This article is aimed for beginner to intermediate carp anglers. Although there will be plenty of carp fishermen who have always bought ready-made boilies and would have not thought too much about what ingredients they are made of…
… As long as they catch carp
So most carpers will get something out of this article.
Attractor boilies are designed and created with the view of making them look, smell and taste great, without considering the nutritional profile too much. For example a common ingredient is ground semolina. Semolina has binding qualities and tastes good, but does not contain much in the way of vitamins, minerals or other nutrients. It is basically a simple carbohydrate.
The ingredients for an attractor boilie are designed to carry the other attractor ingredients such as flavor, oils, or bite stimulating powders or artificial colorings.
We know that for humans, some or the most unhealthy food also tastes the best (unfortunately).
The logic in using attractor baits is to stimulate a feeding response regardless of nutritional profile. It is debatable as to whether these attractor baits are actually that unhealthy though. Common ingredients to attractor baits include full fat soy flour and obviously whole eggs for mixing. If we were to analyse the nutritional content of an attractor bait, maybe it wouldn’t be that unhealthy after all.
Remember that the carps natural food is high protein and rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber etc. Raw uncooked bugs and worms are actually very healthy. So, in the context of an overall diet for the carp, perhaps a few “carp sweets” in the way of attractor boilies might not be a negative nutrition-wise.
I guess the ideal reaction to our attractor baits would be the same as a person on a diet on “cheat day”. Ahhh, a nice thought but carp don’t think the same way as us.
(I have met a few people who seem to think like carp though :)).
Bird food boilies.
Bird food is designed to be nutritious and tasty. Bird enthusiasts want their prized pets to be in peak condition. To look like they are in peak condition the birds must be healthy. The bird food industry is similar to the ornamental fish feed industry. There is a lot of science and research that goes into formulating the best quality nutrition for optimum health.
Fortunately for us carp anglers, bird food is far cheaper than Koi pellets are.
It is a good idea to experiment with different bird feeds as they all have different ingredients and formulation. Some bird food ingredients are spicy, like robin red, and some are sweet and crunchy such as nectarblend.
Include your bird food up to around 40% of the base mix depending on how well the other ingredients bind. Bird food boilies have the advantages of having a better nutritional profile than attractor boilies.
They also allow the liquid additives in your bait to leak out more easily because of the porous nature of the biscuit texture. I think the main benefit of bird food boilies is that they are light and exotic tasting.
I can imagine eating a second plateful if I were a carp…
(Uhh, did I just think like a carp?)
HNV (high nutritional value) milk protein baits…
… Were all the rage back in the 70’s and 80’s. Many carp fishermen wanted to give the carp the best bio-available protein so that they would learn to differentiate the high nutritional value baits, from other baits. The idea is that over time, the milk protein boilies would keep getting more and more effective over time.
Some top anglers produced results that seemed to back this up, but there are plenty of exceptions to this. What helps is that carp seem to like the taste of milk protein.
Milk powder was a “secret ingredient” in many of the early boilies, back in the days where many people would not even admit to using boilies. Many carp fishermen used these protein powders such as casein and caseinates and searched for the freshest, cold pressed, soluble, digestible powders.
They searched for the best food grade ingredients hoping that the carp would tell the difference.
Did they work? Sure… But I wonder how much of the effectiveness has been down to the general skill and dedication of the type of carp angler that would go to these lengths to find the best HNV milk protein.
When we consider that the carp like the taste of milk, and that these boilies would still contain egg, sweetener, flavor and so on, it is hard to decide exactly how much benefit was obtained over standard full fat milk powder.
Fish meal boilies
Fish meal boilies probably had more impact than any other type over the years.
When you buy a bag of anchovy powder, or white fish meal powder, and take a big sniff….
… Wow, you just know that the fish will love it.
If you could make a big stew of all the worms, bugs and creepy crawlies in the lake, when ratchet up the fishy food smell 1000%, you are getting close to the smell of a quality fish meal boilie.
It is like the carps natural food on steroids.
Some people might say, why not use naturals such as shrimps or worms, they can certainly work…
… But it reminds me of the “fishing for a cow in a field with a blade of grass” joke.
Why use natural bait, when you can have a natural smelling and tasting bait, that has been supercharged with all kinds of goodies such as concentrated bloodworm powder, and green lipped freshwater mussel powder.
These are the kinds of fishy carpy ingredients that get hardcore carp fishermen fighting the temptation to actually eat a fish meal boilie. This would never be on any normal persons menu.
A not so secret ingredient that made a huge difference was to add fruity flavors such as esterberry or plum. This was often topped off with an essential oil such as bergamot or geranium oil.
If fish meal boilies smell the business, then take a sniff of some monster crab or lobster thermidore… Now we are getting to the carp gourmet level, Descriptions that would enhance a Michelin rated sea food restaurant. When ingredients such as powdered krill or fermented shrimp paste get involved, you can truly find boilies that are HNV AND extremely attractive to the carp.
One other type of boilies are meaty boilies. Some people put blood powder or liver powder in their baits. Rod Huchisons “The Liver” boilie mix was awesome back in the day. It probably still is.
Which are the best?
This is a difficult question to answer, as it differs lake to lake. As a rule, I prioritize the fish meal and sea food types baits. I like to put extra attractors in as well, (as previously mentioned), fruit or cream flavors, with some sweeteners work well for me.
Spicy additives also work, and are often overlooked. Try adding chilli powder at a strength that a person could never handle. Obviously a lot washes out, but the carp seem to love it.
If everyone else is on fish meals or seafood type baits then I might have one rod with something similar, especially if the tactics seem to work for others.
For my second rod, I would go for a high attraction bird food or a complete attractor bait.
On my third rod, it is difficult for me to NOT use sweetcorn or bread. Maybe I have been carp fishing for too many years…
… But when I cast out a rod with some sweetcorn, bread flake or bread crust it feels like I am honoring, or tipping my hat to some old friends and some worthy captures. It is like a ceremony for me.
But you know what? On the days when I am struggling, or even if the whole lake is struggling, it tends to be the corn or bread that gets me a fish.