It’s always exciting to see peoples enthusiasm for the coming season. The arrival of new tackle, personal goals and targets being set as well as baiting campaigns and preparation. However some of the preparation and planned baiting strategies that have appeared on line in recent weeks, for particles in particular, have prompted me to put this article together.
How Much, When & Where
There seems to be a generally accepted notion that a well targeted boilie campaign will produce bigger fish than particles. This might be true in some instances but I don’t think it is always the case. Particles have been responsible for some truly extraordinary catches over the years. While most came as a result of well executed baiting campaigns others simply arose from opportunistic moments during stalking or short sessions.
One of the key benefits of a particle campaign is its relatively low cost compared to boilies. 100lb of Feed Corn for example will cost you less than $25 instead of the $500 – 600 for a similar weight of boilies. That’s a huge difference!
Here in North America, unlike most European waters, the carp are almost entirely dependent on natural food sources. As a result a particle bait will often produce an ‘instant’ result compared a boilie as the carp are more likely to readily accept them as a natural food item. Even just a few handfuls of sweetcorn, tigers or chick peas can soon have carp feeding vigorously – especially on a water that has seen little or no carp fishing. When considering a longer term baiting strategy the relatively low cost of particles allows much larger quantities to be used (just not all at once). If it is used in combination with a baiting pyramid approach (http://bigcarpnews.com/web/the-baiting-pyramid/ ) over a long period then the chances of catching the bigger fish are greatly increased.
Once water temps rise above 55F there is no doubt in my mind that particles really begin to work their magic and over 70F they truly excel. Twenty years ago, shortly after moving to the USA, I was fishing a popular swim on the CT River in MA. It was mid August and unbelievably hot, humid and overcast. I’d arrived late morning around 11:30 am and intended fishing into the early evening. I set up with two rods (1.75 test curve – yes that’s ONE point Seven Five!) fishing 2-3 kernels of feed corn on a simple hair rig. I began by catapulting out a couple of pounds of corn and settled back hoping to pick up the typical 3 or 4 fish that might be expected from such a session. By 1pm I’d had a couple of aborted takes and was quite disappointed that I’d not landed a fish as yet. I was certain there were fish in the swim so I catapulted out a couple more pouches of corn and before I’d been able to load a third one of the rods was away. A mid teen soon came to the net and as I released it the other rod registered a solid run. This time it was a better fish of around 18lb. And so it continued. After every fish caught I would simply put out 1-2 catapults of corn – a little but often as they say. The fish kept coming and soon I could only fish one rod as the bait would barely settle before I got another run. At 6pm I packed up, earlier than planned, simply because I was completely exhausted! In a little under 5 hours I’d had over 30 runs and landed 22 fish including 5 going over 20lb with the biggest going 26lb.
How much bait should you use really depends on where you are planning to fish and for how long. Rivers with a big head of carp like the St Lawrence or Senneca can clean out a swim in no time before they move on in search of other areas. However dumping in 5-10 gallons of bait and then hoping to catch immediately is a very shortsighted approach. It is usually far more productive to start slowly and then build up the amount & frequency of feed as the fish demand. On ponds & lakes with smaller stocks of carp you can bait up with perhaps just half a gallon and keep fish coming back for more on a regular basis.
One of the biggest mistakes I see in the use of particles is when fishing rivers. Small, light particles such as hemp seed or millet will sink very slowly and can soon end up a long way below the area you are fishing. The fish will likely follow and you’ll be left scratching your head as to why you are not catching! I avoid using mass seed mixes in rivers for this reason as it can be very difficult to predict the outcome. It is also vitally important to determine the depth you are fishing and the flow rate. Throw a few particles in and ‘time’ how long it takes them to sink a foot or two and then adjust accordingly when throwing the bait in upstream of where you are fishing so that it hits bottom around your hook baits. If you ‘bind’ your particles into a method or pack mix you can be more certain of them getting down to the bottom with less risk of them being swept downstream.
