I have been using maize for many years, first abroad and after seeing how good it could be, in the UK. I have also used it to great effect in the winter months. I think it works so well when the lake water is at its coldest because of its bright yellow colour and its attractive smell.
There are several types of maize but of prime interest to anglers are standard yellow maize, red maize, mini maize (aka popcorn maize), and flaked maize. We will start by looking at how to prepare whole grains of either red or yellow standard size maize.
I have read many suggestions about how best to prepare maize: soaked, flavoured, germinated, pressure-cooked, all have their fans. Quite frankly I don’t think it matters how you prepare maize, as no single method seems any better than another. One vital point with maize, as with any particle bait, is to ensure that it is prepared safely. In other words, you need to soak the grains and also boil them so as to ensure that they don’t blow up in the carp’s stomach. Correct preparation also has a knock-on effect in that it permits the true natural flavours and attractors to flood out of the bait, attraction that would otherwise remain locked up within the grain.
Soak your maize for 24-36 hours in lake or tap water (flavour/sweetener is optional). Maize doesn’t absorb a huge amount of water whilst it is soaking so you need only cover the grains with a couple of centimeters of water. After the soaking process is complete transfer the grains and the water in which they have been soaking to a suitably large pan, then boil them for half an hour. After boiling, return the grains and the same water to a bucket with a tight fitting lid and leave them to cool and continue to soak.
Some anglers suggest that there is no time limit as far as soaking is concerned, as a longer soak allows the grains to ferment. I question this as it is a fine line between fermenting a batch of maize and letting it go mouldy, as is the case here with a batch of red maize.
Personally I believe that the bait should be used as fresh as possible. I like to boil the maize until some of the grains start to split exposing the softish fluffy inside. Correctly prepared yellow maize should look like this.
If you are a fan of commercial flavours, as I am, you may like to add one of your favourites to your maize. This should be done at the soak stage so that the flavour is absorbed by the grains as they swell. Most cream or vanilla flavours will work but my favourite is Tutti-Fruiti.
I generally use about 10ml of flavour to a kilo of maize (dry weight).
Another way to prepare maize is in a pressure-cooker. This method is handy if you are preparing your bait at the lakeside. By using a pressure-cooker you can reduce the soaking time to just a few hours. Follow this with a 15 minute boil in the cooker. This produces maize that is nicely swollen and slightly soft, which will not swell further and cause internal problems in the carp.
If I am preparing my bait at the lakeside, for the sake of convenience I soak the maize overnight in a carp sack, transferring 3-4 kilos at a time to the pressure-cooker as necessary.
Some anglers don’t bother to boil maize. They simply soak it for three or four days and then introduce it to the lake uncooked. While I accept that this will allow the grains to swell sufficiently to render them safe, in my opinion you are only doing half the job, as by leaving them in their raw, soaked state you fail to unlock the goodness and built-in attraction from within the grains. As far as I am concerned the boiling is a vital part of the whole preparation process if you want to get the best out of the bait. (I should add at this point that many European fish farmers feed vast amounts of maize and as far as I know, none of them bother to boil it: indeed many simply pile it in raw, straight from the sack! What this says of my opinion I will leave to you to assess!)
I have also heard claims that soaking allows the grains to sprout. This is true but the process takes ages and they will only push out their root under precisely the right conditions. While sprouted grains may arguably be more effective (due to free starch turning to sugar as they germinate) I think any nominal advantage is outweighed by the time and trouble you need to take to get the grains to sprout in the first place. Even sprouted maize should be cooked to soften it and halt the germination process
Flaked maize (which looks like Corn Flakes but isn’t!) is much easier and quicker to prepare. Simply pour the dry flakes into a bucket and add water. Leave for 12-24 hours and the flakes will have softened and exuded their milky, glutinous content turning the water white and opaque. This is our own Euro Mix, which is based upon flaked maize. Gorgeous innit!
You can speed this process by scalding flaked maize with boiling water and then allowing it to cool in a sealed bucket. The maize will be ready by the time it has cooled down completely.
Flaked maize really does come into its own as part of a groundbait blended with other ingredients such as Red Band, Supersoft Pellets, oat groats or crushed hemp. In fact you can buy our ready-mixed blend called The Euro Mix, which contains flaked maize and oat groats, among other ingredients. My mate Bill Cottam came up with the recipe back in the 90s when we used to fish in France together and he and his mates still use it today. The Euro Mix plays an important part in all my European carping, hence its name.
