Bait.

Let me say this first.  There is no catch all Bait panaceas for catching fish.  Brilliant bait might well catch the intended target and do it consistently for a period of time but sooner or later catch rates on the same bait will begin to drop off.  Plus even very good baits might not work so well at certain times and in certain conditions so it’s always a very good plan to have a wide selection of different types of bait in the angling armoury.  This does not mean one has to cart lots of different types of bait around on each fishing trip, just that experience should dictate which ones to take in given circumstances.

But how does one choose if you have not got the experience required?  As with everything in life there really is no substitute for plain old experience but take heart because there are suggestions on offer here which I can pretty much guarantee will catch fish in most conditions most of the time.

Like most sections within my site, Bait will be an ongoing topic building up to become a comprehensive listing for Fresh and Seawater baits.

  Freshwater Baits.

Maggots.                

Make no mistake about it, maggots are pretty close to being the ultimate bait because they catch almost all types of fish, they are still fairly easy to obtain and are fairly cheap.  One can purchase them in a range of colours or buy them in their natural colour.  They can be fished singularly on the hook or in bunches the choice is entirely yours.  They can also be made to float by placing a few in a bait box with not enough water to cover them. As the maggots wriggle they take in air which makes them float.  A bunch of these on a light hook can be a killer bait for catching fish off the top or presenting over weed beds.  Use them in a swim feeder or under a float they are just as deadly.

Downside is maggots smell and really need to be kept in a fridge if the metamorphic stage is to be slowed down (maggots turning into casters)  Problems arise when the wife objects to having two pints of maggots in her fridge so one option is to have your own bait fridge out in the garage or shed?  Most anglers won’t be bothered with this so will just buy enough for a days fishing and leave it at that. Another downside for maggots is they are often “to good” a bait because every fish wants some and that means all those small fish you really don’t want to catch!  A days tench fishing can be ruined if maggots are the only bait you have and every small fish around turns up for the feast.  So clearly even though the humble maggot still remains a great bait, those little wrigglers do have their draw backs.

Casters.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Casters have been around for a very long time, for as long as maggots seeing as the caster is the pupa stage before the fly hatches out.  On the day, there is nothing to touch them for taking fish and unlike the maggot, they are easier to keep if you know the secret.  They are however, always more expensive than maggots and you would have to pre-order them from a lot of tackle shops.  The cheapest way of buying casters is from a maggot farm direct but not a lot of anglers live near a maggot farm and with the price of fuel being what it is today one has to look at the costs of travelling.  You can also “turn” them yourself which is what a lot of top match anglers used to do but it’s a lengthy process where you have to attend to them at least twice a day and have a bait fridge on hand to store them.

My own opinion is that by and large it’s better to buy them and most anglers will just order or buy enough for a days fishing.  But in case you want to buy in bulk and keep them as a supply yourself here is how to “preserve” the casters.  You will need a large cool box, a sieve, two buckets and some sodium met bisulphate which is the chemical powder used to sterilise home brewing kit.  Baby sterilisation solution like Milton also works.  Buy your casters in bulk, say 2 gallon, then begin to wash them in clean water.  I use a large bucket.  Wash them by covering in fresh water then begin to carefully stir in the bucket with your hand.  You will notice the water goes dirty very quickly.  Strain the casters off the water (into another clean bucket) and fill with more clean water and repeat the process several times or until the water does not go dirty anymore.  Once you are happy the casters are clean strain them off the water and put in a cool box. (casters washed in this way will smell fresh if they are properly cleaned)  Make up the sodium met bisulphate solution (directions for use will be on the box you purchased it in) or Milton solution then pour over the casters in the cool box.  You will need to make up enough solution to cover the casters but they “MUST” be covered.  (I go for one-two inches over)  Put the lid on the cool box and store in a cool place out of any direct sunlight.  I store mine in my garage which is always fairly cool.  (garden sheds are not generally good places as they get very hot unless the shed is shaded)

