I’m sure the average hookbait used by carpers on most waters is 15mm…and why not? They are so easy to bait up with, and would be my starting point on a new water.
The simplest way to improve your baiting situation is use a mix of sizes from 10-20mm just so that the carp don’t get used to picking up one size of free offering. With every bait the same the additional weight of a Fang or Twister is far easier for a carp to work out.
A Cybershot puts even smaller baits long distances and a Spomb allows you to use any size and shape baits at any range. Don’t simply use small baits for close range and large ones for long range - the carp don’t care about how far from the bank the boilie is! Mix the sizes up, then you have easy options for the hookbait.
On the hair we mostly go smaller when bites are harder to come by but a large hook bait over a bed of smaller ones often gets an instant pickup from a greedy old carp in my opinion. A small pop up at range when everyone else is using large 20mm freebies has always worked well for me too.
Don’t give up on the plain old 15mm boilie out the bag, carp eat thousands for free so they will always work. But mix the sizes up in the swim and try going bigger as well as smaller.
Round and round we go with colours – our choices are so heavily affected by marketing hype. One minute pink is the best ever colour, then it is washed out pastel shades.
I am a big fan of experimenting with colour and the colder it gets the more I experiment. If one type or colour of bait is going in constantly that would be my starting point, so from March to October fishing Scopex Squid I’d start on two hook baits the same as the freebies but ALWAYS have a third on an alternative one. Usually it’s white as that works best for me. A little tip is that I add some broken up white freebies (Coconut Crème or Amber Strawberry) to my Spomb mix just so that the white hookbait isn’t too blatant. Not many, maybe ten halved baits in a litre of mush but just enough to have the odd fleck of white on the bottom. If I have any sweetcorn in the mix I may well use a small yellow pop-up instead.
If I get a pickup pretty quickly on a brighter hookbait then at least two of the three rods are changed to it and sometimes all three. On some days one colour will rule the roost and it’s daft not to take the hint.
In the colder months fishing over less solid bait and probably more over groundbait I use three different colours usually white, yellow and pink. Whatever colour gets a take first I change two rods over to and so on.
If I don’t get takes and think I should be the pink goes to red and the yellow to orange…but the white always stays on such is my confidence in it!
A bright pop-up cast out at dawn over food bait also often gets a cheeky bite prior to me packing away to go to work…worth a try??
Virtually all free offerings that go out are round and the same applies to hookbaits too…I am happy for 95% of people to fish identically, and because they do, 95% of the time I don’t use round hookbaits which gives me the advantage!
I love dumbbell pop-ups, finding they are more buoyant in smaller sizes and my hook holds tend to be better as a result. Gary Bayes produces lovely dumbbells, both in frozen and shelf-life Top Rod baits, and even better there are brilliant Rainbow Pop-Ups in dumbbell shape. I can have a different shape and also lots of different colours in the same pot – instantly different to everyone else.
For bottom baits I cube a 20mm shelf-life with a Stanley knife to release the flavours and improve the hooking potential of the hook bait, then soak it in glug forever! The trimming allows the hook bait to draw in the glug and these heavily soaked cubes are a massive advantage when temperatures drop.
When fishing over my Spomb ’mush’ of boilie crumb and chops I often use a smaller hookbait but nibble it down with my teeth or a pair of rig scissors so it looks like a bit of broken boilie rather than a ’perfect’ one. This can trip up wary carp and is always worthwhile over mini feed items. With pop-ups just taking the smooth sides off the hook bait can make a real slow sinker which trips up carp preoccupied on bits and pieces.
APART from floater and zig captures 95% of my carp in the last ten YEARS have been caught on pop-ups! From deep to shallow, hard to easy, clear to weedy, winter and summer alike pop-ups have done me proud….and they will for you too! I favour pop-up rigs for one main reason, they constantly reset the rig no matter how many failed attempts carp or nuisance fish have at them. Because the pop up is holding the hook up in position unless that hook finds flesh it will reset, reset, reset - which bottom baits and wafters don’t.
