Which fishing bait should I use at Picks Cottage? When it comes to frequently asked questions, this one has definitely got to be at the top of our list.
Choosing the right bait can make all the difference when it comes to fishing. I'm not one to preach about wonder baits though - I've seen anglers catch on every bait under the sun. What does become apparent though is that there's certainly a few trends with particular baits always producing a greater percentage of the bites.
With so many options these days it can be pretty overwhelming. If you're anything like me, you've probably got a stack of half opened bags and more tubs of pop ups than you could get through in a lifetime. What I've noticed is that anglers often fall for the latest trend instead of choosing a bait based on it ability to consistently produce. Angling is about stacking the odds in your favour, there are no guarantees unfortunately! Location, watercraft, rigs, technique and bait are all pieces of the same puzzle. By learning what works for you, the puzzle will soon come together.
It may sound surprising but all five of our lakes require different approaches. Carp are famously greedy, but this doesn't mean they'll necessarily take a hook to the lip because you've put some food in front of them. There's been countless occasions where I've seen an angler struggling for a bite but then a quick change of bait has turned things around. This becomes most apparent when you see match anglers at work in my opinion. Generally speaking, a match angler hones his tactic on the day dependent on conditions, continuously changing their approach until our puzzle analogy comes together.
THE MATCH LAKE & FLOAT POND
When it comes to bait choice on either of these waters, I always recommend anglers use natural baits such as red maggot or worm as hook baits. Both these waters have clean clay bottoms with presentation generally not an issue, natural baits will produce little suspicion by the fish and readily accepted. Groundbait really makes a difference in attracting fish to your swim to. I prefer to use a finer ground bait when temperatures are cold and a coarser mix as temperatures warm up. A finer mix will help to keep fish interested without the risk of overfeeding. Combine your groundbait with some small pellets (2-6mm) to add some food value. There's little point in piling in ground bait if there's no bait to keep the fish interested once they've arrived. Another option as loose feed is rolled barley. We feed both these lakes on this supplementary feed so they're very accustomed to feeding on this.
THE DOUGHNUT AND S LAKE
If you're a fan of big carp you're probably more interested in fishing the Doughnut or S lakes. Most anglers will use a combination of boilies and pop-ups/wafters on these lakes. With boilies regularly fed I'd suggest sticking to this approach. The carp are very familiar to feeding on these baits regardless of brand or flavour. When it comes to which boilie you should use, we recommend using something sweet and nutty. Baits such as Mainline Cell, Urban Bait Nutcracker or Sticky Manilla are top of the list in catch reports. Frozen or shelflife can be used, with no notable difference between the two. The primary difference between these two are the inclusion of preservatives in the shelf-life form. If you get bored try tasting the difference, there's very little between the two forms. I'd sway on the side of frozen as fresh is best but the majority of anglers will use shelflife for convenience.
A 15mm bait is a good all-rounder, it's not overly selective and reduces the likelihood of carp filling their guts before reaching your hook bait. Varying the size of your bait can give you an edge over other anglers supposedly, but from our experience it makes little difference to catch reports. The only tip I would give is to try crushing your boilie to a flake. Flaked boilie sits on weed far more effectively than a whole boilie and creates more interest. If you chuck a handful of boilie in the edge you'll see it covers a very small area and often sinks in the weed. Flaked boilie however will create a larger bed of bait rested on top of the weed. We do have a boilie crusher in the shop, I'm always happy to flake some of your bait for you free of charge should you fancy trying it.
Want to flake your boilies? Ask us in the shop we'll run it through the crusher free of charge!
Colour can also help. Washed out baits, subtle whites and yellows are all good places to start. If bites are slow I've often seen fluoro baits (neon pinks/yellows start to produce fish. I always keep a pot of Mainline Cell Pink & Whites for such occasions - they've often saved me a blank! Solid PVA bags can be a good option on the Doughnut at times like this. A bag of micro pellets and a little wafter barrel is a personal favourite if bites seem hard to come by. There's one angler I know who solely fishes small bags on the Doughnut and manages to rack up 5+ fish on a 24hr session during the warmer months.
Hook bait presentation is really important on either lake, but critical on the S lake. This notoriously tricky water has some monstrous old carp who have seen it all. If you're fishing the S, slow sinking/critically balanced baits are often reported by anglers who catch. Make sure you test your rigs in the margins and check presentation before chucking it out. PVA Foam on the hook and light leads will also help.
Hopefully this information will help you make better informed choices when it comes to bait. Like I said at the beginning, no bait will guarantee a catch but some baits tend to produce more than others. Don't be afraid to try new approaches, the ability to adapt and learn can make all the difference.