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Updated September  2017.

The new science of Neural Triggers and understanding fish behaviour

PROTEX SERIES : As featured in the Angling Times

Many companies claim to have found a revolutionary new flavouring or additive that fish just can't resist, it is after all a potentially profitable business so it's hardly surprising that these claims are made all the time. Unfortunately most of these so called innovations are more successful at catching customers than fish.

Because of our usual cynicism and dislike for the general angling scene we have been reluctant to enter the bait market and have always restricted our research to developing and expanding our knowledge of fish behaviour and dietary requirements. As the years have passed we have gradually developed and refined our research program with the help of I.S.H.A members, Supafish and a few very trusted anglers.

PROTEX 3A is a totally new concept and unlike anything ever seen before. Every aspect of this new science is completely unique.

 A bold statement but true none the less.

The way PROTEX 3A is used and the reasoning behind its success is quite simply revolutionary.

At the moment we have no intention or releasing details of the neural trigger Protex onto the general market or any intention to make the product available commercially but this new approach to understanding innate fish behaviour is a fascinating subject and one which will certainly spark a great deal of controversy .
The trigger itself has been developed over the course of around 15 years and was never intended as a commercial exercise. Understanding fish behaviour was a natural requirement of our research program and feeding habits were obviously of prime importance.
The information gathered from our unique relationship with ISHA and work in our own labs inevitably led to trials relating to baits as a secondary issue.
The trials themselves were conducted in an entirely different way with the most important factor being that we use underwater cameras and proximity sensors, rather than just throw a bait out to see if a fish picked it up which is all any other company has ever done, we can actually monitor every fish that comes within 12 feet of the bait.
As a result we gradually began to see a whole new aspect of fish behaviour that for many years completely baffled us but gradually the picture became clear as the data and observations began to make sense and produced a quite remarkable line of research. We experimented further on genuinely natural Carp in Kerr lake, North Carolina. These fish are incredibly difficult to catch and are not influenced by angling pressure simply because no one ever fishes for them, they were ideal candidates for the final trials.
To understand the principles behind Protex 3a you will have to forget everything you think you may know about not only Carp but fish in general as this new approach does not rely on either flavour or appearance, in fact neither of these has anything to do with the feeding response at all.
Our research program into fish behaviour in general has cost well over £1.5 million so we are obviously reluctant to share more information than we have to but we'll try and give you an idea of how the system works without getting too detailed.
To understand the basics you must forget all the usual methods used by bait companies and completely ignore taste, colour, shape etc as none of these have anything to do with why a fish feeds. We realise that statement will sound odd but bear with us. Try to look at the fish as a simple organism that survives without preferences, likes or dislikes and feeds not for pleasure but purely because it needs nutrients to survive. There are of course Carp fisheries where they have become boilie buckets and their behaviour has adapted to respond to anglers influence but even these shadows of true carp respond to our baits simply because they have to, Protex 3a is a trigger, not a bait in the strictest terms.
As an organism the fish itself is continually monitored by parts of the brain that examine all aspects of its condition, vitamin requirements, energy levels etc etc. When the brain detects a deficiency or nutritional requirement it switches on the appropriate receptor and the fish responds.
Remarkably these receptors are on the outside of the fish, not inside the mouth.
To make this easier to understand try to imagine the outside of the fish covered in microscopic holes of varying shapes, for example squares, triangles, rectangles etc etc. Each of these relates to a particular nutrient, amino acid and so on. These 'doors' are usually closed but once the brain detects that a particular requirement of the body is in need of replenishing it opens the corresponding receptor and the fish swims off in search of the nutrient. This is an entirely reactive response rather than rational thought. As the fish swims along the outside of its skin is bombarded with a whole range of particles which it is entirely oblivious to. Almost all the shapes relating to naturally occurring food bounce off the closed receptors as they are not required at that specific time until particles of the right shape go through the open door and the fish responds by instinctively following the trail to the source. This is one of the reasons why a bait will work brilliantly one day but completely fails the next because the comparative trigger has been turned off. In fact we have watched fish on many occasions completely ignore something they would have eaten the day before and swim right over it as though it wasn't there. Sometimes a fish will investigate a bait, nudge it etc but eventually ignore it purely because the trigger contained within it is insufficiently strong to stimulate a clear response usually because there are just too many other 'shapes' confusing the issue. This has nothing to do with taste.
The next problem for us was to identify the triggers or shapes that act as receptors on the outside of the fish and discover what nutrient they related to, not an easy task.
Slowly we began to compile a list of common triggers, of the thousands we think exist, all of which we formulated chemically. Each had to be identified individually as there would be no point whatsoever in producing a feed that contained all the nutrients in one go as the particle trail left in the water would not be specific enough, too muddled if you like to effectively get a strong instinctive response from the fish.
The next problem, that has taken many more years to solve, was to try and guess what trigger was the most likely one to be switched on at any given time in a specific environment as all lakes vary from day to day, sometimes even changing hour by hour. Every lake is like its own individual planet and will have its own naturally occurring deficiencies, tendencies and so on. To say this was a complicated task is somewhat of an understatement ! Put the wrong trigger in at any given moment and it simply will not work. On top of this is the fact that each fish is an individual entity in its own right and often subject to genetic imbalances.
It is a very complicated subject which in one way is why we are prepared to go public as it were because we know that no other company could possibly reproduce the research we have carried out for many years, it would take any competitors a great deal of time, effort and money to produce a comparative bait, in fact we could never have done it ourselves if it hadn't been an integral part of other related research programs. We have also of course spent a lot of time and effort protecting the bait by incorporating literally hundreds of 'fake' chemical triggers within the formula that have no effect on the fish at all so anyone analyzing the contents of the product will get absolutely nowhere when trying to identify the active ingredients.
Finally, we needed to incorporate something that would help the angler identify the most likely trigger at any given time or location without having to have an advanced research based degree in marine biology ! This took even more time. What we have ended up with is a harmless liquid that is included in the bait kit, similar in looks to say a pH tester. The colour response when dipped in the lake will relate to a colour code on the bait itself and each box contains six colours. The corresponding bait is then selected ( this is not in boilie form incidentally ) and fished as a single entity with no free offerings. The bait itself will remain effective for around 6hrs depending on conditions. There is no point in it lasting any longer as if it hasn't been taken during that period, either the angler has chosen the wrong trigger or the fish just aren't feeding.
 The system is species specific in that it will only work on Carp. Research into other species is ongoing.
That's a very basic but we hope sufficient outline of the system itself. As you can see, it really is a revolutionary and very advanced bait system that is many years ahead of current research and thinking.
If you wish to take the matter further you will need to contact our Head of Research, Steve Marriot, initially via email to and write 'Head of Research' in the subject line.
Thank you for your interest


