The Power Of PVA

The use of PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol) in angling is now well established, especially in carp fishing. Over the last few years the availability and variety of water-soluble PVA products has increased dramatically. Anglers wishing to take advantage of the alternative presentations afforded by melting PVA can choose from PVA string, tape and various shapes and sizes of bags.

The use of PVA stringers are almost a permanent fixture in my carp fishing. I have used PVA bags less frequently but I have been very successful when incorporating them. In fact, while analyzing my results for this article I didn’t realize how successful a method the PVA bags had been for me. I think that I might revert back to their use more often!

Before I detail how I use PVA in my own fishing let me make a comment on its general use. Top anglers in the angling press and publications commonly advocate the use of PVA products but how often do you use PVA or see others using it?

Some well-known anglers including Tim Paisley and Paul Selman admit to using PVA frequently and it obviously gives them an edge in their angling. That extra little time and effort can be the difference between success and failure.


Until recently I have been using short stringers of 2 whole boilies or four halves attached to the rig via the hook. I use Nash Spider Web PVA Tape and have never had any problems with it dissolving. I know others highly recommend Kryston’s Meltdown.

I feel the stringer draws attention to the hookbait especially with the halved baits that can leak their flavour much quicker. Despite a short stringer being a standard presentation I have seen little of its use on the waters I have been fishing. However, recently I knew that fish were in my swim but they had so far failed to pick up the bait. I decided to add a much larger stringer and within 5 minutes I had a screaming run.

This got me thinking and I have now done well with longer stringers of 8 or more baits. I like to bunch the baits in two’s or three’s along the PVA tape and have often used two different flavoured boilies. (see picture) The long stringers look cumbersome and reduce casting distance but have improved the number of pickups. The use of a stringer also helps prevent tangles.

There are endless alternatives that are worth experimenting with from all 8 boilies separated so the PVA can melt leaving 8 individual baits to all 8 boilies being bunched together as one bait. Don’t overlook using two or more stringers on the hook or adding a small stringer via the lead swivel. The stringers don’t even need to be ‘stringers’ they could be loops!

There are many different ways to ultilise a stringer. Ball pellets can be carefully drilled out and used on a stringer. It is often necessary to use a normal boilie as the bottom bait on the stringer to prevent the ball pellets flying off.

Smaller boilies can be stringered but PVA tape can split the boilies. It is better using PVA string. If the baits are still splitting, if possible, try separating the strands and using a thinner piece of string.

Another clever ruse is to bait up with strings or necklaces of PVA’d free offerings and then hair rig three baits, one of which is a pop-up to add an element buoyancy to counteract the weight of the hook.


As I’ve already said my use of PVA bags has been limited. The waters I have fished are very silty and when fishing early morning I often witnessed fish bubbling and throwing up clouds of mud off the bottom. These fish were obviously feeding hard in concentrated areas.

I found that by filling a PVA bag with broken boilies, ball pellets and micromass I could create a concentration of bait that the fish homed-in for. The combination I used was peach flavoured Nash S-Mix with peach ball pellets and micromass. It has proved to be a winning combination even without PVA bags.

When filling the PVA bag I followed the recommended method of putting the hookbait in first, nicking the hookpoint in the bottom of the bag and then filling it with the boilies, ball pellets and micromass. I then put the lead in the bag and topped up it further with the selection of goodies. The bag is then sealed with a piece of PVA string.

I like to use a short six-inch Kryston Snakeskin hooklength with only a small amount of the outer coat stripped back near the hook to act as a hinge. I’m not a great fan of pop-ups and so use either a straight bottom bait or a critically balanced one. I critically balance the boilie by wrapping a length of lead wire, stripped from a leadcore leader, onto the hook shank and then cutting a pop-up down until it just sinks. Remember to dry the bait etc before putting it in the PVA bag!

You can put any bait in a PVA bag so long as it is dry. Other possibilities include a bag of whole or broken boilies, a combination of the two, boilie crumb, trout pellets, Nutrabaits hemp or CSL pellets and the range of Rod Hutchinson pellets.

PVA bags are great for ensuring your hooklink isn’t tangled. They are particularly useful for casting in and around weed and to the edge of lilies. Some bags I’ve used have exploded on impact on the water but I find the Nash bags are much stronger and often you even have time to navigate the bag into position before it begins melting and sinks.

Gardner Tackle produce flavoured PVA bags, Blue Fruit and Blue Spice, for those who worry about the PVA leaving an unpleasant odour in the water. I’m not particularly concerned about PVA tainting the water and the fish in my back garden don’t seem to either! The flavoured bags could provide an edge in themselves.


There are some problems connected with PVA. Firstly, don’t get it damp or wet! If PVA gets damp it can harden and may not melt properly when you come to use it. If you get it wet it melts! This can be a problem when you cast out as the PVA could be weakened and the stringer/bag could break. Winter and wet weather can test your resolve to use PVA to its limits. And, of course, you can only use dry baits with PVA so most particle baits cannot be used in PVA bags.

The use of stringers and PVA bags restrict casting distance. PVA bags can only be used at short to medium range and your casting needs to be smoother so as
not to break the bags.

If everybody is using PVA bags or certain lengths of stringer then you will ultimately lose your edge! So while concentrating on working hard at your own methods don’t forget to quietly focus on what others are doing. You can learn much from observing others and avoid falling into the traps that they are.

PVA bags can prove expensive especially if you are using a lot of them but this is a necessary evil if you are to succeed.


The essence of being a successful angler is to keep one step ahead and even though PVA is widely available it doesn’t seem to be overly used on many waters. Incorporating some form of PVA into your set-up can give you that vital edge. A big, long stringer looks very obvious but where this method hasn’t been used frequently this can work to your advantage. There are endless different alternative ways to use PVA - trying to be different and succeeding shouldn’t be difficult.