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The origins of modern carp baits
by Paul Selman

At the start of the 1970's, perhaps the most common types of baits being used by carp anglers were breadcrust, luncheon meat, natural baits such as worms and maggots, and catfood or sausage-based 'special' paste baits following their successful use in the late 1960's by the likes of Gerry Savage and Jim Gibbinson.

Two major bait revolutions occured in the 1970's which still have a massive influence on the carp scene today.

The first was instigated by a docker from Kent, by the name of Fred Wilton.

In the late 1960's and early 1970's, Fred and his small group of friends, had enjoyed tremendous success on entirely new baits he had developed. These baits had taken apart the waters of the Darenth valley, such as Brooklands, Sutton at Hone and the Darenth lakes. In 1972, in a famous orange-coloured issue of The Carp, Fred for the first time publicly outlined the theory behind and the ingredients to be used in the make-up of his High-Nutritive-Value baits, which later became more widely known as high protein baits.

Wilton's baits had a scientific basis and formulation and were part of his search towards the ultimate bait. Fred's theory that carp could instinctively recognise the food value of baits after they had eaten and digested them following a consistent baiting campaign was criticisiced from all quarters. Some attacked it on the basis that carp couldn't possibly recognise the food value of a bait because they lacked intelligence, others attacked it on the grounds of fear: fear that it would lead to the emptying of the lake's they were fishing!

Fred's baits were based on milk and vegetable proteins. The major ingredient was casein, which was a powder derived from milk. The clever Fred precipitated his own. In addition to casein, lactalbumen and calcium caseinate (commercially known as Casilan) and various vegetable proteins such as soya flour, wheatgerm and TVP (textured vegetable protein) were incorporated.

In many baits, an ingredient known as PYM (Philips Yeast Mixture) was added to provide both a smell and an additional nutritional ingredient. To provide vitamins and minerals to the mixture, Fred added a supplement used for horses called Equivite. Fred pioneered the use of a smell/attractor label in his baits by which the carp would instantly re-recognise the bait as an outstanding food source. He was a little coy in his writings about what the sources of his smell labels were in his writings. It is known today that essential oils were widely used by Fred and his circle of friends which included Robin Monday, Derek Stritton and Bob Morris.

Those who realised the significance of Fred's theories and who soon experienced the stunning effect on carp by applying them were quickly sourcing their own supplies of casein and making extended tours of fledgling health food stores and chemists.

As someone who came into the carp scene and became exposed to - and convinced of - Wilton's ideas I found getting my hands on HNV ingredients a major problem, especially casein and lactalbumens, although other ingredients like Casilan, wheatgerm, TVP (textured vegetable protein) and soya flour could be obtained expensively from chemists. L ike hundreds of others, I suppose. I still remember the cost of buying small boxes of Casilan from Boots in order to formulate my own version of the ultimate bait.

Recognising the need, the first-ever commercial bait companies sprang up. The first commercial bait based on the HNV principle was called Hi-Pro - a clear attempt to jump on the HNV bandwagon. Developed by Philips Yeast Products and endorsed by Gerry Savage, the bait was sold ready-made in tubs ranging in size from 100g - 800grams, and adverts for the new wonderbait appeared for the first time in Angling magazine in May 1977. Boasting 'over 60% protein' and utilising one of Fred's major smells the bait was widely sold although many of the hard core bait buffs were very cynical about Hi-Pro. Nevertheless for many, it was their first contact with a HNV bait.

Shortly afterwards, a company called Bait '78 started to advertise bait ingredients, closely followed by Duncay Kay and then Geoff Kemp. For the first time, the ingredients Wilton had used were available to all by mail order and at sensible prices. These companies also brought out ranges of flavours too, putting and end to the search for new food essences in supermarkets and the trawl of flavour houses in the quest for the elusive killing smell.

Without question, it was Fred Wilton who invented boiled baits. Whilst the rest were using soft pastes, Fred was advising anglers to incorporate eggs into their mixes so that they could be lightly skinned by boiling for 1/1.5 minutes to deter nuisance fish. I suspect that using soft pastes was the dominant nationwide trend throughout the 1970's, but Fred was using boilies as early as the late 1960's, with the hook buried within the bait and not exposed. I used boilies intermittently where major problems were experienced with bream, but like most carp anglers on the lakes I was fishing I was still using soft pastes mainly until the turn of the decade.

Fred was also responsible for another key bait development. This was the invention of floater cake based on the same ingredients he used in his bottom baits. but made by baking. The amount of eggs used was doubled and the runny paste poured into a baking tray and cooked. Floater enthusiasts will have caught many fish on this off-shoot of Wilton's revolutionary ideas. I caught my first twenty on it in 1978, and my first twenty common in 1981, and many are still catching well on floater cake today.

On the 'special baits' front one other offshoot of bait development deserves mention. This was the development of commercially available amino acid based paste baits which many had been experimenting with and catching a great many fish on. Two Norfork anglers, Dick Weale and Len Bunn, had great success with baits incorporating ingredients which it was known in scientific circles caused involuntary feeding responses in fish, following experiments with cod at a research centre at Lowestoft. These ingredients were concentrated amino acids and various combinations of amino acids seemed to have a dramatic effect on any base mixes they were added to. Dick and Len came up with a commercial version of their bait which had the very seductive name of Black Majic.

