Carp Bait – Shelf Life or Fresh Frozen?

With spring almost upon us, more and more of us will be thinking of, or actually booking a French carping holiday. The question of what bait then comes into the equation and for a lot of anglers the biggest question can be shelf life or fresh frozen?

It really is a big ‘leap of faith’ if you have never used shelf life baits and is a massive ‘confidence thing’, so I thought I would put this little article together to show how my thoughts on boilies have evolved over the years and led me to the position where I now use nothing but shelf life baits!

Up until 8 or 9 years ago, I had always put my own base mixes and baits together for carp fishing (apart from the odd week away), but that all changed when I was introduced to the Quest range in May 2006 whilst fishing a lake in the Limoges area of France with Paul Cooper.

It proved to be a very tricky week due to various reasons but by using the frozen Special Crab (in very small quantities) I managed to winkle out 9 quality carp, these included 2 x 38lb+ commons, 2 mirrors of 47lb+ and a then P.B. mirror of 49lb 14oz, to say I was impressed with the bait was an understatement!

carp fishing with shelf life boilies

A nice common – the first time I had really used manufactured bait!

I had always put my own base mixes together and enjoyed making my own baits, believing they were better than those that I could buy (because I always knew what was going into them), but this became very time consuming and so if I could find a good ready made bait, then I was keen to try it. I carried on using the frozen Special Crab on my syndicate lake with excellent results and then used it through the winter for my barbel fishing. The results on the various rivers in a number of different conditions were outstanding, this was the bait for me!

The following season the frozen Special Crab kept on working, but I was then introduced to the Rahja Spice shelf lifes. Now I would never use shelf life baits as I believed them to be totally inferior to fresh frozen baits. Up until this point (2007) most of the shelf lifes I had seen had been little more than rock hard highly flavoured balls of preservatives, something I would only ever use as a last resort. But with travelling abroad more regularly (and all the problems that this can entail with frozen baits) we were keen to have a look to see if they were of the same standard as the fresh frozen.

I really was pleasantly surprised, they smelt good (without being overpowering), had a great texture (exactly the same as a fresh frozen) and perhaps most importantly contained no artificial preservatives. These baits were obviously going to be a winner and so it proved with a large number of big carp being caught from lots of different venues and in all types of weather conditions. A true all-season bait.

The use of shelf lifes made fishing abroad so much easier. You didn’t have to worry keeping them fresh on the journey across, no need to worry about there being plenty of freezer space at the venue. You didn’t have the hassle of ‘air drying’ freezer baits to stop them ‘going off’ and if you had any bait left over you could bring them back and use them in the UK thus saving any waste of money.

No need to worry about ‘air drying’ with shelf lifes.

I have since used many shelf life boilies and taken good fish on all of them. I have been well and truly converted, so much so that I don’t bother with frozen baits for my carp fishing anymore. All these baits are from the Quest Baits range, but there are plenty of other bait manufacturers that supply shelf life baits.

carp fishing with shelf life boilies

A fat 40lb+ common on a shelf life bait.

I still believed however that frozen baits were better for barbel fishing, as I felt they gave off better flavour leakage and thus created a better flavour trail in the current. However, after using frozen baits since 2006, I fancied a change, and so in the autumn of 2011 I decided to use the Rahja Spice shelf lifes on the rivers for barbel.

Once again, the results proved to be instant on all the rivers I fished with many double figure fish gracing my landing net. An added bonus being that I could use them straight out of the bag (I had always boosted the frozen Special Crab). Since then I have taken a lot of good barbel on the Special Crab and Absolute Seafood shelf lifes and matching shelf life paste.

barbel fishing with shelf life boilies

One of many double figure barbel that have fallen to the shelf lifes!

So in the space of 8 years I have gone from an angler who wouldn’t use anybody else’s bait, to an angler that would only use fresh frozen to one that is supremely confident in using a range of shelf lifes, I really have come full circle!

How things have changed in 8 years!

Pat Gillett


4 thoughts on “Carp Bait – Shelf Life or Fresh Frozen?

