tcf On Test

Head To Head
Expander Pellets

Expander pellets: they’re all the same aren’t they? The tcf team delves into the ever-expanding appearing on tackle shop shelves.

tcf Buyer’s Guide

What To Look For In An Expander Pellet

1 How much do they expand?
2 How easy are they to prepare/make sink?
3 What are the instructions on the packaging like?
4 Do they hold the hook well?
5 Do they go too soft after preparation?
6 Is there consistency of size?
7 What’s the colour and do they retain it?
8 How long until they absorb all the water?

The Test
This month’s test concentrates first on ease of preparation and secondly on ease of use on the bank, with 4mm pellets from the top names in bait. It’s important that expanders are easy to prepare and to test this tcf’s Steve and Gareth are sorting out one hundred pellets of each brand and Steve is pumping them in a 0.5-litre Mosella pellet pump. After pumping  the boys wil be taking note of how many pellets still float and turning this into a ‘sinkability’ rating. If 99 out of 100 sink, the pellet has a sinkability rating of 99. The pellets are then left to soak in the water for 15 minutes and a note is made of how long it takes them to completely expand and how much they expand by. The important thing then is how easy they are to fish with. If they are too soft and mushy after preparation they can split easily when hooking and fall off the hook when shipping out, so that’s what our on-the-bank test is all about. We’re fishing with each for half an hour at a water full of small carp.


RRP: £2.40
Sizes: 4mm; 6mm
Quantity: Supplied in 700g bags
Sinkability rating: 86

tcf Verdict: Although a few float after pumping they all sink with a quick squeeze or by pumping them again. They are ready very quickly – you can fish with them 15 minutes after pumping them although there are no directions on the packaging. The texture once prepared is slightly fibrous and rubbery making them excellent for staying on the hook. They seem identical to the Mosella and the Van den Eynde Expanders tested – all three expand more than the other pellets tested. Once prepared the 4mm expanders are perfect for a size 16 or 14 wide gape hook.


RRP: £2.49
Sizes: 4mm; 6mm
Quantity: Supplied in 600g bags
Contact: 01473 241811
Sinkability rating: 96

tcf Verdict: Expand quickly and to a larger size than all of the others except the Sensas and Mosella expanders, which seem to be identical. Good fishmeal smell and the few that did float after the first pump sank with a quick squeeze. The 4mm expanders tested are the ideal size for a wide gape size 16 or 14 hook. They go from dark brown before preparation to medium brown after. Fibrous texture means they hold on the hook well.

RRP: £1.59
Sizes: 3mm; 4.5mm; 6mm
Quantity: Supplied in 450g bags
Sinkability rating: 95

tcf Verdict: Easy to prepare with only five of the 100 pellets still floating after the first pumping and those all sank held together well and retained their shape after a quick squeeze. Low in fishmeal and oil and so these are ideal all-year-round expanders as they would work in cold water. Packet instructions are a bit confusing ‘use a pellet pump and then drain over a sieve for 30 minutes’ (?). We soaked them for 15 minutes after pumping and they were perfect. Size wise the 4.5mm expanders are perfect for a size 18 wide gape hook when prepared and light brown in colour.


Sizes: 3mm; 4.5mm; 6mm
Quantity: Supplied in 400g bags
Contact: 01473 241811
Sinkability rating: 77

tcf Verdict: Very dark green in the bag but much lighter when prepared and will retain that green colour – in fact they are green right the way through and not dyed on the outside only. Need a second pumping in our test but that’s not a huge issue. Very fishy smell almost like a squid and octopus flavour and the 4.5mm pellets we tested are about the right size for a size 16 wide gape hook when prepared. Fibrous, rubbery texture sees them hold onto the hook well.


RRP: £2.25
Sizes: 4.5mm; 6mm
Quantity: Supplied in 400g bags
Sinkability rating: 92

tcf Verdict: Although at the end of preparation these seemed identical to the Van den Eynde and Sensas expanders, they were the only ones that still seemed quite hard in the middle after a 15 minute soak and we felt they may have needed longer – the packaging suggest up to 30 minutes. However, after draining off the water and leaving them for another 90 minutes they were perfect. They go from dark brown to a medium brown colour and the 4mm we tested are the perfect size for a size 16 or 14 wide gape hook when prepared. Strong fishmeal smell and good fibrous nature that holds the pellet onto the hook well.


