Pics: Marc Coulson
I guess you could say I am a renowned user of imitation baits, but which three would I choose over all others at this time of year? Hmmm….
I use ‘plastic’ imitation baits all year round and, even when I’ve made the decision not to use it, I’ve ended up sticking it on one rod and it has trundled off. This might have been when fishing over big beds of boilies, like proper food, so I’ve wanted to use an out-and-out food bait on the hook as well.
I’ve tried to be a bit too clever for my own good on these occasions, not wanting to do anything to alert the carp to the fact that my hook bait is any different to the baits around it.
It’s been a bit like that, my journey with plastic baits, and I’ve come to the conclusion that if there is no reason to not use them then I’m going to use them, if that makes sense. It’s been a while since I found a genuine reason why not to use them, I can tell you.
There are untold types of plastic out there these days and I can honestly say, hand on heart, that the best stuff is that from Enterprise. I know what you’re thinking: “He’s bound to say that, it sponsors him.” Well, you’d be wrong. Not wrong in that I am sponsored by Enterprise, but that came as a result of me using its baits for a very long time, not the other way around. Don’t ask me what it is but, especially in the case of corn, there have been many other companies that have produced their own but none has been as effective as Enterprise’s, and I found that out very quickly indeed.
Having mentioned corn, surely the most popular plastic bait of them all, and certainly the one that has been copied numerous times, this would have to be my number one. If for no other reason, I have caught more carp than I care to remember using the corn and maize baits.
Sweetcorn is a favourite bait of carp across the globe and, as good as the similar-looking maize can be, put them side by side and the corn will be eaten first, every time. Carp just love it, plain and simple.
The texture, as well as the aminos packed inside, appeal to the carp and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had fish crapping out the skins by the hundreds on the unhooking mat.
There are two elements at work as well, each at polar opposite ends of the spectrum. For starters, a water that hasn’t seen corn for a while will erupt once somebody starts introducing it again. However, the more corn a water sees, the more effective it will be again. It never blows, despite what people tell you, and it is, of course, especially effective in winter.
Even when fishing with boilies, one small can of corn mixed in with them can transform your results. So, with that in mind, why should a piece of imitation corn work alongside your hook bait? It’s a massive visual stimulus having a piece of plastic corn tipping your hook bait, and I don’t just mean your bottom baits or wafters either.
How many of you reading this have ever tried a piece of yellow corn tipping your pop-up boilie? Or even a bright pop-up with a piece of corn on top as well? No? Then why not?
It doesn’t have to be yellow necessarily, as the flash works in lots of colours and one or other can often work better on one day than the next, so it pays to carry a selection.
Tipping a tiger nut is a great tactic that I have done really well on. It’s not necessarily a buoyancy thing and I do smile when people talk about balancing their bottom bait with a piece of corn. There’s not that much buoyancy in plastic corn, even the pop-up versions, so to think you are negating the weight of the baited rig when using a corn ‘topper’ is a myth.
I use wafters as my bottom baits and tip them with my chosen corn. In this case, because the hook bait is already critically balanced, the corn, being slightly more buoyant, will indeed usually sit on the top of the bait, and work as a sight enhancer.
Here’s one for you to ponder before I move on – have you thought of trying the glow-in-the-dark corn? Trust me, it can sometimes be an absolute game changer and I’ve used them more than I’ve let on in recent years because I didn’t really want to give that edge away. I’m happy to share that one with the readers though; it’s about time after all. Oh, and you don’t need one of those UV torches either because the baits ‘charge’ through sunlight. You can give them a mega boost by dipping them in boiling water as well, bizarrely. There’s a top tip for you.
I was dying to create a range of plastic boilies and, eventually, I persuaded Chris at Enterprise to do them and I’ve christened them the Immortals because they last forever. There are all sorts of varieties, but the 10mm ones are my favourites.
You might ask, why not just use a 10mm boilie? Why would you need a plastic one? Well, there are a few reasons.
Firstly, water soaks into boilies and pop-ups, affecting their nature and buoyancy, whereas the plastic ones do not and maintain their buoyancy. They don’t break down and are small-fishproof, plus you can use a very small plastic pop-up with a large hook, which many big-carp anglers will tell you can be a massive edge.
I remember taking my lads to Anglers Paradise a few years back – the trip sticks in my mind vividly. The water was extremely coloured so I decided to use the Immortals after a while of struggling on boilies. They were the white ones with creamy toffee flavouring and, I kid you not, first cast out with one on the hook I had a bite. I figured it might have been coincidence but the same happened again, and again. It was a revelation. I moved on to the tricky specimen lake and it continued. Not just for me either, because one of my lads had his first twenty and then thirty on consecutive days, and all when boilies weren’t working at all.
I popped over to the main lake where the anglers were struggling. The venue owner, Zyg Gregorek, who we all know and love, asked me to go and give the lads a helping hand because they were obviously struggling. All I did was show them the Immortals and let them have a try. They all caught after that. Now, you tell me why that was because I don’t know necessarily, but it happened on three lakes one after the other, and when all of the anglers were struggling. Was it the flavour, the white colour, the consistent buoyancy or maybe the fact that they didn’t take on any water and lose their attraction? I don’t know, but it proved to me just how effective they can be and now I rarely travel anywhere without them.
I know maggots are hugely effective in winter, albeit more and more venues are banning them, but have you considered casters as an alternative? You should. I absolutely love them and so do carp.
On many big-fish waters when bites are hard to come by, casters can be a massive edge. A lot of anglers worry that they are not easy to keep in good condition, but that’s daft really. If you get yours from a good dealer then keep them in a sealed bag and nice and cool, they’ll be fine. If you’re going for more than 24 hours then take a cool box to keep them from getting too warm and turning into a box of flies!
Try fishing them in a solid PVA bag with an inline lead, braided hook link and a very sharp hook and see how they can transform your results. I will add salt, sugar, ground pellets or some other fine powder of some description to make sure all the casters are dried off and don’t melt the PVA.
However, you will struggle to use them on the hook and they are not very robust, but this is where the imitation casters come into play. There are both buoyant and sinking versions and I’ve found that at certain times one is better then the other. You can, obviously, use a combination if you want to try and balance things, which I often do.
I honestly think that carp will eat casters over maggots but I hardly see anybody using them. Give them a try and fish with the more robust imitation ones on the hook. They’re a cheeky way of getting round the maggot bans too!