Carp Bait - Making the Right Choices
Bait guru Gary Bayes takes a look at a some of the factors involved in putting a bait together, with particular reference to incredibly successful Monster Squid.
Whenever we release a new bait there is always a mad time when everyone wants to know as much as possible about it: what is it? What’s in it? How long has it been field tested? Will it be any good in the winter? Can you use it in silty lakes? In deep lakes? And what about rivers?
It’s a Monster
Monster Squid was originally made up as a bait against which to test other new baits on waters which we knew had been hammered on some of our other baits. Why do we want to test new bait against new bait you may well ask? Well, some of the people who test baits for us actually never use ‘off the shelf’ bait, preferring instead to always take the risk of using something new.
Not all new baits work so they do come unstuck sometimes but to test bait properly you need to be testing it against a proven fish catcher otherwise a good angler who can get bites will not be able to decide if the new bait is better than an old one. So with this in mind Monster Squid was designed as a fish catcher to fish against ‘maybes’ using information from loads of anglers to create a different bait recipe but with tried and tested products. So that’s the ‘what is it?’ question answered, it’s basically a new recipe but with proven ingredients.
The “what’s in it?” is not really a secret; it’s an accumulated result of making ‘specials’ for people. The two main attractors in the early Monster Squid were Scopex No1 and Shellfish Sense Appeal; these attractors catch anywhere and, importantly, catch heavy natural food eating carp on really rich lakes.
Scopex No1 and Shellfish Sense Appeal are very distinctive attractors and make a very good spring bait but they are not so good in summer and the rest of the year. George Benos, one of my ‘inner circle’ of field testers, has used Scopex/Shellfish a lot and has had a lot of good fish from several waters but we mostly had to alter the bait once the season was under way, several other anglers have all found the same.
Because the S Mix Squid is a ‘strong’ mix and not always ideal for adding too many attractors to the original Monster mixes were on the rather more bland Monster Pursuit base mix. But we found straight away that the addition of Squid Essential Extract powder made a better bait so that was added but at about a third the strength of the Squid base mixes. Because the Scopex/Shellfish combination isn’t an ‘all season’ one we next added elements of another excellent bait, Banana Squid.
Banana Squid contains Banana Oil and Red Liver Oil Palatants and Robin Red. All of these blend well with the Scopex/Shellfish recipe so we knew it would work. Because we now have water and oil soluble flavours we use both Intense Sweetener and Protaste Sweetener, which makes a much better sweet profile.
That’s the “what’s in it?” covered as it was six to seven years ago and it soon became apparent that it was in fact an awesome bait, easily matching and surpassing other baits on the waters it was being used. At this time some of my close field testers were using another base mix in the winter, on similar lines to our Amber Attractor base mix. The flavours in the Monster Squid worked just as well in this mix in the cold but slowed down in the spring. So the following year it was decided to tweak the Monster Pursuit base mix a little, pulling in some bird foods and other ingredients and to achieve this we blended the S Mix Squid base mix into the Monster Pursuit.
The Monster Pursuit is actually a relatively simple mix, so the ingredients from the Squid mix significantly widened the nutritional profile of the finished bait. The aim was still only to make a ‘special’ to test other baits against but in the mean time the Monster Squid was getting a very good field test itself.
Over the next few seasons the bait received several tweaks in respect of flavour levels and ratios, base mix changes, Robin Red in or out, colours and hardness/texture.
Colour-wise most anglers prefer a ‘natural’ shade but several of our field testers will not use natural at all simply because everyone else does. I’ve conducted several colour tests over the years and found that on a particular day colour can make a real difference. The trouble is there are not any definite rules to work by.
When we first developed the Amber Strawberry we made it in several colours and in winter conditions found that pure white was best, no surprises there, but it proves colour does count. With the ingredients that go into the Monster Squid there wasn’t much chance of making really bright colours and after all of the tests I’ve conducted with the help of field testers it’s apparent that white is the only colour you can use for long term fishing with feed baits. Purple wasn’t too bad, pink was a waste of fishing time and so was yellow.
