Winter Carp Bait Flavors and Improving Baits Taste and Smell Attraction

Flavors are of particular interest to us in winter and can deter fish or even produce fish instantly. Their correct use is vitally important, even the decision not to use them. There are many more secrets of these often highly complex substances than is commonly known by the majority anglers and can truly make all the difference to your instant and long-term fishing success.

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Flavors are such a massive subject and one which attracts the attention of carp anglers and some very strong personal opinions too. The fact is that our personal fishing experiences and hard earned results forms our opinions. Sometimes results do not necessarily “fit current thought.” Fishing 3-4 days right through the winter, for example qualifies one to have a more realistic first-hand opinion of baits, flavors, current folk-lore on winter fishing techniques and tactics and so on.

For example, the frequency with carp will visit shallow areas where the suns heat radiates and penetrates the water and is absorbed by plants and vegetation in the water is surprising to many. True carp at times move into deep water to find comfort in falling temperatures, but carp acclimatize and change their activity sometimes in very surprising fashion. I remember drawing a lead back on one occasion and actually feeling fish being bumped during very low temperatures about a week after a thaw and hooking a beautiful mid-twenty linear koi carp which had never been landed before. Winter it seems can alter some fish’s diets.

Fish that have remained un-caught throughout the rest of the year can stray from their natural diets and be tempted by our baits. Even un-flavored fluorescent bits of plastic can catch fish when they have turned off’ to more conventional baits that are highly “charged” with normally attractive taste and smell substances. There is far more to flavors and exactly what they are and do than there first appears to our human senses and common knowledge.

flavors can definitely turn fish off the feed and deter them from an area but this response can occur where any substance is simply too over-powering to the fish senses. Their receptors are tuned to recognise very many key substances found in their environment, just as a child can detect 10,000 smells, while an adult can detect 30,000 smells. flavors as in the small bottle of vanilla flavor from the local supermarket works in carp baits but is now a feeble weapon compared to others in the modern flavor arsenal. Often cheap flavors like the ever popular vanilla are composed of water, a little expensive natural extract and ethyl alcohol. Some are made from water and propylene glycol, or some other solvent. However flavors can be based on very widely different substances.

The fast changing fashions of flavors means that many of the best flavors get ignored by the majority. It’s a good tip to use “unfashionable” flavors and such mixtures. Some of the very best are lost to us purely due to fashion. Rod Hutchinson told me at one time his best flavor in his opinion was his Blueberry flavor. Even compared to his Scopex, Mulberry, Spice and Mega Tutti Fruitti flavors it stood out and was a fantastic winter flavor. (Where is it now?)

Much of the time the best flavor is not the one your friends are using now, but the alternative one you remembered using years ago and sourced specially to use now. Many of the more experienced anglers know which flavors, combinations and their components are “head and shoulders” above the rest and know how and when to use them…

As it happens vanilla is a good introductory starting place in regards to flavors. Vanillin (from vanilla pods) is a solvent usually synthetically produced, as are propylene glycol and alcohols too and these are often constituents of flavors. Propylene glycol flavors are at the cheaper end of the spectrum and have in the past been prone to the maxim “using more equals more taste and smell and more carp.” But over-use can repel too. There are some good propylene glycol flavors but they are far less popular than in the past.

Some solvents are more soluble in water and some taste better to carp for sure! Some are most highly “hygroscopic,” which means they draw water to themselves as opposed to repelling water. This is significant feature of many good carp bait additives, flavors and ingredients including L030 fish protein forms and salts for instance. Glycerol (glycerine) solvent based flavors are a good example.

In air, glycerol can by its hygroscopic nature, “suck” into itself so much water it becomes 80 percent glycerol and 20 percent water; so imagine this effect in water considering diffusion dispersal of soluble flavors in water is vitally important to their success! Alcohols are one of the most relied-upon solvent flavors in dense cold water fishing, as ethyl alcohol is 100 % soluble in water (as opposed to propylene glycol.)

Solvents seem to have become the “bad boys” of the carp flavor world since the popularisation of natural flavors and nature identical flavors. Combining an “electrolyte” such as common salt or sodium chloride with your flavor can intensify the effect of the flavors and more and different carp receptors (and sites) will be more stimulated in different combinations.

Carp detect salts very well although possibly not a feeding trigger directly speaking, carp are certainly able to detect saline conditions and thrive in them to a degree of salinity such as in tidal rivers. Carp receptors certainly detect alcohols and esters in their environment among very many other flavors and flavor components.

