Bird Food Bait Preparation & Techniques

Making and preparing bait for carp fishing is nothing like as complex an affair as some would have you believe. I have already outlined the process for creating boiled baits elsewhere in these now I shall outline other techniques. As I mentioned in the other associated article  carp baits fall roughly into four categories; boiled baits, particles, pellets and groundbait.


A boilie is any bait that comprises food materials such as milk protein, fishmeals or birdfoods. The dry powders are mixed together and an effective binder such as whey protein is also added to the base mix. Then the powders are added to beaten eggs to which flavours and other known attractors have been added. This forms a single large ball of paste, which is then further divided into much smaller segments, which as rolled into marble sized shapes. Finally the baits are boiled for a couple of minutes until a hard outer skin forms. This renders the baits impervious to the attentions of small fish, which would otherwise pick away at the paste and eat all the bait before the fish could get at it.

There are some specific ingredients that are known to be particularly attractive to carp and many of these are sold by Haith’s. Perhaps the most famous of them all is Robin Red, a subtle blend of oils, sugars and spices that carp find irresistible. Other famous ingredients include Nectarblend, PTX, and Prosecto.

There are several ways that boiled baits themselves can be adapted for use in differing angling situations. For instance, you can make what we call boilie crumb simply by placing some baits in a food processor and whizzing them until they are the required size; anything from dust to quite large boilie particles. Then there is boilie paste. Here you start with a bag of pre-made or shelf life boilies; process them to a powder and then add the powder to beaten eggs, to which you can add further liquid or powdered attraction. The blend of the powder and the eggs is worked into a large ball of paste and this can then be used as a hookbait wrap, as a hookbait in its own right, meshed with Arma Mesh, or as free offerings rolled into balls and fired out by catapult.

Then there is something we call ‘bricking. This technique dates back to the mid 80s but for some reason it is seldom used in modern carp fishing. This is a shame as it is still a very valid option today. The whole ball of paste is shaped into a ‘brick’ and then this brick is tightly wrapped in cling film. It is then microwaved for about 10 minutes. The brick is then unwrapped and allowed to cool before being diced into hundreds of tiny cubes.

Bait prepared in this way will also have differing buoyancies throughout its structure. The outer crust will actually be very buoyant and should be used as floaters or for pop-up hookbaits. As you progress towards the middle of the brick, the density of the bait increases. This mix of buoyancies is a sure fire way of fooling cautious carp.


As an alternative to boiled baits the use of particle baits is a very effective alternative strategy. Again we can sub-divide particles into separate categories so let’s look at the major ones:


These include baits such as hempseed, tares, groats, dari seed and buckwheat. There are plenty more besides but I have only got a limited amount of space so I’ll stick to those I consider to be the best. All the baits in this category are generally regarded as being too small to be used as individual hookbaits, so they are used primarily to create an attractive feeding area over which you can present an alterative, larger bait. I have heard this described as 'the cherry on top of the cake', an excellent simile.

As far as preparation is concerned, all seeds should be soaked and boiled as this ensures that they are more digestible and will not germinate. Cooking also releases the inherent natural oils, which increases overall attraction considerably.

If I had to choose just one seed bait I would go for Haith’s Red Band Pigeon Conditioner every time (though hempseed or oat groats would come a very close second). Red Band is a superb attractor that will hold fish in your swim for a very long time. Prepare it by pouring boiling water over the required amount and then allowing the bait to steep for 24 hours. Then transfer the bait to a saucepan (or pans!), bring the liquid to the boil and then simmer for at least 15 minutes, adding more boiling water if necessary. This simmering process is absolutely vital if you want to get the best out of Red Band. It also allows the aniseed oil that is part of the recipe to penetrate deep into the heart of each and every seed, pulse and grain. (Red Band is a VERY complex blend I should add!)  

Groats are much easier to prepare. All you need do is soak them overnight in flavoured and sweetener water and they are ready to use. They swell considerably as they take on water and after a further 24 hours in soak they start to exude a lovely sweet-smelling milky liquid that infuses the lake water with a powerful attraction. Because they are so easy to prepare, groats are often the first choice of anglers traveling abroad for an extended session as they can be made up at the water’s edge without the need for boiling.

I have written at length about preparing hempseed so I will not go over old ground again.


