I’ve got to say, on the waters around me where there are good heads of tench to nearly doubles and bream to mid-doubles, you’ve got to get the bait in at this time of the year, if you are going to attract fish and hold fish and make them feed on what you are offering.
It’s very difficult indeed to turn up to a large, wild pit and expect to succeed on a new swim if all you’ve got is a pint of maggots, a couple of tins of corn and a bag of ground bait.
The issue is at this time of the year that fish are feeding hugely after the winter and prior to spawning. You would be surprised how much food an eight pound tench or a twelve pound bream can consume. It’s extraordinary, especially as the water is beginning to warm up.
There are several issues, though, that dominate my own thinking.
First, you’ve got to make sure that the rules of a water allow you to pre-bait and that you are not simply baiting swims that other people are going to use. This, of course, is crucial.
Second, before you make a huge investment in time and money, you’ve got to make sure the swims are going to prove good ones. Your history on a water might suggest this to you, local knowledge might come in useful, or you might just observe fish, particularly early morning and late evening. I have to say that on most of my pits, that first drop-off a couple of rod lengths out often does the business. Failing that, obviously look for gravel bars, plateaux and the drop-offs around them.
Thirdly, I am thinking of baiting in large quantities, so you need to keep the cost down. I’ve yet to come across a better and cheaper base than Vitalin, the food used to feed up pedigree dogs. It works out at around about a £1 per kilo dry which, of course, is double that wet. You will find it at most corn merchants, pet suppliers and so on. I tend to put a certain amount of water in, not too much, and you can throw this out by hand short distances. If you let it dry out somewhat, you will find it balls nicely and you can catapult it, or of course, get it out in a spod.
The magic ingredient
Vitalin isn’t always enough and I will generally add the cheapest sweetcorn I can find. At the moment, this is the ‘Everyday’ corn at Tesco’s which works out at just over 30p a can. I am sure, though, you can do it cheaper but I don’t like frozen to any degree as much as I do like canned.
Geography of a water
Next, you have got to think about the geography of a water as well as how secure your swim is going to be from other anglers. You obviously can’t make huge journeys backwards and forwards each and every day. I’m lucky, I know, in that I live very close to the river and the pits around it. I can literally leave at five in the evening, bait six swims and be back by six. This means that if you can fish local, it pays to do so.
I tend to bait late evening, in the hope that the waterfowl will be less active and in the hope, too, that I will be able to pin down wandering shoals of fish as the light fades. This has always seemed the best time to feed a swim up.
If the water is a large one with a good head of fish in it, I won’t shy away from putting in ten to twelve kilos per swim. Of course, if you are on your own, you can concentrate on one swim and perhaps feed it for four or five nights beforehand. The longer you do feed, the longer you are likely to get fish into the area.
A banquet for all
I’m aware there are all sorts of ethical issues about this. Are we becoming ambushers, rather than hunters? Is this type of baiting programme making fishing too easy? Is it actually even good for the fish? Should they be eating natural food, rather than introduced artificial food? On most of these points I am fairly happy. The last one, especially, is very intriguing. I have no doubt that big pre-baiting plans like this draw in invertebrates just as much as they do the fish themselves. Don’t forget, in the spring and early summer the insects in the water are just as hungry as the fish and they will go down and eat your Vitalin as well. What you are in fact doing, is creating a mini-environment down there and tench and bream are just as likely to come in to look for the increased number of invertebrates as they are for the food itself.
In the end, it’s all down to you, obviously. I go to these lengths because I am often filming or guiding and because I can’t bear to waste time and always like to give both my clients and myself the best chance possible. You don’t have to fish like this and on many waters I know you can’t fish like this. If it is possible, though, it might be worth a try.