When I wrote my Flavours and Attractors piece for Crafty Carper (Nov 98), I was very surprised at the large number of calls I received asking for further information. Some of these were very perceptive; which made me realize there are far more serious carpers out there than I thought. There are also many less experienced carpers who are totally confused by the conflicting claims made by the various bait companies, and they have a real thirst for clear cut information So, here are my views on carp baits, and although I realize I'm questioning hallowed Carp fishing folklore, I can only tell it the way I see it. Here we go.
We all do it, including me. Take the top off the bottle, have a sniff, and then either smile, frown, cough, or want to puke: and that's just one flavour! We are all different and what smells pleasant to one can be foul to another. Yet all we are getting are a few of the active molecules given off into the air; we have no conception of how the carp receive the same flavour in water. That gorgeous Strawberry loses all its human attraction if you dilute it with water and then swill it around your tongue -- but that's the nearest you will ever get to the carp's perception of it.
Long time Carp man Shaun Harrison told me my Barbel flavour smelled like dieseloil, but he still had a good Trent Barbel on it first time out. Still, a nice smell does catch lots of anglers.
Many are the articles I've read where the writer chews a boilie, calls it too bitter, too sweet, or calls it just right if it suits him. It would be much more valuable it he dived into the water and sucked algae off the stones, or stuck his head into the silt and chewed up bloodworms, leeches, and snails. That's what the carp does, and loves it.
I produce a flavour that is so hot it would burn my mouth if I sipped it, and make me ill if I swallowed it. It's similar to the Red Zing that Geoff Kemp used to do, and carp and other fish love it, particularly in cold water. I've also been told my Peach Plus tastes like soap, but it's proved instant everywhere.
Fish and man are a million miles apart when it comes to the sense of taste.
The Feel Good Factor
We are all told that if we use high quality baits, (and all the boilie companies will tell you theirs are the best) the carp will benefit. So much so, they will feel good, recognise which boilie gave them the high, and actively seek it out next time -- presumably swimming past all the other slightly inferior boilies, mussel beds etc, just to find that one food source. If I have a pint of beer, I feel good; not so with a pint of milk. However, I can read, so I know the milk is really best for me. So how does the Carp work it out? In reality, a good flavour will attract the fish's interest, and if the flavour tastes nice to the fish when its lips and barbels touch it, it will be picked up. Efficient hook rigs will do the rest. Which brings me nicely to:
I believe this was Tim's original theory, and all due respects to him but I must query it. As I understand it, if the bait's make-up is good enough the carp knows it will get the 'feel good' factor even before it eats it. Therefore it will pick it up at first sight, and once again in preference to less nutritious baits.
I'm afraid there is much more evidence the other way; that carp will eat anything and everything, even if it causes them to physically deteriorate. Currently there are arguments over trout pellets and their oil content viz a viz Carp, and bans are being put in place because the fish won't stop eating them. Recently I read of a ban on tigernuts on one water. Apparently the local carpers had been tipping them in by the bucket load and the carp were virtually living on them: consequently they started suffering a weight loss due to a badly unbalanced diet. This could never happen if they had the intuitive ability to recognise good grub from bad.
What it does demonstrate is that a massive bait blitz can have the carp feeding on one item almost to the exclusion of everything else, whatever that item may be. A proven tactic of course, but care must be taken to ensure the bait does actually have nutritional value, even if the fish don't recognise it.
Having said all the above, I do feel that most of the commercial ready mades are quite good enough, otherwise there would be dead and dying fish all over the place. So go for the cheapest you can find and give them a big attraction boost by outside flavouring, as I suggested in the November feature. Yes, I know all about Betaine, the current 'can't do without', but you can still catch lots of fish without it, as anglers did before it arrived. I can remember when Brewers Yeast was considered absolutely essential, then later it was expensive milk proteins until it was found the fish couldn't use all that protein. Robin Red temporarily became king, followed soon after by Liver Powder. Recently it was Green Lipped Mussel, now currently eclipsed by Betaine. Next year it might be concentrated gnats dung. Yes, they all work, but no, they aren't essential, and the most expensive is not necessarily the best.
So how would I do it? Like this:
If the water is not seriously pressured then go for a bait attack. This means putting plenty of bait in so go for the cheapest boilie with the softest flavour levels: something like a light fruit perhaps. Outside flavour as described, but only at 1 ml per 100 for the freebies. Do the hook baits at 2-3ml per 100, or even more. The aim is to make them stand out. One Leicestershire specialist upped the dose to 5ml with one of my Plus range and caught a staggering twenty two doubles in a day -- but he won't let me quote either his name or the flavour until he's had his fill of the water!
If the water is heavily fished then the carp will obviously find all sorts of different flavoured boilies in regular patches around the water. This is an ideal situation for single hook baits, relying purely on the flavour for pickups. In this case I would suggest two different flavours, and even two different levels. If you can fish four rods then put two on a 'high note' flavour, such as Pineapple, and two on a 'low note' flavour, like Peach. I would also fish one bait of each flavour at 3ml per 100, and one at 5m1 per 100; giving in effect four different attacks. This is needed because no matter how good the flavour there will always be the odd water where a different attractor scores better. The fish will tell you which one is best soon enough -- while you enjoy the benefits of the cheapest possible bait approach.
Note: Any freebies are best introduced when you've finished fishing, if you feel the need to accustom the Carp to your chosen flavour.
Making your own boilies obviously gives you more scope to personalise your bait, but it doesn't have to be as complicated as so many of the recipes shown in the magazines would suggest. Some of them recommend 20-25mls of assorted flavours and oils added to the eggs and, frankly, if the mix needs all that then there's something lacking. I would suggest you buy a decent 50/50 mix and include just one ounce of 'booster' as part of a 1lb mix. That one ounce can be a fishmeal blend, meat extract, a blend
of spices, (I produce some of these myself) whatever; just to add a bit of body. More importantly, add 2mls of an Essential Oil to the eggs before mixing, but no flavours or other liquids.
Essential oils are the most underrated and misunderstood bait enhancers in carp fishing, and the usual few drops suggested are far too low. They are totally natural products obtained from various plants and trees around the world and are very complex substances. Each one contains between seventy and eighty constituents, and every oil has a different make-up. They also vary from thin and watery, like Ginger Oil, to thick and syrupy, such as Patchouli. Some will partly absorb into water while others are immune to it and just float on the surface. I think anglers have missed out in the past by trying to use them as a flavour, but I believe they work better as a taste. I also believe they have nutritional value. Further, they withstand heat better than any flavours, and they are the only liquids I would recommend adding to the mix before boiling.
So now, with a minimum of fuss, you have your own boilie with added taste in both powder and liquid form. Add the benefits of outside flavouring, which gives you the ability to change flavours at immediate notice, and you can go ahead and mix up a whole season's boilies in advance with total confidence. Obviously you can apply these baits as already discussed under Readymades.
Finally, the approaches I have described in this article are not just a theory, they were used very successfully during the testing period for the Plus range, with many more captures since. If you too get a big result, I'd like to hear from you.