Groundbait


Background Ingredients Recipes Mixing Loose feed Feeding hints

Background

Overview

The use of groundbait, or chum, in many ways optimizes the differences between European and American fishing philosophies. In essence, anglers in the U.S. generally adopt a mobile or 'stalking' type approach with regard to their quarry - such an approach most often takes the form of moving from spot to spot, usually via boat, and then angling for the actively feeding fish in upon arrival at each location. In contrast, the European approach adopts more of a static or 'ambush' style strategy. While it is relatively simple for the angler to catch the actively feeding or resident fish from his or her chosen swim, only through the introduction of groundbait can additional fish be quickly attracted into the area and eventually caught. Unfortunately, most casual bank fishers in the U.S. fail to realize the importance of using groundbait effectively and, as a result, often sit biteless for great periods of time after the initial inhabitants of their chosen swim have been captured. Thus, the main goal of this document is address the four points outlined below, while a simpler introduction to groundbaiting can be found at the Bank fishing strategies page:
 
1. 
 

 

Explain the function of a groundbait in terms of how it's individual components attract and / or feed fish. Discuss why the consistency of a groundbait mix is also an important variable with regard to achieving these main goals.
2.
 

 

List essential groundbait ingredients easily obtainable from commercial U.S. outlets, such as supermarkets, feed stores and the like. Categorize each item as either and attractor, bulk ingredient (food item) or binder. Note: some ingredients possess two or even all three of these properties.
3.

 

List successful recipes designed for use on a cross section of venues and for a variety of target species.
4. Discuss how different types of groundbait (including loose feed) are prepared for specific applications, as well as how and when these mixes are to be introduced to an angler's swim. 

 
Some popular commercial mixes and manufacturers - the information discussed below will allow you to construct similar groundbaits from easily obtainable ingredients.
 

How a groundbait works

Generally speaking, groundbaits are intended to first attract fish to the swim and then hold them there by providing a palatable and readily available* food source. Thus, an angler must mix appropriate ingredients together to form a groundbait that achieves both of these two main goals. Additionally, the ground bait selected must be of an appropriate consistency. For example, a very light or 'fluffy' mix would be useless when fishing for 'cats or carp on the bed of a fast flowing river. Under such circumstances, binders or heavy inert bulk ingredients must also be added to the mix in order to ensure that the groundbait reaches the river bed. These three main components of a groundbait are discussed in more detail below:
 
Attraction:
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Essentially all groundbaits contain one or more attractants, which are in turn designed to draw fish into the vicinity of the angler's bait. Attractants can be further categorized into three main types: Taste and smell, Biochemical or Visual. The choice of attractor(s) used is in most part dictated by the species of fish sought. For example, sight feeders (such as 'gils) on clear water lakes are quickly attracted to a 'milky' cloud resulting from the introduction of some non - dairy creamer; while bottom feeders, that rely more on their sense of smell (such as catfish), are  more likely to be attracted to a denser (bottom) mix containing pungent fish oils and/or bloodmeal.
Feed:
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Once a groundbait's attractants have brought the fish into an anglers swim, they are then inclined  to begin feeding upon the groundbait's feed ingredients and, in doing so, remain in the vicinity of the angler's hookbait. Most groundbaits' bulk feed ingredients are cereal or seed based and may include, for example, white bread crumbs, corn meal or ground hemp seed. It is also important to include a few loose offerings of hookbait within any finished groundbait, as this will encourage fish to actively seek out these more tempting morsels. A good analogy would be that of an Indian or Thai curry - while the sauce and rice are tasty and make up the bulk of the meal, the pieces of shrimp or chicken within the mix are what really hold our interest and have up 'poking around' for them(!). 
Binders:
 
 
 
 

 

The consistency of a groundbait mix has a significant bearing on its overall effectiveness. To continue the example begun in the attraction section, the cloudbait used for 'gils should contains no binders and should be mixed either very wet (almost as a slurry) or very dry. In each case, the mix disperses immediately and forms an attractive surface / midwater cloud. In contrast, the river mix for 'cats would be transformed into a stiff, heavy paste through the addition of binders (such as flour) or dense inert ingredients / binders (such as clay or soil) to the feed. Dense paste-like mixes quickly sink to the bottom of fast flowing rivers and are not immediately washed away by strong currents.

* Once a groundbait has been mixed, it must then be introduced to the swim. This endeavor is called 'feeding' and often requires some degree of skill on the part of the angler. The angler's goal is to establish a competitive feeding environment among the fish in his or her swim. Simply, the angler wants to introduce enough groundbait to keep the fish interested, while being careful not to over feed the fish present. Feeding an excess of groudbait will have the effect of overwhelming the fish present with simply too much food, thus having them become 'picky' or inactive; while not feeding enough groundbait will result in a lower number of fish being attracted to the swim. Under or over feeding is often signaled by a decrease in catch rate when match fishing. Proficient match fishers are able to 'read' such situations and act accordingly. This is a skill that can essentially only be acquired through practice. Feeding tips are discussed later in this document.

