Prebaiting a water undoubtedly helps you to put more fish on the bank. Like most people, my time on the bank is severely restricted by work and other hobbies. I’ve found that by prebaiting a swim and then maximizing my time by fishing early morning or late evening I can boost my catch rate considerably.
Identifying your aim in prebaiting plays a major role in deciding how to go about your campaign. Other variables to be considered include the type of water, the stocking density, the different species present, the angling pressure on the water and, of course, the species of fish you’re targeting.
The main aim of prebaiting is to get the fish feeding confidently enough to take your hookbait. There are many ways to do this e.g. by feeding your chosen bait on a regular basis or by feeding a certain swim with bait in order to encourage the fish to return to the same spot time and time again.
I try to develop a combination of feeding a small number of spots using both the bait I intend to use as a hookbait and some other background feed. The main reason for using a background feed is to help keep the cost of prebaiting down. Background feeds include groundbait, trout pellets, hemp, groats, carp/hemp/CSL pellets etc.
My prebaiting campaigns can be split into two categories, short-term and long-term. Most of my short-term prebaiting has been for the more general coarse fish such as tench and bream. My longer-term prebaiting has been for carp. In the season when I kept up a steady supply of bait, it proved an absolute success from my very first session.
Another factor that needs considering is that the prebaiting that I detail in this article was concerned with fishing close in on spots that were easy to bait by hand or catapult, even with light particle baits. I’m sure that the principles can be applied to longer range fishing especially where you are prebaiting with boilies or have the use of a boat, good spod rod or bait boat.
There are some pitfalls that need to be considered before you decide to undertake a course of prebaiting. Most anglers don’t take too kindly to others throwing in large amounts of bait when they’re not fishing. It pays to be discreet as this normally keeps the locals happy and prevents them from taking advantage of your hard work! A good trick is to bait up heavily over the spot you’re fishing just before you pack up. Another problem is that it is often difficult to get to prebait the spot you want as i s being fished. Often, you need to be the first or last person on a water so that you can introduce bait into your desired spots.
I would class my short-term prebaiting as anything from two weeks before I commence fishing to just a few hours before I fish. If I’m starting to fish with a new boilie, or starting on a new water or one I haven’t fished for a while, then I like to introduce a few samples of my intended hookbait in likely looking spots just to give the fish a taster. This is a tactic I adopt frequently when using particles. I like to introduce a pound of particles three times in the week prior to fishing. I feel that the fish will then be familiar with the situation when they then come across my bed of particles and will therefore feed more confidently.
I have had particular success using this method with black-eyed beans for both carp and tench. When I was younger, I used to bait up two swims in a morning on my local water after I had finished my paper round. After two weeks, I fished one of the swims capturing eight tench in a morning session - a comparative success in contrast to my usual results.
If I intend to fish a few sessions in winter, then I always like to introduce a small amount of boilies over a couple of weeks just to get the carp looking for food.
Most of my prebaiting has been done for carp, but when I’ve applied the short-term prebaiting principle to other coarse fish I’ve also had some success. When fishing on the Lancaster Canal I raked a weedy swim and baited it with a 1kg bag of groundbait and a pint of squatts. When I fished it the following morning, within 10 minutes of fishing I landed an old looking bream of 4lb-plus from a stretch that rarely produced bream. The groundbaiting had obviously drawn the fish in, and they’d cleared the bait but had stayed in the area looking for more food. The same thing applies to fishing for tench. Raking the swim and baiting it the day before fishing draws fish in and you will often find that the fish have mopped up all the bait but stay in the area looking for more.
The number one bait to use has got to be hemp. If you prebait the swim with hemp, then the fish will keep coming back to the spot time and time again until every single grain of the tiny seed has been eaten. Hemp effectively draws in most types of coarse fish. When I’ve baited heavily with hemp I’ve noticed that the true impact only occurs two or three days later.
