Twenty years ago carp fishing was the preserve of a dedicated few, and their successful baits were closely guarded secrets. Commercial carp baits as such didn’t exist. Each carp angler had secret recipes for paste baits containing all sorts of weird and wonderful ingredients.
The trouble with paste baits was that while they caught carp, other, smaller fish could nibble away at them. To overcome this, carp anglers came up with the idea of binding their paste ingredients with raw egg, rolling the mixture into marble-sized balls, then boiling the balls in water for a few minutes to form a tough skin that would resist the attentions of nuisance fish. Thus was born the basic boilie.
By the early 1980s boilies fished on hair-rigs were proving so successful that people began to make and sell the bait commercially. For the first time, ordinary anglers could fish for carp with a bait and rig that gave them every chance of success. Ready-to-use, off-the-shelf boilies of every imaginable colour and flavour are now the most widely used bait in carp fishing.
On some heavily fished waters so many boilies are thrown in that they form the staple diet of the carp. In.extreme cases the amount of boilies thrown in is directly responsible for the carp steadily gaining weight from one season to the next.
On the minus side, boilies have been banned on some carp waters because so many have been thrown in that some lie uneaten on the bottom until they rot and contaminate the water.
Make or buy?
Dedicated carp anglers make their own boilies – a laborious’ task, but one that does let you make them cheaply and in bulk. Moreover, you can experiment with new recipes, colours and flavours.
For the occasional carp angler, however, commercial boilies are more convenient and more than adequate. They are sold in sealed plastic packets. Unopened, they can be kept fresh for several months if stored in a cool place away from direct sunlight. Once the packet has been opened your best bet – if you want to save any boilies left over from a fishing trip – is to freeze them.
The basic ingredients of boilies are egg, which binds everything together, and the bulk, which can be various mixtures of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins. The theory behind these bulk ingredients is that carp recognize their nutritional value. Whether this is true is debatable. What is certain, though, is that it’s the flavour of boilies – and to a lesser extent their colour – that entices carp to eat them in the first place.
Flavour seems to be more important than colour because boilies are usually fished on the bottom, where carp generally find food more by smell than sight. Strong meat, fish and fruit flavours are all proven carp-catchers, but to find out what works best in a particular water you have to ask around or use trial and error.
In waters where boilies are used a lot, the carp are used to eating them so you only need to throw in 20 or 30 free offerings around each hookbait. If boilies are not used very much on the water, or if you are trying to wean the carp on to a new flavour, you may need to throw in several hundred and wait longer to get results.
Each time you catch a carp, throw more boilies in – about 10 is usually enough unless you are fishing a heavily stocked, ‘hungry’ water, in which case it’s worth putting in twice as many.
Boilies are best fished on a hair-rig rather than threaded on the hook. Partly this is because boilies are hard baits, but the main advantage of the hair-rig is that it increases the chance of a carp hooking itself. The carp sucks in the boilie and hook, feels the hook and tries to blow it out – and the point of the free hook catches in the carp’s mouth.
To make it easier for carp to spot your boilie hookbait and suck it in, try a ‘popup’ – a floating boilie anchored over your bed of free offerings by shot on the hook-length. To make boilies float, cook in a microwave oven on full power for a few minutes, or gently grill or bake them.