RRP: £2.35
Sizes: 4mm; 6mm; 8mm; 11mm; 16mm
Quantity: Supplied in resealable bags of differing quantities
Sinkability rating: 93

tcf Verdict: Good performer in the ‘sinkability’ stakes with only seven floating after the first pump and these all sank with a quick squeeze although they did lose their shape a bit although a second pumping is better. Strong in fishmeal and fibrous in nature meaning they hold onto the hook well. Smaller than some of the others once prepared – we’d say the 4mm pellets we tested are the perfect size for a size 18 wide gape hook. Much lighter brown colour than most of the others.

RRP: £2.25
Sizes: 4mm, 6mm, 11mm
Quantity: 500g
Contact: 01278 424614
Sinkability rating: 69

tcf Verdict: As you can see from the ‘sinkability’ rating these need a second pumping although if you squeeze them they sink and quickly come back into shape. They change colour less than any of the others and when prepared are a typical medium brown pellet colour and would be fine on a size 18 or 16 wide gape hook. Quite fibrous in nature and hold the hook well when shipping out. No instructions on packaging.


RRP: £2.45
Sizes: 4mm; 6mm; 11mm
Quantity: Supplied in 700g bags
Sinkability rating: 99

tcf Verdict: Excellent in terms of preparation – only one expander was floating after the first pump (the joint top performer) and that one sank with a light squeeze and held its shape. These don’t expand that much and the 4mm pellets we tested are the right size when prepared for a size 18 wide gape hook. They go a very light, almost yellowy brown colour and have a good, fibrous slightly rubbery nature, so they stay on the hook well when you ship out.


RRP: £2.99
Sizes: 4mm; 6mm; 11mm
Quantity: Supplied in 600g bags
Sinkability rating: 99

tcf Verdict: All but one of the pellets sank on the first pump (the joint top perfeormer) so that has to be a big plus in terms of preparation. A light, slightly golden brown colour before preparation and light, slightly yellowy brown once prepared. Some variance in terms of consistency of size but ready within ten minutes of soaking to a size that’s ideal for a size 16 wide gape hook. Good fibrous texture and stays on hook well. No instructions on the packaging.


The boys bagged up on small carp with the lighter coloured pellets proving slightly more effective on the day.

The main things with expanders are how idiot proof they are to prepare, and how well they stay on the hook.

How well they catch is also an issue but this is impossible to test in one session. In our test at Toft Farm Fishery at Dunchurch, a new water between Coventry and Rugby full of small carp, there was little to choose between them although the smaller, lighter coloured pellets had an edge, possibly because of the size of the fish.

We were pleasantly surprised that all of the pellets tested were of a good consistency when prepared, stayed on the hook well when shipping out and remained sinkers throughout the session.

Away from the bank each brand was pumped until all the air we could get out before having a cardiac was out of the pellet pump and then the air was released. The Van den Eynde, Vision, Mosella, GOT Baits, and Dynamite Baits XL expanders all had more than 90% sinking first time and we regarded them as good performers in this area. Of course with the others you can pump them again to make more sink (and they all do second time around) but this particular test was about ease of preparation first time.

Colour is also something to consider. If you are fishing up in the water with expanders a darker colour may be better as it has a stronger silhouette. If fishing on the bottom it’s more down to personal preference and trying to match the colour of your feed.

If you like a light coloured pellet, the, GOT Baits or the Dynamite XL pellets would be the choice. If you like to feed green pellets go for the Ringers Dark which are green all the way through.

The others were all a medium shade of brown and it has to be said that we found it hard to find any difference at all in the Van den Eynde, Mosella and Sensas pellets. All were ready very quickly and expanded quite a lot, the 4mm pellets being suited to a size 16 or 14 wide gape hook, as are the Ringers Dark. Are they sourced from the same place? The other 4mm pellets tested expand less and are more suited to a size 18 or 16 hook.

Tackle Shops: