Ramblings of a Carp Angler – Plastic Baits

Paul Cooper discusses issues around the safety of plastic artificial baits…

I first came across Plastic baits when I was fishing on the Mangrove with Shaun Harrison. Shaun was knocking the stuffing out of the carp, catching on every trip that he made on a fairly challenging lake. During mid-season he let me into his secret! Artificial plastic corn!

carp fishing blog plastic baits

Boilie tipped with 2 sinking plastic corn baits on a knotless knot rig on barbless hook

On the Mangrove it was in the rules that you could cast out a marker rod and use a rowing boat to take out your loose bait to create your feeding table. Every rod was to be cast, so this method saved a lot of time for baiting up especially with particle bait.

Included in his food presentation would be maize or sweetcorn, mixed with hemp and other goodies as well as rehydrated boilies.

It was a master piece, and I could not thank him enough for that little tip. From then on I was tipping my hair rigged boilie with either 1 or 2 pieces of plastic corn. My catch rate improved immediately, and it was a tip that was kept quiet for a couple of seasons.

carp fishing blog plastic baits

Plastic boilie and boilie tipped with 2 pieces of plastic corn

There is no doubt that plastic corn or plastic boilies are a brilliant carp catcher, and the word soon got out. Unfortunately every carp water in both England and France have seen this set up since, so you no longer have the edge.

These days, plastic corn is in every carp anglers box, but how safe is it?

With a boilie, be it shelf life or frozen, no matter how edible it is to the carp, it will break down or float to the surface eventually and get eaten by something, whether it be by carp, other fish species, crayfish, invertebrates, or bird life.

Lets take plastic. If a problem has occurred and there has been a main line breakage, and for some reason a rig is sitting out in the lake, connected to a lead set up or not, and it has an hair rigged piece of plastic bait attached, we now have a bait that is fishing 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, until that piece of plastic breaks down. How long that would take is anybodies guess.

A fish could take the bait, get hooked and be swimming around with the rig etc and no angler to retrieve it and release it from the trap that we have set. If by chance the fish manages to eject or remove the hook, which would still have the hair rigged plastic or artificial corn bait attached, the bait then starts fishing again. How long this cycle goes on I would not like to guess, but it will continue until the hook eventually rusts away.

Carp caught with plastic boilie

Typical carp from Brocard Small, caught over bait on a plastic boilie on the ultimate barbless hook rig. Crayfish were the problem on this occasion..

I rarely use plastic corn these days but will use un-flavoured plastic boilies when faced with crayfish or Poison Chat. Flavouring the plastic defeats the object as they draw the attention of these nuisance species, so flavouring is out of the question. I know the risks associated with the use of plastic, but on some occasions it becomes a necessity. Now, I will only use a plastic bait if it is accompanied by a barbless hook pattern, so as to eliminate the chances of fish being tethered in the event of me being unlucky enough to lose a rig,

Paul Cooper

Carp Fishing with Plastic Boilie - Blog

Critically balanced plastic boilie on the ultimate barbless hook rig


21 thoughts on “Ramblings of a Carp Angler – Plastic Baits

  1. Shaun Harrison says:

    Thanks for the acknowledgement there Paul, so many get given the heads up on something then go around as claiming it was their original idea.

    Not sure if it is the passage of time playing tricks or myself only giving half a heads up at the time but the most successful artificial I used on the Mangrove were the artificial boilies that Enterprise Tackle first did, particularly the original yellowy/green version. The colour changed on this in later years and I never did quite so well on the newer colour.

    Interesting comments you have made above as I no longer use artificial baits, I don’t even carry them with me any more because of the problem that they are forever fishing whilst the hook is sharp. We all have accidents at time and suffer unexpected line breakages. Pike often swim through the lines on some lakes and cut you off. The Mangrove was a prime example of this. Sometimes a mussel will clamp over a line and it will part being wound in. The odd frap up can occur resulting in a frap up. If we are all totally honest we all end up leaving the odd unattached baited rig out in the lake and to me to leave plastic out there it is a very long term problem as against a bait that will break down,

    When Quest Baits first formed plastic sight bobs were an important piece of my angling and it would have been wrong not to have sold everything I used, so we did. However, as time went by I started to feel more and more uncertain about the ethics of selling these items to anglers that possibly wouldn’t be as careful or as meticulous with their set up to make them as safe as possible as perhaps the type of anglers we tend to mix with. Because of this I took them off our lists and at the same time opted not to use them myself.

    This is where the Pimple Pops http://www.questbaits.com/details.php?prodId=13&category=2&secondary=&keywords= first originated from wanting safe to use and safe to sell sight bobs.

