Make tiny baits... catch big bar­bel!

Cre­ate a trail of par­ti­cles that won’t fill up the fish and you’ll catch in tough sum­mer con­di­tions

Angling Times (UK) - - WELCOME -

BAR­BEL aren’t nor­mally that dif­fi­cult to catch, but com­bine hot sunny weather with a low river and it’s a whole new ball game.

If you want to catch dur­ing the day the an­swer now is to use smaller baits. That way you can build up the hunger level of a shoal of bar­bel and get them feed­ing with enough con­fi­dence to pick up the hook­bait.


Feed­ing reg­u­larly is the key to get­ting bar­bel hooked on small baits. Even the most lethar­gic whiskers will even­tu­ally suc­cumb to a con­stant stream of hemp and other good­ies.

Once they do de­cide to feed, they find it very hard to get enough of the small baits to fill them­selves up, so they start to com­pete with their shoal-mates for ev­ery pass­ing morsel. My aim when fish­ing for bar­bel is al­ways the same – to cre­ate a trail of bait gen­tly rolling along the riverbed. Some will lodge in weed fronds or be­hind peb­bles, but most will drift on down­stream. The sim­plest way to bait up is to loose­feed, which cre­ates no dis­tur­bance. The trou­ble is, most baits are quite slow-sink­ing, so in deep or fast-flow­ing swims your feed can be way down­stream be­fore it ever reaches the bot­tom where the bar­bel, with their heav­ily un­der­slung mouths, feed. In shal­low rivers, where bar­bel can be spooky, loose­feed­ing is ideal – you might even be able to watch the cloud of par­ti­cles be­ing washed down­stream if the wa­ter is re­ally clear. I try to get the bait to reach the riverbed di­rectly in front of where I am fish­ing. This means cat­a­pult­ing the feed well up­stream. As a gen­eral rule, for ev­ery foot of depth, fire in your bait half a rodlength up­stream. In big­ger rivers

that are faster flow­ing, too deep or too wide for loose­feed­ing to work, get the bait drop­per out. With this I can bait up straight in front of me, know­ing that it will re­lease its pay­load close to the riverbed. Which­ever tac­tic I used to feed, it must be done reg­u­larly.

A pinch of bait ev­ery minute is far bet­ter than a heap of bait dumped in ev­ery hour. With a bait drop­per, one load ev­ery 10 min­utes is nor­mally about right.


There are plenty of baits that fit into the ‘small’ cat­e­gory. Pel­lets are an ob­vi­ous choice, but 10mm boilies and boilie chops are use­ful too. Cast­ers have fallen from favour with many an­glers, but com­bined with hemp they are right up there with the best. Mag­gots are not far be­hind – but the un­wanted at­ten­tions of small fish can make them dif­fi­cult to use un­less fake hook­baits are used.

A very un­der-used bar­bel bait is sweet­corn, which com­bines very well with hemp. Small cubes of meat are also very ef­fec­tive – go

for 8mm cubes for best re­sults.

My choice of bait often comes down to try­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent. So if most peo­ple are us­ing pel­lets, I will ei­ther flavour them, or switch to corn or cast­ers to keep me one step ahead.


The num­ber one bar­bel bait of mod­ern times has to be the hal­ibut pel­let, but not all pel­lets are made equal. Some are re­ally dark and oily to the touch, oth­ers are a lighter brown and smell fresher. I find th­ese most ef­fec­tive for bar­bel, I think be­cause they have a less bit­ter taste.

The Elips pel­let is a clas­sic bar­bel bait. Its flat­tened shape has been re­placed by a more reg­u­lar pro­file, but they are still very ef­fec­tive.

A good test of a pel­let is how eas­ily it can be drilled with a bait­ing nee­dle. I drill mine in the garage, fill­ing a tub ready for a few trips to the river – much eas­ier than try­ing to do it on the bank. Qual­ity pel­lets will drill eas­ily and not split. While a 10mm pel­let can be drilled and hair-rigged, smaller

pel­lets than this can be tricky. In this in­stance I su­per­glue two pel­lets to a piece of rig foam on the hair to bal­ance the weight of the hook per­fectly.


I still pre­fer to soak and cook my own hemp, rather than buy it ready cooked. That said, I will al­ways have some pre­pared hemp in the car. It doesn’t need preser­va­tives to stop it go­ing off, as long as the pack­ag­ing is in­tact.

Other in­gre­di­ents in hemp feed only work if you are us­ing a bait drop­per. Try to cat­a­pult out a mix­ture of baits and they will just spread out. Hemp and caster is a clas­sic combo, but try mix­ing in a hand­ful of 6mm pel­lets to your hemp in­stead.

Just re­cently I have been us­ing boilie chops in my hemp. Th­ese soak up the hemp juice and cre­ate a ter­rific slick of at­trac­tion.

Try a boilie and pel­let sand­wich – they’re deadly! Hair rig a small sliver of rig foam. Su­per­glue at­taches small pel­lets to foam.

A boilie whit­tled down to the size of a pel­let ac­counted for this big bar­bel. I make up batches of drilled 10mm pel­lets at home.

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