In a sport dominated by boilies, many carp anglers often overlook the most simple of baits which carp find irresistible. What’s more, by offering an alternative bait to the norm, you could well find yourself bagging more fish than the angler in the next swim! Halibut pellets have accounted for the downfall of some monster carp in recent years, and in addition, specimen barbel and catfish are also extremely partial to a nice bed of Halibut pellets!
Also known as Marine pellets, Halibut pellets are high in essential amino & fatty acids, pre-digested fishmeals, and minerals. They are a rich nutritious bait with a protein content of around fifty percent and an oil content of around 25 percent. Most Halibut pellets also contain Betaine; a natural extract of sugar beet which has long been popular with fish farmers due to its qualities as a feeding stimulant aiding the digestion of nutrients. The Halibut Pellet is a versatile bait which can be used on waters where boilies are not allowed, and can also prove highly effective when used as a stalking or winter bait. Presentation could not be easier as the Halibut pellet can be fished in exactly the same way as a boilie.
Julian Grattidge with a Shropshire upper-twenty taken on a Halibut Pellet.
With a controlled but constant breakdown, Halibut pellets offer the perfect carpet feed approach. By presenting a selection of different sized pellets you can create a complete bed of bait which is all breaking down and giving off attractors and oils at different levels – perfect.
Many anglers favour a PVA approach when fishing Halibut pellets. Once you have attached a pellet to your hook link, you can place it in a PVA bag and fill it up with a selection of different sized pellets. Funnel Web is another great way of presenting pellets. Just fill and tie off a small bag so it’s shaped like a little ball (about the size of a golf ball) that fits in the palm of your hand, then simply attach the bag to your hook and cast it out – simple as that. Many anglers who fish this method tie up a number of little bags in advance of the session which saves time when you are out on the bank. I’ve used this method to great effect when I’m ‘roving’ on a water, as you can cast to showing fish with minimal disturbance and have a perfect little bed of bait placed right under their noses.
Halibut pellets are quite oily in their own right, but I also like to add extra oil to my pellets. As oil does not melt PVA, you can either tip some straight into your PVA bag before casting, or just dip the hook bait before you cast it out. As well as offering an immediate release of attractors, dipping the hook bait will also help slow the breakdown of the pellet to prolong your time between casting. I like to use a good quality Salmon or Hemp Oil with my pellets but I’ve recently been experimenting with a fantastic Chilli Oil which has brought impressive results.
You can buy pellets with pre-drilled holes for attaching onto hook links but I much prefer to drill my own as normal pellets are a fraction of the price. Also, I think a hook bait which is exactly the same as the free offerings will arouse less suspicion from cautious feeding fish. You can use any size pellet as a hook bait, and I use anything from 12mm to 17mm. The larger ones are much better if you want to leave them out for a while as obviously they take longer to break down - Most pellets over 14mm will go soft after about half an hour but the body of the bait remains stable on the hair for up to 15 hours, so they can easily be left out overnight.
The trick to drilling the pellets without splitting them is to hold the pellet firmly between your thumb and forefingers and exert heavy pressure to the pellet before attempting to drill through the core, as this stops it from breaking apart. Then just drill at a slow pace until you have made a hole right through.
Stiff Rig Presentation for Halibut Pellets
If I am fishing pellets at range I favour a stiff link, which ensures there are no tangles on the cast. My preferred hook link is ESP Ghost Fluorocarbon which is a 100% pure Fluorocarbon and has great refraction properties. It is available in a range of breaking strains and diameters, and I tend to use the 12lb or 15lb depending on the severity of snags or weed within my chosen swim. Of course there are plenty of other brands and types of stiff link material out there, so it’s just a case of using whatever you are confident with. I use a simple knotless knot approach and mount the pellet off the back of the shank.
This hook link is ideal when using the funnel web ‘ball’ approach highlighted above, as you avoid getting any kinks on the hook link which can greatly reduce the refraction qualities of Fluorocarbon.
Braid Presentation for Halibut Pellets
For all my stalking and close range work I prefer to use a braid over any other hook link material. My favoured braid for pellets is Rod Hutchinson’s Edge 2000 HPPE braid in green (High Performance Poly Ethylene), as It possesses all the suppleness required yet retains enough rigidity on the cast to avoid major tangles. Again, there are various types available and I tend to go for a 10lb or 15lb breaking strain depending on the swim.
Using a knotless knot, I fish the pellet just off the back of the shank and find in most cases this approach brings the greatest rewards. You can also use this hook link to offer a popped-up approach. By using a slightly longer hair and a piece of foam (presented above the pellet on the hair) you can fish the pellet off the lake bed and anchor it with a split-shot or a little tungsten putty.
In addition to carp, Halibut pellets are a great bait when targeting barbel and catfish. A barbel set up would be virtually identical to either the stiff link or braid set-ups above, with perhaps a slightly lighter breaking strain. However, with catfish, you’d need to go the other way.
When targeting catfish abroad you would usually use braid hook links of up to 100kg breaking strain and hooks as big as size 4/0. A common presentation when targeting catfish is to use several halibut pellets tied together as the hook bait, by sliding them onto a link and making a loop of baits.
With the help of his dad, Nigel Weston holds a 105lb Ebro catfish taken on a ring of Halibut pellets.
Using the above methods to present Halibut pellets, I’ve been lucky enough to bank many specimen carp from waters all over the UK, so why not give Halibut pellets a try yourself?
I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!
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