To be clear I fish the hook bait as close to the bottom as possible so that the hook is just off the lakebed and unless it’s a gin clear rock hard shallow lake you would never know it’s off bottom. Think where a carp’s eyes are? You really think it can tell that the hook bait is 5-10mm off the bottom? It’s not an eel is it…
So if you get the height right, get the rig mechanics right (Multi Rig for me every time) the pop-up is an incredible edge for you all. If you don’t use pop-ups you ought to. Simples!
I do use bottom baits but for me they are an alternative or specialist hookbait. If everyone is on pop-ups then I’d try a 20mm bottom bait. If I was heavily baiting a water with large baits and the bottom was relatively clear again I’d be daft not to use one. If the lakebed is clean and sandy or silt I’d also consider using a standard bottom bait and use rig mechanics to trip the carp up.
Finally if no one was catching and pop-ups were being used regularly I’d also try a bog standard bottom bait. But remember just like pop-ups you can vary the shape, size and colour to give you an advantage. There are lots of things you can do to a bottom bait to make it different to a round bait out the bag.
When you land a fish do you use a new hook bait or cast the same one back out you’ve just had the bite on? It’s a question that comes up a lot!
If the hook bait has been out there some time before it has been picked up it maybe the carp has only found it acceptable because it has become a bit more washed out, in which case I would almost certainly use the exact same hook bait again. Obviously it needs to be in a state to be used again so you may need to rethread the hair or screw the bait spike in the other end of the pop-up.
If the hookbait gets taken soon after casting maybe it’s better to use a brand new one as the carp is going for the stronger smelling hook bait so do the same again with a newbie, or even try a dipped bait for even stronger smell and see if you get a faster reaction. That’s the reason I often recast at least one of my rods to the same spot at least twice a day just to see if a change of hook bait does the trick. No-one can say for sure but if you are thinking you are learning.
I AM pretty obsessive when it comes to hookbaits and mostly my hands don’t touch them until I have dipped my hands in the water I am about to fish at. I certainly wouldn’t fill up on the way and let any diesel or petrol be on my hands. Likewise if you wear aftershave or facial balm I’d be washing my hands and getting some ‘mother nature’ on them before I started handling hookbaits. Maybe it makes a difference or maybe not but it’s just what I do! Look at it this way – that level of attention can’t hurt or put carp off, it can only help.
The majority of hook baits carp see are single baits, be they 10,15 or 20mm. If I fish a bottom bait it’s not usually one but two according to my carping diaries. Although I have done fine on snowman presentations I have done far better on double bottom baits…which will surprise many of you I bet.
Two bog standard 15mm baits on a longish hair and the hook holds have been fantastic. When I use 10mm baits I often use three. Not only are you obviously increasing the attraction of the hook bait but it’s also a lot harder for the carp to deal with two or three hook baits when they take them in, multiple baits are a brilliant anti-eject rig.
You don’t even have to use two baits the same. I often combine a Scopex Squid with an Amber Strawberry in winter. One can be soaked and one can be standard so you get the best of both worlds, instant and long term leak off. I honestly think that double bottom baits beat a snowman hands down and if you don’t agree have you tried one against the other to be sure?
Whilst carp can and do feed by sight, getting the attractors right in your hook bait makes a massive difference. A trick that many seem to miss is to use paste around the hook bait which is where the Nashbait paste range comes in very handy especially in the colder months. Simply make your hair longer than normal and wrap some paste around a 10 or 15mm hook bait. Paste not being boiled and skinned will pump out the attractors from the second it’s in the water. In winter this is a massive advantage as cold water tends to lock in attractors even more that are already locked in from boiling the hook baits in the first place.
You can even use a wrap of paste to stop long hairs tangling and can combine one flavour of paste with a different hook bait to really double your chances. The Top Rod shelf-life paste can be left in your tackle bag for as long as you want and will be an edge over carp and other carp anglers. This winter…Amber Strawberry paste IS your edge. Don’t say I didn’t tip you off in advance!