I think most carp anglers would agree that summer is by far the most productive time of the year for catching carp. They are at their most active and they seem prepared to eat just about anything.
However, there are a few little tricks you can use to give yourself a big advantage during the summer months and using particles and seed mixes is guaranteed to produce the goods. There is a terrific feel good factor in catching a summer carp as they can be more of a challenge than at any other time of the year.
There are four main kinds of particle bait:
1. Micro seeds such as groats, hemp or dari seed.
2. Micro seed blends such as Red Band Pigeon Conditioner.
3. Pulses of which maples, chick peas and black-eyed beans are well known examples.
4. Nuts with peanuts, tigers and brazils being the most popular.
Seeds and seed blends are used to achieve a degree of pre-occupation in carp and no seed is better at achieving this than hempseed. It is crunchy, oily and the carp just love its taste and in the high water temperatures we get in the summer there is no better seed bait to get carp feeding. To prepare hemp, simply soak the seeds for 24 hours then bring the water in which they have been soaking to the boil.
Some say that hemp seed needs to be boiled half to death. I couldn't agree less! There is no need to boil the very devil out of the bait and simply cooking it for 15-20 minutes will be ample. A few of the seeds will split and that is fine but even if the majority stays intact that is ideally how I like it, as most of the hemp oil remains intact within the seed.
Remove from the heat and put the whole lot, water and all, into a bucket. If you can use the bait immediately (i.e. straight after preparation at the water's edge) so much the better, as this is undoubtedly the best time to use hemp seed. However, it is not always practical to use the bait while it is still hot so in this case seal the bucket and leave the seed to stew in their own liquor so that none of the goodness is lost. The seeds will be ready to use as soon as they have cooled. The remaining cooking and the liquor can be used to bind groundbait such as SuperRed or you can reuse it to prepare more bait.
There is only one tiny drawback to hemp seed and that is because it can create excessive pre-occupation. There will be times when the fish will not look at anything else and this can be frustrating to say the least. Therefore the best advice I can give anyone planning to use hemp seed is to use it sparingly. Over-bait and you risk getting the carp so pre-occupied on hemp that they will totally ignore any other type of bait. It is far better to put in just three or four scoops spread widely about the swim. In this way the carp will have to search diligently for every single grain and they will root in the bottom, turn over stones and generally get into a frustrated frenzy if you leave them always wanting more. The chance of a hookbait being picked up is far more likely if they are foraging hard, looking for every last remaining seed.
Crushed hemp is equally effective and has the added advantage of needing no further preparation. Open the bag, dampen the crushed hemp slightly and stiffen the mixture with groundbait of some kind. Then form into balls and either catapult or throw out the balls by hand.
I rate groats on a par with hemp seed when it comes to achieving maximum feeding preoccupation. This tiny grain is produced when oats are de-husked and cleaned. Again, little preparation is required as all they need is a soak for 24 hours in water flavoured with your favourite flavour and attractor. After a day the grains will have softened and are ready for use. You can speed up the process by pouring boiling water over the groats in which case they will be ready to use within an hour. This is a combination of groats and Micro Complex, and if you were a carp, well, wouldn't you?!
As with hemp, groats work on achieving preoccupation among feeding carp. You will notice that the tiny yellow grains give of sweet-smelling milky liquid, which disperses readily in water. Carp find this highly attractive and they will root around in the silt and gravel until the last grain has gone. One advantage groats have over hemp is that it is less likely you will get such single-minded feeding on groats. Carp that are feeding on groats will almost certainly pick up a scattering of small fruit-flavoured boilies mixed in among the bait carpet and the chances of a run are high.
The main problem with all seeds is that they are also highly attractive to all coarse fish and bream in particular quickly home in on hemp and groats if the carp give them a chance. They are also fairly limiting in where they can be used; they do not travel far out of a catapult and only by using a decent spod will you be able to put seed baits out any distance. For this reason I advise you to apply these tiny seeds by boat; this gives them much greater versatility.
Pulses and nuts are fished in more or less the same way and really all you have to decide on is which one to use - the choice is staggering. I suppose tiger nuts are the most widely accepted particle bait these days and peanuts maples and black-eyed beans are almost as effective.
ALL nuts and pulses must be soaked for at least 24 hours prior to preparation to prevent them swelling in the carp's stomach and causing distress. In addition they need to be boiled, as pulses, which have simply been soaked, but not boiled can actually sprout on the lakebed, which may also cause the carp some problems. If in doubt always soak overnight and boil for 15 minutes to be on the safe side. Peanuts are one of the best summer baits for carp but use them only after they have been properly prepared.
In general most pulses and peanuts require a 24-hour soak followed by a 15- to 20-minute boil. Tigers on the other hand need to be soaked for about 48 hours then boiled for at least half an hour. Return them to a seal able bucket together with the water in which they have been boiled and you will find that after about tree or four days a frog spawn-like jelly forms around the nuts as they start to ferment. Many angler think that this is when they are at their best. I disagree. For me tigers work better if they are used as fresh as possible.
Some pulse and nut particles respond more favourably to heavy baiting, while others need to be baited very lightly. In particular you should take care not to over-bait with tigers as this quickly stops carp feeding on all baits, not just on tigers. I am not sure why this should be, but it has happened on too many waters for it to be coincidence.
One particle which carp seem prepared to eat a lot of is maize. I am amazed at just how much of these hard yellow grains they will devour and from what I can see, they gather little nutritional worth from them as the grains are often excreted in the same form they went in; however on waters where the carp can be weaned onto maize you can get the most amazing feeding reactions on it.
There are different schools of thought on how to prepare maize, but the most widely accepted method is to soak the grains for 36-48 hours then boil them until a few of them start to split or go fluffy around the edges. This normally takes half an hour or so. Using a pressure cooker can speed up the process.
We could go on for page after page about the Haith's Baits range of summer particles but for the time being why not give one or two of these ideas a go. If you’ve never tried a particle approach before you are in for a bit surprise!