Interview with Bill Cottam, the founder of Nutrabaits Bill Cottam founded Nutrabaits with Tim Paisley in 1986.
Since then, Nutrabaits has become one of the leaders in its field. In this interview, Bill Cottam talks about his views on the boilies industry and the development of carp lures.
Bill, in the interest of some of our younger readers, can you first give us an idea of your experience in carp fishing, as well as your business?
Bill Cottam. My first carp – scaly, weighing 800 grams – I caught in 1976 when I was 13 years old, and since then catching this fish has become my passion. I was born and raised in South Yorkshire, which was so far removed from the carp fishing as far as I can imagine, and indeed, in this frosty northern part of England, carp ponds were then very rare. I am pleased to report that the situation has improved a lot over the years, but in reality, Yorkshire residents still have to travel considerable distances to reach higher class water bodies that give the chance to catch bigger fish.
In 1986, Tim Paisley and I founded a bait manufacturing company that my parents were as initially based in the garage, and after many hours of thinking, we decided to call our “air castle” Nutrabaits. Within eighteen months, I refused to work as a lifeguard and sports coach in a swimming pool to concentrate entirely on trying to make a living by selling baits. From the very beginning, our goal was to produce first-class and most effective carp lures, which you can buy only for money, and in this aspect, nothing has changed to this day!
Today I am the CEO of Nutrabaits Limited, and our products are available in more than fifty countries around the world. I cautiously creep up to my 50th birthday, paying most of the time either to tough work or fishing a giant carp in France.
What do you think is a good carp bait?
Bill Cottam. No bait will ever be entirely suited to everyone without exception, so with this fact in mind, there should undoubtedly be a bait that best suits the specific needs of particular fishers. If you are one of those who during the season spends short sessions on a variety of different bodies of water, the nutritional bait, which is designed intending to long luring campaigns, will be far from ideal. Likewise, if you plan to devote three days to the same water body every week for the next couple of years, a highly attractive bait, stuffed with attractants to the highest possible level, will also turn out to be not what you need. The key is to choose a lure that will be “good” just for you and for the fishing situation in which you are. If you feel that you need help in deciding which of the baits of your chosen line is best suited to your needs, contact the company and ask for advice from its specialists – for this they exist!
How long have you been personally engaged in the development of baits?
Bill Cottam. I invented my first “special” bait somewhere in 1975, and, in fact, it intended for catching a line. If the memory does not betray me, it was a paste consisting of pellets, which I finely chopped with a pestle in a small mortar. Ordinary flour from my mother’s kitchen cabinet, a high-protein powder called Body Bulk, which I bought at a local health food store, strawberry essence (also from my mother’s stores) and a liquid red dye from the supermarket. The results of fishing with my fantastic pasta were an entirely different level compared to all the baits I’ve ever experienced. My interest in lures and fact about what can be achieved using a good quality food resource has not faded to this day.
How do you develop a carp bait formulation? How much has the course of thinking changed over the years?
Bill Cottam. The vast majority of the bait recipes produced by Nutrabaits. We make them with the expectation of obtaining long-term results. Of course, our mixes can be made much more “quick” in the short term due to the selection of appropriate attractants, but we generally want to produce lures that the fish will recognise as a daily food resource and the task of fishing the carp will be much more comfortable!!
After all these years, we have a reasonably clear idea of what ingredients should be included in this type of bait, so that indeed some of them are relatively simple and obvious, while others may be either novelty in our industry or products that we specially made for their purposes. I also have to emphasise that every bait that we produce under the Nutrabaits flag is entirely different from our sisters. I know that some companies prefer to have a “standard matrix”, which forms a significant part of almost all of their essential mixes, and which they then add to the share of beg food, fishmeal or something else at their discretion – I do not blame this practice, but this is definitely not my approach to business. It is clear that several of our baits include many identical ingredients, but all recipes (and, consequently, the required number of added eggs) are entirely different from each other.
Do you have any favourite bait ingredients that you tend to use again and again?
Bill Cottam. I would suggest that any person who has spent some time experimenting with carp baits will have his favourite ingredients that he will use inspire him with full confidence; if someone does not have one, then indeed they should be determined, since, generally speaking, what worked well ten years ago will be as
Effective today. At random, my favourite is the following ingredients: green mussel extract (GLM Extract), Trigga in various forms, kelp and other seaweeds, powdered liver, betaine hydrochloride (Betaine HCl), high-quality sardine, anchovy, krill and, I dare say this is our proprietary ingredient – Blue Oyster (“Blue Oyster”), which gives a very characteristic smell to the recently released bait with the same name.
How do you recognise the “good ingredient”?
Bill Cottam. The primary targets are undoubtedly the technical characteristics, the exact composition and the way of producing the ingredient, but, in fact, its actual effectiveness can only be accurately estimated only as a result of long-term field trials and by the experience of fishers who can judge such things. In short, saying that if some ingredient is a useful addition to the carp diet, and its inclusion in the bait increases the chances of fisherman to catch, then I consider its part to be good. If, however, the introduction of a separate ingredient does not significantly increase the chances of catching fish and does not bring additional food benefits to the fish, I do not see any real meaning in it.
And what about flavours and liquid additives? What is the course of your thought when developing them?
