But hang on a minute: why use this tactic in the first place? Surely a different hookbait is likely to cause more suspicion in feeding carp, not less? Well up to a point that is right, but there will be times and there will be lakes where the carp become wary of a carpet of identical baits; that is to say identical in size, shape and colour, a kilo of readymades straight out of the bag for instance. There are also times when carp will actively seek out an alternative bait that is mixed in with the others. I have actually watched them select the sweetcorn grains from among a carpet of hempseed for instance. Similarly, I have watched as they carefully select a single tiger nut hookbait fished over a carpet of groats…How's that for picky!
I am not sure when this tactic first surfaced but I am guessing around about the late - 70s. I know I was using it at Wheal Rashleigh and Salamander lake around that time but it wasn't a trick that was in the wider domain. If I remember rightly, didn't Hutchy first write something along the lines of using an alternative hookbait when he fished hempseed at Redmire?
In today's modern carp world there is a huge availability of specialist alternative hookbaits available. I can remember when Nutrabaits first offered their range how excited I was at the possibilities such hookbait could offer, and I wasn't to be disappointed. I have lost count of the number of decent carp I have caught on baits such as Pink Pepper, White Spice and as shown here, Plum and Caproic Acid.
Alternative hookbaits work over just about any kind of bait carpet. For example, this photo shows a powerfully flavoured White Spice pop-up hookbait over a carpet of adzuki beans. OK, you could fish a hookbait consisting of three or four beans on a hair, and that would certainly catch, but when the carp are playing hardball, and bright 'in your face' often gets an instant response.
Each time I go carp fishing I invariably start by offering a high attract alternative hookbait over the top of a big bed of nutritional food baits. Nine times out of ten this works and a great deal of my success over the past three decades can be attributed to just such a tactic.
Of course, this tactic is not limited to pop-ups. You can put together a mix with a very high level of attraction by adding one or more known feeding triggers. This huge carp fell to a high attract paste based on the Robin Red and Garlic base mix with a few added goodies, namely citric acid, Green Lipped Mussel Concentrate, Brocacel, and an amino acid blends.
Brocacel is a known feeding trigger and is extremely powerful. It helps to break down carbs and make them more available nutritionally as well as giving off a signal that screams at the carp, “eat me!”. This is so strong that carp feel almost compelled to investigate.
Citric Acid is an investigation trigger that creates a pH differential around the hookbait. It is thus very useful when you wish to create a high attract hookbait. It is VERY strong so go easy!
Greenshell Lipped Mussel Concentrate is one of the best additives money can buy. This version is the full-fat version, which is vastly superior to the defatted versions you can buy. For hookbaits use at a level of 5%. For boiled baits 2% is ample.
I consider getting the correct amino acid profile right is of prime importance in any carp bait and I invariably use them if I am trying to create an alternative hookbait. However, it is not simply a case of a bit of this and a bit of that! It is important to find the right blend of aminos and as this can be a complicated business I prefer to rely on a pre-mixed blend.
Strongly flavoured pop-ups are intended to stand out both in terms of smell, and visibility but are not intended to be anything other than an alternative hookbait. Here's a little tip: Before casting out, dip the hookbait(s) in the lake and then into a pot of Betaine. When the hookbait(s) hit the lakebed a flood of positive attraction is released.
It is not advisable to use high attract hookbaits as free offerings, as if you pre-bait with a bait containing an excessive flavour level it may well blow before you even cast a hookbait into the water. However, on a one carp, one bait basis they have a lot going for them.
Most well-made pop-ups will last a lifetime if kept correctly but as the commercial flavours used in them are highly concentrated the aroma tends to fade a bit. I like to give them a boost with a mil or two of neat flavour from time to time. These are UB Baits' Tuttis that I have boosted with a ml of the original Richworth Tutti Fruiti flavour.
The widespread use of bait dips and sprays is an excellent way of drawing attention to the hookbait. Sprays are better in the short term, while for long-term use a dip is more effective. From my own work with Haith's I know that Liquid Robin Red in all its guises is a very powerful attractor. Guess who's a fan!
This is my favourite way of using LRR. I pour 25-30ml onto 500g of air-dried or shelf-life boilies. This is then allowed to soak in for at least 24 hours (the longer the better in actual fact).
Following the soak, the LRR will have been absorbed by the outer layer of the bait and the carp will be able to taste this as soon as they eat a bait. A single boilie is all it takes to get them looking for more! On the right, you can see the original baits in this photo. The baits that have been dressed with LRR are on the left.
And here is one of the dressed bait cut in half. You can see for yourself the amount of penetration achieved, and this is only after a 24 hour soak.
You can also use Liquid Robin Red on any type of pellet.
You can even use it to add even more attraction to any of the SuperSoft Pellets!
Incidentally, I have read a few disparaging remarks by people who should know better (perhaps with an axe to grind?) concerning the solubility - of lack of it - of Robin Red and its associated products. Considering nobody outside the office of the company CEO David Haith knows the recipe(s) how can they comment? The fact is that Liquid Robin Red does indeed contain a fair proportion of soluble ingredients as well as plenty of insoluble solids, as these next two photos show. This one shows 25ml of Liquid Robin Red stirred into 175ml of tap water:
This one shows the same blend after an hour when the solids have started to settle. Clearly, there is enough soluble material there to mix with and colour up the water, and I can assure you, it isn't some rough old food dye! So please use Liquid Robin Red with the confidence that it possesses both soluble (olfactory) and insoluble (tertiary) attraction in plenty!
Tiger nuts are pretty high-attract as they stand and you may think there is little point in trying to boost that attraction.
Well, you'd be wrong. There is a strong case for fishing a boosted tiger nut over a bed of un-boosted tigers as this will in effect produce a hookbait that is transformed into an 'alternative' hookbait. You can make up a pot of boosted tigers simply by adding a few ml of flavour to a pot of tigers. Top up with Coca Cola or water and allow them to stand for a few days. During the soak the tigers will absorb the flavoured water and are now ready for use a high-attract hookbaits.
Here are two more good ways to present an alternative hookbait. The main bait is a carpet of Trigga boilies, while the hookbait options are artificial sweetcorn and the meshed Robin Red paste. Both will work supremely well if the carp are playing hard to get on bog-standard Trigga hookers.
So to sum up: There are so many permutations to consider when putting together an alternative hookbait and adding neat flavour to a pot of pop-ups is just one of them. Let your imagination run riot when trying to outsmart those crafty carp. There is more than one way to (skin a cat) catch a carp!