Now for the other part, their preparation for fishing once they have been preserved.  Say you want two pints of casters for a days fishing this is how to get them ready.  Using your sieve remove around two pints of casters from the solution.  Place the casters in a bucket and run cold clean water over them.  (I do this in the garden under the garden tap as it’s always a good plan to keep bait ops out of  the wifes kitchen!!)  Begin to carefully stir the casters in the water for a couple of minutes.  You will notice the smell of the preserving solution at this stage.  Strain the casters off the water and repeat this process several times “OR” until there is no preserving solution smell coming from the casters or water they are being washed in.  This process only takes a few minutes and you will definitely notice that the casters washed in this way smell very fresh without a trace of the solution left on them.  I can highly recommend this method and have used it to catch fish for thirty years or more.  Some match men remain adamant that this process ruins their bait and that fish will not take the casters done in this way. HOGWASH! Like I said I have caught thousands of fish on this bait so have my friends.  It works, it’s a cheaper way of buying casters, and you don’t need a lot of expensive kit to keep them.

Worms. 

Worms are undoubtedly one of the oldest freshwater fishing baits known to man.  To see this baits effectiveness, throw a worm into any koi carp pond and watch the residents go bananas over it!!  Yet so few big fish anglers go with this brilliant bait any more?  There are various types of worms with some being better fish catchers than others.  Here are the more common types and in my opinion how they rate as fish catchers.

The Brandling is the worm found in manure heaps.  These are red in colour with bright yellow rings running down their bodies.  Most farmers have a manure pile which comes from the shed floors they over winter cattle in and can be found dotted all over the countryside.  Most farmers are only too happy to let you have a dig around for some is you ask politely.  They say that these types of worms work best in coloured water perhaps due to the manure/dung smell they give off.  As a fish catcher I can honestly say they catch fish but are not my number one worm.  The positive aspect going for this worm is they are very easy to obtain once you have access to a good dung heap and a few minutes with a garden fork will get you more than enough for a days fishing.

The Red worm likes compost heaps (so does the brandling as well) and leaf mould, so can be pretty easy to find in woods which have a good covering of rotting leaves on the floor.  Simply turn the piles of leaves over and you will find plenty of red worms.  Red worms do not have the yellow rings down their bodies like the brandling so are easy to
tell apart.  Every fish that swims will take a red worm especially Tench who seem to love them.

 

The Lob worm is, without a doubt, high on the list as a consistent fish catcher.  No serious eel or perch angler would go fishing without them.  Simply put they are brilliant bait.  The Americans call then “Night Crawlers”.  Some anglers spend hours digging over garden or allotment patches in search of them but far the easiest way of obtaining lob worms is to be out on warm summer evenings when light but persistent rain is falling.  I would say a heavy drizzle is perfect.  For this you will need a large bait bucket with a perforated lid, (to stop the worms from getting out) a head lamp with a red filter (“Energiser” do a very good headlight with a white or red light option for a few quid) and an army type “poncho” which will keep you dry.  Some of the old worm collectors used to say one needed to be wearing carpet slippers when going worm hunting because you needed to be as light on your feet as possible!  A good pair of trainers will do but clompy wellington boots are not much good.  Worms feel vibrations so will be back in their holes before you get close enough to pick them up.

A park with short grass or football pitch is ideal for worming provided like I said you go out in the dark when there is a heavy drizzle coming down.  The very best nights are when it’s warm and has been raining for a couple of days.  Go out with your bucket and torch and simply shine your torch along the ground and you should see the worms almost out of their holes on top of the grass.  Approach them stealthily and put your index finger on the point where the worm enters the earth to stop it going back down.  With practise you will get quite good at this.  Then with the other hand take the worm applying careful pressure to pull it out its hole.  On a good night you will collect hundreds of prime lob worms.

Yet another option is to purchase Dendrobaena worms from a worm farmer or tackle shop.  These are big worms that are very tough and dance like a crazy woman for ages once they are on the hook.  What I do is purchase a few kilos of these worms then keep them in my wormeries to breed and for when I need a few for my fishing.  I have written a dedicated piece on how to build a wormery intended for breeding worms for fishing which can be read in the “Methods and Tactics” section.  Make no mistake, dendrobaenas are a deadly bait and fish will take them instantly.

 

Bread.

