Perhaps first we should clarify what we mean by the term groundbaiting. Groundbaiting means literally what the word says, ‘baiting the ground’ to attract fish to an area. This can be done before fishing or during fishing. I will cover both positions although of course it could be said that groundbaiting before fishing is in fact pre-baiting but most of us think of pre-baiting as something done mainly by carp anglers to get carp familiar with a particular bait or to keep them feeding in one area.

Let's though start with what we can use as groundbait. Go in to any tackle shop and we will be presented with a huge range of bags of groundbait in all colours and smells. These types of groundbait are primarily aimed at match fishing; their high attraction smell and flavour are designed to get the fish feeding for short periods, the duration of a match. They will not hold fish in one area for long though and the overkill of flavour will eventually put the fish off. However if we want a quick result on a short session they are ideal.

I am a little dubious about the marketing of saying a certain bag of groundbait is more attractive to carp or to bream and tench etc. Fish are fish and all species will be attracted to an area of groundbait. It is how we present the hookbait, which will to some extent, dictate what actually picks the hookbait up. It goes without saying that these relatively small bags of bait are best used in small heavily stocked match or day ticket waters. It is unlikely that such a small amount of groundbait will attract many fish in a large moderately stocked water.

Below the shelves of branded bags of groundbait will be the less attractive bigger bags of breadcrumb groundbait, either brown or white. This is the traditional idea of groundbait that, when laced with other goodies like maggots or casters, can be used in large quantities to attract larger fish shoals, like bream or tench. It can be cheaper to buy large sacks of this breadcrumb if a lot of serious groundbaiting is to be carried out and this is quite common when fishing abroad for a week in Ireland or Denmark to attract large bream shoals.

Finally there is the specialist groundbait that is used in much smaller quantities such as method fishing where the groundbait is moulded around a special cage in a large ball and cast out. The idea being the fish, tench, bream or carp, home in on this and as it breaks up, the hookbait, presented on a short hooklink, is taken. The fish just believe it is part of the groundbait that has broken off. Nothing is new in fishing of course and this is no more than using a large swimfeeder, modified feeders were being used in the 70s and 80s to catch tench and carp then, the principle was the same.

So now we know what the options are, how and when do we introduce the groundbait? For the match or short session. groundbait is best introduced little and often during a session. A few small balls before you start and then depending on bites and fish caught gauge then how much to introduce after that. It is best to be accurate trying to land each small ball in the same place. To this end it is better to fish close in, a couple of rodlengths out using float or pole tactics.

Once cast out, the float is the perfect marker for accuracy but the shadow of a tree or something similar can be used to ensure the same spot is hit time after time. Apart from the match situation the flavoured groundbaits are very good when fishing small lakes for crucian carp or tench. Small match-box sized bits or groundbait introduced now and again with a few loose bits of bait, sweetcorn etc., really gets the fish searching around and a good catch can be had using these tactics. (There was a prime example of this tactic succeeding earlier in the season when a large catch of crucian carp up to 3lb including many 2lbers was made from the current record crucian carp venue). As we are not fishing far out the groundbait can be introduced by hand. Most of the bags of groundbait available now do not even need water to mix it, they are ready dampened so all we need to do is open the bag and squeeze a small ball together.

When using the breadcrumb groundbait a different approach can be made, as the idea is to attract a large number of bigger fish but an instant result is not expected. We will have to mix the groundbait with water to the right consistency and only experience will show the right amount of water to use. Always mix water to dry ingredients a little at a time, do not add the dry mix to water. The consistency we want is firm enough to ensure a ball stays together in the air but not too stiff that it is still solid on the bottom of the lake or river and takes ages to break up.

For bream and tench we want it so it begins to break up as it nearly reaches bottom or shortly after it hits bottom. For roach fishing in a river we would perhaps want it breaking up as it hits the water. Up to 10 yards out we can throw it in by hand but then up to 80 yards we need a catapult, one that is capable of putting an orange sized ball out accurately. Once the range has been found pull the catapult back the same distance every time and at the same angle then as long as the balls are a consistent size we should hit the same area every time. If fishing a distance out to a gravel bar or some other underwater feature it is worth putting a marker float out so accuracy can be measured and maintained.

The groundbait should be laced with items like maggots, casters, sweetcorn and such like. Dead maggots are better than live ones as the wriggling of live maggots can break up the ball of groundbait prematurely. A couple of different things I have used in the past include mixing rice with the groundbait when fishing for bream as they love the myriad of tiny grains and spend ages picking around looking for them taking the hookbait at the same time. When fishing for tench I mix in coarse fish meal or shrimp meal, the tench love the different flavour and the coarseness of it. Of course a small amount of breadcrumb groundbait can be used on short sessions mixed with dry carp bait mix and flavour, and is a lot cheaper than the small bags of special groundbait, and is dare I say, probably as effective.

Beyond 80 yards of course a boat will be needed to introduce the groundbait but this is specialist bream and tench tactics that I will have a look at next week, together with some tactics to make a 'good day' into a 'red letter day' for us mere mortals.

Have fun!