Whisked 2 Perfection

Previously the treasured possession of top internationals, a groundbait whisk is now becoming an essential tool in the preparation of groundbait feed prior to a match for many ordinary match anglers. Whisks have been in existence for many years on the continent and used by rank-and-file anglers alike in preparing their allotted FIPS groundbait limit of 17 litres. Mixing this amount of groundbait by hand is no easy matter, so power drills have taken up the strain and are now a much more visible accessory on the bank, both in the UK and abroad.

In the UK, more and more anglers today are switching to power whisks to mix up their groundbait, even though the quantities are nowhere equal to those of their continental counterparts. The idea is simple, you take a power drill and large whisk and let the drill take the strain of mixing. It is much less tiring than doing it by hand as the whisk spreads the water evenly throughout the groundbait much faster and with less effort. There's also no need to riddle any lumps out afterwards because there are none!

It all sounds too perfect! I'm sure most of us have the odd cordless drill knocking around in our tool sheds, which we could shake the dust off and use. I know I have a couple of those cheap plastic box drill sets from various DIY projects around the house. I have since discovered I have that rare and incurable 'self-diagnosed' allergy to DIY (Do It Yourself) for which the only cure is to go fishing... all the time!

So why are we all not using drills to knock up our groundbaits if it is so easy? Well, like all things in life using a groundbait whisk correctly is not quite as simple, nor as cheap, as it first seems. Dave Vincent has been using groundbait whisks for several years now, both at home and on his numerous fishing trips to Dutch and Spanish festivals. I asked him if he could pass on his experiences of using groundbait whisks and then summarise in our 'Pro Plus' section at the end, the main points that you should look at when considering using a power drill.

The origins of the groundbait whisk
Large food whisks have been used for many years now in commercial catering, bakeries and large kitchens. The parallel between mixing ingredients for a large fruit cake and a groundbait are pretty similar and obvious. On one hand you're mixing dry flour ingredients along with some larger particles then adding liquid to produce a cake mix, on the other, you have dry crumb with maybe soil or additives included before you add water, and then you finish it off by adding loose feed. Food whisks are normally an oval balloon shape, which means they have a round base, ideally suited to domed catering mixing bowls. However, groundbait buckets have been traditionally round with a flat bottom, so for many years anglers couldn't use these catering whisks, because their buckets were the wrong shape, and were therefore unable to reach into the corners!

The inspiration for using whisks for angling purposes first came, not from the baking and food industries, but from the plastering and painting trades, who used flat bottomed buckets similar to anglers. They came up with flat base whisk which was able to reach all areas of the bucket. These whisks have two or three spirals of flat metal coming off a disk at the base and were designed to turn and fold the plaster powder while mixing in the water, because plaster is quite dense.

Anglers started using these and found that they did make the job easier, but they were not quite right. The perfect groundbait whisk needed to mix all the groundbait quickly and vigourously in order to evenly distribute water throughout the mix. If the mixing becomes too slow, some parts of the mix will tend to hold more water than others and lumps will form, which is exactly the problem you get when mixing by hand! Although the plaster/paint whisks took some of the sweat out of mixing groundbait, they were still too slow at mixing in the water and you still had to riddle out some small lumps.

Anglers realised that what they needed was a flat based balloon type whisk, one that would mix very fast and thoroughly. What followed next was a small and highly successful cottage industry throughout many regions of the UK when people started knocking out these whisks from their garages and small workshops. These hand-made whisks were made to order and sold to angling' elite across Europe. Today, companies like Sensas, Maver and Milo now manufacture these special whisks in large quantities, making them easily accessible for all anglers.

Dave’s guide to picking the right whisk

Shape of the whisk Whisks come in various shapes, depending on how they have been made. My French friend, Fred Smagghe, was using a very sturdy home made steel whisk, made with solid prongs rather than a cage framework. These whisks are good for very heavy mixing with lots of soil and, strangely, for mixing up stickymag at slower speeds! However for most mixing purposes, Dave recommends the Sensas, Maver, Milo style cage whisks. These turn the groundbait along the whole length of the whisk and get it rotating quicker than any other shape. These cage types also break up the groundbait more, which in turn stops the particles from sticking, thereby stopping any lumps forming.

