I tend to think of groundbait as if it were a very fine particle bait; fish will feast on the individual bits as it floats around creating preoccupied feeding. One of the advantages of groundbait is that it can be used to attract hordes of small fish, which in turn attract the bigger fish, keen to know what all the fuss is about. The secret to creating this feeding frenzy is to produce a groundbait that forms a cloud in the water column.

This year I have spent a lot of time fishing groundbait at longer range. I have no doubt that the groundbait attracts lots of fish, but to get the best out of the method it is essential to ensure a fine cloud of particles falling through the water. Coming up with a groundbait that instantly forms a cloud and which can be catapulted long distances is something that I have struggled to produce for a long, long time. Of course, the problem is that you need a very stiff heavy mix to give you maximum distance and this tends to be so stodgy that it doesn't break up until it has hit bottom, by which time it will not form a cloud.

With practice, you can reach a compromise where at least some of the mix breaks up on the drop. One way of telling when you are getting your mix half right is to watch the ball as it hits the water. If the splash turns the colour of the groundbait then at least some of it is breaking up on entry. This is OK, but rather wasteful as most of the bait will sit inactive on the lake bed, not what I am looking for at all. My problem was obvious, trying to use a catapult to get the bait out at distance was the problem, I had to find a different way of getting the bait out there.

As with most things, the eventual answer was very simple, but required a little bit of lateral thinking. When using particle baits at range it is normal to use some sort of bait-dropper or spod. Why not use the spod to send out little piles of groundbait instead? Great in theory, but I had problems using the spod with most standard groundbait mixes. Now, try and use the spod with most groundbaits and you will end up with a clogged up mess that doesn't leave the spod, but fear not, there are a couple of different answers that allow you to feed cloud groundbait beyond catapult range.

As I was trying to produce a cloud at long range the simple answer to this clogging was to make the groundbait very sloppy, almost like porridge. This mix certainly exited the spod with ease, the trouble was that with a facing wind you would become covered in the stuff. Absolutely everything would get splatted even when using spods with no holes. A more important problem with this method was that the cloud of groundbait was actually too good. The bait would form a cloud immediately, leaving most of the bait close to the surface. Now, as I was ledgering, often over quite deep water, I really wanted the cloud to be deeper in the water. Experiments in the edge actually showed that very little of the bait would ever reach the bottom in lakes filled with lots of small fish.

A better method was to make the groundbait incredibly dry, only just damp, and mixed 50/50 with hemp and grouts. This mix is too dry and contains too many particles to stick together, so it exits the spod every time. This dry bait comes out of the spod cleanly every time and sinks quite quickly before forming a cloud, perfect for even quite deep water. Most mixes can be used in this way, but you will need to spend a little bit of time experimenting with the make up of the bait.

Spod choice is also important when using groundbait. Go for models like the original Gardner particle rocket, with a large bore and stubby shape which allow the groundbait to exit quickly. Eventually I started making my own spods out of washing up liquid bottles that were almost as wide as they were tall. These were perfect as the groundbait could even be formed into balls, opening up a whole new method again.

With my new wide-boy spods I was now able to fire out balls of groundbait accurately and further and use mixes that were much softer than previously possible. These soft mixes break down close to the lake bed and some will remain intact for a short while, forming a cloud breaking up on the bottom. This proved to be the perfect method for bream and carp, much better than hard balls of feed that I had previously been forced to use at range. So, in the process of overcoming one problem, a whole new approach had opened up and one that has already proven it's usefulness time and time again to boot.