Making your own secret catfish or carp baits is exciting and fun! It can result in catches you only ever dreamt of!
But many fishermen resist making their own baits. Unfortunately, they give up before they have even started. This is due to having been given the false impression that it’s to complicated, and that it’s only for expert fishermen, when the reverse is true!
In fact, when you make good homemade baits, you can catch loads more fish than other anglers of your experience level. Now you can learn so much more, faster, because of your improved catch rate that you soon become ‘an expert’ yourself!
The discouraged anglers are often doomed to a lifetime of missing out on many extraordinary catches and peak fishing experiences, because they rigidly stick to shop baits that are already known to catch fish. They do not fully appreciate that bait’s main advantage is that it has not been used yet, and has not hooked all the big fish in advance of the majority using it.
Using a particular shop bought baits is like entering a race, where you generally only get the best from them, when they are used for the first time on a water and where the fish do not associate them with danger yet.
After they have been used for a while successfully, results become standard for everyone using them again, and only the very most talented anglers will still achieve outstanding catches on them, as they will again have lost that competitive edge of being new and different.
There is also that unique sense of joy and satisfaction at catching a personal best fish or perhaps lake record fish, on a bait you personally have designed and made yourself. This is something that makes for some very special moments in your personal archive of special fishing memories!
Making and mixing dry dough baits and boilies:
(There’s more great information for more experienced anglers later in this article, so please bear this in mind!)
To make things much easier for everyone, let’s start by using a ‘standardized starting measure’. Often it’s easiest to bring a combination of dry flours, meals and ground materials together, to form one dry powder mixture. You can then add this to eggs or water, to make dough bait, paste bait, or so-called ‘boilie’ baits.
Boiled baits are most often small round dough bait balls, with eggs included. When these dough baits are dropped into boiling water for a minute or two, then a tough resistant skin is created around each bait, and this helps them last much longer on the hook, or on the specialist carp ‘hair rig’.
This is a short line loop (attached to your hook) of perhaps half an inch in length. A boilie bait is slid onto this loop, using a special baiting needle. The bait is held in place using a small piece of grooved plastic or rubber to hold it in place. Such baits can effectively last on this rig for over 24 hours in the water, if necessary.
A typical homemade ‘dry ingredients base mixture’, is usually divided into 1 pound weights or 16 ounces. (Approximately 500 grammes.) By doing this you can design your bait by listing it’s ingredients in individual ounces. You can use your fishing scales and a plastic bag to help you do this!
You may prefer to use kilograms, as your ‘reference weight’ if you are making very large amounts of bait. Either way, this makes everything else easy, because you always know how much water, or eggs, or actual ingredients of which type you have put into your mix.
It is very important to make notes of each ingredient and the amounts used in your bait base mixes. Also any liquid attractors like flavours, amounts of eggs used too, as this will save you much head scratching, and unnecessary mistakes later. Making detailed records is the key to successful bait making and makes everything easy!
A simple but effective beginner’s dry ‘base mix’ for example, is the following:
* 6 ounces of ground-up trout or salmon pellets or fish meal powder.
* 5 ounces of Semolina or ground rice flour.
* 5 ounces of ground-up soya beans (or flour.)
Start by placing your dry ingredients into a big strong polythene bag; it may be quicker and easier to mix up perhaps 6 to 10 pounds of powders at a time. (3 to 5 kilograms). Blow some air into the bag and tie up the top securely. Shake the contents very well until the powders flow and have mixed thoroughly and the mixture is an even color.
You can weigh out 1 pound or 1 kilogram batches of powders, and put these into sealed labelled individual bags for storage, for later use. It’s a good idea to weigh out a 1 pound of powders and put this into a container that holds approximately this amount.
This means that from now on every time you make bait you can quickly just fill that can with any new base mix powder and you know you will have about a 1 pound dry mix to start with; to add to your liquid ingredients and eggs, etc.
