Sweetcorn has become a very popular bait for many species of fish. It is cheap, clean and easy to use. However as its popularity has increased, fish of many waters have learnt to associate its colour and smell with danger. Fish have been known to bolt out of a swim at its very sight in less extreme circumstances sweetcorn tends to loose its effectiveness.

To counteract this trend, thinking anglers have disguised their sweetcorn by altering its colour and smell. Some anglers, myself included use their own personalised sweetcorn for bait. l use four basic types of sweetcorn. These are;

1. Red sweetcorn flavoured with passion fruit.

2. Orange sweetcorn flavoured with maple.

3. Blue sweetcorn flavoured with spearmint.

4. Natural sweetcorn. Producing these baits could not be easier-just follow my step by step guide.

Step by step guide

Before discussing colouring and flavouring, l must give a warning. Use only food dyes or dyes produced by a good bait manufacturer. I use Richworth products for all my colouring and flavouring as I know they are safe. l have in the past caught pupils of mine using maggot dyes that have been linked with cancer. Naturally I confiscated and destroyed them. I replaced them with safe dyes thanks to Bob Baker of Richworth.

Step 1 Add two tea spoonfuls of red boilie dye to a pint of water. Step 2 Stir the mixture so that it is properly mixed. Step 3 Add 5ml of sweetener and 5ml of flavour-passion fruit in my case. Step 4 Add corn and leave overnight. Step 5 Filter using a strainer and wash to remove excess ingredients.

Cocktails

Many anglers use cocktails when fishing maggot with good results. On my local section of the Thames a red and white maggot cocktail is a recognised deadly bait. Unfortunately few anglers transfer this knowledge to fishing with other baits. I often fish two different coloured grains of corn on a size 12 hook with surprisingly good results. It is certainly a good little trick that can really work.

Rivers

Although sweetcorn has become a recognised bait for most river species, I have moved on to using cocktailed coloured sweetcorn for much of this type of fishing. My preference is to fish these baits over a carpet of hemp containing a few samples of hook bait.

On fast flowing Southern barbel rivers, l enjoy trotting the bait through the swim using a powerful trotting rod with a centre pin loaded with between 4 and 61b b.s. line. The actual strength of line selected depends on conditions and snags. I normally use one of those Topper Haskins crow quill avon floats. The float is cocked with a tungsten olivette placed about 18 inches from the hook with two number 6 shot as droppers to improve bait presentation. The hook is normally a size 12 or 10 Preston Innovations pinch barbless.

Normally I start by introducing up to 6 pans of the hemp based feed with a large bait dropper that is painted black to stop any flash scaring the fish. Then I start trotting through fishing over depth and holding back.

Last year, l tried these tactics on a Thames tributary with good results. One day, on about the third cast, I had such a powerful bite that I actually felt the bite on the rod. This turned out to be a nice barbel that was just a few ounces short of ten pounds. This was followed by barbel of 7 3/41b and 8 1/21b in consecutive casts. The swim died for nearly an hour before I had my last barbel of 101b 2oz. The final hour produced only a few chub but I was pleased with my results from that 3 1/2 hour session.

On the main River Thames, I have changed tactics to leger cocktailed sweetcorn baits. My tackle has been a powerful Shakespeare feeder rod with a fixed spool reel loaded with 61b b.s. line. However flow rates were so slow that at times I did not use an open feeder. Instead I opted to feed the swim with a catapult and legered on top of the hemp and corn carpet. I was pleased with both the quantity and quality of the bream that this method produced. Of greater interest were the bonus fish that were appearing in catches. These included barbel, chub and large carp. From October I landed more twenty pound plus carp than I had roach! Why? Cormorants? I do not know but that was a staggering statement for any Thames angler to make. Particularly on sections from which I have caught 501b plus roach bags in the past.

Still water tactics

Last August, we had a great weeks fishing holiday at Clawford Vineyard in Devon. The company, accommodation and fishing had all been excellent. We had mainly been on Fletchers Lake catching lovely marked ghost carp to mid doubles. Floaters, boilies and various pastes had all produced. However when I tried coloured sweetcorn, I mainly caught good roach between 8oz and 14oz. Encouraged by this success I decided to try JR's lake to rear of the fishery. This lake is a mixed fishery holding some very nice roach.

As I arrived, I immediately placed a small carpet of trout pellets and hemp with a few sweetcorn into the 4ft deep swim. I set up my 12ft Shakespeare Ariel match rod with a centre pin loaded with 31b b.s. line. There was no need for a fixed spool reel as I was fishing very close in. I used a Preston Innovations Tyson pole float holding several number 6 shot placed down the line. These Tyson floats are very robust yet retain the sensitivity of the traditional pole float. The terminal tackle consisted of a size 12 Preston innovation pinched barbless hook baited with a cocktail of a natural sweetcorn with a red passion fruit flavoured sweetcorn.

I cast my tackle out about two rod lengths from the bank and did not wait long before my float dipped. This was a lovely roach of just over the pound which was quickly followed by another that I weighed at 11b5oz. Sport was hectic as I had another four good roach and then struck into the solid resistance of a double figure mirror carp. This really churned the swim up before I landed it and returned it. To my great surprise the swim was not dead. The next cast produced what I believe was an uncoloured wild goldfish of 41b 9oz. I ended the three hour session with a terrific mixed bag of carp, roach, rudd, tench, chub and crucian carp to 31b 2oz and that uncoloured goldfish. I believe that this was a 501b plus bag.

The following morning I returned to use the same tactics and caught another good mixed bag. That afternoon I had to return home but I felt the results that I had enjoyed certainly justified my faith in coloured corn.

Holiday Advice I've had some of my 1 2ft 2 piece rods converted to four piece rods by the Tackle Exchange of Walton on Thames. This makes the rods easier to transport as they can fit in the car boot or in a large suitcase. They are also ideal for after work, opportunist sessions as they can remain in the car boot out of the bosses sight.

Martin at the Tackle Exchange can arrange for either your own rods to be cut down and spiggotted or sell you a suitable second hand rod that can be cut down. Alternatively he heavily discounts rods and you can buy rods cheaply off of him to be converted into travel rods.

Conclusion:

It is very easy to dye and flavour most seed baits to produce a new bait that fish will not quickly associate with danger. My experiences with sweetcorn have proved to me the value of colouring and flavouring baits, it has certainly worked for me particularly when using cocktailed sweetcorn baits.

However whilst writing this feature and analysing results, I had a shock. I never thought it was possible to have, over a whole season, more 201b carp than roach from the Thames and it is not just me. Friends of mine have had very similar results. Certainly serious food for thought and more debate.