Interestingly, when one considers the approach of the casual angler bank angler who merely fishes with just a single hookbait, this approach can be considered to be an extreme form of under feeding - it then comes as little surprise that such an approach generally results in a low catch rate.

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Ingredients


The following is a list of groundbait ingredients commonly available in the United States. In each case, ingredients have been categorized in terms of their principle application (attractor, bulk food or binder), although it should be remembered that some ingredients may possess two or more of these general properties.
 
 

Bulk feed Ingredients

Ingredient Details Locator
White bread crumbs
 
 
 
 

 

Food value: High
Binding properties: Good
Max. percent in mix: 90(+)
Notes: A very popular, easily obtainable ingredient with high food value and good binding characteristics - good for 'stiff' river mixes.
Supermarkets
 
 
 
 

 

Corn meal
(white or yellow)
 
 
 

 

Food value: High
Binding properties: poor
Max. percent in mix: 90(+)
Notes: A very popular, easily obtainable ingredient with high food value and poor binding characteristics - excellent visual attractor also (good for cloud mixes).
Supermarkets
 
 
 
 

 

Ground hemp seed /
Toasted ground hemp seed
 
 
 
 
 

 

Food value: Medium - high
Binding properties: Good
Max. percent in mix: ~70
Notes:  A major component in most commercial mixes. It is very attractive to fish, probably due to its high oil content. Hemp seeds require grinding or grinding then toasting before use. Because hemp oil is less dense than water (and therefore floats), hemp particles tend to 'dance' as the oil is released. This activity is attractive to fish.
Animal feed
stores
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Ground peanuts / peanut meal Food value:  High
Binding properties: Good
Max. percent in mix: ~50
Notes:  A great ingredient - fish love the high oil content of ground peanuts / peanut meal. Can be expensive, so buy from pet or feed stores. Peanut meal based groundbait was used by many competitors in the 2002 world fishing champs.
Animal feed
stores and pet stores
Graham or other sweet cookie crumbs Food value: Medium - high
Binding properties: Good
Max. percent in mix: ~ 40 - 60
Notes:  Cookie crumbs make excellent 'active' ingredients. Simply, they absorb water at different rates (based on their size) and so escape form the groundbait ball, then rise and fall through the water column, at different rates. This activity is highly attractive to fish.
Supermarkets
Fishmeal
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Food value: Medium
Binding properties: Poor - medium
Max. percent in mix: ~50
Notes:  A major component in many commercial mixes. It is very attractive to fish, probably due to its high concentration of volatile nitrogen compounds, taste and smell. Also used in paste and boiled carp baits. Be sure to buy feed grade product (contains anti-oxidants), as fertilizer grade may go rancid. 
Animal feed
stores
 
 
 
 
 

 

Bloodmeal
 
 
 
 
 

 

Food value: Medium 
Binding properties: Poor
Max. percent in mix: ~20
Notes:  Bloodmeal is the dried remains of congealed blood. An excellent catfish attractor when used alone or with fishmeal, plus a good all around fish attractor when used in small amounts with chopped worm.
Animal feed
stores
 
 
 
 

 

Liquidized white
bread
 
 
 
 
 

 

Food value: High
Binding properties: Medium - good
Max. percent in mix: 100
Notes: Prepare by cutting the crusts from fresh slices of white bread, cutting into ~1" pieces and then processing in a liquidizer. The resulting 'licky' is a semi -buoyant, fluffy material that slowly sinks. Store in an air tight freezer bag. Try using neat in conjunction with a bread flake or pellet  hook bait for shinners.
Supermarkets
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Molasses meal
 
 

 

Food value: High
Binding properties: Good
Max. percent in mix: ~40
Notes: Dried brown molasses. An excellent addition to any sweet (bottom) groundbait mix. Copra molasses contains coconut.
Animal feed
stores
 

 

Binders and inert ingredients


Ingredient Details Locator
Flour
 

 

Binding properties: Excellent
Density: Low
Notes: Add as required.
Supermarkets
 

 

Potato starch
 

 

Binding properties: Excellent
Density: Low
Notes: Add as required.
Asian supermarkets
(used in dumplings)

 

Wheat gluten
 

 

Binding properties: Excellent
Density: Low
Notes: Add as required.
Home baking section
of some supermarkets

 

Ground bird seed 
 
 

 

Binding properties: Excellent
Density: Low
Notes: Essentially a coarse ground whole flour. Needs to be ground before use. Add as required.
Pet stores
 
 

 

Potting or regular top soil
 
 
 

 

Binding properties: Good
Density: Medium
Notes: Add as required to a finished groundbait mix. Use only organic soil. DO NOT use soils containing P2O5, as this will lead to the formation of phosphoric acid in your swim!
Garden supply stores, the great outdoors(!)
 
