Carp fishing techniques – are bait boats cheating?

Izaak Walton’s famous book ‘The Complete Angler’ was a celebration of our sport, based on the central theme that angling is an art that transcends the objective of catching fish.

Angling then is the technique of catching fish using a rod and line; it is called “angling” because of the angle formed by the two. It has been suggested that the quintessential step of making fishing into a sport, rather than just a means of catching fish for food, was the invention of the rod.  It is considered a sport, then when practised for enjoyment. Anglers sometimes attempt to catch only one type of fish, in our case the Carp, often limiting their equipment to increase the sport – Sports commonly refer to activities where the physical capabilities of the competitor are the sole or primary determiner of the outcome.

Since the beginning then, angling’s rules and traditions have been laid down to provide sport by imposing a certain level of difficulty. I think everyone would agree that there are far easier and swifter ways of extracting fish from a lake or river than by rod and line.  Nets, deadlines, multiple hooked lines and explosives would all be far more effective than a simple hook,rod and line. (Admittedly the latter suggestion makes catch and release somewhat difficult!!)

Certain forms of fishing, such as fly fishing require a good level of technique to achieve any measure of success. Carp fishing too requires a considerable amount of skill to cast accurately and sufficiently far to be able to present a bait effectively to our quarry. The better anglers justifiably catch more fish. Setting the element of chance aside, I think most will agree a talented angler does do things differently from the average bod. If he catches more or bigger fish than his peers, he obviously has a greater aptitude for the sport than the average.

So I think then it is fairly easy to establish that we fish the way we do in the name of sport, and the intellectual stimulation and challenge, not just to pull the fish out of its natural habitat. I think we all get a great deal of satisfaction when we do it right and we catch well. You only have to look at an angling newspaper or magazine to see the number of cheesy grins behind leviathan carp to understand that we all get satisfaction in success. Modern rods and reels are better and perform better than at any time in the history of the sport, our understanding of bait, and fish behaviour has increased over the last few centuries too. But when all is said and done, we are carrying out the same gestures and actions as our forefathers in the time of Izaak Walton.

Ok so this brings me onto the ‘Bait Boat’…

Here is a gadget, pilfered from Model Making and turned to fishing. It has absolutely nothing to do with “angling”, and takes any amount of skill, technique and talent out of the sport. It in fact takes us right back to before the Art of Angling became just that; an Art! – I have to ask the question; ‘Where is the Art in using a Bait Boat?’

What it effectively does, and I don’t dispute the effectiveness of these ‘items’ of tackle.. is give you loaded dice to play with. It evens up the field, so that if you are next to the mega long caster or the fine technician, who can drop a lead on a sixpence at 80 yards, you can play in the same league. Is this not deemed cheating in any other sport?

There are other non negligible aspects of these devices, such as the effect their presentation has on the fishing on waters that their see heavy use .It makes it very hard afterwards to tempt a carp by more conventional means. The fish get used to and wary of the fact that every pile of food they come across on the lake bed has a hook in it. For the carp anglers it becomes a case having to join the “pugwash club” if you want to be in with a chance. Furthermore, and this is what has lead to their being banned on many venues, is the abuse of certain users, poaching others swims or placing baits in areas and at distances where they have very little or no chance of landing the fish.

You will gather then I am not a fan, and I shall continue to hone my own angling skills to tempt : “ the queen of our rivers; a stately, a good and very subtil fish… and hard to be caught.” Izaak Walton – ‘The Complete Angler’ 1653

Anyway rant over, I shall step down from my soapbox!

Regards, Gareth


13 thoughts on “Carp fishing techniques – are bait boats cheating?

  1. Jamie Simpson says:

    Hi Gareth

    A hugely debatable issue this one. I certainly see where you are coming from, as I have been on several venues where people abuse there use.
    I have sat and watched people send them over 300yards on waters where they are only supposed to be used as far as they can cast.

    Undoubtedly they give people who own them an edge and the presentation of rigs at long range especially can be drastically improved on a cast rig.

    On the other hand though, a water in Loughborough that I fish has a disabled angler who cannot cast out a rod, so in his case they are a hugely important piece of kit.

    I also believe that on waters that constantly see baitboat use, you can take advantage by fishing a totally different approach of spreading boilie over the area of a tennis court and casting a single hookbait in amongst them. The reason it works so well in my mind is that they are so used to associating a tight little pile of bait with danger that they feel much safer picking up single food items.

    There will always be controversial items of tackle that may or may not be good for the sport, but development will always take place and without it we would not have the excellent long range rods and reels that are on the market today.

