There’s no doubt that PVA mesh is easier to use than solid PVA bags – but there are some very good reasons why the bags should get your vote.
Probably the most compelling of these is that the aerodynamic shape of a solid bag, with the rig nestled safely inside, casts much further and more accurately than a stick ever could.
There is more to it than that, though, because the nature of a PVA bag means that it changes the way your bait works too.
The bait literally explodes out of a PVA bag. This is caused by the air that is trapped inside the bag erupting upwards as the bag melts, carrying the particles of bait with it.
This explosive effect gives a much faster and wider spread of bait than a normal stick or feeder.
There’s no point in using an almost neutrally buoyant feed and then plonking a heavy hookbait in the middle of it. Light hookbaits are the answer to not only getting more bites, but ensuring better hookholds too.
Balanced hookbaits that sink slowly and are easy for the carp to suck in are real game-changers. They are also tough enough to use on a bait spike. My general rule is to start with a 10mm bait balanced to a size 12 hook. The gape of the hook should be slightly less than the diameter of the bait to ensure good hookholds, and handily this ensures the bait sinks slowly too.
With the clearer water conditions often encountered at this time of the year I make sure I have a mixture of different coloured wafters with me. Normally I believe a pink or white bait will be the most effective, because it stands out well agains the dark lakebed, but if the fish are being finicky, a change to a darker colour can give them more confidence.
Any flavour in the hookbait will be overpowered by the contents of my PVA bag, so I think it is less important when using this tactic.
MAGGOTS AND CASTERS
Bag fishing is all about making the most of a small amount of bait. I won’t introduce any more at this time of year, relying on accurate recasting to top up the swim.
A well packed bag is about the size of a large hen’s egg, so it’s important to use the best feed you can. Casters and maggots are an integral part of my winter bag mixes. These are normally the leftovers from trips earlier in the season, and I keep them in the freezer until needed.
A handful of bait is all you need to add for a day session. There is no doubt that carp absolutely love these natural baits, and they will keep grubbing around until every one has been picked up.
Using wet ingredients in bags
Most wet ingredients need to be dried to stop them melting PVA bags. The easiest way to do this is to mix them with a small quantity of finely-ground salt crystals. After 10 minutes, sieve off the salt and the baits will not only be dry, but any remaining moisture will be very salty and so will not melt the PVA.
You can add a huge range of different ingredients to your bag mix, but the most important thing is to get the consistency right. Ideally, you want a mix that can be packed down tightly, and consisting of small baits.
A tightly-packed PVA bag will not only cast further and more accurately than a loose one, but is much easier to make.
Micro pellets are another useful addition. I like to use tiny 1mm feed pellets, which can be mixed with a little dry groundbait to fill the gaps between the pellets.
Once you have got the fine base of your bag mix right you can then think about adding a small amount of larger baits to the mix – this should be no more than 10 per cent of the volume.
Although PVA melts very quickly when it comes into contact with water, it is impervious to other liquids, which allows you to really pump up the flavour.
A lot of liquid carp additives will be marked ‘PVA-friendly’. These are a good place to start, as they will be ready diluted to the optimal concentration.
The liquids can be mixed into the dry bag mix, or added to the bag after it has been filled.
This can be a messy job, but I find using a syringe or pipette enables me to get the liquid in with the minimum of mess.
Try adding anything up to a teaspoonful of liquid to your bag to give an instant cloud of flavour around the hookbait.
How to make an explosive PVA bag for carp
By combining micro baits and liquids you can fill your bags with an irresistible mix that won’t feed the carp - in fact it will explode out of the melting bag, covering a dinner plate-sized area immediately and quickly infusing the water with an aroma to attract the carp’s attention.
1) Put a pint of micro pellets into a bait tub.
2) Add a handful of dead maggots or casters to add food value.
3) Put a thin layer of the bag mix into the bag.
4) Place the lead centrally into the partially-filled bag.
5) Almost fill the bag with more bait then place the hookbait on top.
6) Inject about 10ml of liquid into the centre of the bag.
7) Use a piece of PVA tape to tie the bag shut, then trim away any excess.
8) Attach the finished bag to your mainline using a large figure-of-eight loop.