This is rapidly becoming the age of the bait sponsored angler. Commercial pressures and marketing demand that many more ordinary anglers are having to compete with those sponsored individuals. These fortunate are able to ‘free-feed’ huge quantities of top quality boilies, pellets and ground baits, supplied to them either for free, or at ‘knock-down’ discount prices.
Everyone knows that using bait supplied in large enough, regular quantities, will directly affect the movement, feeding behaviour and location of carp, in a water.
Generally, carp fishing has become more competitive than ever before, with many more anglers lining the bank each week-end. Sponsored anglers often catch many times the number of big fish than their peers.
This is not necessarily only a result of good angling ability, but simply more bait and perhaps time to leverage it. In this situation most anglers simply do not have the resources and time to compete and many even struggle to catch at all, which is a tragedy!
Making your own homemade boilie baits at cheaper prices is one way to get around this phenomenon. Trying to keep up with these guys use of bait is a severe challenge for many anglers. Often they will try and catch using the same baits as the sponsored angler to keep up. Are using particles and cheaper pellets, a better option?
As in the case of any new boilie bait or rig, the first original pioneers or field testers achieve maximum results. The whole point of a new bait is to achieve a competitive edge by being different enough to confuse the danger reference points of carp that have been previously caught by anglers baits and rigs.
So you are aiming to keep ahead of anglers as much as the fish. This means you ideally need to be using a slightly alternative approach at all times in order to keep maximising your catch rates.
This is not difficult, in fact very easy as long as you think fish not angler. It is surprising what a big carp will eat when it is not scared of it! Yes all baits are used in cycles, as one catches and fades another gets picked-up on by the majority. (Especially with different types of boilies and pellets.)
I do not mean to rock your boat but…What is your favourite bait flavour? This opinion is normally based on personal past successful catch experiences or recommendations. But can you improve on simply this, to multiply your catches hugely, in an increasingly competitive environment? Perhaps so:
Many fishermen get fixated on flavours, mistakenly thinking that if they can smell them and they smell good to them, then carp will love them too. But there are many variables (some unknowns) involved here and no-one actually knows what flavours really smell and taste like to a carp.
The scientists can trigger carp food receptors in tests and tell us numerous substances that will stimulate a carp to feed, or alter its behaviour in some way that makes it easier to catch them, (change brain chemistry and turn them on etc,) but this data does not translate evenly into making and exploiting carp baits. What does a carp think?!
Well now perhaps its time to get further into a carps brain and body, by exploiting particular ingredients, in order for you to compete and catch them more effectively but benefit them too you will see what I mean in a moment….
Would most carp anglers use algae flavour or a flavour that would make you feel sick like something well fermented would? I doubt it!
When fishing, most anglers fish the same flavour in all their boilie baits in a swim and do not vary their bait flavour levels for different hook baits, on different rods, in different areas of a water. Flavours work better in different levels at different temperatures and in different waters; and even in different parts of different waters.
How and why these flavours actually achieve carp takes is so irrelevant to most fishermen that they miss a huge area of know-how that would net them loads more fish at different times of the year. So lets look more into what some flavours are!
Flavours may be actual flavours and not nature identical or synthetically chemically produced. Many anglers prefer natural or nature identical flavours these days rather than one based on a solvent. Some flavours very water soluble.
Flavours are based on so many substances, from ethyl alcohol to glycerol, to propylene glycol and oils. Many modern carp flavours are mixtures of oils, taste enhancers, amino acids, sweeteners and different secret extracts and compounds etc.
N-butyric acid is a very commonly used attractor at the moment in the UK along with pineapple and the associated blue cheese flavour and blue cheese powder is getting more used and well known and these work very well in winter temperatures.
Amyl acetate, the pear drops smell is another example that held favour in the past fashions just keep changing! (Some flavours only require just one or two drops to be very effective while others take much more!)
One noticeable thing with many flavours is that when carp have been caught on them, they can very quickly lose effectiveness by danger association and actually become a carp repellant! (E.g. Propylene glycol and glycerol based flavours, but many others too!)
Many common flavours are formed when an alcohol and an acid form an ester as in esterification.