Two of the most popular flavors currently seem to be n-butyric acid (an ester smelling like rancid cheese) and ethyl butyrate flavor, (also an ester.) Pineapple seems to be a fashionable label for a boilie (or pellet) bait at the moment. These esters have a high boiling point well over 100 degrees Celsius (handy with boilies) and are very highly soluble in water. (Ethyl alcohol flavors are also great in winter, but boil out of baits during the heating of water, alcohol having a boiling point of only 78.4 degrees Celsius.) These flavor compounds can act as “food signals” which leach out and spread quickly through the water.

Originally, flavors were used to change the taste of bait, not as attractors per se although many modern commercially designed fishing “flavors” have been developed into highly stimulating mixtures indeed.

Conventional commercial winter baits contain high levels of flavors or flavor components; ethyl and amyl acetates and methyl butyrate for example. The taste and smell of these are familiar to us because these type of flavors are naturally found in fruits such as banana, pear, strawberry etc. Part of fish’s natural diet consists of decaying food and carp are predominantly bottom-feeding fish which actively sample and eat bacteria laden potential food items. They are a scavenging opportunistic species and are even triggered into feeding by nasty smelling polyamines like putresine from a dead fish as much as by the now familiar carp essential amino acids. (However high levels of ammonia being released in the water is a definite turn-off.)

More recent Japanese studies on the carp feeding stimulation of singles amino acids expressed results that have demonstrated that promotion of continual feeding (gustatory olfaction and to do with taste ) was stimulated most by alanine (as with goldfish) followed by arginine. For stimulating olfaction or actual “investigation – search and location of food items, lysine was the most stimulatory followed by methionine.

Many great bait ingredients and additives are high in methionine (or are termed “methionine donors.’ Obviously winter baits designed to supply these amino acids freely in abundance from the make-up of the bait ingredients as well as by using supplemental crystal forms or using supplemental liquid forms of these amino acids, certain of which do very well.

But amino acids being so water pH and temperature influenced in practice can take very much time and money in bait trials to truly refine before you can make absolute conclusions about things like the profitable addition of extra ingredients and their exact productive levels. In carp fishing, many things are taken “as Gospel truth” but no lake or carp have read these so keep an open mind! On any particular water “Scopex” flavor can be devastating, especially in combination with another flavor like diacetyl cream flavor or a glycerol fruit one, but then not produce a “take” somewhere else.

Bait and water pH “issues” are best left to the chemists. Even the pH of water in one part of a swim compared to anther can be different and influence if a bait is detected and eaten – or not! Using baits with an overall lower pH in winter than in summer can pay dividends and also on very rich waters with a relatively high pH. The use of betaine hydrochloride for example, in liquid form especially works well.

Many waters look like they would have a low acid pH due to the trees (and shade) surrounding it, constantly depositing acidic tannins within falling leaves and little oxygenating aquatic vegetation and even some acid loving plants like rhododendrons growing around the lake. (It helps in bacterial break-down of vegetation in water if plenty of dissolved oxygen is available.)

Lack of oxygen in water often means that carbon dioxide levels are increased. Specialised carp receptor cells are very sensitive to carbon dioxide with good reason. It is a good indicator of lack of oxygen and as a result you will see fish rising to the water surface where there is the most dissolved oxygen in over-stocked waters in high temperature conditions where oxygen levels have been depleted.

The big point about oxygen and carbon dioxide especially, is that carbon dioxide become carbonic acid in water therefore acidifying the water. Add this to the combined effects of things like bacterial demand for oxygen. Now add acid rain effects and conditions and venue environments which limit oxygen getting dissolved into a fishery and you will very possibly get acidic pH water. This is where a high or low pH flavor can make all the difference to the impact your bait has upon fish receptors in combined ways!

But first impressions of a water can turn also out to be completely wrong! For instance in the case of on over-stocked pond in Kent with some extremely big fish, which is fed by an underground aquifer coming through alkaline pH chalk rocks.

Many flavors do attract carp into your swim (with many mimicking or actually being substances they naturally detect in their aquatic environments,) but these do not necessarily promote the consumption of your hook bait, nor especially even of any free baits. Part of this attraction is to do with the richness and depth of your “flavor profile,” but also much has to do with other factors which many anglers are not aware of.

