So what constitutes a particle bait? Most people would say that particles are any seeds, pulses or nuts, but I would extend that list to include micro boilies, boilie chops, boilie soup and boilie, crumb, etc. but for the moment I’ll concentrate on the three main categories of what are generally regarded as particles.
SEEDS and CEREALS
These include baits such as hempseed, groats, micro seed and cereal blends, 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 l had to choose just one particle micro 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. The simmer also brings out the sticky goodness that normally lies locked away inside the seeds and cereals, as you can see in the photo above.
So some that Red Band works best if it is allowed to stand for a few days until fermentation takes place. I could not disagree more strongly. Red Band should be used as soon as possible if you wish to get the best out of all that gooey mulch that is released during the boiling process. Leave it too long and the mulch will start to go off and thus affect the Red Band itself. Remember: fresh is best!
Luckily I don't have to restrict myself to just one particle so for my second choice I have gone for oat groats, a mini cereal particle bait that carp adore. These are so easy to prepare; all you need do is soak them overnight in flavoured and sweetened water and they will be 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 rate hempseed as the best seed particle bait available. I have written at length about preparing hempseed but there is no harm in restating my firm contention that hempseed simply MUST be used as soon as possible after preparation is complete, preferably straight from the pan while it is still hot!
There is so much 'advice' out there concerning how to prepare hempseed that it is little wonder people get confused. It could not be easier to prepare and if you follow this advice you will not go far wrong.
1. Empty the seed into a freezer box and cover with boiling water.
2. Put the lid on the box and leave for 24 hours.
3. Transfer the seed and the water from the freezer box to a large saucepan or two.
4. Simmer for 10-15 minutes and NO LONGER.
5 A few of the seeds will start to split and show their white root. This is fine, but as soon as you see a few of the seeds splitting, remove the bait from the heat immediately and transfer it to a clean bait bucket. NB. Most of the seeds should still be intact at this point..
I have read more nonsense about using "fermented" hempseed than about any other bait. Hempseed does NOT ferment, it ROTS! You only have to smell it to tell that there is something deepl nasty and unpleasant going on in there! You are better off throwing it away than using it, and don’t throw it in the lake! This will ruin a swim for weeks! Under no circumstance should you be tempted to use hemp that has any hint of an unpleasant smell to it. If it knocks your head off, it will affect the carp the same way!
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, and other liquid additives. For instance, with maple peas I like to add sugar (rather than an artificial sweetener) and 10ml/kilo John Baker’s excellent Maple flavour. An equally good alternative is Nutrabaits’ Wonderfruit flavour used at the same level. The additives should be poured into the water in which the pulses are going to be soaked.
Maize in all its forms is superb. However, popcorn maize is much more effective than ordinary maize as it creates preoccupied feeding in carp. Standard maize is also a very effective bait, especially French yellow maize.
Red maize is a good 'change' bait that you can use if you think the action on standard maize is tapering off.
And don't neglect good old sweetcorn, still one of the best carp baits of all time. Tinned sweetcorn takes colour well so why not try adding red dye to a tin of sweetcorn and then mix it 50/50 with standard yellow sweetcorn?
Chickpeas are a much-underrated bait, and carp simply adore them. They take on flavour and colour well so the permutations are virtually endless as far as giving them your 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; about 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 have always been a firm favourite pulse bait of mine and I like nothing better than to cook them in water that has been boosted with Liquid Robin Red. This lends the beans a spicy smoky flavour and dyes them a nice mild pink colour. Black-eyed beans are another pulse that soaks up flavours and additives so try giving them a boost by adding a spoonful of Bovril or Marmite to the water.
Maples are another fantastic bait. I used them to terrific effect back in the 70s and 80s when I first started to use particle baits. Soak for 12 hours then boil for 20 minutes. Drain off the water and then allow the beans to stand for 3 days. After this time they will start to exude a lovely sticky substance that smells wonderful to a carp (though not so clever to humans!).
A photo from the 80s of a mid-twenty caught on maples.