First popular with specimen carp catchers, potato is now used to take tench, roach, chub and bream. Its big advantage is that while deterring smaller fish, it attracts some really large specimens.
Cooked potato, presented in a variety of forms, is favoured as a bait for large carp but is also attractive to bottom-feeders in general and sometimes tench, bream, chub and barbel. The occasional larger roach will take a potato but one of the bait’s advantages to the carp fisherman is that smaller fish will usually be deterred by its size and will leave it to the specimens. The attractiveness of potato to large carp is perhaps attributable to its curiosity value and, despite a notorious cautiousness, they will investigate a potential food not normally found in their natural environment if careful groundbaiting is used to allay their suspicions.
Pre-baiting with potatoes is favoured by some anglers, particularly carp catchers. Use a handful of small potatoes thrown into the same swim or swims at the same time every day before a fishing session. A good groundbait can be made up from ordinary or instant potatoes mashed up with scalded bran. This mix. Or small par-boiled potatoes similar to the intended hook bait, can be introduced to a swim on several occasions for up to a fortnight before fishing.
To prepare the bait, select smallish potatoes – from about large marble to golfball sized. Leave the skins on and boil them for about 15-20 minutes. It is important not to cook them too much for they will fly off the hook on casting or will break up in water if too soft. They should dent slightly under gentle finger pressure when cooked enough. They should then be peeled carefully or
scraped before being used on the hook. The peeled and tinned variety make a good substitute and need less preparation as they are already part-cooked.
Ledgering is the usual method for presenting potato to carp. A freelin-ing technique is used, for the bait has its own weight and so does not require leads to assist casting or to get it to the bottom rapidly. Sometimes the weight of the potato will cause it to sink into mud on the bottom where the fish cannot see it. In this case use a slice cut from a potato prepared in the same way. This will lie flat on the bed and if cut large enough it will still deter the smaller fish.
To hook a potato, thread the line through it, using a baiting needle. Better, sink a short piece of plastic tubing through the bait and pass the line through it. This will prevent the line cutting into the potato with the force of the cast, which often has to be a long one. Then tie on a suitably sized hook (some use a barbless model or cut the barb off the regular kind) and pull the hook back into the potato gently so as to prevent fragmenting when casting.
Effects of casting
To further cushion the effects of casting, leave patches of peel where the point is to penetrate and where it will emerge. Alternatively, use an ingenious method devised in recent years. After tying an eyed hook, the bend is sunk into a round piece of bread crust and then the potato is
brought down firmly on to it. This pad of crust will absorb the shock of the cast, which would otherwise jerk the hook back into the potato, possibly breaking it up.
Although a large, eyed hook is preferred by many carp anglers, a hook-to-nylon can also be used by threading the loop through the bait
TYING THE HOOK
Like many baits, the potato is worth experimenting with. Potato chips, lightly fried so as not to be too soft, have been used with some success for carp, although more often in Europe than in this country. A potato paste can be made from mashed potatoes bonded with an additive such as the scalded bran or bread-crumbs used in the ground-bait. The important thing once again is to achieve a consistency that will keep the bait on the hook during casting and while being fished.
Remember to take a good supply of par-boiled potatoes on a fishing trip as they will sometimes fly off the hook or break up whatever precautions are taken. The bait must also be changed after taking a fish. Keep the cooked potatoes in water until ready to use on the hook as this prevents them from turning brown. A screw top pickling jar is ideal for this purpose.
Proven carp catcher
All baits – and potatoes are no exception – are subject to fashion and in some cases, mere fad. There are some anglers who stick to one bait for a season or two and then for no apparent reason, switch to something completely different. Of course, there is always room for experiment, but at the same time the most reliable baits always come back again – and potato is nothing if not a proven carp catcher. In any case, it only takes one angler to have a successful session using potato for the news hungry angling press to persuade its readers that potato is the ‘new’ wonder bait. And with more anglers using it, more fish will be caught.
Fishing with potatoes has accounted for the capture of some of our largest carp and remains among the best methods.