and the same is rapidly happening to bream fishing too. 

Loaded with mini-halibut pellets or a fishmeal-rich groundbait, the flat Method is the ideal way of delivering a mouthful of bait right where you want it – next to the hookbait. Try using a 10mm boilie or a similar sized pellet on the hair and ring the changes to bring more bites. 

Go stalking with slugs

When the rivers are ‘on their bones’ in summer go stalking for chub with minimal gear. Chub have great eyesight and can be very wary of many baits, but a big lobworm or slug cast upstream of them is often gobbled up in an instant. If you’re squeamish, try a big lump of luncheon meat, although don’t expect the reaction to be quite so explosive. 

try Wafters on the Wag

A pellet waggler gives carp more time to intercept the bait on the fall, while it is imitating the free offerings being fired in regularly. 

A slow-sinking mini-boilie wafter is the ideal hookbait. I like to carry a range of different colours, as this can be an important element to success on some days. 

Use a ‘sighter’

A simple way of increasing the number of bites you get is to use a bait that stands out from the free offerings. 

This could be a combination of red and white maggots on the hook while feeding just red, or a brightly coloured pop-up fished over a bed of dark boilies. Often I will use a grain of plastic corn in a contrasting colour (pink and white are best) on top of a dark boilie or pellet, to make the hookbait stand out from the crowd. 

Wrap up your lead

Here’s a simple, but very effective tip – dampen a few handfuls of pellets until they become sticky, and every time you cast out, squeeze a palmful around your lead. 

The pellets will fall away in a matter of minutes, leaving a lovely pile of super-attractive feed, ideal for carp and bream.

Top four chub baits

Are struggling to find the right bait for your chub fishing? Well we may have the answers for you here are the top five chub baits that you can use on the rivers this season that will potentially land you your best chub. 

More big bags of chub are caught in summer on casters and hemp than any other bait. Hemp sinks quickly, while casters sink at different speeds, depending on how light or dark they are. Feed is therefore spread over a long length of the swim. Casters tipped with a maggot stay on the hook better than casters alone, and such hookbaits are very robust – important when you’re running the float down the swim up to 40 yards away. To store casters, you need a fridge and an airtight container with a layer of polythene between the tin and lid. Give them a little air every day to stop them suffocating. This is a much better way than keeping them in plastic bags. 

If small fish aren’t a problem, a bucket of maggots can be just as deadly as casters and hemp for chub on certain summer days. To get the best from maggots, find a good tackle shop that has a reliable supply of quality bait on a regular basis. 

If you can’t find anywhere locally there is an option to buy maggots (and casters) online now. There are at least a couple of mail order companies who can supply you with what you need.  However you buy the maggots, always ensure you look after it properly when you’ve got it. 

This means that you need an old fridge to keep the maggots chilled right down to just above freezing point in order to stop them from turning and shrinking. Always use a cold bag with ice packs to transport the bait to your chosen river swim and, once you’re there, keep them cool and out of direct sunlight.

Bread is a fantastic bait to use with groundbait containing casters and hemp. It’s also good on its own early weeks in the season. 

Use a big hook, anything from a size 10 up to a size 6, and wrap small pieces of sliced white bread around the shank. Use a top and bottom attached float with plenty of weight about 1ft above the hook and, in the early stages of a session, every time you run the rig down, strike the bread off at different points in the swim. 

This will eventually result in plenty of tempting bits of bread bouncing through the swim, which will soon attract a shoal of hungry chub.  

Few things are more annoying than small dace and bleak intercepting maggot and caster feed and hookbaits. The answer lies in bags of 6mm and 8mm fishmeal carp pellets – the light coloured Bait-Tech brand is a good one. Try these and your fishing should improve dramatically. 

Pellets are a really easy bait to use – you just feed mostly 6mm offerings with a few 8mm samples, then use a banded or lassoed 8mm pellet as hookbait. It can often pay to scale this approach down on small rivers and feed 4mm pellets while using a 6mm sample on the hook. 

The beauty of carp pellets as a chub bait is that they are quite cheap for the volume you get and you don’t need loads to catch a big weight.

A bait combination for every species with bait expert Dr Paul Garner

The bait you load on to your feeder can make a massive difference to the fish you catch. Here are some of my favourite combinations...

