When I first returned to the sport of carp fishing my baits and approach were very simple, a hook, a night crawler and a run rig. I certainly caught a lot of fish and this immediate success certainly helped fuel my ongoing passion.
My work schedule at the time allowed me to get a lot of morning sessions in at a local lake. After a few months I began to notice the carp at this venue were getting far harder to catch. There were days when I would watch the carp feeding, approaching my trap, only to swim away at the last minute. The arms race had begun!
I changed tactics and baits, from the worms, to using plain sweetcorn on the hook. This was an instant hit, highly effective and yet more carp were landed. The only issue I noticed was far too many hook pulls. I switched again, this time to sweet corn on a hair rig, popped up with a piece of fake corn. The carp continued to suck down the baits eagerly and the rate of hook pulls greatly diminished. My catch rates were good but I felt they could be better.
With more research on North American carp angling tactics I soon learned about pack baits. These are very commonly used across the states, especially for the paylake style fishing. The pack bait approach was similar to the method feeder, and ground baits, I had used long ago in the UK. The main difference I could see was that the “pack” was molded around the hook bait, or as the paylakers would call it, the “pickup”, rather than a feeder or the lead. The benefit of pack baits here in Colorado is that it meets the local regulation requirement of the bait “must be attached to the hook” when cast out, Colorado has anti-chumming laws.
Here are a couple of the pack bait recipes I used.
Basic Panko “Pack”
1 lb unflavored panko bread crumbs, 1 tin creamed corn, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp flavoring
Flavorings, common ones I use are cinnamon, or liquid food grade pineapple and banana
Combine dry ingredients and mix well, combine wet ingredients and mix well, mix both together. Store in zip seal bag.
Panko and Oats “Pack
1 lb of old fashioned oats, 8 oz of plain panko bread crumbs, 1 tbsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon,
1 tsp chili flakes, 1 tin creamed corn, 2 tbsp karo syrup.
Combine dry ingredients and mix well, combine wet ingredients and mix well, mix both together. Store in a zip seal bag.
I find this mix is best after at least a few hours to allow all the liquids to be fully absorbed by the dry goods.
Both mixes can be kept in the fridge for up to a week, though they tend to dry out requiring a little additional liquid to be added before use. Combined with plain sweetcorn on the hair, cheap, effective and gets the job done!
The results of using pack baits were immediate and very impressive, my catch rates went through the roof and I felt as though I was now ahead of the never ending carp arms race with the local fish. Not only did I change to using pack baits but I also switched from the run rig to a fixed/bolt rig style and approach.
As this first season of angling came to a close I observed once again the carp were becoming wise to my traps. Over the winter I contemplated some new tactics and baits. When I fished in the UK, back in the late 70s, boilies were in their infancy, not a commonly used carp bait and not commercially available. I honestly had no experience in using them.
As winter faded the spring thaw melted the tomb of ice covering my local lakes. I decided, with my typical gung-ho approach, to switch from sweet corn and pack baits, to the humble boilie.
As the season started, and over the next few months, I tried a literal plethora of different sizes and flavors of boilies, from nearly every commercial brand available here in the USA. I even delved into some homemade offerings. With the no chumming laws, and without the pack baits, it was literally the hook and a boilie vs. carp.
For many sessions, I sat upon the bank and watched the carp approaching my baits, give them an inquisitive sniff, and then turn away. It was as if they did not recognize the boilie as a food source! Yes, I did finally catch a carp on one of my homemade garlic boilies, I also caught a slew of trout and a couple of catfish, either on the homemade or the commercial brands. I went so far as to experiment with using boilies with the panko or oats pack baits. This did get me another carp, but otherwise, my catch rates had dwindled to almost nothing. That I started to do better with the inclusion of the pack baits, should have been an indicator that something needed to change.
To say I had lost any confidence with boilie fishing would be an understatement. After a few months of experimentation the boilies went into the trash and the flavored corn and maize were once again on the hook, paired with the pack baits for the remainder of the season. The rest of the year was certainly good. I ended with 100 carp landed, a state record common carp at 37 lb 5oz and was a very happy man indeed!
Wintertime is hard for carp angling here in Colorado. The lakes and reservoirs are frozen over and there are few opportunities to pursue our chosen quarry, unless it is upon the ice shrouded rivers, streams or through a hole drilled in the thick ice. It is however a great time to review, contemplate and plan for the upcoming years fishing.
