I’m a big believer in balanced hookbaits full stop. I use them for all my fishing as I think their ability to perfectly mimic the freebaits around them – even with a hooklink attached – allow them to waft up into the mouth of the carp with the minimal amount of suction, thus increasing the chances of the hook taking hold. However, it’s at this time of year that they really come into their own.
As we head into the colder months, another years worth of growth beneath the surface is about to start breaking down; weeds, plants and such like, and add to that, the trees are starting to shed their leaves and when the winds come, the twigs and branches will soon follow… it can be like a jungle down there!
For many anglers the only time they physically come into contact with the water is when they are returning a fish, and so for a great many there can be an awful lot that goes on beneath the surface that they have little knowledge of – and at this time of year there’s a whole lot more going on down there than at any other time of the year! All of the leaves that get blown out of the trees surrounding the lake will eventually end up on the bottom, and depending on where they end up within the lake, they might take an awfully long time to break down – years in some cases – and so what you find in many lakes is that you don’t actually have a nice firm bottom on which any hookbait (not to mention lead) will simply come to rest upon. What you actually have is several layers of breaking down organic matter which can often resemble a kind of soupy slush in the upper layers with lots of hard snaggy bits mixed in for good measure!
Now, if you chuck in a standard bottom bait rig there’s a good chance that within minutes of being cast in, it will start to sink down into the upper layers of silt – even more so if you are using a heavy lead, so it’s vital to make sure your hookbait stays up on top. A pop up presentation can be an easy option, but to be honest, it’s not very subtle, and even that can get sucked down if it’s got a big blob of weight holding it down. I much prefer to use a critically balanced bait that just holds bottom on its own with no addition of weight to keep it down, as this will always allow it to stay on top much easier.
One of the most common ways for a bait to get buried is when fish come over the area and start blowing and sucking all around which lifts all the upper layers of silt, and as they settle, the chances are they will settle on top of a heavy or weighted rig which will always fall first. However, a critically balanced bait will more often than not end up on or near the top when everything settles as it’s only just holding bottom.
There’s various ways of making a wafter. Most of the bigger suppliers will sell purpose made wafters straight from the tub, or you can make your own using a standard bottom bait or pop up. To make your own you can either hollow out a bottom bait using a bait punch or drill and insert a small amount of foam, or you can add a pop up bait to a bottom bait (snowman style). You could also add a tiny shot or a bit of putty directly under a pop up bait on the hair just to bring it down.
My personal preference is for a ready-made wafter, which obviously takes all the hassle out of it. Again I like a wafter which in terms of its basemix makeup is exactly the same as the freebaits I’m offering, so I use a corkdust wafter which I have made at the same time as my freshly rolled bait.
My only other advice is to use a bit of rig foam on the hook when you cast it out. This slows the descent down onto the lake bed and helps the hookbait come to rest right on top of any rubbish, leaves or detritus that may be down there.