Possibly the most overlooked secret to winning the fishing game comes from saving money on bait; but how, you ask?! Many anglers miss-out on fantastic catches even though the baits they use have proven to be reliable and popular big fish catchers! But you can save a fortune in wasted bait and improve your catches drastically with these extremely valuable proven big fish bait suggestions!
Most often carp and catfish anglers use boilies, pellets and hemp, maize and sweetcorn and prepared commercial ground baits, as free baits to attract and hold fish in their swim. These are obviously consistent baits for fish like carp and catfish. But Often the hidden (or obvious) problem, is that you end up with many fish gorging upon your free ground baits and not getting hooked at all, or comparatively little compared to the feeding activity going on in your swim.
This happens far more than anyone is really accurately aware of and is a more truly shocking thing, when you attempt to calculate just how much of your bait is almost certainly consistently going to waste…
After all, why bother putting free baits into a fishery when most of it ends up just feeding the fish and not translating into your catch results? One definition of insanity is to expecting different results from doing the same old things… Carp especially are extremely expert at keeping ahead of our angling activities, commonly-used baits, methods and in detecting your hook baits of course!
This very certainly applies to angler-pressured big catfish too, whose bait preferences can definitely alter in response to angling pressures and to previous captures on a bait.
So the big trick is trying to keep ahead of the fish and not wasting your hard-earned money every week on bait that does not convert into fish; to achieve very satisfactory fish captures.
For most anglers just going fishing costs money because it is missed money-earning time, and this cost is quite apart from travelling costs, fishing permits, and wasted free bait!
Money is important in fishing; especially when you’re on a budget! Pictured is one of the two sets of cheap 3 pound test curve bass rods I used for 10 years – very successfully, and some of the £30 Shakespeare beach reels on them… I’ve had some extremely expensive rods and reels by contrast. Feel, accuracy, balance, fish control and feedback, loop recovery etc etc, all matter at times (very much) and make a difference to results. However, I found you still need the practice and time for the exact skills in truly exploiting them, to make the price differences really pay!
Converting your bait money at the very least into better catches, is perhaps even more of an issue, especially in tough times. Of course every fishery is different and these days there are many waters that are over-stocked to the degree that it appears everyone catches fish successfully. But who is to know just how much better your individual catches can really be until you truly get innovative and prove it to yourself?
The skill and art of baiting a swim with free baits (and even ground bait making) and the importance of its correct application and timing etc, has been a key component in so many consistent big carp captures over the decades. I include here maggots, ground baits, boilies, pellets and certain flavoured pigeon seed mixtures and so on, with which certain more publicly well-known carp anglers have spawned fashions. However when you originally pioneer or lead a fashion, that is usually the best time to be using a bait or method for peak catch results (before the crowd joins the bandwagon…)
Having said that, as with any other skill, if you have mastered it well beyond the level of the majority, you will obviously always stay ahead of the game!
Budget and carp fishing costs have always been an issue with me. Plus the price of carp fishing gear has in the past been so much more expensive than for sea fishing tackle for instance. (The high quality budget gear available now has been a long time in coming!) I’ve used a lot of sea fishing tackle in my carp fishing for various specific purposes which has had its own advantages. But I’ve often had to use baits and often tackle which cost substantially less than my peers are using, but it the angler using it that catches the fish. Owning a hook sharpener and really knowing how to use it and making and using baits in innovative ways, can certainly balance up the odds.
It is not talked much about in comparison to new products on the market, but a positive mindset, staying keen and highly motivated, with the self-belief and willingness to be creative, is important in fishing as in anything. This is a simple essential on quite competitive waters known to be difficult, where takes may have been less frequent. (I admit to doing very little other than just turning up at waters like the Big Grange and Darenth Big Lake for example!)
There are quite a few waters I’ve fished in the past where prodigious baiting, good observation of the water especially at night, and extremely accurate distance casting to pinpointed spots etc, can really add-up and pay big dividends. Somewhere in the last 10 years I stopped experimenting, got lazy and as a result, my catches and confidence dropped significantly for a time. Mindset and keeping the goal of enjoying what you are doing in mind when you have already achieved previously set goals is so very important!