Q : Is there any chance that any of the Protex range will ever be available to the general public ?
A : Very doubtful I'm afraid. No conventional bait company could ever carry out similar research as it would not be economic to do so. This kind of research is very specialised, involves a great deal of custom built high-tech equipment and needs to be conducted throughout the world on a whole variety of species. The cost of just isolating a few of the triggers relating to Carp for instance would cost in excess of £1m and take several years. For a bait company to justify this they would have to sell an unrealistic amount of bait to even recoup their expenditure. We ourselves could never have embarked on such a program in it's own right and was only possible because it formed an essential part of a much bigger research program.
Q : Are you developing triggers for other species ?
A : Yes. So far we have triggers in the pipeline for Tench and Barbel.
Q : Does the Protex theory work for predators ?
A : Generally speaking no. Predators rely on a completely different set of senses to find their food. We are however carrying out research into Large Mouth Bass but it may be some time before we have anything to report. Trials
are taking place now and involves lures that work on a completely different principle. There is a link at the bottom of the page for more information.
Q : Why Carp if you have no interest in them specifically and you aren't going to sell the bait ?
A : Firstly Protex is a trigger, not a bait and there is a huge difference. Secondly Carp themselves, and for that matter other species we are studying such as Tench etc, only have importance to us because of their behaviour, feeding habits and their evolution into a particular niche. They are examples only and just happen to be convenient in relation to our overall objective.
Q : Does Protex 3a for instance work on any other species ?
A : We have spent many years trying to make sure that it doesn't ! Each trigger has to work on individual species for it to be relevant to our research. Sometimes species specific triggers do overlap when two or more species share a particular habitat or overall nutrient deficiency due to location but this is not as common as you might think in terms of neural triggers. We have several Protex triggers, 3a is only relative to Carp.
Q : Does Protex 3a, the Carp trigger, have any flavouring or smell etc ?
A : No, it doesn't work in the same way as an attractant. The various triggers are only coloured for identification.
Q : What are the main chemical ingredients ?
A : I am obviously not prepared to discuss the trigger constituents in detail or explain precisely how they work.
Q : Are you prepared to sell the recipe to a manufacturer ?
A : Protex has far reaching implications and it isn't a recipe in the accepted sense, it is a series of chemical formulas albeit it made from harmless human grade extracts. I cannot at this time envisage parting with any of the details or allowing the triggers to be made generally available. We do have detailed research data available but it is only given to Bona Fide research labs, universities etc as long as we know who we are dealing with, and all our data does require a signed confidentiality agreement before it is released.
Q : If you don't intend making the triggers available why contact the Angling Times ?
A : We didn't. James heard about the triggers and asked us to comment.
Q : Will you release any of the Protex 3a etc to individual anglers to test it ?
A : We have been swamped with such requests. There would be no point. Our own angling team are trusted members of staff and were hand picked for their skills and abilities. We have spent many years perfecting the triggers we have to date and they have been exhaustively tested around the world. With respect, the additional information from an angler, however trustworthy or skilled, would be of little use to us as all parts of our research have to be carefully replicated and controlled for the results to be relevant. We have ample evidence that, for instance, Protex 3a works so there is nothing to be gained by taking on random anglers.
Q : How easy is it to produce the triggers ?
A : Both the identification of the neural triggers themselves and the production of the various formulas is extremely difficult. For instance, the triggers are in liquid form and we had major problems finding a delivery system as everything they touched, rice, semolina, corn etc stopped the trigger from working. We only managed to get over this by finding a substance that formed part of the trigger itself and then removed the relevant chemical string from the trigger liquid. Thus by using the delivery system as part of the formula we were able to overcome the problem.
Q : If you feel the triggers are too powerful why don't you make a diluted version available ?
