What Bait for Coarse or Carp Fishing?

What bait to use

For a sustained baiting program I would only recommend using a high quality food bait, by this I mean a bait that actually offers the carp a nutritional reward for their efforts. Personally I always use one of the ‘Mainline’ range of freezer baits and I would not recommend a baiting campaign using any form of shelf-life baits as the breakdown rate of shelf-life baits is not suitable for a mass baiting program. Some of the bait is likely to fall into areas where it doesn’t get eaten and you do not want it turning rancid on the lake bed. A high quality freezer bait should either breakdown or float to the surface after a few days.

If you give the fish regular doses of a decent bait then they will start to recognize the label, or flavour, as being linked to the nutrition and ‘feel good’ factor that they are receiving from eating the bait in the first place. This of course is exactly what you are trying to achieve, to get the fish to eat your bait in preference to everybody else’s, and the only way you will ever achieve this is through a better quality bait with decent ingredient profile, one that the fish can actually break down into useable proteins. I know this can start to get technical but you do not have to personally worry about the actual profile and ingredients yourself, unless you are actually making your own bait. If you look on the leading manufactures websites and, more importantly look in the angling reports and articles to see what baits are working well and are recommended by leading anglers then you will get some idea of where to start.

I’d always avoid anything that is too highly flavoured for long term baiting, preferring to go with a bait that has it’s ‘flavour’ inherent to the mix rather than an added chemical label, particularly a strong one. If the fish are going to eat lots of it then they will recognise the taste and do not need a strong ‘label’ like you would find in single attractor baits for example.

What areas to target

Most pre-baiting is associated with a closed season or a period of inactivity from other anglers, this leaves you free to bait wherever you like on the lake, it all becomes a bit more tricky if other anglers are present because you do not want to ruin their fishing by heaving in a load of bait next door to them, or, you may not want other anglers to know what you are doing or where you are doing it. Let’s assume the lake is closed and you are allowed to pre-bait wherever you like. I would start nice and early, probably around April time, so not all the fish will necessarily be up on the shallows or visible all the time. This means starting in known feeding areas and places where the fish may feel safe, like snags etc. Once the weather starts to warm up and the fish are on the move they will quickly realise that there is no fishing pressure on the lake and they will come into areas very close to the bank, specifically for the free bait you are offering them. At this early stage you are just trying to get the carp to accept and recognise your bait, not certain areas, so it’s more important to feed them and watch them eat than it is to establish spots. You want the fish to find your bait everywhere they go to feed as this will help them to accept it as part of their natural diet, so keep it going in all around the lake. Once they start to really ‘get on it’ you will be amazed how much bait they can actually eat and how willing they are to throw caution to the wind and push right up against the bank to get every last dropped bait.

As you get closer towards the start of the season then you can begin to bait areas that you want to be fishing, remember that, once the lines start hitting the surface again, the fish will abandon the margin areas that you have fed because of the danger and disturbance levels. Bait as many areas as you can and try and return a bit later to check for signs of feeding fish, if your plan is working then you should pretty much be able to move the fish around the lake at will, just by drawing them with the bait that they now readily accept as a free meal.

The action of the carp feeding on your areas will also reduce weed growth in those spots as the fish grub about and uproot any stems from the silt, eventually displacing the silt as well, leaving nice big clean areas. You can use this to your advantage by baiting a spot out of sight range from the bank, in an area that is usually very weedy, this way you will know you have a fishable spot you can use when the time is right.

As you get closer towards the time when you going to fish then I would advise stopping the bait going into all the inaccessible areas, such as snags etc, make the fish use the feeding areas if they want to find the food they have become so used to, this will give you a huge advantage during the season.

I have pre-baited a lot in the past and seen first hand the devastating effect it can have, myself and friends have absolutely ‘slaughtered’ lakes by the correct application of bait, even to the extent that all the other anglers on the lake struggle to get a bite while we have caught fish every session, and lots of them!