Bill Cottam. It is similar to the selection of active powdered ingredients, and here the starting point is probably the receipt from our odour specialist of some different samples of the desired specific flavour, which then will be transferred to our team of testers for long-term experiments. Very often we can test three or four versions of the same smell, which allows us to determine which of them is most useful in carp bait. We are all sinners in the performance of a “quick sniffing”, and I suspect that it is this method of evaluation that leads many anglers to a final decision which additive to choose as an aromatic label for their bait, but, frankly, very often this approach, in my opinion, is meaningless. Does it matter how you like the smell of a particular flavour? You do not have to eat this bait! An accurate, objective assessment of its effectiveness is given only by the frequency with which your bait detectors will fire!
Do you listen to the advice and recommendations of the public regarding the recipe and use of baits, or is this purely an “internal affair”?
Bill Cottam. We continually expand our knowledge about carp baits, as well as about carp fishing in general, and it would be incredibly naive not to pay attention to the experience and opinions of other people. There are, of course, authorities, to whose idea you tend to listen more, but it is surprising which “pearls” can be borrowed from other fishermen, especially those who have been fishing for carp for several years! In the end, many anglers have tremendous knowledge about baits, but show no interest in becoming a proprietor or employee of a specialised company, and, on the other hand, if someone works merely in the bait industry, it is not necessary says that he is intensely aware of the subject. Unlike some gas man who does not have the right to start working before acquiring the appropriate qualification, tomorrow theoretically anyone can begin releasing carp baits, but that does not mean that he knows what it’s all about!
Tell us a little about the field trials. What are their stages of your mixes and flavours before they appear on store shelves?
Bill Cottam. It would not be an exaggeration to say that our team of testers plays a significant role in achieving the results that we have been able to accomplish over the years – without their tireless work and invaluable feedback, the Nutrabaits brand would not have won such high trust as it does today. Each product bearing the “seal of approval” Nutrabaits passed their thorough stage-by-stage inspection even before we started seriously thinking about its release on the market, and all information on the packaging on the recommended dosage levels and tips for using this bait is a direct result of the reviews about its field tests. Tim Paisley and I found it vitally important to bring a fairly decent number of field testers. To work long before the release of their first products to the market then in the 80s and after more than 25 years of our journey I am extremely proud to report that the vast majority of the same fishermen. Continue to work hard with us “behind the scenes” to ensure Nutrabaits products have the highest quality before they arrive at our retail outlets.
Who are they, your field testers? Is it challenging to become one of them?
Bill Cottam. We have more than two hundred field testers around the world who are sparing no time in helping to develop Nutrabaits products, some of which can be regularly seen in magazines, while others prefer to remain Anonymously successful and do their job calmly. I do not want to single out anyone – it’s enough to say that each of them brings something unique to the table, and we believe that they are all equally important for the overall success story of Nutrabaits. Everyone in the soul wants to be a field tester, and like many other companies that produce baits, we receive daily requests from fishers who wish to join our team. However, bad news for applicants is that in the vast majority of cases we will choose the user of Nutrabaits products, which acts exceptionally competently and successfully, which we think will successfully enter the group and contribute to its work a useful contribution, and not only take someone who wants to desert to us from another company.
There are a lot of rumours that some companies engaged in the production of baits are chemist-pharmacists. Does this happen to yours?
Bill Cottam. Of course. I consider it vitally important to meet once a month with my “chemist”- he supplies me with tablets against blood pressure!
What do you think about ready-made long-life boilies? It seems that today, even staunch admirers of frozen baits come to them.
Bill Cottam. A few years ago there was a vast difference between the food properties of frozen boilies and shelf-life, but more recently – in many cases – it has become insignificant. Nevertheless, not every company produces shelf-life in the same quality as equivalent frozen boilies, therefore, at the risk of repeating itself, I will say: if you have some doubts, consult by phone what ingredients you used in the bait on which you are going to spend your “hard earned”.
For a long time I am looking forward to the day when the companies will ultimately open the recipes of their baits; let’s face it – carp baits are not particularly cheap, and the consumer, of course, has the right to know what he is buying!
From your point of view, what is preferable: shelf-lives with preservatives or frozen boilies?
Bill Cottam. It depends on where I fish and on the situation in which I am, but I will be happy to use both. The tactic that has proved to me for years its particular effectiveness is to apply a combination of identical shelf-lives and frozen boilies (in recent years this product is Trigga: Pineapple & N-Butyric Acid). The logic here is that the frozen fraction (in combination, its share is usually about 70%) is somewhat more nutritious, while the shelf-lives provide an increased level of attractiveness. The joint introduction of these two types of bait into the swarm gives me the opportunity to take advantage of the advantages of each of them simultaneously.
What baits are now the most popular, and are there any that you think could become “bestsellers” shortly?
Bill Cottam. Difficult question. The popularity of some products varies considerably from one country to another, and our 3D line serves as a striking example of this. In the UK, the level of sales of our base mix and ready-made boilies 3D is slightly above average, but in foreign countries, we are exhausted to keep up with demand. Nevertheless, some products are sold well everywhere, and the leading position here is undoubtedly occupied by all baits that include a set of attractants Trigga or Trigga Ice, as well as the ever-popular Big Fish Mix. I suppose that another top line of our products will soon be Blue Oyster – the products are new and, of course, it’s too early to judge, but the initial demand and preliminary results remind me very much of launching Trigga baits.