I guess we all have waters we just do not fit into as much, or feel less comfortable on, but the hard lessons always pay you back later. It seems to me as a result of such carp fishing experiences; you just have to do what you believe in. This will always produce you results with enough refinement in time (or instantly!) Sticking with a bait or method or different approach and risking being a little innovative even bit by bit, may produce blanks and perhaps lots of them, but its all feedback on the road to success.
Often it requires consistently good catch results on a range of waters before you are able to make any firm conclusions about things for yourself which really leads to a great boost in personal fishing confidence. If you make your own baits for yourself like I do, you will more than likely agree that the more you know about the mechanisms by which every single aspect of each bait ingredient functions biologically in the fish (and impacts on all its senses combined,) the more confidence you can build.
When you get to know more about how bait works, you get to know why it might not work at times too, and instead of merely using readymade baits with blind faith because someone else has had success of them. This can help you exploit various bait formulations in different ways on different pH waters and through the seasons if you wish, or stick to the one bait with complete confidence because you know why it has competitive edges over various other competing baits. For example, I’ve used very cheap homemade wheat based baits for example, packed with enzyme-active metabolites etc, against established shop-bought enzyme-active HNV and BNV baits and been able to catch from the first cast on competitive commercial waters.
(Successful baits don’t need to be complex of course; just a little different; like wrapping a boilie in bread flake dipped in marmite for instance; but this hides the complexity of bread and yeast per se in terms of stimulating nutrition and other factors.)
From the early 1980’s I spent about 10 years on one Essex syndicate water making baits and ground baits very successfully, but this cam
e from very regular feedback on different baits by usually doing very many regular short sessions all year round. This was where I noticed crushed chick peas and other crushed pulses (legumes) were very good used in combinations. I used many popular baits and many less popular ones; there’s a lot you can do with baked beans and fried cheese and bacon if you know what habit-forming substances to add. I did 4 years of professional training as an professional horticulturalist and grower which really helped open my eyes to bait in regards to bioactive substances and plant nutrition and metabolism, soil science and so on.
Of course I used things like chick and maple peas, lentils, lupins all mixed together, and with all kinds of things from wild bird seed mixtures, hemp, maize, sweetcorn, tinned flaked fish etc and they all caught well. The mixed pulses and all kinds of nuts with additives were a brilliant highly nutritional edge, when fished against other anglers using masses of expensive casein based baits and refined fish and shellfish baits etc, which I just could not afford at the time.
Many successful boilies I used were simple carbohydrate flours based; like wholemeal wheat flour with yeast powders, plus other cheap ingredients and extracts with fruit juices, cheap synthetic flavours and cheap sweeteners. I would turn up at the lake with baits still boiling hot in a flask in a dip not even rolled into balls but still odd cylinders. (Hot baits are good in winter or summer…)
I made my own cheap flavours, dips and glugs employing whatever I could afford at the time. I used cheap alcohol based mineral and vitamin tonics and mixed them with Robin Red and Liquid amino acid supplements from the local chemists.
Cheap weight gain powders with Casilan (calcium caseinate) to boost the stimulating amino acid profile of baits with semolina or farina or bulked-up with any flours I could get, were all good. I recall using cheap dried milk powders were often a problem in making many baits too water soluble, and some types of bird foods and cheaper body-building powders with high levels of sugars would make rolling very sticky paste impossible to roll into boilies. Some baits floated; one batch had loads of maize meal and egg food containing bird foods, but I forget what else!
Whatever happened during this endlessly creative formative time, the vast percentage of the baits produced fish and if they floated or melted or dissolved very fast, or went like bullets or fell apart or whatever, they all had their uses in other applications. Many newer anglers would be amazed at feeling of catching new personal bests on your own bait formulas! Even the bait failures were inevitably successes; and many were really outstanding because they were just so unique, new and different to the baits that were popularly being used at the time.
The prized Silver Thirty from Shotgate Essex circa 1989 – when glasses were big! I often used aquarium catfish and carp food based baits; using small amounts of baits because these were so expensive and rich (and instant!)