I was fishing one particular spot on a gravel bar close to some rushes. I was only fishing for 24hrs, but I introduced half a bucket of hemp. I had two dropped runs during the night and several line bites. Despite my lack of success, the owner, who had been present when I introduced the hemp, reported that the spot produced some fantastic captures of all species in the following week. So if you prebait with hemp, it’s worth considering fishing the spot a few days later (or for a few days if you can sit and wait). If you’re fishing sooner you must be careful about the amount of hemp you introduce to prevent total preoccupation. It often pays to lace your bucket of hemp liberally with your intended hookbait. Hemp is also quite cheap, especially if you buy it in bulk, an important consideration for lengthy baiting campaigns.
A tactic that can be applied equally well to rivers and lakes is to bait up several swims on your arrival at the water. This is a good method where you don’t have the time or money to properly prebait. What I normally do is fill a bait bucket with two-thirds trout pellets and one-third hemp. I then add a small amount of pre-soaked black-eyed beans. They’re a very visual bait, especially against the dark pellets and hemp, and they also rest on top of any silt deposits. I then walk around the lake and put four or five large handfuls of bait in likely looking spots. When you come to fish the swim a few hours later the fish often betray themselves by sending up bubbles as they feed on the bait.
In fact, I like to use this method to fish spots that I’ve always fancied trying but have never bothered with. Often you look at small spots under bushes or you fancy small corners that are never fished, but you never get round to fishing them as you always plump for the ‘banker’ swims.
I started on one lake by introducing bait into four small areas around the lake and then fished each one in rotation. By fishing each swim for a couple of hours, by the time I’d reached the third swim, a small corner which had never been fished, there appeared to be no signs of fish. However, within the next half hour I landed three carp all around 8lb in weight. The fish had obviously had time to feed on the bait without being disturbed or have line hanging over their heads. That day I float fished close in using hair-rigged luncheon meat, a bait that seems to be picked up confidently over my prebaited area as long as it not been ‘hammered’. (Where ‘old favourites’ like meat, sweetcorn and bread are being overlooked it often pays to use these highly effective baits).
This method of introducing bait into a swim and then fishing it a few hours later led to my catching my biggest fish from the lake in question. This method can be applied successfully to rivers where you can walk several miles baiting fishy looking areas and then work you way back home, giving each spot a go until you return to your starting place with hopefully a few fish under your belt.
One of the simplest ways of prebaiting is to purchase a large bag of groundbait and simply introduce this into a swim for several weeks. It can be improved by the addition of a small amount of your intended hookbait. If you can discretely introduce groundbait into a swim that won’t be fished or only lightly
Fished, then the fish will become accustomed to visiting the area for the regular supply of ‘safe’ food.
I’ve started fishing for pike recently and I wonder if anyone has ever extended the prebaiting principle to their pike fishing? I wonder if introducing some deadbaits to a particular swim over a few weeks would get pike visiting the area on a regular basis looking for food? If anybody has any experience of this,
then I’d love to hear about it via the Forum. I know that my results have improved if I’ve used a blockend swimfeeder packed with bits of fish rather than a leger weight, so don’t see why this couldn’t be further extended to prebaiting.
If you’re about to embark on a long-term baiting campaign, then you need to be committed to your task. To ensure that my baiting goes to plan and I don’t waiver too much from the task in hand, I have a wall planner on which I write down when I’ve baited up so I can see if I’ve started slacking!
I’m lucky in that the water I often prebait is just five minutes from home. If you’re to make the prebaiting work, you need to have good access to the water. To make things easier, it would be better to bait a water close to your home or one on a route that you take regularly, e.g. a water that you pass on the way to work. Or failing that, just fish the water all the time; at least then you’ll be there to introduce bait regularly! Once you’ve got into a baiting routine the quick trip to the water becomes part of your day/week, and it also gives you the chance to keep in touch with what’s going on or do some fish spotting. Getting up just 15 minutes earlier could give you enough time to bait up and dramatically improve your catch rate.
