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Bill Cottam Columnists

John Baker And 'Pausing For Thought'

Bill Cottam’s with us once again to dish out another dose of cynicism and sarcasm

Although I do have concerns about John Baker’s propensity to go angling in country music-style check shirts, I have enjoyed his ‘Pausing For Thought’ bait series enormously; even a blind man on a galloping horse can see that this is a fella who’s been there, done it and got the T-shirt as far as bait formulation and application is concerned. We live in times where seemingly everybody who has access to a bag of fishmeal and a sack of pellets, considers themselves a bait expert, and quite frankly, many have the equivalent bait knowledge of a newt.

The current trend seems to be soak baits in magical liquids that instantly transform them into something that carp are unable to swim past, and that also turn the angler using them into a Terry Hearn-Darrell Peck hybrid — all utter nonsense, of course!


Unquestionably, bulk liquids, glugs, soaks and Goos (and their numerous imitations) all have their uses, and they can be a vitally important addition to a carp angler’s bait armoury. Generally speaking, though, I have always associated their use as products that can increase the attraction qualities to the bait which has a hook attached. A good quality, nutritionally balanced foodbait shouldn’t need the addition of three gallons of slop to render it effective. The fact is, though, at times, a wash over with a nutritional liquid can cover up a multitude of sins; let’s face it, you can soak just about anything in a good quality, high-attract liquid and carp will sample it.  

John made the point in ’Ology 204, that carp are more likely to become at least partially dependent on a bait that best fulfils their nutritional requirements, and he is spot on. For sure, if you look at the baits that have been the most effective in recent years, it is an observation that is very difficult to argue with. Continuing along that thought process, and as I have mentioned on numerous occasions in the past, a bait that is accepted as an everyday food source undoubtedly makes the job of catching carp a great deal easier. The longstanding problem for would-be bait-makers, of course, is that coming up with a bait that carp will pick up occasionally and eat for a short period of time, is not especially difficult; producing one that carp will feast on season after season, however, is a totally different ball game. 


Keep your eye out for the bait companies that have the same recipes that do the business for a number of seasons; these tend to be the guys who know their onions and understand how to put a bait together. Companies that produce a new, all-singing, all-dancing, wonder bait every twelve months, have a habit of being the ones that are clutching at straws.    

I also found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with John when he talked about attractors and high flavour levels; such things are undoubtedly vitally important in hookbaits and short-term, high-attract baits, but they are largely unnecessary in long-term foodbaits. Baits designed with prolonged baiting campaigns in mind, really do not need to be recognisable to the human nose at twenty-five paces!

The problem with full-blown nutritional baits as far as the bait companies are concerned, is that, as a general rule of thumb, they are considerably more expensive to put together than an alternative with lower food value, so beware of those that offer the world’s most nutritionally rich boilie at £4.00 for as much as you can carry… I worked in the bait industry for almost thirty-five years, and as far as I am concerned, it simply cannot be done.

Before I leave the subject of our resident country and western carper, and long- and short-term baits, I should just mention that I have always advocated — as I suspect John would — that you should try to nail your flag to the mast of the bait that best suits your own specific needs and style of fishing. I am certainly not suggesting that there is no place for low-food value baits, but companies that sell you them and claim that they are the ultimate nutritional food-value bait are, I am afraid, guilty of pulling the wool over your eyes.

These days, it is a legal requirement for ingredients used in the production of a bait to be listed on the packaging, which is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. Without an accompanying nutritional analysis, however, such things actually tell you very little; just stating that a bait contains rennet casein, begs the question: how much?

Now I am not suggesting for a second that any bait company would attempt to have your pants down, but theoretically, the less scrupulous amongst them could sprinkle a mere few grams of casein into a ton mix and list it on the label — as if!

Bait companies are not just there to put carp food in glossy, eye-catching bags and go on to systematically empty your wallet over the course of a season; they are — or at least should — also be there to offer advice and help you in the pursuit of your dream season. 

Don’t be frightened to pick up the phone or contact them via social media to ask any questions you want answering, and if they are not willing to help, I would be immediately suspicious. It goes without saying that they are not going to give out their exact recipes, but the basic ingredients used in the production of their baits, and protein and fat percentages should be information that they are happy to divulge to the bait-buying public.



If my recent application for my dream job is successful, I might find myself too tight for time to continue with ‘Carping Allegedly’, which I am sure will be music to the ears of the folding reel handle brigade, distance stick users and those who see fit to cheat by attempting to catch carp off the surface… 

At the time of writing, Tony Pulis has just been relieved of his management duties at the mighty Sheffield Wednesday, after following Garry Monk into the job and after a mere forty-two days in the hot seat! Having been a lifelong Owls fan who’s followed them through thin and thinner, man and boy, I have obviously been distraught to witness their fall from grace in recent times and to see so many managers come and go, none of whom have been capable of stopping the rot.

With that in mind, I have written to our owner and millionaire tinned tuna magnate, Dejphon Chansiri, suggesting that I might be the man to manage the team going forward. My application is based largely on the fact that I too would be totally inept and incapable of doing the job, but would be happy to take up the role for a mere 10 per cent of the wages that those who have gone before me have earned.

By the time this magazine goes to print, I suspect the blue and white tide will have replaced Tony Pulis. If Mr. Chansiri realises that my application is the best option for the club, I will see you on Match of the Day 2. If not, I will probably be back here next month with more of this Carping Allegedly rubbish.


The early part of 2021 and most of 2020 have undoubtedly been the strangest of times any of us have lived through. Globally, COVID-19 has taken the lives of over 1.9 million people. The UK accounts for over 80,000 of these and we are back in full lockdown. Although it doesn’t really feel like it much of the time, the Pfizer vaccine, and particularly the Oxford-AstraZeneca alternative, do at least offer a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. There is, however, no getting away from the fact that 2021 is still going to be a tough trot for everybody. 

I found the fact BoJo and his band of merry men were looking to ban angling during the current lockdown (which would have been the case, were it not for the efforts of the Angling Trust), very frustrating and largely unnecessary. I fail to see how being outside and keeping a sensible distance from the guy in the next swim can see us likely to spread the virus, but rules, as they say, are rules, and after all, we are all in this grand old mess together!

As is always the case with things like this, the carpy social media burst into life within minutes of the proposed angling ban being announced, and I have to say my ghast was well and truly flabbered! People were shouting and screaming, suggesting that they should be entitled to a percentage of their licence fee back, and that syndicates should look into refunding some of the money that their members had paid. For crying out loud, the virus has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, put many thousands of people out of work and ruined innumerable livelihoods. Surely we could have gone a couple of months of our lives without angling, if it were to contribute, albeit perhaps only a tiny bit, to the ultimate aim of getting our lives back to something approaching normal. I promise you, them carps would have still been there, and maybe they might have even benefited from a break in the relentless pressure!

Before I move on — and although COVID is obviously a very serious subject — I have found some of the pandemic jokes on social media rather amusing, none more so than that from the genius who came up with: ‘Tank fly boss walk jam nitty gritty, here’s the next slide from Professor Chris Whitty.’ Brilliant!

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