Size This will depends on how much groundbait you regularly mix up. If you only ever knock up a couple of kilos at a time then you can get away with a smaller whisk. However a small whisk will simply not have blades big enough if you then need to knock up 4 or 5 kilos dry groundbait. For this you'll require a much larger one. So, you might think why not buy a big whisk and it will mix up small and large quantities. This is true but the problem with whisks is they can kick up a lot of groundbait when mixing and if you only want to knock up a kilo or two for feeder fishing, i.e., a small whisk in a small bucket will make less mess and waste less groundbait than a big one. The obvious solution would be to have two, a small one for feeder work and a larger one for the rest of your fishing, which is precisely what Dave Vincent's done!

Materials Whisks come in either stainless steel or mild steel. The mild steel whisks are cheaper but will rust. A decent stainless steel whisk will set you back about £13-£17 (25 to 30 euros) but will last for ages and cope better with the rigours of mixing.

Weight of the whisk There is an argument for using a lighter whisk as it will put less pressure on your drill and work better. However, Dave doesn't believe that there's any appreciable difference. What actually puts pressure on a drill is the material that is being whisked, not the weight of the whisk itself. So opt for a solid rather than a light whisk and make sure that it's solidly welded and up to the task.

Ideally, you really need two whisk sizes. A small one for up to 2 kilo mixes and a larger one for anything above. Buy the best quality stainless steel models with a flat base for all your general mixing.

The advantages of a groundbait whisk
A groundbait whisk without a doubt saves time and effort, so why do we make our lives difficult when technology offers us the options of making it easier? Also, there's more advantages to using a whisk than just saving time and effort. Dave Vincent, in common with many international anglers, is totally convinced that whisks give better results than the more conventional hand mixing method. Below, he highlights the main reasons why:
  1. You can get more water in a mix
    When you whisk groundbait, the water gets distributed very quickly and evenly throughout. This effectively allows you to get more water into the mix, unlike conventional mixing by hand, because the liquid is spread much more evenly. You can tell the difference by looking at a whisked groundbait, compared to a hand wetted one. The whisked looks lighter and fluffier and gives the impression that there is more air in it, but actually the fluffy appearance is because the individual particles have absorbed more water. Now try squeezing a ball with one hand from both mixes. With a whisked groundbait you can take a fistful from the top of your bucket and give a gentle squeeze with one hand and it will hold together perfectly. With the hand mixed. you often have to pull your hand against the side of a bucket to get the ball to hold.
  2. You never have to riddle a mix to get any lumps out
    Properly used, a whisked groundbait will not need riddling because lumps only form if water is spread unevenly throughout a mix. Due to the slow nature of hand mixing, therefore some parts of the groundbait will be wetter than others. If water is not dispersed fast enough throughout the groundbait, then 'lumps' are inevitable. With a whisk you simply never have to riddle a groundbait again after wetting.
  3. You get better control over mixes with a whisk
    Because the water in a whisked mix is evenly distributed, you have more control over the way the groundbait works. If you want an inert groundbait, whisk it up the night before and allow it settle and fully absorb overnight, then finally whisk in a little more water in the morning. The fact that wetting is so consistent throughout the mix, guarantees a regularity in the groundbait that is simply not possible when you hand mix.
  4. Mixing groundbaits and soils together is MUCH easier
    When you try to mix any damp soil with a wetted groundbait by hand it is quiet exhausting because of the weight of the soil but a whisk will blend the two together in seconds. Once you mix any soil with groundbait, the soil has a tendency to dry the mix out so you sometime want to just dampen the mix down again to get it perfect. By hand it's almost impossible because the water seems to clog the soil, even a little extra water makes the mix go lumpy whereas a whisk has no such problems. Another advantage of whisking is that you can mix damp soil with dry groundbait, then wet the two together. This makes for a really heavy groundbait, perfect for feeding lots of live bait like maggot or pinkie. You can also incorporate other ingredients like pigeon droppings or soaked TTX (Torteau de Mais) with ease.
  5. Using colours or flavourings is much easier
    A major problem of mixing in powdered colourings to groundbait by hand, is anglers often 'wear' that colour for the rest of the day! A whisk allows you to add the colour, or a powdered flavour, evenly into the dry groundbait without getting your hands all smelly and coloured!
  6. You can fix mistakes easier with a whisk
    If you have put too much water into your mix and it has gone like porridge, it's almost impossible to dry it out effectively by adding more groundbait by hand, which makes everything go lumpy, especially if it's a sticky groundbait. OK, so you shouldn't have made the mistake in the first place I hear you say... but by having a whisk, it gives you the ability to correct that mistake far more easily. With a whisk you can successfully retrieve your mix back, because of the quality of the whisks particle separation and moisture distribution qualities.
  7. You can change the nature of a groundbait easily
    You have knocked a mix up- and realise that it is simply not heavy enough for the conditions. So you want add some more Terre de Riviere to get the mix heavier. A whisk makes light work of jobs like this. Imagine trying to add PV1 to 5 kilos of wetted groundbait by hand!!! I think you get the point.

