Dr Paul Garner Our bait ex­pert shows you how to get the best from cast­ers

They are well worth the ef­fort and no fish will refuse a tasty ‘shell’


ONE of the best baits of all time has taken a bit of a dive in pop­u­lar­ity over the last few decades.

Whether it’s be­cause they can be stored for only a short while, or need to be or­dered in ad­vance from many tackle shops, cast­ers have been rel­e­gated to oc­ca­sional use, if not aban­doned al­to­gether.

That’s a real shame, be­cause cast­ers are a bait that I would put on a par with mag­gots as be­ing a great all-rounder, and one that has an un­canny knack of sort­ing out the bet­ter-qual­ity fish.


I be­lieve that small fish feed mainly by sight. This is why mag­gots and other ‘live’ baits are so con­sis­tent at get­ting bites. Inan­i­mate baits, such as cast­ers, can take the fish longer to find, but when they work their magic you can bet that the fish will be of a much bet­ter stamp. It’s al­ways a nerver­ack­ing first hour when caster fish­ing for roach and chub, as it can take this long for the fish to set­tle and bites to come reg­u­larly. The sim­ple an­swer is to keep at it – pa­tience will be re­warded with bumper catches.

When fish­ing for a net­ful of fish I will feed cast­ers in just the same way as I do mag­gots – lit­tle and of­ten is key. When it comes to shoal fish such as roach and chub, a pinch of bait ev­ery minute is much bet­ter for build­ing up a swim than fill­ing it in and wait­ing. I al­ways used to choose the shiny red coloured cast­ers from the tub for the hook, just be­cause these looked the most ap­peal­ing to me.

Forc­ing my­self to pick dif­fer­ent colours, from off-white to al­most black, led me to re­alise that fish can be fickle and will pre­fer dif­fer­ent colours on dif­fer­ent days. Try­ing all colours of caster hook­baits un­til you find the most con­sis­tent is def­i­nitely the way to go.


All fish eat cast­ers as part of their nat­u­ral diet. The chrysalis of the myr­iad dif­fer­ent species of flies blow on to the sur­face of rivers and lakes and make a tasty ad­di­tion to the menu.

Yet how of­ten do you see spec­i­men an­glers us­ing cast­ers as bait? Bar­bel ab­so­lutely adore them, and faced with a low, clear river a combo of hemp and caster would be my open­ing gam­bit. Three parts hemp to one of cast­ers helps to keep the cost down and will see a cou­ple of pints of cast­ers go a long way.

Other species are just as likely

to fall un­der the spell of the chrysalis. I know of sev­eral carp an­glers who se­cretly de­ploy cast­ers when the go­ing gets tough, es­pe­cially in win­ter. In fact, I would be hard-pushed to come up with a spec­i­men fish that won’t eat them.

While cast­ers tend to be more big-fish spe­cific than mag­gots, they are not im­mune from at­tack by tid­dlers. For all species, ex­cept roach, I will use ar­ti­fi­cial cast­ers on the hair in­stead of the real thing to en­sure that I al­ways have an in­tact hook­bait.

If I am wait­ing hours for a bite it is im­per­a­tive that I know the hook­bait is un­touched. Roach are the one ex­cep­tion be­cause, try as I might, I just can’t catch them con­sis­tently on ar­ti­fi­cial baits.

So if big roach are my in­tended tar­get it will be a bunch of cast­ers im­paled on the hook, or su­per­glued to a short hair.

I must ad­mit, I am as guilty as the next per­son in not us­ing cast­ers any­where near as of­ten as I should. They re­ally are a gem of a bait, par­tic­u­larly at this time of year when the fish can be­come more clued-up to other baits.

Feed a pinch of cast­ers lit­tle and of­ten.

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