Fishing With Spices: What Are The Best Spices To Attract & Catch Fish?

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  • Anglers, especially those targeting fish such as carp and catfish, have used spices as part of their baits since the late 1980s.
  • Are you curious about which spices are successful and want to understand how to use them in your bait?
  • Does it really make any difference or not? Surely fish don’t care for a little bit of spice, or do they?

Why Do Fish Like Spices?

A mixture of ground and seed spices
Spices in ground powder form are the best
options for fishing, not whole!

In all honesty, most fish love spices, some more than others. So, let’s understand the best ones to use and how to use them as an additive to your fishing bait. 

Surprised? Don’t be. Fish are actually attracted to taste, smell, and colour in the same way as humans.

Fish also have a very complex taste system, comprising an array of taste buds on their lips, the roof of their mouth, the gill arches, and the barbels.

These tiny bumps, especially in carp, are microscopic sensors, much like our own, sensitive to bitter, salt, sour, and sweet chemicals. For example, using salt as part of your fishing bait can increase your opportunities to catch more fish.

Anglers know that fish are known to have a strong sense of smell. Therefore, when they smell something, the fish will come to investigate.

All fish see the colours of the food falling through the water column or lying on the bottom of the lake or river.  

So, these three factors (taste, smell, and colour) are key to fishing; by choosing spices and adding them to your existing fishing bait, you maximise your chances of catching more fish and even larger ones! 

Tip: Scientists believe that the sense of smell of a carp is over 1000 times stronger than a dog’s!

How Are Spices Used In Fishing Baits?

Fish won’t eat whole seeds! 

Pods, sticks, and seeds should be ground into a powder, combined with your various traditional baits, and then mixed, creating an additive. The spice powder will mix easily with water or the moisture of the other baits and infuse the mixture with the aroma and taste of the particular spice.

Instead of a powder form, the other alternative is to make a concentrated liquid option.

The ground spices or concentrated liquids are added to a groundbait mix, spod mixes, a boilie recipe, and even directly onto your hookbaits. Alternatively, you can use the spice in PVA bags or stick mixes. 

What Kind Of Spices Can You Use For Fishing?

Now that you know why fish love spice, What kind of spices can you use with your fishing bait? Let’s assume that you have the ‘base’ bait already. This is either something you made yourself or a ready-made mix bought from the tackle shop.

Generally, the base bait is carb-based, like fishmeal, bread crumbs, cereal, bran, or cornmeal. Usually, it is something full of starch and wheat.  This bait will be quite boring for the fish, which is exactly why we are here – to spice things up a bit for you.

In this article, I will explain the best spices available to attract fish to use on your next fishing trip.

What Are The Most Common Spices Used In Fishing Bait?

Fishing With Chilli 

Chilli is probably the most widely used spice and a proven fish attractor. I have used chilli for many years and caught a wide range of fish species, including tench, perch, roach, bream, chub, barbel, and carp.

Fishing with Chilli powder is a very effective addition to any particles. For the best results, add the powder to around 50ml of warm water, stir it well and then pour the mix into your sweetcorn, hemp, and other pulses. If you prepare the mix the night before you go fishing, the long soak will help infuse the particles, making them more flavoursome.

Chilli can be used in any form of fishing bait. In groundbaits, boilie mixes, stick mixes, particle mixes, or spod mixes. 

My favourite and most productive use for chilli is adding it to luncheon meat—catfish, barbel, and carp can’t resist that spicy meat taste. Chilli is a great fish attractor that works equally well in winter and summer.

Fishing With Garlic 

Garlic cloves for fishing
Garlic can be a great additive to any fishing bait. Powder, minced or puree are the best options to use

Like chilli, garlic has been a favourite for many anglers to add to their baits. Garlic is a productive bait, especially for carp, trout, and catfish. Also, other predator fish, such as bass, are biased towards its pungent flavour and scent.

Unlike chilli, which is used in powder form, garlic has a few more options. It can be used like the chilli in a powder form, but additionally, it can also be mashed and liquidized into a fine paste. Lastly, as an oil, it can be added and rubbed into lures to attract fish. 

For those who want a “smoky flavour”, cut the head from the bulb, then wrap them in foil with some oil, and place them in a pan over direct heat for 30 minutes. Once it’s soft, liquidize the bulbs.

In my experience, the finer chopped version and the juice give the best results. Again, adding it to any bread-based groundbait or a particle mix works extremely well.

Garlic is relatively inexpensive, and one or two bulbs are sufficient to make enough for a session. To learn more, check out my in-depth article about fishing with garlic!