The Method is super-effective for big greedy carp. Recast regularly at the start of a session to lay down a bed of feed, and use a groundbait containing flaked maize, small pellets and other morsels to keep carp grubbing around. Top this off with a shaved 15mm wafter boilie on the hair.

Commercial carp respond well to feed pellets. The bulk of my feed will be 4mm pellets, but to stop the carp getting fixated on these I’ll add a handful of 6mm pellets to the mix. Start with an 8mm banded pellet but be prepared to switch to a larger or smaller bait

Fishmeal pellets with a Method feeder are deadly for bream. I combine sweet and fishmeal elements in all my bream mixes. Sticky pellets, softened with molasses-flavoured water, are a great starting point for bream at range, with pellet, mini-boilie and hair-rigged worm hookbaits.

My light, high-attract groundbait is low in food value – Dynamite Swim Stim Green with added Krill or crayfish powder as a stimulant. On the hook use corn for tench, while for crucians give a 6mm soft pellet, a rubber caster or a bunch of dead maggots a try. 

On lakes that get lots of carp bait the roach and rudd will see a Method load as an easy meal. With a 10mm boilie on the hair, load the feeder with a 50-50 mix of dark fishmeal goundbait and brown crumb. For rudd I swap a boilie hookbait for a pop-up fished 4ins-6ins off the deck.

Bargain basement baits

The bait we use can be a big outlay for all of us, especially when faced with venues full of hungry carp, but do you really have to spend a fortune on expensive offerings, or are cheaper alternatives just as good? This week I take a look at some of the bargain basement baits that are out there. 

Cut the waste

I am just as guilty as the next man of taking far too much bait with me, especially when faced with a venue that I am unfamiliar with. I just don’t want to turn up and find that people are bagging-up on a bait that I haven’t got in my bag. 

To combat this problem, check out the venue’s website or maybe give them a ring before your trip. Most of the time you can get some useful and up-to-date information on what is working. 

Even if you have sparse information about the venue, other than the species you’re after and the tactics you’re going to use, you can still use this to cut down on bait expenses. I find it better to put ‘all my eggs in one basket’ and go with a clear plan of how I am going to fish with just one or two baits, than take too many. 

Rarely do I find that I have too little of a certain bait with me, so think carefully about how much you need, or use baits that can be saved until your next trip if they go unused. This can save a lot of waste and cut your costs too.  

Here are some of the cheapest baits around, but ones that will still catch an awful lot of fish...

Often overlooked, bread is a fantastic commercial bait, and one that will catch a range of different species. At this time of the year try punching a slice of bread and pinching the 8mm disk around the shank of the hook. Bread has the obvious advantage of being highly visible, and also very light and fluffy, making it ideal on days when the fish are not feeding confidently. 

Also, try fishing bread over groundbait, as the light texture of the hookbait resembles the fine particles of feed. To bulk out your groundbait, mix it as normal and then add an equal amount of finely-liquidised bread to achieve a rich feed that will break down quickly and form a carpet of bait.

We really overlook cheese baits in the UK, but go over to the continent and cheese-flavoured baits are among the best-sellers. Some of the pre-packaged ‘snack’ cheeses have a great consistency and strong flavour that singles them out as top hookbait choices. Best of all, they are cheap. 

If you have a meat cutter then this will make short work of rubbery blocks of cheese, turning them into the perfect size for both the hook and for feed. Cheese really is a brilliant carp bait, and if you punch smaller pieces you will be surprised at what other fish species you will catch too!


Meat can be quite an expensive bait, but by shopping around you can find some real bargains, and because it is rather filling, most of the time you will only need a relatively small amount. 

Garlic sausage is one of my favourite meat baits, as it has the perfect soft texture, but stays on the hair well. You can find it on the deli counter of your local supermarket. The strong aroma is also a noted carp and bream attractor, and in recent seasons small pieces of meat have caught me a wide range of different species. 

Cut the sausage into 10mm thick slices and then use an 8mm meat punch to produce hookbaits that can easily be hair-rigged. Once I have punched out as many baits as possible I break up the remnants and use this as my loosefeed.

