Getting fish into your swim
Ground-baits – Spod mixes – Particle mixes
I’ve decided to spilt feed-baits and hook-baits into two separate features due to the vast choices available. However, as I work my way through, I will suggest hook-baits that work well with certain feed-baits and so on.
In this section, I will look at items individually such as hemp, maize, bread-crumb, fish-meals, pellets, and then take a closer look at combining these together to produce the ultimate attractors.
Seasonally, there are a few accepted guide lines to follow. For example, fish digest high levels of protein better in the summer. Ideally, your feed baits in winter should have lower protein levels and have fewer bulk items such as bread crumb. You don’t want to fill the fish up before you’ve had a chance to snare one or two. This applies equally on low and heavily stocked waters. In the summer, fish are much more active and need more food, it’s a simple as that. Finally, fish do have a sweet tooth in the winter. I touched on this in my previous feature ‘Catching fish’. In essence, their sweet tooth starts in the autumn when all the wild berries start to drop into the water. It’s worth mentioning here that most of these berries start to ferment as part of their natural process. High levels of pectin (natural sugars) in the fruit such as blackberries will speed this process up. It is well documented that wasps seemingly become ‘dozy’ in the autumn, and this is due totally to them feasting on the juices of the fallen fruits. Most, if not all alcoholic drinks are made from grains, seed and berries. These are the main guides to follow. The rest is all about you, your chosen venue, your quarry, fish stocks and knowing what they have a preference to.
For this article, I am going to stick with Carp, Tench and Bream. They all have similar tastes, habits, likes and dislikes. Often you hear of massive Tench and Bream being captured by Carp anglers and similarly the other way around. I am a firm believer that if you have Bream or Tench in front of you, then the Carp won’t be far away. And importantly, if your feed is attracting them, it’s a good bet it will attract the carp too. Before we start looking at baits, I think it’s worth mentioning that I believe fish get a taste for certain flavours depending on the farm land nearby. For example, if there are wheat fields close to your lake, not only do the husks get blown in, but also the decaying wheat filters through the water table. I remember a few years back one of the sugar-beet factories on the Great Ouse had a leak and subsequently every fish nearby very quickly developed a sweet tooth and that was the case for years after. Enough said, onto baits:
So let’s start with hemp. There are a few different types of hemp, and the size seems to depend on where it’s grown. Generally, the ones we use are from India, Chine, and Chile. There is barely a fish that swims that isn’t partial to hemp. I believe it’s the number-one bait for fish, whether it’s crushed, whole or flavoured. You can buy it already prepared or do your own. Firstly, I will look at preparing your own and there are a number of ways to do this. I prefer to cover with boiling water (double the amount of hemp as it swells up). Cover the saucepan and leave overnight. The following morning you bring it back to the boil, and then simmer it until it has split the way you like it. Some people like to keep the water and add it to their ground-bait. Ok now for flavours. I personally prefer natural hemp just as it is, however people do like to add certain flavours. The most popular seem to be garlic and chili. If you do choose either of these, please do not put in too much. Two cloves of garlic or one tea-spoon of chili per dry kilo before you start. You can also add paprika, fenugreek, garam-masala, sea salt; in fact, it’s up to you to try anything you fancy. Ok, once you’ve prepared your hemp it will start fermenting and the alcohol will go up to around 2-3%. This is a similar level to that of the fermenting autumn berries. For crushed hemp, you can use a rolling pin (or something similar), or liquidize it, but you will need to add water as you go along. If you want dry crushed hemp, you’re better off buying it already done. It’s a long process to do it right, and if you don’t completely dry it, it will go sour. 36 hours maximum before its starts to turn. Any longer and you might as well chuck in a bar of soap it goes that horrid.
Wheat is an old favourite and has been used to attract and feed fish for centuries. It is best used as part of a particle mix or just with hemp and corn. To prepare your own is a similar process to hemp, although it may take a little longer. Ideally, you want it soft enough to crush between your fingers. You can flavour it, although I prefer mine natural. Would you order an expensive 24-year-old malt and add vodka to it? Wheat, like all seeds, will ferment over a period of time. Also, I will mention here that all these seeds once prepared will start going bad after 36 hours and in really warm weather it can be even quicker. If any of your particles start to smell sour, bin them. Please don’t think, “oh, it’ll be alright,” because do more harm than good. If any of your bait that’s been bought fresh, either freezer boilies, tinned hemp, corn or anything else starts to smell bitter, sour or just not right, then bin it. Think how rank sour milk smells or off pork, you just wouldn’t, would you? So why expect a fish with taste buds that are a 1000 times more intense/sensitive to accept it as okay.
