Although cereals come in all shapes and sizes, most have three things in common: they are brittle, light and float in water. Coated wheat puffs such as Sugar Puffs and Smacks have for a long time been a great favourite with carp anglers. Protected by their sugar or honey coating, these cereals absorb water very slowly – making them equally good as floaters or pop-ups.
Most cereals need soaking in water to a greater or lesser extent before you can put a hook into them but because wheat puffs aren’t as brittle as other cereals you can get them to stay on a hook without soaking. However, soaking them for just two or three minutes causes them to soften and swell slightly, making them much easier to hook and adding a little casting weight.
Fished on the surface of a Stillwater they make a good bait for carp, rudd and roach. Fished near the bottom as a pop up — either straight on the hook or on a hair — you might take carp, tench and bream. Flakes of corn such as Corn Flakes, Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes and Frosties are a traditional roach bait – although they can take other species. Unless stale, these flakes are very brittle and if you try to put a hook straight into them without preparing them, they break.
It is very difficult to a hook a soggy flake without it falling off and, as you may have found from your own experiences at the breakfast table, Corn Flakes in particular are very absorbent and soon go soggy. So you can’t really soak them. One answer is to use flakes from a packet that has been left open for a few days. These are leathery and easy to hook.
You can achieve a similar result with a fresh packet. Take a good handful from the packet – enough for the hook – put them into a plastic bag, then add two teaspoons of water and give them a good shake. Fasten the top of the bag with an elastic band and leave them overnight. When you open the bag you should find that they have softened enough to receive a hook without breaking.
They don’t make a good floating bait but you can try trotting two or three flakes on a size 14 hook on a steadily flowing river for roach. Of course, once the flakes are in the water they start to go soggy, but provided you cast gently and don’t jerk the tackle while waiting for bites they should stay on most of the time.
Toasted rice cereals such as Rice Krispies and Coco Pops can be prepared in exactly the same way as flakes of corn, but it doesn’t take as much water to soften them. In fact they only need to lose a little of their brittleness before making quite a tough little bait that stays on the hook extremely well. Being small you can fish one grain on a size 14 hook or two or three on a size 12 and they work equally well as a floater, as a pop-up or as a trotted bait. Moulded cereals such as Honey Nut Loops and Start are usually ring-shaped and very brittle – and consequently difficult to hook. One way of getting around this is to glue them on to the hook. They are usually slightly larger than other cereals and then-sweet coating prevents them absorbing water too quickly – making them an ideal floater bait for carp.