When modern boiled baits were first being developed the very first specialised base mixes were all formed using ingredients primarily intended for feeding cage and wild birds. These soon came to be know as birdfood mixes and today, many years later, they are still one of the most popular carp baits in current use, as they are usually comparatively cheap, highly digestible and very attractive to carp.
In the early days many anglers made a mix by simply adding wheat gluten to a combination of two or three bird foods and dosing the whole shebang with a heavy glug of flavour and sweetener. Amazingly these baits worked, but only for a short time. I myself used what many would consider to be a very crude bait back in the late 70s. It was as follows:
2oz Wheat Gluten
1oz Robin Red
5ml Hermesetas Liquid Sweetener
10 ml Maple flavour
OK, crude it may be but it didn't half catch some carp. The photo is of a gnarly old mirror caught from a lake in Cornwall.
Early bird food baits used the high attract principle to catch and as always when high levels of flavour are used, it didn’t take the carp long to become repelled by the excessive flavours rather than being attracted by a more reasonable flavour level. Soon the actual bird foods themselves became less effective as carp began to avoid the excessive flavour levels used by the majority of carp anglers. A more enlightened attitude prevails these days. Most of the proprietary base mixes now include not only a blend of bird foods, but also selected proteins, effective binders, kelp and kelp powder and a vitamin and mineral supplement so as to give the base mix a more attractive nutritional profile.
This more balanced food source can be made even more attractive by using flavours and other additives at much lower levels. This has the effect of turning a birdfood mix from what was generally regarded as an attractor bait into a bait with a viable long-term value food bait. Like fishmeal base mixes, birdfood baits are usually almost instant with no need for extensive pre-baiting campaigns. Provided the flavour and attractor levels have been sensibly applied there is no reason why a well made birdfood bait will not last several seasons. I recall when I fished College Reservoir during the 80s. I found that found that the more birdfood baits I put in the better my results.
I used large amounts of birdfood/milk protein boilies in order to get the fish really feeding hard and at the time I think I had made my bait the only one the carp would accept, so avidly do they react to a correctly applied bait. This is another College mirror from my early days on the reservoir. It was known as Big Gob, for obvious reasons!
I guess that nowadays, with a large number of bait companies all striving for their slice of the market, birdfoods must be one of the most cost-effective of their products. There must be a hundred and one different birdfood base mixes around these days, all claiming to empty lakes and put you and you alone out in front. But as we have already seen there are only so many birdfoods around and just about every mix will contain a percentage of one or more of the same ingredients.
Some of the best birdfoods come from the UK company Haith’s and the legendary Robin Red is arguably the most popular bait ingredient currently on the market.
A few birdfoods are based upon crushed seeds, ground hemp (as seen in this photo) and ground pulses. As their name implies, birdfoods are designed to improve and maintain the condition of show birds such as parakeets, canaries and budgies. In addition you should be able to find high energy products that are designed for racing pigeons such as Red Band Pigeon Conditioner.
In my opinion, the key to the success of most birdfoods is their relatively high fat content. In fact some bait companies actually term a birdfood` bait as "High Energy". All birdfoods involve a source of fat; often a food oil of some kind and it is the fat aspect of most birdfoods that makes them so useful as carp bait additives. Fat is a vital component of a carp's diet as it has a sparing effect on protein. This is a most unusual ingredient in that it contains bakery products, cereals, seeds, sugar and honey, minerals, oils and fats, vegetable protein products, fruits, yeast, molluscs & crustaceans. It is a superb ingredient that can be used as the basis for a birdfood base mix. Use at rate of 50-60%.
This is another excellent ingredient around which to build a base mix. It is Red Factor, a birdfood that is highly attractive, readily digestible, comparatively cheap and if used with high quality fishmeals, or milk or egg proteins will make a very good long term bait. The coarse nature of most birdfoods allows an almost immediate water exchange once the bait is in the lake: water goes in, flavour and attraction comes out. It is now common practice to combine birdfoods with protein (fish or milk) in their base mixes to give the best balance of nutrition and now it is unusual to find proprietary base mixes which are solely high fat/energy. Yes, there will be a high fat content in there, but by balancing this with a good supply of dietary protein birdfoods have now come of age as food baits in their own right.