I like to use a soft paste, which is ideal for fishing either on the pole or on a long float rod down the edge. A more selective bait than my other choices, paste often sorts out the bigger carp and will also pick up bream and tench. Buy bulk bags of paste, as you only need to mix up as much as you need and the rest will keep for future trips. Go for a fishmeal-based bait at this time of the year. 

You can make paste out of your favourite groundbait too. Just mix it quite wet and it will bind together well enough to be carefully swung out for margin fishing. If you want a tougher paste then instead of using water, mix the dry powder with an egg as this will bind it together much more firmly.

Five baits that you must use when coarse fishing!

Check out bait expert Dr Paul Garner's best choices for bait this year...

Choosing just five baiting tactics that you must use for when you go fishing has been a surprisingly difficult task for me. It’s a case of being spoilt for choice – after all, there are just so many ways to catch fish and almost as many baits to use. 

In the end my list came down to baits that will not only catch you more fish, but ones that will help you bag a new personal best and experience some high-adrenaline fishing. You’ll notice that soft plastic lures for perch fishing appear on the list – although these are artificial baits, they are fished very much like naturals, and are just as effective. 

Here are my top five baits to use – you won’t be disappointed!

1) Catch carp on surface baits

There is no better way of catching carp than off the top, especially if you can get them feeding close in. That heart-in-mouth moment when a big pair of lips engulfs your hookbait and the line tightens is a million times more exciting than sitting behind a set of buzzers. 

Yet still so few people have caught on to the adrenaline rush – in the main, I guess, because it can be a frustrating tactic as the carp refuse point-blank to eat your hookbait. Take my advice and find a well-stocked venue to begin your surface fishing quest. Take some 11mm floating pellets and catapult these upwind of any carp you spot sunning themselves on the surface. Now wait.

Don’t even think about making that first cast until the carp are charging from one bait to the next in a race to beat their shoal-mates to the free grub. Only then is it time to flick a freelined pellet or marshmallow out – and success will be virtually guaranteed. 

2) Target perch on lures

Numbers of big perch are booming at the moment, although history tells us that this won’t necessarily always be the case – back in the 1960s our stocks were almost wiped out my a mystery disease, and that could happen again without warning.

All the more reason, then, to make sure you bag yourself a specimen stripey this year. While the humble lobworm or a small livebait will account for a lot of chunky perch, soft plastic lures take some beating if you want to net a real biggie. 

Drop shotting is the method of the moment – but it is not the only lure fishing technique to use. With the weight anchoring the small soft plastic grub tight to the bottom, drop shotting is great on days when the perch are close to the bottom. This is especially the case during cold weather. 

Much of the time, though, perch can be found in midwater and a drop shot is likely to present a lure too deep. Switching to a bright green 2ins-3ins long paddle tail lure on a tiny 1/4oz jig head is then much more effective, as it can be retrieved at any depth. Simply count the lure down as it sinks, start close to the bottom and then with each cast reduce the time before you start the retrieve to fish at different depths.

3) Make your own gel hookbaits

With a plethora of brilliant baits available straight from your local tackle shop, you may wonder why I still insist on making many of my own baits. It has to be said that I enjoy ‘messing about with bait’, but I genuinely believe that making your own gives you the freedom to come up with something a bit different from the norm. 

I think my home-made gel baits definitely give me an edge. I often use them with the Method feeder, but they are just as useful for other tactics. Using gelatine or Veg-e-gel powder, available from the cooking section of supermarkets, I can set any liquid or powdered additives into a firm bait that literally melts slowly in water. Best of all, I can make a batch of bait in just five minutes. This is very different to other Method hookbaits, and has caught me fish on days when other baits have failed to work and gives me total control of the bait I use.


4) Spray pellets for chub

On my West Midlands rivers chub numbers are booming, with shoals of hungry two to five-pounders providing fantastic sport on float and feeder. These fish have grown up seeing pellets nine months of the year, thanks to barbel anglers. So pellets are obvious baits to target these chunky chevins. 

A small Kamasan Blackcap feeder loaded with 3mm pellets works well, but not only more effective, but much more fun is to fish a pellet waggler tight against far-bank overhangs and spray 6mm pellets. 

Expect bold bites as the chub compete for the free food. For best results keep a constant flow of pellets going in – the longer you feed, the more the chub will lose their natural wariness and the more fish you will put in the net. 