Fishing With Turmeric

Turmeric is one of the most trusted spices used by fishermen. As a teenager, I added turmeric to my white maggots almost every time I went fishing. It gives another dimension to using annatto colouring or any other dyes. 

Usually, dye is added when the maggots are growing to change their colour; turmeric, being orange/yellow, will change the colour, but it will wash off eventually. The taste and smell, though, stay with the maggots and, in my experience, always produce much better catches than non-flavoured maggots.

You can add turmeric into a boilie recipe, stick mixes, and PVA bags or directly to your groundbaits. Turmeric also works well on meat baits. In addition, you can use turmeric to colour your baits orange naturally. 

If you do paste fishing, add powdered turmeric to the sticky mix, providing a flavoured attractant.

Fishing With Ginger

Ginger root and ginger powder
Ginger root and ginger powder are both
effective for use in fishing baits

Carp seem to love ginger. Ginger has become very popular for adding to baits due to its versatility and deep, intense flavour, which lasts longer than most other spices. The scent is quite strong and natural, with an earthy flavour. 

Ginger works best when you grind it into a powder and mix it with other ground bait. It has a very distinct aroma that makes it very potent and a great far-range fish attractor. 

The other alternative is to use it like garlic, crush it, and liquidize it. Whilst a little fibrous, it will not completely break up; the remaining ginger will have some texture.

Ginger is also well known as a concentrate used in many baits, including groundbait additives, as part of a boilies recipe, as a glug, and as part of a spod mix. Used correctly (without adding too much), it can be a game changer if you want to use a bait flavour that is natural and unique from most others. It’s extremely adaptable for multiple fishing uses.

Ginger is a standout choice for fishing baits!

Tip: Once you have identified what spice works the best for you, order it in larger bags and save money over the small jars sold in supermarkets.

Fishing With Anise or Star Anise?

Anis, or Anise, is a herb, not a spice, and comes from the Pimpinella anisum plant. It should not be confused with the spice star anise, the star-shaped dried fruit of the Illicium verum tree. Anise is only used as an oil or an extract for fishing purposes. Of the two, star anise provides stronger flavouring, making it more common for use in extracts.

Personally, I only use the concentrated extract in a liquid form. The manufacturers do not specify if anise or star anise is the origin of this extract!

However, the oil is a well-known additive to many carp anglers and is available from many bait companies. The distinctive liquorice taste that comes from the anise is the attractant that fish love.

Whether you are carp fishing or are hoping to catch any other coarse fish, it is a proven success for many anglers. Trout and salmon anglers also use anise oil to great effect. Check out my article on fishing with anise oil for more in-depth tips and recommendations.

Fishing With Paprika

In its simplest form, Paprika is made from ground sweet pepper pods to create the iconic bright red powder. But depending on the variety of paprika, the colour can range from a bright orange-red to a deep blood red, and the flavour can be anything from sweet, mild, bitter and hot.

Paprika comes in three flavours:

Hot (Hot paprika is the Hungarian variety of paprika); this version adds a peppery, spicy kick to any bait.

Sweet (Typically just labelled as paprika): This spice adds vibrant colour to any bait. It has a sweet pepper flavour without the heat)

Smoked (Smoked paprika is made from peppers that are smoked and dried over oak fires)

In my personal experience, the sweet version is the one I opt for, as it’s easier to handle and more affordable. 

Tip: Always remember to wash your hands after using chillies!

Fishing With Fenugreek

Fenugreek is another top spice used in producing fishing baits, with a distinctive curry-type smell. Just like chilli powder, fenugreek has habit-forming alkaloids, so fish will continue to return to feed on these additives.

Many bait-manufacturing companies, such as Rod Hutchinson and CC Moore, have used fenugreek seeds in many of their best-selling baits.

Even though they are not very powerful aromatically, they have an odour similar to carp diets. They have a lot of protein, dietary fibre, vitamins, and many essential nutrients that fish crave. Moreover, carp love the crunching sensation of these very small seeds!

Fishing With Curry Powder

curry powder is a blend of ground spices
Curry powder is a blend of various spices.

Curry powder is usually a mixture of turmeric, chilli powder, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground ginger, and pepper. It can be bought in mild, medium, or hot strengths. Therefore, curry powder is a combination of many spices.

My concern with curry powder is knowing the ratio of what’s in the bag! It can vary, but once you gain enough experience and success fishing with spices, you can concoct your own mix. That knowledge requires trial and error, with much effort on the angler’s part for the species and locations you fish! 

