There are a lot of factors to take into account when deciding where, when and how to catch coarse fish. First and foremost, of course, is location – you’re not going to catch fish which aren’t in front of you, no matter what you do. Using tackle that will allow you to hook fish and, more importantly, land them also comes high on the list.
It is also vital that fish are attracted to and try to eat the bait on your hook, no matter what it might be. Bait selection is a huge topic, but one aspect often overlooked is size. Fish get caught on baits so large that you wonder how they get their lips around them and so small that they seem almost insignificant.
In truth, there are no hard-and-fast rules and plenty of room for experimentation. If you have introduced large quantities of freebies – sweetcorn or pellets, maybe - it is logical to fish with something similar on your hook to mimic the free offerings. There are inherent problems, however, because the weight of the hook and the flexibility of the trace material can affect bait behaviour and cause fish to leave well alone.
Conversely, a larger than typical bait (a small stack of corn or a large pellet, maybe) has the possible advantage of standing out and being picked up quite quickly by feeding fish. The impact of the hook weight or trace drag is less pronounced, too. But fish can be spooked by large baits, especially if they have been caught on them before.
One logical away around this conundrum – and one which few anglers bother to try – is simplicity itself… bait up with freebies of different sizes (and, therefore, weights) to keep the fish guessing. Boilies cut into irregular shapes and sizes, and pellets of different diameters, for example, make it far harder for fish to prejudge the weight of the food item and less easy to differentiate between a free offering and a hookbait.
This approach also reflects the natural diet of most fish in which food items come in a huge variety of sizes and shapes. The improvement in catches can be dramatic and well worth the little bit of effort required on bait preparation.