There seems to be a definite link between the carp attraction of the following when used in carp baits:
Plant phenols, alkaloids like betaine, alcohols, esters, essential oils, fatty acids, sugars, (saccharides like sucrose, lactose, maltose etc,) protein amino acids and non-protein amino acids and many many other natural substances….
Certain flavours have been found more effective in bait with an added sweetener like saccharin and Talin. (Talin is used in synthetic maple flavour.)Another very significant taste enhancer and enzyme active sweet plant protein is Thaumatin B. (Both naturally occurring plant extracts.)
Kiwi fruit contains a Thaumatin-like protein, and Nutrabaits Kiwi flavour is said to uniquely produce the biggest fish in a lake.
Water temperature and pH affect your baits potential to be detected by fish and this is possibly affected by water density changes in differing temperatures and other factors in the water environment. So fishing with different flavour levels in different baits and using different baits with different flavour ph levels and tones is very much an over-looked edge for most carp anglers.
On hard-fished carp waters where certain flavours have done very well perhaps add one or more flavours to the successful one and experiment. Do not bother making new baits, just create individual dips to soak your hook baits into and trial 4 or 10 different versions until your catch rate doubles or trebles or more! (Ive experienced this for myself…)
Betaine seems to have a range of uses in carp in regard to osmosis, amino acids synthesis for example. There is no doubt in my mind that when making carp baits, the addition of betaine hydrochloride, (e.g. at 1 gram per 1 pound mix of dry powder base mix,) makes all the difference, as opposed to adding a simple flavour or label.
The addition of a sweetening substance is significant to catch rates in carp: You definitely see a difference in takes with baits that have been sweetened rather than unsweetened; even if the bait itself is a savoury one like fish or meat.
You only have to put a very generous quantity of honey, or maple syrup, or brown sugar, icing sugar, fructose or molasses or sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk etc into any carp ground bait and compare it to one without to see the difference in results.
Talin is the name for one of the sweetest substances known and comes from a bark residue. It is in fact used in many synthetic carp flavours and with very good reason it really works! It is also used in production of synthetic maple syrup and many commercial bait companies use it in their flavours! (Perhaps try Hinders for this.)
Synthetic maple flavour also contains the very carp stimulatory alkaloids from the herbs; fenugreek and lovage. It is one of the greatest carp flavours ever discovered but does not seem in fashion much these days. (Try combining it with Scopex flavour!)
In fact in the 1940s American scientists a most effective flavour to eradicate carp using poisoned laced maize; it was synthetic maple syrup flavour!
Come cold water conditions certain flavours will out catch others. This may well be because of their acidic pH and how this affects the pH of your bait. Now I do not know much of the chemistry involve with flavours, but years of carp winter fishing results have provided many very reliable flavours.
Some substances in flavours and carp attractors help carp balance their body functions and equalise cells osmotic stress. Salicylic acid may help in this way. It is interesting that it is produced by the esterification of the natural phenol acetylsalicylic acid.
Eugenol from cloves is another famous carp attractor. It is a volatile phenol phenyl propenoid. Many world famous fruit, herb and spice winter flavours may contain salicylates in very very small amounts…
But the interesting fact about cold water flavours is that many of the best are even more exceptional when water temperatures rise. This is great news when you are making your own baits and really provides confidence and trust in your baits, in all conditions and times of year.
Natural substances in natural flavours contain some very powerful carp attractors or triggers. For example, there are significant levels of phenol alkaloids found in fruits such as strawberry, cranberry, guava, blueberry and mulberry, plum, tomato, blackberry and kiwi fruit.
You may already recognise that each of these flavours work exceptionally well to catch carp! Some are kept quiet, others are now fashionable and more well known now and therefore used by more carp fishermen in their baits etc.
(Of course, like most things in fishing, it is the baits, additives and flavours that are used by the highest numbers of anglers, that catch most of the fish. But that does not equal that these products are always the ultimate ones or the very best most suitable to use consistently in hard-pressured waters…)
Phenol alkaloids can affect brain activity and carp (and human) behaviour. Water chestnuts, peanuts and almonds contain significant amounts of salicylic acid also. This acid relieves stress and defends against animal eating attack and plant alkaloids play defensive roles too.