I also use a liquid food to add further attraction to the groundbait and one of the best of these is Corn Steep Liquor. Simply add 50m1 CSL and two tins of condensed milk to a 5kg kilo bucket of dampened wet flaked maize groundbait. Mix well and allow the bait to soak overnight. You can add more water in the morning if the bait seems to stiff. Alternatively, if it is a bit to runny for your liking, simply add more flaked maize.
An alternative way to boost attraction involves the use of a blend of two of Feed Stimulants most attractive feeding triggers, Liquid Goose Liver and Squid Liver oil. Blended together 50/50 the resulting solution will add considerable attraction to any bait carpet, especially those consisting mainly of cereals such as maize or groats.
Maize is a bait that carp seem happy to eat in great quantity; so heavy baiting is the order of the day so I generally pile it in! This may sound ill-advised but believe me, until you have seen the inside of a sack after a maize-caught fish has spent the night in it, you will never appreciate just how much of the stuff they can eat!
Some of the best catches I have had on maize have come to very tight beds of bait as opposed to a widely scattered one. When they become fully preoccupied on maize I think they like to get their heads down and not move far which is why a lot of bait in a small area works best.
As with all groundbaits the main problem lies in knowing how much to put in. Personally I like to err on the side of recklessness and tend to use groundbait fairly liberally. Initially, I like to introduce at least five kilos of groundbait and I may well top up with a similar amount twice a day, depending on the amount of action I am getting.
The huge advantage of this or similar groundbait recipes containing flaked maize is that they can be prepared with the minimum of effort. No boiling is required and after an overnight soak the groundbait is ready to go in.
For the most part carp that are feeding on maize become almost totally preoccupied with the taste, texture and smell of the bait, so much so that complicated rigs are simply not needed. My own favorite rig is simplicity itself. My own design, the Drop Down Rig, is a no nonsense bottom bait rig that is very effective when fishing for carp that are 'grazing' over a bed of maize.
Artificial corn, flavoured for preference, does very well if fished over a carpet of maize. A simple D-Rig usually works well on a light running lead.
Mini-maize is a brilliant product that is proving to be even more effective than other types of maize. You get a dozen grains of mini-maize for each grain of standard yellow maize, for instance, so you can see for yourself that the preoccupation possibilities are endless. In addition the grains of tiny corn smell almost as good as sweetcorn, not something that standard red or yellow maize can claim.
To prepare mini-maize I like to follow much the same procedure as with standard maize. However, I don't necessarily add flavour, as this tends to mask the beautiful natural smell that mini-maize exudes after preparation. I do add sweetener however to enhance the natural taste and this is added at the beginning of the soaking process.
I have found that a little mini-maize tends to go a long way so I usually prepare a couple of kilos, dry weight, at a time. This gives you about 5lb of prepared bait, which is generally enough for a days fishing.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to preparing mini-maize.
• First empty the dry grains into a saucepan or a bucket if you wish to make a larger quantity.
• Next add your preferred flavouring and additives as required.
• Fill the container with water until the grains are covered.
• Leave the container and its contents to soak for 24 to 36 hours.
• During the soaking period stir the container from time to time.
• Now cook the grains in the same water in which they have been soaking. This ensures that all the smell and liquor is kept in the grains during cooking.
• Bring the water to the boil and then turn the heat down so that the grains simmer gently on a low, well-dispersed heat for 20 minutes.
• After this time check a few grains to see if they are beginning to soften. Note: the grains will remain fairly hard even after 20-25 minutes.
• Once they are cooked turn off the heat and transfer the grains and the water in which they have been cooking to a bait bucket (or whatever).
• Leave them to cool and then use as fresh as possible. • Even better results can be gained by preparing mini-maize at the lakeside and introducing it to the water while the grains are still hot.
You can also use mini maize in a blend with other particles. My favourite blend of all is Red Band, hemp seed and mini-maize. I'd eat this myself, wouldn't you!.
Powdered attractors will work a treat in a batch of prepared maize. Add them to the finished bait after the water has cooled and stir well. You'd be surprised at how effective this little wheeze can be. My favourite is Green Lipped Mussel Concentrate from Feed Stimulants. It is the best GLM powder I have used by a country mile.
You can create a pot of high attract maize hookbaits by adding well-flavoured water to a pot three-quarters full of dry maize. The grains will swell up and absorb the attraction and, when stored in a pot with a re-sealable lid, they will last a season.
…or even longer if you add 25ml of Glycerin to the pot.
Finally, I hear a lot of stories about maze saying that it is a summer only bait. Well I can tell you, it lasts well into the autumn too, as this November-caught forty pound mirror shows.