I am a math junkie and I spend far too much time reviewing and analyzing data and metrics. Those who know me well consider me to be obsessed with statistics! Looking back at my stats for the 2013 season I noticed a familiar trend. I was catching a lot of carp but I was also catching a lot of small specimens. The pattern of a typical session would be the catch sizes would steadily increase throughout the day, with the larger fish coming right at the end, or a single big fish at the start of a session followed by all smaller ones. My findings were basically, without a doubt, the flavored corn and pack baits were catching a lot of fish, yet it also catching a lot of smaller specimens (and nuisance fish, trout!).
For the 2014 season I decided once again to select a variety of boilies to deploy. This time the boilies were to be fished alongside the corn and pack bait offerings, one rod setup with each.
I really wanted to learn what flavor combinations could work. I had no illusions that the sweet corn and pack baits would likely to catch more fish but would the boilies reduce the small fish captures and produce an average larger size? Could I find a flavor profile that worked?
Through the cold spring I stuck with my plan. I soon discovered it was very hard not break down and switch both rods over to the corn and pack bait offerings. It was not a case of the corn out-performing the boilies, it was more that I couldn’t catch a carp on a boilie at all!
Finally I found a flavor profile of boilie that the carp seemed to relish, sweet, very sweet, with both tuitti fruit and then white chocolate flavors consistently putting fish upon the bank. Ironically the particular brand of boilies I was having the success on, NGT, sold-out, go figure – the carp gods truly despised me. I was left looking for yet another commercial brand to try.
I discussed my saga with a good friend, BCN News Contributor, Brian Wingard. His help and advice over the past year with my CarpQuest had been invaluable. He is a fountain of knowledge which he shares without bias.
Now I knew Brian had put some tremendous carp upon the bank with the bait ranges from CC-Moore, be that Equinox, Live System, Odyssey XXX or N-Gage XP. He suggested I give them a try, this time with a PVA stringer of baits, or small PVA mesh bag of additional offerings versus just a boilie on the hair.
It would be fair to say I am a skeptic. I am one of those people who want to see results in person, not on video or a blog. Though I do trust the advice of my friends I also prefer to form my own opinions on a product.
So, having looked through the entire CC Moore product range, I selected their glugged hook baits. Never doing anything by half, I acquired all four different flavors!
Once they arrived, they looked great, smelled great and were very cost effective. I was excited to test them at a venue I knew was packed with hungry carp.
Again, after a few sessions, I was unable to get a single run. A little disillusioned, and wanting to again to see carp in my net, I relapsed and returned to the flavored corn and pack baits. It was not long before I had carp upon the bank. Though it was great to be catching again I felt like I had not really given the CC Moore products a fair try.
To say I am stubborn would be an understatement. So, after a couple of months with fish again on the bank, I was ready to return to the boilie project. This time, rather than just go all-in again on every flavor profile offered, I took the time to look at each of the CC Moore product ranges, paying particular attention to the flavor profile.
Remember, the carp I had previously caught on boilies liked sweet baits. So, to compare the four …
o N-Gage XP is highly digestible bait based upon proteins and feed stimulants which come in the form of spirulina, N.Z green lipped mussel extract, hydrolyzed proteins, pepper meals and their FeedStim XP and Feedstim powders.
I had caught well on GLM infused maize in the past so this range had potential for me.
o Equinox was another highly digestible bait, that is soluble and will eventually break down even in the coldest of waters. It contains carbohydrates, spices, fruit extracts, yeast, natural feeding triggers and Robin Red.
The fruit extract note appealed to my eye for sure.
- Odyssey XXX contains high amounts of GLM and Betaine along with proteins, bird foods, yeast and low temperature pre-digested fish meals. The bait has a particularly strong fishy aroma as a result.This range was very interesting to me, especially as it has a high GLM content. I had excellent success the previous year with GLM infused maize and corn hook baits.
- Live System has a distinctive sweet, yeasty aroma with ingredients including proteins, bird food, cream powders and corn steep liquor powder. The footnote on the description stated, If you’re looking for a bait that can be used throughout the year without any pre-baiting or a boilie that can be fished alongside another bait, then Live System is the ideal choice for you.
- Yes, I am a skeptic, but the Live System description matched exactly what I was looking for and literally leapt of the page at me.