I have accidentally discovered the success of using very finely crushed almonds and peanuts in PVA bags with some exceptional catches… Try soaking these in your flavour mix with an added essential oil and pure salmon oil for example in your PVA bags.
Tiger nuts (chufas) and tiger nut extract, oil or juice are only one currently fashionable option. Tiger nuts (high in soluble glucose and oleic acid) were even grown in the UK during the war years, when sugar was in short supply!)
Some of you might like to investigate the potential uses of mushrooms and fungi too! (Yeasts are only one option remember for instance, yeast extract contains significant salicylic acid levels…)
Caffeine in cocoa and coffee contains substances that are detected by carp (like dopermine) and are proven alternative carp attractors. (It has been proven carp have dopermine receptors.) Most of the biggest carp in a small water in Sussex UK felt the effects of this bait approach! Many were caught over forty pounds using truly addictive baits based on this principle of affecting brain activity and behaviour.
In carp this acid possibly has an anti-inflammatory role like the carp essential omega 3 fatty acids like those in fish oils. It is used in the production of Aspirin used to thin blood and prevent incidence of heart attacks.
Citrus lime, orange and lemon all contain significant anti-inflammatory bioflavonoid with beneficial cardiovascular effects. These fruits are familiar and successful carp bait flavours. Perhaps try mixing lemon and ginger essential oils with your flavours and add some liquorice extract to sweeten and Robin Red extract to increase the alkaloid levels and as a long range protein feeding trigger.
Citrus fruits like lemon, orange and tomatoes are acidic. But they form alkaline blood when digested, which is interesting considering the alkaline ph of a carps gut. (Each of these fruits contain salicylic acid…)
[Here are clues to great bait characteristics and most can be made simply from kitchen larder ingredients with a couple of commercial carp fishing products added!]
I must add here that so many of the successful carp bait ingredients have acid-forming characteristics, including: milk, butter, cheese, casein, whey, malted dairy products, all pectin preserved or sugared fruits, dried sulphured glazed fruits, white beans, soy beans, mushrooms, all meat, gelatin, fowl and fish, shellfish.
Also: All alcoholic drinks, coffee, curry, pepper, salt, spices, fish sauces, aspirin. Eggs, especially whites, preserved ginger, flavourings. Preservatives like benzoate, sulphur, vinegar, salt and brine. Tobacco juice! Starches as in wheat, semolina, rice, (and soya to a lesser degree,) all flour products; e.g. maize, grits, barley, groats, cornflakes and oats.) Rice to a lesser degree.) Desiccated coconut (one of my favourites) many nuts; peanuts and many seeds.
For winter baits, the acid spicy flavours really can work. Exploiting for example the cinnamic acid in cinnamon and coumarin (coumarate – an enzyme in turmeric.) (Megaspice and Bunspice B are good.) Significant levels of salicylic acid is also in yeast extract; a great carp attractor!
Other notable herbs and spices containing this acid and which you might like to try, either as extracts, or in essential oils, or flavour form, or as powders, are the following:
Cummin, cannella, curry powder, dill powder, garam masala, paprika and hot red peppers powders and extracts, black pepper, bergamot, mustard, rosemary, thyme, fennel and coriander.
Mustard (isotheocynates) and chilli powders (capsaicin) boost metabolism, dilate blood vessels and increase levels of the fat burning hormone ephedrine. (Ephedrine is the James Bond pill that keeps you active and energetic all night long!)
Sprayed dried fruit juices such as that of the famous strawberry contain large doses of bioflavonoids, antioxidants that have excellent cardiovascular benefits. They keep blood vessels healthy and keep blood triglycerides levels lowered (needed with diabetes.) In carp this means more health and energy! Many grains too, contain these healthy substances.
Bait success seems much to do with energy release or energy gain. Some carp baits with sweeteners even fool carp into eating them by making their in built mechanisms think they are eating something highly essential and beneficial to their diet, (when in fact this may not be the case at all!) As in consumption of very large quantities of peanuts, tiger nuts or very low nutritional value boilies.