Of all the colours I’ve used the dark fishmeal/Robin Red colour is one of the most consistent with the dark brown colour that’s produced when you add red blood cell to a bait just as good. So, the Monster Squid is fishmeal/Robin Red, dull red and natural.
When we were satisfied with the flavour ratios we then experiment with the levels, making baits with very low to very high inclusion rates. Once again we proved that as long as the flavours are balanced correctly, with no individual flavour dominating, and with optimum levels of sweeteners, the inclusion rate isn’t so critical.
We set the total inclusion rate for the liquids at 15ml per four egg mix but double that and the carp still liked it, halve it and they still liked it too. Change the formula and up one or more of the flavours and it isn’t as good. This, in my opinion, is where Nash Bait leads the way in the bait world, we have over 25 years of ‘flavour skills’ to draw on. We’ve been producing our own flavours from scratch for 15 years in the Nash Bait Laboratory because we feel the food and drinks industry isn’t what it was as far as quality is concerned, more importantly variety of ingredients is also lacking. Not meaning to blow my own trumpet but I find formulating flavour recipes easy, but even so the level of field testing is intense, it’s how we learn, prove and constantly improve.
I’m convinced that the ratios are more important than the total levels, carp can detect food extremely easy, even at very low flavour levels, it’s convincing them to eat it not just once but many times, even if they get caught, that makes a good recipe.
Shelf life or freezer bait?
We are lucky with our field testers in that we have many that like to use shelf life baits and we actually supply more shelf life bait than we do frozen so although there is little difference between the two it is vitally important to test all forms of any new bait we make.
There are some ingredients that will not keep without freezing so these are dropped from the shelf life base mix recipe and replaced with other equally effective ones. Yeasts, for example, don’t shelf life very well because they degrade with very low levels of moisture, as do various malted products. Our shelf life baits contain very little moisture, around 8%, which is how they remain stable. Add water and they will go off because we don’t use preservatives, so we can’t use ingredients that will not keep even with low levels of moisture. We’ve tested a lot of ingredients over the last couple of decades so to make a shelf life version isn’t any great drama but food value is paramount.
Base mix ingredients have a major influence on the way the flavours work and also on the all season capability of the finished bait.
Years ago I made a bait called Tangee Squid, which was basically Tangerine Oil, sweetener and S Mix Squid. One angler loved it but because he was doing well on it and wanted to use it when we bought it out he wanted his made a bit differently.
We added beef liver powder, one of his favourite ingredients and he never had a bite on it, the liver powder killed it. I think I know why now but at the time it was very strange. The old Banana Squid contained loads of the same liver powder and caught fish alongside the blanking Tangerine/liver powder.
I prefer to use shelf life bait all the time and do so when I’m not testing new baits. I can’t hand roll our method of producing shelf life baits though so initial field testing, with small mixes is mainly with frozen baits.
Shelf life baits are so versatile, extra bait can be left in the car just in case you need more for example. Our shelf life baits will sit there on the lake bed leaking out flavours and attraction without deteriorating for several days so on the harder low stocked waters they will be good to eat even if fish don’t come into the swim straight away. The flavour levels are slightly higher, no problem if the ratios are correct, so they actually make more sense to use in the winter and in fact often out fish frozen baits in the cold, they are certainly better all season baits.
In the summer un-eaten frozen bait will start to break down and deteriorate within 24 hours and as anyone who has found uneaten old baits will agree, they will not be very appetizing to the carp after around 48 hours. Both our frozen and shelf life bait will eventually gas up with bacterial activity and pop up to the surface, out of the way so will not taint the swim and to me this is vitally important to the environment.
All the questions I get asked about any new bait have to be answered well before we include it in our range, there’s simply no point in not doing so. Monster Squid has been tested in all its forms for over six years, not just on easy waters where anything will catch but on all types of water, in all seasons. It has accounted for a lot of good fish already, I’m sure it’s a winner and I’ll be continuing to use it for my serious fishing that’s for sure.