5) Use boilies for specimen barbel

If a big barbel is at the top of your bucket-list for 2017, take my advice and use boilies. You may not catch as many, but my trials have revealed a massive increase in the average size of the fish I have caught on big baits. 

Don’t be afraid to go-large either – 18mm or 20mm baits, fished either singly or doubled-up, make a decent mouthful for a double-figure barbel. Expect to catch few male fish under 7lb, but the large females will be suckers for a decent meal. 


Most barbel tend to be caught on savoury-flavoured boilies, simply because that is what most people use, but dare to be different. Sure, you will catch on meat or fish-flavoured baits, but curry spices work great, especially in colder conditions, and I have found sweet flavours to be equally effective. Chances are no one else will be using them. 

There is no point in feeding hemp or pellets if you are fishing with large boilies. Stick to just large baits, introducing a handful of bait on a PVA stringer and catapulting the odd boilie upstream to top-up the swim.

Pellets – the perfect fishing feed and bait

Pellets were originally created as an animal foodstuff or as a feed for stocked fish. The pellets were used to ensure that the animals and fish gained substantial weight prior to being sold to market. But anglers have latched on to these protein-packed food morsels and have discovered just how good they can be for attracting quality fish like carp, tench, bream, catfish, barbell and chubinto their swim.

They are produced by extruding. Basically the raw ingredients such as fishmeal and vegetable matter are mixed and forced through small tubes (called extrusion). This creates a sausage-like tube of the mix. This is then heated with steam to harden the mix. The final stage it to cut the cooked mix into the desired length. And that’s how they make pellets.

Luckily for all you carp, barbel, chub and catfish anglers out there, the large 21mm and larger halibut pellets needed another heat source to ensure that the centre of the pellets were cooked and harden. The only way this could be done was to force steam into the middle of the pellet, and that’s why some larger pellets were already supplied with a perfect hole in the centre that was ideal for a hair rig to be inserted. Perfect!

What do pellets do?

Basically, pellets are nothing more than compressed parcels of groundbait. Once submerged they will begin to break down and if they are left long enough they will form a carpet of fine mush on the bottom of the lake.

Some pellets take a lot longer to breakdown than others. Tiny 1mm pellets will take a few minutes before they turn to mush, while rock-hard 21mm halibut pellets will take weeks to fully break down.

As they are breaking down, the skin of the pellet will slowly begin to dissolve and if there is the slightest undertow in the lake the scent of the dissolving particles will travel through the water, triggering the fish to follow the scent and ultimately persuade them to pick up the bait, or mooch through the dissolved pellet particles looking for food.

Which pellet to use


We do have a large choice of different pellets available for us to try, from tiny 1mm micro pellets (smaller than a match head) to massive 21mm-plus pellets, so choosing the right one can be a little bit difficult sometimes.

Micro pellets are impossible to hook – they are designed to break down in the water really quickly and create a soft, highly-scented carpet of attractant that will pull fish right to your hookbait. Pellets from 4mm upwards are hookable, but they are also ideal as loosefeed too.

Halibut pellets – those rock hard, very oily, almost black pellets – are best used for either long-term sessions where it’s best to prime a swim and wait for those bigger fish to come along, or used as hookbait. These pellets are way too hard to be side hooked so the smaller pellets will have to be locked alongside the hook using a pellet band, while the largest halibut pellets should be drilled and then hair-rigged.

Expander pellets are another type of pellet favoured by match and pleasure anglers. Most expander pellets float when they are taken straight out of the bag, so they are perfect as a loosefeed when floater fishing. But to use them on the hook for the likes of bream, tench and carp, you will need to prepare them correctly.

To do this you will need a pellet pump.

All other pellets of a size large enough to be used as a hookbait will need to be attached to the side of your hook using a bait band. Alternatively they can be Superglued to the back of a hair. 


Supergluing pellets

Gluing two pellets together around a hair is a great way to present a bait to the likes of barbel, chub and carp. All you need is a hair rig, some Superglue and two pellets that have perfectly flat sides.

Take a pellet and add a drop of Superglue to one of its flat sides. Lay the hair across the glue. Now squeeze the second pellet onto the glue and hold securely until the pellets stick firmly and the hair becomes trapped.

