When Fred Wilton made public his HNV bait theory it had its doubters and still does to this day. It was pure genius and so far ahead of its time but was ultimately perfect for the time. Fred had no doubts that he was right and if he did I am pretty sure they vanished very quickly as his baits totally tore waters apart. Carp fishing is very much like life, if you know when you are right and you have won you are in a good place and confidence is high. Some people will never even know when they have it all but that is another story.
Now, having said I understand how the theory works and taking the giant step in proclaiming that carp can recognise what is good for them, I also believe that the theory is nowhere near as relevant today as it was back then. Just as important as the quality was I believe, the quantity. Here was an easy meal with everything needed for a healthy life in one convenient parcel that would quickly satisfy the needs of the carp. At the time of the boilie revolution the fish were not really subjected to anglers baits at anywhere near the level they are now.
Boilies have become a very clean and efficient way to fish, furthermore they are available to all and at a price where we can afford to use plenty as free offerings. There cannot be a fish that swims that does not realise that they are food or encounter them on a day to day basis.
The bass of the theory is that the fish can tell the difference between baits and will always pick the best, if you follow this literally you will always be looking for a better bait that will catch you no more fish!
Most bait companies offer good quality baits and we know this for sure just by looking at the weight gains in our lakes. The fish just get bigger and bigger and within the next twenty years the UK record will way 80lbs and that is a fact. So looking at the HNV theory we have to think about what the carp is lacking in its diet now and the answer is very little. They probably have a lot more nutrition than they could ever need and resemble farm animals that are produced for weight gains. I am again talking generally and could never hope to deal with every exception with the space available to me here. In my job I meet a lot of people that do not have the intelligence of a carp but I would like to think that I have a lot more going on upstairs than a cold blooded fish!
I know exactly what I should eat and no specific nutrition that I need for my health and wellbeing but I choose to ignore most of it. I am 44 years old and still struggle to hydrate myself most of the time because I do not like water. I also prefer a good Vindaloo and a pot of Hagen Daz to a balanced meal. From this I can conclude that I eat what taste good to me and also that I am drawn to foods that have drug like qualities such as chocolate. I have at my disposal the choice of anything I want and still choose the stuff that will do me little good. The same NOW applies to fish, it is all available and other things will determine their preference.
I have fished a lake in Slovenia for a few years now and for one reason or another I have not done as well as I should have and the main reason why is sitting in the bucket of bait in the picture. The lake is fished by various Europeans of differing angling abilities but nearly all approach the lake with the same tactics which is a handful of boilies over maize. Carp can learn and do so by getting caught and any carp in the lakes knows that if eats 20 boilies it will get caught. The other option is that it eats as much maize as is possible and does not get caught. Maize has a few things going for it in as much that it is bright, has a low pH and contains enough nutrition to sustain life, it is nowhere near as beneficial as my really good boilies that catch me very little out there!
A nice result but I would have caught a lot more using maize.
A similar thing is happening on our home waters all over the country. By feeding particles and pellets we also make it harder to hook fish on our rigs. The fish can feed hard on a spot hovering up these bits and pieces and do not really have to swim or travel which in turn makes it easier to get rid of hooks. I am not a rig boffin my any standards but we pretty much all use bait tied on to a hook with some line of some sort of another. Rig development has not really come very far at all in the last twenty years and the way we feed can also make these rigs a lot more effective but I will go into this in greater depth in the next part.
Various particles and certain ingredients can also have drug like affects. When you get a situation when half the lake get on the going bait it becomes a staple source of food. An example of this is a certain type of yeast in one of the popular baits at the present; the fish clearly love the taste of it and are constantly on the lookout for it. Tiger nuts have a similar sort of affect, although there is much better food available they just love them and get caught over and over again which I believe is due to a particular taste faction found in the shell of the nut and of course the different texture of the food item itself. This is quite an important factor as well because if you look at peanuts they can be a great carp catcher but peanut meal is a very poor boilie ingredient.
The fish above has been caught by me on the same bait 8 times; it clearly likes it and eats it in preference to other items that are less dangerous.
I would hate to give the reader the idea that Fred’s HNV theory does not cut the mustard, he was a big angling hero to me and the concept was revolutionary and brilliant at the time and for a long time afterwards. The future of boilies for me now resides in the last 5% of the mix in trying to trigger a response within the water through a chemical change or finding substances that the carp show a very positive reaction to.