We’re off to France soon. What baiting strategy should we employ?
Hold on! It’s never going to be as simple as that. There is no “one size fits all” policy as far as baiting strategies for a French holiday lake goes. There are lots of elements to take into account and things such as venue, stock, conditions and all manner of variables come into the equation. A holiday session in France bears many similarities to a trip in the UK but there are a few differences to manage as well as one or two mistakes to avoid.
Right. What’s the main mistake people make?
The one that happens time and again is to go in all guns blazing. It’s an easy assumption to make that a heavily stocked commercial venue will respond to lots of bait. While this may be the case, filling it in from the off probably isn’t the best way to go about things. Turn up at a pressured venue at home and you’ll see the other anglers. Most of the French carp lakes which take holiday bookings work on a week by week basis and consequently the venue will likely be empty when you arrive. However, it will have been fished by another party for the previous seven days, all applying bait and before them a different group, doing the same. Basically the carp you are after are under constant pressure and coming across anglers’ bait each and every day. Piling bait in from the off could well prove to be the kiss of death. Even on heavily stocked venues not every swim will be full of carp and you could well put paid to any chance you had by over baiting at the start.
So we shouldn’t take too much bait then?
Oh no. You must take plenty of bait, or at least make sure you can purchase it at the venue. A week in France is an expensive endeavour and you’ll want to have enough with you to take full advantage should the stars align. If you end up in the right swim, at the right time, during the right conditions, you could really have it off and you’ll need enough bait to make the most of the situation. The majority of venues have freezer facilities enabling you to take as much as you require and use it if you need to but just because you’ve got lots of bait doesn’t mean you have to put it in.
Boilies or particles?
Whether to bit with boilies or particles rather depends on the venue. The owners will invariably be forthcoming with information regarding what their carp get caught on. It’s in their interest that you catch, enjoy yourself and book a return trip next year. They’ll also be aware of the nutritional benefits of boilies and their positive effect on their growth rates. Therefore their use will be encouraged so it’s likely that you’ll be using a boilie or combined boilie/particle approach rather than pure particles. Nuisance species tend to abound on these well fed waters and using boiled baits helps to minimise their effect on your fishing too.
So what is the difference between a session at home and one in France?
Primarily it will be length of session. Most of us fish 24 to 48 hour trips and try and catch as many as we can in that time. A week is a different proposal altogether and there will, in all likelihood, be a variety of conditions to contend with. Some days will encompass terrific feeding conditions with fish throwing caution to the wind resulting in you getting through a lot of bait, whilst others may be in poor conditions meaning fish are feeding less enthusiastically and a lower requirement for you to introduce freebies.
So what should our approach be?
The safest bet is to ease your way in gently. Baiting lightly is never going to ruin a session and our preferred way to assess the scenario and what is likely to be the most productive way forward. If there are others on the water so it should become apparent what is working and, should they be catching over plenty, you can start putting more in yourself.
Even if the weather is settled we’d recommend starting off with caution. This way it is possible to take advantage early on and build the swim as the week progresses, increasing the baiting levels throughout as the fish become tuned in to our areas. We’d be expecting to use the majority of our bait towards the end of the week as the number of bites increase in line with the carps’ confidence. Our aim is to maximise the results without risk of killing it from the start.
Got it. Any tricks to employ?
There are a couple of little baiting edges that might be of use. A week is a long time on the bank and this gives you an opportunity to bait a spot for a few days without fishing it. Trickling it in with no pressure can enable carp to feed freely and gain confidence giving you a chance of a flurry of bites later on in your trip or provide a reserve spot should you need one.
During long periods of unproductive high pressure a venue’s carp can seemingly switch off altogether. Anglers continue to introduce bait though and it can be tough to get a bite in these conditions, when availability of food far outweighs demand. We’ve rescued situations such as this by introducing virtually no bait at all. They might not bring your best ever results but singles, PVA sticks or small bags could just be the baiting strategy that snatches a handful of bites and averts disaster.
Nice tips. Any final advice?
Only to bait according to the scenario. You may end up in a swim that doesn’t contain many fish, in which case you’ll need to keep it light in order to get a bite. The same applies if conditions aren’t favourable. Conversely you’ll want to let them have it if it’s overcast and you’re really on ‘em at the end of a south westerly. Be prepared to put it in but be equally prepared to leave it in the freezer. Fish to the conditions and you won’t go far wrong.