In this article, I will talk about the most popular particles used in Carp angling
today. Of course, many particles can be used for other species, notably hemp,
and I hope to cover this at a later date.
Particles can be broadly split into three types:
Seeds - Such as hemp, wheat, oat groats, maize etc
Nuts – Brazils, tiger nuts, peanuts etc
Pulses – Chickpeas, maples, black eyed beans etc
These are broad definitions! For instance, Tiger nuts are not actually nuts, and
many people might not consider maize as a seed, but these are the sections I will
I will discuss the more popular particles of each type in turn, giving recommended
rigs, baiting strategies, and a guide to safely preparing your bait. Most particles
can now be bought ‘ready-to-go’, but it really is simple (and far, far cheaper)
to prepare your own!
Along with sweetcorn, hemp is perhaps the all-time greatest fish-catching particle!
Preparing hemp is simple, and there are two commonly used methods. For smaller
quantities, the hemp can be soaked overnight, then boiled until the seeds split,
which usually takes about 30-40min. Alternatively, a coolbox can be filled with
dry hemp, covered with boiling water, and left with the lid closed for 24hr. This
method may not result in so many seeds splitting, but is much easier to use for
Hemp is commonly thought of as a summer bait, but is also very effective in winter.
Crushed hemp can be added to PVA bags and method mixes in order to create some ‘fizz’,
and hemp mixed with sweetcorn is an excellent combination in cold weather. Keep
the quantities down, with just a couple of handfuls round your chosen hookbait.
Tigernuts also go well with hemp, again just a couple of handfuls.
Summer anglers often use big beds of hemp to attract fish of all species, in the
hope that the carp will follow. Large amounts can be used, up to several kilos
a night, to keep the fish in the area. Once carp gets their heads down on hemp,
they will often feed on it exclusively, without being interested in any hookbait!
For this reason, it is often preferable to mix hemp with other seeds, or add broken
boilies etc. I have ignored this in the past, fishing a single hookbait over the
top of hemp, and suffered two nights of constant liners as the fish ploughed through
the swim to hoover up every last seed, while completely ignoring the hookbait!
Hemp can be fished on the hook. With care, grains can be pierced with a fine needle
and mounted on a thin mono or cotton hair. Alternatively, some anglers prefer to
use small black beads, or a sliver of foam on the hook. I’m not convinced the fish
actually go for these artificial items when feeding over hemp – perhaps it is case
that they pick up the hook almost by accident when feeding strongly. Hemp sells
for £20-£30 a sack, depending on size and quality. ‘Mega’ hemp is sometimes available,
and is useful if you wish to fish hemp on the hook, although I do not believe it
makes a difference as a carpet feed.
Tares used to be very popular, but their use has dwindled recently in favour of
other baits. However, they are still worth a look, especially when fished in conjunction
with hemp. Due to their slightly larger size, they are more easily fished on the
Pigeon Conditioner / Partiblend
Many bait firms now do their own version of particle blend, but more often than
not, it is a version of pigeon seed repackaged and sold for more money! There are
several types of pigeon mix available, it would be difficult to describe them all
here. Some mixes include larger particles such as maples or maize, and other contain
only small seeds such as hemp, dari, rapeseed etc.
Perhaps the most popular version is commonly known as ‘Pigeon Conditioner’ – if the
animal feedstore tries to sell you bird shampoo, this is not correct! Pigeon conditioner
comprises several types of small seed, and is flavoured with aniseed. It can be
prepared as per hemp.
Pigeon seed is used in a similar way to hemp, as a carpet feed, and due to the
mixture of grains, it is less likely to pre-occupy the fish. Many anglers like
to feed a mix of 50/50 hemp and pigeon seed, with a single hookbait or handful of
free offerings over the top. A cheap and very effective bait – Expect to pay under
a tenner for a sack.
Very cheap at less than a fiver a sack, wheat is a good bulk addition to more expensive
particle mixes. Prepare as per hemp. Wheat is also fairly easy to use on the hook,
several fine hairs can be baited with seeds, threaded on via a fine sewing needle.
Maize is a bit of a ‘Marmite’ bait, you either love it or hate it. Maize is a
version of sweetcorn where the sugars are locked in as starch, so the seed stays
hard. Prepare by soaking for 48hr, and boiling for 45min. Maize takes both colour
and flavour quite well, but most anglers seem to do very well with it fished plain.
Maize catches all year round, and often has a knack of sorting out bigger fish.
Fish it with care; on pressured waters, fish shy away from big beds of brightly
coloured bait, so try it mixed with hemp. Maize is also good mixed with sweetcorn.
Current fashion is to fish a couple of grains of maize on the hair, balanced with
a grain of fake plastic maize, or chunk of yellow foam. Fishing with more grains
also works well though, up to 8 grains on a long hair can give an edge if everyone
else is doing it the other way.
Lupins are enormously popular on the continent, yet many anglers in the UK have
never used them. Lupins resemble a large, soft grain of maize, and dried lupins
should be prepared by soaking overnight, then boiling for 30min.
Lupins are vastly under-rated by UK anglers, they are big enough to easily feed
by catapult, easy to hair-rig, and do not need flavour or colour. Give them a
go mixed with sweetcorn or hemp.
What hasn’t been said about sweetcorn? The all-time classic particle, probably
accounting for more carp than any other bait. In these days of ‘boilies, boilies,
boilies’, sweetcorn has fallen out of fashion with many, or is seen as a ‘small
fish’ bait, but it still accounts for some massive fish for those who still use
it, including at least one recent British record.
Corn works all year round, it is cheap, it can be bought just about anywhere, and
needs no additives. It is excellent in winter in small amounts, try mixing with
hemp or maize, fishing one or two grains on a small hook. In summer, try a ‘stacker’
rig, with 6-8 grains balanced by a lump of foam. Also a great bait for stalking
or float fishing.
