Bait Box

Here we look at the baits that are working right now, with the help of video guides and simple instructions, I’ll keep you up to date with what I have been catching on as well as looking at some of my top bait tips.

Being sponsored by Sonubaits I am lucky enough to have access to some of the best bait available, this page will look in detail how to get the best out of the range, but also look at other baits out there catching fish!

What’s working right now?


Lee's way with BLOODWORM and JOKER:

One of the topics I get quizzed on more than most is bloodworm fishing. I regularly refer to the Stainy and how its twists and turns throughout the winter season keep all the competitors on their toes. This winter I wanted to go back to basics and look at some of the key things that so many people disregard when bloodworm fishing and how I try to keep them at the forefront of my mind when using the red stuff on a match. The first thing to clear up with Bloodworm and Joker fishing is the myths that surround the bait. I think one of the biggest problems, or not as the case may be is availability and cost of the bait. All the matches I fish with B&J in the UK are supplied by Sam Wildsmith, I usually take 3/4kg to each match. The only joker I use these days is the Russian/Ukrainian, it is practically bullet proof. I simply keep it in the paper either in the fridge, but more commonly throughout winter it just lives on the garage floor. Bloodworm is equally straight forward, I just get a hooker pack delivered with my joker. You can of course keep it week on week, by keeping it in water and changing it daily, but to be honest I usually just get a fresh pack every week, at £2.50 it saves a lot of hassle. Total cost for this amount of bait is around £15. I don’t take casters, maggots or worms, so in my eyes this is certainly a reasonably priced bait bill. I order bait on a Monday for the following weeks match, so with the bait all sorted the most important thing is thinking about how to feed it. This is one of the areas that causes the most confusion when people come to bloodworm fishing. Soil or leam, groundbait or not, even straight from the paper is an option. No matter what option I choose, I like to keep things very straight forward. Depth and the makeup of the bottom of your swim plays a key part in feeding joker. Effectively what you are trying to achieve is the bait concentrated on the bottom where the fish can compete over it. With joker you are not trying to draw fish up in the water, so with this in mind it is important to know exactly where your bait is on the bottom. I can guarantee that any feeding fish will be right on top of it! Again this is much more simple than baits such as maggots or hemp, when loose feed can draw fish at all different depths, and trying to regulate your feed to keep bites coming has to be constantly at the forefront of your thoughts. With Joker however I have a couple of simple rules. Depth plays the first part. Generally speaking I will only consider feeding raw joker straight from the pack in less than 1m of water. Anything over this depth and I need something to accurately carry my bait down onto the bottom. In less than 1m feeding the bait straight from the paper can be very effective, but be aware that any tow or boat traffic could wash your bait away easily. With this in mind I generally feed my joker in a combination of leam, soils and groundbait. Which combination can often take a little fine tuning but as a basic rule I use 50/50 groundbait and soil throughout the summer and into autumn, then when the cooler months come I use 1/4groundbait and 3/4soil. I have said soil as an example, but you can substitute this for leam. Soil or leam can be an extensive article all on its own, but once again in the interest of keeping it simple I generally use leam for bream, with soil for roach. This is not a strict rule, but generally it is a good starting point. The combination of groundbait and soil forms a carrier for the joker, so the next decision is how much joker. Lots of articles have been written about measuring the amount of joker you feed at the start of a session. I am a big fan of this as it gives you a chance to keep a mental record of what you have fed in your peg. The key thing is that you monitor what is introduced into your peg, so you can start to understand how and when to top up. Recently on my bloodworm and joker matches I have been taking this one step further. I have been creating a mix at the start of the session, then using that same mix throughout. The measuring is done at the start so I can be sure I have a ratio of joker in the mix I am happy with. The mix I have been using this winter is 2pt of groundbait mixed to 6pts of soil. Once this has been mixed together well I add 1pt of joker. This gives a mix that is rich with joker, but holds together nicely to get fish competing in your swim. Once I have my mix I feed 3balls on each line and start fishing. As bites start to dry up I look to introduce another ball of the same mix. So for example, if I have fed 3 balls at the start of the session and they have lasted 1.5hr, I know that 1 top up ball should last approximately 0.5hr before I need to feed again. This can of course change throughout the match, but this is a basic guide that makes feeding joker easy to follow. Of course you have the option of feeding more or less at the start depending on how you feel the fishing will be, but as a general rule 3 balls is a good starter on a new venue. The best thing about this feeding strategy is that once the fish arrive, it is easy to understand what and when to top up the swim. This is an area that causes much confusion, even at the highest level, so by keeping my feeding options simple it helps me read the swim and adjust how much I feed each time to make the most of my peg. With the feeding options simplified the next consideration is rigs. Again I have spent a long time reviewing different floats and shotting patterns, but have settled on some basic rules which help me address any new swim. The first float I always look at for this type of fishing is a PT series 6. I cut the tips down to 30mm, which helps the float settle quickly to show only 5mm above the surface. I always set up three different sizes. First I choose a float size I feel is appropriate for the venue, tow and depth play a key part in this choice, but it is no different choosing a float size for bloodworm fishing as it is any other bait. Once I have what I think is the correct size, I will prepare one size above and one below, to cover my options. For example, on a deep canal such as the Stainy, I base my match around 0.6gr, with a 1gr bagging option and a 0.4gr in case bites are harder to come by. The choice of float follows the same rules for every venue, so it is worth finding out what sort of depths and flow you will be faced with before taking on a new venue. Incidentally shotting patterns are also a simple bulk and two droppers. This is kept tight, around 50cm from the hook. Again, there is little point have rigs with a slow drop when all the fish and bait are on the bottom. Fine wire hooks are usually a must for bloodworm fishing too, although don’t be fooled into thinking that this means they need to be small. I use a pr311 in an 18 for a lot of my bloodworm fishing, dropping to a 20 or 22 when bites on clearer venues are hard to come by. I also prefer 0.08mm hooklengths, because when bloodworm is in the hook I think the fish becomes so focused on the bait, that a slightly thicker line makes little if any difference. This allows me to be aggressive when swinging fish, helping to put together match winning weights. Where to fish is another common query, I usually look to feed two lines, but sometimes three or even four are needed to keep fish coming. That doesn’t mean I feed neat on one line, leam on another and then groundbait elsewhere. I know my chosen mix will attract fish, so I feed the same in each location. Then once the match starts, try to identify the best areas and concentrate on keeping them topped up rather than trying to work across many different swims. This is a key part to success on Bloodworm and joker venues. Most of the time, I only end up working two swims, but even then one of them is often better than the other. By feeding multiple spots you run the risk of splitting fish up in your peg, so they don’t settle properly, and you buzz around trying to keep bites coming and losing track of what’s actually happening. This is the voice of experience on that front, many matches have been spent not knowing where to turn next! Give my advice ago and make bloodworm fishing work for you this winter.