Near margin fishing is often overlooked by angler’s intent on demonstrating their casting prowess. Here in North America the abundance of unpressured waters means that carp are less likely to be driven offshore by the bankside activity found on many water in Europe and the UK. If there are overhanging trees or dense bankside vegetation that limit access to the water then there is a good chance that carp will feel comfortable patrolling and feeding in these areas. While you can in some cases fish directly over the top of some vegetation such as reeds etc it is often best to put in some bait and make a cast from a nearby swim parallel to the bank. A couple of pieces of imitation corn fished on a blow back or multi – rig with a supple braid hook link are very effective for such situations. Baiting up could not be simpler. A bucket of particles and a baiting spoon are all you need to quickly & easily spread bait in a few spots along the margins.
A big difference when baiting particles versus boilies is in the spread of the bait. When fishing boilies it often pays to spread them out over a wider area to encourage the fish to move about in search of the next bait. A few boilies around the ‘sharp end’ are all that is then needed to help the carp home in on the hook bait. The opposite is true with particles, especially mass baits. Ideally you want to keep the baited area as tight as possible to encourage more competitive feeding. You can spread the bait out a little when pre-baiting but once you have homed in on a more precise location it’s important to stick to your chosen spot. This requires accurate work with a Spomb or catapult as well as precise casting with the baited rig to ensure you are continually ‘on-target’. If you spread particles out over a large area you’ll end up with the carp meandering around slowly picking up the potentially hundreds, if not thousands of baits, with little competition between them.
If boilies are still high on your priority list then why not try fishing a wafter or pop-up presented over a bed of hemp & sweetcorn? It’s simple to do and only requires a PVA bag or mesh to ensure everything is delivered to the same spot. It is one my favorite ways to fish the margins or to intercept a fish seen rolling at intervals as it follows a patrol route while feeding.
The Golden Rule…
“A little bit often” is a well known phrase for baiting up while fishing and nothing is truer of fishing particles. If you throw too many particles into a swim at the beginning of a session then your hook bait is going to be buried and it will be like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. It is much better to start slowly and then build up as the swim develops. A half to a couple of pounds of particles (half as much for mass baits like hemp) should get them started. Another Spomb or couple of catapults after each fish will keep the swim topped up and help keep their heads down. Another trick that I’ve seen work remarkably well when carp seem to be intercepting the bait before it hits the bottom is to fill a spod or spomb with gravel. The carp will respond to the noise of the spomb hitting the surface but since there is nothing to ‘eat’ will be more likely to feed on the bottom and pick up your hook bait. Remember that once you’ve put it you can’t take it out!
There is almost no limit to the choice of flavors or additives that can be used to enhance particles. Almost anything sweet, salt, spicy etc can work. Some favorites include the huge choice of fruit flavors available from bait suppliers or check out the various kool aid and other powdered drink options at your local supermarket. Cinnamon, Clove & various oils such as sesame, hemp and peanut are well known carp attractants. Curry or chili sauces like Sriracha as well as garlic based versions add another flavor dimension to baits. On the sweet side try molasses, condensed milk, milk or malt powdered drinks and don’t forget Betalin that now comes in Blackcurrant & Sweet Almond versions as well the regualr. Natural or enhanced fermentation (added sugars etc) in particles results in a breakdown of various proteins & carbs to produce amino acids and sugars that are irresistible to carp. But perhaps the most overlooked is natural germination. As the seed begins to sprout it converts its stored carbohydrate into natural sugars to support the new growth – and the carp love it!
