Groundbaiting as a method of attracting fish can be very effective, but a little dropped in the right place works a lot better than random scattering over a wide area.

Groundbaiting is carried out to attract fish into a swim and set them feeding. There are various methods of groundbaiting, depending mainly upon the type of water, the rate of flow, and the species of fish sought.

Groundbaiting in fresh water Groundbaiting with a heavy mix- ture which drops to the bottom fast is needed at times, but once there it should break up quickly. In fast flowing water, when barbel or bream are the quarry, a ball of groundbait which sinks quickly is thrown in slightly upstream so that when it hits the bottom and breaks up, the particles drift along the bottom and

through the swim. Bream usually swim in large shoals, feeding on the bottom, and large amounts of groundbait are often needed to concentrate the shoal in the swim. A large bucketful of groundbait is generally the minimum required for a day’s fishing.

Baiting up a swim several days in advance can pay dividends, particularly when bream, tench or carp are sought. This can draw a big shoal of bream into the swim and hold them there until fishing starts, even though their usual tendency is to be on the move.

A ball of groundbait can be used to land a quantity of loose maggots on the bed of a deep swim. In strong flowing water, such as a weir stream, bank clay can be worked into the mixture for this purpose. It is then moulded in the shape of a cup, the cavity filled with maggots, worms or another bait, and the top closed over. A strong flow, coupled with the action of the wriggling bait, will soon break up the balls, sending the hookbait samples trickling along the bottom to bring fish close.

Groundbaiting from a boat

When fishing from a boat, ground-bait can be dropped over the side or lowered to the bottom in a meshed bag weighted with stones. An occasional tug on a cord attached to the bag will release and circulate particles of the groundbait through the mesh and into the swim.

When ledgering, it is essential to get the groundbait in the right place, and then to fish the baited hook in the middle of it or as close as possible – on the downstream side.

Groundbaiting is frequently done with the use of mechanical devices, such as bait-droppers, swimfeeders and catapults. One sure way of landing loose maggots, or other hookbait samples, on the bottom, is to put them there by means of a bait-dropper, of which there are various kinds on the market. The loaded bait-dropper is lowered to the bottom of the swim, when a trip wire opens the lid and releases the con-tents. The match angler usually starts by putting down several droppers full of hookbait samples. Once the fish move into the swim, the bait-dropper should be used with caution, for it may scare the fish.

Scattering by hand Bait-droppers are obviously not so useful when fishing on the drop, or if taking fish from under the surface when small fish are relied on to make up the match weight. Scattering bait loosely by hand or by catapult is more effective in that case.

Good catches of fish are often made by using choice maggots as hookbait and groundbaiting with inferior maggots, or feeders as they are known. Feeders are generally used in conjunction with a cloudbait. As one becomes expert in casting with one hand and tossing the feed or attractor in with the other, both hookbait and groundbait will enter the water together. The choice maggots on the hook will sink slowly and enticingly amidst the dissolving cloudbait and the feeders.

Use of the swimfeeder

When ledgering the midstream an effective way of getting maggots down to the bed of the river is to use a gadget known as a swimfeeder. These come in various designs and sizes, but the basic model is a celluloid tube that is attached to the ledger tackle. The open-ended type is packed with maggots, with breadcrumbs as plugs at both ends.

With groundbait plugs the feeder can also be used to concentrate hempseed or casters in the vicinity of the baited hook. The closed or blockend type of feeder is filled with maggots only.

After the tackle is cast out it reaches the bottom and the flow of water swings the baited hook to a position downstream of the swimfeeder. From this the maggots will wriggle out through the holes and into the right place – around the baited hook.

A swimfeeder deposits groundbait exactly where it is needed – but it does not always put enough there.

This is why, when ledgering, ground-baiting the swim manually is sometimes employed at the same time as offering the hookbait samples in the swimfeeder.

Care must always be exercised when groundbaiting a swim where specimen fish are the quarry. On a river, the introduction of a large quantity of groundbait will invariably attract shoals of small fish, and these can prove a nuisance.


A form of groundbaiting which is ef-fective in many types of waters, par-ticularly for surface and mid-water species, is cloudbaiting. This means clouding the water by introducing minute particles which the fish will search through, looking for more substantial food.

After taking note of the rate of flow of the water, the angler regularly throws small balls of cloudbait into the swim. This is done upstream, so that the cloud drifts down and through the area being fished. The float tackle is cast out immediately after, following the groundbait closely through the swim.


For roach, dace and chub fishing on a small, secluded river, regular swim-baiting can be made by the use of a ‘drip-feed’ – a tin with a few holes punched in the bottom, which is filled with maggots and hung from a bridge or overhanging branch. The steady trickle of maggots over a long period will entice fish from some distance away into the swim.

As match fishermen know, regular groundbaiting of the swim is very important no matter what hookbait is used. Without it, the angler is fishing on a hit-and-miss basis.