You’re known for probably being predominantly a ‘boilie angler’, but do you still use much particle in your approach, such as hemp, pigeon conditioner etc. as a blanket feed to prime spots especially when it’s weedy? Also, when pre-baiting do you allow an optimum time ‘window’ between baiting a spot and fishing it or does it vary depending on the number of fish, size of the water etc.?
Although boilies are indeed my main bait of choice I still like to supplement them, at the right time of year, with particles. Hemp and tigers are, have always been, and will remain to be, a fantastic combination that carp will readily eat in almost all situations. On waters where I may be fishing for what I class as ‘wild’ fish, fish that have seen little in the way of either pressure or bait, then hemp and tigers will play quite heavily in my approach. I find that a tiger nut is instantly acceptable to fish that are more used to feeding on natural food items.
I am not quite sure why tigers are such a good bait as, to us at least, they seem to have very little smell or obvious attraction. I do know that they contain a lot of natural sugar that leaches out in the water and maybe this is what the carp find so attractive?
Contrary to popular belief, I also find that other species like tigers as well, which goes against the thought process of using them to deter ‘nuisance’ fish. Strangely though, bream seem to like them far more than tench do, on some lakes I have fished I have been plagued by bream on tigers. At Sonning for example, it was impossible to fish with them and even a single tiger hurled out into the wide expanse of the main lake would get snaffled in no time at all by a big old slab. Roach and chub also seem very partial to the odd ‘growler’ and my biggest ever roach of 3lb 10oz fell to a single tiger fished on a bolt rig with a four-ounce lead, not exactly purist tactics I know, and I don’t actually count it as a personal best because I certainly wasn’t targeting roach on that occasion.
More recently, I have started using hemp throughout the winter, albeit mixed in with a decent amount of boilies. In fact, my best ever winter was the one just past and I used large quantities of hemp, 18, 15, and 10mm boilies all mixed into a spod mix, right throughout the coldest months of the year. This was a new tactic for me and a result of constant badgering from my mate, Paul Forward, who has long sung the praises of hemp in the winter. I ended up banking around seventy fish between October and March, including two forties and a whole string of good thirties and most of these were caught on Hybrid boilies fished over the hemp and boilie spod mix, so who says you cannot teach an old dog new tricks?
As for clearing spots, yes, particles such as hemp or pigeon conditioner can encourage the carp to scour back the bottom, uprooting weed and creating clear areas but, to be honest, so can a decent supply of boilies. Carp will keep revisiting a spot long after the bait has all gone and they are more than happy to scour around for whatever else maybe there, particularly if it’s an area where they regularly get fed. I do find however, a spot that is ‘too’ clear becomes harder to fish. The carp will still visit a glowing yellow patch of ground but presentation becomes more of an issue and the fish seem to ‘get away with it’ a lot more regularly. I suppose this sort of leads into the last part of the question, how long do I leave a pre-baited area before fishing it?
Obviously from what I have already said, I do think there is such a thing as ‘too long’, I don’t want it to be stripped back to bedrock before I reap the rewards of my hard work. In reality, it’s just never going to get that far though, as I am terribly impatient and I tend to change my mind so often about what areas and which approach is best that I regularly ditch plans as fast as I hatch them.
Pre-baiting is a strange one really: if the fish are feeding on the bait you are introducing then why not jump straight in and catch them? If you are already catching in other parts of the lake, do you think there is enough feeding activity to guarantee they are feeding on your pre-baited area as well and, most importantly, are you catching less because of it? If you are pre-baiting then you must assume it is getting eaten, if not then why chuck a load more fresh bait on top of bait that is still sitting there from the previous day or week? If the carp are indeed eating all your free grub then the area is already prime for exploiting, or at least that’s the way I look at it.
The perfect scenario for me is to pre-bait a lake that I am not fishing at the time, one that is close enough to either home or the lake I am fishing and one that is not really getting fished by others. This would be ideal as I could happily plan the downfall of the fish while busying myself catching carp elsewhere but, even then, I would probably not give it too many applications before I just had to find out if it was working, impatient should be my middle name!
I do understand the power of bait and I also know that boilies will create more of an ongoing situation than particles ever could. I don’t think you could ever condition the fish into seeking out a particular bean, seed or pulse in preference to all other foods but I know with the correct application you can educate a carp into eating a certain type of boilie far more readily than another different type. I have done this on lakes in the past and by careful and prolonged pre-baiting, myself and my friends have completely dominated waters for a considerable amount of time.
So, I think there is a place for both boilie and particle in most fishing situations and it all depends, for me at least, what I am trying to achieve: a long-term result, a quick clearing off of a few spots or a big hit on one session when everything is right for it.