Tiger (chufa) Nuts
Another great bait that is often over or improperly used. You can buy bulk bags of ‘Chufa’ here in the USA or buy some of the imported, large sized nuts available from the commercial bait companies. I’ve done very well on some waters with tigers but less so on others. The key is not to overdo it with the free samples as carp will ingest and vent out pieces of tiger nut that are then picked up and eaten by other fish – ad infinitum! You only need a handful or two of chopped tigers to start with and a pound or so should last you for a weekend session! Over do it and you’ll end up with a big spread of chewed up tigers that detracts from the hook bait being picked up. Preparation is simple but takes time if you want top quality results. Simply place a couple of pounds of tiger nuts plus 1/4 pound of sugar in a bucket, cover with boiling water and then seal the bucket and leave for 3-4 days. Transfer to a large pan & boil rigorously for 30-40 mins making sure they don’t boil dry or burn. Some folk will use them after this stage but I like to store them once again in a sealed bucket for a few more days to allow some fermentation to develop. You can then use them or freeze for future use as needed. I rarely bother flavoring them but some folk swear by soaking them in Red Bull, Coca Cola or even in cinnamon or clove spice. If you want them a little sweeter then try something like Betalin or Talin. A small drill allows them to be easily mounted on a hair rig and you can easily pop them up using a bigger drill and plugging the hole with foam or cork or create a balanced rig with an imitation and real tiger combo.
Tiger Nuts: 25% Protein, 25% Fat, 50% Carbohydrate. Potassium, Vitamin E & B6, Iron, Magnesium
Still one of the best carp baits – ever! Straight out of the can a couple of grains on the hook over a few handfuls thrown in as chum are as instant a bait as can be found. One of my favorite ways to fish sweetcorn is to wander around a lake and throw or catapult in a few handfuls in likely looking spots. I then return a little while later armed with a float rod or light ledger set up and look to see if any carp are feeding in the pre-baited spots. It’s a great way to stalk fish and sometimes produces some real beasts if you are stealthy. A few drops of your favorite flavor or some Betalin can make sweetcorn even more attractive but there is no need to overdo it. A mix of sweetcorn and hemp seed is another deadly combination.
Sweetcorn: 14% Protein, 5.2% Fat, 81% Carbohydrate. Potassium, Vitamin C, Iron, Magnesium
A much underrated bait but its brilliant white color really makes it stand out. It comes from a process of de-husking feed corn with a strong alkaline solution. I usually add it to a mix of sweetcorn & hempseed when float fishing and alternate it as a hook bait.
Since they float naturally they are a very effective surface bait for carp. An effective bait but unshelled seeds need to be boilied or hulled if you plan to fish them on the bottom. The shells absorb dyes and flavors extremely well so you can have fun experimenting.
Cheap, easily available and too often underrated. A 50lb bag usually costs less than $12-15 and when prepared & used correctly can produce some stunning results for a fraction of the cost of other baits. I prefer to spend a few extra dollars on buying top quality feed corn as it usually has bigger grains and has been washed and separated from bits of husk, dust and other debris. Its bright yellow color really stands out and carp seem to become very preoccupied once they get on it. There are a number of ways to prepare it:
#1 Quick & Simple. Soak in water for 24 hours and then boil for 40 mins. I like to let the corn cool slowly after boiling as I like to see many of the corn kernels begin to split open. If you like you can add your choice of flavor or coloring or both at this time.
#2 Germinated Corn. Place the corn in a shallow container and cover with water (check daily to ensure it does not dry out) and leave until it begins to sprout. This can take 2-3 weeks depending on the ambient temperature. As the seeds germinate the stored starch in the grain is converted into maltose a natural sugar that carp love! However the grains will still need boiling for 30-40 mins to soften them sufficiently as hook bait.
#3 Vomit Corn. As the name suggests this is not for the faint hearted! Follow the instructions in #1 and then fill 5 gallon buckets 4/5 full making sure it is covered with liquid. Then close the lid firmly and leave it in your garage or basement for a minimum of two weeks (I have some from last Fall ready to use this Spring!). The fermentation process will help create a wealth of sugars, amino acids and an aroma that will knock your socks off but seems to be remarkably attractive to carp.