Mixing your bait:
Put some powders into a large bowl or pan, e.g. one pound of dry mix, crack 4 to 6 hen eggs into another large bowl and add your other liquid ingredients to them. (Some may require accurate measuring using a needle-less syringe.)
Examples of additives to put in at this stage might include sweeteners, liquid molasses, squid extract, sweet garlic oil, liquid amino acid compound, liquid betaine, flavor components, honey, yeast extract, anise extract etc.
Beat these very well until the consistency and color are even.
I tend to over flavour with an alcohol based flavour if I’m making baits to be fished as purely lone ‘attractor baits’ with no free offerings being used.
Add the dry powders, small amounts at a time, until the mixture forms a moldable dough. (It’s sometimes good to leave the mix in a sealed bag somewhere cool for 2 to 3 hours, and even leave the ‘soaking’ paste dough in the fridge overnight. This allows the liquids to penetrate into even the least soluble ingredients and really helps bait performance by maximizing its water soluble liquid attraction!)
By weighing any dry mix in a bowl, you can find the weight of dry mix required for each further 4 to 6 egg mix. Please note that every base mix you design is different and needs refining for the best mixing, rolling, digestibility, attraction, and water solubility ratios and properties you require for your particular fishing circumstances!
Roll the dough (like in bread making) to release air. You have many choices at this stage, like perhaps use a rolling pin to flatten the dough on a bread board, and then cut your dough into many odd shaped pieces. (A very quick bait making method, and a proven one for excellent catches!)
Or perhaps squeeze small pieces into dense blobs, or roll dough into sausages and create cylinder shaped pellets or flat cylinder shapes, or flat discs. (Ideal for weed and silt etc). Or chop dough into pieces and hand roll them into balls of varied sizes. (And even chop these pieces in half for another alternative shape!) A little vegetable oil on your palms will help if your baits are sticky.
I aim to create baits that will really look, act and feel different to the regimented commercial baits that the majority of anglers slavishly use predominantly these days; doing this is well worthwhile; how many carp don’t see perfectly round shaped boilies these days and don’t know how to avoid the hook where these are used most frequently?
Never forget that we anglers are training the carp to danger when we really need to keep re-educating them into thinking what we are offering them is safe! Well at least until they’ve been hooked!)
Prepared paste will ideally feel like a moldable bread dough without being sticky, this is very quick and easy to make boilies with minimum trouble, mess and time!
Try placing sausages into an empty, very clean mastic gun with the end nozzle cut to a diameter of e.g. 15 millimeters, and extrude smaller sausages to put onto a bait rolling table (a dual half round grooved device that chops and rolls simultaneously producing many round baits very fast!
I like to roll out sausages of various diameter and boil these, chopping them up when dry. I also make molded hook baits between thumb and forefinger, some with specially added cork granules to make them buoyant.
Put on a large pan of boiling water (when boiling I add sweeteners like molasses, honey, brown sugar, black treacle, and liquorice extract and sea salt. This really gives your boiled baits ‘different’ extra attraction despite having the usual firm skin).
I will often spike my hook baits or cut pieces off them to ensure their surface releases attractors much faster and can also absorb bait soaks more efficient. This really produces noticeably faster too at times. I’ve even caught fish to mid twenty pounds ‘on the drop’ straight after casting the bait in the water.
Put some bait into a sieve or chip fryer, and boil the baits for up to an average time of 90 seconds. (The less the better to retain the nutritional qualities of your bait.) Don’t forget that with using alcohol based flavors, these are boiling away into the air as vapors with every second!
Milk proteins should have the minimum boiling, or you’ll reduce their nutritional attraction and benefits, by damaging various amino acids in the proteins, (some much more than others!)
Smaller baits can take less time than e.g. 18 millimeter ones. Whatever you do, remove them from the boiling water the moment they start floating.
Lay the skinned baits to dry on cloths on wooden fruit boxes or cardboard boxes or bread trays and keep turning them over to dry and cool evenly. Leave them to dry, usually from a few hours in warm room temperatures to 3 days or more depending how hard or dry you want them!
