Shelf life boilies versus fresh frozen - which are the best? Itís a question weíre asked regularly, and itís one of those subjects where once you scratch the surface youíre often left with more questions than answers!
First things first, itís important to understand the differences between the two types of bait. Fresh frozen is the term best used to describe a boilie that has been freshly made and has nothing added during the mixing process. As such, because it contains fresh egg as a binder, it will start to go off after a few days if exposed to normal room conditions at which point mould growth, brought on by the high moisture content, will start to appear on the surface of the bait and the longer the bait is left exposed, the more mould growth occurs. By freezing the bait the onset of mould growth can be delayed, hence the term fresh/frozen.
However, if preservatives are added during the mixing process and the moisture content can be reduced, then the boilie can be left out in normal conditions for extensive periods with no ill effect; baits prepared in such a way are often referred to as shelf-life baits. Itís worth noting that a ready-made bait can be either a fresh or shelf-life bait, as many think that a ready-made bait and a shelf-life bait are the same thing. In addition, some manufactures prefer to use the term long-life bait, but Iíll come back to that later.
Most people simply want to know which type is best, but unfortunately there is no easy answer, and depending on who you speak to, you are likely to get differing views. Overall, with most anglers it will come down to convenience and what suits their circumstances best. Those of us who have a freezer at home where smelly baits can be stored without incurring the wrath of the other half, will usually be of the opinion that fresh baits are best, whereas those who donít have such storage facilities and have to store baits along with the rest of their fishing tackle in the shed will usually favour shelf-life.
For me though, the crux of the matter is not about convenience for the angler, but of preference by the fish. A fresh bait is just that; a nice well rounded product with everything at the optimum levels, straight off the rolling table so to speak, and common sense would dictate to me, that such a bait is perfect for use at that point. A shelf-life bait, in terms of manufacturing will differ in two ways. Firstly there will be preservatives added. There are various human grade food preservatives on the market which you probably consume everyday without even knowing it, the most common of which are; sorbic acid, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (which is actually a potassium salt version of sorbic acid). All of these additives inhibit mould growth and if buying a shelf-life boilie, then itís highly likely it will contain one, or even a mixture of the above. Now thereís no clear evidence to say that adding any of these ingredients to a bait is bad, as although some of them are classed as ĎE numbersí, not all E numbers are bad. However, some countries have raised concerns about the use of some of these additives (in human grade foods); with some sources even stating that there may be links to headaches and intestinal problems in humans. I used to run a soft drinks company and remember well that at the time of my leaving, the inclusion of certain preservatives in our products was certainly becoming a hot topic within the industry, and one which I think will soon begin to cause some major headaches of the boardroom variety!
However, I think itís an area where more research is needed, both in terms of our own food and that which we feed to our intended quarry, as to be honest there are many grey areas, the amount consumed being the major one; a small kid drinking a 250ml bottle of fizzy pop each day containing trace amounts of these additives is one thing, a carp presented with 10 kilos of the stuff every day as a sole food source might be a different proposition - Food for thought, if youíll excuse the pun.
What happens out of the water is one thing, however, what happens when baits of either type go into the water is just as important, as the inclusion of a preservative will prevent the growth of micro organisms both in an out of the water, thus the bait will not break down as quick. A fresh bait will begin to breakdown almost immediately, softening the longer it remains within the water, and within 48 hours should be soft enough so that any self-respecting≠ minnow would be able to have a good go at it, and if not eaten by other fish, it should pop up to the surface within a few days to be eagerly gobbled up by resident wildfowl. However, a bait loaded with preservatives is a different prospect, and may well lay uneaten and ignored indefinitely; Iíve heard scare-stories of waters dredged during maintenance to reveal masses of uneaten shelf-life boilies. Iíve never witnessed anything that drastic myself, although Iíve certainly come across uneaten shelf-life boilies on lakes that Iíve fished.
Itís quite amusing just how many anglers think that when they turn up to fish a swim there will be no bait currently out there and each session they can bait up afresh. Often the opposite is the case. When Iím Ďputting-time-i≠ní on a venue Iím always keen to find out who is fishing where and what kind of bait they are using. Not least because it helps to identify whether the swim may already be full of bait which itís going to take the fish a while to get through. However, if I know somebody has been fishing with fresh bait the chances are it will all be gone by the time I get there. A friend of mine had a habit of fishing on top of other peoples bait, he would turn up on a Sunday afternoon just as everybody else was packing up after 48-hrs fishing, cast out a fresh single hook bait to where ever the previous angler had been fishing to, fish a quick overnighter and invariably catch a thirty!
Ultimately, I want to use a quality bait that will appeal to the fish on both a short and long term basis, and one which if not eaten, will break down quickly. As such, I much prefer to use fresh bait whenever Iím using a boilie, I just think it has a broader appeal on so many levels, for in my eyes, a mass produced shelf-life bait is an entirely different proposition to a fresh frozen bait. I appreciate that convenience is a major factor for many; however, for those who want a quick breakdown and extended life, there is a third-way, so to speak. Another way of preserving shelf life is to remove the moisture content through the use of dehumidifying equipment, this can be costly when compared to adding preservatives but many would argue offers a much better finished product which the fish are more likely to benefit from. A good example of this is the www.anglingline≠sbait.com range of boilies; by using preserved egg in the mixing process and then by removing the moisture content after rolling, they are able to offer a long-life bait that breaks down just as quickly as fresh bait once immersed in the water - and you only need to look at the results attained on some of their venues to see the benefits.
At the end of the day all one can do is offer up points for consideration, like so many aspects of carp fishing; bait itís a personal choice, and itís for each of us to decide what suits us best, but as Iíve mentioned in other articles on bait - it never hurts to know a little more about what is on your hook!