By Keith Speer
Of all the baits available to the modern angler Bread is probably the most underused and yet the most deadly, considered by many to be old fashioned and out dated, Bread has become unfashionable, happily our quarry does not follow fashion and as such Bread will take fish just as well today as in yesteryear.
However to get the best out of Bread, proper preparation will unquestionably increase an anglers chances of catching not just more, but better quality fish of all the major species.
Many of today’s top anglers still use Bread; indeed Bread is often the bait of choice for those anglers that consistently catch 2lb and 3lb Roach.
One advantage Bread has is that for the price of a pint of Casters or a pack of Pellets, you can buy 3 good quality loaves of bread, which is often more than enough for a days fishing, it just needs to be prepared properly, that includes both ground bait and hook bait, as with anything practice makes perfect, however when you get it right, it can be a bait that is second to none.
This is my way with Bread, I wont say it is the only way, but it does work, both on running and still water, on running water it works particularly well through Autumn and Winter.
Bread mash ground bait and how to prepare it.
Buy whole uncut loaves from a proper baker (not a supermarket)
cut each of them into six sections, place in a airing cupboard or any warm place (I hang mine up in a boilie air drying bag) for at least 2 weeks until they are bone dry, brittle and very much lighter in weight.
Once dried properly they will not go mouldy as there will be no water left to aid decomposition or fungal growth, as long as you keep it dry you can keep it for several months.
To make the mash, take as much as you need and place it in a bucket, fill the bucket with water and leave it to soak until all of the Bread is soft, this can take a couple of hours, when soaked properly it will slip sloppily through your fingers, there must be no hard or even semi-hard lumps.
Drain the water and place the Bread in a fine mesh bag (I use an old weigh sling).
Compress the Bread filled bag to drain even more water and then either stand on it or place a very heavy weight on it and let as much water as is physically possible to drain away, you should end up with a semi solid lump.
Now is the time to mash it up with a potato masher, this is quite hard work and you MUST mash and mash and mash until you have broken all of the bread down.
You can now either use it or freeze it.
You will know when you have the right consistency as you will be able to squeeze a lump around a plummet and swing it out into your swim without it falling off, let it sink to the bottom and then a couple of bounces will cause it to disperse through your swim.
It will break up into millions of tiny particles, too small to be of any feed value, you will see this if you throw a small ball into the river and watch it break up.
The important point is that it breaks up into particles that are too small for the fish to feed on, they know its there but there is no food value to it, as the energy used to eat the small particles is far more than the energy gained from the tiny bits of feed.
If you get it right, when the fish do find a bit (your hook bait) that is worth eating , they seize upon it with some force, thus the bites come as a solid plunge under of the float, which are hard to miss.
One further point, you will know if the ground bait is properly mashed by looking into the mouths of the fish that you catch, if the mouth is clean you have got it right, if there is any Bread in the mouth or a fish is gobbing up bread then you have not mashed it up enough.
To bait up simply throw a small ball into the swim upstream of where you intend to fish, if the flow is pacey mould the Bread mash around a small stone which will get the bait down quickly.
This is how I was taught to make up Bread mash ground bait for the Tidal Thames while fishing from a punt and it is absolutely deadly, far superior to using Liquidised Bread as the particles stay in suspension for much longer and thus drift further down the swim bringing many more fish up to the main catching area.
On the Tidal Thames we have on several occasions been amazed as you can see the progress of a shoal of Bream or Roach as it moves up to our punt from as far as 35 yds downstream, we know this is happening as we start to catch at long range and then pick up fish as they get closer and closer until the shoal is right under the punt and we are getting bites as soon as the float cocks.
Wet Bread as a hook bait
Wet Bread is a cracking hook bait, much underused in this modern age.
Many anglers are loath to use Bread as it can come off the hook easily and they are constantly unsure whether their bait is still on or not, the solution is to use Wet Bread, this is a tough and durable hook bait that will stay on the hook for several casts and yet is soft enough to ensure good solid hook penetration even at distance when long trotting.
Take a plated loaf, you will have to buy this at a proper bakers, it is a sort of un-leavened Bread I think, and I cannot for the life of me remember what it is called, I get mine from a Kosher Baker.
I cut the crusts off in such a way that each layer of crust is about 1 to 2 inches thick this will leave a section of the white inner Bread which I just chuck in with the rest of my drying Bread for making my mashed bread ground bait.
Take the crusts and dry them off completely until they are light and brittle, as in making Bread mash they MUST be completely dry, again once properly dried the crusts will keep for months.
The night before you wish to use them place them in a shallow dish and then pour very hot water, about as hot as you can stand without scolding your hand, over the dry crusts, leave this for about 2 minuets then squash the water out and place each section of crust on a clean tea towel and wrap it up in the tea towel, place a very heavy weight on the tea towel and leave it over night.
In the morning remove the crust carefully from the tea towel and wrap it in clean dry newspaper, this will soak up the last of the water.
One loaf will provide enough hook bait for about six days fishing, so don’t prepare too much at once.
At the waters edge un-wrap the crust so that the white of the Bread is exposed, then simply rub your finger over the white Bread, as you do this you will find that the Bread peels off in layers, simply pass the hook through a rolled up layer or wrap it around the hook or fold a piece in half and pass the hook through it, each way gives a slightly different presentation to the bait as you trot it through the swim, and as you all know presentation is everything particularly when you are fishing for big roach.
I also take a few slices of fresh white sliced Bread with me as this gives me the opportunity to have a change bait.
Squeeze a piece of the sliced Bread around the shank of the hook, leaving a nice bit of fluffy flake around the bend and leave the hook point exposed, now you can either dip it in the water and squeeze slightly to give it a bit of weight or leave it as it is, both of these baits behave slightly differently when trotting.
Crust is another change bait, cut a piece of crust from the slice pass the hook through the centre of the crust side and out again on the same side, again to give it a bit of weight dunk it in the water, swing the bait back to hand and the carefully squeeze some of the water from the crust (as you squeeze the water out you will also squeeze out some of the air) this will produce a neutral buoyancy bait that will often take one or more of the other species that are responding to your bait trail.
Depending on; flow, colour, depth of feeding fish and range, you may find that you get more bites on one rather than another of the described hook baits.
When I fish Bread in this manner I am also constantly changing my shotting pattern and depth and I also change the speed at which I allow the tackle to pass through the swim by holding back with varying degrees of firmness until I get the presentation as right as I can.
I realise that all this is entails a lot of work in bait preparation and sometimes it can take several hours to get my bait right for a days fishing and maybe I am too fussy, however I would point out that in the hands of a good angler, given the right conditions, Bread can, and will, consistently out perform other methods and baits.
I hope that this has been of some use and I must say that if you have never tried it, do yourself a favour and give Bread a go.
I have not touched upon Punch and Puff and how to prepare it for still water, canals and slow moving rivers, that I will leave that for another day.