I managed to source many cheap synthetic flavours by one of a group of us using the old headed note paper trick. I found that using cheap flavours on different solvent bases mixed together, often came up trumps and the those flavours with a Tutti Fruitti label obviously contained very many effective components for instance. One bait I made using something like this for a lake Salagou visit, ended up with me getting totally spooled and losing something that just did not stop (just like the mysterious Dolphin carp early on at Dream lake 1 in the 1990’s!) Both these monsters were determined to drag me into the lake (after just half an hour of casting in upon arrival; it does leave you in shock somewhat when you have zero control over a fish.)
I often applied ground baits containing tiny dried paste baits and crumbled boilies plus many other things along the way, like certain growth factors with great success. Cheap cracked maize with layers mash, Haith’s PTX and numerous spice and herb extracts with essential oils and acidic components (or active, or inactive water-soluble alkaline substances etc,) really opened up experimental doors too.
I often deliberately fished over fast-dissolving bait substances, including cheaper whey protein based powders with crushed marine mussels in shells, triggers soaked egg food, and fresh chopped seaweeds etc for instance; there were so many things used I forget now.
But I really did not know why or how these things worked. All I thought was important was that it worked but I completely missed the invaluable point that if I did know how and why such ingredients and extracts worked I could always keep ahead of the fish in a more sound, logical progressive way. My understanding of fish olfaction, chemoreception, internal chemical processes and pathways was only based on my meagre A level biology level understanding from school so it was limited until much later!
Anyway it seemed that most of the time that the mostly very cheap homemade baits and ground baits worked despite very frequently using relatively low or very low protein ingredients – with as little as 11 percent digestible protein, at a time when the baits these were fished against might have been anything from 45 to 90 percent protein. (I wondered if my bait success in part was because I was the only one establishing these particular unique new baits.)
In much more recent times I have found you can get great results by fishing a completely new bait, on every visit, to many a particular water and this is very telling. But sometimes on some waters it really can take weeks to get a new bait established and take a huge amount of bait. But often this is due to the large volume of competing baits going in from other individual anglers and groups of anglers and disrupting their dominant hold on fish preferences and behaviours can be a challenge to say the least.
In such circumstances you can often very easily top the bait they are using.
One example of a great money saving edge is soaking halibut pellets in amino acids complex with shellfish oils or liquid liver or liquid yeast etc. Just use PVA bags (with lots of dry base mix in the bags to protect the PVA) and fish them in areas that are often heavily baited-up by the rich guys or bait sponsored anglers! Even fishing fake corn and hemp for instance tied directly on or round the hook and covered with very granular course paste going back up the rig beyond the hook eye is another such cheap trick!
But when you own bait is initially established, it is very likely some of the first fish you catch will be the largest most dominant fish in the lake… (But teaming-up with bait is such a cost-effective and enjoyable sustainable edge and can make you some very good friends because trust is so important in doing this.)
My time at Shotgate fishing over bait that very quickly in effect became a sediment or slop, leaving tiny particles on the lake bed, was especially effective. Small food items carp can confidently particulate-feed on like rice, oats, wheat, tiny seeds and small pulses are very cheap, and have good fish-digestibility properties. They ar
e also very effective and easy to prepare for use in ground baits, PVA bags and so on. They are also great feeding trigger and attractor carriers. One of these items even has unique water-soluble protein which clouds the water and attracts fish visually.
(Seed money!) Rice and many seeds do not naturally accumulate the top fish feeding trigger called glycine form betaine; which is found in molasses from sugar beets for instance, and which is very effective in ground baits etc. But a real bonus is that the other grains are particularly rich in betaine and pulses are often over-looked too…
Most carp anglers do not fish exclusive types of big fish waters, and yet their fish can be equally pressured if not more so, by the growing numbers of anglers frequenting their banks. And it is becoming an unfortunately very common phenomenon for the more wary fish to feed very little upon fresh baits introduced by anglers, especially upon first arrival at a fishery.
This in effect means that the first two or three (or many more) days and nights fishing, can be mostly a waste of time as more and more newer carp anglers are discovering. The fish just hang back while the fresh baits become leached of flavours and other soluble substances etc many of which fish can derive nutritional benefits from by simple filtration feeding. Often on pressured waters you can watch carp rolling intermittently for hours over or beside baits, in an excited mode of feeding behaviour, while refusing to actually consume the whole baits themselves.
