Tackle and Baits for Catching Carp

Some anglers love nothing more than travelling light – taking a rod and reel and heading off into the great outdoors to see what they can catch. Invariably, these are not carp fishermen. Although it is possible to fish light for carp (such as when fishing with floating bread crust or stalking), the majority of carp anglers could fill a room with their gear, and invariably they do!

So, if you’re thinking about setting yourself up for a carping mission, here’s a breakdown of some of the key equipment and baits you might want to consider taking with you.

Carp bait

Carp Baits

Natural baits

Natural baits include things like worms, maggots, crustaceans, mollusks, crayfish, algae, aquatic plants and insects like stonefly and mayfly nymphs. They will feed wherever these natural baits appear in the water, from top to bottom. Carp are even attracted to other natural flavours, such as crab, shrimp, octopus, halibut, oyster, and chicken.

Human food

Carp have become used to eating human food such as bread, seeds, sweetcorn and lunch meat, etc…This is partially due to the fact that many lake and pond visitors are there just for the scenery or perhaps to feed the birds. Due to carps’ amazing senses, they sense the nutritional value of these foods.

So, although they are not “natural” to carp, they are viewed as a reliable food source. This is especially true because these foods never have hooks in them. Hence, over time they become extremely trustworthy. This is a distinct advantage to carp fisherman for several reasons. First of all, because it means you can enjoy carp fishing on a budget. It also means you can minimize the complexity and cumbersome nature of carp bait.

Specialty Baits: Particles and Nuts

Technically, particles can include anything you can chop up small enough to be considered a particle. However, usually particle baits are things like hemp or tigernuts (we will consider tigernuts separately in a moment).

Many carp anglers prefer hemp particles because it is simply one of the best fish attractors known to man. Therefore, hemp can be extremely useful to line up fish as you’re preparing your swim.

A form of particle baits, there are a variety of nuts that carp will feed on. Although peanuts and tigernuts are the most popular. Nuts are fairly easy to use but MUST be prepared in advance to avoid harming the fish. In fact, many carp (including some specimen and record carp) have sadly been killed due to improperly prepared nuts. As a result, many carp lakes prohibit their use entirely.

Prepping nuts for carp bait is not difficult. Simply soak the nuts in water for 24 hours and then boil for 20 minutes. If you don’t do these two basic steps, they will be toxic to fish. An additional step can be taken to help make the nuts more attractive to fish by allowing them to ferment (over 24-48 hrs). All told, nuts (some would say, especially tigernuts) have a good record of success in the UK.

Carp fishing hair rig

Hair rig (image from Wikimedia user, ‘Bastet’)

Specialty Baits: Boilies

Boilies are a favourite among most modern carp anglers because they can be tailor made with the size, colours and flavours that are most attractive to the fish in your favourite fishing spot. Additionally, due to the way boilies are made, they tend to be able to stay in the water longer and reduce the incidence of non-carp catches; this is due to their harder exterior.

What are boilies? They are dough balls that are rolled out of boiled paste – hence the name. They typically are made from a combination of fishmeal, milk proteins, bird foods, semolina and soya flour, which are mixed with eggs as a binding agent and then boiled to make the paste. Then, they can be customized according to the size, colouring and flavours that will present more attractively to the carp in your local waters.

Carp Tackle

What tackle and accessory equipment do you need to enjoy your carp fishing experience? Let’s start by pointing out that carp fishing is an equipment heavy sport. There is some tackle that is absolutely required and quite a bit more that is advisable to have in order to enjoy the experience all the more. We will start here with the bare minimum and take it one piece of equipment at a time.

Daiwa Windcast BR LD 5000

Carp Reels

When it comes to carp reels, most fisherman prefer a spinning or ‘fixed spool reel’ fixed to the rod of their choice. The spinning real is ideal for all types of carp fishing. The only exception would be if you were fly fishing for carp – then you would opt for a traditional fly rod & reel.

Carp Rods

Most carp fisherman will tell you that one rod is not enough. It is usually preferable to have at least 2 to 3 rods. One reason for this would be to have each rod set up for different tactics (i.e margins, stalking, method, etc.), while many fisherman have several rods in the water at the same time simply to increase their odds. Additionally, you may find it necessary to have rods with different “action” (length, diameter and flexibility) depending on the type of water or size of fish you are in to.

NOTE: Some lakes only allow one rod at a time, but it is common for them to allow 2-3 rods per peg at the same time, especially for overnight sessions.

Rod Holder

Carp fishing is a waiting game, so it is usually advisable to have a rod holder – known as a ‘pod’ – along with a bite alarm, which alerts you when you’ve had a bite. Some pods are capable of holding multiple rods simultaneously.

Landing Net

A landing net is absolutely necessary not just to increase the odds of you landing your prized catch, but also to avoid harming the animal as you bring them to shore. Even if you aren’t going after specimen carp, most lakes require all fisherman to have their own landing net.

Carp bivvy sunset. Marian Sura

Overnight Gear

Where overnight sessions or camping is allowed you might require a minimal amount of gear for comforts sake such as a bivvy or small tent, a sleeping bag and a chair. Many carp fisherman opt for a chair that allows them to sit in normally while prepping gear, but then allows them to recline and enjoy the moment whilst waiting for the fish to strike.

Scales and Sling

Since nearly all carp fishing is catch and release, you will need a way to accurately record your prize, so you can justifiably lord it over your less fortunate mates. This means you will need a portable scale along with a cloth sling (so you can weigh the fish without injuring it) and a ruler.


We could have put this under the “measuring devices” heading. But, since a camera is a quintessential part of recording your carp fishing experience, we thought it deserved its own space. A quality camera is something you definitely don’t want to leave home without. And, given the fact that most of your photo ops will take place near the water’s edge – due to concerns for the carps safety, you are not supposed to lift the carp above waist height much less walk around with it for photo ops – it would be advisable to use a waterproof camera just in case.

common vs mirror carp

Unhooking Mat

Conscientious anglers will use an unhooking mat to avoid unnecessary harm or injury to their catch. Most carp fishing venues require it anyway.

Torch and Lantern

Even if you aren’t doing an overnight session, you might want to keep a reliable lantern or torch handy. Since many venues only allow fishing from sun up to sun down, you may find yourself arriving and leaving in the dark. So, to take advantage of as many fishable hours as possible – from the wee morning hours, right up until dark – you will undoubtedly need to light things up a bit as you are prepping your gear or as you are breaking it down at the end of the day. Of course, if you are night fishing or overnighting it, you will definitely need both a lantern and a torch for obvious reasons.

Tackle Box

For the sake of brevity, let’s just say that it is advisable to bring a selection of rigs and baits in order to maximize your chances. This means you will need a variety of hook sizes, hair, leads, floats, baits, etc. This means you will need tackle boxes and bait boxes galore. There are all types of rigs, baits and methods used in carp fishing so find what works for you and your favourite spot and adapt accordingly. No matter what, you will probably find the need to keep a variety of gear in your tackle box.

Catapult or Bait Boat

Some carp rigs end up being rather light which makes them difficult to get in to position in the swim. So, to help you get your hooked bait (as well as loose offerings/ground bait) into position, you may need to buy either a catapult or an electric bait boat. You may even opt to buy both, since some carp venues don’t allow bait boats.

[Photo credits: Fox Consultant Marian Sura and Lester Public Library]