The angling world is awash with purchasable bait products and I’m always amazed just how many products there are on the tackle shop shelves now a days.  It’s no small wonder then that most of today’s modern  anglers pass bread by without giving it a second thought.  I wonder if they know that bread will actually leave their boilees standing in certain conditions on certain days when it comes to catching fish?  Fish love bread there is no doubt about that.  So do ducks so I’m guessing the great British public has had a hand in educating fish to the attributes that bread has to offer as a food source?  I once watched a few families throwing bread in for ducks at a local gravel pit come nature reserve and it soon became apparent there was competition going off between a shoal of bream and the ducks to see who could get too the bread first!  I know of at least one location within a town that has a river running through it where the public also feed bread to ducks that boasts chub to over SEVEN pounds in the same vicinity!

Bread is a very versatile bait in that you can fish it as a floating bait in the form of bread crust, fish it as a slow sinking bait in the form of bread flake, or fish it as a fast sinker in the form of pinched bread or bread pellet.   If that wasn’t enough, you can leave it to soak overnight to make bread mash that when fished in an open ended feeder with bread flake on the hook you have one of roach fishing’s top bait combinations.  Furthermore, bread crumb forms the basis for most good ground baits as well.  They say that a fresh “tinned” loaf is the best (un-sliced) and I can certainly vouch for that because the unsliced loaves have that lovely crust with white fluffy bread beneath so vital for the various types of bread bait.  Having said that though, I have had some tremendous fishing whilst using ordinary white sliced bread as well but by and large I prefer the tinned loaf for fishing.

 

 

Pellets.

Pellets have been around for much longer than it took angling to twig onto using them for fishing.  Amazing really seeing as the fish pellet was originally developed/manufactured for aquaculture back in the 1970′s.  Fish feed pellets are made to form a balanced diet for fish seeing as its intended use is to feed fish kept in captivity.  In recent years there has been some debate as to the “safe” use of certain types like Halibut pellets for example due to their high oil content.  When used  sensibly in context to the actual percentage that pellets equate to in a wild fishes diet they do no harm at all but their over use in small commercial type ponds is highly debatable which is why some fisheries ban them.   In a river context they do no harm as pellets will only make up a small percentage of the fishes diet.

In recent years there has been the viable question concerning the sustainability of the fish feed pellet industry globally because man is over exploiting fish stocks namely   anchovy, herring, pilchard, sprat and sardine plus 18 other species on the list most used for making fish feed.  Steps are being taken via the  Sustainable Fisheries Partnership based in San Francisco, who has published a sustainability league table for the 22 fish stocks most harvested for fish oil and fishmeal.

Their report, Fish Source, Reduction Fisheries and Aquaculture, gives fisheries marks out of 10 in five key areas: whether there is a mechanism to reduce catches if stocks decline, whether fishery managers follow scientific advice, whether fleets comply with specified limits on their catch, whether stock levels are healthy now and whether they are likely to be healthy in future.

Pellets are however, brilliant baits so much so their inclusion within the anglers bait armoury cannot be understated.  In the “Methods and Tactics” section I have listed details of my own deadly fish catcher the “scorpion rig” that is a pellet based method.

 

Meat Baits.

Processed meat products have been catching fish for many years now and most anglers will already be aware of the attributes for Luncheon Meat.   Its easy to obtain and easy to hook, its light so lends itself to fishing on top of weed or “free-lining” (rolling)  One can ledger it on the bottom or float fish it with medium sized pieces.  It can be chopped into small pieces and used as a loose feed or can be included in ground bait.  By and large processed meat is pretty versatile when used as a fishing bait.
Originally Luncheon Meat was used then some angers switched to a type called “Bacon Grill” because it was thought that type was tougher so would stay on the hook better.  Specialist barbel anglers were breaking new ground and were starting to use processed sausages for bait with types like Frankfurter and hot dog sausages in brine or Peperami which is a processed salami type snack.  The peperami broke new ground because this sausage was really tough so could be hair rigged or hooked and stayed on the hook really well standing up to the constant plucks from small fish where as the softer Luncheon meat did not always.