All my long-term prebaiting has been in pursuit of carp. I like to start in January when the water is only lightly fished. I make it my New Year’s resolution to keep up with my prebaiting and then catch the lake’s biggest fish. I generally succeed with the first part of the resolution, but fail miserably with the second!
I bait up the known fish holding areas. Despite the weather being cold and the fish feeding less, I always feel confident that my bait will be eaten. I always start with a smaller amount of bait and then build up. As there is less bait going into the water during winter, I feel that my bait has a good chance of being eaten. You can start prebaiting at anytime of the year, but I feel that the longer it is before you start fishing the spot the better your results will be. This is another reason for starting prebaiting in winter. Not only will I not fish the swim (it’s too cold to venture out!), but others probably won’t fish it either.
The best times to introduce bait are at dusk and dawn, especially where wildfowl are a problem. If you bait up in the half-light you can often avoid the birds diving and devouring all the boilies before the fish discover them. Getting to a water early can mean you avoid the first anglers of the day and can prepare your spots in secret. However, I was unaware that whilst on one of my prebaiting trips I was spied on by some guy in camo gear! When I started fishing the water seriously a few months later the guy came round and introduced himself and told me he had spotted what I was up to.
Introducing bait into several spots will mean the fish will become accustomed to finding bait all over the water. I like to bait a combination of known fish holding areas, so fish will definitely be finding the bait, and areas that are quiet and unfished. Prebaiting an unfished area takes some confidence. These areas are often ignored because they don’t produce fish! To bait an area that is believed by others to be devoid of fish takes willpower but can provide good rewards. The advantages of baiting quiet unfished areas (if they exist on your water) are that the fish can learn to feed confidently on the bait without disturbance or fearing capture, and you can often bait these areas more discretely or without upsetting other anglers. And the more confident the fish are feeding, the more likely you are to catch them. It also means that you can nearly always get onto your chosen prebaited swim when you want to. You know when you’ve finally cracked it when people start fishing your chosen swim because your results have become too much for them to ignore any longer. Unfortunately, it then means you have to start all over again and develop a new area.
If you stick at baiting an area that normally doesn’t produce, you may find that you’ll end up producing an artificial hotspot. On my local water, I chose an unfancied swim and baited it once a week with around 50 boilies from January until March. When I started fishing, I continued to introduce bait. The fish had obviously discovered the food source, and I found that they’d started to visit the area looking for their free meal. I caught consistently from the unfancied swim. I no longer introduce bait into that area, so has the artificial hot spot died?
How much bait should be introduced? If you’re part of a baiting team, sponsored, or cost is not a problem then introduce as much as possible. However, please make sure that all your bait is being eaten and not causing detriment to the water. I only fish for a small number of carp in a relatively small water, so I don’t need as much bait as would be required on a large water or one with a number of large carp. Also, don’t forget that other species will be eating your bai
t. If the water has a big head of tench or bream, they could be eating the majority of your bait. However, I feel that a regular supply, no matter how small, has its benefits. If you’re restricted to only a small amount of bait, then concentrate on a small part of your water so that the fish get used to feeding on a regular supply of your chosen bait and keep visiting your specific area.
In Julian Cundiff’s book ‘Practical Carp Fishing’ he recommends as a general guide:
For 50 carp in a lake 4lb of bait three time a week, for 100 carp 6lb of bait and 10lb of bait for 200 carp.
That is a very expensive outlay, but cost and effort equal results. However, I’m still prepared to say that even a small amount of bait will help improve your results. If you use the levels recommended above, then as long as you’re using a good bait, your results should reflect your efforts. If nobody else is introducing large amounts of bait, you should be able to take the water apart.
If you are undertaking a long-term baiting campaign, then you must use a good quality bait. Don’t start using a bait you’re unsure about. Use the well-proven mixes such as Nash S-Mix, Nutrabaits Big Fish Mix or one of the highly successful Mainline baits. You’ll find that the long-term success of a bait can be improved by using low-level flavours. The bait should become a food source for the fish and so initial attraction via high flavour levels are unnecessary.