Some flavors actually have the effect of “burning” delicate fish cells upon contact, when used in high levels! flavors can be so complex that over a 100 components are used in some formulations. There are very many effects modern flavorists can incorporate into a flavor including “notes” and “back-notes” of many kinds, but this is just the tip of the winter (or summer) bait flavor ice-berg. Many flavors smell great to us but will taste bitter too.

Bitterness is detected by carp and although this may not deter fish from actually eating baits, studies do show that foods which are less bitter are mostly eaten in preference. I personally don’t care if a bait is bitter as long as it has a diverse range of true feeding triggers and attractors with no dominating; the fish will certainly still eat it if it contains essential nutrition it requires. Many fishmeal products have a bitter-tasting edge, but the most suitable nutritional profile and high digestibility of fish meals make bitterness a pretty low priority feeding factor in a nutrient deficient hungry fish!

In fact, adding any sweetener is an advantage, as it has been found that sweetness is most importantly detected by carp palatial receptors, which are important in helping carp decide to actually eat and swallow a bait or to reject it (and leave your bait alone.) Bait palatability is so important and even various more insoluble substances like certain essential oils, will tip the balance.

More than one very famous angler has stated that on a cold winter’s night out of all their baits, they would expect the bait with a particular essential oil mixture to be taken if the fish feed! (Many essential oil components are extremely effective at boosting metabolism, releasing essential energy efficiently for movement and improved food (or bait) digestion which provides more energy.

Many food taste enhancers like monosodium glutamate “MSG” are easily detected by carp. (Glutamate is the naturally and highly abundant in nature amino acid; glutamic acid and is a “true” carp feeding trigger!) Many proprietary fishing bait taste enhancers are widely available and many commercial baits contain them.

Nucleotides are a very important element of foods and newer ones are being developed that specifically block bitter taste. Some companies use the fact that some taste enhancers have neurotransmitting properties for example, which can really improve your baits potency; of cause the more bait a carp continues to eat, the higher the chance of a take…

Anti-inflammatory substances may be added to a flavor and often come in the form of fatty acids (oils) like fish or hemp or fruit oils. These have potent “antioxidant effects on carp and are also proven feeding triggers. Citrus oils are well proven in winter and summer for example.

One of a range of natural protein sweeteners might be added also like “Talin’ or “Thaumatin B.” Components of essential oils too can be included in a flavor. (How about or menthol crystals or geranium terpenes?) In winter especially, very many essential oils and their components are excellent. Both soluble and insoluble parts of these mostly herb and spice extracts are useful, from the terpenes and oleoresins (as in black pepper, peppermint, bergamot etc,) to the eugenol from any of a range of herbs for example.

A whole range of different types of fruit acids are very stimulatory too. There are some very powerful compounds in most natural flavors used in carp fishing – just look at the popular cranberry or mulberry for example.

Sometimes it’s better instead of copying your peers, to adapt your commercially made baits to improve results. If they are low protein attractor baits perhaps try adding much higher levels of minerals, vitamins and amino acids supplements for example. If using popular food baits how about washing out your baits in your lake water for 24 hours prior to use, or instead of using the recommended standard additive flavor combination. Or how using a different imaginative combination and creating your own? (Some modern baits have specific additives which should not be changed if involved with creating a “live enzyme system bait” for example.)

A dip or bait soak based on corn steep liquor, ( or a “Minamino” type product) and liquid yeast, added salt, betaine hydrochloride and glycerine, liquid lecithin and a mixture of essential oils with natural fruit oils and flavors. A winter dip does not have to be expensive or complex, but remember that it’s the soluble messages that hit the carp first, but that does not mean bashing them in the head with a very strong solvent like nail varnish remover (acetone.) But even a lowered dose of a popular flavor can make the difference between your bait not being detected, or repelling the carp from the area, or actually hooking a happy bait consuming carp!

Often the fact is what everyone else is doing on a water will determine which approach to take; observing what your fellow anglers are using and how it is applied often reveals the solution to the problem. Using no conventional fishing bait flavors is one reliable angle (using fermented soya products as a very effective proven alternative for instance.) You can totally adapt and change your baits natural flavor profile. Even green lip mussel extract, or kelp meal or blue cheese powder, or vanilla powder can do that. It just takes a little thought in identifying the real problem that stands in your way to improved catches and often it is in tweaking your bait slightly to make it a little more digestible, nutritionally attractive or a bit tastier! For more information about improving fish responses to any of your baits whether homemade or readymade look for Baitbigfish for further bait secrets!

By Tim Richardson.

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