When NOT to use a whisk
There are some jobs where a whisk is not a suitable tool, the exceptions being:
  • Mixing two leams together
    Dave doesn't see any advantage in mixing pure leams with a whisk because you MUST wet leams far more slowly than groundbait, by letting the water seep through them rather than soaking them in one go. Soils do not swell, so there is less need to turn and mix them together in order to ensure even moisture distribution. To avoid any confusion, we are talking here about pure soil-to-soil mixes.
  • Making 'sloppy' groundbait (bit obvious this one!)
    Mixing up a feed to a slop is best done by hand. If you try to whisk a slop it will splatter everywhere and you could end up in a right mess!
But apart from these two exceptions a whisk will do about every other groundbait mixing job easier and better than by hand.

Dave Vincent's Six-Point Guide to successful 'Whisking'
  1. You'll need one of those large two handled buckets, which are ideal because a whisk can throw a lot of dry groundbait up in the air at the start.
  2. Mix all DRY ingredients (i.e., different groundbaits, colourings or powders) together using the whisk at a slower speed setting. If you have no speed settings on your drill you can gently pulse (pressing the start trigger on and off) the whisk until they are perfectly incorporated.
  3. Add water progressively to the mix. Dave explained that he has no hard and fast rules about this. Each mix is different and will behave accordingly, so it's advisable to gradually add the water (obviously pigeon droppings or wet Torteau could replace the water at this stage).
  4. Work the whisk all around. You need to ensure the whisk's worked all around the bucket. This can cause your bucket to jump around a bit so you can either stabilise it by holding it between you feet (if you’re on your own), or placing it on a non-slip surface such as grass or an old carpet.
  5. Keep adding water in stages till your mix is right. Remember, the mix will need to be left at intervals in order to fully absorb and dry out before the next batch of water is added. Also as a rule, the stickier the mix, the faster and harder you need to whisk it to keep the mix separated and fluffy. You can finally tell when it’s ready as it will look light and fluffy. Give the mix the 'one-hand' squeeze test... if the ball holds with little pressure, then it's ready!
  6. Add any soils to the mix. It is at this stage that you can whisk in damp leams and soils, re-adjust the wetting if you need to.
A whisk has more than one speed!
When mixing soil with wetted groundbait, it pays to blend the soil in, rather than blitz it together at top speed. Dave prefers to set the drill on a slower speed setting and work the soil in gradually. This also helps slightly reduce the pressure on the drill when mixing a lot of soil with groundbait.








