There are plenty of off the shelf pop ups available on the market, and a visit to any tackle shop will certainly present the angler with a wide array of colours, flavours and sizes to choose from. There are occasions however, where something a little bit different is required.

Why make cork ball pop ups?

I stumbled upon the idea of making my own pop ups after the boilie range I was using didn’t offer pop ups in my desired flavour. I could have used a bottom bait instead, but I had complete confidence in my pop up rig and I was fishing over deep silt, so in my mind, fishing a pop up was the only way to go. The bait company did sell the paste that the bottom baits were made from as an option.

Initially, I started using this paste wrapped around a cork ball, which immediately provided results. The baits were fine out in the water for about an hour or so, however with the quantity of silver fish knocking the hookbait, I was often reeling in just a bare cork ball!

Homemade boilie paste

Boiling the paste onto the cork ball toughened it and meant that it could withstand the attention of nuisance fish. After doing a bit more research, I realised that I had stumbled across an established method that I had been entirely unaware of. With various bait companies offering pastes, pop up mixes and even ‘hookbait kits’ where everything is provided for you to make your own.

I have also been forced to make my own cork ball pop ups when the bait company ones were simply not buoyant enough! There aren’t many 12mm air ball pop ups that will suspend a size 4 or 5 hook at all, let alone overnight. I have often found that even some 15mm pop ups become ‘wafters’ when they receive a little bit of bait soak or glug. All of these issues are largely removed when using the buoyant nature of cork.

Making your own hookbaits also enables you to tweak flavour levels, add extra attractors and even colour. Unlike manufactured airball pop ups, homemade baits can be made from the same basemix as the feed baits, mimicking them far better.

How to make cork ball pop ups

Step One

Plenty of bait companies now sell either hookbait kits, pastes or base mix ingredients. There are a multitude of bespoke and custom recipes available online too.

In this instance, I am using the hook bait kit from Nashbait. The only extra ingredients I needed were eggs and corkballs.

Step Two

Start by beating an egg in a bowl. Then put your cork balls into the bowl and stir. Allow them to sit in the liquid for at least 10 minutes.

This allows the egg to seep into cracks or holes in the cork, removing any air pockets. This will help the paste bind to the cork ball later.

Step Three

Once you have removed the cork balls, now is the time to add any additional flavour enhancers, attractors or colour powders, then mix thoroughly.

Step Four

Add the basemix to the liquid whilst mixing with a fork.

Step Five

Keep adding the basemix until no more can be added. Now it’s now time to get your hands dirty! Knead the mix into a paste. Eventually it should leave no residue on your hands.

Greasing your hands is a great tip that helps with this process.

Step Six

Take one of the cork balls and mould a small piece of paste around it. This will likely be trial and error to begin with. I leave a 2-3mm skin around the cork ball and then roll between my palms.

Remember, adding too much paste will lower the buoyancy of your pop up.

Step Seven

Make up your remaining hookbaits. Any leftover paste can be bagged and frozen for the later date.

Step Eight

Now it’s time to boil the hookbaits. I like to boil them in a sieve, it makes the process much easier as you can remove them all in one go, rather than fishing around for them with a spoon! This also means they are as close to identical as possible, all having the same boil time.

I boil my pop ups for between 30-40 seconds depending on size. As a guide, I boil 12mm pop ups for 30 seconds and those that are 15mm or larger for 40 seconds.

Step Nine

Leave the pop ups to air dry for at least 3 days. Turn regularly to aid the drying out process.

As the baits dry they will shrink slightly.

Finished!

Once dried you can use them straight away, or if you want to use them to be even more effective, add a light film of bait soak or flavour enhancer before potting.