Supermarkets started to sell other brands like “Smoked Sausage” and “Smoked Sausage with Garlic” and these proved to be very good fish catchers.  Other anglers were starting to use canned “Meatballs” to great effect and a previous barbel record holder Howard Maddocks caught his record fish on a meatball.  Raw pork sausages cut in half were also starting to catch lots of fish for those anglers who were using them.  These would be pre-baited along stretches of rivers that contained barbel then eventually fished after a few days pre-baiting using the “rolling” method.

 

Pastes.

If  ever there was a under used and under appreciated bait it has to be the paste baits.  Look in any good tackle shop at the range of baits on sale and you will not find many paste baits on sale simply because most anglers don’t bother with pastes.   Therefore the bait trade don’t make many generally because there is not  a big market for them.  Let me tell you something, these baits are absolutely “Deadly” when made properly and almost every species of freshwater fish will fall under this baits spell if they are used correctly.

Its probably fair to say that most anglers don’t know a lot about fishing paste baits and perhaps even less about making them.  Nothing could be simpler.  They are very easy to make and very easy to fish with.  Indeed there are many ways to fish a paste bait and I will be going over a lot of these in the “Methods and Tactics” section in a forth coming article.  To begin with I’ll start with the basic types and the “how to make” instructions.  For a lot of pastes the “base” will be the same simply because its readily available and fairly cheap.  Its ready made Shortcrust Pastry from the supermarket.

Cheese Paste.

This one is high on the list for specialist chub anglers as chub LOVE cheese paste.  So do carp, barbel, roach, bream…….the list is endless.

You will need a packet of ready made pastry, some Danish Blue cheese, some mature Cheddar and that’s it.  Most ready made pastry packets come with two pastry “rounds”.  So if you wanted to make a pie you would have the top and bottom in one packet?  The rounds are about the size of a good dinner plate and for now I’ll make paste by using just one of the rounds.  Put the pastry round on the table or worktop then grate some Danish Blue in the middle of the round.  Don’t be mean and grate on about a cup full.  You might find the Danish Blue won’t grate very well so pinch the same amount off the cheese instead.  Then grate some mature cheddar in the middle of the round about a cup full.  You will now have a good heap of cheese in the middle of the pastry round.  Fold the pastry over the cheese so you have a small parcel then put into a large mixing bowl.  (Trust me you will need the mixing bowl)  Now with both hands start to “kneed” the cheese into the pastry.  Cheese will ooze through your fingers but keep going as it really does mix in very well.  The end result is a ball of paste a little bigger than a cricket ball or a little bigger depending on how much cheese you used.  This can be placed in a freezer bag then stored in the freezer until required for fishing.  Prior to the mixing stage once the cheese is in the middle of the round you could if you wanted add some parmesan cheese as wel to give the paste a bit of a kick.

The Shortcrust Pastry base can be used for a wide range of different types of paste.  Experiments can be made for example with curry powder and spices for a spicy bait or with honey and products like custard powder, Angler Delight or Instant Whip for a sweet-dairy type paste that will catch lots of bream, roach and carp for example.  Various oils can be added to pastes such as curry oil or hemp oil.  I do quite well on a paste that is simply the shortcrust with hemp oil and toasted sesame oil added and nothing else.  Carp, tench and roach especially like this combination.  The permutations are endless but the real beauty about paste baits if that nearly all the ingredients come easily obtainable from the supermarket so are fairly cheap.

Fermented Shrimp Paste.

This one is my number 1 undisputed heavyweight champion of paste baits that will, and DOES, catch everything it is cast at.  I have lost count of the number of times I have used this bait and caught fish after fish whilst others up and down stream of me caught nothing!!!  Yes it really is that good.  So how to make it?  Once again its very easy to make.  You will need some “Fermented Shrimp Paste”  the type sold for Thai/Chinese cooking.  You can purchase this stuff from Chinese supermarkets (also known as Belacan) or off the internet but I get mine from Waitrose as its the 82% fermented shrimp type.  So what is it?  Its made from shrimp that has been left to ferment then ground up and made into a paste for cooking.  When used for cooking just a small amount is added to stir fry etc to give it flavour.  On its own in the jar or tub it STINKS!!!  Also on its own even though its marketed as a “paste” its pretty useless as a fishing bait until its added to other ingredients.  Why?  It needs to last on the hook so it dissolves slowly and just like the cheese paste we have to make a “base” to add the shrimp paste to.  The base is really simple to make and all you need are some pellets.  I use halibut pellets because of their attractiveness but any fish meal  type pellets will do.  Take 1 pint of pellets and put in a standard sized bait box then pour over some boiling water, just enough so the pellets are covered.  Pop the perforated lid on then leave to soak for 24-48 hours or until the pellets have absorbed all the water.  

