Naturals – A Highly Regarded Carp Fishing BaitPallatrax Angling
The deeper I delve into this topic the more obvious it becomes that I can, in reality, only ever hope to be able to comprehend a tiny fraction of what is such a massive and incredibly complex subject. Individuals have spent years trying to understand even the most common of species, their life cycles and individual traits yet still so much of the subject matter is under researched and therefore not fully understood. It would be naïve for me to think I can try to study and grasp anything but the basics, but the fact is I would be foolish to believe otherwise. Yet every cloud has a silver lining and the positive of this personal ‘confession’ is that there is much to learn and so much will have a real relevance to our angling and, for me especially, future bait development under our ‘Naturals’ banner.
There is no denying that the further I have immersed myself into the ‘naturals factor’ the more I must admit to myself that my knowledge is far short from where I want it to be and to get anywhere near to that level is not going to be easy. I’d be unwise to deny that my limited knowledge to date hasn’t been both an angling and bait development advantage – it has, but there is so much further for me to go and I really believe that the more I focus, the more I learn, and that can only bring other benefits especially within bait development thus resulting in further unique and genuine edges.
It’s really exciting for me to be able to say with total confidence that what I have developed to date has been in many ways a real revelation to many anglers with so many positive examples of Naturals blitzing waters and catching carp whilst others have blanked. Before I progress further – one of the major factors for covering these features is that they are not contrived and full of product placement but one recent case in point is difficult for me to ignore being so relevant to the theme. Those who do know me cannot have failed to be aware of my now obsessional drive to attempt to develop successful baits that incorporate both man-made and natural elements and sometimes my workshop has looked like something out of a horror film with all kinds of ‘creepy crawlies’ being considered. This has resulted in a whole rake of baits being developed over the past six years and more recently in the release of the Multiworm Cocktail range, a ‘crossbreed’ bait which is stuffed with, as the name suggests, different worms all of which contain high levels of natural proteins and essential nutrients – Earthworm, Mealworm, Bloodworm and Silkworm, are now proving to be a deadly combination.
This bait was initially put through its paces by two of Team Pallatrax’s more experienced anglers; Tony Miles and Gary Newman, who tested the bait for over twelve months, fishing for all manner of species in both still waters and rivers. The results were nothing short of remarkable and it was in all honesty a real job to get them off the bait after the trials had concluded! But that is where the fairy tale ended, and why? In a nutshell, and one of the many frustrations I have suffered in this game, is the bait failed the ‘smell test’ and to fail one of the most factually, and obviously flawed aspects of this area of our sport is more than just annoying! You tell me why is it that just about every angler I have met somehow has the ability to smell a bait and pass judgement! Come on, we all do it! We get a new bait and the first thing we do is smell it and then break it open, some will even take it to the next stage – the ‘eat test’. Please, how does any of this have any relevance and to make a conclusion that a bait is good because it smells nice is a massive mistake. Firstly, we are not a fish and secondly, if this is a true test how come natural food sources, in comparison, don’t smell of anything?
Rant over and back to Multiworm! So it failed the smell test with certain anglers just dismissing its catch rate as irrelevant and surmising as it doesn’t smell right to them it wasn’t a good bait! How far have we removed ourselves from reality to make these kinds of verdicts? I could have taken the easy option and shelved the crossbreed product range I have developed, that included Multiworm Cocktail, and bought out a Strawberry Sherbet Special with a Coconut Twist – smells so good the fish must want to eat it!!! But consistent fish captures will only ever be the only true indicator for me and I’m certainly not going to pamper, or fold, to the defective practices I’ve highlighted! It really is a challenge to change a mind-set within most areas of life and angling is certainly no different. The bait arena has proved to be a difficult nut to crack especially when I’ve gone against the grain, in a number of areas, of what has been promoted over many years as the correct approach to carp baits. But I have set myself the task to at the very least grab hold of the microphone and let you, the anglers, have an opportunity to make your own choices and decisions by making you aware of other options and to consider that you need to question elements within fishing that to me appear to be more about catching the angler and not the fish!
By slowly chipping away at the reservations over Multiworm Cocktail its worth is now really gaining momentum as more and more anglers have started to admit areas like the ‘smell test’ are dysfunctional at the very least and basically have no relevance other than the fact the smell to them is nice or nasty! This has resulted in Multiworm Cocktail being able to actually end up on the end of a hair rig and, as some would say, the rest is history! Just look at the impact it has at our sponsored fishery, Emperor Pallatrax – the catch reports just keep coming in with fish into the mid-forties, new personal bests and, for many new users, instant success. No cheat, no gimmick just loads of carp on the bank and the true guide to a successful session – but why? In my humble opinion carp will always seek out naturals and in many cases ignore offerings that do not give them the nutritional values that their diets require – simply put, they are feeding on what they need to feed on and not what you are hoping they will feed on!
