I have had a lot of success in recent years using my own hook baits and in particular my own pop ups made with cork balls. I have no problem with ‘off the shelf pop ups’ for the majority of my fishing but making my own gives me several distinct advantages. Firstly, no matter how long I leave them out there I know they will remain as buoyant as when they first went in; this is particularly important when using rigs that require high levels of buoyancy such as with a chod rig or rigs specifically designed for pop ups. If I needed to I could happily leave my hook baits out for days knowing they will not sink or become heavy. Secondly, they allow me to tweak flavour levels, add different attractants or even change the colour of my hookbaits to make them stand out. I’ve never understood the obsession with making hook baits exactly match every loose fed boilie – I want mine to stand out so they get picked up quickly. Thirdly, in my opinion a cork ball pop up, by virtue of being so buoyant, behaves differently; by carefully adding the right amount of shot or putty to my rigs I can get them to behave exactly like the other baits out there and the rigs I’m using become very difficult for the carp to detect.
I have been asked many times how to go about making cork ball pop ups and fortunately the Quest range of readymade pastes make doing this remarkably easy. Simply take your chosen paste out of the tub – my preference is for Rahja Spice – and add some ‘liquid’ to this to make it damp. I prefer to add a bit of egg white and some bait glug or boilie dip at this stage. If you want to alter the colour then simply add bait or food dye at this moulding stage. Describing the right consistency of paste is difficult in words; I’ve messed about making various paste baits for over thirty years so I know what I’m after. But this initial phase needs to be very moist because the next key ingredient is egg white powder, also known as egg albumen. Most bait companies can supply this but I get most of what I need from Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s: it’s sold as Dr Oetker’s egg white powder as a baking ingredient and comes in convenient boxes of six individual sachets.
Anyway, back to the paste. The egg white powder needs to be thoroughly moulded into the damp paste until the consistency is just firm and dry to the touch. If it’s still sticking to the palms of your hands then it’s too damp and needs more egg white powder. Clean and dry your hands, add more egg white powder and carry on kneading until the perfect consistency is achieved. Leave this to stand for an hour or two in the fridge, just to let all the ingredients bind properly. If I were starting from a dry boilie base mix I’d add the base mix and egg white powder to any liquids I’m using and then use egg whites only. Adding egg yolks at any stage makes the final pop ups take on water and go soft too quickly.
Once you have the paste ready then it’s simply a matter of getting the cork balls rolled by hand. As a general guide I’m generally aiming for 15mm hook baits or slightly bigger, to be honest it doesn’t really matter. I will have a 15mm shelf life boilie as a guide while I’m rolling so I know roughly how big to make them. For a snowman pop up I prefer a 10mm cork ball centre. For a single buoyant pop up I’ll use 12mm cork balls and mould the paste round this. You can buy the cork balls in tackle shops but shop around on line – Ebay for example – and you will get them much cheaper. Now take the required amount of paste and mould it around the cork ball with your finger tips. Then move it to the centre of your palms and roll it to a round shape – use both palms in a circular motion. If it’s too big or too small at this stage then just take some paste off or add some more and roll again.
Now boil the pop ups just as you would if you were making your own boilies. About 90 seconds should do. At this stage they may swell up and seem bigger than you wanted. Don’t worry. I then leave them to dry out on a rack in a warm dry place for at least a week. I want them marble dry, totally rock hard. As they dry out they will shrink. The final stage is to put them in a bait pot and add a little boilie dip or Quest Baits glug so that the baits are just coated. I prefer the glug as I’m going to repeat this process three times. After a few days the shiny glugged pop ups will gradually soak up the glug and become dry again. When this happens I add a tiny bit more glug to the pot and repeat the whole process. The finished pop ups will last indefinitely. To use them on a rig either pierce them as usual onto a hair with a stop or tie them on with bait floss.
This might sound like a lot of effort when written down but actually the whole process is very simple. If you have ever wondered how to make your own cork ball pop ups then this is a method that has worked for me. Believe me this could make a huge difference to your results.