The decision was made, I was going to go all-in with the Live System – I am sensing a pattern here as I sit and write this article!
Rather than obtain the various boilies, pop-ups, pellets and glugs separately I went with their “Session Bucket” option. It contained everything I needed to get started. Paired with some PVA mesh and string, I was now feeling confident.
I selected another run’s water for the trial. This venue had provided me with my best carping ever in Colorado with carp on the bank vs. hours spent fishing. I was not so concerned with the size of fish at the venue, rather the quantity of fish and their apparent greedy nature and ease of capture.
Again, I decided to fish with the panko/oats pack bait and corn with one rod, the CC Moore Live System boilies, PVA mesh, pellets and glug, on the other. I arrived at the venue just before first light and was setup quickly with both baits out there, perhaps 10 yards apart. I really wanted the carp to be able to choose which they preferred.
After an hour I had the first run, a nice common on the sweetcorn. Half an hour later, a second run on the sweet corn and another carp was on the bank. Fifteen minutes later, a third run, yet another carp for the sweetcorn.
I do admit that after a few hours fishing it wasn’t looking good for the boilies!
Finally the boilie rod took off and I landed my first carp on the Live System, a real nice 17 lb common.
Half an hour later another run with the boilies and a second carp, this time, 16 lb’s, was on the mat. For the remainder of the session three more commons fell to the boilies. I even banked a nice 8 lb channel cat on the boilies right as I was packing up.
The day ended with 5 carp on the boilies and 3 on the sweet corn. I had almost caught more carp in a single session on boilies than I had in the past two years. The sweetcorn captures had an average weight of 11 lbs, those on the boilies, almost 15 lbs!
Once bitten, twice shy, is a motto of mine. A single good session was no proof for me that I had selected the correct flavor profile. Thus I decided to return again to the same venue a fortnight later, fish the same spot, with the same process and see what would transpire.
The results from the second session were even more impressive, 0 carp fell to the corn based offerings and I had 4 runs, landed 3, on the Live System boilies, with an average weight of almost 17 lbs. I also caught my second largest carp ever, a fine, 28 lb 12 oz gravid female.
I was a now VERY happy man.
I honestly did not think that a boilie project was going to work and I could catch carp on a consistent basis with them. What it took was the correct approach and tactics. The addition of the PVA mesh offerings with bait glugged pellets, as opposed to just a single hook bait, was the key factor. It was also I had taken the time to do some research on a flavor profiles that might be better for the carp in my area.
It was not that any of the previous ranges of boilies I used were bad – though it could be said my homemade vindaloo curry boilie were a creative failure, even if they smelled good enough to eat!
It was that I was using them in a very ineffective manner. With the local carp only having ever fed upon naturals, perhaps a few bread and corn offerings, they had never seen a boilie before.
With no pre-baiting campaign allowed, my single boilie offerings were never going to produce the same results as sweetcorn and a pile of pack bait. As soon as I started to enhance the boilies appeal, either with glugs, dips, small PVA freebie offerings of pellets and mixes, it was carp on!
For the rest of the season I stuck with the boilies. Yes, my catch rates dropped overall, as I had suspected they would. However, the average size of fish landed increased by more than 20%. Nuisance captures of trout are reduced to almost zero.
I have also started catching more catfish – I not sure if this is a good, or bad thing!
Do I still use sweetcorn and pack baits? For sure, especially when I am hitting up a new venue or taking another angler with me to quickly get them into their “first carp”. However, for the majority of my angling, the boilies will now be out there in the never ending quest for that next big carp capture.
Next season I plan to do more testing to see which flavor profiles work better in the spring, summer and fall. Which flavor works best at a certain location, or with a particular additive? The learning process never ends and I am looking forwards to the results.
Dean Brookes, BCN Editor, has a couple of great articles here at BCN on the topic of boilies. Well worth reading to gain a better understanding.
- The Art of Boilie Fishing: Origin’s
- The Art of Boilie Fishing: Types and Varieties
The morale of this story is that when trying something new, be that baits, rigs or tactics, put in the effort to do some research first.
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, be that from a friend, on a fishing forum, your local tackle shop/vendor or even a fellow angler on the bankside. You will certainly save yourself a lot of time, money and headaches on the bankside.
In my case, this would have been a season of frustration with but a humble boilie!