Are your boilies too strong?
I would like to discuss the subject of washed out baits, the use of dips and glugs, the benefits and pitfalls of pre-soaking bait and the leak-off, or strength of boilies in general. To understand the whole issue we should consider the main dry ingredient recipe or boilie base mix first of all. This way of examining the subject may perhaps go some way to explaining the rationale behind my thinking.
There was a time when most boilies were made-up from just two or three ingredients. This would take the form of a basic dry base mix powder which would then be stiffened with eggs. Early base mix recipes were not made up from the multiple ingredients we use today but produced by utilising one product that was cost effective and easily available. Some of the best early boilie recipes were made by grinding up dried cat biscuits, trout pellets and other pet foods. These ingredients gave of their own inherent smell and taste, and were highly effective in their own right, mainly because they already contained many of the technical additives that carp like. Dried cat and dog foods such as Go Cat or Purina are made with many of the ingredients we now source separately including meat and fish meals, soya, yeasts, flavourings, fats and vitamins. These old-style pet food boilie ingredients were the building blocks for modern boilie recipes and they are still just as effective today. The key to the effectiveness of these ingredients is their consistency of manufacture. There is less likelihood of making an error in production when using simple recipes, especially at home in the kitchen. From a commercial perspective there are probably only a few bait suppliers who have taken note of this rule. Bait made by using clearly defined and proven recipes together with strict quality control is more likely to perform best.
It is a fact that many anglers buy boilies because of the way they smell and how they look not by what they really contain. Today’s boilie recipes can be complex and include many diverse additives including; liquid flavourings, liquid and powder extracts, essential oils, herbs and spices, sugars, salts and fats, as well as a mind-bogging cocktail of powdered ingredients. All these ingredients are now made easily available with the help of the internet and further improved by the general development of carp bait knowledge and field testing carried out in the 1970’s and 80’s. I think this diversity of currently available ingredients may work against bait enthusiasts because there is almost too much choice. Instead of making bait recipes that are simple and effective, there is a temptation to create exotic and over-complicated boilie recipes that are not necessary or effective. Many of the fashionable ingredients we use in our recipes today probably end up working against each other instead of complimenting each other. A large proportion of boilies used today are made-up to be too strong or rich in smell or with an imbalance of ingredients. This is not suitable for carp diets. All bait made and used in the ‘strong/rich’ category is less effective in the long term. Yet many anglers still believe that strong-smelling bait will be more attractive and faster acting. This may hold true when using high impact, highly visual, single hook baits, perhaps fished on-their-own during short sessions or on trips abroad. But this tactic can also be wildly inconsistent. Over-flavoured and highly visual baits do have their place, but they will never produce the same long term results as low-flavour-level boilies in a balanced and nutritious recipe. It is also likely that a unique and truly effective flavour could easily be ruined by using it at high levels even if this initial high dose rate brings instant results.
Popular boilie recipes and high profile well marketed brands might give the impression of being effective but this is surely because so many of them are sold and used. The law of averages states that most fish will accept this type of bait even if it is not nutritionally perfect for them. Carp can and will actively seek-out alternative food-source bait, especially one that provides a genuinely improved nutritional profile than the norm. Making boilies that fall into this category does bring great results and it will do so without the need for mass pre-baiting. The skill in applying a top performing boilie goes hand in hand with the reason for using it. Results should be measured accordingly, but not by the amount of bait used or the time spent on the bankside.
Carp that inhabit heavily pressured venues may have learned that boilies with a lower flavour level may be less dangerous. I wonder if this is because anglers using these types of bait are also more likely to be using a recipe that is nutritionally beneficial and they have put a bit of extra thought and planning put into its design. Boilies that have lain untouched on the lake bed may indeed be viewed with less suspicion by carp, but this depends on the ingredient profile of the bait, the water temperature, the venue and the angler’s interpretation of the situation when they are actually at the fishery. As a rule of thumb, it pays to use fresh bait, with a low flavour level and apply it on demand. Most boilies that remain uneaten on the lake bed will be inedible within 48-72 hours.
Are you in control?
Specialist boilie fishing should provide anglers with an unprecedented level of control. This control lies first and foremost with the base mix recipe and then with the precise measurement of flavourings and additives used in the final recipe. There should never be a need to use dips, bait glugs, or additional coatings of flavour on a finished boilie because the leakage of flavour cannot be controlled. It is almost impossible to repeat a consistently effective flavour-level by pre-soaking boilies? If you do this you cannot exactly replicate the same smell or attractor profile of the bait.
If possible, hook baits should be made separately to an exact and tested recipe. I would also recommend slightly over-flavouring them during production. All the required additives should be incorporated within the mix, or added to the eggs, not coated onto the boilies after they are boiled. And as a rule of thumb, I would incorporate 20 – 30% more additive or flavour, (but in hook bait recipes only), to suit water temperature, using the higher recommended flavour levels in colder water. This procedure is the only way I know to ensure that the finished boilies are consistent every time they are made. Achieving the equivalent of a washed-out-bait would simply require a reduction in additive or ingredient levels. This action is only necessary if it could be truly determined that fish were becoming wary of normally prepared boilies containing standard additive levels which are nearly always too high! Free offerings should always contain the minimum attractor level, ideally at a rate that compliments the prevailing conditions, the frequency of each session and the overall time spent at the venue.