Lengthen the Life of Your Bait

by | Carp, Essentials |

Air-drying boilies… What’s it all about and why do anglers swear by the value it provides? There are a number of different reasons why air-drying your baits can be of benefit, let me begin with the most important of them all. To put it simply, air-dried boilies are just more effective.

A delicate but meaningful chemical reaction takes place within the boilie as moisture slowly travels from inside and exits via the surface. Once the boilies are rock hard is the change is complete, and the impact will become clear once introduced to the lake.

Air-drying also completely removes any risk of airborne contaminants ruining the bait. Moisture is the driver of bacterial growth and rot, this is true for both food items and boiled baits. If you’ve ever left a batch of boilies in a sealed plastic bag for any length of time, you’ll know what I’m talking about – it really does not take long for them to go mouldy. By allowing the boilies to completely dry out, you lose the driver behind this destructive process.

Air drying racks in action

Thirdly, if you find yourself battling nuisance fish tucking into your baits, a rock hard air-dried bait can withstand their attention far longer than soft baits can. I recall being in a situation with a friend during a trip to the continent.

He had brought with him baits from a respected and leading supplier, but as soon as I saw them I knew that whilst they were good, they weren’t going to catch. This was because the crayfish lurking in the water were going to rip them apart. He brushed my concerns aside (not necessarily a bad thing, as confidence in your approach is key!) and continued with his baiting strategy.

Unfortunately, day after day and night after night, his rods remained motionless and he seemed to be forever reeling in empty hairs. It wasn’t until he ‘borrowed’ some air-dried boilies from me did he start getting some bites.

Crayfish pose a problem when carp fishing in France

A natural disinfectant

Air-drying also acts to naturally preserve your baits; once all the moisture has been expelled, the boilies will last far longer than they would otherwise. Once they’re fully dried out, they can be stored indefinitely in air-dry sacks, on drying racks or simply in a cardboard box or two. This is how I used to transport my air-dried baits on long sessions to France and it always worked a treat.

Lastly, we have all seen ‘active’ baits out there on the market, right? Well air-drying can get these baits exuding their attractive properties from the get go. I love this feature of air-drying. In fact, I often roll my own bait using ‘active’ ingredients and when doing so I always air-dry them for about ten weeks. It’s around the ten week mark when the boilies start to show signs of that undesirable ‘mould’, in this case it isn’t mould at all and is in fact the active nature of the baits beginning to emerge.

Methods of air drying

As we’ve discussed, the purpose of air-drying is to totally remove all the moisture contained within each individual boilie. You may be surprised to hear that the quickest and most efficient way of doing this is actually by putting your baits through a tumble drier! The next question you’re probably thinking is can I get away with this whilst my wife/mum/significant other is out? Let me tell you right now that for most people, the answer to this is absolutely not (unless they’re away for a long, long time – enough for you to completely air out the house).

With that said, I do know some anglers who have very understanding partners who go fishing with them, who are more sympathetic to the idea. If however you’re other half doesn’t approve and you don’t want to shell out for a separate tumble drier, there are other ways of achieving the desired effect.

There are online bait services that roll bait for their customers, some of these are willing and able to air-dry your baits for you before sending them out. If the water you’re planning to fish is known for nuisance fish, this can be an easy way to combat them, simply ask your current online bait service to do this and you’re away!

Your partner is unlikely to let you anywhere near this with a load of fishing bait…

If you want to air-dry your own boilies at home, it’s worth picking up or making your own drying rack. You can pick them online, but in my opinion they are often a bit too small and when you’re air-drying you want to dry as much bait at once as possible. Chicken wire or light fencing material can easily be turned into a functional drying rack, you could even go all out and make something out of aluminium.

A solid alternative to drying racks are air-dry bags, but when using these it is easy to overfill them by mistake. You need to ensure that there is enough room for air to circulate properly throughout the bag; otherwise you risk contamination through mould or bacteria.

There is also quite the range in air-dry bags out there, all of which will work to a certain extent. From cheap and simple mesh bags with a drawstring top, to durable premium air-dry bags that look as though they will last longer than you.

A range of air dry boilie bags

Another way you can dry out your boilies at home is to simply put them in with some pellets. The pellets will draw moisture out of the baits, converting them into those rock solid boilies that we’re trying to get to. The downside to this method though is having to pick each individual boilie out of the pellets. You can use rice and sugar in place of pellets too as these will have the same effect.

Don’t forget that excessive moisture is the driver behind mould and bacteria. Baits made using coarse-grained base mixes that contain seeds or other large particles are a challenge to air-dry, as each grain/seed attracts and retains its own micro pocket of water. You can remove some of the larger particulate of the base mix with a sieve, although this will remove some of the base mix’s attraction, too.


Some anglers like to rehydrate air-dried baits using lake water that has been combined with liquid food. Alternatively, you can use water that has been used to boil hempseed in, to imbue your bait with highly attractive natural hemp oils. Whatever you do, do not use tap water, this will ruin all your good work and make the bait far less attractive to the carp.

Rehydrating air-dried boilies is not necessarily a good thing, but many anglers do like to do it because it makes it easier to get a baiting needle through them or to increase the size of the boilies – as air-dried baits lose some of their size. It is worth remembering though that air-dried baits will work as is and rehydrating them is by no means required. If you’re struggling to get a baiting needle through them just drill through them before putting them onto the hook.

Rehydration – not always needed