Birdfood baits enjoy a strong following among the home rolling community and have acquired a strong revival under the guise of "high leakage" baits. As such they are proving very effective both as attractor baits and as food baits. The swift leak-off of flavour from within the bait makes most birdfood baits fairly instant in their attraction, yet it is clear that birdfood baits with a reasonably low flavour level are often quickly accepted as food by the carp and heavy baiting can reap significant rewards.
Many birdfoods contain their own in-built source of attraction. For instance, the famous Robin Red is a superb birdfood ingredient, but it is also a brilliant attractor in its own right, never mind simply as a nutritional food ingredient. Its unique smell and taste have tempted literally thousands of carp over the years and it shows no sign of falling off just yet awhile. The active ingredients in Robin Red are mainly peppers (Red Peppers/Paprika) and a selection of highly attractive spices.
This is the recipe for a very simple base mix that is certainly one of the best birdfood bait mixes you will ever find:
• 250g Red Factor
• 200g semolina
• 50g Robin Red EU/UK
• 4ml John Bakers Plum flavour
• 4ml Solar Ester Pineapple
• 2ml Solar Liquid Sweetener
• 20ml Sanchi Tamari Soy Sauce.
Bait additives that complement birdfood mixes include liver extracts, seafood extracts such as Green Lipped Mussel Compound (the Feed Stimulants version is excellent), liquid molasses or molasses meal and of course the amino acid liquid foods such as Corn Steep liquor (Feed Stimulants again!).
Additional attraction can be added to your bait by using a good quality food oil such as this Pure salmon Oil from Feed Stimulants. While oil is insoluble in water carp can detect its presence in the bait as they eat it. Tiny oil-bound particles of the bait will inevitably escape from the gills as the bait is crushed in the throat teeth. You can also add soluble liquids to your bait in the form of Oceanic extracts and hydrolysed liquid proteins examples of which are shown here.
Some anglers like to boost the overall attraction of their base mix by including milk and fish proteins such as casein or Shrimp meal and these can achieve better long term results. Fairly simple mixes combining different birdfoods along with a good quality binder such as Whey Protein Concentrate (shown here) will have a long catching life, provided you don't overload the flavours and other attractors.
Going off at something of a tangent now I would look back in time to 2019 BC (before Covid) and a trip to the Secret Garden in France. That year the Garden was so kind to us that we couldn't wait to book for 2020, but sadly we all know what came along that winter and thus our trip to the Garden had to be cancelled. Luckily Carmen Armfield of Armfield Angling, the booking agent, was kind enough to carry over our booking. So in 2021 we went back for more. Once again the lake treated us very generously and my missus came out on top again, stitching me up with the biggest of the trip at 59lb plus! My chance would come in 2022 when we were booked in for a late autumn trip.
We both love late autumn carp fishing. The fish seem to know winter is coming as their metabolism slows down. Food will be scarce and feeding periods limited, but the carp in the Secret Garden are big fish with big appetites so they have to feed, even when the water temperature hovers around freezing. However, come a mild November with the winter doldrums yet to arrive they fed hard. If you've read up to this point or read some of my previous Blogs you will have gathered that I am a huge fan of the Dutch bait company Feed Stimulants, a Dutch bait firm that mainly supplies those hard-to-find feeding triggers that fly under the radar of many carpers, and for three years now I have relied on the company and the owner Luc to help me create some very effective baits.
However, the firm did not at that time offer an in-house boiled bait…it does now! Luc's boilies are a cut above the rest, not least for the pulling power of his unique attractors such as insect powders, sweeteners, powdered and liquid flavours, blended essential oils and oleoresins, L-amino acids with di- and tri-peptides, liquid foods, cultured yeast, organic acids…Need I say more!