    A few years ago bite alarms were classed by many as cheating yet they are accepted today as common practice.

    To summarise, my feelings on baitboats is that they are a good piece of kit when necessary but they do get abused by many.



  2. David K says:

    I agree Jamie – they have a place in a carp anglers kit box, but should not be abused.

    Angling is a very personal thing – we all set our own standards as to what is & is not a meritable capture. Some people consider carp caught off the top don’t count, carp caught in France don’t count… the list is endless… but the point is its personal.

    Try describing the feeling of catching a big carp to a non-angler – they just don’t get it (“what & then you just put it back!?” or worse still “you didn’t eat it?” ). They just can’t understand because they see it as a pointless excercise.

    I’m labouring the point… but as I see it “achievements” in carp fishing are not set in stone – its not like running a race or getting a big break at snooker – its not quantifiable – we all know that catching big carp does not necessarily signify you’re a good carp angler.

    So the methods you deem “acceptable” to catch carp are pesonal too & we should not be quick to judge others methods in a “holier than thou” way. The limit is of course when it’s detremental to the carps welfare.

    I bet we could talk to many skilled match / coarse anglers who would deem rigs that are self-hooking, sleeping while your rods are fishing … are “cheating too”.

    Anyone got a baitboat for sale??? 😉

  3. Robin Davies says:

    Hello Gareth,

    Personally I’d ban em on any water that I ran and encourage real angling skills, watercraft, casting, bait application and keep the chances of catching in some kind of balance. The balance is not all meant to be tipped one way, it’s meant to be us against the carp, not machine against the carp…proper angling skills every time [B)]

    Carping is very special in my view and BB’s take far too much away from it, not to mention it makes what we do look quite ridiculous to the outsider and the anti’s…

    Using bite alarms has no relation to this at all, we are talking angling skill here and bite alarms in no way falsely enhance this…bait boat unfortunately take angling skill out of the equation.

    I’ve never witnessed a baitboat being used irresponsibly and hope I never do but it’s not about that for me, it’s a about real carp angling, which to some of us remains special.

    Be Lucky…

  4. Gareth says:

    Hi Robin,
    Well this was really the idea of the article.. Provoke a debate… Where does one draw the line as to what is Angling?..Definitions of sport would seem to preclude BB’s, as not allowing the physical capabilities of the competitor to be the the sole or primary determiner of the outcome. So I again ask.. In what way do BB’s fit this scenario. If they are admitted whole sale, are we not justified in no longer considering Angling a Sport. Do we relegate the noble art to a mere past time? Catch fish at all costs… Then nets, and deadlines are equally meritous.

    I didn’t mention the feeling of catching a big fish in my post, it is fabulous, we all know that!!! I guess Ben Johnson had his moment of euphoria at winning the Olympic 100m too..
    My whole question wasn’t about BB’s having their place, or Holier than thou ethics… I came down to the very essence of what is a sport and what constitutes sport in angling?

    Food for thought that’s all.


  5. Jamie Simpson says:

    Fair comment I must admit.

    Not wanting to go off at a tangent and get really controversial on another issue, but isnt what goes off at Rainbow Lake far worse. Taking lines around poles and positioning the hookbait by hand, then when you get a bite on 60lb braid just going back out above the fish and lifting it out.
    These are not small fish either and one of them was until very recently the world record fish.
    The guys fishing for these fish are some of the biggest names in fishing and not many months go by without them publicising the venue in Carpworld.



  6. steve cass says:

    I have used a bait boat for about 2yrs and it has caught me a lot of carp and given me a lot of confidence. But now I am trying to ween my self off of it and hone my skills. I like to think that i am a responsible angler and have not abused the use of my boat. On many of my waters so many anglers casting to margins and losing their tackle in the trees , leaving loads of line and leads in the water for wild life to get tangled up in or worse fish to pick up their lost hook /bait and become tethered. I was only fishing yesterday, caught a carp from the margins only to see that the carp had got tangled in lost fishing line, on this occasion the carp freed itself. I think it all comes down to education for all anglers. the advancement of tackle has been vast in the last twenty years and there are many items that give us the edge over the carp, pva , braid ,baitrunners, plastic baits, even buzzers give us better bait presentation and bite indication, I feel the boat is just an extension of this so long as it is not relied on for every situation.