There are   a great many types of this type of bait, but the most popular are peas and beans. The best of the bunch are maple peas, chickpeas, and black-eyed beans but virtually any pea or and bean will make a good bait. Pulses come and come in a variety of shapes and sizes and there are dozens of alternatives available. All are prepared in basically the same way with a 24-hour soak followed by a 15-minute boil in the water they have been soaking in. You can boost attraction by adding flavours, sweeteners, salt and other liquid additives, including liquid foods like Minamino.
Chickpeas are underrated bait, as carp simply adore them. They take on flavour and colour well so the permutations are virtually endless as far as giving them you own unique properties are concerned. That said I have found that un-coloured heavily sweetened chickpeas work very well. Again I use sugar rather than a sweetener and I like to use plenty of it, say, 250g of sugar to every kilo of chickpeas. Dissolve the sugar in boiling water, stir to ensure it is completely dissolved, and then add the chickpeas. Allow them to stand for 12-24 hours then finish them off with a 10-15 minute boil. Test from time to time to make sure they are not becoming too soft.

Black-eyed beans make a very effective bait and they are still used by many ‘old school’ carpers who were heavily influenced by Rod Hutchinson’s early work with particles. They can be used plain or flavoured and can even be dyed to suit the lakebed. Black-eyed beans soak up flavours and additives very efficiently so products such as Multimino-PPC and Minamino are ideal. Bovril or Marmite is also very effective savoury flavourings for black-eyed beans, and many other pulses.

Nuts are very effective carp baits, the most popular being peanuts, tiger nuts, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts. In the past few years, the use of nuts, especially peanuts, has been a very controversial subject, so much so that many fisheries now have a complete nut ban. The problem is that peanuts have an adverse effect on the fish’s liver and have caused fatalities, hence the ban. Tiger nuts too have received some bad press, with some justification. Used to excess tigers and peanuts definitely cause health problems for carp and in extreme cases they can even lead to mortalities. However, if they are used and prepared correctly they cause no harm and make tremendously effective carp baits.

All nuts contain highly attractive oils but in order to ensure these are released when in use the nuts should first be soaked for 24 hours and then boiled for between 15-30 minutes. (I must emphasize that if you want use nuts as bait they must be prepared correctly.)


Fishing with pellets is yet another branch of carp fishing that has become highly specialized in recent years. They come in many grades and many shapes and sizes. The commercial trout farming industry is very fussy in its requirements and there are dozens of permutations on the basic pellet.

Here are a few points to consider when using pellets:

•    One of the best ways of fishing with pellets is to introduce them in small PVA mesh parcels. These can be fired from a catapult so as to leave dozens of small individual piles of pellets scattered about your swim. This is highly effective if you are fishing for suspicious fish.

•    However, on less hard fished lakes a heavy, concentrated bait carpet of pellets works extremely well. These can either be introduced by hand in the margins, a catapult for short-range work or with a spod where distance is a factor.

•    I like to create a widespread bait carpet scattered fairly widely about the swim, as this tends to encourage more prolonged, competitive feeding. I have actually watched carp feeding on a widespread carpet of pellets and can assure you that the feeding response is usually very impressive with carp literally barging one another out of the way to get at every last pellet.

•    In my experience it is a mistake to pile a lot of much pellet into a small an area. It is far better top spread the carpet out more thinly but over a much wider area. This makes the carp more inclined to search the swim and feed more aggressively.

•    Larger pellets such as halibut pellets should obviously be used more sparingly and, I would suggest that you look upon each pellet as if it were a single boilie. If you would only bait up with, say fifteen freebies per hookbait if you were using boiled baits, then use fifteen halibut pellets per hookbait too.


All the major bait firms make their own dedicated or customised pellets, and very effective they are too, but did you know that you too can customise ordinary trout pellets with your own personal signature, boosted with attractors to compliment your own home made boiled baits? Here’s how:

•    First you will need 5kg of ordinary trout pellets a large clean bucket, and the same attractors that you use in your base mix.

•    Take a small pot with a screw top lid and put in four teaspoons full of Betaine. Now add the neat attractors.

•    Now pour on 75ml of one of the liquid protein foods such as Minamino, and give the pot a good shake. You will note that the Betaine will dissolve almost immediately as it is totally soluble in most liquids.

•    Put the dry pellets in the bucket and then pour the contents of the pot over them, shaking the bucket well to ensure an even coating of the liquid on all the pellets.

•    Allow the pellets to stand overnight.

•    In the morning will find that the pellets absorbed all the liquid while still retaining firmness and consistency and without starting to breakdown.

