Take the current trend amongst certain groups of anglers for using huge amounts of bait. A new technique? No, the professional barbel anglers of the Thames half a century and more ago habitually baited with many stones of groundbait and thousands of worms to keep the best lays filled with fish.

The old pro's were fishing a totally different river to the Thames of the twenty-first century. The huge shoals of chub and barbel no longer exist. Today this approach is more likely to appeal to the angler fishing a huge gravel pit, or reservoir, where big means better. Or does it? In these low stock density waters why should piling in huge amounts of bait work so effectively?

I don't have a problem with people using a lot of bait. I have yet to come across anything resembling a natural fishery where heavy baiting has caused a problem. OK, if you want to stock carp at grossly exaggerated densities then you will have water quality problems. However, just a couple of anglers could not afford to put enough bait into a large gravel pit to cause a problem.

It does seem to me though that anglers are abusing this method and from their results I cannot see how it can be justified. OK, if you have a large number of fish in front of you and are expecting a big catch, then go ahead. The fish will soon clean up the bait, they get a free meal, you catch loads of fish, everyone is happy. What I can't get my head around are the huge amounts of bait used to catch just a solitary fish. This is where I think the logic breaks down.

Even under ideal conditions a fish can only eat five percent of it's own body weight per day. So a ten pound tench can eat a pound of corn, a fifteen pound bream can eat a pint of maggots. That is the absolute maximum. Now consider that conditions might not be ideal, the fish are unlikely to feed just on your bait, and I hope you can see that you very quickly start talking about introducing only very small amounts of bait per fish. Perhaps if you can sit in a swim long enough you will, by the law of averages, catch a few fish that pick up your hook bait. Alternatively, you can make your hook bait more attractive and increase it's chances of being picked up. Either way, why then introduce so much feed?

I am a great believer in the principle of feeding little and often. Although there may be some validity in the idea that you don't fill the fish up so quickly when fishing like this, the main reason that I like it so much is the activity it creates in the swim. If you look at the natural food of coarse fish it is active. From hatching nymphs struggling in the surface film, to the imperceivable (to us) movements of bloodworm in a pocket of silt. Whilst fish locate their food using a number of senses, one of the most acute is the lateral line system designed to detect movement. A roach may be able to see it's prey from a distance of a few metres in exceptionally clear water, but the lateral line can work over many tens of metres. Then there is hearing, sound waves travel immense distances under water, what of the sound of food hitting the water surface?

Baiting little and often keeps bait falling through the water column, giving movement, visibility, and sound. Contrast this with the static bed of groundbait, which at best might slowly fizz away. Many is the time that introducing everything from maggots to boilies has brought a bite. The most extreme example that comes to mind are the roach found now in several of the Lake District waters that appear to home in on the splash and release of feed from a cage feeder. I am sure that you could sit fishing over a bed of groundbait all day and not catch a tenth of the fish that would find their way towards the splash of the feeder.

What about combining the two approaches; what about using a lot and often? If you can get away without disturbing the fish when you introduce the bait (don't go chucking spods about in three feet of water!) then this just has to be the best method. Not only can you get a good amount of feed into the swim to encourage the fish to feed confidently, you also have the extra attraction of the regular baiting. Possibly the most important consideration though is that you can still alter your feeding regime should conditions change. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Keep your options open, think about what is going on under the water surface and be flexible. You know it makes sense!