    Plastic baits can be an excellent way of avoiding Poisson Chat as well as Crayfish (so long as you use them unflavoured with Crays around) but when these are not a major issue I can’t see me using artificial baits for carp again and can’t actually remember the last time I used one despite catching so many on them in the past.

  2. Shaun Harrison says:

    Just a quick footnote, my most successful way of fishing them was as a snowman with a conventional boilie underneath. I feel that this gave a very different presentation to most sinking faster than most other anglers snowmen presentations and also gave the advantage of proper food signals escaping too. I have caught with artificial baits on their own but always preferred to have bait on as well.

  3. Paul Cooper says:

    I have not used plastic corn for a couple of years now because of the problems mentioned in my blog and your comments.
    Occasionally plastic boilies come in very useful, such as at Brocard last year. There are ways to get around poisson chat, such as meshing the baits etc. Crays are a different kettle of fish! They will attack any bait going and always appear to be even more interested in removing the boilie stops so that they can steal the whole bait off the rig. At Brocard the crays were crushing my meshed baits leaving me with an empty mesh container still attached to the hair. I am afraid that when this is the case, plastic boilies come into there own. As I wrote in my article, I ended up fishing a plastic boilie onto a barbless hook rig over my baited area and meshed baits well away from the area. This seemed to work as my catch rate off the baited area then increases. The crays were drawn straight onto the bait, which in turn attracted the attention of passing carp into my fishing area.
    This method allowed me to maintain a steady catch rate throughout the week, totaling 18 carp in some pretty difficult conditions. I suppose I could have just fished away from my baited area altogether, but this does go against the grain.

  4. Shaun Harrison says:

    I added a link to my angling facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shaun-Harrison-Angler/316807261689519?ref=hl but they have commented there rather than on this original link. So, I thought I would add them to the discussion as they have been put onto an open page on mine.

    Jim Lloyd wrote…
    Personally i don’t use any plastic baits in any form, for the very same reasons as mentioned above. We’ve all cracked off on a cast at some point, got smashed up or snagged by a carp, so why take the risk. Think fisheries should ban all plastic baits on all their waters, even those with crays!

    Andrew J Grenfell wrote…
    I have seen first hand the problem of plastic baits not breaking down. On a water I fish, we implemented a leader ban this year, and plastic baits over particle are very popular. Well back in October I had a few funny bleeps in the early hours on the chod rig, and then not long after I was reeling into pack up and found myself attached to a decent weight. It slowly started to kick and I stood playing a fish! My initial though was had the fish picked the naked chod up and just sat with it. On getting it to bank it transpired the fish was trailing a 6ft length of leadcore, line, 4oz lead and a baited rig of two bits of plastic corn and a very rusty manky hook that was corroding but at the tip end still semi sharp in its Scissors, and the trailing line had wrapped around my chod rig . I promptly netted and unhooked the fish and treated the hook mark from the old hook, and thankfully the fish looking perfectly okay. The whole rig looked like had been sat on bottom for quite some time, ESP considering the leader ban had been in effect for 6 months and I can only assume had been picked up recently or the fish surely would of shown signs of distress or the hook mark more infected. Thankfully the trailing line was snagged on my rig to save the fish.

  5. Andrew Gilbert says:

    This certainly is an interesting read (both the main blog and the replies) and I can’t disagree with the points made. I started to use pieces of fake corn to give my sweetcorn rigs more buoyancy several years ago and back then I was concerned over the rig being left in play for such a long period in the event of a break. I still use that rig and I’ve noticed improvements with catch rate when topping a boilie with fake buoyant corn. The combination of real and fake corn together I’m afraid is too good for me to give it up.
    Before I get lynched with the previous statement, I will say that I take fish safety very seriously. I quite often fish lakes that contain catfish and have fished several Angling Lines venues containing big cats and I was always conscious about hooking one and getting chewed off or having a line break. I always use barbless hooks, and even though they hold more solidly in a cat’s mouth I was worried about them losing the rig and leaving the plastic bait for a carp to pick up. Through this concern I started to play about with rigs and tried to make something safer when fishing with a plastic hookbait.
    I started to use a free running rig-ring on the hook, held in place by a hook bead. The bait was secured by bait floss to the ring and the idea was it would work like a lead safety clip. After a period in the water the bead would become loose on the hook and eventually with a little bit of force slide off and leave just the plastic bait, a rig-ring and some bait floss separate from the tackle. To improve it, I now use two tiny overlapping rings of shrink tubing instead of a bead (you can see the rig in a picture from my alternative hook baits blog). After the rig has been in the water twenty four hours the shrink tubing wouldn’t survive another cast without the ring and bait flying off.
    This is as safe as I can possibly make a rig for fishing plastic baits, I have 100% confidence in this and while I understand anglers concerns over fake baits, I really hope we don’t see a massive widespread ban on anything plastic.
    Andy Gilbert

