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Dough balls are a killer bait for many fish species across the globe and they are especially popular for catfish in the U.S. Dough balls are cheap to produce, versatile, and easy to store and transport. They are fishing baits in their purest and simplest form and they are easily made at home in all manner of different ways, flavors, and colors. The possibilities with dough balls are endless, and they may just be what hooks you up to your next personal best.
So how do you make these glorious fish-catching soft baits at home? It is very simple actually, once you get the recipe and consistencies down you can add your own flavorings, colorings, and textures to experiment on your own water and find what works best for you. In this article, we will be going over a couple of basic recipes from two parts of the world, so you can decide what bait suits your needs best. We will be looking at how the Americans make dough balls and how the Europeans make their version, how you can keep them on your hook for longer, and how choosing the right dough ball and right rig can give you the edge over other anglers. Enjoy!
In this section, we will be looking at two recipes: the American dough ball recipe and the European paste and boilie recipe. Both of these recipes have their place in the fishing world, and both are similar although different in function. Both are fairly simple, and they are easy to make but the American version can be made quickly in a rush whereas the European method takes a bit more preparation first.
The main benefit to the European recipe over the American recipe is the fact that you can boil the dough up to create a tough bait that will stay on the rig. These boiled dough balls are called “boilies”. Because eggs are used in the production of this bait, it also helps the paste congeal and stay put on the hook much longer when in its raw paste form as well. The American method uses a simple eggless dough mixture which is great for attraction in the water as it dissolves slowly when submerged. The only problem with this is that after some time the paste will dissolve fully, leaving the hook laying bare on the lakebed.
Overall, the American dough ball is great for quick bites due to its high-attraction value, and the European dough ball is perfect for long periods in the water when waiting for a bite. Both types are great, and they can even be used in conjunction by wrapping dough around a boiled bait. This ensures a bait stays present in the water long after the paste has dissolved and spread its attraction around the boilie. Without further ado, let’s get down to the recipes:
The American Dough Ball Recipe
- Plain Flour
- Flavoring (of your choice)
- Coloring (of your choice)
Add all of your dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Add your flour and cornmeal into the bowl in equal parts (1/2 cup flour – ½ cup cornmeal). Add any powdered coloring and/or flavoring at this point as well. Mix this all together thoroughly.
Slowly incorporate some warm water into the dry mixture while mixing with your hands. Add water until you form a slightly tacky but stiff and firm dough. If the dough is too sticky or runny add in some more flour.
You have two options at this point: you can either seal your dough mixture in a tub and roll them into baits when you are fishing, or you can pre-roll and refrigerate them. If you are rolling into balls now, you should lay your mixture on a firm surface and cut it into two or three handleable chunks. Next, roll them into long sausages and cut the sausage at equal intervals. Once you have lots of equal-sized pieces, simply roll them up.
Once you have rolled all of your baits, you will need to store them ready for fishing. Refrigerating them will keep them fresh for a week or two and freezing them will keep them fresh indefinitely. You can store these dough balls in freezer bags or tubs, but before that, I always like to dust mine off in a bit of flour to stop them sticking together while they are stored. This will make hooking them up much easier on the bank or in the boat.
When you are ready to head out fishing make sure to either defrost your frozen dough balls or bring your refrigerated ones with you. Wrap a dough ball around the shank of the hook and get fishing! You will need to periodically check your hook and re-bait it as these doughballs will dissolve over time and disintegrate from small fish attacking them.
The European Paste and Boilie Recipe
- Soya flour 125g (or regular if you really can’t get any soya)
- Semolina 220g (you will find this near the flour in your local grocery store)
- Cornmeal 60g
- Whey powder 40g (or standard milk powder)
- Wheat germ 40g (other rough-crushed grains can work in place of this)
- Three – Five eggs (depending on the size of your eggs)
- Flavoring and coloring (optional)
Add all of your dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and mix it thoroughly. Add in any powdered coloring and flavorings at this stage. If you are not adding wheat germ at this stage you can replace it with another crushed grain or seed, this helps add some texture to the mix.
Now it is time to add your liquid ingredients. Start by mixing together two eggs in a cup. At this point, you can add any liquid flavorings, colorings, or attractants to the egg mixture. Now tip your egg mixture into the dry mix and start mixing it up with your hands. You are looking for a stiff but malleable dough as the finished product, so once the first two eggs are incorporated, crack an egg at a time and mix until the dough is perfect.
