What is it about nuts that big carp find so irresistible, what are the best nuts to use in your own fishing, and how should they be prepared and presented?
We’ve enlisted two of the biggest names in the sport – Terry Hearn and Gary Bayes – to share their views on all things nutty.
The benefits are many…
When compared to a pungent, brightly coloured boilie, at face value a nut seems far less appealing as a carp bait.
They seem to emit little smell and are relatively drab to look at, especially when surrounded by lakebed detritus.
So what is it about nuts that appeal to carp, and why are they so effective all year round?
In Terry’s mind, they have many benefits, not all of which relate to taste and texture, as is so often written about.
He told Carpfeed: “I think tiger nuts work well because they’re sweet and crunchy, peanuts because they’re light and oily, and Brazils because they contain even more oil – plus they’re quite ‘visual’.
“I can think of many occasions when changing to nuts has made a huge difference to my results, sessions where I’ve gone from blanking each trip with boilies to having a multiple catch in a single sitting.
“The difference has been way more noticeable than what I’ve ever experienced by simply changing from one type of boilie to another.
“Taste and texture aside, there are other obvious reasons for their effectiveness, such as being different to what most other anglers might be using on a particular venue.
“They appear more natural, too, and a single tiger lowered on to a blatant, polished-off spot in clear water can be readily accepted by the carp, whereas a boilie might not.
“Then there’s their resilience to other species. On waters containing plenty of tench it can be quite common for them to clear all your bait out and trash your rigs before dawn, without us any the wiser on the bank.
“Nuts, on the other hand, are more likely to be left alone, meaning your trap is set and ready for when the carp arrive.
“In short, nuts are ‘always fishing’. Then there are other ‘nuisances’ like eels, crayfish and even Chinese mitten crabs.
“Again, whereas boilies are like a banquet to them, a pouch or two of tigers are far more likely to survive the night.”
Gary is in agreement with Terry with regard to taste, texture and oil content being of major appeal, but he also points to other reasons.
He said: “Taste and crunch factor are high on the list, but mechanical digestion undoubtedly plays a key role in the success of nuts too.
“A nut that goes into the carp’s gut invariably comes out in more than one piece.
“The digestibility of nuts isn’t brilliant, and so the chances are the nut will be ‘dumped’ at some stage in the pond, only for another carp to come along and feed off it, and this may happen several times.
“On many of the large waters where nuts have been so successful the carp are actually assisting the angler in baiting up spots that other carp will feed on positively, without fear.”
All nuts are not the same
So, are certain nuts better in certain situations and on certain types of venue? Terry and Gary both have their preferences, as they explained.
Terry said: “Tigers are probably my favourite, but Brazils are also right up there, and on the right water peanuts can be devastating.
“I’ve found peanuts and Brazils to be great baits on silty pools and shallow meres, while tigers – which are heavier – are better suited to firmer-bottomed gravel pits.
“There are no really hard and fast rules and to be honest, if you’re on a water where they like nuts, then all three are likely to work.
“Often the best venues for each type of nut are the ones where nobody else is using them - that’s when they’re a real edge!”
Gary concurs with Terry regarding tigers and Brazils, and also added a couple more alternatives into the equation.
“Tigers can dominate waters, and the carp can at times seem oblivious to anything else. Small PVA bags of crushed tigers with a whole tiger hookbait is a devastating method, and also works well cast in weed to showing fish.
“Brazils are superb fished over hemp and boilies, and almonds are another favourite of mine.
“They’re a fabulous hookbait. Most of them float, and with their odd shape they provide good anti-eject properties.
“Hazelnuts also make great hookbaits, but like almonds will float unless prepared correctly.
“Finally, there’s dry-roasted peanuts. These are an exceptional bait that carp really love. If they haven’t been used on your lake, then get on them!
“They are arguably as good as tigers, and there’s no preparation needed – other than buying them in the shop!”
Use only in moderation
Using nuts to target carp has often been shrouded in controversy, not least because of anglers using them wrongly.