  1. Shaun Harrison says:

    It is now several years since I have used a fresh frozen bait myself Pat and it is as easy for me to grab my bait from the freezer room as it is from the shelf. I now honestly prefer Quest Baits shelf life baits to fresh frozen baits due to their longer stability.
    There is a big difference with the Quest Baits ones you have mentioned though and a lot of other shelf life baits out there and that is the fact that there are no preservatives used in the Quest Baits range. This makes them very different and certainly makes them taste very different to those containing the preservatives that have been used over the years that I always felt carp didn’t like the taste of.
    It’s interesting that all the anglers that join the Quest Baits team come on board wanting fresh frozen bait and usually start off with fresh frozen bait but I no longer have a single member of the team still asking for fresh frozen bait as all have realised that the shelf life versions are equally as good (or in my opinion better) than the frozen equivalents.
    I have just come back from displaying the range and the Ricoh Carp and Coarse Show and as usual customers were surprised how soft and fresh frozen feeling our baits are.
    For two years on the trot our shelf life baits wiped the board in the Independent tank tests conducted for Carpology Magazine. All the larger bait companies were invited to forward their baits to put them up against other baits for the carp to decide which triggered a feeding response the quickest and which produced the most aggressive and prolonged feeding.
    The first year we wiped the board in both tests with our Ghurkka Spice and the following year we did the same with our Magnum White. We only ever sent shelf life baits for testing – in fact we have never even bothered to make a fresh frozen Magnum White. There is no point.
    One day all the other bait companies will sort out how to produce preservative free stabilised baits and then I would be surprised if anyone ever bothered with s fresh freezer bait again. The only thing you can be totally sure about a freezer bait is that it will only be fresh and palatable for a very short space of time and if a couple of days of its life has been spent in a parcel being delivered to a shop and then another day or two being forwarded to the customer, well, quite frankly I would rather not risk using it and stick with what I know.
    Many forget that if a typical fresh frozen bait has a life of just 3-4 days in the warm weather then it doesn’t gain those 3 to 4 days back if it’s re-frozen and part of its life has already been spent in transit.
    Food for thought?
    Best fishes

  2. Duncan de Gruchy says:

    Hello Shaun
    I can certainly vouch for the quality of your shelf life boilies. I opened my last kilo of your (discontinued) Liver B8 boilies last night which I have had stored in my garage for well over 6 months and they were as new. They were still soft and I could crumb them up in my hand. My mate and I have used the Liver B8 throughout this winter and have had good, consistent results. I am very happy to use the Quest shelf life range even though I have previously always been a “fresh frozen” only user.

  3. Shaun Harrison says:

    A few more comments here from a link I shared back to my Shaun Harrison Angler Facebook Page

    Like · · Share · 22 hours ago ·
    Mark Joseph Gray, Ian Lewis, Gimmy Olivucci and 28 others like this.

    Jason Clarke You know its true shaun, I have been using Parbs i40 and it has been awesome and no mither worrying about it blowing….Get on the shelf life and off the freezer bait fallacy
    22 hours ago · Like · 1

    Steve Wheeler I met shaun not long after he started quest baits.It was at a bcsg annual meeting.I said I would like to try some of his bait and bought some frozen Rahja spice it was great stuff . I asked shaun about his shelf life range as at the time I was fishing longer sessions so keeping the frozen bait good was a job in its self , Shaun assured me the shelf life baits was as good if not better than the frozen equivalent so I started using the Ghurkka spice in shelf life that was several years back now and I am still on it. Don’t think I will use frozen bait again to be honest the shelf life is that good
    21 hours ago · Like

    Ian Lewis I’m a Mistral backed angler and I’ve fished shelfies against frozens and my personal conclusion led me to switch off the freezer and really fish shelfies exclusively!..
    It’s a confidence thing for sure, but times are changing and I think you’ve gotta m…See More
    19 hours ago · Unlike · 2

    Jack Reid I guess for abroad it is more convienient, but I personally (rightly or wrongly) see shelflifes as a bit of a dry, expensive and synthetic alternative that no doubt gets results in some shape or form. Something that can sit in a bag exposed to the air and not lose something seems alien to me? Also I think because people tend to buy bulk these days from 5kg upwards to lower the boilie price to 5-8 quid on the kilo that they will always see shelflifes at the 11 alternative that lacks freshness? Open to anymore info though.
    18 hours ago · Edited · Like

    Shaun Harrison Angler My Ghurkka spice can almost be squashed like paste. It was self indulgence on my part on that one as I prefer soft baits. Old methods of producing shelf life baits did appear to dry them out but you must realise these are from 25 plus year old technolo…See More
    18 hours ago · Like · 3

    Jack Reid Was not doubting your word Shaun just was looking for info
    17 hours ago · Like

    Duncan Arrandale Used shelfies for the last 3 years now and there’s no looking back
    16 hours ago · Like · 1

    Ian Lewis As I say I’ve been involved with 3 Bait brands in my Angling life and I can only draw conclusions from my own experience.
    On the flip side can freezer baits be over exposed to frost and does the cold zap goodness from the bait?…
    What do most do with frozens though?… Un package them and air dry them to achieve what has already been achieved with a air dried shelfie.

    A fair divide on both sides.


  4. Pat Gillett says:

    I can vouch for the texture of the shelf life baits. I don’t like baits that are hard for my barbel fishing and has such wouldn’t use them if they were.

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