What should you do if everyone on the lake is pre-baiting.

This is a totally different situation altogether, the advantage of pre-baiting has been negated by the amount of bait already going in. The first thing to establish is how many different baits are going in, if you have all sorts of groups of anglers baiting with different types of bait then, personally, I wouldn’t bother going into competition with them as the fish will not know what is going on anyway, they cannot keep a check list of everything they eat from day to day, they will just get to a stage where the whole lot are ‘boilies’ and accepted or rejected as such.

There is room for more than one baiting campaign, I have done very well in the past as one of two or three different lots but once the number gets up over three and all those factions are serious and regular with their baiting approach then I think it may be better to fish the best bait you can but limit it to feeding and fishing situations where you are sure it is being eaten, rather than just jump on the band wagon and hurl it willy nilly into the lake along with everybody else’s.

I remember when I first got together with Mainline and I baited Horton along with three mates. The first year we filled the place in and I caught an incredible amount of fish, far more than anyone else and, as such, the amount of guys baiting up the next close season went form just our little group to practically everyone, all thought that it would be the magic key to unlock the lake and they would all catch more fish the more bait they used. When the next season started I decided to fish single hookbaits only, for the whole year, avoiding any sort of beds of bait as it was the only thing different I could think of, once again that year I caught the most fish so I think you have to tailor the baiting strategy to the competition as well as the fish. I did however stick with the same bait as I knew the fish would recognise it as being extremely good for them.

Should you use the same bait as everyone else?

I am a firm believer that a bait becomes better the more the fish see of it, being on the same bait as everyone else is definitely an advantage rather than a disadvantage but, human nature makes this very difficult to achieve. We all would like the ultimate bait, or rig, and if we and it is very unlikely we would share it with everyone else. What happens is, you may all start on the same bait but then somebody will find something they think is better and swap, or add a little something, or dip the baits or anything to try and out catch the next guy. There will naturally be groups or individuals who have something they trust and this they will keep close to their chest in the hope that theirs is the best, this is why pre-baiting works but, in reality, if every angler on one lake used the same bait for one year I would predict that there would be more fish caught than in any other year before.

I remember back when everyone made their own baits, mainly fish-meals, good quality baits and secrecy was everywhere. People, me included, would spend fortunes on ingredients to out fish the next guy and pre-baiting was a way of life, we all did it. Then, along came the first ready made boilies, particularly the frozen Tutti-Frutti’s and they took lakes apart, absolutely destroyed them and we were all up in arms about it. At first it was considered cheating, not ‘real’ angling, a bit of a disgrace but of course it wasn’t, and it had just taught everyone a very valuable lesson. The Tutti was probably the first bait that had ever been introduced to everywhere in exactly the same format, it was ready rolled so nobody added to, or tweaked it; you just opened the bag and threw them in. Within no time at all there was hardly a lake in the country that was not ‘pre-baited’ with them and everyone was catching. I’m sure Ritchworth would not be offended if I said that Tutti’s were probably only half as nutritionally beneficial as the high quality fish meal baits they were competing with, but the combination of an awesome flavour and sheer weight of numbers of bait being introduced made them very special indeed, if you were struggling for a bite you just wound in, put a Tutti on the end and hey presto!

Nowadays we have a much greater fishing tackle choice. We can buy ready made bait at any quality and price level we so desire and yes, I do think that the more people fishing the same bait on a water then the better it will become. I do firmly believe though that a better quality bait, like the one’s from the Mainline stable, will catch far more fish over an extended period than a cheaper, less nutritious bait ever will.

Alan Yates – Striking

Striking is one of the most exciting tactics involved in sea angling, its like pulling the trigger of a gun, it’s a crucial part of the hunt to many anglers. But is it essential to success and what’s involved?

