Colin Mitchell, in his popular weekly general coarse fishing blog asks: is fresh always best?

MANY anglers have an obsession with the biggest, best and freshest baits. But are we actually talking ourselves out of the best fish attractants around by avoiding stale, smelly bait?

Chub anglers have long plumped for evil-smelling cheese around when they knock together a paste.

I know quite a few anglers who stash a chunk of old cheese in their garage, shed – or even the bottom of their kit bags – and then leave it there to develop into something wicked before making their baits.

Likewise carp anglers quite often allow a bucket of maize to ferment before using it for pre-baiting.

I’ve always ditched sweetcorn and meat at the end of a session – unless it’s been a really cold day or I have kept the baits in a cool bag. Then I have taken them home and frozen them for the next trip but I never refreeze a second time.

The same with maggots – if they haven’t turned to casters that can be of use, they are ditched, especially if they stink of ammonia. Now I am having second thoughts about what is and is not acceptable to go on the hook or for baiting…

Ivan changed my bait thinking

Ivan Marks once said that once casters are no longer fresh you do more damage than good by feeding them. Who am I to argue with that?

But… one of my mates once had a bag of old casters that had been stuck in the bottom of his carryall for more than a week and he used them to win a match with a net of dace.

That made me think… was Ivan just plain lucky, drawn on a shed full, or were the fish just so hungry they would have eaten anything?


Since that day, I’ve sometimes frozen casters and crunched them up into groundbait to add a bit of pulling power.

I’ve also used them on the hook – although the key is to drop the frozen batch in water and leave them there before ditching any leftovers at the end of the session.

I suppose these casters can’t be classed as being ‘off’ as they were frozen when they were sort-of-fresh.

Luvvin’ the dead grubs…

We used to want big fat, juicy maggots, full of life and with nice big dark feed spots. Now… dead maggots are all a craze for virtually everything that swims. Even I am a convert to this bait!

I scald the maggots just before they start to turn or I just suffocate them in a plastic bag that is dropped into the bait freezer.

The first few times I was a bit wary about feeding dead grubs but now they are a vital feed ingredient as I know there are some particles on the bottom that won’t wriggle into the mud.

They are also handy on the hook as you know they won’t wriggle off a barbless and another bonus is that small fish don’t appear to like them so much as live maggots.

Dead maggots take on colouring and flavourings really well, especially when you add before freezing.

Frozen maggots-3

Saving other stale baits

So can meat and corn be ‘rescued’ even when they become stale and smelly?

I don’t know the answer but to be honest I’d be very wary of using these two baits once they smell too much.

Stale bread…that’s easy, it’s pushed through the liquidiser and stashed a groundbait or feed for when punch and flake fishing. A good tip here is to sometimes mix just a handful of liquidised bread with your normal groundbait to add a bit of pulling power or if you want to get fish down to feed on the bottom.

I know some specimen anglers who will use worms that become that horrible, evil jelly that dead wrigglers turn into. They tell me this works but I am a long way off being convince just yet!


I don’t even like worms that have been around for a time – they lose that sticky slime that fresh worms have and to be honest don’t even smell fresh.

When anglers talk about baiting with a big juicy worm that is what you really do want on your hook – and recently I’ve found it also applies to the worms you chop up for feed.

My experiments over the past few months have also involved a lot of ‘new’ baits and additives, but more of that in the not too distant future as I add to my list of options…

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