 
 

 

A.R.T. clay
 
 

 

Binding properties: Excellent
Density: Medium -  high
Notes: Add as required to a finished groundbait mix. The best
all around solution in terms of binding properties and density.
On-line or
art suppliers
 

 

Sand or gravel
 
 

 

Binding properties: None
Density: High
Notes: Add as required to a finished groundbait mix / binder combination. 
Pet stores, building 
supply yards, the great
outdoors(!)

 

Tip: I carry a mixture of the first four low density ingredients with my gear - they can then easily be added to any regular mix to form a 'method' mix if necessary. The high density ingredients are most often only used on the river, so do not need to be carried at all times.
 
 

Attractants
.

Ingredient Details Locator
Vanilla flavor or extract 
 
 
 

 

Type of Attractor: Taste and smell
Dose: 10 - 20 mL per 1 kg (2.2 lb) mix
Notes: Easily available and very effective. Good as either a stand alone attractor or (better) with sweeteners.
Supermarkets 
 
 
 

 

Fruit flavors (food flavorings and carp bait flavors)
 
 
 

 

Type of Attractor: Taste and smell
Dose: 10 - 20 mL per 1 kg (2.2 lb) mix
Notes: Easily available and pretty effective (especially strawberry). Good as either a stand alone attractor, or (better) with sweeteners. Carp bait flavors are very concentrated and should be used in lower amounts. 
Supermarkets,
On-line stores
 
 
 
 

 

Intense liquid sweeteners
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Type of Attractor: Taste and smell
Dose: 10 - 20 mL per 1 kg (2.2 lb) mix
Notes: Easily available and effective when used in conjunction with complementary flavors. Liquid sweet 'n low is available at most supermarkets and works well. Carp bait sweeteners (scopex) are very concentrated and should be used in lower amounts.
Supermarkets,
On-line stores
 
 
 
 
 

 

Corn Syrup
 
 
 
 

 

Type of Attractor: Taste and smell
Dose: Up to 50+ mL per 1 kg (2.2 lb) mix
Notes: Easily available and effective, less 'bang for the buck' in terms of sweetness levels compared with artificial flavors. Can make mixes sticky.
Supermarkets
 
 
 
 

 

Cream of corn
 
 
 

 

Type of Attractor: Taste and smell
Dose: One can per 1 kg (2.2 lb) mix
Notes: Easily available and effective, especially when putting a sweet groundbait together for use in conjunction with corn on the hook for carp.
Supermarkets
 
 
 

 

Fish oils
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Type of Attractor: Taste and smell, biochemical
Dose: No real limits (natural ingredient)
Notes: Available domestically (Menhaden oil) and on-line. Effective for most types of fish, especially 'cats and panfish. A good binder and source of volatile nitrogen compounds (Volatile nitrogen compounds may invoke a biochemical feeding response in the fish). Avoid fish oil fertilizers from garden stores - they are often rancid.
Marsh bait company
On-line stores
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Anchovy extract
 
 
 
 

 

Type of Attractor: Taste and smell
Dose: 10 - 30 mL per 1 kg (2.2 lb) mix
Notes: The secret ingredient of Thai cuisine! This product is the water based extract of anchovy - a great fishy smell, reasonably cheap.

 

Asian supermarkets
 
 
 
 

 

Seed oils (Hemp, sesame, peanut)
 
 
 
 

 

Type of Attractor: Taste and smell
Dose: 10 - 40 mL per 1 kg (2.2 lb) mix
Notes: Listed in order of effectiveness. Great addition to any mix, although makes the mix sticky in large amounts. Oils are less dense than water so rise to the surface, forming a trail fish cruising at mid-water can home in on.
Wacker baits
Asian and 'regular' supermarkets
 
 
 

 

Essential oils (garlic, black pepper etc.)
 

 

Type of Attractor: Taste and smell
Dose: 5 -  20 DROPS per 1 kg (2.2 lb) mix
Notes: The purified 'flavor' of the parent plant. Very concentrated, use only in small amounts.
Aromatherapy suppliers
 
 

 

Natural extracts and purees (liquidized squid, worm 
extract, crawfish extract) 
 
 

 

Type of Attractor: Taste and smell, biochemical
Dose: variable (no real limit for 'naturals')
Notes: Liquidized squid can be used in large amounts (up to ~50% of an attractor 'slurry' for 'cats) while the others up to ~ 20 - 30 mL per mix.
Supermarkets, some
tackle stores, on-line stores.
 