It’s a fact that most species of sea fish will hook themselves eventually if you don’t strike simply because they are intent on eating the bait and oblivious to sea fishing tackle. A deliberate strike makes little difference to the catch rate in many situations although it does please the ego of the captor to think so, whilst more important to many anglers is that a premature strike helps prevent deep hooking!

The way the particular species feeds, what it eats, the mouth structure and its mobility have an influence its ease of hooking. Most of the speedy tropical mid water predators are more difficult to hook than the bottom grubbers such as the flatfish which once the hook has entered the mouth cannot escape, others with large hard bony mouths are difficult to hook because the hook cannot find a place to lodge!

Overall for fishing around the UK a less enthusiastic approach to striking will result in more fish being hooked. The decision when to strike depends upon what the angler wants from his sport, what he is fishing for, the type of bait being used and conservation. If the rod is lurching seawards and is in danger of being lost then a strike is essential, if the rod tip is nodding continuously its likely that the fish is already hooked.

The actually strike can vary from a full blooded sweep of the rod to just tightening the line. Line stretch at distance of course reduces the amount of movement at the hook end of your tackle and some sea anglers even run backwards during the process to increase that movement. Reeling as you strike can also prove more effective, but beware of striking too hard, especially at short range when it may test your tackle and knots.

Let’s look at the best striking technique used when some of the most common UK species.

COD: A relatively slow bottom dweller with a large mouth, invariable swallows the hook when a bait is left on the sea bed. Powerful rod pulling bites are generally after the fish has hooked itself. Slack liners from codling can be most difficult to hook and the answer to them is patience. Take up the line and only strike when the fish pulls the rod tip down.

WHITING: Difficult to hook on occasion, this small predator attacks baits in numbers with some tremendous rod pulling bites that are easily missed, especially in slack tide. More fish are hooked when fishing in strong tide because the fish have to swim to stay still to eat the bait, when it is engulfed they relax and the tide drives them back on to the hook. Short snoods and neat (small) bait presentation and a wired grip lead definitely improve the hooking rate.

BASS: A fast feeding predator that rarely swallows the hook because the bites are so positive. Be near your rod when it takes off. A bony mouth, so a large, sharp hook is essential.

DAB, SOLE, PLAICE AND FLOUNDER: Often flatfish nibble and pluck at the bait, but invariably once they take the bait they are hooked because their mouth is far smaller closed than open. There is in fact no way to prevent flatties swallowing the hook. With hook removal often fatal even with soft wire hooks. For the conservation minded tiny hooks (8s- and less) can be removed more easily with a disgorger and with less damage than large sizes of 2 and above.

TOPE AND SMOOTHHOUND: Positive bites give the angler every opportunity to pull the trigger on this species which is why they are so popular and fun to catch. The tope is one of UK sea species that circle hooks are practical for , but there is a definite technique for striking with circle hooks and it involves a steady tightening of the line and not a full blooded strike!.

RAY: Invariably this species cloaks the bait causing the rod tip to tremble, later the fish moves off having taken the bait pulling the tip down, slacking the line or sometimes pulling yoursea fishing rod over, Because of the way they feed ray are sometimes foul hooked outside of the mouth by a premature strike.

BLACK BREAM: One of the most difficult sea fish to hook because of their bait pecking and small mouths, use light tackle and line, small hooks, bait small and neat and be patient.

GREY MULLET: Mullet like the coarse fish have learned about hooks and line through being caught and returned, their more acute instincts in clear water also makes them shyer. A rule when fishing for mullet is never to strike by sight when you see a fish take the bait, always wait until the float disappears or the tip goes round!

DOGFISH: Infuriating to hook if you react to the bites, ignore them and they are more likely to be hooked, but not every time. Don’t move the rod or bait once a bite is spotted!

CONGER: The old school reckon a conger should be given time to take the bait, but this may allow it to swallow the hook and so striking early is recommended to avoid deep hooking.