Lee's way with MEAT!

Meat, spam, ham, pork, whatever you want to call it, good old fashioned luncheon meat has stood the test of time for catching fish.

When you think about it, it has everything a fish wants to eat protein, fat and salt being the dominant ingredients.  Personally I think used in large amounts it is not at all beneficial to water quality or the fish, but limited to two pints it can be a fantastic addition to hungry carp’s diets and a real fish catcher for you.

So how best to prepare your meat.  Well first of all getting it the correct size.  Meat, just like pellets, needs to be tailored to the fishing you are going to expect.  For example, if the lake you are fishing is full of small skimmers and roach, feeding small meat such as 4 or 6mm is out of the question if you want to catch carp. 

However if I can get away with it I prefer smaller cut pieces of meat.  The reason for this is that unlike a lot of people I don’t see meat as a carp only bait, other weight building fish such as bream, chub, tench and F1s also love the stuff, so these smaller pieces often create competition, and allow you to use smaller hooks that result in more of these fish in the net.

So as a general rule I will take 6mm meat to my peg, but always have a handful of bigger meat just in case small fish are a problem.

Some of you may be thinking cutting meat to 6mm is time consuming, but that is simply not the case with today’s meat cutters.  I use Sonubaits 6mm and 8mm cutters for most of my meat work, which makes preparation that much easier.

I always prepare my meat the night before, having pushed the meat through the cutter, I simply put it in an air tight bag and into my bait bag.  I don’t tend to put it in the fridge before the match, as I don’t feel it is necessary. 

This is the stage that you can add any colours or flavours you want to the meat.  Like I said, it already has everything most fish want to eat, so I don’t tend to add anything at this stage.  However if you do wish to, then simply add a little to the bag and shake the meat around in the bag to get a good covering.  This way the meat can fully absorb the flavour overnight.

In the past I have actually bathed the meat in warm water first.  The benefit of this was that a lot of the sticky fat that gets all over your hands and the pole would melt away.  However I think the fish like the fat, so I rarely do this anymore.

Once on the bank, simply place the meat in a little lake water.  Turning it over from time to time to prevent it getting scorched by the sun.

This is meat in its most basic form on the bank.  These cubes can be thrown, cupped, hooked and even placed in a feeder.  There are those who will liquidise, or riddle their meat too and this is no doubt an effective bait, attractive to fish, but is something I rarely do, choosing to stick with the same feed and hook bait for simplicity.

Setting up to fish with meat needs all sorts of special rigs…… Don’t believe it, I am always one for keeping things simple, and meat is no different.  Whether I choose to fish it short or long my rigs are the same.  Check out my rig making video to see how I set my rigs up for all commercial work.  With most commercials being shallow, the 0.3g to 0.6g rigs see the most use. So generally a bulk on top of a 20cm hook length is the rig that finds itself on the bank.