  6. Paul Cooper says:

    Some very good replies there Shaun.
    It just confirms my feelings about plastic corn. The trouble is, plastic corn is used by lots of carp anglers now due to its efficiency in putting carp on the bank. Until anglers start thinking about the consequences of a lost rig, they will carry on using plastic corn. Some would fish no matter what, but in reality, how long has it taken our selves to come to this conclusion. I certainly did not think about it when I first started using plastic. Just take a look at a lot of catch reports and you will see that corn tipped on a boilie is reported as being one of the main baits used. I do think that plastic corn has gone too far now to be banned.

  7. Shaun Harrison says:

    A few more comments from my page.

    Martin Gibbinson Tell you what ban all leaders from all waters, ban clips and all the other crap, have pure running leads only……a very small minority use plastic..the vast majority use crap set up wrong. And the example given above a shit rig is what done the damage not the plastic….I would have no problem if I run a water with plastic being used, because all the other crap would be banned, and the water and anglers managed…..rant over.
    2 hours ago · Like

    Shaun Harrison Angler That’s the problem Martin, most waters aren’t managed by people who go to the trouble of educating and in those circumstances artificial baits are a longer term nightmare.
    2 hours ago · Like · 2

    Andrew J Grenfell oh yeh no doubt martin, that a badly set up rig, with a too long, in my opinion, length of lead core, and a lead that was jammed on a lead clip with no chance of discharging, which highlights the other problem that even a safe lead clip system in the w…See More
    2 hours ago · Like

    Shaun Harrison Angler Plastic is dangerous for far longer than a cracked off food bait which will soon soften and also go rotten.
    2 hours ago · Like

    Andrew J Grenfell i agree a food bait will go rotten, and break down. A fact i would consider is the length of time it might take to be picked up, as break down time on a water like Farlows, or say Drayton Res, might be only a few minutes to a day before a fish picks up bait n is hooked and trailing the rig. Obs the risk is then the fish getting rid of the rig. On a lower stocked water then the break down time of the bait will come into play more, as the bait has time to rot and break down before the fish considers picking it up.
    it then goes back to rig safety in my mind.
    about an hour ago · Like

    Martin Gibbinson What about some of the modern pop up’s seem to last forever , and shelf life’s,….tigers…cork floaters….glass in pop up’s….bit like the tubing argument….protecting the flanks…..
    about an hour ago · Like

    Rich Howell I understand and agree with a lot of what is being said which is the reason I haven’t used plastic baits for many years. I have however used plastic baits in the past when fishing waters with signal crays in this country and chats in France. My question is this. What other options have we got other than recasting every hour on waters with these bait thieves?
    about an hour ago · Like

    Rich Howell Well that’s an hour gone now with no answer to my question. Come on guys, you can’t say ban plastic from all waters, even those with crays, if you can’t come up with an viable alternative. Any response?
    30 minutes ago · Like

    Shaun Harrison Angler Just back on line. Personally I prefer to shrink wrap proper bait as the bait breaks down still so isn’t as dangerous for so long.

  8. Shaun Harrison says:

    and a few more…

    Rich Howell Have used the shrink wrap option myself Shaun, in fact this was my preference too but only for boilie fishing. All too often on the cray infested waters anglers give up with boilies (Crays like them too much). Shaun I totally agree with you mate and would much prefer if no one used plastic baits but where there’s crays people will use plastic. Not sure I’m much more comfortable with the use of shrink wrapped baits now than I am with plastic to be honest.
    13 hours ago · Like

    Shaun Harrison Angler The bait breaks down and goes rotten so is far less appealing to the fish after a period of time. Nothing is 100% safe but we do what we can to get as close as we can.
    13 hours ago · Like

    Rich Howell Point taken Shaun. In the words of Jack the Hat, ‘ I hate them bloody Crays’.

  9. Paul Cooper says:

    From some of these replies I can see that some anglers are still out to catch at all costs. If plastic baits can cause stress or in some circumstances, death to a carp, then it is our duty to ban them altogether. It only takes 1 idiot to kill a carp, with the rest of the anglers suffering the consequences. If in doubt I am afraid I would ban them, and I have in fact banned them on my lake. The only option to using plastic would be with a barbless only hook, to a rig that would eject the lead if the slightest problem occurs.

