Give Bread a Go
Keith Speer takes a look at some deadly methods to make the most of a traditional but vastly underused bait...bread!
Of all the baits available to the modern angler bread is probably the most underused and yet it is one of the most deadly. It is considered by many to be old fashioned and out dated but happily our quarry does not follow fashion and as such bread will take fish just as well today as in yesteryear. That said, to get the best out of bread you need to prepare it properly, as by doing so you increase not just your chances of catching more fish but of connecting with connecting with better quality fish of all the major species.
Despite the fact that it is seen as old fashioned many of today’s top anglers still use bread; indeed bread is more often than not the bait of choice for those anglers who consistently catch 2lb plus roach. In addition to the fact that it pulls serious specimens another major advantage of bread is that for the price of a pint of casters or a pack of pellets, you can buy three good quality loaves, which is often more than enough for a day’s fishing; it just needs to be prepared properly and that includes as both groundbait and hook bait and as with anything when it comes to getting your bread just right practice makes perfect and when you get it right, it can be a bait that is second to none.
What follows is very much my way with bread, I won’t say it is the only way, but it does work, both on running and still water and on the rivers it does work particularly well throughout the prime autumn and winter months.
Bread mash groundbait and how to prepare it.
Buy whole, uncut loaves from a proper baker (not a supermarket) and cut each of them into six sections, place them in a airing cupboard or any similar warm place (I hang mine up in a boilie air drying bag) for at least two weeks until they are bone dry, brittle and very much lighter in weight. Once dried properly they will not go mouldy as there is no water left to aid decomposition or fungal growth and, as long as you keep them dry, they will last for several months.
To make the mash, take as much bread as you need and place it in a bucket, fill the bucket with water and leave it to soak until all of the bread is soft. This can take a couple of hours and when soaked properly it will slip sloppily through your fingers, there must be no hard or even semi-hard lumps. Once it has reached this stage drain the water and place the bread in a fine mesh bag - I use an old weigh sling.
The next stage is to compress the bread-filled bag to drain even more water from it and after you have started the process by hand either place a board over it and stand on it, or place a very heavy weight on it and let it stand so as much water as is physically possible drains away. The end result should be a semi-solid lump of compressed bread.
Now is the time to mash it with a potato masher, this is quite hard work and you MUST mash and mash and mash until you have broken ALL of the bread down. Once you have reached this stage you can either use the mash, or freeze it to use at a later date.
You will know when you have the right consistency as you will be able to squeeze a lump around a plummet and swing it out into your swim without it falling off, let it sink to the bottom and then, after a couple of bounces, it will disperse through your swim breaking up into millions of tiny particles that are too small to be of any feed value; you will see this if you throw a small ball into the river and watch it break up.
The important point is that it breaks up into particles that are just too small for the fish to feed on, they know it’s there but there is no food value to it as the energy required to eat the small particles is far more than the energy gained from the feed itself. If you get it right, when the fish do find a bit that is worth eating (i.e. your hook bait) they seize upon it with some force, thus the bites come as a solid plunge of the float, or a wrap round of the tip that are hard to miss.
One further point, you will know if the ground bait is properly mashed by looking into the mouths of the fish that you catch, if the mouth is clean you’ve got it right, if there is any bread in the mouth or a fish is ‘gobbing up’ bread then you have not mashed it enough!
To bait up simply throw a small ball into your swim upstream of where you intend to fish, if the flow is pacey, mould the mash around a small stone to get the bait down quickly – I prefer to fish the float but you could, of course, use a cage feeder to deploy the feed if you prefer to fish the tip.
This is how I was taught to make up bread mash groundbait for the tidal Thames while fishing from a punt and it is absolutely deadly, it is far superior to using liquidised bread as the particles stay in suspension for much longer and thus drift further down the swim, pulling more fish up to the main catching area.
On the Thames we have, on several occasions, been amazed to watch the progress of a shoal of bream or roach moving up to our punt from as far as 35 yards downstream. We know this is happening as we start to catch at long range and then pick up fish as they steadily get closer and closer until the shoal is right under the punt and we are getting bites as soon as the float cocks!
Wet bread and other hook baits
Wet bread is a cracking hook bait, and one that is much underused in this modern age, indeed many modern anglers have probably never even heard of it.
Many anglers are loath to use bread as it can come off the hook easily and they are constantly unsure whether their bait is still on or not; the solution is to use wet bread because it is a tough and durable hook bait that will stay on the hook for several casts and yet is soft enough to ensure good, solid hook penetration even at distance when long trotting.
To make wet bread buy a plaited loaf from a baker, I use Challah from a Kosher baker, but there are a variety of options to choose from. I cut the crusts off in such a way that each layer of crust is about 1 to 2 inches thick and this leaves a section of the white inner bread, which I just chuck in with the rest of my drying bread for making mashed bread ground bait.
Take the crusts and dry them off completely until they are light and brittle; as in making bread mash they MUST be completely dry, again once properly dried the crusts will keep for months.
The night before you wish to use them place the crusts in a shallow dish and pour very hot water, about as hot as you can stand without scolding your hand, over them and leave them for about two minutes. Then, squash the water out and place each section of crust on a clean tea towel, then wrap it up in the towel, place a very heavy weight on top and leave it to stand overnight.
In the morning remove the crust carefully from the tea towel and wrap it in clean, dry newspaper, this will soak up the last of the water. One loaf will provide enough hook baits for about six days’ fishing, so don’t prepare too much at once.
At the water’s edge unwrap the crust so that the white of the bread is exposed, then simply rub your finger over the white bread, as you do this you will find that the bread peels off in layers. Simply pass your hook through a rolled up layer or wrap it around the hook or fold a piece in half and pass the hook through it. Each method gives a slightly different presentation to the bait and presentation is everything - particularly when you are fishing for big roach.
As well as wet bread I also take a few slices of fresh white sliced bread with me as a change bait and I simply squeeze a piece around the shank of the hook, leaving a nice bit of fluffy flake around the bend with the hook point exposed. This produces a nice buoyant bait which again behaves slightly differently.
Crust is another change bait and to present it I cut a piece of crust from a slice of bread, pass the hook through the centre of the crust side and then dunk it in water. I then carefully squeeze some of the water from the crust (as you squeeze the water out you will also squeeze out some of the air) and this produces a slightly more buoyant bait.
Depending on the flow, colour, depth of feeding fish and range on the day of your session you may find that you get more bites on one rather than another of the described hook baits so ring the changes and find what works best on the day. When I fish bread in this manner I also constantly change my shotting pattern and depth and the speed at which I allow my tackle to pass through the swim - by holding back with varying degrees of firmness - until I get the presentation as right as I can.
I realise that all this entails a lot of work and preparation, and sometimes it can take me several hours to get my bait right for a day’s fishing. Maybe I am too fussy? However, I would point out that in the hands of a good angler, given the right conditions, bread can, and will, consistently out-perform other methods and baits.
I hope that this has been of some use and I must say that if you have never tried it, do yourself a favour and give bread a go. I have not touched upon other types of bread such as ‘punch’ and ‘puff’ and how to prepare it for stillwaters, canals and slow moving rivers - that I will leave for another day.
Tight Lines...or they could be if you fish bread properly!
27lb 4oz Thames carp - river carp don't half pull! The one above came out on wet bread.