The Contrast Effect in Fishing: Techniques and Tips

The Contrast Effect in Fishing: Techniques and Tips

I am an avid watcher of carp in the wild. In fact, I like climbing trees or parting bushes to look in on carp almost as much as I do fishing from them.

You can learn so much by simply observing the fish in the wild, watching them feed, seeing how they react to baits and baiting situations. You can see how and where they feed and also watch how they patrol their water world.

It was doing just this that lead me to observe carp selecting single food items presented over a bed of seeds. In this case, it was boilies offered over a carpet of Red Band Pigeon Conditioner and groats. I was fishing a small river in France using a combo of Red Band and groats as the bait carpet with bright orange spice-flavoured boilies over the top. I had been baiting an area of the margins to see if I could tempt the carp to feed in close where I could watch them. Sure enough, after a couple of days pre-baiting a likely looking swim, the carp moved onto the bait carpet and soon created a typical carp 'dinner plate'.

Small lake in the south-west


 This is a dinner plate on a small lake near my home in the south-west. It was created solely by carp feeding on small particles. Having established the dinner plate the then moved on to use it for further experiments and it was here that I first tried using a combo of tiny particles hempseed and larger food items, in this case, Techni Spice shelf life baits. I was intrigued to see that when the carp were moving about over the top of the baited area they often seemed to tilt down and take the boilies, almost as if they were selecting the brightly coloured baits for preference.

Maize & Hempseed

You may have had a similar experience if you have ever tried the well-established tactic of fishing 4/5ths hempseed and 1/5th maize. Did you notice that the maize got cleared up quite quickly once the carp moved in? I certainly did!

Fishing boiles over Redband Conditioner.


For many years I have put those observations to the test, first using maize or sweetcorn over hemp, boilies over Red Band and single dark or even black baits fished in combo over oat groats. I watched as the carp appeared to single out the larger food items, in extreme cases even going so far as to ignore the smaller ones altogether. For instance, while fishing small orange boilies over a carpet of Micro Complex it was clear that the first baits to go were the boilies. Only when they were all gone did the carp get their heads down and polish off the micro seeds. Now as far as I am concerned, Micro Complex, hempseed, Red Band and oat groats are virtually irresistible to carp, so why would they seek out a "different" food item? Curious!

What seemed clear was that it was the contrast between the dark colour of the background bait carpet (hempseed) and the brightness of the scattering of the alternative baits fished over the top. Similarly, the contrast between the bright yellow bait carpet (groats) and the black boilies was also clear to see. When I fished bright coloured baits over the groats, where the contrast was less, so too was the carps' tendency to select the contrasting bait.

Tares over a dark background bait.  

Also clear was the fact that a carp that was feeding selectively took the alternative bait without showing the slightest suspicion. Conversely, a similarly toned dark bait - tares (see photo) - over a dark background bait - hempseed - was not taken so avidly. I was quite confident in my conclusions and when I saw carp seemingly ignoring dark baits over a dark background, that seemed to confirm them.

Black eyed beans & Turtle beans for fishing.

Some of the most dramatic examples of this selective feeding came when fishing a handful of black Turtle Beans over a big scattering of white Black-Eyed Beans. Here I was presented with clear evidence that the alternative colour of the Turtles caused them to be selected first. Only when they had all be eaten did the carp start to feed actively on the white Blackies. And the result was the same if the options were reversed; Blackies over Turtles.

Ken Townley fishing at the side of the lake.  

I guess this must sound rather far-fetched to many of you but I have the evidence of my own eyes and my photo album! You see, I have been very lucky to have perfect test water right on my doorstep: you could almost say it is my garden pond. It is, in fact, a wild two-acre lake. (This is the lake to which I refer in the second photo.) When I started widening my carp fishing horizons looking more deeply into the subject of bait, this little lake served as my test bed.

Ken Townley with largest fish in lake.


This was the largest fish in the lake (sadly now gone to the Great Duck Pond in the Sky). I caught it several times over the years and she was always a sucker for something a bit different from the norm. The last time I caught her when she weighed over thirty pounds, she fell to a single tiger nut hookbait over a dense tightly packed carpet of hempseed to which was added a handful of free tigers.

Jars of Tiger nuts

 Over the years that the best combination is tiger nuts combined with hemp seed, and for pure ease of use you will be hard-pressed to find anything better than these jars of prepared tiger nuts and hempseed from Dynamite Baits. These take all the faff and kerfuffle out of the preparation process. What could be easier?


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