  10. Shaun Harrison says:

    Even barbless hooks aren’t the total answer. I regret not photographing them now but last year I ended up with a carp trailing gear getting tangled with my line. When I got it to the side and in the net I was aware that another fish was attached to the first one and after a lot of very careful handlining trying not to get cut with the fish charging around a second fish of high doubles was landed.

    Both those fish had corroded hooks in their moths with artificial baits and both those fish were on barbless hooks. I unhooked them easily but the fish had been unable to get off and had at some stage tangled with each other. Judging by the damage on the gill plates and line marks on their bodies as well as the weathered and algae d look of the terminal tackle, they had been playing each other for a very long while.

  11. Andrew Gilbert says:

    Hello Shaun, I can’t seem to find the above comments to this subject on your facebook page?. I take it they must be recent postings.

  12. Andrew Gilbert says:

    Not to worry i’ve found them on the right hand side of your page

  13. Shaun Harrison says:

    Are you looking at my personal page or my Shaun Harrison Angler page?

    I was forced to set up the public profile ‘Shaun Harrison Angler’ page due to reaching the facebook limit of 5,000 friends several years ago.

    I try and keep my angling posts away from my normal page now to try and encourage people to use the other one which has no limits. The profile and business pages work on Likes of the page rather than Friends. Once the page is liked, then it has the same effect as becoming a friend. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shaun-Harrison-Angler/316807261689519?ref=hl

    You will find this thread around 7 posts down my ‘Angler’ page.

  14. Shaun Harrison says:

    Sorry, we must have been posting at the same time but my post above could be useful to others. I often have people not realising I had to set a different page up.

  15. Andrew Gilbert says:

    Hi Paul. With regards to your last comment, I do agree with you completely about fish safety.
    However as far as the statement of catching at all costs, I do have to disagree with you there.
    I’ll use Laroussi as an example, it cost me £500 for my place to fish there for a week, another say £250 for bait, plus petrol and a few other expenditures. I’m looking at close to a thousand pounds for a week’s fishing holiday. If faced with a potential blank and feeling that a piece of plastic corn will help me catch or improve my catch rate, I’m going to use it. I know I can present this piece of fake corn in as safe a manner as I can, without feeling like some sort of mercenary carp angler. Do I think I’m going to kill or damage carp with my rig? No I do not. It’s not like I think that for a thousand pound holiday the carp are expendable if it means I catch.
    Everything comes back to fish safety and how anglers apply themselves to certain situations. I can understand things being banned on waters, but I’m not going to miss out on plastic baits because of other people’s mistakes.
    As Shaun mentioned about not selling imitation baits anymore, I’m pretty sure Quest used to sell unprepared maize (please correct me if I’m wrong about this, but I’m sure I bought some from you several years ago). I would be far more worried about an angler putting in 20kg of badly prepared maize into a lake, which would be edible straight away, as opposed to a piece of fake corn.
    As with leaders, leads, hooks, you name it, all need to be fished the right way, but do I feel bad for using plastic bait, no I don’t and I am going to continue to use them.
    When I look at the list of bloggers, the amount of experience and knowledge is massive. I know how respected some of you are and this blog is a fantastic medium of educating and helping people. Personally I check the blog every morning and read every article. I think this site has been a massive success, it has given me some good ideas for my own angling and there has been some really enjoyable reads. I am not naïve, I understand that my blogs will not be taken anywhere near a seriously as the other guys blogs will be, and I’m fine with that. The influence some of the bloggers have is a great thing and if people take notice of issues written about I am all for it, however sometimes it works the other way. Because of this influence in the fishing world, I would hate to see this blog lead to bans on plastic baits at some waters and more importantly a ban with Angling Lines venues. The pen is mightier than the sword and fair play Paul and Shaun, you do have pretty impressive pens, but I want to keep using imitation corn on my rigs. No one will back me up on this I’m sure, but if any Angling Lines venues banned imitation baits I would be very very annoyed.

  16. Paul Cooper says:

    I think that the art of fishing will always carry a risk to our quarry. All that we can do is try to eliminate as many known risks as possible, and I am sure that a fish can release itself far easier from a barbless hook than a barbed hook, Pressure has to be applied to remove a barbed hook from the mouth of a carp, were normally very little if no pressure is required to remove a barbless one, I still think that anglers have a massive fear of loosing a fish from a barbless set up, so that is why so many are against using them. We all here about barbless hooks slipping and tearing a fish but I can honestly say that I have never encountered any problems with their use.