Red-Dari is tiny hemp that has a subtle redness to it. Prepare similar to hemp and use plenty of it in a ground bait or particle mix. I love it. It has a slightly sweeter smell than hemp. It is also used extensively in animal food products. Good stuff.
Not often used or mentioned, but in the warmer months, it’s a great additive to bulk up your feed content. Most boilies have rice flour as one of their base ingredients. Use it whole, or rice flour, and again you can flavour it. Be experimental, as it will take and carry any flavour well. Don’t try and flavour all your particle/ground-bait mix, just do the rice. It’s cheaper as it requires less flavour and does the job just as well, if not better. Say you want a spicy feed mix then just add some garam-masala or smoked paprika to some rice flour. Best way, dampen the rice flour and add 1/2 teaspoon to 1/2 kilo of rice flour and leave to soak for 30 minutes, then add it to you feed mix. This way, all your main ingredients retain their natural smells and flavour with a background hint of spice.
As with rice, it is not often mentioned in ground bait terms, although as with rice, it is used in boilie production. I prefer to use the flour in my ground baits. Similar to rice, just slightly sweeter. Bream love the stuff. You could add 1/2 kilo of this to 1/2 kilo of brown crumb and 1/2 kilo of provimi66 (I shall talk about 66 later) and a handful of dry molasses. Now you have the perfect bream mix.
A dry flavour that can be used as flour or whole. Very quick and easy to prepare and is a great flavour carrier. Add just about anything to the couscous when preparing and your particle mix will smell of your chosen flavour. So, for example, if you add a tea-spoon of almond cake flavour to 1lb of dry couscous and leave it to soak overnight. Then just pour boiling water over it and leave for 5 minutes and bingo, a strong almond flavoured additive for any mix. Carp seem to like this stuff, but you try to find much written on the subject: you won’t. Best-kept secrets and all that. If you want to use it for Tench, then add Maple syrup, or for Bream, add a chocolate flavour. Waitrose do some great (33%) alcohol intense cake flavours, cheap and brilliant. For fishing you need to bring the % proof down by adding lukewarm water. 10 drops of water to 1 drop of flavour. For a 2 kilo mix, you want about 1 teaspoon of flavour mixed with 10 teaspoons of water, pour it on, mix it well.
This needs little introduction and is best bought already prepared. You can buy it plain or in a number of flavours. If used with boilies, then it’s good bet to match up you flavours, i.e. strawberry corn, strawberry boilies. I believe, as do many ‘old-school’ anglers that it is the number one carp bait. It is especially effective of waters with a low stock and lots of natural food. It is also very good on waters where the fish have seen little or no bolies. If liquidized it puts a cloud of flavour into the water. If you are fishing close in for big tench that are proving finicky, as they can do, then try using liquidized corn added to some brown crumb and feed little and often. One small handful near your hook bait can and will produce an instant response.
Very similar to sweet corn and again best bought prepared (takes so long to do your own). Rod Hutchinson does it in a number of ‘old school’ flavours that are great to use on their own or to tip of a boilie or pellet. My favourite is Mulberry-Florentine (he also does flavoured tiger nuts, also in the best ‘old-school’ flavours). A naturally very sweet flavour that is fantastic for Carp, Tench and Bream. Again it works well on natural venues, and unlike sweet corn, it is just as effective in winter as summer. Flaked maize, bought dry, is a great additive to any feed-bait. Maize meal is a great ingredient for bulk feed ground-baits in summer. High in feed, low in oils.
Naturally very sweet to smell and taste. They are best known as a Tench bait, but are also extremely attractive to Carp and Bream. Not so readily available but if you can get them already prepared all the better. If bought dry, then follow a similar cooking process to wheat. If you want to use them of a hair rig, then cook them until they are firm. A great addition to hemp based particle mixes. A fantastic combination is hemp, maize, wheat and maple peas. No self respecting Carp will be able to ignore this combo.
Not often used, and not so readily available. They are ‘old-school’ and is a largely forgotten bait. Brilliant for big Tench as a feed bait. I have often used 3/4 on a hair rig, but because they are only 5mm you need small hooks i.e. 16-14s. An unusual smell and flavour with a savory hint rather than sweet.
I am not a fan: however, they have been used to great success. Very popular in the 70s-80s. They take a lot of preparation to get right.