Some carp baits when used by anglers can cause carp to even lose weight and become unhealthy. These baits may not kill the fish but certainly drop their weights!
I have observed so many similarities between naturally derived substances that maintain human health and carp health for use in very attractive and healthy carp baits.
Examples of effects of these flavours, ingredients and attractors are for example:
To reduce blood cholesterol, detoxify the blood, strengthen the immune system, balance liver and kidney functions and reduce high fluctuations in blood sugar (as in diabetes,) that these effects should all be looked at further in carp baits!
Cod liver oil is a prime example, containing essential fatty acids and carp attractive alkaloids too!
I highly recommend essential oils in conjunction with flavours. They do not attract carp from range perhaps like many flavours and additives, but do seem to give that extra edge and taste dimension.
Many times I have used these when all else fails, in large dosed bait soaks on the surface of baits, whether homemade boilies, pastes, particles, meat or fish pieces or ready-mades, to produce a big surprise in unfavourable fishing conditions and temperatures.
These oils are less easily distributed in water compared many components of flavours. Ideally your flavour will pull carp from range, home them into your hook bait and induce it to eat it by its attractive taste and palatability.
This is where taste enhancers are really great and there are many proprietary ones to choose from for carp baits. Of course, sea or rock salt is very good and a carp dietary essential.
Aromas found in peppermint, ginger, geranium and black pepper citronellals make baits different to the usual flavours. The combination of 5 or so essential oils in combination found in Olbas oil have always helped me catch more fish. (But in far higher drop doses than you might expect e.g. at 25 or more drops per pound of bait.
An added tip I have done very well for big fish actually dipping, soaking or glugging my pastes and boilie baits in neat essential oils, either in individual ones or mixtures, like eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, black pepper oil, and garlic oil.
In fact, I once used fresh rigs made using dental floss with added peppermint oil impregnated in the floss material. My catch rate always improved the first cast each rig was used and I soon put the two together and added additional peppermint oil soaks to all my lines, leads and rigs!
You might now have figured the significance of phenols mentioned above and maybe would like to try out these two ideas in your winter or summer baits (in very high levels!):
Peppermint oil (phenol; phenyl salicylate) and winter green oil (phenol; methyl salicylate…)
Heres a different essential oil to try: mustard oil. (Its volatile component is allyl isothiocyanate.)
(The antioxidant free radical scavenging effects of allyls etc, in garlic oil may have much to do with its success. Better still, when used with a sweetener, fructose from the supermarket, saccharin or a proprietary sweetener this is a great all season attractor and trigger.)
Winter green oil and ginger oil and salicylic acid all work as anti-inflammatories and one use for all three is to reduce headache inflammation!
I hope this gives you more clues to what effects carp really like in their baits and what volatile oils and flavours can do! Like many other fruit ester, fruit oils spices and herbs, these especially work well used as triggers and attractors in winter and cold water conditions.
Generally in carp baits, flavours work better without heat being involved. Boiling flavours as with many bait ingredients will actually destroy the active components that catch you more carp. Therefore you need to add flavours after boiling!
You can make a useful very creative mixture from a liquid amino protein product like Minamino or any proprietary fishing ones and add flavours and extracts to it. (You could try mixing up various carp liquid amino products to produce an exceptionally different flavour and attractor base.) One very simple one I remember making that hooked a huge carp within half an hour, on a massive water of thousands of acres was:
A mixture of ethyl alcohol flavours like Tutti Fruiti and other different based flavours, Scopex, n-butyric acid, Robin Red extract (from Haiths,) Minamino, sea salt, liquorice extract powder, Olbas oil, peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil. This mixture was re-frozen into pop-up boilies around 6 times until the bait was just buoyant, then frozen and stored until use.
This easy and simple mega-enhancement method works exceptionally well for pastes, dough baits, particles, pellets, ground baits, method mixes, and PVA bag mixes too so try them all! If you are lazy just try adding Nash baits peach oil palatant or any taste enhancer, citrus oil and flavour combination to your pellets, or boilies and compare results to those baits used without!