Holding your rod with the line between the fingers you will be able to feel the tugs from the small species and it’s a fun way to fish. Experiment with striking and you will find that in a majority of cases catch rates are greatly improved by letting the fish bite for a few seconds before hitting it. Of course when using multi hook rigs to catch fish for the pot letting the fish hook themselves is far superior to striking every rod tip rattle!

Using braid line that does not stretch is a practical way to improve your bite indication but remember the lack of stretch amplifies the smallest nibble, so be patient and wait for a positive movement.

Alan Yates

Fly Fishing on Rivers – Top Tips!

When tackling a river there are many things you need to consider. Many more than you actually think! Here are my top tips to succeed when trying to fool wild trout or grayling in a river.

1 – Always keep low!  Trout, most fish of that matter, look up. If your walking along the top of a banking or near to the side of the river the fish are lying on, it’s crucial that you stay out of sight of the trouts view. If your walking along a high bank and wish to take a look over, keep low, I normally try and walk as far away from the waters edge as possible.

2- Wading! Wading is the most common cause  of spooked fish! Whether fishing slow glides or runs wading is crucial. Not rushing, and taking small steps is the way forward! your waders are restricted for a reason :O !

3 – DRAG! Drag is a killer. Alot of dry fly experts will tell you that micro drag is the key between catching and not catch a fish. Drag is when your fly/flies are traveling faster than the current itself. This is ‘usually’ caused by the fly line, when the fly line is traveling faster or slower than your flies. To check for drag, watch your dry fly, and also keep an eye on something on the surface of the water – A leaf, a bubble, another fly… anything thats traveling the same pace as the current. There you can judge whether your fly is traveling faster or slower. The solution? Put mends into your cast, mid air or whilst the fly is traveling downstream.Another way is to change your position, go upstream or downstream of the fish and re-cast.

Keep low, Wade slow, Don’t drag your feet

Written by Kieron Jenkins

Ten Pike Fly Fishing Tips

  1. Pike love drop-offs and ambush points; study contours and structure carefully.
  2. Although pike have an awesome turn of speed and acceleration don’t automatically think that you have to retrieve at a supersonic rate to tempt them. Quite often long and slow draws are the way to go.pike (1
  3. Pike will often follow you right back to the boat or bank. Always watch closely at such times, rather than just lifting quickly and recasting.
  4. It’s hard not to, but avoid too much lift-striking when a hit is felt. Pike will often just nudge or mouth a fly without taking it properly where a lift-strike would pull it away from them. Strip striking is often better, or just keep pulling until you feel the weight.
  5. Avoid too much natural material in your pike flies as these tend to absorb a lot of water making recasting difficult – especially in the longer patterns that are, at times, essential.pike (1 (2)
  6. Incorporating some extra weight around the head of your flies gives them a deadly jigging action in the water that pike find irresistible – you can even just roll some tungsten putty around the head, rather than tying specific patterns for the job.
  7. Do fish your flies on a loop knot such as a rapala knot or use some clips as this allows the fly to work better with a nicer and exaggerated action.
  8. If a pike is missed and won’t return try drastically altering the size and colour of the fly, this can often provoke and instant reaction.pike (1 (3)
  9. Do carry long-nosed pliers (essential) and a s/steel glove should you not be confident in handling pike. Please do also treat the big-girls with care and respect, as they do more good than damage to the waters keeping the smaller jacks at bay.
  10. Normal tapered trout lines may hinge quite badly with the larger pike flies, making casting frustrating. Pike tapered lines or lines with a short but thick belly are superb as they cope with the larger flies a lot easier. I tend to use the Airflo 40+ Extreme fly lines and they cope admirably.

Steffan runs Angling-Worldwide, a company that specialises in sea-trout fishing packages, courses, and guiding in Wales, with a history of doing so stemming back for over a decade. For further information contact:

Web: www.anglingworldwide.com
Phone: 07879 898 344
Mail: Angling-Worldwide, Crosslane, Dolgran, Pencader, Carmarthenshire, SA39 9BY