  17. Shaun Harrison says:

    It is all about education. Lots of items are relatively safe in some hands and downright dangerous in other hands.

    I hate to see bans of any type in place but hopefully the words above will make a few sit back and take another look at their set ups and think about what they are doing. To my mind many issues in angling could be reduced greatly by having bailiffs regularly checking rigs and educating. I am not really thinking about Angling Lines venues here but more so the type of venue a lot of anglers start on and begin to hone their skills on. From my own observations anglers are very much left to get on with it which would worry me to death if I were responsible for stocking these venues.

    I have questioned the odd person in the past over set up’s I have seen used and have had the rather weak excuse along the lines of…

    ‘I have fished like this for years and never had any problems’.

    That was because they hadn’t been guided right in the first place. People rode motorbikes without helmets for many years without a problem but it doesn’t mean that problem will never occur. Education is the main thing all the way along. I have been as guilty as many others in the past for turning a blind eye to things rather than getting involved but these days, I’m not sure if it’s an age thing or whatever, I find myself trying to help out much more now without trying to be patronising.

    I generally start off with something along the lines of…

    “I could improve that set-up for you”. Rather than “What the hell have you got set up there”.

    I’m pleased this one has generated a response as it means in the very least a few more may stop and think about what they are doing and how they can make their own set up just that little bit safer.

    I may be jumping the gun a little here but in another few months there should be a product out that will make all plastic baits much safer to use. I’m not sure if the Patents are fully sorted yet so for now I had better keep quiet.

  18. Paul Cooper says:

    Maybe the answer is something where the bait can be released from the hook after a period of time. Maybe a hair rig made up of a slow dissolving PVA. Anglers do need to get their heads together on this one so that we can make the use of artificial plastic baits safe. Its all about innovation for the carp fraternity in developing new ideas, not just to line someones pockets, but for the benefit of fish welfare.

  19. Shaun Harrison says:

    It is all sorted Paul, just final boxes to tick before others jump on the bandwagon.2

  20. Paul Cooper says:

    In reply to your last comment Andy:-
    It is not our intention to get plastic banned, in fact quite the opposite. Hopefully a blog such as this will get people thinking. The outcome being a method or product that will make fishing with plastic baits 100% safe. At present it is no where near safe for the reasons that you can read in some of the comments already supplied.
    A 40lb + carp costs well over £15,000-00 alive, but dead is worth nothing. I am sure that lake owners are aware of the dangers surrounding the use of plastic, but just the act of fishing puts the carp’s welfare at risk. It is our duty to ensure that we make every effort to protect our sport and the residents in the lake. I think that I speak on behalf of Angling Lines, in saying that they have no intention of banning plastic baits, it would be financial suicide for the lake owners.
    Your contribution to this discussion is much appreciated as we all have different views and opinions. There are circumstances where I will still use plastic boilies, but not artificial plastic corn. Plastic boilies can be a godsend when you encounter poison chat and even more so, Crayfish.
    Artificial corn can be duplicated by trimming down a yellow pop up, which will break down eventually, unlike plastic corn.
    As Shaun has commented, there should be something on the market shortly that will eliminate the dangers surrounding the use of plastic.
    Both Shaun and myself used plastic corn for carp fishing in the early days, well before it became common knowledge as a carp catcher, so we are both as much to blame as anyone. Through discussions such as this, and angling experiences you do become aware of the associated dangers surrounding the use of plastics.
    It’s good to be able to express opinions in the form of blogs and comments, as I am sure those that read them at least sit back and think about their future actions.

  21. Shaun Harrison says:

    Yes Paul, I’m definitely one of the guilty ones for helping to popularise artificial hook baits. I’ve written several articles on their use now in the U.K. as well as similar for 4 other countries, not to mention previous Blogs etc.

    My earliest artificial’s were small painted polystyrene balls, cork balls and foam wraps over cork from ear/headphone covers.

    I feel it is more than my duty to just make people a little more aware of the danger of casting a rig that is fishing for as long as a hook is sharp. Yes, they manage to get off barbless most of the time but then that rig is sat there waiting for the next victim.

    We do what we can and it would certainly be wrong not to raise any issues or concerns we have. If it wasn’t for this, new safer products would never be developed. I don’t necessarily want to see bans but would ask people to think twice. Do you really need a plastic sight bob when the same can be achieved with proper food?

    There are plenty of pop-up mixes around that you can form into far more interesting shapes and colours than the artificial available http://www.questbaits.com/details.php?prodId=11&category=2&secondary=&keywords= and more buoyant if required too.

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