Just a general question to those in the know... What are you actually trying to achieve by washing out your baits…?
I might actually know why some people use this method. Maybe I am a little unsure that some of the people really know why they are actually doing it. It might work for them. Maybe some people are just copying what they have read in the magazines, but are still unaware of the reasons why they are doing it. Maybe others are yet to try it. Hopefully some of this information will give you a better understanding of what it is all about and give you the confidence to try it.
First of all, let’s look at some possible reasons why you might want to wash out your baits; 1) Your bait is too strongly flavoured and you want to tone it down a bit. 2) You want the colour of your bait to fade a little so they look like they have been in the water for several hours. 3) You might want to add something into your baits. 4) you want to create a different baiting situation to try and fool some extra cautious “clever” carp.
Why is some bait just so over flavoured? Many baits are made to catch the angler [to sell] and not always catch the fish! I am not talking about hookbaits, but strongly flavoured freebies. I have seen lads fishing baits that were so strong that I could tell what bait they were fishing with when I was 50 yards away from their swim. The strong smell was being carried down wind to me, and as I walked up I told them what bait they were using. They would look shocked!
Strongly flavoured baits do still have their place. I might use them as 2 bait stringers, or a couple of broken baits in a mesh bag, as a winter tactic, or on one rod to move around the swim. There is no doubt that these over flavoured baits will catch fish, but maybe they are not so suited to a mass baiting approach. I have seen lads catch several fish while fishing over a large spread of high flavour baits, but most of these fish tend to be stockies or smaller fish. The more naive fish might be suckers for this tactic, but the older, wiser, bigger fish might be too wise to fall for such a blatant approach. They may move through the swim, but might well be in a heightened state of alert!
In my humble opinion a decent flavour level will be very low and almost undetectable within the bait. More of the smell of the bait will come from the actual food ingredients that make up the boilies. Fish meals, milk powders, herbs and spices, etc, will be giving off some background smell/taste and this is a less obvious, more long term option for your freebies.
Brightly/strongly coloured baits - will a soak tone down the colour of these baits? Maybe they are too strongly coloured to start with. Most quality food baits will have that washed out look once they have been in the water for only an hour or so, but is this really necessary? I have caught plenty of fish within 30 minutes of baiting my swim, so maybe the carp are not as fussy as some are lead to believe. If you want to wash out your baits do you really need lake water? I can see why you might want to avoid tap water due to the added chemicals that may leave some background residue. As any fish keeper could tell you, it is possible to store tap water in a bucket for 48 hours and the chlorine content will disperse. You may also use rain water.
Re-hydrating. This is not the same as washing out. It may give your baits the appearance of washed out baits, but the main purpose is to actually add something extra to the baits. A glug will coat the outside of your baits, and may even soak into the outer layer. Re-hydrating is starting with dried out baits and then adding liquids until the bait is fully filled with moisture. You would start off by air drying your baits until they fully dried and rattling like marbles. This means they will absorb much more liquid than a bait that is fresh, in the normal sense. You can then leave them to soak for 12-24 hours in a water/liquid so they are fully re-hydrated. You will know when they are ready as the moisture will have reached the middle of the baits. If they are not quite ready you will see this when you break a bait in half and you will notice the dry centre core. They will draw the liquid right in and slowly leach out this liquid into the lake once the baits are scattered around the swim.
The list of liquids to use to re-hydrate your baits is endless, but to suggest a few… The water left from boiling your hemp or other particles, a solution made up of water and added soluble liquids, such as fish sauce [from Asian food supermarkets], salt, chilli powder, molasses, etc. I have used water from bins that I have had large amounts of maize and/or wheat in soak and found this to be excellent. You could also buy liquid additives from bait companies, but it will be more cost effective [and maybe just as good] to be a little inventive!
Another overlooked up side to re-hydrating is that the freebies will now be loaded with liquid/water. This means they will now not take on lake water like a normal freebie. This will help prevent baits soaking up the smelly silt from the lake bed, and will keep the bait smelling fresh. This isn’t an issue with most lakes, but its well worth bearing in mind.
It is also possible to add a little something extra to cheaper bait in order to give it more fish appeal. You would be using the cheapo bait as a carrier for a subtle natural liquid attractor. I have used this method with some cheap shelf life baits as the re-hydrating dissipates some of the aftertaste of the preservative and the added liquids can make the bait more palatable This is definitely well worth considering on hungrier waters were bait costs need to be kept down, or on trips abroad.
Are there any down sides to these methods? Maybe… Your free baits will be a lot softer. They will not be hard enough to be put out with a throwing stick, and may well be too delicate to be catapulted more than 40-50 yards! There is also the problem of nuisance fish being better able to devour your freebies, too! Even soaked 20mm sized baits will be able to be broken up by tench and bream!
You will need to do some small test batches to find out just how your baits will behave. This will be true of the differing liquids too. Some thicker liquids might need to be further diluted [assuming they are water soluble] to ensure they penetrate to the core of the bait. Some bait may soften much more than others, and may actually break apart! Some may have active enzymes, and may start to float after they have been hydrated for a while. You should not just think about the re-hydrating time, but also the amount of time you will want your baits to be intact and on the bottom of the lake after re-hydration…
There is plenty of scope for further experimentation. Nothing that you do [within reason] will be repellent to the carp so long as you are adding something that will add a smell/taste to the water and also be palatable to the carp. Have a mess about and maybe just the fact that you are doing something a little different to the rest of the flock of sheep might catch you a few extra carp.
The main thing you are trying to achieve is not putting the wiser, bigger carp on high alert and letting them know that you are fishing for them. Maybe you can make them think they are just finding an area that has been pre-baited a day or two ago, and all is now safe for them to move in with confidence and have a good feed!