Anyone who follows the match results for the Bristol Docks on this blog will realise how important groundbait is when fishing in deep water. The docks system is 12ft deep at its shallowest and parts go down to 20ft. Loose feeding at any distance in that depth of water is very ineffective, if you allow for the wind spreading the bait as well and any undertow caused by the natural flow of the docks it would be very easy to spread the bait over a massive area on the bottom, so groundbait is absolutely essential when fishing this type of water. In fact any deep water, to get it right is crucial, I fish a lot of deep waters when I go abroad and here in this country, Porth Reservoir and the Gloucester Canal are regular haunts.
Dont be put off by the depth, if you follow a number of basic rules it is possible to get it right every time.
The main difference between a groundbait for shallow water and a groundbait for deep water is its stickiness, you dont want the ball of ground bait breaking up on impact if the water is 20ft deep and you dont want a ball taking a long time to breakdown in 3ft of water.
Most of the modern method mix groundbaits are very sticky and are ideal for deep water, if you want to feed a fishmeal type groundbait, these mixes are ideal for venues that see carp anglers, who feed pellets, skimmers and bream love fishmeal's when they have got a taste for them.
Another reason the mix has to be sticky is so that it can carry plenty of bait, maggots, caster etc. the more bait it needs to carry the stickier the ground bait needs to be.
Another factor to consider is the particle size of the groundbait, a good rule of thumb is the bigger the fish, the bigger the particle size.
I learnt a very important lesson, when fishing in Ireland, about particle size. I was fishing the River Inny around spawning time and there were big catches of bream to be had. At this time of year the lower stretches of the river gets packed with anglers and everyone pre-baits the evening before and then arrives at first light and if they have done it right they bag up with 100-200lb bags of 4-5lb bream, its awesome fishing. During the night the bream move out of the Loch that the river runs into and move upstream on their way upstream to find suitable spawning grounds.
This particular evening there must have been 20 anglers pre-baiting on this stretch, I was putting in my usual pre bait mix for Ireland, lots of maize meal, flake maize, brown crumb and casters and corn, it is a real heavy sticky mix full of large particles, when a group of 4 anglers turned up with a sack of brown crumb and started to mix it up and throw it into the swim upstream of me. If you have ever tried mixing up a 25kg sack of brown crumb it takes an awful lot of mixing, it must have taken 4 of them the best part of an hour to mix and throw it all in, the only bait they put in the ground bait was 1 tin of sweetcorn.
When I went to bed that night I remember thinking to myself, this is going to be interesting, they have put a lot more bait in than me, would the bream prefer their peg to mine.
The following morning we all arrived at first light and it wasnt long before I had my answer, first cast I had a 5lb bream and caught 10 bream in the first 10 chucks, the anglers above me caught nothing, they were distraught after putting so much ground-bait in. I finished the morning with 180lb, this proved beyond doubt to me that the particle size, or food value is very important. The rest of the week, every time I spoke to someone who had made a big catch of bream, I asked them what they had fed.
So why would the bream prefer a coarse particle size than a small one, the main reason, I think, is that when a bream sucks in a mouthful of bait it also sucks in silt and other items that it doesn't want to eat, it is then the job of the breams gill rackers to separate the food from the 'rubbish' and all the rubbish goes out through the gills. As a bream gets bigger its gill rackers grow in proportion to the size of the fish and it cannot filter the fine particles, so fine groundbait particles get passed through the gill rackers and not into the fishes stomach, so they dont hand around long as there is nothing for them to eat, its a bit like us smelling the lovely taste of coffee, we are attracted to it but there is nothing there to eat, so we don't hang around. It could also be that it is quicker to get a full stomach eating large particles instead of small ones. Whatever the reason I always give the particle size of my ground bait a lot of thought.
Some of the sticky fishmeal's I have used are Sonubaits 50/50, Dynamite Baits Swim Stim and Sonubaits Tigerfish, this is my current favourite, Steve Sanders first put me on to it.
On some waters, usually the more natural ones that dont see carp anglers, fishmeal's dont work so well as some of the ground baits that have been around before fishmeal's came on the scene. Bristol Docks is one of these venues, and most of the venues I have fished in Europe. Fishmeals are still new on most of these waters, no doubt they will work in the future but not yet.
My favourite sticky 'natural' groundbaits are Van den Eyde Gold Pro, Senses River don't let the name put you off, Sensas Carp 3000, the fine version I normally, this mix doesn't have any fishmeal in it and the food value comes from maize meal, the other one I like is Van den Eyde Turbo.
All these sticky groundbaits can be made less sticky, and break up quicker, by just adding brown crumb to them.
So getting the right mix is the most important bit, next thing is the mixing, I prefer to mix all these types of groundbait the night before. I add the water slowly and give it a whisk with a drill, until it looks right, best advice here is just do it and learn from experience, the hard way is always the best in the long run. Then in the morning add more water if necessary, it usually is, and give it a quick spin with the drill. It is then ready to use, I then put the mix in a plastic carrier bag and take to the match.
The big advantage to mixing the night before is that every particle has a chance to soak up the water and you get a proper dead mix i.e. not particles floating up to the surface. If you want a really dead mix, just use hot water from the kettle, this gives a really 'pastey' mix, but a word of warning, you could easily finish up with a bucket of paste not groundbait.
Once you have mixed your groundbait, think about what you are going to put in it. Some days and venues the fish won't eat the groundbait and are only interested in what is inside it, on days like this your groundbait is only acting as a carrier of feed. As a rule of thumb, its the smaller fish who eat the groundbait and the bigger fish who eat what's in it, so varying what you put in the mix can have a massive effect on what you catch.
A lot of anglers like to use a dark ground bait on shallow venues, so they add black dyes if the water is clear, this works most of the time in the winter when the water is clear, except if you are using liquidated bread, I don't worry about the colour of my ground bait in deep water, there is very little light in 15ft of water and I haven't found it makes nay difference. a quick note about liquidated bread, ever tried liquidised brown bread or punched brown bread, it doesnt work anywhere near as well as white.
Tight Lines, Callum