By Sandy Huff
Custom bait balls you can make at home.
Doughballs are time-honored baits for sunfish, catfish and even some saltwater panfish.
Traditional doughballs are simply soft white bread rolled into marble-sized balls, then saturated with something smelly, like bacon grease or sardine juice. You can even use store-bought bread dough, though I don’t recommend using a commercial package of cookie dough if your kids are on the fishing trip! (That test packet didn’t survive the drive to the ramp.)
The problem with homemade doughballs is how to keep them from disintegrating the minute they hit the water. I used to not worry about this. Any ball that turned into a cloud of bread was simply instant chum. Sometimes there were so many minnows around my bait that it looked like a flashing disco ball under my keel. Once in a while a larger fish arrived for the party and got hooked.
But like mudballs, getting your bait to hold together long enough to survive your cast might make the difference between having mackerel or a Big Mac for supper.
Here’s one secret: Roll your dough into little balls, then boil them for one minute. The Brits have been doing this for years. They call them boili balls.
You can have fun with the recipes, too. There are as many recipes as there are fishermen. I usually start off with equal parts flour, cornmeal and rolled oats, and enough raw eggs to make a thick paste.
Then I add whatever happens to be in my kitchen at the moment. I’ve tried glitter, vanilla, raw garlic, garlic salt, garlic powder, minced parsley, dog and cat food, peanut butter, cheese, bread, rabbit pellets (yeah, from both ends of the rabbit), leftover pepperoni, minced carrots, chopped chicken livers, stale popcorn, fish innards, an old Christmas cheeseball, and cherry Jello. I also add something smelly to the boiling water, like leftover chicken fat.
For your own first try, experiment with different recipes. Divide your dough into five or six sections, and doctor up each sample with different ingredients. Toss in whatever you have on hand. Be sure to write down the ingredients. Make pea-sized balls for freshwater panfish, marble-sized balls for bullheads and channel catfish, and egg yolk-sized balls or bigger for deepwater monsters.
Boil one batch at a time. Don’t wait til the balls float to the surface, like dumplings. One minute is enough. Lift ‘em out with a slotted spoon, cool and store in zip-shut baggies. To keep your boilis unsticky, toss in a tablespoon of flour, sand or oatmeal.
Boiled and bagged doughballs store for a week in the fridge, and forever in the freezer. Just be sure to label each baggie so some midnight snacker doesn’t eat your whole experiment.
Head for the water and test out your doughballs. I guarantee at least one of your samples will nab a fish. FS
First published Florida Sportsman April 2015