 

 

Betaine
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Type of Attractor:  Biochemical
Dose: No more that 10 mL per 1 kg (2.2 lb) mix.
Notes: Much hyped carp additive. Betaine is a naturally occurring (found in green lipped mussel and other marine extracts) amino acid derivative said to stimulate fish in to feeding. Present in many commercial aquaculture feed supplements, such as AquatracTM. Overrated, in my opinion, but worth a try.
Wacker baits, on-line stores.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Non-dairy creamer
 
 
 
 

 

Type of Attractor:  Visual, taste and smell
Dose: Up to 90 % + of a 'cloud' mix.
Notes: A superb cloud bait can be made by mixing non-dairy creamer into a 'porridge' like consistency. Introduce via a pole pot (cannot be catapulted or thrown).
Supermarkets
 
 
 
 

 

Fine ground corn or maize meal
 
 

 

Type of Attractor:  Visual, taste and smell
Dose: Up to 90 % + of a 'cloud' mix.
Notes: A superb cloud bait can be made by mixing into a slurry or very dry consistency. 
Must first be ground fine for best results.
Supermarkets
 
 
 

 

Alkaseltzer (or generic equivalent)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Type of Attractor:  Visual
Dose: Up to 10 %  of a 1 kg (2.2 lb) mix.
Notes: The active ingredients are citric acid and calcium carbonate. When wetted, they react to give (among other things) carbon dioxide gas. The gas causes the mix to 'fizz' - very attractive to sight feeders. Add the ground tablets to any bottom mix. Course ground tablets last longer but fizz less vigorously (relative surface area  argument). Top tip: the trail of bubbles emanating from a ball of groundbait are great at giving away its location on the bottom - an invaluable aid for fishing accurately over your groundbait.
Pharmacies
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

General Notes:  The above information is based on  personal experience, opinions and (just a little) guesswork. Also, the above lists are my no means complete (many exotic ingredients, such as green lip mussel extract etc., were not included) - if you have had success with other easily obtainable feeds, binders or attractants please let us know. New information will be added to the appropriate section(s) as it comes in.

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Recipes

Constructing or selecting a groudbait can seem like a bewildering task at times. However, this job can be greatly simplified if a groundbait mix is merely considered to be 'the sum of its parts'. Thus, by combining appropriate percentages of attractant, feed and binding ingredients (from the above lists), a groundbait possessing the required overall characteristics may be constructed. This, in essence, is also what the groundbait manufacturers do  - while their actual recipes may be closely guarded secrets, essentially the same procedure is employed with regard to designing mixes intended for specific applications. Thus, with a little thought and planning, one can combine a range of individual ingredients that, in turn, give mixes very similar in almost all respects to those available commercially. Many effective combinations are possible, although I've listed a few of my favorites below.
 

Basic Mix

My 'basic mix' makes for a very versatile groundbait. It contains a combination of base ingredients that return a medium - high food value; good visual, taste and smell and biochemical attractant properties; as well as neutral binding characteristics.  Thus, it can be used 'dry' for use either a midwater cloudbait or an 'explosive' swimfeeder mix;  'medium' for use as either a bottom bait for still waters or a 'feeder mix for medium paced rivers; or finally 'sloppy' for use as a surface cloudbait. The basic recipe is as follows:
 
 
Ingredient and percentage Comments
25 % White bread crumb High food value, good binding characteristics. Attractive to most fish, especially shiners.
25 % Corn meal High food value, poor binding characteristics. Excellent visual attractor as forms a cloud.
25 % Fish meal Medium food value, poor - medium binding characteristics. Excellent taste and smell / biochemical attractor (contains a high fraction of fish oils). A popular commercial ingredient.
25 % Ground hemp seed Medium - high food value, good binding characteristics. The high oil content of the hemp makes the bait very attractive, plus adds 'activity'. An extremely  popular commercial ingredient.

Notes: The above combination of ingredients (possessing either poor or good binding properties) results in a mix that is 'neutral' in terms of its overall binding characteristics - this means that the way the groundbait is prepared ('sloppy' - 'dry', see mixing section) dictates its final consistency. The inclusion of fish meal and ground hemp makes the mix inherently attractive in terms of taste and smell, visual and biochemical signals, while the high food value of the mix (increased through the addition of white crumb and corn meal) keeps the attracted fish interested in feeding. The mix attracts a broad variety of fish, as essentially all species are attracted to either hemp or fishmeal.
 
 

The author right before CBA match #1, 2002 with a bowl of 'standard' (bottom) groundbait intended for carp. The mix contained an extra ~20% ground molasses for sweetness and binding, the 'sweet tooth' attractor package (see below) as well as some hemp seeds and a few grains of corn. Photo courtesy of Derek A.