Other tiny particles
There are some other tiny seeds which can be used to achieve a degree of pre-occupation
in the fish. These include dari seed, rapeseed and oat groats. All can be bought
in bulk, and prepared in a similar fashion to hemp.
Peas And Beans
In my opinion, an under-rated bait. Maples are large enough to fish easily on
the hook, yet small enough to feed quite heavily in order to achieve a degree of
pre-occupation. Maples are prepared by soaking overnight, then boiling for a minimum
of 20min. Boiling for longer will darken and soften the bait to a point where they
become almost black and can be squashed into a pulp – useful for adding to method
mixes. Adding salt also darkens the finished bait.
Maples can also be sprouted. Simply soak in a lidded bucket until a shoot emerges.
This process takes 3-7 days depending on temperature, and once all the seeds have
shooted, they are safe to use. Of course they will carry on growing – this does
not seem to put the fish off, but a quick boil will stop this if required.
Maples do not required colouring or flavouring, although they can benefit from being
left to stand after boiling, until they exude milky sugars and smell yeasty. Don’t
overdo it though.
Maples are another bait that fishes well in conjunction with hemp, and they are
excellent for other species, such as tench and bream.
Chickpeas are an easy to use and versatile bait. Tinned chickpeas can be bought
from any supermarket, but tend to split quite easily when pierced with a baiting
needle, so it is better to source dried chickpeas, and soak and boil them. Soak
for 24hr, then boil for 30-40min.
Chickpeas are fairly bland, but this does not seem to affect their ability to catch!
However, they do take colour and flavour well. Many anglers like to soak and boil
chickpeas in beef or tomato soup, with colour added.
Chickpeas are best used in fairly small quantities, or as part of a mix of smaller
seeds. Due to their size and shape, they can be accurately catapulted, which is
useful for keeping disturbance to a minimum when everyone around you is spodding!
Fish a couple on a long hair, with a few handfuls scattered around. Tench love
All beans will catch fish, but I have found them to be a little ‘hit and miss’.
Best used in smaller quantities, beans should be prepared by soaking overnight,
then boiling for 20-45min, depending on size. Note that kidney beans can kill
carp if not boiled!
Beans can be bought from any supermarket, either tinned or dried, so they are easy
to obtain, and it is always worth having a couple of tins in the shed or the car,
just in case!
Tigernuts are not strictly a nut, they are actually a tuber more closely related
to the potato. They are relatively expensive, but a little goes a long way. Tigers
are almost always used in small quantities, large beds just do not seem to be successful.
Why carp love tigers is a bit of a mystery. They have almost nothing of nutritional
value to the fish, and can often pass straight through whole!
Tigers should be prepared with care. Soak for at least 24hr, preferably 48hr, then
boil for 45min. They will never completely soften and can be boiled for longer if
you wish. When Tigernuts ferment, they let out a sticky, sugary goo, and this
definitely adds to the attraction. Most anglers allow Tigers to reach this stage
before freezing in small batches.
Tigers are most commonly fished mixed with hemp or sweetcorn, or with a small Pva
bag or scattering of Tigers around the hookbait. Fish one or two nuts on the hair,
and balance them with a small chunk of cork. If you really want to buy a sack,
it’ll cost you about £40, although a couple of kilos will last most anglers a season!
Eaten by most around Christmas, Brazils also make a good hookbait. Shelled nuts
should be prepared as per tigernuts. They can be bought either whole, or broken,
and most anglers will fish a whole nut on the hook, with a scattering of broken
bits. Brazil nuts are also good fished well off the bottom on a zig rig, perhaps
they resemble a large freshwater shrimp!
Brazils are a quirky bait. Often they will catch no more than anything else, but
there have been occasions where anglers have enjoyed very large catches on brazils
when all around them have struggled, so they are a worth a try if nothing else is
Peanuts have accounted for some huge catches in the past, but are now used with
caution, and for good reason. Firstly, peanuts can contain the Aflotoxin fungus,
which is highly poisonous to carp, and secondly, peanuts do not contain much of
food value to the fish. This has been a problem on some lakes, because carp can
become pre-occupied with peanuts to a point where they begin to lose weight and suffer
health-wise. Many venues have banned peanuts for these reasons, so check the rules
before using them.
If you want to try peanuts, they MUST be human grade. DO NOT use any kind of peanuts
that are sold as animal food. Human grade nuts have been tested for Aflotoxin and
certified as suitable for human consumption, animal grade nuts have not. Peanuts
should be soaked for 48hr, then boiled for 30-45min. Flavours and colours are generally
Peanuts are usually fished in a similar way to tigernuts, in small quantities, or
mixed with another particle. Like other nuts, peanuts can sometimes account for
big bags of fish while others struggle, yet at other times they can be next to useless!
Particles are cheapest bought in bulk, but it is best to check the condition of
the bait before purchasing. It should be free of dirt, twigs and straw, and any
sacks with evidence of damp should be rejected.
Dry particles are best stored in closed, mouse-proof bins. Plastic dustbins are
ideal, or large lidded buckets. Kept this way, they should last at least a year.
Small amounts of particles can be preserved in glass jars. Select a jar with a sealing
lid, such as a jam or pickle jar. Cook the seed first, drain, then fill the jar
all the way to the brim with bait, cramming in as much as possible. Top up with
water (you can add colour and/or flavour at this point), seal the jar, and then
boil the whole jar in a large pan of water for 15-20 minutes. This will sterilise
the contents, which should then keep for up to 6 months.
I hope this ‘particle article’ helps you bank a few more fish this year. Good fishing!