You can also buy any number of commercially prepared baits which come in a wide variety of flavors & colors. These are usually too costly to use in any large quantity but do make excellent hook baits that will stand out nicely from the free samples.
Feed Corn: 10% Protein, 5% Fat, 74% Carbohydrate. Sodium, Potassium Vitamin B6, Iron & Magnesium
These quarter sized grains really stand out. They are prepared just like regular feed corn and make excellent hook baits. I usually make up several batches with different flavors and store them in vacuum bags in the freezer until needed. You then have plenty of hook baits and can also add some to a bucket of regular feed corn for chumming. They are also available prepared as Hominy which can be dyed in various colors so it really stands out.
One of my personal favorites. They are not usually an instant bait but once carp are established on them the results can continue for several weeks with regular baiting. Rod Hutchinson suggests they are best suited to fishing over silt or where there is prolific midwater weed and are especially effective in colored waters where carp rely more on smell than sight when feeding. There is no need to color or flavor them. While they work very well simply soaked for a couple of days I prefer to get them sprouting as it really enhances the natural sugars and flavor. Once the maples have been soaking for 24 hours I simply spread them out on a tarp in my garage. You must, however, keep them lightly dampened with more water so they don’t dry out. After a couple of days they will begin to sprout at which point I use them straight away or bag them up and freeze till needed. I use them on their own rather than mixed in with other particles.
Maple Peas: 25% Protein, 1.5% Fat, 66% Carbohydrate. Sodium, Potassium, Calcium & Iron
Peanuts & other Nuts
Another under rated but highly effective bait. A lot of carp have been caught on brazil, cashew and other nuts. The oilier the better which is why the distinctive aroma and oils in peanuts make them very attractive especially when fished over silt or weed. On some waters it can be as deadly as sweetcorn while on others you can end up blanking! They can be used straight from the bag or blanched in boiling water overnight to release more of the oils. Two or three half kernels can be drilled and then mounted on a hair rig. I personally use an Enterprise Tackle pellet ‘cup’ mounted on a hair and trim the peanut so it sits well inside the cup with 1/8-1/4” protruding.
Peanuts: 26% Protein, 49% Fat, 16% Carbohydrate. Potassium, Calcium Vitamin B6, Iron & Magnesium
Chick Peas (Garbanzo)
A hugely popular bait in its day but too often overlooked. Available dried (soak for 24 hours and boil for 30 mins) or buy them precooked in a can. They can be used with or without flavoring and can also be dyed a variety of colors. I like them for float fishing as a hook bait as they can be catapulted out a long way if needed. I usually drill them first before mounting on a hair to avoid them splitting.
Chick Peas: 19% Protein, 6.5% Fat, 64% Carbohydrate. Potassium, Vitamin B6, Iron, Magnesium
Aduki, Black Eye, Lima, Kidney, Soya bean etc
All of the above beans have proven successful carp baits over the years. They are rarely if ever used her in North America which might just be a good enough reason to give them a go! Soak 1lb of beans overnight, boil gently for 30 mins and you should have plenty for a session or two. They often work very well without pre-baiting or adding flavor but don’t let this stop you from experimenting or thinking outside the box.
Soya bean: 36% Protein, 20% Fat, 30% Carbohydrate. Calcium Potassium, Vitamin C & B6, Iron, Magnesium
Tiny seeds which are usually too small to conventionally mount on a hook or hair fall into the category of ‘mass’ baits. These include hemp, rice, millet, cracked corn, grits etc and carp will often become totally preoccupied on such small baits rooting through weed, silt or soft mud in an effort to pick up every last morsel. It is important to recognize the difference in this feeding pattern versus a carp searching out a boilie or natural ‘live’ bait (such as worm or crayfish) here and there. You should not over feed mass baits and ideally keep them focused in small tight areas rather than spread all over the place. Most folk will fish a boilie or other larger particle on the ‘hook’ but even tiny seeds can be fished by super gluing them around a cork ball or you can use the Kryson ‘Bogey’ particle fixer.