Attractor packages

Although the above mix is effective when used as a 'stand alone' groundbait, its attractive properties may be boosted through the addition of a variety of additional attractants. While pretty much any attractant(s) from the list discussed in the previous section can be added to the mix, I prefer to tailor my choice based on the species of fish sought. Thus, I have come up with the following species specific attractor packages:

'Sweet tooth' package
 
Species targeted Attractants (per 1 kg of mix)
Pan fish and carp
 
 
 

 

1 x can cream of corn
10 mL (~ a 'squirt') vanilla flavor or extract
10 mL  liquid sweet 'n low or carp bait sweetener
5 mL betaine
20 - 30 mL seed oil (will increase binding characteristics of finished groundbait)
Up to 20 % molasses meal (will increase binding characteristics of finished groundbait)

Hookbait selectionSpikes, chopped worm, wax worm, sweet corn, maize, boilie (see bait section)
Loose feed selection:  Add boiled hemp seed, dead maggots and /or  some sweetcorn kernels to the mix
 

'Carnivore' package
 
Species targeted Attractants (per 1 kg of mix)
Most pan fish and 'cats
 

 

Up to 20 % blood meal (will decrease binding characteristics of finished groundbait)
5 mL betaine
20 - 30 mL fish oil (will increase binding characteristics of finished groundbait)
10 mL (+) Natural extract (crawfish, worm, liquidized squid)

Hookbait selection: Spikes, chopped worm, wax worm, boilie (see bait section), chicken livers, shrimp, hot dogs, dip baits
Loose feed selection:  Add chopped (or better pulped) worm, dead maggots and /or  small cubes of Spam to the mix
 

River and Cloud Mixes

While the standard mix is pretty versatile and can be used on the majority of venues encountered, certain applications require the make up of this groundbait to be altered in order for it remain effective. Specifically, when fishing a fast and/or deep river (river mix) or pursuing surface feeders in the top 1 - 3 feet of water (cloud mix). In essence, removing poor binding ingredients from the standard mix and replacing them with inert and / or extra binding ingredients makes for an effective river mix; while removing the good binding ingredients from the standard mix results an excellent cloudbait:
 
 
Basic River Mix Basic Cloud Mix
50 % white bread crumb
25 % ground hemp seeds 
25 % fishmeal

Add binders and /or inert ingredients as necessary to combat depth and flow (see mixing section)
 

50 % corn meal
25 % ground hemp seeds 
25 % fishmeal

All ingredients should be ground to a fine powder in a coffee grinder prior to use.
 

Notes: Add attractor packages and loose feed as outlined above. The cloud mix tends to work best with the 'sweet tooth' attractor package and very little loose feed (just a few spikes is best). A runny 'slurry' made from  non-dairy creamer and water can be used (in place of water alone) to wet the cloud mix - this results in a much better cloud, particularly if the cloudbait is prepared 'sloppy'.

'Method' Mix

Method mixes are designed for use with method feeders (see 'tacklebox' and below) and must be of a very stiff consistency and contain very little in the way of loose feed particles. An excellent way to make a method mix is to take a groundbait with  inherently good binding properties, such as the river mix, and then just add a little binder to make the finished bait very firm. Since method feeders are used almost exclusively for carp, the 'sweet toothed' attractor package is recommended with a maize, corn or boilie hookbaits. A good recipe is:
 
'Method' Mix
45 % white bread crumb
20 % ground hemp seeds 
20 % fishmeal
15 % binders (flour or molasses meal etc.)

Notes: Add just a few grains of corn and /or hemp to the method mix. The goal is to have the fish actively 'attack' the hard method ball and wolf down any tasty tid bits of bait (including the hookbait) they come across. Takes are very fast and furious - hang on to that rod or use a baitrunner type reel!

Method feeders:
 

Rig Diagram:
 
The Fox style method feeders (above right) are available in the U.S. through Wacker baits.

Method feeder rig diagram (left) courtesy of 
Mike Stone

The 'finished' method feeder rig (hookbait hidden within the method ball) is shown in the above center picture.
 
 
 

 

Post Script:

Since writing the above (in the Winter/Spring of 2002) my groundbait recipes have been further refined. With the exception of a dedicated catfish / 'carnivore' mix (above details still hold true), I now employ, either singularly or in combination, the following two groundbait mixes almost exclusively for carp and panfish:
 
Heavy / Binding mix Light / Cloud Mix
40 % white bread crumb
35 % ground hemp seeds 
15% Graham cracker crumbs
10% molasses meal
75 % corn meal
25 % ground hemp seeds 
 

All ingredients should be ground to a fine powder 
in a coffee grinder prior to use.
 