The two most common problems relate to people using far too many nuts, or not preparing them properly beforehand from their raw state.
Both Terry and Gary preach caution in this respect.
Terry said: “If it’s ‘in the edge’ stuff then I don’t use a lot – often just half a dozen chewed-up nuts slopped in on top of the hookbait.
“A lot of it depends on the size of the nuts, where I’m fishing, and even the clarity of the water.
“Generally, if I’m using Dynamite Bait’s Monster Tigers then I try to introduce the freebies crushed and chewed, but if I’m using their Mini Tigers, I’ll happily sprinkle a few around the hookbait.
“However, on venues with a good head of carp, such as the River Thames, I’ve sometimes prebaited with a whole jar of tigers in among whatever else I’m feeding at the time, generally boilies.
“The important thing to remember here is that nuts on their own are filling, but when mixed in with easier-to-digest baits such as pellets or boilies the problems are minimised.
“Under no circumstances should anyone be putting out buckets of the things, especially on their own.
“When using small quantities I tend to use them on their own, or maybe with a little bit of hemp, and when in larger quantities always as part of a big mix of bait, but never more than 10 per cent of what I’m putting out.
“I still want them to be the cherries on the cake.”
Gary makes the point that using too many nuts can actually count against you, the angler, as well as being far from beneficial to the carp.
He said: “There is little benefit to either the angler or the carp if nuts are used in excessive amounts.
“In some cases it can be counter-productive in terms of catches, and also certainly in the case of peanuts it can be extremely dangerous.
“Any nut used should also be of a human food grade, and must be prepared properly.”
Nut rig choices?
There’s no need to over-complicate matters when it comes to the best rigs to use with nuts, as Terry explained.
“I always fish them hard on the bottom, exactly the same as the freebies and generally with a flipper rig, which is my favourite presentation with the hair trapped at the bend.
“I’ve found that lighter baits such as peanuts and Brazils are better fished with a lighter hook pattern, and in recent years I’ve built up a lot of confidence in Drennan Super Specialist Barbel hooks, especially in size 5,” said Terry.
“A lot of the time hook choice is affected by snags and weed present, and so although I love the finer wire and lighter weight of the barbel hooks, I’ll often opt for the stronger Cryogen Grippers instead, generally in a size 6.
“As for hooklinks, I use E-S-P Loaded in the semi-stiff when fishing hard on the bottom. If I want to use a balanced nut with a cork plug, something I’ll only do when forced to because of a silkweed-covered lakebed, for instance, then I tend to go for the softer, more supple version and a longer hooklink to help it settle on top of the weed.”
So there you have it. Two great anglers, both in agreement about the awesome pulling power of nuts.
Use them on your favourite water soon and you might well crack it!
Gary’s Top Tip 1
“A big edge is to take a small pot of selected tigers and cover them in Betalin.
“This sweet, attractive additive is also a natural preservative, leaving you with a nice pot of long-lasting, ultra-sweet growlers.”
Nuts banned on your lake? Try these boilies
Nash Candy Nut Crush
A subtle and sweet blend of Scopex No.1 flavour and Spanish tiger nut meal.
Bait-Tech Triple N
Tiger nut, peanut and hazelnut meals and flours, milk proteins and quality birdfoods.
Dynamite Baits Monster Tiger Nut
Tiger nut flour & milk, a ‘secret attractant’ and vanilla palatant.
HOW TO PREPARE NUTS CORRECTLY
These nuts will float unless prepared correctly. Soak for 24 hours then boil gently for 30 minutes.
Soak overnight, then boil gently for 30 minutes to ensure most sink. Keep the floaters for hookbait presentations.
Soak for a minimum of 18 hours, then boil for 45 minutes, or these nuts too will float. Follow these timings for hookbaits that sink
Soak for 24 hours then bring to the boil and simmer gently for around 30-40 minutes
Gary’s Top Tip 2
"For a really special Brazil nut hookbait, select a few larger kernels and soak them in mandarin oil, molasses and honey!”