So you’ve done a bit of research, bought some ingredients and spent a few weekends tinkering about in the garage or the kitchen. Then off you go, full of enthusiasm to your favourite spot. But a weekend later – nothing, no bites, no carp, nothing! First thing that comes into your brain is – boilies don’t work!
So let’s have a look at what might have gone wrong:
1. Have you pre-fed?
2. Have I pre-fed enough?
3. Have you been to the water before and chatted with other anglers?
4. Is your mix good enough?
5. Ingredients in the mix?
6. Am I in a good enough area?
Without a doubt, if you haven’t pre-fed your chances will be greatly diminished. I’m not saying you won’t catch, but if the carp are in your area your chances are much better. With a new mix I look to feed 5 to 10 kilos, but not all at once though. I would put in 1 to 1,5 kilos every second day and spread over a medium sized area. That will give the carp a chance to investigate, and also more importantly have a free meal with no pressure.
Have I fed enough? Well that depends on the water – personally I haven’t seen a water in South Africa where a person can over feed (except when using hemp seed, but that’s mainly pre-occupation). If you’re on a water that has a large head of carp, obviously more feed is needed to keep them in the area. I also feed while fishing, that is to say after each and every bite; I feed either with a pipe or if I’m dropping the lines then while dropping. While I’m fishing I only feed boilies, either very similar to or the same as the hookbaits.
There’s no point rocking up at your chosen water and fishing with a birdfeed-based bait when the water is on a fishmeal-based bait, so a certain amount of homework is needed. Prior to making bait and feeding its best to go and walk the banks and chat to the chaps actually fishing it. Certainly some chaps can be quite secretive, but most chaps like to chat about previous carp caught and what bait they’re using, and if you read between the lines then you will get a basic starting point, namely fish, milk or birdfeed-based baits, and either long lining or casting. Also pay close attention to everything being said, as sometimes the most innocuous statements can reveal the best tips.
If you’ve done a few sessions but you’ve had no action even though you’ve done your homework, have pre-fed sufficiently, are in a good area and am using a mix that most others are on, then your mix might not be good enough for that particular water. Then it’s time to adjust; let’s say the carp are coming out on a fishmeal base. You then need to play catch up: in place of one type of fishmeal you use two, or add a meat-based product like liver powder. Go back to your bait calculator and have a rethink. Re-look at what method the other anglers are using, how much and when are they putting in bait. Are they using pop-ups, wafters or bottom baits. I’m not saying copy them, but rather learn from them and go to the next level.
A very important aspect of boilie making is the solubility. If your bait is locked up there will be NO LEAKAGE and so there will be hardly any attraction. Check the solubility levels on the bait calculator. Re-check the amino levels -are you using too much artificial flavouring? The bait has to meet certain requirements to consistently catch specimen carp – its olfactory, gustatory, digestion and nutritional responses are all equally vital. Once these are met, your bait will work and catch plenty of carp!
Ingredients in the mix? If the water you’ve chosen to fish is popular, then you have to assume that a fair amount of good to excellent bait has gone in already, therefore you will need good quality ingredients to get consistent results. The carp will tell you if the mix is lacking by not biting. Don’t just sit there and say to yourself “my time will come” – it doesn’t work like that. When your mix is not nutritious enough or has been over flavoured or is just rubbish, the carp just won’t feed in your area and at the worst will actually avoid your baited areas (we have seen this at Homestead, Whitfield and Kleinfontein dams). On a water like Homestead, if you aren’t catching anything, and if there is no carp visually spotted in your swim after you’ve fed, then you have a serious bait issue, and some more thought needs to go into your homemade bait.
Am I in a good enough area to catch the carp I am looking for? This boils down to doing your homework prior to feeding or fishing. The tools to use would be a marker rod or an echo sounder. What I do is first go and have a look-see at your chosen venue to see where the other chaps are fishing, then on a quiet day (most Sunday afternoons are very quiet on our dams and lakes) have a cast about with the marker rod, or put your boat and echo sounder on the lake. Check the water for yourself, don’t rely on hearsay – I’ve seen chaps cast into 4 foot of super soft silt because of poor info received. Finding out what you are fishing on or near is very important.