Homemade Carp and Catfish Baits – How to Make Them Instantly Attractive!

* Many thoughts exist on making baits and so many ideas and opinions contradict each other. So how to find the truth about what really works?!

Well, for example, in creating recipes for an instantly attractive carp or catfish bait, (these very often work for both species) people argue over ingredients, and how baits actually trigger that crucial fish feeding response.

A good sign when designing your homemade bait is that it instantly attracts the attention of a wide range of species. This might be great if you want to target all these others, but your bait might be attracting ‘bait fish’ around your hook bait that will attract the much bigger predatory, or curious catfish, or carp.

Such baits vary from just 2 ingredients and a flavour, to the most advanced produced by fish nutritionists and biochemists. But for each extreme, there are ideas and principles common to each, so let’s start by looking at what makes a ‘simple bait’:

To begin with, the simplest baits often utilize cheaper bulk ingredients as basic as wheat or corn flour, with a ‘high energy value’ but a low protein content.

Such baits may seem easy to distinguish from the ‘balanced nutritional profile’ protein based baits, but things overlap: Each type works and seems to contradict each other’s theory of why they should work at all!

And perhaps the key is less to do with the effort and energy cost to the carp, of eating your bait, versus its bio – energy reward for doing so. But more to do with exploiting methods of initial feeding response stimulation and initial bait small, taste and palatability. For example, we all know that food that is very nutritious can be repellent because of its strong taste or smell; some people hate fish, or garlic, or certain vegetables…

So what are the theoretical origins of carp baits made from ‘humble’ low protein and economical ‘carbohydrate’ ingredients, after all, we all know sweet corn is one of the greatest carp baits of all time, even catching a British record or two, but is primarily a sweet low protein carbohydrate food?

Traditionally the best known low protein flavor attractor ‘commercial bait’ (used world wide) is probably is Rich worth’s or Rod Hutchinson’s ‘Tutti Fruiti’ flavor / boilie. Fish love certain alcohols / combinations far more than others and a cheap semolina / soya flour base mix were ideal to carry this attractor label, and work anywhere.

However, flavors were originally used in baits to change their TASTE, when catch results achieved on the low nutrition baits were slowing down, and NOT because flavors actually worked as attractors in their own right! (Although they have evolved to become so today.)

There are still many cheaper flavors, sold as ‘carp attractors’ that are really only ‘labels’ for your base mix, and do not have much in them that will trigger carp into feeding on your bait! Carp can be fooled for quite a while though; A very successful UK angler (Andy Little) who was the first to land thirty 30 pound carp in a season, did this: he began catching by feeding a high nutritional value bait into the lake (SAVAY), and as time and catches grew, his bait ran out.

So, he put the same flavor label (strawberry?) in a cheaper, low protein, high carbohydrate base mix, and he continued to catch successfully for some time. The carp had associated the flavor ‘label’ with nutritional benefit, and were fooled into carrying on eating the new bait – despite its lack of food nutrition benefits!

This category of basic dry mix consists mainly of high carbohydrate ingredients which also roll and bind together easily. A basic combination of 50 / 50 % semolina flour and soya flour is the most commonly used base, although this has often added nutritional factors added like vitamins and minerals, cheap fishmeal, an amino acid source like corn steep liquor for added attraction etc.

These baits are often highly coloured with ‘fluorescent’ edible dyes to get carp to see them more quickly and easily, black, pink and white and background contrasting colors are often ones I’ve done well on when I’ve made these baits.

You have to ask how carp see these colors in water at different light intensities, of day / night, water clarity etc, and to come to your own conclusions. White seems good as anything, and I’ve caught plenty of good carp on this.

Other ingredients are added to give a ‘variety’ or initial difference to the bait, as a carbohydrate bait can ‘blow’ very quickly compared to high nutrition baits on some water, for example a difficult, low stock density, high natural food / exceptionally high water quality lake. It can take much work in pre – baiting for example, to keep ahead of the carp’s natural wariness having been caught on these baits, and even to get them to eat such baits initially!..

You can change your bait characteristics; type of attractors, color, rate of attraction leak – off, ‘crunch factor’, etc. Instant attractor baits are often highly coloured and ‘over – flavored’ with sometimes with natural juice incorporated flavors; solvent based flavors (e.g., acetates and similar groups of chemicals), or alcohol and oil based flavors for example, and attractive extracts like that of fermented fish /shellfish.

Changing the flavors, especially of ‘non solvent’ based ones, can keep the bait working purely on the basis of flavor attraction. (Some say these baits work by ‘simulating’ the carp’s natural food signals, ionizing the area of water around the bait but there is far more to this and it is a very advanced area to really begin to understand.)

Cheaper ingredients, like ground cereals or bean derived flours and meals, make this style of bait cost effective, simple, and very quick to produce. Years ago I used to soak my baits in a mixture of pure ethyl alcohol flavors, oil based flavor extracts and liquid ‘Robin Red’ extract. The main cost was flavors and added attractors and they keep working when changed regularly although I always use a liquid protein source as a bait soak / and in the bait as I have found carp caught by doing this are often much bigger!!

