Head-to-head: Boilies vs. particles
It’s another big debate! Julian Cundiff & Kev Hewitt have their say...
Boilies versus particles… it’s another big debate! We’ve all heard that common-turned phrase, ‘boilies catch the bigger carp’, but how much truth is there in that statement? Are particles really only effective on heavily stocked venues? Or do they work just as well on ultra-hard, pressured waters? Boilie crumb seems to be the new ‘in’ method at the moment. Aren’t you better off though, saving your money and using parti-blend if you want loads of attraction and small food items in your swim? Right guys, over to you… debate!
Julian Cundiff: “Wow! There are some pretty controversial statements there… and that’s before we go head-to-head on particles and boilies! Let’s just say from more than 35 years’ experience in carp fishing, that there’s no black and white, or always right and always wrong. Particles are no different, I guess. Kev, you’re a particle fan; I confess that I hover between avoiding them because I get mullered by nuisance fish, and genuinely forgetting to use them, if I’m being honest. Let’s start then on the biggie: do boilies catch bigger carp than particles? I’m a boilie fan and by and large, that’s why I use them.”
Kev Hewitt: “I’m not really sure that any particular bait picks out bigger fish. A carp is a carp, no matter what size they are and the more you catch from your chosen venue, the bigger the odds are that you’ll catch the better fish. I personally just fish for bites, knowing that the more bites I get, the closer I’ll be to my next big fish.”
Julian Cundiff: “So the reason you choose particles is that you feel they catch you more fish, rather than feeling that particles are better at catching big fish? It sounds more like a concept, as opposed to a bait that does it - if you get my drift. Unless I’m getting pained by small fish, I’ll always fish over the smallest boilies I can use. I’d think nothing of using three kilos of 12mm Key over three rods, but if they were 20mm, I’d have no confidence at all. What’s your starting point for particles? Hemp? Corn? Or a combination?”
Kev Hewitt: “Yes, 100%. I believe particles catch more fish - if used correctly. I have very little confidence that if I’d been a boilie-only angler from the beginning, that I’d have had half the fish I have done. I just don’t seem to be able to get the same level of competitive feeding on straight boilies… maybe it’s just a confidence thing. There are some great boilie anglers out there and I’d love to get into their brain and understand more about employing their tactic.
“I guess a big downside is the expense of boilie compared to particle. Perhaps my early days as a student with very little money forced me to particle-fish, which later resulted in my success. It’d be very hard for me to change a tactic I’ve refined and enjoyed success with over a 20-year period. Perhaps you can shed some light on the secrets to successful boilie tactics… with me, it’s all about fishing spots and accuracy. Boilie fishing is a totally different ball game. As for ratios, my basic mix would be made up of 60% hemp and 30% corn, with 10mm boilie making up the final 10%.”
Julian Cundiff: “That’s a lovely honest reply mate; you chose particles because of cost and then learned to maximise them to great effect. To be completely frank, I don’t doubt for one moment that a bed of particles pulls in more fish - in fact Rob Hughes confirmed that in the supplement with last month’s issue - and you’ve made me see that potentially, I’m missing out here.. and if I’m missing out, I guess a lot of anglers will be.
“I’m one for multiple-hit fishing and using a mush or a good spread of smaller boilies, have always been my preferred approach. Could I have caught the same, or even more using the particle approach? Maybe, maybe not. The big problem is that quite a few of my waters ban particles and in all honesty, the convenience of boilies has me blinkered… out of the freezer, coat in bait soak and crumb, then down the lake. I’ve always caught my fair share and other than in the late eighties when I saw two lads turn a water over by spodding maize, I’ve not been spanked. I guess the preparation is a pain… do you prepare them yourself, or go down the route of ready-made ones? I’ve used them prepared by both Dynamite and Nash and loved the convenience and results, but are they as good?”
Kev Hewitt: “I always cook fresh hemp. The reasons are twofold. Firstly, nothing beats freshly cooked hemp. The juices ooze oily attraction… perfect for soaking your boilies in to give them a boost. There are no preservatives at all, just fresh attraction. Secondly, it goes back to the cost issue. You can buy a sack of hemp for the cost of two or three jars of prepared seed, which probably gives you about five times as much bait, or more. It’s a simple process really, I have a big water-boiler and I get home from work and chuck some hemp in to soak. The following night, I switch the boiler on, leave it for about an hour and it’s done - and I run an extension lead outside so I don’t stink the house out! I don’t really see it as a chore; it’s just simply part of my preparation before a trip.”
Julian Cundiff: “Great advice mate… that we can all benefit from. I think that particles became a lot more attractive with the advent of the Spomb and similar baiting aids. No more ‘spod spill’ all round the swim, and as you say, great for spot fishing short, or long-range. One thing I do use it for is clearing areas of weed - if that does not sound too blasé. Cover the weedy areas in hemp and corn and they’ll soon rip it to pieces, which I guess is testament to how much they love the stuff. I still use particles in the height of summer when it’s nigh-on impossible to get a bite from boilies on some of my waters. I use a combination of hemp and chopped or crushed tigers, with double tiger as hookbait - believe me, that’s got me out of jail on many occasions.
“I suppose I should be fighting the corner of the boilie angler, so let’s be clear inasmuch as they’re my first choice on most occasions… preparation is minimal, it’s instant attraction and they’re very easy to put out accurately. I also have the sneaky feeling that the bigger fish tend to fall for them more often, but I guess it’s easy to explain that one away, as many more carp anglers prefer them over particles. I’m no biologist, but they’re probably better for carp than particles. The preparation can’t be messed up - which it certainly can with particles. Finally, I’m sure you can get more consistent action with a minimal number of boilies compared to small amounts of particle.
