Freezer vs Shelf Life… The truth
For many years, anglers have debated and spoken about the difference between shelf life and freezer baits; are freezer baits better? Are shelf life baits too hard? Pressured fish only eat freezer baits… The list goes on. Well, this short piece is here to shed a little light on the subject, clear up a few of the old questions and ‘myths’ surrounding the freezer and shelf debate.
First things first, what is the difference between shelf life and freezer bait? Well if truth be told, there isn’t actually a great deal of difference. Live System shelf life bait is near on identical to Live System freezer bait, with the slight variation that a shelf life bait when produced has slightly less egg content, as a small amount is replaced with a food grade preservative.
So, what does that actually mean to the angler…
Because the shelf life bait has a small amount of preservative, it counteracts the active ingredients within the bait, not allowing it to turn (go off). Due to the active ingredients in the bait reacting, the freezer bait, if left out will eventually turn and go off. This same process simply doesn’t happen in a shelf life bait, meaning that it is suitable for leaving out for a number of months.
So, the question is, what bait is best for me?
In all honesty, both shelf life and freezer baits are equally as effective in their own right. It all depends on a number of factors, as both baits have their advantages to suit the modern day angler.
Some anglers like their bait to ‘go- off’ so to speak; this simply means that the active ingredients are reacting and working within the bait. This can be achieved by leaving the freezer bait out a couple of days before going fishing. These active baits leak off attractors quickly, but, for longer sessions or travelling abroad, they have a tendency to ‘turn’ too far and become less effective. In this instance, air-drying the baits so that the moisture is removed will keep them in a fresher condition for longer.
Shelf life baits are still extremely attractive, but rely more on water to activate the baits by becoming porous and then leaking food signals into the water through a process of osmosis. These baits are fantastic for longer trips, storing in the motor and boosting with liquids.
Freezer baits can be preserved while out on the bank, this simply requires the use of a air dry bag, allowing air to circulate the baits are remove excess moisture. These baits will eventually go harder, but by simply re- hydrating them in liquids, they will go soft once again and be ready for use.
If you are an angler with limited freezer space or just happy to keep a few bags in the motor for when you do get the chance to get the rods out, shelf life bait is certainly the way forward, allowing you flexibility and convenience.
Shelf life top tips…
Kev Hewitt uses 10mm Shelf Life Live System baits, which he soaks in hemp juice to unsure that they go very soft, meaning they are highly digestible and super soluble. Kev’s killer day ticket mix is based heavily around small ‘particle’ baits, where he believes the 10mm Live System baits add the meat to his highly effective spod mix.
Adding warm water to your boilies has the ability to kick- start the activation process, allowing the baits to swell and become porous. This technique, known as the heat treatment, then allows the boilies to more effectively absorb liquids that are then quickly dispersed into the water column when introduced.
Freezer top tips…
Bait re- hydration is key to ensuring that your freezer bait is packed full of attraction after air- drying. Air drying is effective for a number of reasons, but one is that it makes the bait go much firmer, allowing you to introduce at range via a throwing stick. To re- hydrate the baits, simply remove the dried baits from the air- dry bag and place in a bucket of lake water mixed with your chosen liquids. Ensure the baits are fully covered before leaving overnight to absorb the liquid goodness.
Bait Fermentation- Alex Grice
I have personally always been an advocate of using freezer baits, not because they are any fresher, but because there is no preservative whatsoever, the active ingredients within the bait begin to react when taken from the freezer. I personally like to add Betaine powder directly to my Odyssey XXX boilies the moment they are removed from the freezer; this works as a catalyst to help the natural fermentation of the bait speed up. I then leave these baits out of the freezer for a minimum of 24 hours, in a sealed bag, where the fermentation process can begin. Odyssey XXX has a high level of active CSL, alongside Betaine, that when stored at moderate temperatures, begin to react and ferment.
What does this fermentation do to the bait? Well, in fact, it means that the bait is active and therefore once introduced into the lake, the ingredients are working straight from the off. It could be said that the bait has been charged up and as a result, become more ‘instantly attractive’ if that was ever possible.
One such time this has been noticeable was on a trip down to Farlows, I was due to be working close by and after finishing mid- afternoon, I decided to head over to the lake. I had already turbo charged my XXX baits two days before, so they were primed and fermenting nicely. It was about 5pm and nearing darkness by the time I had set- up and because of the nature of the swim, I only decided to fish the one-rod for that quick overnight. After locating a firm spot, I introduced a good number of spombs of the charged XXX baits to the spot. One of my matching corkball pop- ups was mounted and I was fishing.
It didn’t take long to get my first bite and it turned out to be an incredible 39lb mirror, which had already made the quick night worthwhile. I went on to catch a few more that night, using the single rod placed among the hole in the weed. I genuinely believe that the active bait I use spurred those fish to feed harder for the time I was on the bank during that quick overnight.