A : Neural triggers just don't work like that. Imagine someone flicking something towards your face unexpectedly, you'd blink right ? It isn't a conscious action, you can't 'half' blink . . . . you either blink or you don't. It's the same with Protex triggers, the fish has to respond and does so instinctively. It isn't a learned response in the same way you learn to hit the brakes on your car in an emergency, its pre-programmed and instinctive. Another reason that triggers will always out perform conventional baits is that the response will completely override whatever the fish has learned by experience. The response when the right unadulterated trigger is chosen is very dramatic to say the least. No attractant, flavouring or combined mix using amino acids, betains etc can ever come close to a neural trigger, they are worlds apart.
Q : I am sure I know yourself but cannot place the name and face..  I must apologise..  I'm sure it may be through kim jauncy or graham pierson or maybe anyone from winchester to stirling IOA, malcome beveridge, sunil kadri, anyone from dr tim ree's - uk danafeed, to biomar, ewos, akvasmart, storvik or even novartis friends?
 Can you please supply a proforma invoice for a test quantity of your cyprinid "feed trigger" from any available company of your own worldwide.  My intentions are to allow my watergardens in Malta to conduct our own trials for in-feed immunostimulants and other pharmaceuticals if ever required for mine and a friends koi ponds, before we assist friends in the uk and europe who have trouble with secondary infections usually stopping the fish ingesting any infeed addatives such as ergosan tm. etc.  To put it in perspective, ponds are 1400m3 and my friend Jean-Paul's are slightly smaller.
 You would be more than welcome to visit any of our locations is you find yourself in the med?  I find your website interesting, I unfortunately believe you've been inundated with enquiries.  Have you spoken with novartis or scheering plough yet?  the guys in saffron waldon, despite there name - aquavac, are good guys and well organised!  I would not be able to satisfy your european distributorship but I would reommend some very good vet customers UK and Euro wide!
 A : Thanks for your enquiry.
 I doubt we have met, we keep our research very confidential and I personally avoid contact professionally with all but a very small circle of scientists worldwide.
 We obviously have to be very careful who we allow to have the Protex triggers for obvious reasons, especially as the market value of the chemical formulas, which at present do not carry any patents, is very high indeed.
Following our recent research and filming trip to the USA I have decided, for the present at least, that the triggers are just too potent to release onto the general market despite the fact that the related research represents an investment of several million pounds Sterling.
Protex 3a proved so effective in final trials that even we were stunned by the feeding response and this carries a number of moral issues that we need to address before any consideration is given to marketing the formula, particularly as it would enable very inexperienced anglers to catch very large fish and the consequences could be very damaging as they would have little knowledge of how to handle them.
 As far as your own intentions are concerned I'm afraid that the neural triggers we have identified so far would not be of use for the simple reason that they have to be very precise and cannot be used as a delivery system for any additions.
Neural triggers either work incredibly successfully or they do not work at all. The slightest deviation in formula content renders them useless.
It may be possible, as our research progresses, to identify triggers that have formula content containing immunos by natural design but we have a long way to go before we can identify them.
 As for whether they work on injured or unwell fish the answer is yes. Neural triggers act much the same way as your own innate responses. For instance, if someone were to flick their hand towards your face unexpectedly your eyes would blink.
You have no control over this reaction, you could not 'half blink' or avoid blinking no matter how hard you tried. The fish respond exactly the same to Protex triggers, they have to respond whatever their condition with the proviso that the right trigger is used.
 There are some remarkable implications for the discovery of both the neural triggers themselves and the Protex formulas especially if used as potential delivery systems for various treatments but at this point in time I am not sure if I can allow our own research into these areas to progress further purely because of the investment required. It is a very expensive research program and as we have several others running at present I obviously have to be very selective with regards to fund placement. We are after all a commercial concern and if the neural triggers we have developed are not released onto the market because of my own misgivings about the consequences then there is no point in funding the project further. Protex will certainly not be the first breakthrough in modern science that ends up locked away in a vault. Sad but one has to be realistic about long term expenditure so I have some very difficult decisions to make over the coming weeks before deciding which projects to run next year.
