Josh Jackson - Consultant.

Bait has always been a fascination of mine, mainly due to the fact it’s what I’m using to put a hook in a carp’s mouth. I believe with bait, once you unlock them little percentages, you can induce carp to feed with so much gusto, they'll drop their guard and become very easy to catch. I mean let's face it, if we can use treats to train a dog, why can’t you train a fish? Well, apart from the obvious, they’re not intelligent enough, but using food to condition them is more to the point. In this piece, I'm mainly going to be talking about boilies and the ingredients involved.

Firstly, what does a carp require? There requirements are fairly simple. In optimum feeding temperatures (17-27 degrees celsius) a carp requires around 35% digestible protein. By digestible protein, I mean protein which has a complete essential amino acid profile. Any more than 35%-40% protein, it becomes hard to digest and will simply be passed out. Equally important is the carbohydrate content of which a carp require, 30-50%.This is a huge factor and often forgotten when most of the emphasis is around protein.

A carp has a very simple digestive system, so carbohydrates are easily digested. Complex carbohydrates in the form of digestible starch can actually assist the fish to utilise more protein. Carp also require levels of fats in their diet, not particularly during the winter, but especially around the back end of the summer and into the autumn for their fat store as the colder months approach. Around 5-15% of fats are required. Vitamins and minerals are of course very important, however, there are some of which the carp can actually extract from their environment they live in particularly certain minerals.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been researching alternatives to fishmeal which caused me a massive headache due to what they offer; great protein and amino acid profile. When you try and meet this with alternative ingredient(s), there’s not one which will directly replace it. So why would you want to find an alternative? It’s been pretty successful in various baits for many years. The most obvious is the fact our seas are taking a massive hit from commercial fishermen, which in turn means fishmeal prices are increasing due to a fall in supply and rise in demand.

One thing is for sure, fishmeal is a common ingredient in most bait within the industry, what is that doing for the carp? It’s giving them a reference point, I believe this reference point conditions fish to be cautious when feeding, which defeats what I'm trying to achieve with a new bait.

If we go back to what I mentioned at the beginning, I want my bait to cause fish to drop their guard and feed with zero wariness. I believe this is why in the last few years, non-fishmeal baits seem to do very well. Naturally removing fishmeal from bait would normally encourage you to lean towards milk protein, nut or bird food based baits. However, you can then come across the same scenario as these are massively popular; carp also see this type of bait on a regular basis.

My research leads me onto insect meals. Insect meals are new in aquaculture and the bait industry. Why I lean towards insect meals is because overall, the amino acid profile is more comparable to fishmeal than nut or plant based ingredients, coupled with the fact carp love to eat insects. It goes back to the small percentages again. If I'm using bait which has a high percentage of insects/natural food, I feel at times when carp are preoccupied on various naturals, the food signal being given off by my bait is more in tune with what fish want and are actively seeking out. Hopefully encouraging fish to drop on my bait in times when anglers fishing conventional bait, struggle.

Along my travels creating bait that is completely different to any other on the market, I came across a problem in actually producing it on a commercial level, eggs! It’s almost certain, 99% of bait across the country is made using eggs. Once again, take all these types of common denominators away, you end up with a bait fish haven’t detected before, this increases your chance of getting them to feed confidently. Eggs have traditionally been used to help bind boilies mixes along with helping to skin your baits, but once boiled, you’ve given your bait an insoluble skin. Picture what happens to an egg once placed in a hot frying pan, or, have you ever known an egg to dissolve when poaching? If we remove egg altogether you leave no common reference point and far more soluble bait. Delving even deeper, eggs actually inhibit our baits. Egg white contains a fraction called globulin. This inhabits a digestive enzyme called trypsin, which causes carp to struggle digesting protein in bait. Why would you want anything that is going to hinder digestion? How many times have you had fish noticeably feeding on your spot(s) and nothing comes of it? There are of course a massive amount of possibilities and reasons why this may happen, but how much is down to bait? Having a digestive inhibitor can be one of the reasons carp only feed for a short amount of time, take the inhibitor away and you have prolonged feeding. A carp doesn't have a stomach, so it’s important a fish can digest and remove what it needs as quickly as possible before it gets passed out. We often find our own baits crushed, but sometimes fairly intact when passed. So the more soluble and digestible the bait, the more likely it is to be attractive and accepted time and time again.

I hope this brief Insight into a few aspects of producing bait has helped make you think a little more about the boilies you're using. Bait can be one of your biggest edges, in a time where everyone uses the same rig and can cast to the ends of the earth. The one factor you can gain as an advantage over other anglers is your bait!

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