Tiger nut is a pulse and has to be prepared correctly. They go off very quickly. Best bought prepared. A lot of waters ban these, and this is because they have not been prepared correctly in the past. Rod Hutchinson does some flavoured jars that have proven very popular and successful. Tiger nuts are a go-to bait for many top Carp anglers. Ground tiger nut is a great additive for any feed mix however, once ground it does go sour very quickly. Interestingly, bream and tench don’t like tigers! I am sure someone will say otherwise, but I’ve yet to catch either on tigers. Buy tigers prepared and keep them in the juice as long as possible. As soon as they hit the air they start to go. In the open air it’s about 6 hours before they start going off.
This is a combination of seeds used primarily as a pigeon conditioner. If prepared correctly, (boiled until soft) it is a standalone feed-mix for Carp, Tench and Bream. Most bait companies do high-quality particle seed mixes that are similar in base seeds to pigeon conditioner that are already prepared. It’s used for racing pigeons and if it’s good for them, then it will be good for fish. You can do whatever you want with this stuff; you can add bulk feeds, such as bread crumb to it, or try it with pellets, or flavour it. A great all round feed mix that attracts fish.
Bird feed mixes
Similar to above, a great standalone feed-mix. Particularly good in colder months when you don’t want to fill your fish up to much. There are many variations for the types of seed, but the rule of thumb is if you see it and fancy the look of it (in a pet shop), and it’s meant for birds of any description, then it will be good for fish. Important though that you cook it well and remember it will start to go off after 36 hours and more quickly in very hot weather. If you can get some potassium-sorbate (E202), then a teaspoon of this will help prolong its shelf-life. Also ask when buying it if there are any pulses, because if there are then you need to cook it to within an inch of its life. Pulses that have not been cooked properly are bad for you, the fish, the ducks and anything else. If you can’t ascertain if there are pulses contained, then best give it a miss.
Not cheap to buy, but a great naturally sweet additive to any feed mix. It will attract a lot of insects to your feed-mix both in and out of the water. If your venue has a lot of shrimp, water boatman, damsel fly, then they will be drawn to your swim. Now think about this one, bingo, what’s going to be attracted to your swim now? In my view, this is one of the main reason why coconut flavoured boilies, such as ‘Cell’, and Dynamites ‘Coconut and white chocolate’, work so well, Coconut is particularly attractive to big bream.
A must if you are fishing zigs in shallow water, and you want to draw the fish off the bottom. Crush them any old way and pile them into your feed mix along with crushed hemp and liquidized sweet corn, milk powder, and you have a banging up in the water mix.
I am going to cover bloodworm and green-lipped-mussel (GLM) pellets individually later. I will start high-oil fishmeal pellets as they were the first we started using. Fish love them. Best used in warmer months, as in cold water they don’t break down as quick and the fish find them harder to digest. Protein levels vary massively depending on which brand you buy. Mostly, these are used as a standalone feed item and as such fish get used to eating them for free (with no hook in them). So with that in mind, try using a drilled pellet on the hair and don’t fall into the trap of putting something with them, i.e. plastic corn, half a pop-up, etc. For sure, that works, but to my mind, they are best used alone in any size. Wise old fish see them as a freebee and are more likely to take them without hesitation. Low-oil carp pellets are as above, except they are better in winter and are slightly higher in feed content. They break down quick in winter, but even quicker in summer. Halibut pellets are similar to high oil fishmeal. Best used in warmer months for the same reasons. They are much stronger in flavour to fishmeal. There are many flavoured pellets available, and these are best used in combination with boilies of the same flavour. Good to use as part of a particle mix that you want to have a certain flavour. Also good to use in a PVA bag in winter so you have a small sample of freebees the same as your hook bait. Mainline, Bait-tech, Sticky, and Nash are among many who do quality flavoured pellets to match their range of boilies. Lastly, expander pellets. These are very low in oil and can be bought as floaters or sinkers. To prepare them either poor some warm water over them and leave them in a sealed plastic bag overnight, or use a specially designed pump. Either way, they expand and become soft, which predetermines how you can use them. Best on a float either up in the water or close in on the bottom. When you use these, you’ll need to be on your metal as the fish will strip your hook in seconds.
