A short history of carp baits
Carp fishing has been common in much of Europe for longer than any of us remember, but only as a means of obtaining food. As a sport the first steps were taken by a small number of British anglers in the late 1940s and early 1950s, anglers such as Richard Walker, Maurice Ingham, Denys Watkins-Pitchford and BB. These were the anglers responsible for the early development of gear and tactics, but the baits used were limited to those used in general fishing, with worms and bread being the mainstays. An adventurous soul experimented with a portion of boiled potatoes, which proved successful, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the bait began to change as the sport attracted many new anglers.
A new generation of carp anglers began to introduce new ideas regarding baits and the era of “specials” began. These specials were often strange and wonderful concoctions made from food found in their cupboards, many cats or dogs found that part of their dinner was gone. Bait manufacturers hadn't been heard of yet, so every angler had their own unique combination of ingredients. Several years later, my first steps in becoming a carp angler were made by using sausage meat and mixing it with flour.
Particle bait fishing developed in the early 1970s. One angler stands out as the inventor, Rod Hutchinson, but I will talk about particle fishing on another occasion.
The late ’70s marked a major advancement in carp fishing when Geoff Kemp, Duncan Kay, and a little later Rod Hutchinson began sourcing flavours and specialty ingredients such as wheat gluten used in the specials as more effective binders. Products that were previously little known or available had now become available to everyone. This was followed by the introduction of ready-mixed ingredients, such as Duncan Kays Red and Green Slyme and Rod Hutchinsons Seafood Blend and Mingle Fruit. Proven carp catchers could now be bought right off the shelf. All it took was to mix it with a little water and possibly additional seasoning, and it was ready to catch carp.
It was around this time that a foreward thinking angler called Fred Wilton began to come up with ideas regarding the nutritional value of the bait. It was a theory that revolutionized carp fishing. Fred thought all animals survived and evolved because they were in harmony with their environment. They know what their food is and where to find it. Observations of carp feeding just before the flies hatched suggested that they were so in tune with their environment, instincts telling them when abundant food was most nutritious. The idea that bait could also provide a good source of food has prompted anglers to start designing baits to meet the dietary needs of carp. Milk proteins such as casein, lactalbumin and caseinates have been used, using specific sources of vitamins. The baits have evolved. Tim Paisley, who found Nutrabaits in the early ’80s, is another angler who is heavily involved in exploring the principle of nutrition and recognizing the stimuli of carp’s food sources.
The next big step forward came not long after. The problem with paste baits was that they couldn’t be thrown very far. Try putting everything in the plaster and watching the hook fly in the air, but the paste would be somewhere in the bushes or splashing into the water a few feet away. The solution was to replace the water used to make the paste with an egg and then turn it into balls and cook it. The boilie was invented. One night each week is spent preparing the bait for the following weekend. With a lot of practice, you could roll 4 balls at a time, but it only took an hour or 2 to prepare.
This was followed by the biggest turning point in carp fishing. It was not so much the carp anglers who thought about the ingredients that went into the bait, but rather that there was no need to think anymore. Crafty Catcher and Richworth presented the finished boilie. First, anyone looking for a carp can go into a store and buy a bag of boilies without having to think about which base mix or combination of ingredients to use. the only decision they had to make was which taste. In my eyes, the remaining step was that these boilies used ingredients that allowed the taste to seep to attract carp, but were of little nutritional value. Huge numbers of carp were caught across the country simply because they were used by so many.
We are now in the mid-80s, traveling south from England to search for big carp and discovering the next bait revolution on one of those roads. A guy appeared in the lake parking lot who opened the back door of his van and was soon surrounded by carp anglers. Since I didn’t want to feel left out, I wondered what was going on. Baits Premier happened, that's it. Milk protein-based lures no doubt caught many carp, but milk proteins are expensive. The fish dishes meant that 5kg of boilies cost the same as a boilie made with 1kg of milk protein, and Premier sold not only one bag or 2s at the lake, but the whole van was full. Around this time, Nutrabaits introduced the Big Fish Mix, which contained a mixture of several fish dishes along with milk proteins and bird food, and was developed by a man who is not known in the carp world but is very successful great angler, Dave Moore. BFM has caught an incredible number of carp and is still one of the best baits on the market.
In the years that followed, a number of bait companies appeared and the number of various ready-made baits should rise to a thousand. As many have disappeared. There isn’t and never will be an ultimate bait, but the good bait that carp start to associate with being a good food source will always be good bait. Often, the more you use it, the more successful you become. Lures like BFM and Trigga from Nutrabaits and Shellfish B5 from Essential Baits have been catching carp continuously and for over 30 years. High quality ingredients are used to produce a nutritionally balanced food source. Many of the current bait companies release new bait every year with bright colors or fluorescent inks. It is designed to attract the attention of the angler more than the attention of the carp. A product stays on the list for a few years and is then replaced. If it’s good bait, it’s good bait today and 20 years from now.
The 1970's saw a new generation of carp anglers