The soaked pellets should now look like these in the photograph below.  Notice the oil content that has come out during the soaking process?  This will disappear into the finished paste base once the next step is followed.

Take a fork and begin to mash the soaked pellets.  Provided they have been soaked for long enough they will all mash up quite easily.

Once the pellets have been mashed transfer into a large mixing bowl.  I use a large ceramic mixing bowl that I keep for bait making.

Using your hands kneed the mashed pellets into a paste

At this stage you should now have a ball of paste which is actually the “base” to which the fermented shrimp paste will be added.  Remember, the fermented shrimp paste as sold in the jar from the supermarket needs a base to work effectively.  The last stage is to flatten the ball of paste base on a mixing surface then add the fermented shrimp paste on top of it with a teaspoon.  If you have used a pint of soaked pellets for the base paste then add the whole jar of fermented shrimp.  Once the shrimp paste has all been added transfer to the mixing bowl and begin to kneed in the paste base and fermented shrimp together.  This is a messy business to begin with but it will all mix in to a
consistency you require.

Once the paste has been mixed thoroughly and you are happy with it you can store it inside a freezer bag in the freezer or portion it out into smaller fishing session sized plastic pots for freezing until you require one for a days fishing.  The work involved in making this paste is more than worth it because this bait is absolutely deadly when
fished properly.  Once again I will be doing a forthcoming article in the Methods and Tactics section all about how to use paste baits whilst employing different types of methods.

Pellet Bundles.

As the title suggests these are merely pellets which have been bundled together inside PVA mesh
bags or “funnel web” as one tackle dealer markets it.  Although this PVA mesh can seem a bit expensive they are never the less very effective when used in a certain way.  I mostly use them when I require spot on ground baiting around my hook bait.  More details on this coming soon in the Methods and Tactics section.

Boilees.

Most anglers  know what boilees are seeing as almost every tackle shop sells the ready made varieties.  Boilee and bait manufacture is a multi million pound industry today and a far cry from the days when anglers had to make their own.  John Baker was probably the most influential angler when boiled baits were starting to take off with anglers like Duncan Kay, Geoff Kemp and Rod Hutchinson following in his footsteps being the first to start marketing bait making ingredients.  Since then literally hundreds of bait companies have sprung up selling bait making ingredients or finished bait.  Now a days very few make their own bait from scratch preferring to purchase the ready made varieties instead.  To be fair, the complexities surrounding making your own boiled bait is huge and a lot for novice bait makers to take in if they have not “grown up” during the boiled bait revolution back in the late seventies.  However, ready made shop purchased bait can prove to be very expensive especially so if the angler wants to use a lot of bait.  That’s when DIY bait making comes into its own because very good bait can be made at the fraction of the price it costs for the ready made type.

Basically one needs to start with a “base mix” which is a mixture of dry powders you add whisked eggs and flavours to make a paste.  The paste is then rolled into balls which are then boiled to make a hard bait.  Sounds easy doesn’t it?  It actually is provided you know the complexities intimately.  To begin with there are literally hundreds of different base mixes all made to exact recipes designed to “roll” easily.  Just a few examples are many types of Fish Meal mixes,  Bird Food mixes, Savoury mixes, Sweet and Fruity mixes, Milk Protein mixes, High Nutritional mixes, High Energy mixes, Dairy mixes……….the list goes on.  Then there are the thousands of flavours and additives one can add to these baits, far too many for me to list here.  There are sinking boilees and floating boilees that are commonly known as “pop ups”.

In the Methods and Tactics section I will include an article on DIY bait making shortly for those who are interested in making their own bait.  Within the article I will also list suppliers of bait making ingredients for those that want to make their bait in bulk.  Its a good idea if a group of friends get together to share the cost of purchasing bait making ingredients.

 

 

 

 

 

Coming soon………Seawater Baits.