Fish-meals in powder form
There are many to choose from, and I will try to cover a few bases. As with flavoured pellets, companies such as Sticky and Dynamite do high-quality powdered fish meals that match up to their hook-baits. Robin-Red from Dynamite and Krill from Sticky are two examples. Then you have trout pellet powders, which are good all year round. High oil fishmeal is a great summer additive for any feed mix. It has a good strong flavour, and smell that fish love, especially Bream, and Tench. If it’s carp you want to attract, then Halibut powder, which has a stronger taste and flavour, seems better. Then you have a light oil fishmeal powder, which works better in winter as a base mix, although it does have a higher feed content, so use sparingly so not to over feed your fish. Provimi66 is 66% protein and is best used in the warmer months as a base mix. High in protein and food content, excellent for heavily stocked waters. Then there is LT94, which is 94% protein and really is just a summer additive, Fish struggle to digest these levels of protein in the cooler months. Use this sparingly on low stocked venues, however on high stocked waters it can be devastating brilliant. Salmon fry meal was used a lot in the late 90s and early 00s. It is hard to come by, but if you can get some, it’s a great additive in spring and summer. It is very sweet by comparison to other powders and gives the water a pinkish hue.
Basically, you have two types of bread crumb, white and brown, although coloured variations are available. In essence, the coloured variations are brown crumb. Both are very high in feed content so use them sparingly in winter. Both are the base of most commercial ground baits. I always use a proportion of brown (for shallow water), and a little white (for deeper water), as the base of any mix in the warmer months. Up to 30% is a good starting point, dropping down to 10% in the winter. Fish love the smell and taste of bread and always will. Bread as a bait is largely overlooked, but it is as good today as it’s always been. Be warned, white crumb, when added to water will knock up like a house brick and takes ages to break down. If that is your chosen approach, i.e. fast moving rivers, then that the stuff for you. Brown crumb on the other hand will barely bind together unless added to something like fishmeal or even better, molasses…
This is a sugar and is great, particularly in the cooler months to add to your base mix. You don’t need to add any more than around 5% of your base mix to give it a smooth sweet taste and smell. Bream can’t resist it, but neither can Carp, especially in winter.
Rape seed meal
Not so readily available, but brilliant in the autumn as an additive to your base mix. It has a flowery taste and smell. Very high in oil but can stimulate the fish very quickly, especially if used on a water where there are a lot of rapeseed fields nearby. Logic really.
Sea weed meal
It is a bit like adding sea salt. Good for the fish and the environment. Very distinct smell and flavour, as you would imagine. Never really had a lot of success or many positive reports back. As a result, it’s now very hard to come by. One of those that seemed like a good idea at the time, but…
Freeze dried freshwater Shrimp
In the spring and summer, this is my go-to additive. Easy to digest even though it’s massively high in protein. Fish just love the stuff. Enough said.
Green lipped mussel meal and pellet (GLM)
High in protein, high in oils, brilliant summer additive, especially for Tench and Carp. Good-quality meals and pellets will put a green hue in the water, which fish find irresistible.
Bloodworm meal and pellet
High in protein, high in oils, an all around brilliant summer additive, especially for Bream and Carp. As with GLM, good quality pellets and meal put a red hue in the water and the fish just can’t help themselves.
It has a medium to high-protein level and is low in oils. It will add a rich, sweet smell and flavour to your mix. Not readily available, although we do have some in the shop. It’s a flavour that goes way back and is still just as good today as its always been.
This is an animal feed mix. It really bulks the fish out quickly. It is a combination of maize, various seeds, dried corn, red dari, biscuit, and rusks. Most commonly associated with Bream and for sure they love the stuff. It works well primarily because smaller bream (3-6lb) swim and massive shoals and vitalin mixed with brown crumb and a sweetener will hold the fish in your swim. However, as part of a feed mix (20% max) it is also excellent for carp. The factor here is the number of fish around. If there are loads of silvers or bream then you can pile it in, on the other hand if you are targeting very big bream, which swim in 3’s and 4’s then feed it sparingly. Great on commercial carp waters because it’s a much cheaper option than pilling in 3/4 kilo of boilies, pellets or anything else.
There are two more to add to the list, although they can prove rather expensive and difficult to get hold of in large quantities. These are blue-more-seed, more commonly known as poppy seed. This needs to be baked to be at its best. It is a strong nutty smell that both tench and bream find irresistible. The other is sesame-seed, and again it needs to be baked/toasted to be at its best. Also difficult to come by in large quantities at a sensible price. Carp, tench and bream love the rich nutty smell. SSP Baits, (who I am now a specimen consultant for) are working on a boilie range using both of these as base ingredients. Combined with an oil not previously used, we will produce a bait like no other. These will follow their first range “System-X”, which will be released in early October 2015. The guys involved with SSP are all at the top of their game in all areas. We have a Match team of consultants, a specimen team and a carp team, every individual has been carefully picked for their out-of-the-box thinking, so expect new and exciting stuff.