The more important consideration is hook, line and elastic choice.  Like I said earlier, meat is not a carp only bait.  Winning catches will often include other species, so rigs must be prepared to suit.  Take a typical short meat line.  There is no doubt that carp are my preferred target, so my first rig will carry the tackle to suit.  Hook will be either a 16 or 14 PR456, to at least 0.15mm Reflo Power line.  This will be balanced with strong elastic such as 13h.  This will be my starting rig.  It is amazing how often this rig catches smaller species as well.  Competing fish care little for what size tackle you are using, so where possible this will be my choice.

I will however have a lighter rig prepared, because as we know, not all days result in massive catches.  This will usually be 0.11mm Reflo power line to a 16 PR434 and a 10h dura hollo elastic.  I have landed carp in excess of 15lb on this balanced tackle, and although I won’t use it if carp are my only target.  It is my preferred choice for a mixed bag of fish.

These rigs won’t change much whether I am fishing short pole, long pole, or even in the edge.  Meat is a light bait, which personally I like to control.  Rigs with strung out shot, or high bulks can again be effective.  But generally I am targeting fish on the bottom and my rigs reflect that.

This is the most important part of any bait.  And of course there are endless options when it comes to feeding.  I do however have a few basic rules which will help whilst you’re fishing.

Little and often, this is my first approach to any peg, usually with a small CAD pot on the pole to start with.  5-10 pieces of meat will be placed around the float to gage a response.  That response can come in different forms.  For example, if bites come quickly with many indications, then the likelihood is there are many fish competing for the bait, therefore larger amounts, even more regularly are likely to be required.  
Often when the fishing is like this I will wait until a fish is hooked and then throw a decent amount of meat into the peg to allow the fish to settle back on the bait whilst I am playing the fish.  However due to the conditions or distance this is not always possible, so the introduction of larger amounts of meat with a big pot can be required.

If the response is slow, then it can be that the fish are not feeding competitively.  So instead it is a case of setting a small meat trap to catch a fish.  By that I mean cupping in your 5-10 pieces then sitting patiently with your bait over the top.  This means when a fish comes and finds your bait, he must eat yours and clunk! Fish on!

Like I said previously there are endless ways to feed the bait.  Another popular method is to drip small amounts in by hand, say 3-5 pieces every couple of minutes.  This too is a proven technique.  But be careful as this feeding pattern as it is likely to bring fish off the bottom, and can make catching them quite difficult.  Always think about the response your feeding is having with the fish, and don’t be scared to make a change to suit.

Hooking meat:
This is a simple process, my only rule is that the hook point is showing in the final condition.  This is essential for lifting into the fish.  I know many anglers have had success hair rigging meat too, this is effective, but more so for shallow and feeder fished meat.

Meat can be devastating fished shallow.  Although it doesn’t make the same attractive noise that pellets do, meat does fall slowly through the water, giving fish more time to come up and get it.  I have found it particularly effective when feeding 5 or so pieces every 30seconds.  This can bring the fish in to the top 2ft of water, and the regular stream of bait keeps them there.   Big carp in particular are suckers for this, so don’t be scared to change your pellets for meat next time you are thinking about picking the shallow rig up.

I think when to fish meat is the most common conundrum that many match anglers face.  Basically you can catch fish on meat all year round.  I have seen big carp catches taken in the middle of winter on the stuff.  But generally meat is more effective when the water starts to warm up and cool down.  From personal experience, when water temperatures start to rise, coming out of winter, this is when meat can be deadly.  Is it because fish are looking for a high energy source?  Or do they just fancy something they haven’t seen all winter?  We don’t really know, but I know from April to June, meat can definitely outscore other baits.  Thoughout the height of summer however, meat will still work, but generally so will all others baits, it is your choice to fish with your preferred bait.  Often I will carry the confidence I have gained on meat throughout the spring into the summer as well, but generally pellets become a lot more convenient choice.

Finally don’t rule out meat later in the year, as the air temperature begins to cool, lakes holding on to summer heat can see massive catches taken on meat.  This definitely gets me thinking that the fish are taking on high food sources for winter, but whatever the case I know it works!

I hope these basic rules for meat fishing have given you a clearer understanding of this often confusing bait, but remember the best way to work it out is to get out on the bank and give it a go!


Lee’s way with maggots!

I think my favourite bait of all time has to be maggots. I know that this humble grub catches more species of coarse fish than any other and if I find myself wondering what to use maggots are the first bait on my side tray.

This time of year this bait comes into its own on commercial fisheries with big heads of silver fish and F1s. As the days get longer these species will really start to feed and big mixed bags are on the cards.

