The correct choice of bait can make or break a holiday trip but if you follow a few simple rules there is no reason why you cannot have a great trip. The most common mistake is probably going for quantity rather than quality; it is not worth scrimping on your bait.
Many French lakes contain large heads of big carp but they are not necessarily easier to catch than those in the UK and in some cases are under almost constant pressure. One of my biggest pet hates is the “Euro boilie”. A bulk carrier of flavours which is made from poor ingredients and has little nutritional worth or appeal to the fish.
With a little bit of research on the angler’s part it is possible to get a very good deal on some quality bait especially if buying in bulk. Failing this it is not a bad idea to take exactly the same bait as you use at home, the one you have confidence in.
Nuisance species & rules
When choosing my bait for overseas trips, the first thing I will do is to check what other species inhabit the lake and this will be my starting point. Poisson chat are a miniature catfish that inhabit the French rivers and find their way into some lakes, they can form huge shoals and will consume 10kg of boilies in a matter of minutes. They are a huge pain in the summer months and very hard to combat and the only way around them is to mesh your bait with netting and rebait very often. They are virtually blind though and rely on their sense of smell and can be deterred with cereal based boilies with little flavour or particles which would be the best choice. Always check the lake rules to see if particles are allowed, I will rarely go on a fishing trip to Europe without packing a few tiger nuts and some maize.Crayfish are another problem, generally in the warmer months that require a meshed or shrink tubed bait. If they are present I will put a stop each side of my boilie as these little devils will slide your hook bait right down to the eye of the hook! Pop-ups are also a no-no, the crayfish’s eyes are situated on the top of its head and a bait suspended over the lake bed will be easily seen. They will have no problem dragging the bait down and knotting up your hooklength. If a lake has a large head of crayfish you will find that around spawning time they will not be so much of a problem. They get completely pre occupied with eating fish eggs and this is why lake owners like them in moderation.
Silver fish should also be considered when making a bait selection as large numbers will also impact on your bait. This can be an advantage in some circumstances as their feeding might well encourage the carp to visit your baited area, especially if they are not getting a look in.
How much bait you still have in your swim after 12 hours?
When considering all these factors it is worth trying to visualise how much bait you still have in your swim after 12 hours or even after 4 and then adjusting accordingly. These factors will determine how hard your bait needs to be and what size of boilie you will be taking. A very common mistake is to take bigger baits just because the French fish are bigger. Many continental anglers use 24mm baits, this is because they fish big waters at range and want to deter the pests or get them seen. My personal choice would be for a mix of sizes but definitely 10 and 12mm baits which can be a real edge if you can get away with them.
If you are fishing at ranges up to about 100 yards or so, try leaving the throwing stick behind and spod some small boilies. Just by being a bit different you can have outstanding results.
The use of particles and pellets does I believe make carp fishing more difficult. The fish can get conditioned to eating very small items and feeding in close proximity with very little movement. I believe this makes our rigs less effective and boilies also. Some French lakes have started banning all baits other than boilies and I think this is a forward thinking move. I have looked at the catch returns on such fisheries and the trends are for more fish on the bank over the course of a season and better growth rates.
The amount of carp the lake contains
This is a major factor in determining how much bait I need to take with me. One lake I fish contains an enormous head of big fish that could easily consume 10kg in a very short space of time. I would not go without 100kg of boilies and will spread these about to try and hold the fish longer and continually keep topping up the swim day and night. There are also other situations where I only need 10kg for a week and might bring half of this home.
Always consider over feeding and once it has gone in it cannot be taken out.The first day of a session I will lightly bait a few spots for later in the week and go in with a small mouthful approach. Less is more and if this proves to be a winning approach there is no need to change. You can always step it up but you have no options left if you fill it in from the off. Even by introducing a kilo at a time you can get through an awful lot of bait if you are catching regularly.
I am a really big fan of paste and it has so many different uses. My paste contains lots of soluble attractors and colour that would be lost once boiled but pulses out goodies all the time in the swim attracting fish like a magnet. In the past I have put in a 10kg ball of paste in one go, it stands a foot off the bottom and will have every carp in the vicinity checking it out. Under normal conditions it would take about 3 days to break down but I have seen the carp tearing it to bits, just like they would a method feeder.
I also roll 1kg balls of paste into pizza bases, an unconventional approach that the fish respond really well to with no suspicion. During quiet times I also roll bait on the bank and introduce these without boiling. In the photo you can see a fish that is really well hooked and its mouth is bright red from eating the paste balls. If you approach a lake differently from others you can at times have an incredible catch and a result that you will remember forever. The same goes for groundbait; you can add an unlimited amount of colour and attraction and tip the scales in your favour.
On a cautionary note, if the lake has a good quality “house bait” that has become a staple diet it is worth purchasing a few kilos to hedge your bets. You can still, chop, paste or crumb this to tip the odds in your favour.
For the past 4 seasons I have only produced and sold shelf life baits. These are a million miles away from the awful hard balls of the 90’s and will break down in the water within 3 days and will never go mouldy on the lake bed. The advantage is that I can get the same bait out of the bag every time and do not have to worry about bait storage. Even though they are shelf life they still need to be kept out of the sun as condensation will ruin them. This goes for all the bait you take away with you, take a little bit of time and care and make sure it is in the shade and can enjoy some air exchange.
One final note worth mentioning is about unwanted bait, either take it home or bin it. Please do not throw it in just to get rid of it. I have encountered this a few times and it can ruin your fishing for a few days and potentially damage a fishery.
by Jason Rider