Drilling pellets


This is a technique favoured among catfish, carp and barbel anglers seeking to catch really big fish. They use giant halibut pellets for this technique.

You will need a drill bit or a bait drill, a hair rig, some bait stops and your large halibut pellet.

Take the halibut pellet and hold it securely by the flat sides. Push the drill into the centre of the pellets and begin twisting the drill to form a hole. Gently but firmly continue twisting the drill to deepen the hole. Do not be tempted to force the drill through the bait as you will only crack the bait.

Once the drill passes right through the bait you will be able to pull your hair rig through the hole, using a baiting needle, and lock the pellet in place using a row of three bait stops. One bait stop may not be large enough to hold the pellet in place.


Coarse fishing with casters as bait

Casters are the next stage in the life cycle of a maggot. They are the chrysalis of a maggot – a shell-like pupae that contains the soon-to-emerge fly.

Casters are slightly smaller than maggots and their shape is a lot more rounded. They are available at all good tackle shops and, like maggots, are sold by the pint.

Casters are a little bit more expensive than maggots due to the fact that they have taken longer to evolve than maggots, due to the fact that the maggot is stage two of the fly’s life cycle, whereby casters are stage three.

A pint of casters will cost around the £3 mark.

Casters are a superb bait that always tends to pick off the larger fish. Maybe it’s because the casters have a crunchy shell that the larger fish adore, or maybe it’s because the casters aren’t as often fished as maggots – but whatever the case, they certainly do make a great bait.

Turning your own casters

Although casters can be bought from tackle shops, there are times when they aren’t available as they have either sold out, or the bait producer hasn’t managed to run-off enough casters to go around all the shops.

To make a pint of casters you will need just over a pint of maggots – to take into account those that will die. The best maggots to use to create casters are white maggots. Coloured maggots just do not make good casters, probably due to the fact that they contain impurities, in the form of dies, that don’t help the fly’s metamorphosis.

When you get your white maggots home riddle them thoroughly and pick off any dead maggots and maggot skins by hand. You will now be left with a few maggots that have slowed their wriggling down and have started to transform into casters.

These should be tipped into a spare clean bait box and covered with folded sheets of damp newspaper, with the lid placed upon the box. Do not use dripping wet newspaper as the water may gather at the base of the bait box and suffocate some of the casters at the bottom. The best place to store these soon-to-be-casters is in a fridge.

Continue riddling your maggots twice a day, removing the casters and adding any new ones to the supply in your fridge. Within a few days you’ll have more than enough fresh casters to last a session.

Caster colouration and what it means

Buy a bag of casters and you’ll undoubtedly find casters of different shades. The freshest ones will be white or a cream colour, while the oldest will be almost black. Try to buy your casters as fresh as possible as they will not only last longer, they will give the fish a different bait to target – it’s amazing sometimes that a lighter coloured caster will bring about bites much faster than a dark one, and vice versa.

One thing to bear in mind, when you are buying or storing your casters, is the fact that the darker a caster becomes the more buoyant it will be. Light-coloured casters sink very quickly, while those much older, very darkly coloured casters will float.

Dark, floating casters can be used to great effect on occasions, particularly during the summer. Simply leave a helping of casters out in the sun (but beware of birds scoffing them all) and allow the sun to dry them out and turn the shell dark brown. A full day in the sunshine will crisp-up the shells, darken them dramatically and transform them into floaters. They can now be used on the hook to present a really slow-falling bait to catch fish on-the-drop, or they can be catapulted out as feed for surface feeding rudd or carp.

Hooking casters


Most baits are best used with a hook that matches the size of the bait, but casters are best used with a hook that fits inside the bait. A size 20 or 18 hook fits perfectly inside a single large caster, but that’s not to say that casters cannot be side hooked, they can.

The most important point to note when hooking casters is to do it gently and carefully because if the caster bursts it will become almost useless. And remember to use a very sharp hook!

Casters and groundbait


Casters are one of the best baits to add to groundbait. Why? Because they provide a mass of protein-rich food that the fish will happily feed upon once they find the flavoured groundbait crumbs. But another great reason why casters are so good in groundbait is because they don’t wriggle, therefore they won’t break up the groundbait as it flies or when it lands on the lake or river bottom.