“Perhaps I’m clutching at straws here, so let me ask you about particles in colder conditions… I’ve caught over corn, but have never found particles as effective in the cold - especially compared to the single, hi-viz pop-up tactic we boilie anglers use. Any thoughts?”
Kev Hewitt: “It would be very hard to trigger the same competitive feeding in winter as what can be attained during the warmer months. This in itself, without doubt, makes particle fishing less effective in winter. That’s not to say carp can’t be caught on particle in winter… I just use a lot less bait and set a trap to nick a bite, rather than trying to fish for a hit. Where allowed, the addition of live baits, such as maggots and/or worms mixed with particles is a fantastic combination in cold weather. My other fallback is to simply fish waters with a proven track record in winter, such as Orchid Lakes in Oxfordshire…. the fishing in winter on there can be just like summer! I can count on the fingers of one hand, how many fish I’ve caught on singles, but I can also count on the fingers of my other hand, how many times I’ve used them! They can be effective, no doubt at all; it’s just not a tactic I enjoy employing. I‘d rather use a solid bag or a Zig - but that’s a story for another day.”
Julian Cundiff: “Good advice again Kev, and I think that’s the area where boilies have a big advantage. Yes, you can get bites in the cold with particles, but the single, hi-viz pop-up with a bag of crumb is so effective, and continues to be. For me, a boilie angler, I like to keep my angling as uncomplicated as possible and that’s why boilies work so well for me. I’m not going to use this as an advert, but I’m still using the same bait I was in 2014: Nashbait Key. I know I can take it anywhere; it needs very little preparation and it’s both instant and consistent… from 12mm to 20mm, hookbaits, dips the lot. That’s where boilies have the advantage Kev.
“Reading between the lines, it seems that particles are great when you’re looking for hits of fish and have the time to prepare, apply, and sit over them - probably perfect for your style of fishing then. Boilies have the advantage of being equally as effective in small quantities as larger ones in my opinion - I guess that’s a state-of-mind thing.
“So Kev, hand on heart, which do you think is the more effective for the following criteria: ease of preparation, cost, instant results, long-term results, lack of nuisance fish and finally, for being big-fish selective?”
Kev Hewitt: “A lot can be said for fishing with something you’re confident in. You have the utmost faith in Key boilies, just as I do with particles. The moment an angler loses confidence in what they’re doing or using, it’s all downhill.
“To answer your question about what’s most effective for the various criteria, I’d say boilies are far easier to prepare, but are also much more expensive for an average angler walking into a tackle shop. Both instant and long-term results can be achieved easily with any tactic, provided you employ them correctly. One big downside to particle fishing is nuisance fish. If there’s a big head of bream, tench or even big roach present, then particle fishing can almost become a waste of time; bigger boilies in particular though, will pick out the carp for sure. As for selecting big fish, I think bite-for-bite, perhaps boilies might pick out slightly better fish, but it’s swings and roundabouts… I feel particles will catch you more fish - including the better ones.
“The most important piece of advice I’d offer anyone would be to stick to what you know best and fish with confidence. If I tried to emulate your tactics, I’d be nowhere near as successful as you; you’ve mastered the tactic over time, on a number of venues and in a range of scenarios.”
Julian Cundiff: “Absolutely Kev, and that to me is the most important thing when I go fishing. I have no worries whatsoever over bait choice, hookbaits, end tackle etc. and all I have to be concerned with is whether I can get on them, and be on them when they’re feeding? Believe me, clarity improves you as an angler, but let’s see where the questions take me rather than ‘same old, same old’…”
? For ease of preparation, it has to be boilies - although particles can be found readily prepared nowadays and some are even shelf-life. Let’s give that to boilies though.
? Cost is where particles win hands down, for sheer weight for your money.
? Regarding instant results, I think that’s probably a score draw, as I’ve seen immediate results over corn and hemp, just as much as boilies.
? Long-term effectiveness is probably the same, as some waters still respond to corn, tigers etc., just as much as they do with Scopex Squid, Cell and the like.
? The nuisance fish category is where you get murdered on particles though. On some waters I’ve fished - like Motorway, Lakewood and Catch 22 - if you use particles, it’s hell… bream, rudd, roach, the lot! They’re great for the general angler, but not so for those wanting any degree of selection.
? For big fish, I think you’re more likely to catch the better ones quicker on boilies, but with particles it’s a case of wading through them until the better ones arrive, and so not the clear cut scenario I envisaged. Like many, I’ve got lazy when it comes to particles and because the waters I’ve targeted favour my boilie approach, my laziness has compounded. For anyone on a budget, particles are a given. If you fish a water with a good head of carp and it’s a big-hit scenario, then again it’s particles. For shorter sessions, flitting between waters, targeting bigger carp and cold-water situations, I think boilies are the one. Is that fair Kev?
Kev Hewitt: “I think it’s safe to say we agree on most of the above. I’d love to meet up on the bank at some point to pick your brains further on boilie fishing as it’s something I have a whole lot to learn about.
“Thanks for taking the time to have this conversation; it’s always a pleasure working with you. I’m guessing this is all we have time for now…”
How Kev's particle mixes have changed over the years...
“Pigeon conditioner, 4mm trout pellet and Nashbait’s Whisky boilies; a cheap mix and I won the boilies in a Carp Society raffle!”
“Hemp, sweetcorn, mixed pellet and Tock Special Boilies (my first sponsor).”
“Hemp, tiger nuts, roasted peanut chops and peanut meal. The Linch Hill fish loved nuts!”
“Hemp, corn, roasted peanut chops and 10mm Equinox boilies.”
“Hemp, corn and 10mm Live System - simple, reliable mix.”