Combining the above to great effect
This is such a personal subject and dependant of fish stocks, target species and size of fish. Those of you who know my bait range (No-Limits), will know that for years, I’ve been working on combinations that have produced some remarkable results, not just for me but you guys too. The best way I can do this is to divide it into species, sizes and stocks.
Big bream (over 10lb) on very low stocked waters with little or no silvers. 30% fishmeal, 20% crushed Hemp, 20% brown crumb, 15% small (2/3mm) low oil pellets, 5% bloodworm pellets, 4% desecrated coconut, and 4% dried molasses plus a sprinkle 2% of corn and maize.
Big bream (over 10lb) on medium stocked waters that holds lots of silvers. 10% vitalin, 20% brown crumb, 10% small (2/3mm) low oil pellet, 5% bloodworm pellets, 20% fishmeal, 15% maize meal and dried maize, 5% corn, 10% crushed hemp, 2% desecrated coconut and 3% dried molasses.
Bream in big shoals (3lb to 8lb) 20% vitalin, 15% brown crumb, 10% small (2/3mm) high oil trout pellet, 5% bloodworm pellets, 20% provimi66, 10% maize meal and dried maize, 10% corn, 2% crushed hemp, 3% liquidized corn, 2% desecrated coconut and 3% dried molasses. For any of the bream feeds, if you can come by some poppy seed (1/4 Kilo), then toast it and add it, it is so good.
Big tench (over 7lb) on low stocked waters. 30% provimi66, 25% crushed hemp, 15% 4mm high oil pellets, 5% GLM pllets 10% freeze dried freshwater shrimp, 5% GLM powder, 10% liquidized corn, and a small handful of corn and maize.
Tench smaller, as above except increased pellets, corn and maize.
Carp up to 15lb on heavily stocked waters.
10% 4 mm high oil pellets, 10% 6mm high oil pellets (low oil in winter), 5% scopex pellet, 25% provimi66, 10% Vitalin, 10% crushed hemp, 15% pigeon conditioner, 10% brown crumb, 5% dried molasses.
Bigger carp on heavily stocked waters
10% 4 mm high oil pellets (low oil in winter),, 10% 6mm low oil pellets flavoured with a sweetener such as maple/almond/scopex and so on, 5% scopex pellet, 10% provimi66, 5% LT94, 10% freeze dried freshwater shrimp, 10% Vitalin, 10% crushed hemp, 15% pigeon conditioner, 5% brown crumb, 5% krill powder, 5% dried molasses.
Big carp on low stocked waters with no silvers.
10% 4 mm high oil pellets (low oil in winter),, 10% 8mm low oil pellets, 5% bloodworm pellet, 10% cold water fishmeal (low oil), 5% freeze dried freshwater shrimp, 5% halibut powder, 5% crushed mealworms, 5% desecrated coconut, 15% crushed hemp, 15% bird seed mix, 8% krill powder, 5% dried molasses. 2% dried almond, milk powder, or whey protein.
Really simple, take any of the above and leave out the high oil pellets and replace with low oil. Also leave out the LT94 or Provimi66 and replace with low oil (cold water) fish meals. And finally, leave out the bread crumb as this fills the fish up to quickly.
A lot of messing about to put all these together and that is the main reason I introduced my No-Limits range of ‘Parti’ Mixes and specialist ground baits. I got fed up buying a bag of this, that and the other. Through years and years of trying different combinations have helped to produce this list and enforce my beliefs. My view, if it works on Hemingford Grey, it will work anywhere. Lots of tops rods have given up with the place, yet I continually have great success. That isn’t down to my ability as an angler, it is, I believe, a combination of knowing the venue well and my ground-bait and hook baits.
I so hope that this helps you see things a little differently and gives you a positive view towards your angling. Someone once said to me that I catch well because I am so confident. I asked him to run that past me again. He suggested that my belief was so strong that I just kept tweaking things until I got it right. In truth, he is not far off. I believe I am going to catch every time I go, and if I am not catching then I need to change things, which I do until I get it right. Fish feed even in the coldest conditions, you just have to work out where they are and what they want. One last word, if you want to darken up any of your mixes then just add some mole hill soil. It’s works brilliantly and is full of nutrients. Go-Catch, SteveD