•    Now you’ve got yourself a greatly improved pellet! It is customised to your own recipe to compliment a similarly flavoured boilie, or just to stand up on its own as a bait carpet. One thing’s for sure, it is a vast improvement on any other trout pellet and when you introduce them to the lake they positively ooze attraction into the water.

Look out for part four next week where Ken will share his insights on groundbait...


The most basic, yet surprisingly still one of the most effective groundbaits is ordinary mashed breadcrumb. For so many years this simple bait has been the staple of so many anglers’ groundbait. It is very cheap, highly visual and can be introduced in quantity without appearing to over feed the carp.  Indeed, it is as good a starting point as any when it comes to groundbaits for carp fishing. Breadcrumb really soaks up flavours like a sponge and liquid foods like Multimino-PPC and CSL are ideally suited to it. You can also add flavours to enhance it still further.

A groundbait that has been very effective in Europe for many years is one part groats, one part micro seed blend such as Haith’s Carpticle, and one part flaked maize. The three ingredients are perfectly suited, the groats and flaked maize comprising the ‘soft’ part of the mix with the Carpticle adding a bit of crunch. The mix is very versatile as it can be fished in so many different ways. It also has the added advantage of being very inexpensive. It is sold as The EURO Mix by Haith’s.

The simplest way to prepare this mix is simply to mix, say, two kilos of each dry ingredient together in a large bucket. Next add water so that the groundbait is covered to a depth of an inch or so. Add flavours or attractors of any kind stir well and allow the mix to stand for at least 8 hours. After this time you will note that the mix has absorbed quite a lot of the water so top it up so that it is covered again. Stir again then leave for a further hour or two. The mix is then ready for use. In the bucket it doesn’t look anything special, but in the water it’s dynamite!

Prepared as described above this groundbait’s consistency is very sloppy and wet and is best introduced by boat. However, you can stiffen the wet mix with a bulk ingredient such as breadcrumb, maize meal or semolina. Alternatively try mixing in some dry egg-biscuit-based product such as Nectarblend or Red Factor. These will stiffen the mixture considerably to such an extent that if you put a lot of egg-biscuit in you will be able to form very tight balls of groundbait. If you want to go one step further try stiffening the wet groundbait with a top class boilie mix such as Trigga.  

Groats are one of the best micro particles going, the equal of hempseed any day, in my book. These tiny grains actively promote aggressive and competitive feeding and are ideal for drawing large number of fish - not just carp - into the baited area. Here is a good way of preparing a groats-based groundbait. First some dry groundbait such as SuperRed is placed in a bucket along with an equal quantity of groats. Flavours and attractors can be added at this point. Water is now added so that the whole mixture is covered to a depth of two inches, and then the whole sloppy mess is stirred to blend everything together properly. The groundbait is then allowed to stand overnight.

Next morning you will note that the groats have absorbed the water and the larger mini seeds in the SuperRed have also swollen up. While fishing I never throw away old baits and the boilies you see here have been removed from the hair and added to the overall groundbait. I also add CSL Pellets in the mix as they break down rapidly once in contact with water and add considerably to the overall package as well as helping to bind the groundbait together.

As a step on from the groats/Carpticle/flaked maize recipe, you can add other ingredients such as crushed hempseed, pellets, peanut granules, crushed tiger nuts, boilie crumb, cooked particles or nuts, or just about anything that takes your fancy!

Though many groundbaits can be used straight from the off as it were, some blends may benefit from being prepared the night before a session. This allows the various ingredients to absorb water and flavours. Some seeds such as hemp and dari definitely benefit from being steeped for a period of 8-12 hours. Crushed seeds are not as positively affected, but even these can draw in added attractors if allowed a brief soak.

One groundbait that benefits from an overnight soak is SuperRed from Haith’s. I have found that this Robin Red-based groundbait takes up a lot of water in a very short time and by allowing it to soak in flavoured water you actually release more of the groundbait’s in-built attraction. I make up half the required amount of groundbait the night before fishing using plenty of water. This produces a wet mix, which softens some of the harder seeds and releases oils and natural attraction as the ingredients soften. Before starting to fish I stiffen the mix to the desired consistency with dry SuperRed or some other dry ingredient as previously described.

So there we have a basic run through of how to make various carp baits. You will also find numerous articles on this page to various aspects of all types of carp bait so happy browsing!

Ken Townley.