Another very cost effective addition to your chum / ground bait program. The small pieces of feed corn create a mass of particles that will keep carp occupied for hours. Preparation is simple. Carefully pour boiling water over the cracked corn until is well covered and leave to soak for a couple of days. I like to add it to my feed corn chum mix but only if I’m fishing a lake or cove on a river. In faster flowing water the cracked corn will quickly get washed down stream taking the fish with it!
A fantastic bait that can produce spectacular results but can also leave anglers scratching their heads. Hemp seeds are incredibly nutritious. They are a rich protein source and contain over 30% fat especially in two essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). There have been many times I’ve seen carp rolling over a swim baited with hemp seed with barely a beep registered on the alarms, let alone a hook up! As a result I now only use hemp seed in much smaller quantities. One great way to use hemp seed is when fishing boilies or imitation corn as a hook bait. Pack the hemp seed (you can also add in some sweetcorn) into a PVA mesh or bag so that the hook bait sits on top of a bed of hemp. The Hemp Seed available to buy in bulk in the USA has been irradiated to stop it from germinating so tends not to look quite as nice as the commercial bait preparations you can buy from Europe. Measure out one cup of hemp seed to four cups of water and boil for 30 minutes. You can add chilli or other flavors at this stage and some folk also add a teaspoon or two of Bicarbonate of soda to the cooking process as it helps to darken the seeds and make the white core stand out more. You should start to see the seeds beginning to split open at which point you want to turn of the heat. Drain off but keep the liquid (reduce it with further boiling to add back to the seeds later as it contains lots of oils and flavors) and then cover the seeds in cold water to stop them cooking any further. Once cooled drain off the cold water and add back the reduced original liquid they were cooked in. I make up 5-10lb at a time and pack into half gallon zip locks and freeze until needed.
Hemp Seed: 36% Protein, 46% Fat, 6.6% Carbohydrate. Potassium, Iron, Vitamin E, Magnesium
Bird seed / Pigeon mix
A classic mass bait that depending on the variety can be made up of many different seed mixes. As a result they will end up with differing protein content levels ranging from 10-20%. As with most mass baits it’s better to use too little rather than too much. Soak overnight and then boil for 20-30 minutes to help soften and release some of the oils etc.
Anyone who fishes or follows the success of pack baits will know how effective rice can be. Packbait anglers use instant rice mixed with tomato ketchup but regular rice lightly cooked will also do the trick as a mass bait. Flavor or color as you feel necessary.
Wheat, Barley, Millet, etc
Often under rated these seeds can produce some stunning results. Wheat & Barely are particularly effective when allowed to ferment in a bucket for a few days before stopping the process by boiling for 15-20 mins. You can then add them to other particles and fish in the same way as you would with hemp.
I’ve added this category simply to highlight the range of particles that carp might find naturally in their local habitat. It might take some extra effort in collecting them but for the more adventurous angler looking to do something a little different it can be a very rewarding exercise. Overhanging trees or bushes will drop seeds, nuts or fruits into the water. Carp are well known for eating cotton seed, acorns and mulberries when they are in season. I’ve also come across several waters here in New England that sit along side farms that grow field corn. A few husks and grains have clearly ended up in the water where I’m sure the carp have taken advantage of this free food supply.
There are now several different brands of plastic imitation baits available but none in my opinion can match the quality and range from Enterprise Tackle. The choice includes Tigers, Lupins, Sweetcorn, Maize, Maples, Hemp Seed, Peanuts and so on, many in both buoyant or sinking models and even some pre-soaked in the more popular flavors from the likes of Rod Hutchinson, CC Moore, SpottedFin etc. These imitations can be fished very effectively in combination with the real thing or even fished just on their own over a bed of particles. The buoyant imitations allow critically balanced or popped up baits to be created as needed, plus the choice of colors (take a look at the new Enterprise ‘Washed Out’ range) allows you to either match the natural bait or use a bright or contrasting color to help the hook baits really stand out.