I recall the first time I experimented with overloading baits with ‘raw’ undiluted flavors around 1980… I caught all night, trebling my catch rate at that time. But I used this bait only over 6 weeks, as 90 % of the carp were smaller ones 6 pounds to 16 pounds. Very nice catches despite this.

I tried this approach on a giant water in the south of France (Lac Du Salagou) about 15 years ago. I hooked a fish only 15 minutes after arriving. It was gigantic too, and emptied my reel, snapped the line, leaving my friends laughing, in a mixture of amazed shock and jealous relief that I did not land it!!! I’d gradually stripped off down to my underpants and waded out 30 yards to chest deep water too! (I wonder if the video they took of the action still exists – eh Mr Grimes!?) I still wonder about that fish….

Please be warned: Be aware that highly flavored instant attractor type baits can badly ‘backfire on you’ and actually be extremely repellant to many big carp on some waters, owing to high pH factors etc, and also where it has been used on a water, by many anglers, for quite some time.

The biggest, most wary of fish can be terrified of over flavoured baits and even the average artificially flavored bait simply because it recognizes that signal as related to danger! You may wonder why you almost never even hook a bigger fish on such a bait at certain waters. Remember, the aim of the bait is to get a carp to pick up the bait as confidently as possible, as this gives the greatest chance of obtain a solid hook hold!

I took a quality milk protein and wheat germ bait to the famous ‘Rainbow Lake’ in France, and made a terrible mistake by putting the recommended synthetic flavor in it, instead of leaving it out completely! This bait produced NO takes at all, and I ended up catching fish around 50 pounds on other bait with no flavor instead!…

The Japanese and American scientists have both proven that carp instinctively prefer a protein instead for a Carbohydrate based food.

In one of a series of similar tests producing similar results, a carp diet was supplemented with a carbohydrate food. The carp regularly ate this food for only one week before stopping. This particular food was ignored for a total of 26 weeks, but when a protein based food was then offered, it was eaten immediately!

The Japanese probably lead the world in knowledge of carp nutrition and carp attractors, with over a thousand years of history in carp breeding, testing and so on.

I’ve read that in many tests carp are induced into feeding less nutritional food, by adding PLANT EXTRACTS and NOT SYNTHETIC CHEMICAL FLAVORS. For example, I’ve seen fenugreek extract used, and this is a component of the extremely successful commercially produced ‘maple’ flavor. You must assume that these scientists are at the top of this whole game, so if they’re using it in tests as a carp feeding trigger it probably great to use in bait!

I also got the impression reading about the writings of the famous milk protein bait pioneer, Fred Wilton, that these baits were EQUALLY as effective or perhaps even MORE so, when synthetic flavours were NOT used in them! (So give it a go!)

Once, about 16 years ago, I was catching some good carp using very successful instant attractor baits, when the carp started head and shouldering, ‘en mass’, straight out of my swim, without returning; someone had just put out a large quantity of his own secret ‘High Nutritional Value’ bait (based on anchovy and sardine fishmeal), and the carp had shown their preference immediately! This taught me a BIG lesson about the advantages of really understanding essential carp nutrition in bait and how carp feeding behaviour can be manipulated by using the right bait at the right time on a particular water!!!

In some circumstances where there is sufficient baits of nutritional quality, fish mass population / density/ competition with other species / natural food supply etc, low protein carbohydrate baits can still continue to be effective, and consistently catch almost all the fish in a lake: The key seems to be in, if enough large quantities of a particular bait are introduced, and the attractors, e.g., chemical flavour labels are changed regularly enough, then they will continue to be successful.

One outstanding example of this happening on a water where quality protein and balanced nutritional profile baits had been used for many years there, was at the famous UK water; Darenth. In one season most of the waters biggest carp were landed on a carbohydrate bait based on full fat semolina and soya flour.

It may seem surprising, but then perhaps the fish treated it as a low energy cost food source as over 1 tonne was put in and it was used consistently by the majority of the anglers on fishing the at that time! Only when the anglers’ fashions changed and they tried other types of baits in large quantities did this trend in results on ‘instant baits’ reduce.

They do work well however and on a bait of a similar design, the old French “Rainbow Lake” record carp of 76 pounds was landed in 2006.

There are increasingly more countries and waters where ‘carp bait selectivity’ is now a common occurrence owing to intensive fishing pressure on carp; they can eat foods selectively while ignoring or preferring certain baits above others!

Worldwide carp do seem to literally eat almost anything used as bait. Overall, however, the majority of the heaviest carp caught in the UK seem to be caught on nutritionally based baits, but questions still arise concerning those captures by ‘instant attractor baits’ and why they can ‘trip – up’ many of the biggest carp at times… after all, carp are only conditioned by anglers and THEIR habits and preferences!

This fishing bait secrets books author has many more fishing and bait ‘edges’ up his sleeve. Every single one can have a huge impact on catches.

By Tim Richardson.

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Tim is a highly experienced homemade bait maker big carp and catfish angler of 30 years. His bait enhancing books / ebooks now help anglers in 43 countries improve their results. See this bait and fishing secrets website now!