As they dry, your finished boiles will shrink and harden and absorb any strong smells or odors nearby, so ensure you dry them in a clean environment away from chemicals, paint, cleaning products etc that may be left around inadvertently and may taint your baits with fish repellent fumes!
To preserve your baits there are many preservatives to mix with your dry bait mix before mixing, many are great for winter baits as they replace eggs which could affect results in colder water temperatures.
Put, for example, a pound of finished boilies into individually marked freezer bags, with the date and mix and attractors or flavors clearly written. Or carry on drying them until they’re 95 % plus dry, and store them in air-drying net bags, paper potato bags or similar, somewhere dry, away from rodents!
I like to put about 30 to 60 milliliters of natural attractors additives and amino acid compound with boilies into freezer bags before freezing and shake the baits to distribute them. This can more than double your catch rate! For winter, try adding a favorite ‘raw’ undiluted flavour, like “Tutti Fruitti,” “Scopex,” and “Megaspice” etc.
For waters with excessive bait robbing fish or crayfish for example, use higher levels of casein in your dedicated hook bait mix, and after boiling and drying, leave your baits in a sealed container full of sugar. This is a very effective way to harden your baits and make them effectively last much longer!
To calculate the finished weight of prepared boilies from eggs and dry mix in advance of production, the eggs, (usually large hen’s eggs) are 30 to 40 % (average) the weight of the finished bait per pound.
To make my baits different from many shop – bought, uniform shaped, machine rolled boiled baits, I boil my baits over a various range of times, e.g. short 10 to 90 seconds (with nutritional baits) up to 5 minutes with carbohydrate baits with overloaded attractors.
For a useful quick bait tip for short range hand thrown or catapulted baits for example, or in a bait delivery ‘spod’ cast out at range, use dough rolled flat and chopped finely into bait pieces. I even leave portions of this procedure un-boiled as paste pieces, to be used as free baits, and in water soluble polyvinyl alcohol (‘P.V.A.’) bags, and dry these separately.
This gives baits of varied size, shape, consistency, texture and density, allowing for much greater attraction to carp, making it very much more difficult to detect the hook bait. This is very worthwhile and many of my biggest fish have come through using these types of techniques!
Floating or ‘pop-up’ boilies:
As you are rolling all your paste into balls before boiling, put aside, e.g. 50, for buoyant hook baits. They can be great fished on their own over weed or silt, or as a ‘snowman’ when used on the hair or hook with a normal sinking boilie.
You can incorporate cork or small balls of polystyrene into these or even use a high amount of cork granules in a dedicated base mix, to adjust the amount of buoyancy you want. These are available from the commercial companies. The advantage with these is that your hook baits are identical in nutritional make-up and signal leak – off to your ‘free’ or ground baits.
Another method is to put a small number of smaller, normal baits on a plate, and microwave them in time increments of, e.g. 20 seconds, removing them before they begin to burn. These are soaked in attractors before use, to maximize attraction.
Another method is to adjust the level of ingredients until you arrive at a floating test bait. I’ve also had this happen by accident, and not design while experimenting with more buoyant ingredients like sodium caseinate, shrimp and krill meals, even some egg biscuit based bird foods, for example.
I use casein as the base with sodium caseinate and then other ingredients, as this offers great nutritional signals, while being a harder more resilient bait. You can buy ‘pop-up’ base mixes from many commercial suppliers. These baits are best left to soak in a mixture of natural attractive extracts and flavours, with an added amino acid compound for example, to harden and preserve the baits and maximize their carp attraction qualities.
Such baits fished just on their own on hard fished waters can be very productive, especially casting immediately to carp seen bubbling or ‘rolling, and ‘head and shouldering’!
So, why not give bait making a go; you really can have your ‘cake’ and eat it this is the tip of the ice-berg!
The author has many more fishing and bait ‘edges’ up his sleeve. Every single one can have a huge impact on catches…
By Tim Richardson.