1) It must smell good.
2) It should be highly visible.
3) It should be easy to ferment (where applicable)
4) It should have a reasonable level of nutrition.
5) It should be cheap, but not nasty!
Let’s go through these one by one.
For the most part untreated particles don’t have much smell to them, at least from a human standpoint. Flavouring particles is the obvious solution but on the pressure waters you should ask yourself if the use of artificial flavours to add smell/taste to particles might not be a cause for suspicion of the bait by the carp. It is also possible that commercial flavours, especially those at the lower end of the price scale, may actually mask the natural attraction of particle baits. For instance, if you are using seed blends such as Red Band® I do not recommend using flavours because the blend has a wonderful delicate and unique smell all of its own and carp find that particularly attractive. Therefore be aware that in some cases flavours will only mask the natural attraction to the detriment of the bait itself.
I think this aspect of a particle bait is largely ignored, as most anglers appear indifferent to the brightness or otherwise of their particle baits. In winter the lake water is generally clearer, and while carp are not primarily vision feeders, they are curious creatures and will investigate a bright bait carpet. For instance, a big carpet of the multi-purpose SuperRed™ will stand out prominently against any light coloured lakebed, while groats will do a similar job on darker ones. In fact red is one of the best winter colours but don’t forget the other bright colours such as orange and yellow. By coincidence groats are bright yellow in colour. Could this be another reason why they are so effective? The brilliant yellow colour acts like a magnet on patrolling carp.
Some particles work well when they are fermenting, however, recent experiment has shown that this is not universally the case. Seed baits such as hempseed, groats, buckwheat and barley are best served fresh as a daisy. The same applies to tiger nuts. One of the best winter baits are peanuts. Try mixing prepared nuts with a small amount of soaked peanut granules. This gives the best of both worlds, as the resulting bait carpet will be both nutritious and highly visible.
You can encourage the fermentation process by using heat. The standard method of preparation for most particles is to soak them overnight then boil them for 15-30 minutes. This is usually sufficient to start the fermentation process off. Some particles should be drained of water to encourage the process.
Most people think that particles are pretty low in nutritional terms. I suppose they are if you compare them to a top class fishmeal or HNV boilie, however, pulses, seeds and cereals are full of protein and other important nutrients and have the advantage over some other types of baits in that they are easily digested. The seed blends are also pretty nutritious so you can still give the fish a decent feed in winter without having to cough up a fortune.
Blends such as Red Band® fulfill all the important criteria in that they are visual, small good, ferment quickly, are reasonably nutritious and they cost pennies compared to boiled baits. If you are on a budget this winter give and of the seed blends a try. Search the net to find out more specific details on how to use and prepare particles. There is a lot of info out there; you just need to find it!
So to sum up: just about any blend of seeds and/or cereals will be great for winter fishing, as they are invariably nutritious and easily digestible and will almost certainly fool ultra cautious carp. The wide range of shapes, sizes and aromas produced by a carpet of say, Haiths Multi-Seed Blend often creates confident feeding on the bait carpet and a particle or boilie hookbait fished over the top is almost certain to produce a positive response. The Multi-Seed Mix™ is easy to prepare and the addition of salt or chilli flakes after boiling will give the bait an added boost in winter.
Of late the consensus has swung in favour or using particles in winter. This is Haith's® Carpticle™ one of the best of all the mini seed blends.
Tiger nuts were once thought to only work at their best when they were fermented (covered in slime!). Nowadays many of the top anglers have found that in fact they are more effective when used as fresh as possible.
Oat groats are one of the most effective all round seed/particle baits. Here they are about to be soaked in a blend of Carnation Evaporated milk and Multimino-PPC.
Try mixing prepared nuts with a small amount of soaked peanut granules. This gives the best of both worlds as the resulting bait carpet will be both nutritious and highly visible.
One of the very best particle blends of all time, Haith's Multi-Seed Mix™. Designed with ultra-cautious carp especially in mind.
Red Band® is arguably the best all-round seed blend available. Often imitated; never bettered!
And don’t ever forget the amazingly effective SuperRed™ , an all-purpose method mix/groundbait based upon Robin Red®. This is a simply stunning bait for winter use with fantastic binding properties, as you can see here.
SuperRed™ can also be used a sloppy groundbait that is especially effective for margin fishing.