BAY CITY, Mich. -- American carp are patsies compared to their European cousins, which have been targeted by anglers for centuries. That's why we can still catch the smartest fish in fresh water easily with corn and bread balls.
But our carp are getting smarter and harder to fool where they've been fished hard by the growing coterie of carp specialists, and big carp are also far less likely to accept one of those simple offerings than are smaller fish.
Spreading ground-baits, or chum, to bring carp into an area will help increase the number and size of the carp you catch. That's why you see European carp anglers shooting chum out with slingshots.
Even more effective are method feeders, which are tied into the line just above the baited hook and slowly disperse scents and food particles into the water.
I've had a lot of success with a mealie bomb, a method bait taught to me by some South African carp specialists.
Mealie is the South African term for cornmeal, and my basic mealie bomb consists of two cups of cornmeal, two cups of strawberry cake mix and a half-cup of canned corn kernels.
Carry a small bowl or bucket to make the mealie bomb at the fishing site by mixing the cornmeal and cake mix while adding water slowly. You want a pliable dough that's thick enough to stay on the line when you cast. Once the dough is the proper consistency, stir in the corn kernels.
The next trick is to attach the dough to the line about 18 inches above the hook. Specialty tackle shops sell "method feeders," small plastic or metal cages that can be tied in-line, or you can use a 2-inch egg sinker with a hole through the middle. A quality ball-bearing swivel between the feeder and the leader keeps it from sliding down to the hook.
Pack the dough around the feeder or sinker to form an oval ball about 3 inches in diameter--the mealie bomb. Put two or three corn kernels on the hook, and cast the whole lot into the lake or river.
The mealie bomb will slowly dissolve and fill the water around the hook-bait with food and flavor, and carp that come to investigate will eventually pick up your hook-bait.
You can have fun substituting other dainties and flavorings for the corn, such as chopped-up worms, cherries, shrimp, sardines, cocoa powder and anise oil. The possibilities are endless.