Once you have made your paste (dough) you should wrap it and leave it to stand for 10 minutes, this allows all the liquid time to absorb into the dry mix properly. After this, you can either store it in the fridge or freezer as a whole or roll it into balls.
If you are rolling your dough into balls before you head out fishing, then you should roll the dough into long sausages and cut at equal sections. Next, take each section and roll them into balls and dust with whey or flour to stop them from sticking together during storage. At this point you can store them in bags or tubs, but if you want to create boilies, head over to the next step…
The steps ahead of this are for making your paste into boilies. I recommend halving your paste (dough) and keeping half for dough balls and half for boilies, this way you have a matching paste that you can wrap around your boiled baits.
Put a pan of water on the stove and bring it to the boil. I like to use a sieve to suspend my baits in the water while they are boiling, this makes removing them from the pan much easier. Add your dough balls into the pan in increments of 10, so they evenly boil. For 20mm baits I boil them for 1 – 2 minutes just to harden them off. Anything larger, I boil for 2 minutes or more (depending on the size of the ball.
Remove your boilies from the water and spread them evenly on a layer of absorbent paper, kitchen tissue, or a towel. Once they have all boiled, I like to roll them around to dry the surface and then I lay them out on a large tray to dry out. Leave them to air dry for 2 to 3 hours before refrigerating or freezing. Air drying them beforehand stops them from sticking together in the freezer and increases their shelf life a bit more.
Take your baits out to fish with. Remember to take paste (dough) and boilies out of the freezer in plenty of time before you head out fishing. Fishing with boilies does require the use of a specific rig and hooking them is not efficient or effective. For information on the basic hair-rig for boilie use, check out the next section.
Keeping Your Dough Balls on the Hook
Keeping your doughballs on the hook can be a struggle, especially when the water temperature is warm or there are hundreds of tiny minnows hammering your bait as soon as it hits the water. Combatting this can be difficult but there are a few things you can do to improve the time your paste sits on the hook.
Using the European-style dough balls or adding an egg or two to your American-style dough ball mix can improve the amount of time it stays on the hook, but it won’t stop it getting hammered by small fish over time. You will have to check your hook periodically to make sure your hook hasn’t been cleaned off without you noticing and that isn’t ideal if you are playing the waiting game for a big bite!
To get over this problem, I use boilies. I came across these little wonders first in the UK and I have never stopped using them since. I have used boilies on sessions in England, France, Spain, and Germany for colossal carp and sturgeon for years now. I have had rigs out in the water for 20 hours and more waiting for the big one to bite! Carp and sturgeon are especially finicky feeders and hooking up to a 50-pounder takes some finesse so leaving baits in the water overnight is sometimes essential. The long wait pays off though, like it did for me in the picture below (black sturgeon from a French lake at 2:15am)
When you use boilies, you can be confident that they will lay undisturbed and undissolved for days at a time before you get a decent bite. For this reason, they are one of my favorite baits, but you do have to rig them up properly to utilize their qualities to the maximum. A boilie is meant to be suspended below the hook on a “hair”. The simplest rig to use for this is the hair rig – a rig that has a loop of line below the hook that you can thread and lock your boilie onto. This is a fantastic rig for a range of species and surprisingly it has not become massively popular in the U.S yet.
The hair rig allows the hook to move freely without interruption or masking from the bait. If you hooked a hard boilie straight on the hook you would struggle to set the hook in the fish’s mouth when you get a bite, the hair rig overcomes this problem. When a fish picks up the boilie the hook is placed perfectly on the edge of the lip for the perfect auto-set hook hold. If you are wondering how to tie this awesome rig, check out this useful tutorial video.
You can also up your game with this setup but rigging up a boilie and wrapping paste (dough) around it. Once the dough has fully dissolved your hook will be left with solid boilie bait under it and a layer of disintegrated dough as an attraction around it. This is a killer method for catfish and carp alike, and it could give you the edge over other anglers that are not familiar with this style of fishing.
So, now you know how to make a classic American dough ball mixture and a European paste mix. You should also have some ideas to try for the next time you head out fishing. Try out these dough ball recipes and make them your own by adding your own flavorings, colorings, and attractants. Give yourself the edge by employing some tactics that aren’t commonly used in the U.S and using boilies and dough in a new way. Hopefully, this will help you land your next personal best fish!
Tight lines and happy fishing!
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