  7. Pete says:

    I am very against the use of bait boats unless there is, as mentioned earlier a disability present that prevents a cast. My first reason for this is that as the chap earlier mentioned, the whole fishing experience is based on a taming the beast principle, what i mean by that is, its the practice and skill of the angler that catches the fish and that balance should never be turned. I do agree that in certain situations a bait boat can be an advantage given to the unskilled to catch the larger carp, but for me I will always enjoy the challenge of achieving the perfect cast or placement of my hookbait/groundbait, without it my fishing would seem boring.
    Swim poaching (using your baited area at night when they think your sleeping!)and placement of baits in silly snaggy areas preventing the landing of fish safely are just some of the ways i have seen these tools abused. i personally have no problem in using the skill gained through years of fishing practice to accurately drop a 4oz lead straight through the top of the plastic toy of anyone who thinks dropping a bait in my swim is a good idea!!
    The second reason I disagree with their use is that our sport is only what it is because of the attraction of new people to the sport and bait boats being well outside the reach of a lot of budgets especially new comers put people off as the belief that you need one to catch big carp increases.
    There should only be the skill element that separates the novice and the seasoned pro. As i have proven with a friend of mine, i spend a moderate amount on tackle and he buys the newest posh rods reels and equipment, all last season i out fished him despite his fish finding radar and other toys just by changing my presentation, tactics, and baits instead of following trends to buy the gear and bait of the week!
    Bait boats encourage “tackle tarts”, there will always be an element of the community that behaves in this way but this is starting to become a problem with the sport and when a new angler enters the sport priority’s are changing.
    To begin carp fishing now has become very cheap and i fully support this but the questions asked at the bank by novice fishermen should be “would you mind showing me how to tie that?” or “how can i help look after the fish i catch?”, not “where can i get one of those?”.
    I fish a lot in winter. A few weeks ago i went to fish a day ticket water overnight, as the weather was awful i decided that i would use my little green dome mountain tent instead of my pram hood bivvy as its easier to put up in an inshore wind and a touch warmer. Whilst putting it up i was approached by a bailiff who, noticing the small ‘north face’ logo at the bottom told me that tents were not allowed only bivvies. I then asked “as my little green tent was a twin skin dome, green, not very big, and otherwise identical to the whole host of green dome shaped blobs surrounding the fishery why is mine not permitted?”, he replied “cos it don’t have Fox or Nash on it!”. I didn’t even bother with the bivvy in the car as i was discriminated against just because of the kit i decided to use on the day which many new anglers are.
    What if that was my first night session and i wanted to see if i liked it, according to his interpretation of the rules I should have spent at least £100 on a bivvy only to chuck it in the bin if I didn’t like it!
    If when I started with my 1 rod, reel, net, landing mat, and small box of tackle, (and licence!!) began fishing on a lake such as this or any of the other in the country that promoted this sort of attitude to fishing snobbery, I doubt I would be enjoying the sport today.

  8. Mark says:

    Hello to you all.
    Just a little food for thought. There are so many different methods of carp fishing today that it is hard to think of my preference. I always thought the art of fishing was down to the rig and end tackle. Is this not proven if you have seen the Korda Underwater Carp Fishing series? Carp are intelligent creatures, (Don’t misunderstand my last statement, yes of course they are not brain surgeons) and do become wary of large piles of bait. However, in my humble opinion, being only able to fish at the weekends or single short 2 hrs sessions here and there, the bait boat can give me an edge, not over other anglers but over the carp. There is nothing worse than spending a valuable weekend on your local water only to blank. Now I hear you say, “that’s carp fishing”. True but it is now a very expensive game. With lots more anglers on the waters the fish are becoming very riggy. Just let me add, I am a very good angler and have been at it for more than 20 years. I choose to cast a rod in certain situations if I’m using a stick mix perhaps or method. I have been using my boat now for about 5 years and yes, it has improved my catch rate. However, I have also seen other boat users catch rates fall. Does this make you think that the above statement is true about large piles of bait. Occasionally I will asses the situation on my local water and choose to use my boat with a single hook bait, just for pure presentation sake. Maybe on the far bank at 120 yards in the margin under the trees. Yes, I believe I could cast to that spot quite easily but would be losing some tackle into the trees in the process. Now would I prefer to have amounts of broken line in the water or place my bait first time without loss. Ummm, that’s a hard one. This now takes me onto spodding. On occasion I have been in the next peg to an angler who spends all day spodding to his chosen mark, attempting to create his own feature I believe. Yes, I also own a spod rod and reel. Nevertheless, this practise is noisy and can spook the fish. Spodding can also be abused in much the same way as can the use of a bait boat. So here we are, they cannot un-design the bait boat. It is just another tool in my tackle to make catching that beautiful carp a little more often. Live and let live I say and I wont complain about your spodding if you leave my boat alone.