Using conventional proprietary boilie dips and glugs are not always the best option where they have already been hammered. Simply soaking your baits in dissolved sea salt or even liquidized tinned sweetcorn can make all the difference to your catch rate. Making changes, being creative and doing things different to the majority of your peers will make your catches consistently outstanding…
I had another memorable occasion where I had fished in cold temperatures for three days and nights without a take and decided to soak the hook baits directly in eucalyptus oil. The baits already contained this but I felt the levels were not high enough. With 5 minutes before packing-up one of the biggest carp in the lake took one of the baits.
There are so many options out there for you to genuinely exploit for massively improved catches. There are for example a host of other attractors and flavours to give you a new edge. Peppers with citrus tones not in general use, from Japan and Korea etc, or how about spicy seaweed from Hawaii etc…
Heres a few oils to mix with your flavours you might wish to trial:
Coriander oil, passion flower oil, apricot kernel oil, linseed oil, pistachio oil, hazel nut oil, macadamia oil, fruit pip oil, rose musk oil, safflower oil, coconut oil.
Other interesting areas of flavours are where the attractors form a cloud of attractive particles in suspension immediately around the hook bait. Use of special solutions, emulsions and colloids can create very effective areas of immediate attraction and modern emulsifiers also have great beneficial and carp attraction benefits.
With mass use of pellets not designed for carp fishing, some commercial pellets are designed more for their oil holding capacity. This may not be ideal for fast and effective carp food digestion and may inhibit uptake of many valuable nutrients and cause certain angler induced nutrient deficiencies.
Laxatives might well be another significant edge in baits, linked to use of some flavours. (Perhaps in the case of certain propylenes and related compounds.) The benefit to carp is that they will naturally excrete food faster by colonic peristalsis.
Insoluble roughage like water weed cellulose, mollusc and shrimp shells help this effect and a percentage of insoluble ingredients in your bait I think are a good thing for the carp. Crushed mollusc shells and prawn shell is great for this and a source of essential chitin containing nitrogen and is very important in the natural carp diet.
(Anyway, when carp are able to eat more bait; this produces more takes and fish caught!) Coarse bird food, shellfish and fish meal ingredients used in conjunction with lots of predigested ingredients might be more effective and preferable to mainly wheat semolina and soya based baits with a low percentage of fish meal to boost nutrition for example.
One of the most beneficial ways to create baits that carp can eat more of without getting filled-up, because it passes through their gut quicker is to really raise the level of soluble ingredients in your baits; focussing especially on the proteins and reducing whole carbohydrates.
The range of amazing new predigested proteins and other ingredients and additives is vastly under-exploited at present, by the average angler.
Innovative products can really work wonders too to give you an edge as in the case of all new ingredients! I wonder about the properties of aloe vera.
It is a gold-mine of water soluble amino acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, saccharides, plant sterols (these lower blood cholesterol levels,) and glycoproteins (cell membrane glucose containing carbohydrates attached to proteins and lipids.)
Aloe vera is a great healing agent with many as yet not understood benefits, while being a gentle laxative at low doses…
The old argument about how can a carp possibly eat one boilie in preference to a different one is mute. Most experienced carp anglers know this occurs on hard-fished much pressured waters for many varied reasons in certain situations.
But the unique feed bait quantity and quality applied to a water by individual anglers compared to the majority, is a major factor in this.
My guess is that youd better ensure your hook baits are different enough to draw the attentions of fish in feeding positive ways!
Well, bait making and enhancing is an art and not an absolute science, thats for sure! It is evolving as I speak and future fashions in this very commercial led passion, recreation and sport, will always by its very nature, keep changing.
This is the age of confidence in a bottle and in a bag. The instant angler and the instant bait are here to stay. I hope now you are now more prepared than ever, to experiment with your baits! The well-used methods of over-flavouring, soaking and glugging your baits is just a preliminary step.
Lets hope all my miss-spent youth, applying what I learnt in plant physiology classes, making homemade carp baits, (while becoming a professional horticultural grower) benefits you too.
The author has many more fishing and bait edges up his sleeve. Every single one can have a huge impact on catches. (Warning: This article is protected by copyright, but reprints with a link are OK.)
By Tim Richardson. The thinking anglers fishing author and expert bait making guru.
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