Prebaiting Tips

The prebaiting equipment is always in the car

Steven Carrie discusses another of his tactics, which has helped him countless times to p ut big fish on the bank

Prebaiting is often considered a method of cheating, but to me it's just another tactic that I make good use of to compensate for lack of time. It is a method that needs careful planning, consideration and effort to do effectively. Many will think that it's as simple as throwing a bit of bait into your local lake then fishing over it, but I can assure you it's not!

When used effectively, prebaiting can be devastating, and my approach takes three things into account:

1. Getting the bait established as a food source so the fish don't treat it with caution;

2. Priming a swim/spot to gain an advantage in fish location; and

3. Clearing any weed or chod that might be present, developing a fishable, very often new spot.

So, prebaiting reduces my actual time on the bank and helps to locate the fish much quicker.

Finding spots during my lunch hour on a new water
There's always someone watching what you do!

Establishing a food source

With so many baits available today and possibly 70-80% of my angling being done using the humble boilie, making sure that boilie is the best available in regards to nutrition and longevity is a priority. For me the choice is simple: DNA Baits' well-established and proven big fish bait, SLK.

However, with boilies being so readily used, they're also the food item that raises the red flag to many carp as a potential danger. Even though they want to eat them, they will be more cautious, especially when they see piles of baits in certain areas time after time.

A lot of waters also have what they call "the going bait", which is often a brand or type, that many claim you have to be on to catch. For a fair few that will be an instant pull, but although you may catch fish, you may just catch what everyone does. After all, you can't do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result! I have never believed that a going bait can't be challenged and in many circumstances proved that going against the grain can work very well.

So, establishing your chosen food is essential and fairly easy: simply spread baits around the lake every time you go, fishing or not. Some may think you're mad or off target by a mile, but spreading baits well out when you pack up or have a walk around distributes the bait in more random areas, areas that are likely to be less pressured. This becomes readily accepted by fish as they move around. The more they randomly come across and eat freely, the more they believe it to be a reliable and safe food source. Even on a busy lake, spreading your bait around the swim on packing up helps keep your bait going without baiting the 'going' or obvious spots for the next angler. This is not heavy baiting; it's all about the spread of bait.

A good quality and trusted food source, DNA Baits SLK
Stocked up for the year ahead - boilies are still my number one choice

Priming spots

No matter where you are fishing there is no doubt you will find a pattern in many of the target fish. Often a certain spot or swim on the lake will produce these fish time and time again, and it's obviously going to be on your mind to fish these areas too. As I often mention, I can't put in the time that others can, so setting up my stall to await the arrival of a lake's biggie is not really an option. If I want to get these fish fast and I think there is a better chance in the known swims or spots, then I often put effort into this area in preparation for a session.

Now, this will depend on how busy your lake is, but I have done this on even the smallest and busiest of day-ticket lakes. It's just putting in that extra effort and having a plan. You also have to come to terms with the fact that you may turn up and find your swim being fished, often without any knowledge of your efforts, although in a few cases I have found people jumping on the back of my hard work! However, if you plan for this by having two or three areas prebaited and primed, you can often take the sting and go work another spot.

In the past I have done campaigns on waters that are very close together and bait various venues at once, often for months on end before fishing them, doing hour-and-a-half round trips, two or three times a week for four weeks before wetting a line, then fishing for just one night and having more and bigger fish than expected for just 10 hours fishing! The idea is to be able to prime and work spots, but wait for the right time, when the conditions are perfect, before fishing. Don't rush to fish a baited spot; be patient and a big hit could well be on the cards.

I always carry a stock of cheaper baits for clearing spots
Most lakes have unfancied swim - well worth a look for a prebaiting plan
A marginal shelf being slowly cleared

Developing a spot

It goes without saying that many people don't bother with prebaiting these days due to how busy most venues are - and they are only going to get busier! At this time of year all the going swims always seem to be gone, but I find this is when a good prebaiting plan can really come into its own.

There are always unfancied or even overgrown swims on a lake; most have a 'No Carp Corner'. Often if you watch other anglers they never even give these swims a glance, so to me these are a good place to start prepping your own areas that won't really see much attention until people start to see or hear of your results.

If you have already begun establishing your bait on the water, you're now simply looking to create your own spots. More often than not the fairly unfished swims tend to be a bit more overgrown, choddy, weedy or silty, and although they may still be fishable, they may not be getting visited or holding fish you would want. In this case and in waters with other species, I start to introduce particles and pellets and let spots begin to clear as fish move on to them. This will eventually attract carp to the area. After a while I start to introduce boilies to the mix, and then get to a stage where I feed only boilies, which is just before I intend to fish.

Depending on where I'm fishing or time I have, this type of prebaiting can be as often as once or twice a day, morning and evening. For obvious reasons, it has been most successful on waters within 20-30 minutes of my house. This amount of baiting and spending 20-30 minutes a day at a lake in a swim that's often unpressured can really open your eyes to the stock and just how catchable the fish are. Again you may find that some other anglers will notice this too before long and you will end up struggling to get in the swim, but hopefully by that point you have done the business and moved on. It's all about being one step ahead.

Prebaiting is a great edge and any kind of time spent on your chosen venue can only get you a step closer to the success you crave. A bit of bait and a bit of thought can give you more chances on your next session.

This 37-pounder was hooked twice after eight days of feeding one spot on a small, busy, day-ticket water - lost it at 4am, landed it at 8am!

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