Harking back to the pre-contintental groundbait "good 'ol days" of my youth in England, where a mix of the required consistency was prepared by simply mixing appropriate fractions of strongly binding white and weakly binding wheat bread crumbs, I now combine my two new heavy and light mixes in an analogous fashion to achieve a mix of the required consistency. In this way, it is possible to create a groundbait on the bank that can deal with a wide assortment of conditions likely to be encountered:
 
Method or fast paced river bottom mix 100 % Heavy / Binding mix - add gravel or soil as required
Deep water lake or medium pace river bottom mix 60% Heavy / Binding mix, 40% Light / Cloud mix*
Shallow lake or slow moving river bottom mix 40% Heavy / Binding mix, 60% Light / Cloud mix*
Surface or cloud mix 100% Light / Cloud mix
* the ratio of heavy / light mixes used is dependent on conditions, the values quoted above are generic examples.

This new approach has several advantages. First, I now no longer carry extra containers of binders and molasses meal with me, as these ingredients are included in the heavy mix. Also, since the heavy mix is inherently sweet and dense, it makes for an ideal bottom carp groundbait which requires little in the way of extra enhancement by way of the 'sweet tooth' package. A word of caution with the heavy / binding mix though - it is highly sticky and should be sieved thoroughly before use(!). As with the mixes discussed above, free offerings such as hemp corm and spikes, as well as an optional dash of 'sweet tooth' attractor package, are added to these new groundbaits as required.

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Mixing

The consistency of a finished groundbait is greatly affected by how it is prepared. Simply, by combining differing ratios of water and dry ingredients, groundbaits of the following consistencies may be created:
 
 

Description / Consistency Sloppy  Wet  Firm / Heavy  Medium  Dry 
Amount of water added Most Average Least

Note: The two extremes of the scale (sloppy and dry) give rise to groundbaits that rapidly break up when introduced to the swim. Dry and wet mixes, respectively, contain either just enough water to hold together or just less water than required to break apart. By contrast, the firm mix (middle of the scale) is very hard and will sink to the bottom rapidly and, consequently, break up more slowly. The consistency of the mix should be based on the type of fishing undertaken. For example, a dry or sloppy mix can be used for fishing for surface or mid-water feeders, while a firm mix is best for bottom feeders or for use in fast water. The type of ingredients selected for the groundbait also effect its final consistency, as discussed above in the recipe section , although the 'basic mix' is very versatile and can be prepared anywhere between 'sloppy' and dry.

There is some debate as to whether water should be added to the dry ingredients or vice versa. I personally like to add liquid ('indigenous' river or lake water, which in turn has had attractor ingredients dissolved within it) to my dry ingredients (pre-mixed). Agitate the ingredients thoroughly while mixing - this allows plenty of air to get into the mix and will increase its activity. Click on the thumbnail below for a step by step guide to this process:

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Loose Feed

Background

Loose feed is probably the most widely used form of groundbait, although the casual angler probably never gives this notion a second thought. Simply, the addition of a number of hookbait samples to ones swim attracts fish through the same mechanisms as the more sophisticated groundbait mixes discussed above. Such samples provide an attractive smell, biochemical or visual signal; as well as a source of readily obtainable food. For example, sweet corn is yellow in color (excellent visual attractor), sweet in taste and smell, and also contains high levels of valine - an amino acid known to stimulate carp into feeding. Thus, it comes as no surprise that loose feed alone can both attract and hold fish and, under certain circumstances, is often more conducive to a good catch than a cereal based groundbait. Essentially, any small particle bait can be utilized as loose feed, although certain types and combinations are more effective than others. What follows is a discussion of which loose feeds are effective, as well as some ideas as to why this is the case.

Needle in a haystack

A very simple and effective way to catch carp is to fish either corn or maize over a bed of the same grains. The overwhelming number of baits available often send the carp into a feeding frenzy - it's just a matter of time before one's hookbait is picked up. Unfortunately, when the fish aren't in such a ravenous mood they are likely to become 'picky' and only select the occasional kernel. If a large number of grains (each of which has a reasonable food value) are introduced to the vicinity of the hookbait, a 'needle in a haystack' situation has essentially come to exist. Thus, under such conditions the angler may sit biteless for hours, since the probability that his or her hookbait being picked out from a crowd of similar samples is statistically unfavorable. All is not lost though, as there are several tricks an angler can play to regain the upper hand - the simplest and most obvious of which being to adopt a 'little and often' feeding strategy, as is detailed in the following section. Alternatively, as is discussed immediately below, anglers can render their hookbaits more appealing than the surrounding loose feed samples and, in doing so, have them 'stand out from the crowd'.

Standing out in a crowd

While we are most familiar with using identical hookbait and loose feed samples (the best examples being sweet corn or spikes), we can really tilt the odds in our favor by using a similar but more appealing hookbait. A great example is the use of a wax worm as a hook bait, with spikes as loose feed. As is discussed in the Forum, such an approach tends to attract better quality fish - the argument being that the bigger fish are higher in the underwater 'pecking order' and get their choice of offering. Similarly, one can fish a whole worm over some chopped or pulped worm pieces.