I obtained some Black Magic on release and it was the very first 'off-the-shelf' paste bait mix I ever used. After rolling it up I was convinced - with the naivety of youth - that here I had the ultimate bait that would empty all my carp lakes. I had to keep this quiet.....It is difficult to describe to anyone who did not live through this era just how secretive we were. To keep everyone blind to what one was using any lengths would be gone to, with downright lying the most common approach.

I remember my first encounter with a 'famous' carp angler. It was a warm July night and as I sometimes did on warm summer nights, I bedded down solely in a sleeping bag covered in a dustbin liner on the warm ground near to the rods. Sometime during the night, I was awakened by a loud cry and felt someone stumble over me in the blackness and crash into the undergrowth beyond me . An angler had arrived in the night and hadn't noticed the black lump lying on the ground in his haste to get to into a pitch. He got up, cursed me, gathered up his tackle and crashed off into the gloom. I just turned over and tried to get back to sleep. For once, my Heron's weren't playing up. As dawn came and went I packed up after a biteless night and thought it politic before I left to find the other angler and apologise to him for tripping him up. I found him down at the other end of the lake and recognised him immediately as someone with a 'reputation.' As I came into view, he was visibily nervous and hurried in his movements. He was obviously putting baits onto his hook.
"Sorry, about last night. I wasn't expecting anyone," I offered.
Silence. And more hurried fiddling about with his bait which he tried to conceal from me by turning to one side.
I was about to commit the cardinal sin ....but couldn't help myself.
"What bait are you on...a special?"
He quickly thrust out the rod to cast and I could clearly see a big brown ball of paste on the hook. As the paste hit the water with a tremendous splash, he turned to me now with an angry and reddened face and snarled, "Maggots!"

I caught lots of carp on the Black Majic, but the couple of pounds I bought ran out after a month or so, and I was forced to look for a quickly-obtained alternative for a full weekend session. My mate Terry Eustace was raving on about Duncan Kay's version of these baits, so I gave him a bouncing cheque in exchange for half a dozen bags of Duncan's Red and Yellow Slyme. These proved successful for me once again, and I was convinced that this really was a massive breakthrough. Inevitably, I began sourcing my own amino acids from the growing number of bait companies and the recommended ingredients to go with them, such as sodium caseinate, wheatgerm and soya flour.

The kitchen looked like the witches scene from Macbeth..... success again, but after a year or two the boiled bait would transform the bait scene and the commercial amino mixes based as they were on soft paste baits would fade very quickly into disuse.

One final point about 1970's specials before I move on. Looking back, we hardly used any bait in those days. We would add eggs to our standard a la Wilton ten ounce mix, roll it into a big ball and that would last us a whole weekend. Much of the time the paste bait was fished on its own although a few bits of paste would sometimes be catapulted out in the near vicinity. We also often used 'crust pads' to help keep the paste on the hook during the cast. The paste was moulded around a cube of crust. Most disguised the hook completely, but almost as a precursor as to what was coming I used to compress the paste down so that the point of the hook was slightly exposed.

Even we we used boilies the same amount of bait was tended to be used for a weekend session. The days of heavy baiting were some years off!

The other great bait revolution of the decade was initiated by Rod Hutchinson, who by the end of the seventies, was at the very top of the carp fishing tree. Although Jack Hilton and some of his friends on Redmire had caught fish on quite small natural baits such as sultanas and sweetcorn, it was Rod Hutchinson who firmly established the catching ability of particle baits by his success on a variety of waters up and down the country, including the then home of the record carp.

Rod began with hempseed for his initial experiments, and after achieving great success with hemp went on to replicate that success with a whole host of other particle baits including mini-maples, haricot beans, black-eyed beans, in fact, eventually most types of seed, beans and nuts. Rod developed his approach following the difficulties experienced in trying to temp carp on conventional 'specials' from rich, clear weedy waters. Rod felt the carp in such waters fed on small natural food such as bloodworm, snails and pupae. The best way to catch them would be by introducing - by sustained baiting - small foodstuffs of the anglers' choice to wean the carp onto.

Although many of his experiments with certain particles failed as the carp didn't seem to like them, experiments with other particles were spectacularly successful on Redmire Pool were Rod achieved unprecedented results and also other waters. The manner in which Rod presented his particles was another startling innovation.

Other anglers were also to achieve outstanding success using particle baits in the 1970's. Another that deserves mention is Kevin Clifford for his devastating success on waters as diverse as Redmire, Crab Mill Flash and Yateley.

Unlike other sweetcorn users who often used the bait very sparingly, Kevin went the other way and used corn in large quantities very much in line with Rod's ideas. In the 1975 season - his first season in the syndicate - Kevin was to catch eighteen twenty pounders on sweetcorn, and took no less than nine fish in his first session on the legendary water!

He went on to be one of the most successful Redmire anglers of all time.

1. Yours truly with a winter carp courtesy of Fred Wilton's theories.
2. Boilies. Invented by Fred Wilton.
3. The first advert for a high protein bait, published in the long-defunct Angling magazine.
4. A young Selman with an upper double caught on Black Majic.
5. Duncan Kay, pioneer of amino acid paste baits.
6. Legendary angler, Rod Hutchinson, with a particle caught fish.
7. Sweetcorn master, Kevin Clifford, with a magnificent Redmire brace.

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