So why maggots? Well one thing I know about maggots is that they can be fished in any conditions. Take pellets for example. Nice calm days when the wind is kind and bites are very gentle, pellets can be devastating, but what happens when the wind gets stronger, it is a struggle to hold your float still and a nice tow has picked up! Kick out ‘Kinky pellet’ fishing and bring on the maggots! Maggots can be fed aggressively and bigger floats with line on the bottom hold the bait still. Sure you can do this with pellets, but bites on maggots are different, it is as if a fish commits itself to this bait more. Personally I am not sure this is the case, I actually think they find maggots slightly more difficult to eject than a heavier, harder pellet. But either way line on the bottom is a winner for maggots!

I also like maggots because I can tailor my approach to suit the fish in my peg. If carp are the targets then big pots, big hooks and big bunches work brilliant, but scale it down on harder days you can keep the fish coming.

DEAD: I rarely find myself putting anything but a dead maggot on the hook these days, even for roach on a river I still reach for a dead maggot. Of course I cannot be sure why it is that this seems to work better for me, but personally I believe the soft, still nature of the bait picks out the bigger fish, and a bait that isn’t moving has less chance of masking the point of my hook, so a dead maggot or 5! Is my No 1 choice.

Feeding dead maggots can also be deadly. Add them to groundbait and their lack of movement will prevent your balls from splitting up, cup them in down the edge and the inactivity seems to go unnoticed by silvers and awesome for carp!

How to kill them is a straight forward task. I put the maggots I want to kill into a bucket, I then cover the maggots in cold water. I then take a kettle of boiling water and using an old wooden spoon gently stir the hot water into the maggots. The trick is not to pour the water in all at once, keep adding it slowly until the maggots begin to stretch out. Once this occurs I leave them in the water for about 3minutes, any longer and they will totally cook.

Alternatively buy your maggots the week before your match, bag them tightly and stick them in the freezer. Make sure the bag doesn’t split though!

As we all know Krilled maggots became all the rage in the last few season, but was that because people were actually taking the time to kill them, therefore feeding beds of dead maggots? We can of course not be sure, but personally I still add bit of Sonubaits krill powder before I wrap them up in the freezer!

The final bonus of dead maggots is if it rains you don’t end up with maggots everywhere!

ALIVE: Wriggling maggots are the easiest way to fish with the bait. Pick them up at your local shop and then turn up on the bank with them. Live maggots are the best for loose feeding too. Once the bait is dead it will not fire or throw far at all, yet in its live form they can be neatly grouped at the chosen target. A live maggot nicked through the blunt end will also wriggle for ages afterwards, and will grab the attention of the first passing fish! Not always the best for big fish, but a winner for everything that swims.

COLOUR: the colour of your maggot is purely a personal choice. For some reason I generally prefer Red for carp, white for bream and bronze for roach. But be always be prepared to experiment. I have found a change of colour often brings a bite quicker, so early on in a session I will try and identify a winning combination, and then make the most of it!

QUANTITIES: It all depends were you are fishing, but don’t be fooled to thinking you only need 1 or 2 pints. Often I will keep all my old maggots in the freezer, because feeding large quantities of dead maggots can be a real winner for carp, especially in the margins.

STICKY: Sticky mag is a completely underused tool in the UK, bunches of maggots stuck together in balls can be affective for fish such as chub and barble. But no-one seems to use it on commercials. Years ago, sticky mag feeder was unbeatable at White Acres, maybe something the UK angler is missing out on.

On the continent sticky mag is common place, it is also very easy to prepare. Take your chosen amount of clean maggots and put them in a dry tray. Sprinkle a small amount of sticky mag powder over the top. I then simple shake a few drops of water on top with a wet hand, and leave the maggots covered over for about 15minutes. After this time you should have a clump of maggots stuck together, where you can take chunks off and form them into balls for either cupping, throwing or squeezing into a cage feeder.

COMBINATIONS: Maggots go with just about any bait. I tend to feed a few in my groundbait, or with my loose offerings wherever I fish, that way should I want to try them on the hook, the fish may have built confidence feeding on them whilst I used other baits. My favourite combination though had to be with loose groundbait when fishing in the margins, the groundbait draws the fish in, then they begin to feed on the maggots! When this happens get ready for some serious baggin’!

FLAVOURS: Those that know me will know that I am not big on flavouring baits. I have no doubt that fish will eat flavoured baits, it is simply that I feel flavours can add extra confusion. To be clear though, I don’t totally rule them out, I have tried various additives on pleasure and match scenarios, with mixed results. With maggots I have been known to add Sonubaits Pineapple liquid, but make sure you add plenty of maize to keep them dry. As I mentioned earlier, whenever I freeze maggots I always add some Krill Flavour shaker, this really just stops them sticking together, but no doubt fish like it too.