The fish become more confident of feeding on such baits because they have long associated leached baits with safe feeding. I believe this is just one factor in the recent successful use of fake hook baits. These release no excitory substances which fish are familiar with; or at least only the chemical components of rubbers and plastics etc in parts per million or billion, that carp can still detect.
Many anglers on pressured waters introduce their free baits into a swim upon arrival and then after leaving fishless, perhaps after 48 hours, another angler comes along and again introduces fresh bait in the same swim; with the same result. Looking at the bigger picture, this kind of thing must go on constantly all over the world on pressured carp waters.
Our angling behaviours can become simply habitual processes, where the thought of what has worked in the past must still work today dominates. But I tend to find each day is a different day and fish behaviour is dynamic constantly changing and adapting and what worked so well yesterday is the very thing the fish are so keenly wary of today!
Catfish are well-known binge-feeders and eventually get hooked while in an eat-everything kind of mood, but many carp may remain uncaught for very long time periods which is a mystery to many anglers. Many fish are seen but rarely (if ever) caught and it can take very simple but innovative edges to tempt such fish.
I was lucky enough to catch a very striking white mirror (not a koi) of 37.8 pounds carp that had not been caught before in over 7 years from one UK water (below:)
In this instance it took the regular baiting of a swim on a little and often baiting schedule to achieve this catch and it was literally 7 days and nights of hard work just keeping a tiny amount of bait going into the swim every 15 to 30 minutes before a single run occurred. (This kind of phenomenon is a regular thing at many very highly pressured fish waters.)
(A chunky thirty on the bait, rig and method; caught with a little extra thought.)
The thought put into this unusual bait application helped fool that fish and others of similar weights that followed. The exact baits chosen with their particular combinations of highly nutritional fish feeding triggers, and attractant substances, had not been exploited on the water before (and were used especially because of this fact!)
In this case, (going back some years now) the ground bait consisted of course ground betaine enriched pellets, soaked in tiger nut extracts with added course crushed tiger nuts, shellfish extracts and various growth factors. This combination had simply never been done on this water, and especially not introduced using such a gradual swim building technique.
(Another fish from the same period – when glasses were round LOL!)
The success of this method taught me more very valuable lessons about baits, bait applications and seeing the bigger picture of how competing baits impact upon fish behaviours over time. In 3 months of fairly regular fishing this method produced around sixty 20 pound carp, including ten 30 pound fish.
(An old warrior caught on the same approach at 37.8LB.)
The average 24 to 48 hour stint angler was blanking 80 percent of the time on this water during the same time. They were usually using the most popular sized and shaped boilies and pellet baits, and rig dimensions and materials etc, (which the carp had learnt to be far more cautious of.)
* As a big aside: Spawning-tired fish in extreme temperatures and deoxygenated smaller commercial waters, can be extremely vulnerable to temperature and change of environmental stress despite all you good preparation in fish care. – So please don’t get caught out by anaphylactic shock effects in returned fish, in deoxygenated water. I now know that truly preventative awareness of fish metabolism in hot temperatures, (as well as physical fish care; with protective mats and lots of available water, antiseptic solution etc) is an absolute must! *
With the application of a little thought, catches on many waters can become far better and consistent over all, and the advantages of doing your own unique thing can pay-off handsomely. This is without spending hundreds and thousands of pounds on expensive popular baits that fish already behave cautiously towards, (although they still wish to eat it!)
This example demonstrates the potential of using an usual baiting approach teamed with a new ground bait combination, that fish have not become resistant yet to feeding on very confidently. It might be noted that part of the success was definitely down to the small and irregular crushed bait particles sizes. Also the specially adapted and refined rigs and very small highly soluble irregular hook baits used were part of the successful formula.
gorgeous thirty on irregular hook baits and ground bait.
(One quick cheap way to make tiny cut baits for those big wary fish!)
It was hard work fishing with the such unusually soluble hook baits used; but it proved its worth big-time! Rigs were adapted and refined during the 3 months in response to fish wising-up to the rigs used, and not in response to baits necessarily.
So I guess you can see why I suggest you too can think your way to more fish with much less wasted money on baits. To leverage the true power of your baits does take a little extra effort on your part; but that effort is never wasted; no-one ever stops learning! But I hope this article helps. Thinking a little more of other possibilities, instead of religiously baiting-up, as usual, is bound to be rewarding…
By Tim Richardson.