 So again, thank you for your enquiry but at present I have no intention of releasing Protex commercially, the product is just too effective.
Q : If you are hesitant to allow Protex to be used by the angling industry are you still going to continue your research into the possibility of finding triggers that contain natural antibiotics etc ? The potential benefits could be of real importance particularly to commercial fisheries, Koi breeders and so on and I would have thought more than worthwhile financially as this new science has enormous potential.
A : As I have stated, I am at present reviewing the neural trigger program and need to consider many other factors before making a decision. I do feel that it may be possible to modify formula strings by replicating certain parts of the chain with either naturally occurring antibiotics or even specialised treatments but to initiate such an investigation would mean a long term commitment both in terms of finances and of course staff. Triggers are incredibly fragile and very difficult to isolate so whilst the advantages of this science are obviously huge we can only achieve so much. We have other projects from the Freshwater Cod program to a video series as well as research into other species and all of them have to be paid for. The only way we could move forward and give triggers the time they deserve would be to either join forces with another research company or raise further capital via a share issue. Both are not acceptable at present. Diobas Ltd is wholly owned by it's Directors with the exception of a few % and to release shares is not something that I'd willingly consider for obvious reasons. Working with another company also has it's drawbacks. For a start there are no others that have anything like the data, or approach for that matter, that we do so any liaison would mean sharing a great deal with no immediate reward which carries huge risks in terms of confidentiality. So as stated, I'll make a decision soon but at present it does look as though we will have to call a halt to the research into neural triggers, at least for a few years, we'll see.
Q : I own  a well known bait company, ********** , and we specialise in producing boilies and dips for the Carp market. Would you be prepared to let us use the 3a formula under licence ?
A : No
Q : Hi. I live in the South East and spend every weekend fishing travelling all over the UK. I also holiday on some of the famous Carp lakes in France. I would like to try the Protex to see how good it is. How can I purchase some and who retails it ? I would also like to join your research program as a tester. I have 20 years experience and have caught Carp up to 48lb. How to I join your program ?
A :  Thanks for the enquiry but as stated in the previous Q&A's, we have our own anglers who have experience from all over the world with a variety of species, we would not use people we do not know. A 48lb Carp from a French lake that's packed with them is of no interest as far as our neural trigger program is concerned.  A wild Carp of a few pounds in weight from a lake that is uninfluenced by anglers is a far better catch. Large European Carp are commonplace and mostly fat from high protein baits, accepting anglers offerings quite readily. This behaviour makes catching them relatively easy and as a result have little value in terms of our research. Protex is not available to purchase at this time. We have been inundated with similar requests for trial packs but as I have already made clear, we will not be giving out samples.
Q : My company would like to purchase the Protex 3a formula and any other related information regarding research papers and other Protex triggers. I have tried ringing the research unit number but have just got a recorded message. Please contact me via ********** . Our website is ***.**********.com. I Look forward to hearing from you. Best regards ** * *********
A : Please read above answers.
Q : Do you think that further research into neural triggers will eventually unlock all the codes needed to get the fish to respond ?
A : Without doubt, neural triggers will eventually have an enormous impact on how fish are caught. Hopefully this new science will uncover a more important aspect however and that is the treatment of the various ailments that afflict the many overstocked fisheries that are prone to disease etc. A delivery system for antibiotics and various treatments that is readily available without the need to treat entire lakes is an obvious leap forward but it is up to another company to take on the challenge for reasons already stated.
Personally I would love to push this science forward but the financial costs of doing so are at present prohibitive.

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