There are many types of boilies and pop-ups and not all of them are suitable for tench fishing. Both flavours and sizes have to be just right in order to produce bites. I have been using boilies for many years and have learned which ones do the trick and which ones absolutely don’t. So, what are the very best boilies for tench?
In order to catch tench with boilies, your hookbaits should be between 8mm and 12mm. This size also applies to pop-ups, which are buoyant, harder types of boilies. The best boilie flavours for tench are pineapple, bloodworm and krill.
Continue reading this article, if you want to know what brands of boilies are the most qualitative ones, and how you best rig your boilies and pop-ups for tench.
What Are The Best Boilie Flavours for Tench?
I have found that both fruity and protein-rich boilies are superb choices when it comes to tench.
On the fruity end, I have had, by far, the best results fishing with pineapple-flavoured boilies and pop-ups. Why that is, I really do not know, but for some reason, tench simply love the scent of pineapple!
Fish with boilies that have a highly concentrated flavour of pineapple, as such a bait really stands out in your swim. Thanks to the intensely yellowish colour, the pineapple boilie is also visually highly attractive. It is perhaps for that reason that this flavour is so successful.
I have had absolutely amazing sessions with Mainline’s High Leakage Pineapple boilies. Now, these are only available in size 15mm, so, what you do is to scale them down a little bit. Simply cut down the size of the boilie a little, using scissors or a knife. Doing that will also release more flavour into the water.
When it comes to protein-rich boilies, the flavours bloodworm and krill have produced a lot of tench for me over the years. In many venues, bloodworms are a natural food source for tench, making this flavour a very popular and familiar one. Sticky Baits Bloodworm boilies are one of my favorites, as these baits have a very high quality and a supernatural scent.
Anything that has krill meal in it is an absolute super bait, for tench, or any other coarse fish, really! Krill boilies have a very strong smell and can produce tench on days when nothing else seems to work. Even here, my number one choice is Sticky Baits The Krill boilies. They also have matching krill pellets, which you should definitely try out, together with the hookbait boilies.
As you do not really have to pre-bait with boilies for tench, but rather use smaller particles or groundbait, a 1-3kg bag of these boilies will last for a very long time! For extra attraction, crush a few of your boilies and present them in a PVA stick, together with your hookbait. Absolutely deadly for tench!
What Is The Best Boilie Size for Tench?
Despite having bigger mouths that can scoop up a lot of food, tench actually prefer smaller hookbaits. It does happen that tench pick up larger boilies that are intended for carp, but that does not happen all too often. Hence, if you want to target tench and increase your chances of getting bites on your boilies or pop-ups, you should choose smaller sizes.
The optimal boilie size for tench is 12mm! You can test to fish with everything between 8 and 15mm. This depends entirely on how many other, smaller fish there could be in your swim that might take a smaller boilie size around 8mm. If there are such fish around in your venue (roach, small bream, rudd), then always go for a bait size of at least 12mm!
This size both manages to keep away most smaller species and to fit the tench’s mouth perfectly. Very often, it happens that tench are bolting (self-hooking) themselves in the lip, or very close to it on the inside of the mouth.
In other words, the hook is placed in a rather delicate area of the mouth, meaning that it is absolutely crucial not to use too big of a hookbait, which could impact the bolt effect negatively that close to the mouth’s edge.
A boilie or pop-up of around 12mm will not be in the way of the hook when it enters the tench’s tough lower or upper lip and will be easily sucked in by the fish. This ensures a perfect bolt effect, which, in turn, leads to far more hook ups!
How to Fish for Tench With Boilies?
Ledgering is the best way of fishing for tench with boilies or pop-ups. Boilies are so called bottom baits, and as such, they will have to be presented lying on the bottom, or just above it.
A simple hair rig for boilies, and a simple pop-up rig for pop-ups, will totally suffice for tench fishing.
Insider tip: Make sure your hair is short, so that your hookbait is only 1-2mm away from your hook’s bend!
Here is my favorite setup for tench on the boilie:
A robust ledgering rod with light-medium action and a test curve of 1.75lb is the perfect rod for tench on the bottom. Some people like to use a 1.25lb test, but I advise against that for tench, as the bigger specimen can really put your gear to the test. For their size, tench are extremely strong fish!
A 1.75lb rod allows you to have full control over a fighting tench, while not being too stiff and bulky.
My favorite tench rod is the Sonik Specialist Barbel Rod, which is a magnificent and very affordable choice for tench fishing. I have three of these rods and they have landed me plenty of big 8+lb tench without any problem!
I recommend using a smaller baitrunner when ledgering for tench. As you won’t cast out that frequently, you won’t be needing a whole lot of ball bearings, and the baitrunner function lets you detect tench runs perfectly, when in combination with a bite alarm and/or a bobbin.
And trust me, hard runs, tench will give you 9 times out of 10!
My all-time favorite baitrunner reel for lighter ledgering is the Shimano ST 4000 FB. This is a very robust reel that can handle even the most brutal of tench! I especially like the extremely finely geared drag system of this reel. Shimano has and always will be equal to perfection, no doubt about it.
For tench, your mainline should be an 8lb monofilament. I prefer mono over braid, as monofilament line is a little more stretchy and flexible, which can be an advantage to buffer those hard knocks and high-speed movements the tench are known for.
You can use a 6lb line in snag-free venues with a very good conscience. In more difficult venues with a lot of snags, however, a slightly stronger mainline of 8lb is a much better choice. This is also a good choice in venues with carp.
A super and very affordable line is the Daiwa Hyper Sensor. You’ll get almost 2000m for a very reasonable price!
Whether you are using a fixed or semi-fixed bolt rig, or a method feeder, the perfect lead weight for tench fishing is about 1-1.5oz. This weight will produce enough resistance for the tench to perfectly bolt itself.
Generally, your hooklink should be about 3-4” long and made of either braid or fluorocarbon material. Personally, I prefer braid over fluoro, as braided material is simply less stiff, which leads to a more natural bait presentation in your swim.
If you’re using braid material as your hooklink, go for a 6-8lb dark variant, both coated or uncoated.
If fluorocarbon is the line of your choice, use a slightly stronger hooklink of 8-10lb.
For 12mm boilies and pop-ups, use a size 8 wide gap carp hook. I really like Korda’s Wide Gape micro-barbed hooks, as well as Fox’s Arma Point.
When to Use Boilies to Catch Tench?
As boilies are lying flat on the bottom, you want to make sure that you are fishing on a clean and even surface, such as gravel, sand or very light weed.
As many boilies are less colourful and wash out pretty quickly when in the water, they should preferably be used in clearer water conditions and during daytime.
Insider tip: Top your boilie with a small fake corn to get an even more attractive hookbait for tench!
This is by no means a must, but as tench have rather small eyes, enhanced visibility is always worth considering when it comes to your hookbaits. Of course, a strongly flavoured boilie can counteract that!
Read this related article I wrote, if you want to learn how to distinguish between male and female tench: How Can You Tell if a Tench Is Male or Female?
When to Use Pop-Ups for Tench?
While you can, of course, use pop-ups on the same surfaces that fit boilies, pop-ups make much more sense on bottom types such as thick weed and silt, or in venues with a lot of debris, where boilies would simply become invisible.
Pop-ups, especially the brighter types, such as fluo pop-ups, are also an especially hot bait for night tench, as they are extra visible in poor light conditions. Such pop-ups are also a very good choice for murky waters.
If you want to read up on how to night fish for tench, read this in-depth article I recently published: Tench Fishing at Night: Best Baits and Methods
Feature image courtesy of Emil Olsson