With spring almost upon us, more and more of us will be thinking of, or actually booking a French carping holiday. The question of what bait then comes into the equation and for a lot of anglers the biggest question can be shelf life or fresh frozen?
It really is a big ‘leap of faith’ if you have never used shelf life baits and is a massive ‘confidence thing’, so I thought I would put this little article together to show how my thoughts on boilies have evolved over the years and led me to the position where I now use nothing but shelf life baits!
Up until 8 or 9 years ago, I had always put my own base mixes and baits together for carp fishing (apart from the odd week away), but that all changed when I was introduced to the Quest range in May 2006 whilst fishing a lake in the Limoges area of France with Paul Cooper.
It proved to be a very tricky week due to various reasons but by using the frozen Special Crab (in very small quantities) I managed to winkle out 9 quality carp, these included 2 x 38lb+ commons, 2 mirrors of 47lb+ and a then P.B. mirror of 49lb 14oz, to say I was impressed with the bait was an understatement!
I had always put my own base mixes together and enjoyed making my own baits, believing they were better than those that I could buy (because I always knew what was going into them), but this became very time consuming and so if I could find a good ready made bait, then I was keen to try it. I carried on using the frozen Special Crab on my syndicate lake with excellent results and then used it through the winter for my barbel fishing. The results on the various rivers in a number of different conditions were outstanding, this was the bait for me!
The following season the frozen Special Crab kept on working, but I was then introduced to the Rahja Spice shelf lifes. Now I would never use shelf life baits as I believed them to be totally inferior to fresh frozen baits. Up until this point (2007) most of the shelf lifes I had seen had been little more than rock hard highly flavoured balls of preservatives, something I would only ever use as a last resort. But with travelling abroad more regularly (and all the problems that this can entail with frozen baits) we were keen to have a look to see if they were of the same standard as the fresh frozen.
I really was pleasantly surprised, they smelt good (without being overpowering), had a great texture (exactly the same as a fresh frozen) and perhaps most importantly contained no artificial preservatives. These baits were obviously going to be a winner and so it proved with a large number of big carp being caught from lots of different venues and in all types of weather conditions. A true all-season bait.
The use of shelf lifes made fishing abroad so much easier. You didn’t have to worry keeping them fresh on the journey across, no need to worry about there being plenty of freezer space at the venue. You didn’t have the hassle of ‘air drying’ freezer baits to stop them ‘going off’ and if you had any bait left over you could bring them back and use them in the UK thus saving any waste of money.
I have since used many shelf life boilies and taken good fish on all of them. I have been well and truly converted, so much so that I don’t bother with frozen baits for my carp fishing anymore. All these baits are from the Quest Baits range, but there are plenty of other bait manufacturers that supply shelf life baits.
I still believed however that frozen baits were better for barbel fishing, as I felt they gave off better flavour leakage and thus created a better flavour trail in the current. However, after using frozen baits since 2006, I fancied a change, and so in the autumn of 2011 I decided to use the Rahja Spice shelf lifes on the rivers for barbel.
Once again, the results proved to be instant on all the rivers I fished with many double figure fish gracing my landing net. An added bonus being that I could use them straight out of the bag (I had always boosted the frozen Special Crab). Since then I have taken a lot of good barbel on the Special Crab and Absolute Seafood shelf lifes and matching shelf life paste.
So in the space of 8 years I have gone from an angler who wouldn’t use anybody else’s bait, to an angler that would only use fresh frozen to one that is supremely confident in using a range of shelf lifes, I really have come full circle!
How things have changed in 8 years!