Sometimes it pays to fish a different but more appealing hookbait over a bed of loose feed. This is in some ways the realm of the specialist carp angler, although I'll include what I know to be effective here. For any carp angler reading this page, please feel free to contribute to the Forum on this issue. The most effective carp loose feed of all time has to be boiled hemp seed (the preparation of which is discussed in the baits section). Other small seeds and grains also make for great loose feeds, examples include oats groats, niger seed and canary millet, all of which should also be either boiled or soaked before use. Commercially available canary feed (available from any pet store and most supermarkets) contains millet, niger seed and a few other types of grains and is a particularly good loose feed combination.  Wacker baits offers a range of  'Wacker mixes' -  a selection of pre-mixed (and very effective) blend of seeds and grains. While the loose feed grains listed here make for a great feed, they are generally too small in size to be used as  hookbait. Thus, as mentioned above, one usually fishes a different larger and more appealing hook bait over a bed of particles. Since most commonly used hookbaits, such as maize, sweet corn, boilies, spikes, worms etc., are much larger than the feed grains, any may be used in conjunction with a bed of particles. However, certain combinations of particles and hookbaits are known to be effective and are listed in the following section.

The danger of using hemp, and to some extent other small particles, as loose feed is that carp have a tendency to become totally preoccupied with these small feed stuffs. Many theories, ranging from the straight forward to the ridiculous, persist as to exactly why hemp has such a 'hypnotic' effect on carp. Some more outrageous theories have speculated that hemp (which is related to the marijuana plant) actually drugs the fish and keep them coming back for more. Given that toasted hemp seeds are a tasty (human) snack and that some cultures grind hemp into flour for use in bread and other food stuffs, I find this unlikely. Personally, I consider hemp to be successful because it possesses the same attractive elements of any good groundbait or loose feed -  it smells and tastes good to the fish, most likely in part due to it's high oil content. However, where hemp differs from other baits is the fact that each grain is very small (and therefore has a low food value) and dark in color (difficult to locate visually on the bottom).  Thus, for a carp to 'fill up' on hemp it must actively search out and consume large numbers of these hard to find grains. This particular scenario is ideally suited to the carp's primary feeding behavior and may explain the species preoccupation with this type of feed - fish essentially take great mouthfuls of mud or silt from the bottom (sometimes digging as far down as several feet) and then filter out food particles by blowing this debris in and out over their mouth and gils. Such behavior also helps to explain why carp dominated venues are almost always turbid (and, as a consequence, why sight feeders such as Bass and become less prolific in such venues).  Thus, using hemp or other small particles can be a double edged sword - the angler may get the carp feeding ravenously, just not on their hookbait! Indeed, one often hears of stories from anglers who introduced a good amount of hemp in to a swim, only to have the water bubbling and boiling frenetically as the carp search out these grains at the exclusion of all else. All is not lost though, the angler can play several tricks in an attempt to avoid this happening. First, as is discussed in the following section, the angler can feed 'little and often'. Alternatively, a 'super attractive' hookbait (such as a boilie) can be used over a bed of particles. The effectiveness of such baits may be enhanced further by either jigging the hookbait or using a more visible suspended or 'popped up' bait.
 

List of effective hookbaits and loose feed combinations
 
 
Hookbait Loosefeed
Wax worm or bunch of maggots (spikes) Spikes
Whole worm or worm segment(s) Chopped or pulped worm
Bunch of sweet corn or maize, sweet / friuty boilie  'Small grain' sweetcorn and/or hemp seeds
Boilie, sweetcorn, maize, tiger nut, worms, spikes, wax worms Natural seed soak* (cats and carp)
Sweet / fruity boilie, sweetcorn, maize, tiger nut, Sweet seed soak* (carp)
Fishmeal boilie, paste (or dip) bait, hot dog, spam, livers, shrimp, squid,
fresh cut fish, worms, spikes.
Fishy seed soak* (cats and carp)

* The seed soaks mentioned here are home made and are in many respects similar to the mixes available through Wacker baits. However, my recipes are based around information gathered from specialist carp bait books and internet based resources aimed at the domestic U.S. catfisherman. The recipes shown below are discussed further in the baits and bait making section.
 