I have enjoyed three trips to France using Feed Stimulants' boilies and in 2022 alone I caught eight fifties and two dozen forties on them. There are two boilies in the range at the moment, Insect Cream and Seafood cocktail. I have used both to great effect so why not have a browse?
Luc sent some boilies and a selection of pots of hookbaits to the owner of the Secret Garden. He lives not far from the lake so the delivery was hassle-free. The Seafood Cocktail boilies were waiting for me in the lake's huge freezer, and several pots of Seafood Cocktail and Orange Crush pop-ups were sitting on the table in the conservatory; the whole place smelled of fish and freshly squeezed oranges!
Both versions of the pop ups worked well as did the Seafood Cocktail boilies, which Luc supplied in sizes 16mm and 12mm. The smaller versions I used whole as part of a baitboat package comprising 50% 10mm Boilies and 50% cooked mini maize (Popcorn Maize). I used the 20mm versions as chops or crumb my thinking being that the fish would go for smaller ‘bits’ in the groundbait package. I used most of the boiled bait that Luc sent me in the first nine days, and thereafter I used the ‘house’ pellets (Sketterings) and boilies (Eddy Sterckx). The most productive combo was Fruit Crush pop-ups over a compact yet heavy carpet of Seafood Cocktail boilies dropped by bait boat. In addition I spread a sparse scattering of boilies on and around the main area of bait, my thinking being that the carp would start to go looking actively for the boilies over a wide area of lakebed. I hoped that the older, bigger carp would be fooled by this approach, yet maybe put off by a tightly packed bait carpet. In this I was proved right, as I managed to pick up one or two ‘rovers’, on the Seafood Pop ups. These were fished in isolation well away from the main bait carpet.
Here's an idea for you, esspecially in colder water. Before casting out dip the hookbait in neat Sanchi Soy sauce, then while still wet put it in a pot containing pre-digested fishmeal. This is a very effective way of drawing attention to the hookbait.
As always I use a paste wrap on the lead, this being made using 70% Haiths SuperRed and 30% CPSP90. This is bound using a blend of lakewater and Tamari. The paste is then studded with pellets. When moulded around the lead this creates a powerful source of attraction close to the hookbait.
The the rigs were dropped by baitboat on the same features I have used since 2017, with slight variations on the exact spots.
This was the first of five fifties!
We fished no more that seven hours a day with a three hour break for lunch. When in France, do as the French do; live to eat rather than eat to live! Takes came mainly during the dimps. Could we have caught more if we had fished through the dark hours? Undoubtedly but we were back in the warmth of the house, sitting down to dinner by then.
The average weight of the fish is close to the 40lb mark and in both 2021 anad 2022many clients report catches for their week averaging 40lb+. Indeed in 2021 and 2022 our average was 43lb. This is pretty impressive so it's as well to remember that these are big fish with big appetites so it usually pays to put a fair bit of bait in. Having got the spots primed we left them alone for a couple of days, topping up the bait morning and evenings. In the meantime we did a big shop in Limoges followed by a slap-up nosebag at a lovely restaurant near Sereilhac.
So to the fishing. Long story short: The first fish of the trip came on a single hookbait (no free offerings or pellets) dropped on a previously-found hotspot opposite the pontoon. At 44lb it was a very pleasing way to open my account. The following day we got serious and baited up some of our favourite spots using a throwing stick. I also baited by hand three margin spots that are often ignored by clients to the lake. Priming the margins with mainly pellets with a scattering of boilies is my go-to approach at the Secret and it has stood me in good stead over the years.
Two more fifties.
There can't be many places where you can catch two fifty pound commons in a morning!
In total we landed 12 carp, 5 x 50s, 4 x 40s, 2 x 30s and a sole twenty.
The Secret Garden has become one of the most sort-after venues in France. It has everything a family or a group could wish for. This is reflected in its availability. At present I think it is fully booked until the end of 2024 and the book for 2025 and 2026 has just been opened.
More info and details of how to reserve/book can be found here:
Book a.s.a.p as the weeks will fill up quickly.
Lights, camera, ACTION!