This has to be one of, if not the most, identified of the naturals that carp anglers relate to and to be fair has been a highly regarded fishing bait for centuries. I first came across bloodworm on the match scene in Derbyshire as a mere pup some thirty five years ago. It was a killer bait on the circuit and those who fished with it properly, well they just won – some even classed it as a cheat tactic which resulted in a number of fisheries banning this devastating bait! No fish seemed to ever turn its nose up to these tasty morsels and for me it was a case of tying spade end size 28 bloodworm hooks, tiny little red hooks, to line as fine as spider web for my fellow team members who suffered from fat fingers and failing eyesight – something which I can very much relate to now!!
My next real exposure to this miniscule worm was in the late 90’s when it opened up to the carp scene and literally became a phenomenon overnight. As is the norm in the industry everybody jumped on the bandwagon (me included) and for the following few years it was the market leader with boilies, pellets, ground baits, flavours and dips – the whole nine yards. I must admit to being somewhat sceptical about some of the products, especially the pellets, actually having ever been in the same room as a real bloodworm but the bloodworm revolution was here and is still going strong today. Now for me there lies a mystery – how can so many carp anglers completely ‘get’ bloodworm as a natural bait but then ignore all of the other naturals on offer? Very strange and to this day no one I discuss this with has a real answer to that question!
So what are bloodworm? In short they are the aquatic larvae of non-biting midges which to the vast majority of us looks like, and is often mistaken for, a mosquito. Incredibly there are over 130 groups divided into over 600 individual species within the UK! Suddenly just saying there’s a hatch and believing we can comprehend what is occurring within nature on that given day becomes somewhat more complicated and when you further realise there are in excess of 24,000 species of insects that inhabit our tiny isle the whole prospect of understanding becomes somewhat daunting. Obviously there are groups and species within groups that have little, or no bearing, to aquatic life cycles but you would be shocked to see how many gravitate to or are born within the angling environment and consequently become part of the food chain within that habitat and, therefore, fish food. On top of this we shouldn’t forget all the other natural food sources that fish devour ‘365’, from snails to molluscs and fry to frogspawn – it really is mind blowing!
Bloodworm are red due to the content of haemoglobin, which is a transporter of oxygen within the blood, but the relevance to us is that it allows them to live in substrate with very low oxygen levels, so in essence they are hardy little chaps who will thrive in conditions that other larvae wouldn’t survive – at least we now know why they are red and where they get their name from!
Like so many of these types of life forms in truth they will never ‘live the dream’ and life to them isn’t something to be envied! Put it another way I certainly wouldn’t want to come back as one – to say their lives are miserable is an understatement and they’ve got less chance of survival than a kamikaze pilot! There are four stages to their life cycle:
- Eggs – the mature female Midge will lay a mass of eggs (@ 3,000) onto the water surface which then break through the surface tension and fall to the bottom.
- Larvae – over the next seven days the larvae will emerge from their egg and in the majority of cases burrow into the substrate. This is the form in which they spend the majority of their life cycle and the odds of them surviving are slim with just about everything else within the biomass wanting to munch on what is nothing short of protein packed ready meal!
- Pupae – Over the next several weeks, at some stage, the bloodworm enters the pupae phase and then having ‘turned’ will swim to the water’s surface and within literally hours will go into stage four.
- Mature Midge – the Midge will leave the surface and also the dangers of the depths to swarm and mate (now they have to dodge birdlife!).
- Continuation of cycle – side stepping the swifts and swallows the female will then lay her eggs and the cycle starts once more but unfortunately for the Midge there is no happy ending – unable to eat, the best they can hope for (unless something else eats them first) is a life span of only a few days before their time is up!!
In the real scheme of things, how this affects our angling is that literally tons of bloodworm are born within our waterways and when they are in any of the first three stages they become an easy target and, therefore, can be a large part of the carp, and other fishes, diet. Our problem will always be how can we compete with something so difficult to replicate? I don’t think we can. What we do have is the opportunity to realise the importance of bloodworm and understand that they have to have a dramatic impact on our angling at certain times. What I try and do now is attempt to locate the areas where the larvae are living as common ‘angling’ sense suggests that this is where you may find carp either holding up or certainly visiting. Careful scrutiny of the water may also reveal when the pupae are surfacing and surely that is the time to consider the zig rig or surface tactics?
Undoubtedly I could have gone far deeper into this highly regarded angling bait but in all honesty I’ve been unable to relate anything else I’ve learnt as being truly important to the fishing community. If you take anything from this offering it surely has to be that just the basic appreciation of these incredible life forms has the ability to change how many anglers will approach certain angling situations and over the following months I hope to share with you other ‘naturals’ which are as important and in some cases even more so than bloodworm to our quarry – the carp.
Catch big and just remember: every day can be a learning day!
A massive thanks to the team at Talking Carp who kindly featured this article in their latest edition. Read more by visiting this link.