 
'Natural' seed soak (1 kg) Sweet seed soak (1 kg) Fishy seed soak (1 kg)
33% Oat groats
33 % Canary feed
33 % Crushed hemp seeds
30 mL hemp oil
Handful boiled hemp grains
Handful maize
2 - 4 grams betaine
1 teaspoon yeast
2 cups sugar

 

33% Oat groats
33 % Canary feed
33 % Crushed hemp seeds
30 mL hemp and / or sesame oil
Handful boiled hemp grains
Handful maize
2 - 4 grams betaine
15 - 20 mL artificial sweetener
15 - 20 mL artificial fruit flavor (e.g. strawberry)
1 teaspoon yeast
2 cups sugar
33% Oat groats
33 % Canary feed
33 % Crushed hemp seeds
30 mL fish oil
Handful boiled hemp grains
2 - 4 grams betaine
15 - 20 mL anchovy extract or
15 - 20 mL artificial seafood flavor
1 jar lumpfish or salmon eggs (optional)
1 teaspoon yeast
2 cups sugar

Preparation

Add all the dry seed ingredients to a suitable container. Pour water over the dry ingredients until they are submerged by ~ 3/4 of an inch. Add the remaining ingredients and stir vigorously for a few minutes to thoroughly dissolve and mix the added ingredients. Each soak should be left for a minimum of 12 hours - during this time the seeds will absorb the flavored water and, in doing so, become more attractive to the fish. The potency of each soak can be increased by letting each mix soak for up to 5 days. At the end of this time, the mixes will become be quite thick and odorous but much more effective! Since the natural mix has no real added attractants, it should be left to 'mature' for at least 3 days before use. In each case, the sugar and yeast help speed up the fermentation process. Warning - don't leave your soaks to age in a closed container or indoors! - the gasses released can build up quite rapidly. Use either a bait container with small holes drilled in the lid or cover a regular bucket with a cloth screen of some kind.
 
 

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Feeding Hints

Little and Often

There are a number of ways to introduce groundbait to a swim, but by far the most popular method employed is the somewhat self descriptive 'little and often' approach. Simply, the angler attracts fish into his or her swim, and then keeps the fish actively searching / competing for food, through the frequent introduction of small amounts of loose feed and/or groundbait. Experienced match anglers are able to judge the fishes' feeding response and zero in on an ideal feeding rate to prolong this behavior. For example, it is often possible to catch 'a 'gill a throw' at places like Barth pond and Lake Arlington (resulting in total match weights in excess or 40 pounds!) by introducing small walnut sized balls of sloppy groundbait / cloudbait between casts.

'Balling it'

Sometimes a little and often approach is not feasible, for example, when fishing at greater ranges (out of throwing range) or when tackling a fast flowing river (loose fed samples are quickly washed away). The trick in such instances is to introduce the fast majority of ones feed at the start of the session and then 'fish out' the groundbait. The danger with introducing so many balls of groundbait (12 or more is not uncommon) is that the fish attracted in the swim are quickly overfed and so then become uncatchable. The trick is to make each groundbait ball of a low food value, while also including a good fraction of small feed particles. For example, when fishing a river, the groundbait may contain up to 70% soil, clay and/or gravel (used to ensure the bait reaches the bottom quickly and isn't washed away). Thus, only 30 % of the groundbait is edible (~equivalent of 3 balls) so won't overfeed the fish. Since so much of the groundbait is inedible, the fish are forced to search through this inert material in order to find the hidden groundbait and loose feed - an activity that may keep the fish feeding for several hours (the goal of the exercise!). Top tip: Chopped or pulped worms, with worm on the hook, are excellent for this type of approach as the odor from the pulped worms keeps the fish searching the groundbait.

Tried and true methods (lake and slow moving water)

Short range fishing:  For short range pole fishing (up to 4 or 5 meters) I inevitability use a little and often cloudbait / loose feed approach, introducing feed frequently (usually a 'nugget of bait every two or three casts). The approach works very well for 'gills and shinners.

Medium range fishing: For long pole or medium range float (bobber) fishing (up to 20 meters) I generally utilize a combined approach. Initially I introduce 3 balls of groundbait, then loose feed baits (such as spikes, hemp or corn) via slingshot over this groundbait. More groundbait may be introduced later and the whole procedure started over if bites start to tail off (usually after an hour or two if there are/were a significant number of fish in the swim).

Long range fishing: Long range feeding (at 30 - 50+ meters) is more difficult, as accuracy becomes more of a challenge when catapulting groundbait to longer ranges. It is not possible to catapult loose feed beyond around 30 meters, so the bait may only be introduced via either a catapulted groundbait ball or a swimfeeder. I only tend to float fish at longer ranges for carp, as one doesn't need to be highly accurate when introducing groundbait. I generally have my groundbait land anywhere within a 12 ft x 12 ft area - carp generally like a lot of food and will scour the area for food items. If you get this right, the lake will seem to 'boil' as the hungry carp root around the entire groundbaited area. Often times, and I've witnessed this myself, the whole 12 ft x 12 ft or larger area will become 'alive' with bubbles and foam as the fish careen around! In contrast, for pan fish at longer range a swimfeeder is a must. By casting a swimfeeder to approximately the same spot each time (by using a line clip for distance and a far bank marker for accuracy) a little and often strategy is achieved at up to 60 meters(!). Additionally, your hookbait is guaranteed to be in the vicinity of your groundbait - reasons why the 'feeder can be so effective.
 
 

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