One problem with particle baits is the water content they are infused with in preparation and storage. If you want to present particles in a PVA bag or mesh then it’s vital to remove any excess liquid (save it for method or groundbait mixes). One of the most popular ways is to remove any excess liquid and then coat the particles in salt. The easiest way is to place the particles in a sieve and then sprinkle them with plenty of salt. The particles can then be loaded into the PVA without it melting.
Another excellent way is to drain off the liquid and then coat the particles with dry bread crumbs (panko), oats or similar absorbent material to help dry them.
Once dried or salted they can also be mixed with a little oil such as hemp, peanut, sunflower or even the oil from a can of tuna or salmon if you want something a little different. This will not only prevent the PVA melting too quickly but will also help dissipate the particle and oil aroma through the water column. If you prefer something other than using oils then mixing the particles with molasses, honey or condensed milk will work brilliantly especially when the water temps are higher in the summer months.
Best Rigs for Particles
While a lot of folk like ‘blow back’ rigs for boilies I’m not a big fan of these for particles as the chances of the hair tangling around the hook seem to be greatly increased. Instead I prefer to go with Frank Warwick’s long shank rig for 3-5 kernels of feed corn when fished as a bottom or balanced bait. Then for popped up particles I like something along the lines of either the Multi or KD rig and my own version of the Shot-On-Hook rig. It is easy to pop-up or critically balance a particle bait when combined with one of the buoyant plastic imitations available or with a piece of rig or similar foam. It is also possible to drill a hole in tiger or other nuts and then insert a piece of correspondingly sized cork or foam.
Frank Warwick shows you how to tie his favorite rig.
Joe Morgan with a KD rig for Pop-Up Corn, Tigers etc
Iain’s ‘Shot-On-Hook’ presentation
I’ve been playing around with various alternatives to the traditional blow-back rig for popped up particle baits. This one uses a wide gape hook with a ‘ringed’ rig swivel positioned between two hook beads. However its the tungsten rubber bead positioned between the bend and the hook barb that catches out the carp. This rig is usually fished with a PVA bag or mesh full of particles. When the carp sucks up the small bed of particles this rig flies up into its mouth. However once there it sinks like a stone with the hook point settling just behind the lower lip and making it very difficult for the carp to eject.
Components: PB KD Curve #8 hook (for sweetcorn sized baits but use a #6 or #4 for larger baits like Feed Corn) tied to 6 – 8″ of Chameleon soft braided hook link plus a Short Shank Hook Aligner. The Ringed #24 Bait Swivel is positioned between two hook beads and a PB ‘Shot-On-Hook’ tungsten rubber bead placed as shown in the picture. In this instance I’ve added two pieces of Enterprise Tackle ‘washed out’ pop-up sweet corn by looping a piece of 12lb mono through the swivel and pulling it through the corn. I then use a lighter to melt the mono to create a ‘blob’ to keep it in place.You can of course substitute the corn for real or imitation tiger nuts etc. I almost always fish this rig on a light 1-2oz running lead along with a PVA bag or mesh of hemp seed & sweetcorn.
Pellet Cups & Corn Skins
Originally designed for fishing pellets and pastes I’ve since found that the Enterprise Tackle Pellet and corn skins make ideal ‘holders’ for a wide range or particles. This saves a lot of time trying to drill baits (without them splitting) and then thread them on a hair. The cups are easily mounted on a hair (even directly on the hook shank) and will securely hold a peanut, chick pea etc pushed inside. You might need to trim the bait a little to get a tight fit but it is much easier and quicker than messing around with baiting needles and drills.
Anyway enough of writing – it’s time for me to get off and get some baits out. I hope you enjoyed this insight to fishing and using particles. As always Tight Lines.
Copyright (04/30/2016) by Iain Sorrell