Prebaiting: why and how

Prebaiting a swim has long been accepted as a useful weapon in the angler’s armoury. A century ago it was a popular technique for barbel. ‘Mud-balling’ with thousands of chopped lobworms in clay balls was popular when fishing the weirpools of the Thames.

Nowadays, prebaiting is more often confined to still waters, mostly when fishing for tench, bream and carp. Its main functions are to gather fish in a particular swim and to encourage them to accept a particular bait eagerly.

Does it work?

How effective is prebaiting in achieving both of these objectives? No amount of prebaiting can turn a poor bait into a good one, or turn the wrong choice of swim into the right one. But if you introduce a good bait into a good swim on a regular basis, it can help make the fish move into the area with a greater expectation of finding food, and to take your bait confidently.

Which baits?

The choice of bait depends on the species present. For example, prebaiting with worms for bream and tench is often successful. But if the water also holds numbers of small eels and mini-perch, the swim ends up being overrun with these nuisance fish. That’s when rnini-boilies or a particle bait such as sweetcorn are often a better choice.

The amount of bait you use depends on the number of fish likely to visit the swim. You don’t want masses of food lying around uneaten, but neither do you want it to be eaten within minutes.

In a lightly stocked water, about 1lb is enough. However, where the fish move in large shoals, four or five times that amount is often a better idea.

Loose feed is best for short range prebaiting, but feeding farther out calls for some sort of carrier. A bait dropper and crumb are both good ways to get feed out. Balls of crumb are particularly effective because they act as carrier and are food in their own right. You can add a wide variety of flavours to make the crumb even more appealing.

Fish meal or ground trout pellets make good additives, as do carp flavours and sweeteners, or a little cake flavouring such as vanilla. They definitely excite a feeding reaction and help the fish find the food.

Carp anglers often prebait solely with bodies. They are hoping to teach the carp that their boilies are tasty, safe to eat and regularly available at their chosen pitch. Provided you don’t overload the boilies with your chosen flavour, prebaiting certainly does achieve all of these objectives.

As a general rule, cereal, bird food and fish meal based boilies profit from fairly high levels of prebaiting. With casein-based or other ‘rich’ milk-based boilies, you should keep baiting levels quite low. What constitutes high or low levels depends on many factors including the level of stocking, the temperature of the water, and so on.

How often?

The ideal situation is one where you can prebait every day until you come to fish the water. However, few anglers can spare the time to do this. Every two or three days is still often enough to make a real difference. If you can manage it less frequently, the only real difference it makes is to your confidence. Even so, a confident angler is a good angler — so whatever its other benefits may be, prebaiting is well worth doing for that reason alone.