Everybody uses meat for all sorts of species nowadays, and as a result fish are becoming more wary of it; so it helps the angler to stay one step ahead of the fish if he can do something different. The first stage is to flavour the bait with either liquids or powders. I have been doing just that for several years, and described it in detail in the Magic Book; since then various firms have brought out pre-flavoured meat in tins, specifically for angling. These do work on their day but the choice of flavours is limited; more importantly the strength of the flavour is obviously fixed, and cannot be varied by the angler. This is why commercially prepared products have good days and poor days, as a flavour that works well in summer may need to have the level increased to make it work in winter etc. So let me bring you up-to-date with the way I use luncheon meat.
Lets start by considering texture; the actual density of the meat. Of the three most popular types Luncheon Meat is the softest, Chopped Ham and Pork is firmer, and Bacon Grill is the hardest. I generally take all three fishing with me to cover different situations. It is important to use the softest meat you can get away with to ensure the hook pulls through on the strike, but the bait that is O.K. to lower into the margins of a stillwater with a pole will not cope with a midriver cast into the heavy waters of the Trent. Hence the need for the various textures.
I have described flavouring meat many times, but here is a brief recap. Chop the meat into the sizes required (from a standard 300g tin). Squirt 2ml of your chosen flavour into a plastic freezer bag and rub the bag between your hands until the flavour is smeared around the inside. Drop in the meat chunks, shake the bag until they are coated with flavour, then freeze for at least 24 hrs. Defrost the bag, which draws the flavour into the bait as it thaws, then open it and sprinkle in one level teaspoon of your chosen additive. Shake well until the chunks are peppered with the powder, then freeze until needed. In use, the powder particles gradually drift off the bait in currents and undertows to provide extra attraction, and when the fish arrives it finds a nice tasting and flavoured bait.
I have also noticed that each time the meat is frozen and defrosted it softens a little, and I now deliberately freeze/defrost some bait six or seven times to give me a supersoft meat • results from this are also detailed in the Magic Book. This is where I was at until recently, but I have now gone further.
Three things intrigued me:
- Some anglers were using really huge baits on rivers like the Severn and catching big barbel
- Many angling writers were extolling the virtues of broken meat chunks, with its ragged edges, as opposed to cut pieces
- Some local lads were successfully using stringers of meat for Trent barbel, and I actually photographed a fish of 12lbs 4ozs taken on this method.
For those not familiar with stringers, it’s a development taken from the carp/boilie world wherein 5/6 boilies are threaded onto P.V.A. dissolving string, which is then tied to the baited hook and cast out. The P.V.A. string dissolves in the water leaving six free baits right next to the baited hook; the carp scoffs its way along the line of freebies and takes the hook bait also. It certainly works for Trent barbel, but I had misgivings about how many times chub would clean up the stringer baits and leave the hook bait untouched • without the angler knowing anything about it. They’re well capable of doing just that.
After some thought and experimentation I sorted it all out, and came up with a method which to me ranks alongside flavoured dead maggots as another major breakthrough. This is what I do.
I take the meat out of a standard tin and start by cutting or scraping any fat off the sides; layers of fat or jelly prevent the flavours from penetrating. I then cut the meat block along its length into two halves; these are cut into three thick strips, giving me just six ‘fingers’ per tin of well over an inch square (2.5cm). I break these in half by hand, and then break the two bits in half again; giving four chunks per finger. I now have just 24 large baits from my tin of meat, all of them with some smooth faces and some broken and ragged. I then use the freezer bag method to embed either a liquid flavour or powder additive, or both, detailed above.
Although I have three different textures of meats described earlier, I freeze and defrost all of them four or five times, at 24-hour intervals. This still gives me three different textures, but all of them softer than their original state. Because they’ve been in and out of the freezer several times they’re starting to go grey and somewhat mushy • but they are reeking of flavour. Now they’re ready for the hook.
Using a baiting needle I thread three of them over the No 4 hook and up the line, taking the line through the flat, cut surfaces. I then slide the bottom one down to sit with the hook just buried in it, with the others on top like a child’s stack of building blocks. In effect, I’ve put the stringer baits on the line! All the ragged surfaces face sideways, allowing a huge leak off of flavours and attractors. For those who read my diary on my own website I refer to this large 4/5" long bait as ‘megameat’. You will need a strong rod to cast it, as its own weight is quite considerable •plus of course the weight of the bomb or feeder. I put a rubber leger stop behind the feeder to lock it in place, which makes the set up a bolt-rig. If the line should break above the stop a hooked fish can easily get rid of the feeder, as its weight will push the rubber stop off the broken line.
You only get one sort of bite; the tip bounces, the rod slams over, and the fish is on! Make sure you have a bait runner system or a slackened clutch, or you could well lose the rod. The fish have never seen such a huge bait, so aren’t frightened of it; but to take it they’ve got to be really serious about it • hence those smash and grab runs. The softened meat allows the hook to pull through the bait, and the back • stopped feeder drives the point home. I used to think that barbel and chub engulfed the lot in one go, as there is usually no bait on the line when you land your fish; then one day I landed a four pound chub that had blown three chunks of meat up the line, like roach sometimes do with maggots. Another time I wound in to find a 12oz chub on the hook with all three meat chunks sitting on its nose! The bait was almost as big as the fish!!
I’ve now had scores of barbel and chub on this set-up, odd carp, and even an occasional bream of 5lbs plus; but I have to admit I felt a bit self•conscious when I first cast out such a huge bait. I found myself looking round to make sure nobody was watching me. But that only lasted until the first screaming run.
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