And it’s about as simple as that. Obviously if there are two of you, the job is even easier because one angler can whisk while the other holds the bucket and adds water progressively. However, it is an important point to use a bucket big enough to work the whisk thoroughly around. Once you get use to whisking, you'll wonder how you ever managed without one before! It's quick, less tiring, gives more flexible mixing options and produces successful results almost everytime... and you don’t need to riddle everything at the end!
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The Drill: A drill provides the power and torque needed to rotate the whisk through your groundbait. The torque required from a drill, depends on the type of groundbait you are going to be using. Obviously heavy sticky carp mixes require more torque than a light lake one. If you regularly use soils in groundbait, that will also need your drill to have enough torque to turn the whisk in the heavy components once dampened. The problem is, good drills with sufficient torque don’t come cheap!

Dave uses a Dewalt 24v Hammer Cordless drill. This comes with two rechargeable batteries and each battery on one single charge is good for 3 to 4 mixes. Being cordless Dave can take this drill on trips and do mixes on the bank. This is the perfect drill for heavy mixes and soils and is easily man enough for most fishing groundbait contests.

The only problem is that a drill of this quality can cost anything upwards of £300. Dave argues that if you are sitting on a £6-700 box with a £1500-2000 pole and the whole success of your fishing depends on the quality of your groundbait mix then perhaps £300+ invested in a quality drill is actually money well spent! I could see his point but we did discuss other ways of getting round the problem of cost.

  1. Buy a cheaper drill You could get away with an 18V cordless drill for most situations and are less than half the price. They will cope with all but the stickiest carp mixes and soil work. But what you can’t do is buy a really cheap 12v cordless at a DIY store and expect it to be up to the task. Even a cheap 24v cordless will not have the durability and power of a professional drill. If your drill is underpowered then it will make lumpy groundbait and you will loose all the advantages of using a drill... like not having to riddle it off! 
  2. Buy a drill for the team This is a good idea as many anglers mix groundbait as a team, particularly when travelling and practising for team events. £3-400 between a team of 5-10 anglers is not so frightening and would be a good, solid investment!
  3. Get a Mains Only drill This is by far the cheapest option for the many non-travelling anglers. Drills running off the mains have much more power available to them and are therefore well able to cope with groundbait mixing and much cheaper. Dave had recently returned from a festival in Spain where all the anglers were using very sticky Trabucco carp groundbaits. Steve Gardener was also there and his cordless drill was just not up to mixing this type of groundbait, so he went into a local hardware shop and found some cheap mains powered hammer drills for 12 euros each! He bought one and ran it off the sockets in his chalet and then had no problems mixing it up. So if you are travelling from home, or know that you have got power where you are going, a mains drill will be the cheapest option of all.
Fancy trying your hand at whisking, but not sure where to get a whisk from?
Three major tackle manufacturers supply groundbait whisks, Maver, Milo and Sensas. They are almost identical and I suspect come from the same production line! The standard one measures 150mm across the base and this is suitable for just about all applications. Sensas also supply a mega 190mm size, which is the largest available and is a serious piece of metal demanding a serious drill. Prices vary from £12+ to around £21 for the mega whisk. Whisks are available from several online shops, including the Maver whisk from our trading partner The Matchmen
Undoubtedly, a cordless drill definitely gives you more flexibility as you can make mixes up on the bank and adjust them whilst fishing. If you do decide to buy a decent cordless hammer drill for mixing groundbait look after it! Dave points out that a well looked after drill will last for many years. Fishing and mixing groundbaits can be a messy business for a piece of electrical equipment, so clean it every now and then. If you look after it, you will prolong its life and usage 'ten-fold'. Don't leave it lying about the grass whilst fishing, especially when it's damp, as this will inevitably cause some rusting to any metallic part... and remember, it only takes one sudden thunderstorm to ruin your drill! Bear in mind that an expensive re-chargeable drill is also a tempting target for anyone passing by with criminal intent.

And finally, do not try to mix groundbait with the drill in reverse. I hear you laugh, but during one of Dave’s trips to Spain, one guy was knocking up groundbait for his team mates with smoke belching out of his drill. Dave ran to help him and found that the poor chap was running the whole thing in reverse. Reverse mode is for pulling screws out... all the drills power and torque is geared for going forward... I trust you get the point!

A decent drill will improve the quality of your groundbait and make life so much easier for you. The question therefore is not whether you can afford one, but whether you can afford to be without one?