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The bait boat debate!

If there was ever a subject that has divided the carp angling world it would have to be bait boats.......

Now, if you don't know what a bait boat is, firstly where have you been hiding? A bait boat is a remote controlled boat that has 1 or 2 hoppers that carry a rig and bait and drop it pretty much wherever the operator drives their boat to. In essence, you don't cast out like you normally would and this is the biggest issue it seems, amongst those who are not exactly fans of bait boats.

Let me put this out there right from the start, I own a bait boat. I use my bait boat in France mainly but I have used it in the UK as well.

First, let's look at a few of the positives and negatives......


  1. Stealth - a bait boat is virtually silent and can deposit your rig and bait with little or no disturbance.
  2. Accuracy - a bait boat can deliver its cargo to the same spot every time, you can clip up as you would normally and you know that your free offerings are accurately placed around your rig.
  3. Sonar - Almost every bait boat can be fitted with a sonar to map out the swim, the contours, depths and general topography.


  1. Cost - The top end bait boats run into the thousands of pounds, with even basic models costing hundreds, not accessible to everyone.
  2. Tradition - It can be argued that they take away an element of tradition from angling, in respect to not having to cast your rig out.
  3. Abuse - Bait boats can be driven into snags or to others not reached by casting.

We have all heard of evolution? Progress? Moving forward? Embracing technology? Well, that is the argument of many bait boat users, they are simply embracing technology and moving forward with it, after all, many anglers now use Deeper Sonar devices, although they can't take your rig and bait out to the spot they are far from traditional?

The abuse of bait boats is something that bait boat users have to be responsible for themselves. There is simply no excuse for driving your bait boat to the back of a set of snags and fishing for takes in the vain hope you can extract the carp once hooked, this just isn't acceptable. The same applies to driving the boats round islands or other obstructions, just don't do it.

So are bait boats fair or not? I think they are very fair if used sensibly and respectfully. For me it's just a tool available in my armoury, sometimes I may choose to not take my rig out in the bait boat but just deliver some bait to the spot or use the sonar and map out the swim, it saves time and that is important to me.

The cost, this is perhaps the only negative on which opinions cannot be changed. They are expensive, there is no doubt. I just feel that the current trend among anglers is to look good regardless if you are catching or not, the latest rods, reels and alarms, the top of the range bivvies and beds, the list goes on. There are some anglers, moaning about the cost of bait boats yet they are sat behind £1200 worth of rods and £1000 worth of reels? Seems like double standards to me. How about you trade in your rods and reels for cheaper alternatives and then you will have more than enough to buy that bait boat. Of course, there are some that will class themselves as out and put purists, they will tell you that bait boats are cheating, everyone is entitled to an opinion after all. What I will say is this, fishing is an individual thing, we fish for the species we want, at venues we choose, using the gear we choose, by using a bait boat nobody is breaking the law, as long as the rules of the lake allow them and they are used sensibly, where is the harm? Of course, these are the same people that climb into the cars and vans that are using more technology than a bait boat could ever have. Is power steering cheating? No, it just makes your life easier thanks to the evolution of the motor car.







So for me, bait boats are here to stay, I love mine and use it all over Europe, not so much in the UK but I do use it, I think opinions are slowly changing and judging by the number of users I have seen in recent years with bait boats, that certainly appears to be true.

Just before I go, do you remember when Terry Hearn caught the Parrot from the Cranwells Wasing syndicate? Most of his fish from Cranwells were caught using a bait boat and not just this venue either, Terry is a big bait boat fan, surely if someone like Terry Hearn can see the benefits..............

The opinion of longtime European Carp angling legend Steve Briggs always has me nodding in agreement;

“I guess my hackles always rise when I see this subject brought up – more from the way I see other people react to boats more than anything else. First, let me say that neither is cheating unless one person is using them when no one else is allowed to. I’ve used rowing boats for nearly 30 years on venues such as Cassien and you would be severely disadvantaged without one.







“With bait boats, it took a lot more convincing though, and for many years I wouldn’t use one until I finally realised that my own results were suffering if I wasn’t using one when everyone else was. Certainly using a rowing boat requires a bit more skill and yes, there is more skill in casting but it doesn’t mean that all carp have to be caught that way.”

Until next time, tight lines!