Question: Dear NWC, could you offer advice on pre baiting for carp? Iíve been fishing a 4 acre lake for the last six months with average success, but I know some of those having more fish have been pre baiting during the season and Iím thinking of giving it a go as itís not far to travel. I fish boilie and pellet at weekends, but donít have loads to spend. How much would I need to put in and when? CheersÖ Mick.
Answer: Hi Mick, Pre baiting can be a great way of increasing your catch rates, and itís something I do as much as Iím able on the waters I fish regularly. The bottom line is that carp are creatures of habit. If they keep finding fresh bait in the same spots time and time again with little risk of getting caught, they will soon cotton on and keep coming back for more. The more you put in, the more their confidence will grow, and itís at that point - when their guard is down - that you introduce a hookbait.
There are a few golden rules when it comes to pre baiting. The first is to pick the right spots. Iím sure there will be a few favourite swims on your lake with a few spots known to produce fish, and the temptation would be to start filling them in each time you are on the lake, but you need to think ahead. If itís a popular swim, thereís a good chance somebody might be in when you turn up to fish, and worse, if itís a known fish producing spot, have a bait primed and ready on the exact same spot youíve been working up for weeks!
Location then is key. You need to pick swims that you stand a good chance of being able to fish, and if itís a swim others fish too, pick a spot that others wonít immediately be drawn to. Of course you need to make sure itís an area that fish do frequent, but donít worry if itís not the best known spot on the lake Ė the whole point of pre baiting for carp is that in time, you will make this spot one that they will keep coming back to time and time again.
My advice would be to break the feature finding gear out and do some homework. For me, itís often the laziness of other anglers which will offer up the best spots. Although theyíll probably tell you otherwise, Iíd say 70% of anglers donít put that much effort in when it comes to fishing likely fish holding areas. By this I mean, if they have to work a baited rod around some trees, wade out from the bank in order to cast, or wade along a margin to drop on a spot out of sight from the main swim, then most wonít bother, so itís exactly these kind of spots I would first look to develop, because right from the off you know youíre going to be baiting areas few, if any in many cases, are going to be fishing Ė even if they drop in the same swim.
How many spots? Well that would depend on the lake and how many others are fishing it. If I can pretty much guarantee Iíll get the swim I want, I may just bait two spots in the one swim, but in most cases I tend to keep spots going on a couple of swims to ensure Iíll be able to drop in to at least one baited swim if others are on the lake when I arrive.
How much bait would I put in and how often? Again it would depend on the lake, the stock and the pressure to a certain degree, not to mention the distance, but in a perfect world I would want bait to be going on my spots three times a week. To keep low key (which Iíll come on to later) I often like to do midweek overnighters, so if Iím on a campaign I would aim to fish quick overnighters on a Tuesday and Thursday night, bait heavily when I leave on both days, and then bait again on say the Sunday evening when all the weekenders have pulled off. This way there is fresh bait going in every few days, and it makes such a difference.
If you canít bait that regularly, then get up midweek, put a little more in, then fish it at the weekend. Even better, if you have trusted friends fishing the same water, rope them in too Ė teamwork can really pay dividends. On one syndicate water last year I worked in conjunction with a friend who fished at weekends. On my Tuesday and Thursday sessions I would bait spots for him, and in return he would bait my spots on a Sunday. Neither would fish the others spots and it worked really well.
How much you would introduce would again be down to the lake and the stock, and to a degree youíd go by results, but I do like to give them a bit, thereís no point doing it half arsed. On the lake I mentioned above I would fish over very little, then put in two kilos of boilie and three kilos of pellet after each session, with my friend adding the same on a Sunday, so over the week they were getting around 15 kilo of bait off my spots. Yes it can cost a bit, especially for a decent quality boilie, but if you do it right, youíll be too busy catching them to even think about the cost!
I appreciate cost is obviously an issue for many though, allís I would say is be savvy with the bait you are putting in. If boilie and pellet are a bit too expensive for you, use soaked wheat Ė Itís only about six quid for a 25 kilo sack, which will double in weight when soaked, so itís not expensive and carp love it. I know a few people who pre bait with hemp, and whilst I have done this in the past, it takes ages to prepare big amounts and can turn them off the hookbaits you intend to be using. All you have to do with wheat is soak it for a couple of days so itís a synch, and when mixed with pellet and boilie will have their tails up in no time. In this instance I would work out how much Iím prepared to spend each week on bait, and then work out what the ratio of boilie/pellet/≠wheat needs to be to ensure they get 15 kilos a week or whatever your figure is.
I may alter the amount Iím putting in depending on results and what I can see. Wherever possible I like to bait spots I can observe, either by getting out in a pair of chest waders or by climbing a well placed tree to look down from above. You will soon see if the bait is getting eaten. Last year I did most of my fishing from one swim as I always had the place to myself midweek. After each session I would wade out and have a feel of the spots underfoot to see how they were developing. Within a month or so they had gone down through over a foot and a half of silt in one spot, and would have gone further had it not been for the bedrock!
You might think that when you get a spot going really well youíre laughing, but in fact, this is where it can actually go against you, which brings us onto one of the other golden rules of pre baiting Ė stealth and deception! Youíve skinned yourself to buy the bait, youíre making the effort to get up there at all hours to put it in, so the last thing you want to do once youíve got the spot going is give it away to others fishing the lake, and as such, I have no qualms whatsoever in saying Iíll do whatever it takes to confuse, misinform, and generally keep other anglers off the scent and away from my spots!
Firstly, when pre baiting between sessions, try to pick times when there wonít be many around. If people see you putting a lot of bait in, and word gets around you are catching, they will waste no time jumping in off the back of your hard work Ė so keep it low key. If there are others on the lake near the spots you are fishing just walk away, itís not good etiquette to chuck a load in when others are fishing but even worse would be to let them know where you are baiting. Watch out also for other anglers who may also be having a mooch, and in such instances, donít be afraid to throw a decoy - chuck a bit of bait in a swim well away from where youíre fishing.
Same goes for when you are fishing, wherever possible try not to make it too obvious where you are fishing to. Usually I like to fish midweek for exactly this reason, but should I fish weekends and others are on Iíll often fish a swim away from my primed spots just to keep them guessing. One friend on a lake I fished many years ago used to do much the same thing. He was doing well on a water from pre baited spots but people knew he was catching, there would often be eyes upon him when he put his baits out, so heíd cast them to all sorts of weird spots from the swim he was fishing, then as soon as it was dark heíd reel them in and drop them onto the spots he was pre baiting, both of which were a couple of rod lengths from the bank. Sneaky? Definitely, but it kept people guessing, and you could almost guarantee as soon as he pulled off there would be somebody in the swim casting baits to where they thought heíd had the fish from Ė used to have us in fits of laughter on a regular basis!
In terms of keeping it going, they key is consistency. Itís no good baiting it one week but then missing three, you need to ensure that you can keep to a regime. Depending on the amount of fish and general pressure, spots may drop off in time, so then itís just a case of priming new ones, which is why it always pays to keep a few going. Time of year will also play an important factor, you need to drop your overall levels during winter but donít be afraid to put it in Ė if theyíve had it from a spot regularly during the preceding months, they will learn itís a good place for them to start the moment they do get hungry during the colder months, so pre baited spots can work just as well in winter.
At the end of the day is about making extra effort to catch the fish. There are many aspects of carp fishing that the majority donít bother with because it takes too much time, so if you can be bothered with the extra effort, youíll have an immediate jump on most of those around you.