Fishing with Hemp Seed

Hemp or hemp seed is a small black seed of about 2 or 3mm in diameter and classed as a particle bait. It is a natural seed bait and one of the most successful and popular particle baits available. Hemp can be purchased loose, as a natural seed, or pre-cooked in a tin ready for fishing. I have never used tinned hemp so cannot comment on it. Hemp is normally used in conjunction with Tares and is renowned for being one of the best hook baits when fishing for roach.

Hemp is not only an excellent hook bait, it is also a great bait for holding fish in a swim and brilliant attractant when added to groundbait. Prepare the hemp as below before adding it to your groundbait.

How to prepare hemp for fishing.

To prepare hemp seed yourself for fishing there are several methods.

Cooking or soaking. Cooking is the quickest and what most anglers prefer. Soaking just involves putting the hemp in a container, covering with water and leaving until the hemp seed splits.

Cooking hemp.
Some anglers cook hemp from dry and others put the hemp seed into a container, cover with water and leave to soak for 24 hours which helps the seeds split when you cook them. Either way follow the instructions below.

1. Put the hemp into a pan of water and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally and making sure the hemp is covered with water all the time.
(adding bicarbonate of soda to the water, at the rate of one teaspoon per pint of hemp, will turn the seeds dark black)

2. Keep boiling for 5 to 10 minutes and while boiling look for the hemp splitting – when this happens you will see a small white protrusion from the seed – at this point turn down the heat and simmer until most of the hemp seeds have split.

3. When you see most of the hemp has split, turn off the heat and drain the hemp and tip into a container of cold water. This will stop the cooking process and stop the hemp splitting wide open. If the hemp splits too wide this can make it harder to stay on the hook. After half an hour or so drain and rinse the hemp again and it will be ready for using.

Using a Thermos flask to cook the hemp.
I have tried this method and it works but I don’t use it because you are restricted to around a pint of hemp (depending on the size of flask that you use) and I use a lot more than a pint on a fishing session.

Half fill a thermos flask with uncooked hemp, add bicarbonate of soda if you want the seeds to be dark black and top up the flask with boiling water. Do not fill completely, leave some space for the seed expansion, put the lid on and leave to cook overnight. In the morning your hemp should be cooked ready for using.

Liquidised Hemp
On clear waters, rivers, canals and stillwaters, liquidised hemp can be very effective as a ‘loose’ feed when fishing for roach. I say loose feed but as you will find out its not really loose. When mixed correctly with water and introduced into the swim, it causes a cloud as it drops through the swim depositing the larger bits on the bottom. The cloud attracts the roach and the bits on the bottom hold the fish in your swim.
Half fill a liquidiser with cooked hemp (un-cooked hemp can be used but cooked hemp I find mixes better) and switch it on and give it a quick blast to smash up the hemp. You may find it sticking to the sides of the liquidiser as it is ground up. When smashed up empty into a container ready for taking fishing. The liquidised hemp will be stodgy and sticky and if thrown into the water like this it will just fall to the bottom as a lump. Mix some water with it before hand until it is ‘mushy’ and this will then cause the fish attracting cloud. Fishing for chub on rivers, running waters this is ideal for using in a swim feeder. Mashing up a small amount of liquidised hemp with a slice of bread makes a great hemp paste.

Hemp can be frozen.
A time saver is to prepare more hemp than is needed and to make up batches in pint sized bags and freeze them for using another time. Then its just a matter of defrosting the night before it is needed.


‘Fishing with Hemp Seed’
When fishing hemp seed as a hook bait it is generally used while float fishing and when feeder fishing it is used as an attractor in an open end groundbait feeder. Half fill an open end feeder with Hemp and plug the ends with groundbait to hold it in. On fast running water it can be used in a closed feeder.

As with all fishing there are no hard and fast rules and if you want to try it as hook bait when feeder fishing then give it a go, although I must say I only use it on the hook while float fishing and if using it while feeder fishing I use it in a feeder.

When the fish are really ‘having it’, try a tare on the hook. These are bigger seeds and easier to put on the hook. Just nick the hook through the skin of the tare.


How to hook hemp.
Choose a slightly undercooked seed that is only just split. Push the bend of the hook into the opening and let go. The shell of the seed should grip the hook. That’s it, ready to fish.
Hemp can also be used on a hair rig. Using a fine needle push it through the seed from the split, thread the line through and tie it back on itself. Four or five grains of hemp can be threaded onto the line and used in this way. To be honest I have never tried hair rigging hemp and prefer the quicker method of pushing the hook into the seed.


General Tackle.
Tackle should be chosen for the species of fish you are targeting and whether you will be float or feeder fishing. Light tackle is best if roach fishing with hemp and heavier tackle for chub, barbel, tench etc.
Choice of fishing Line:

This also depends on whether you are float or feeder fishing, the species of fish and the size of the fish expected to be caught. Monofilament is a popular choice.

If float fishing for small roach use a light main line of around 2.5lb with hook lengths of 1lb to 1.5lb and if you will be feeder fishing a 4lb main line with 2lb to 2.5lb hook lengths can be used. Scale up according to the average size of fish.
Hooks: A size 18 or 16, preferably barbless, fine wire hook with a wide gape to position the hemp at the back of the bend with plenty of the hook point showing.
Float and shotting patterns will depend on the water and what method you are fishing.

On stillwaters, the shotting pattern set up for roach I start off with is strung out shirt button style.


While fishing with hemp, when you get fish feeding on it the bites can be pretty fast and you may find fish mistaking the shot on your line for hemp and start going for that instead, if this happens try doubling up the shot down your line. After every bite check your hook as the hemp can be taken off very easily.

Feeding Hemp.

This is an individual choice and depends on the water you are fishing and fish you are targeting.

As with balling in groundbait at the start when bream fishing in Ireland if you are fishing for carp on known well stocked stillwaters 1 or 2 kilo’s of hemp thrown in at the start may not be out of order. Fishing for roach or chub on rivers would be loose feed a little and often and up the rate depending on how many bites you are getting.