Tip: When buying spices, there is no need to buy the most expensive brand. They are much the same and will not alter the effectiveness of the catch rate.

I suggest staying with one spice again at first, then experimenting with blends. Make your own curry powder mix, and then you can alter the amounts of each individual spice to what works on the bank!

What Are The Less Common Spices Used In Fishing Bait?

Fishing With Mace & Nutmeg

Nutmeg and mace come from the same plant and have a long history of being used in food. Most of us don’t know that almost 70% of the chemical composition of ground nutmeg is camphene, which is used in fragrances and flavouring various foods.

Therefore, naturally, it is primarily used as an aromatic bait. Mace and nutmeg have been used in various carp baits. However, they are more expensive and less popular than most others. 

Fishing With Cinnamon

There are two types of cinnamon – Ceylon and Cassia. Cassia cinnamon is considered lower quality and cheaper, and the type most commonly found in supermarkets is the cassia variety. Luckily, almost all anglers agree that the cassia variety, with its very strong spicy flavour, is the best.

Cinnamon-flavoured fishing concentrates make a brilliant addition for making fishing bait such as boilies, pop-ups, groundbait additives, or as part of a spod mix.

If you want something unique and strong with a distinctive flavour, then cinnamon is an excellent choice to experiment with.

Anglers use cinnamon both as a powder and in the form of essential oil in their baits. The oil is 95% cinnamaldehyde, a flavouring in chewing gum, ice cream, and candy. It is also used in some natural, sweet, or fruity perfumes. With all these aromas and flavours, it’s a proven winner for carp fishing. 

Fishing With Cardamom

Cardamom is one of those intensely aromatic spices with a citrusy, smoky flavour. It has an enticing aroma and is a great feeding stimulant; fish can’t seem to get enough of it.

This is because it is a great flavour and taste enhancer. Moreover, it contains vitamins A and C, protein, and minerals such as phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, etc. It is a great attraction for any fish species but should be used sparingly.

A teaspoon of the mix is sufficient to add 1kg of groundbait.

Fishing With Black Peppercorns

This is a medicinal spice that carp love with its inherent spicy back note, and it makes a really good additive to boilies and pastes. It can be blended with rock salt 80:20 ratio and added to your particles for a different twist.

Black pepper has been used for a long time in manufacturing fishing baits, with piperine being the main active ingredient. Black pepper oil has a spicy hint and is a taste enhancer and digestive aid.

Only a small amount should be added; don’t overdo it using black pepper!

Fishing With Cumin 

Cumin has a smooth, spicy taste and is a particularly good additive in boilies, especially for spicing fish-based mixes. When used with an oil such as coriander, it gives off a very balanced aroma to any bait.

One caution when adding cumin is to use it sparingly as it can be overpowering; one teaspoon to 1kg of groundbait is sufficient. It is also a bait that can be combined effectively with salt!

How To Mix Spices With Groundbait?

No more than one (1) heaped tablespoon of powdered spice should be added to a 1kg bag of groundbait. 

For the ginger and garlic, you can be more liberal; I use one (1) garlic bulb or a thumb-size piece of ginger for 1kg of groundbait.

Tip: Use one spice at a time; don’t use two or three in combination. You want to know what works better at certain times and for certain species. Keep it simple – mentally note what worked well.

How To Store Spices?

Use spice Jars to keep the contents fresh and dry
Always keep your spices dry and fresh
by using jars with sealed lids

All spices keep very well and are easy to store. Just keep them in an airtight sealed glass jar at normal room temperature.

Keep them in a cool, darker place like a cupboard to extend their shelf life. Make sure the lid is sealed tight to avoid moisture. Label the jars so you know what spice is in which container!

If kept correctly, spice powder or whole seeds will last at least 2 to 3 years.

Buying Spices For Fishing Use

Adding most spices for fishing purposes is an affordable option. Always buy packs in bags (not jars) for the best value for money. If possible, look for an Asian grocery or a supermarket where they sell spice powders in loose form.

Final Thoughts

We all have been on fishing trips with our friends, and at times, it seems as if all the fish have decided they are not interested in any baits offered to them. These are the times to get creative and try something different. 

Try all the spices above and create a great additive or mix to groundbaits, spod mixes, PVA bags, and stick mixes. 

Unusual baits, such as fishing with belachan, are becoming more popular. Belachan can be used in various forms, such as a paste on the hook, as an addition to your groundbait, and as part of your boilie ingredients.

Steve Fitzjohn