  9. Jon Perkins says:

    All interesting posts, I think the last one sums it all up quite well. I have fished for carp for 25 years and before I moved to france to live, I had never used a BB, and thought I never would. I am now lucky enough to own and run my own fishery on which i allow the use of BB’s, my reason for this is because I want my customers to enjoy their holiday and catch as well as possible – they are spending a fair amount of cash to come and fish here, and I do not wish to curtail their enjoyment by prohibiting the use of BB’s, in fact I make it easier still and fairer on those who do not own one because I hire BB’s at the venue. Anglers who use a boat have done very well with it, but then again so have others who have not used one !
    When you are on a weeks holiday in France, I think every edge you can use is a bonus – you can struggle away to your hearts content when you get back to the UK !
    BB’s have been around for a long time now, they are a part of the carp scene and they are not going to go away, you have the choice to use them or not, just like anything else, but if you choose not to use one, the worst thing you can do is to moan about someone catching more fish than you because you have made that choice.
    If you choose the purist approach then thats fine, use a split cane rod and sit watching your bobbins all day. The bait boat is simply another use of technology in the pursuit of catching carp, just like remote receivers for bite alarms and all the other high tech equipment that is available.
    I now use a BB – my eyes have been opened !

  10. bait boats - Page 13 - Northern Monkeys says:

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  11. Bait Boats says:

    I can live with bait boats, but I draw the line at the boats that hold fish finders. SURELY that’s cheating?! Times change, technology improves, this stuff is going to keep on coming. As long as they don’t invent a machine that ENSURES you catch fish every time, I think we’re OK. But fish finders – half the fun is luring a fish to your swim isn’t it?

  12. Chuck Ives says:

    Bait-Boats is an imotive subject, but in reality it just another method of presenting bait as long as the person holding the radio controller has half a brain. I have a bait boat that I use sometimes when the water I am fishing lends itself to that approach and perhaps gives me more of a chance to outwit a carp. One thing for sure using a bait boat will not guarantee that you catch a carp however in some circumstances it will allow you to increase the odds of success.

    Bait boats have and continue to receive bad press mainly from those for whatever reason choose not to use one, it makes me smile to read the “purist” stance taken by some non bait boaters, who have no problems putting up to 10 kilos of bait out often using beach casters and spods that look like maypoles directly opposite another angler fishing the other side of the lake and proceed to bombard the area he/she has been fishing on a subtle pva bag approach, yet that very same angler will be heard moaning loudly to his mate (often 50 yards away) that the guy in the corner of the lake is using a bait boat and should be banned. Or the “well known” angler writing in the carp mags, using a rowing boat to dump sacks of feed into a lake advocating that bait boats are unethical!

    My thoughts bait boats used correctly is just another method, I would agree even as a bait boat owner (and occasional user) that they do somehow take some of the skill out of fishing when say compared to a good cast under a overhanging tree etc but its up to the angler how he/she chooses to fish, as long as they stay within the rules of the water they are fishing, have consideration for other anglers fishing the same water (please note spodders!) and more importantly it helps them to enjoy their fishing!.

    This season to give a balance to the bait boat argument, I have used a bait boat at one Angling Lines venue which I honestly believe if I didn’t I would not have caught or at the very least would have struggled for the week, yet I have also had my most pleasureable season to date in over 30 years fishing for carp as I have had real success fishing for carp with a centrepin and a float!. I’m no purist as I will use what is to me the most appropiate method of catching but aligned to that I will look to use a method that gives me pleasure and I have no complaints if I am using a pin & float approach that has given me so much pleasure this season, if the guy opposite me on the lake I am fishing has more success than me using a bait boat (as long as its used with common sense).

    Fishing is fun, its about being in the country side, enjoying the surroundings and company, hopefully catching one or two carp. If you want to use a bait boat and its within the rules why not, who are we to give moral judgement on someone else’s enjoyment.

    Chuck “the pin” Ives

  13. David says:

    Here’s a comment we’ve just received by Email;

    I used to hate bait boats until I became plagued with arthiritus… now I can see the benefit and can still enjoy the sport which I have been doing for 28 yrs. They are like guns – lethal in the hands of idiots, thus the bans and now I have to travel to Norfolk (150 miles) so I can use mine. So don’t slag them off… you might be crippled one day.

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