carp bait
"It's a salty-sweet concoction these fish can't resist, with a little alcoholic kick on the back end.". Ralph Smith

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Fishermen over in Europe and devoted U.S. pay-lake anglers have been blending their own special carp baits and chum in the kitchen for decades. A veteran pay-lake pro handed down this secret recipe to me, and it’s his go-to late-summer mix for everything from common carp to koi and buffalo carp. It’s a salty-sweet cherry concoction these fish can’t resist, with a little alcoholic kick on the back end.

4 oz. Cheerwine cherry soda
1 lb. oats
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 oz. E&J Brandy
3 Tbsp. flour

1. Stirred, Not Shaken
Stir all the ingredients together in a large bowl or small bucket. If you can’t find Cheerwine—a staple in the South—try Dr. Pepper. To give the oats time to soak in all the flavors, blend 1 to 4 hours before fishing. I store the mix in a zip-seal bag and toss it in a cooler to keep it out of the sun.

2. Corn Mash
When you get to your spot, throw a couple of small handfuls of the mix into the water where you’ll be casting, but don’t pitch it too far. Next, bait your hook with whole-kernel sweet corn, bread, dough, or a chickpea. Tightly pack the mix around the bait, forming a blob no bigger than a golf ball and no smaller than a grape. I mold a second ball around my slip sinker, too.

3. Kick Back
Cast gently so the bait mixture doesn’t fly off. Once the rig touches down, don’t move it. The oats will start to break down in the water, making a nice neat pile around your sinker and hook. This will help the carp zero in on your spread, where they will hopefully suck up your bait as the delicious aperitif loosens their inhibitions.