The first thing we need to look at is the bait itself and how to store it to keep it nice and fresh throughout the session. In my opinion fresh meat is the only choice and I am convinced it catches you more fish. The texture is better with freshly opened meat than meat that has been in water for a while, and it smells much nicer too.
I use Plumrose Pork Luncheon Meat, which is probably no surprise to anybody, as it seems to be the most popular choice among anglers. I cut this up into 8mm cubes, which I find to be the perfect size for carp. Small fish love meat and will easily eat a 6mm cube to the point where every bit of meat you feed is getting eaten by fish you don’t want to catch. The ‘problem’ with meat is that everything loves it – you will even catch perch on the stuff! So in my opinion you need to use 8mm meat where possible.
When preparing the meat, I cube it in one-pint batches. I then store those batches in food bags and tie them down tight. These bags are then stored inside a cool bag and I just take out one bag at a time, put it into a bait tub and then cover with lake water.
I find that by doing it this way the meat stays as fresh as it possibly can do. If I have three or four pints of meat in a tub covered with water, the meat at the top will turn pale and the stuff at the bottom will be nice and pink. But by having just one pint out, I will use it all before the meat has a chance to change colour and starts to deteriorate.
Another important point that needs to be made is the fact that I don’t wash the meat at all. Some anglers try and remove the fat from the meat but I think the fish really like it, so I much prefer to leave it on the meat.
Meat can take a flavour very well too; its porous nature means it absorbs colours and flavours very well. I like to prepare one of my one-pint batches with a flavoured additive to give me another hook-bait option. Today I have gone for an orange colour, which I have found works well in heavily coloured water, like we are faced with today.
There are a few baits that I like to use to complement the meat. Other baits really help when targeting fish on the bottom and I like to use hemp and/or casters.
Hemp is a classic bait to combine with luncheon meat and has been used by many anglers over the years. I like to add a bit of extra oil to the hemp to increase its pulling power.
Hemp sinks nice and quickly and even a small amount of it will keep the fish grubbing about in the peg ready for a nice cube of meat to come fluttering down.
Casters are another great addition and I have found on some venues the combination is fantastic, particularly on lakes with a large head of bream that will top up your net nicely. A classic example of this is Pollawyn Lake at White Acres. Often a meat and caster combination will catch you some big skimmers throughout the match, until the carp feed a little later in the match to make up the rest of the weight.
Another reason to utilise other baits is to get around bait limits. Quite often fisheries will have a limit on the amount of meat that you can use. On some fisheries it can be as little as two or three tins, which simply isn’t enough for a five-hour match unless you combine it with other particle baits.
In this case the hemp and casters help to bulk out the bait table and give you enough bait for the five hours. Today, for example, I have four pints of meat, a pint of hemp and a pint of casters.
There are numerous ways to feed meat of course, but today I am going to concentrate on fishing for carp when targeting them on the bottom. In this situation there isn’t really a place for feeding with pole-mounted pots or by catapult. These things will only serve to draw fish into the upper layers, which will lead to foul-hooked fish and missed bites.
I prefer to use a large pot to feed decent amounts and then fish them out, rather than feed every chuck and draw the fish off the bottom.
Today I am targeting three swims, one close to an island, one to a likely looking bush down the margins to my left and finally at about six metres in the open water. All three swims are fed with the large pot; the only difference is the open water will be fed with meat, hemp and casters, while the island and margin are fed with just a combination of meat and hemp as I am expecting only carp on those two swims.
What I will do is feed half a pot of bait and patiently sit over the top of it and wait for a carp to come into the swim. I top up after every fish with another dollop of bait. It’s important not to feed too much as the fish can really become preoccupied with the smaller particles and actually getting a proper bite can be tricky. So it is all about finding the balance between feeding just the right amount to get a proper bite and feeding too much and foul hooking. Of course every day is different though, and that needs to be worked out on the day.
It is worth saying also that there are some days where feeding loads of bait is the right way. For some reason when the fishing is tricky feeding large amounts can really work. You are almost forcing a reaction from the fish and it can really work well on hard days, which may go against conventional thinking.
Because of the way I am feeding, effectively I am setting a trap so the rigs need to reflect that. I like to use a heavy rig so that I can present the hook bait right over the top in a nice static manner.
The swim today is barely three feet deep on every swim and I have gone for 0.3g and 0.4g floats that will sit still in the water when a fish comes into the swim. The last thing you want is to set the trap with the bait, and then as soon as a fish comes in the rig moves around and moves the hook bait away from the feed. The hook bait needs to be bang on top of the bait otherwise you will just foul hook fish.
The rig is shotted with a tight strung bulk six inches from the hook. This keeps everything as still and stable as possible.
Strong tackle is a must when meat fishing as big fish are highly likely at some stage in the session. Main line is 0.20mm and the hooklength is 0.18mm, this is take-no-prisoners stuff and to be honest this peg today doesn’t give me much margin for error!
Hooks for meat need to be wide-gaped to allow you to roll the cube on to the hook and leave plenty of point showing. A size 14 or 16 Frenzee 1420 is my choice as it is nice and strong and has that lovely wide gape that you need. If the peg demands a little bit more power then I won’t hesitate in switching to the 1824 pattern.
Elastics are either blue or green Stretch, reliable hollow elastics with plenty of progressive power for when I need to turn the fish or apply some power at the netting stage.
With the rigs, bait and feeding sorted it’s time to get on with the fishing. The three swims have been fed and it’s time to sit and wait for things to come together.
It will become clear pretty quickly which swims will produce. On some days the open water will be good whereas on others the feature swims will be good. Today it seems like the feature swims are the best, as the fish seem reluctant to leave the sanctuary of the cover.
The island at 16 metres is the banker spot today. It’s a brilliant swim, to be honest, as the fish creep around the corner out of the main lake. This is the perfect trap-setting spot and it’s paying off today with carp regularly falling to an orange piece of meat hook bait.
There is one final point I must talk about and that is the silver-fish issues. Today they have been quite aggressive on my bait early in the session; they have even been whittling the hook bait down to a round boilie shape!
It’s so important though, to fish through this and not get the hump with what’s going on. When the carp arrive the silvers will disappear so it’s important not to do anything too rash with your feeding. There are so many silvers in commercials that you will not feed them off no matter how much bait you feed. Feeding excessively will only serve to ruin the peg for later in the session when the carp actually turn up. Like I say, you cannot feed them off so don’t even try!
Meat is a great bait choice for summer commercials, despite some venues banning the bait. Where it is allowed though, it is fantastic and a must-use.