The best meat fishing bait is luncheon meat, without a doubt.
This old faithful still catches lots of fish at all kinds of coarse fishing venues and is versatile enough that it can be used in a variety of ways.
But it's not without its problems and if you've never fished with it before, you might find yourself struggling to make it work for you.
That's where we come in. In this article, we'll go through everything you need to know about the best meat fishing bait, aka, luncheon meat.
From what shapes you should cut or mould it into, to how to get it to stay on your hook, and more. Read on for everything you need to know and get catching.
- How to choose fishing bait: what you need to catch more fish
- How to choose groundbait
- How to hook meat baits
Best meat fishing bait: what shape should it be?
When using luncheon meat don’t be afraid to experiment with different shapes.
It might be easier to cut soft meat into cubes but on hard fished venues the occupants soon wise up!
Try ragged shapes on the hook, which will often fool ultra wary barbel, chub, tench and carp.
It’s also worth mashing or mulching luncheon meat into small pieces to keep fish grazing over your feed for longer periods.
If you want a really hectic session, try feeding smaller pieces of meat in combination with feed pellets.
Laying down a big bed of this mix through a feeder, via a pole cup, with a catapult, or baitdropper will hold fish in your swim for ages.
A slightly bigger hook bait stands out when targeting specimen sized fish, while smaller hook offerings bring more bites and greater species variation.
There are occasions when square-shaped luncheon meat is more practical.
If you cut your free offerings into uniform cubes they can be fed in a tighter grouping with a catapult.
This tactic works best on heavily stocked and coloured commercial fisheries.
But be careful here, feeding too many large cubes will soon fill the fish up. It’s better to feed small amounts of big baits regularly.
Best meat fishing bait: how do you keep it on the hook?
One problem with soft luncheon meat is it doesn’t stay on the hook (or hair rigs) well on the cast.
Small fish soon knock it off anyway if you do manage to get your bait where you want it.
The solution is to use meat stops. These winged stops can be pushed under the bend of the hook when directly mounting meat, or used like a conventional bait stop when hair rigging.
Meat punches, like you see above, are really handy tools. They allow you to cut out lots of regular sized baits very quickly.
You can buy square or round punch sets and most tie in with popular pellet sizes.
This allows you to feed a similar mixture of meat and pellets, or to use a soft meat hook offering over identically shaped pellet feed.
Softer pellets of meat tend to pull more bites over pellet feed.
Best meat fishing bait: should you fry it?
A good way of toughening up soft meat so it stays on the hook for longer periods is to fry it.
This forms a hard skin, which helps to stop small fish from whittling away at your hook baits. It’s a good idea to introduce some extra flavour when cooking.
Adding some food dye to improve visibility – or darken down your baits – are other options. Frying seals in flavours and dyes much better.
You’ll find plenty of other meaty offerings in tackle shops, including preformed tinned baits, meat flavoured boilies and ready to use pastes.
Ready-flavoured luncheon meat tins have proved very popular for years and typical flavours include Scopex, Strawberry or spicy variations.
Species like carp, barbel, chub, crucians, bream and tench love flavoured meat, particularly in coloured water.
Flavoured luncheon meat specifically produced for angling also tends to be a bit tougher, so it stays on the hook better.
Best meat fishing bait: how should you flavour it?
All types of meat absorb flavours well and one of the most popular enhancers are spicy ones.
Turmeric and various curry powder recipes work wonders with barbel, chub, tench and carp.
Try dusting meat after you’ve cut or punched it into the right size for feeding or using on the hook.
Apart from flavouring the meat, this creates a fine enticing cloud of extra flavour as your bait sinks.
After flavouring meat seal it in a plastic bag or airtight container and leave it in the fridge overnight. This allows the flavour to fully absorb.
You can store flavoured meat for long periods by freezing it if you wish.
After thawing it’s a good idea to let the meat dry off by leaving it exposed to the air for a while.
This helps to form a slightly toughened skin, which makes hook offerings stay on longer.
Best meat fishing bait: why should you use baiting needles?
Tinned meat is very handy because you can store it for long periods and always have a spare can with you for emergencies.
However, tinned meats are normally quite soft and tend to break up when you try hooking them.
Baiting needles are useful here. They allow you to pull the bend of your hook through the bait and then turn it for better anchoring. Hair rigging is another option.
Best meat fishing bait: when should you use meat stops?
Meat baits can be anchored on a hair rig with various types of bait or boilie stops, but these tend to be on the small side and pull through soft baits quite easily.
There are bigger meat stops you can buy from tackle shops, although there are plenty of impromptu stops you can normally find out on the bank.
Short cut pieces of grass, reed and stalks make brilliant anchors and they don’t cost anything!
Best meat fishing bait: why should you freeline meat bait?
One of the best ways of presenting a big meat bait is to freeline it. It’s so simple – but effective!
This works well down the margins when stalking stillwater fish, but is even more popular when targeting big river chub and barbel.
In flowing water it pays to work the bait through the swim and the best way to gauge bites is by touch legering, as you can see above.
By holding the line just above the reel you can feel the slightest indications.
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Running from 1964 until 2020, Angler's Mail was the UK's leading weekly magazine devoted to coarse fishing, telling readers everything they needed to know about which fish to catch, where to catch them, and what kit they needed to do it. Now, loads of the magazine's expert advice can be found on Advnture.com, as a helpful resource for angling newcomers and experts alike.