The vast majority of carp over 2lb are caught on boilies in this country but this is not because carp will only eat boilies, it is because they are convenient to use and easy to obtain. However with a huge amount of boilies being put into waters up and down the country the carp now accept them very much as a main part of their diet. Given that statement then I will start with a quick look at the boilie and the variations possible with them to fool the carp.

It is hard to generalise when it comes to how carp may react to boilies, as each water will be different. Some carp will react well to heavy baiting whereas some will be put off by the same thing but I will lay out some fairly common scenarios.

On a fairly heavily fished day ticket water, a huge amount of boilies will be put in by anglers. Because the majority will be on one-off visits, most of the boilies will be of a different flavour and type so the carp will not be able to home in on one type. Therefore they will just look at a boilie as a round piece of food that tastes nice. Here then a visiting angler can use any flavour boilie they like with confidence that the carp will eat it. It's not quite as simple as that, as for instant success, and as you may only be there for a day or a night that is what you are after, a high attraction boilie will be best. These are the ‘ready made’ boilies that you can buy off the shelf. They have to produce results quickly or no one will ever buy them again. The sorts of flavours that are best are fruit flavours, bright colours are good as well, red, white or yellow in particular. A good sprinkling of boilies round each bait would ensure the carp get their heads down, say half a pound round each.

On a heavily fished club water where all anglers are members and fish the water often the same type of boilies will be introduced week in week out, indeed several anglers may well team up together, all using the same type. In this case the carp will start to look for one flavour of boilie as a preferred food. Attractor baits such as ‘ready mades’ are of little use for a long-term bait. The initial catches on them will tail off as the carp will soon ‘overload’ with the high flavour levels these baits contain. These boilies are the ones that become, what is termed, ‘blown’ as the carp begin to avoid them. A high food content boilie such as a good quality fishmeal will be the best sort to use for a long-term bait. Once the carp begin to take these baits as a preferred food they can continue to out-fish other baits for several years as long as they are continuously used. On this scenario, to begin with, the more boilies introduced the more the carp will become addicted to them. Once this is achieved however then less bait needs to be used, in fact just a few baits used when actually fishing can result in the carp actively hunting out your bait, a very confidence boosting situation.

There are a couple of things that we can do with a standard round boilie to get an edge. The obvious one is to use it as a pop-up boilie so it is suspended an inch or so off the bottom above silt or weed. A balanced bait so it rests lightly on silt and weed can also be made. Using mis-shapened boilies or half boilies as hookbait can also fool the carp especially if chopped boilies are used as loose feed.

Apart from boilies there are many other baits that can be used, the next biggest types being particles. The term particles applies to any kind of bait that can be used in multiple amounts. The main hookbaits being tiger nuts and maple peas. There are many other kinds that can be used either as hookbaits or loose feed, a browse through a Hinders brochure will reveal the choices. The two best baits that are used as loose feed are hemp and trout pellets. Hemp attracts all fish and carp are no exception, trout pellets have the same effect. In autumn and spring large beds of hemp and trout pellets introduced over the size of a dinner table can have the carp feeding for several days and if an angler fishes for that period large catches of big carp are possible from the most difficult of waters. A word of warning though, if your lake holds large amounts of tench and bream you may have to wade through these first before the carp begin to force them off the baited area.

A word here about groundbait. Groundbait works just as well for carp as for other species and acts in a similar way to hemp and trout pellets mentioned above. The method feeder of course is made to use groundbait where the hookbait is pushed into a groundbait ball moulded around a purpose made cage weight. The carp, or other species then feed on the groundbait ball finding the hookbait in the process.

If you are lucky enough to find a lake that has not been carp fished much then by far the best carp bait is sweetcorn, if there are fewer other species as well, so much the better. Carp do though seem to have an inherited memory when it comes to sweetcorn as I have yet to find a lake that produces carp to corn. Even if it has not been used for many years, but a water where carp have not been caught on sweetcorn is a find indeed.

This brings me on to natural baits, worms, slugs, maggots and the like, I will even put breadflake and crust in this category. Carp, even in hard waters, can be caught on these baits and they are ideal especially for stalking so do not forget them, they are worth a try in the right situation, as I mentioned last week when discussing stalking methods. Maggots can be classed as a particle bait in fact, as they can be introduced in vast numbers, if other species are not a problem maggots can be ideal, especially in winter.

Finally surface baits. The most common one is the mixer type dog biscuit. These give out a strong flavour into the water as well as being a perfect size, the flavour is a lot to do with its success that is why not all floating dog or cat biscuits work. Alternatives are bread of course and bits of pop-up boilies. I have used small cubes of unflavoured pop-up mix to good effect especially when using loose feed mixers. Small cork balls work in the same situation, the advantage of using cork and pop-up mix is that they do not go soggy and fall off the hook at that crucial moment.

So there we have it, a very quick run through of the various baits available to us. Next week I’ll start looking at the types of water and the behaviour of the carp in them.

Have fun!