Durability is the key as is their ability to avoid problems from so-called nuisance species. A classic example would be when there are millions of small silver fish about when bigger creatures are your target.
On a river full of minnows, for instance, live maggots are attacked constantly, whereas rubber maggots are left alone. There are also more and more venues, like the Great Ouse and the Basingstoke Canal, that have real problems with crayfish. Leger a worm bait on a venue like this and it will last mere seconds while fake baits will be left well alone.
Artificial baits are also a real boon for the long-stay angler targeting big fish. You can be sure that even if your bait is attacked by unwanted small fish, it will remain completely intact until your target big fish comes along.
Enterprise Imitation Bread
Soft, buoyant and spongy and takes on flavours well. Comes already cut into four chunks to ensure you don’t use too big a piece.
tcf: Mainly a surface bait but small pieces popped up just off bottom can be deadly in clear water.
Enterprise Sinking Pellets
Soft sinking pellets infused with a seafood flavour. You get five 6mm and five 10mm pellets in a pack.
tcf: These look the most realistic of the ones we tested.
CFS Floating Pellets
Hard plastic fake floating pellets which can be fished on surface or popped-up. You get three 4mm and three 6mm pellets in a pack.
tcf says: Harder than, and not as realistic as, the Enterprise ones, but smaller and the range goes down to 4mm.
Enterprise Artificial Hemp
Not that realistic looks-wise, but can be sidehooked and offers the interesting option of popping-up a grain of hemp with light hook patterns.
tcf: Sinks under the weight of a size 17 B711 or a size 18 G-Point Carp Barbless. Floats with a size 18 B911 or lighter.
Enterprise Imitation Luncheon Meat
Very buoyant, soft and spongy with a sweet smell, and takes on flavours quite well. Best hair rigged.
tcf says: Can be popped-up or combined with real meat to produce a critically balanced bottom bait.
Powerbait Power Bloodworm
Very realistic with a rubbery texture and available in strips. Almost neutral buoyancy – it sinks under the weight of a fine wire size 24 hook.
tcf: Would be brilliant for catching small silver fish fast and shallow as it negates the need to rebait.
Powerbait Power Maggots
Comes in strips and coated with what Powerbait call their ‘proven most powerful scent and flavour formula’. Available in white, red, yellow, bronze, pink, brown and smoke colours.
tcf says: Soft and sinks at the same rate as real maggots. Smaller than the Enterprise rubber grubs.
Enterprise Rubber Casters
These are being used by many tench and bream specialists, typically glued onto a hair and fished over bed of real casters. Twenty in a packet.
tcf says: Buoyant but will sink under the weight of a size 17 B711 hook. We also found them quite hard.
Powerbait Power Corn
Rubbery, sinking corn with an oily coating and a slightly spicy aroma. Available in yellow and red strawberry. Comes on strips with 60 grains in a tub.
tcf says: Fast-sinking but does waft up easily off the bottom.
Enterprise Rubber Grubs
Bigger than real maggots and much softer than the Enterprise Rubber Casters. Available as floaters or sinkers. Twenty in a packet.
tcf says: Floaters are very buoyant – it takes a size 12 Drennan Super Specialist to sink them. Can be sidehooked.
Bright yellow pop-up corn. Best used with real grains on a hair to create neutral buoyancy baits. Available in mini and large sizes as pop-up and sinking baits.
tcf says: Very buoyant – even a size 10 Carbon Specimen cannot sink the large grains. Size 15 Super Specialist will sink mini grains.
Large rubber fake corn which is ideal for popping up. Three dull yellow, three dull orange and three black grains in a packet.
tcf says: Like the Enterprise corn even a size 10 Carbon Specimen won’t sink these grains.
Enterprise Dog Biscuits
Counterbalanced by a shot so that the hook sits out of the water. Available in two sizes with the shot and hair-rigging instruction in the packaging.
tcf; Superb idea and the shot makes the mixer sit well down in the water so it looks natural.
Enterprise Sweetcorn Hair Stop
Grains of the buoyant mini corn with an integral groove so that it can be used as a large, visual hair stop. Available in yellow and neon. Twelve in a packet.
tcf says: New product and a great idea which can help you create a neutral buoyancy hook bait.
Carp Zoom Grub Ups
Very similar to the Enterprise grubs in shape and size, but less buoyant so allowing the use of smaller hooks. Available in three colours of either normal- or maggot-flavoured.
tcf says: A bit tougher and with a more obvious join than the Enterprise versions. Sinks under the weight of a size 16 Super Specialist.
Mainline Peach Ade
Not an artificial bait as such but an excellent flavour which rubber baits pick up well and isn’t too harsh. Also comes in Trigger, Maple, Pacific Tuna and Strawberry.
tcf says: You can leave artificial baits soaking in this stuff indefinitely. Recommended.