Caster myths

A lot of anglers think that adding crushed casters to a groundbait mix will make it a lot more appealing to fish. Although the extra scent of the crushed casters will draw in fish, crushing the casters will do more harm than good.

The shells of crushed casters float and therefore as soon as the ball of groundbait breaks down, or a fish disturbs it, the caster shells will begin to rise. This will attract the fish and they will follow the rising shells, and they will move away from your groundbait.


Hemp seed and tares – great for barbel and roach fishing

What is hemp seed?

You may have read about hemp, often referred to in old books as ‘the demon seed’. It was for a long time extremely controversial and banned on a lot of waters but in recent times, anglers have come to see hemp for what it is – a deadly coarse fish catcher.

Hempseed is the seed of the cannabis plant but that doesn’t mean the seeds anglers use can be whacked in a Rizzla and puffed away on! Fishing hemp is treated so that it cannot grow and often cooked so that the seed splits.

Black in colour and the size of a tiny piece of gravel, one line of thinking is that fish mistake the seeds for small black snails in amongst the lake or riverbed. Old thinking reckoned the fish became pre-occupied with the seeds, using its link with cannabis to suggest the fish were drugged.

This is of course nonsense but fish, especially roach, prize hemp above all other baits and no sensible roach man on a river would be without a couple of pints of seed at any time of year. It’s also a great bait for laying down a big carpet of feed for species like tench, carp, chub and barbel.

How do I use it?


Hemp is quite a weighty bait and will sink easily so can often be fed by hand. In swift river currents, a bait dropper is a better bet but strangely, it never quite works when fed in groundbait. For laying down a big bed of bait, simply ladle the stuff in. Roach require a more delicate approach with constant little and often loosefeeding via a catapult. Another great way is to dump a load of hemp into your swim usign a pole cup, pictured above.

How much does it cost and from where?

Cooked hemp is normally sold across the tackle shop counter in pints and the price can vary but around £1 is right. Some bait companies sell hemp in bulk plastic jars with one jar enough to last several sessions.

Can I boil my own?

You can but it is a smelly process! Uncooked hemp is available in bulk sacks of up to 25 kilos from bird feed merchants and to cook, simply put the amount of seed you need in an old saucepan (not your wife’s best!) and cover with water.

Bring to the boil and then simmer uncovered gently.

Adding a spoon of Bicarbonate of Soda can help darken the seeds even more. By this point the seeds will pong of old socks so keep a window or two open!

Keep checking the seeds and once they start to split, revealing the white kernel inside, they are cooked. Drain and leave to cool before measuring out with a pint pot into plastic bags for freezing.

There is a non-smelly way to cook hemp though. Just three-quarters fill a flask with dried, uncooked hemp, pour boiling water in to fill the flask and seal the lid. Give the flask a shake and leave it for an hour. The seeds should have split by then and be ready to use.

All particles - hemp and tares included - need to be prepared correctly before use. This means that they either need boiling, soaking or simmering for a set time.

Can you use hemp for hookbait?


It is a fiddly process but for picking off better roach, hemp is hard to beat. Try and source larger grains of seed (often known as Chilean Hemp) and prepare much the same as your feed grains. However, it can be worth cooking your hookbaits for a little less time, making them tougher and so easier to hook.

Hooking them is hard to master and one of the best ways is to pre-prepare a couple of dozen grains before you set off to the bank. Select the biggest grains with a decent split and punch a hole in the flat base of the seed (where the seed was attached to the plant) using a baiting needle or the wire stem of a pole float.

Once on the bank, use a wide gape fine wire hook (the Kamasan B511 or Mustad Wide Gape Canal Seed are excellent) and push the point through the punched hole. Ease the bend around the inside of the seed and bring the point out through the split, making sure there is plenty of hookpoint showing.

Hooked this way, the grain should stay on for several fish.

What about tares?


Hemp and tares are a brilliant combination for river roach and it’s always handy to have a handful of tares with you. A tare is a cooked pulse that is commonly used for horse and pigeon feed and are quite soft, making them easy to hook.

Generally speaking, once the fish are lined up on hemp hookbaits, switch to a single tare on a large wide gape hook such as a size 16. Bites will be positive and the fish of a far better average stamp than on hemp – however, they won’t always work so don’t spend too long fishing tares if you aren’t getting bites.