How to catch big carp – tips & tactics

Catching big carp doesn’t have to hard, results are a mix of preparation, tactics, and luck, if you’ve taken the right measures, you put yourself at a very good chance of catching a proper specimen carp!

Big carp are crafty, they’ve often had past experiences with anglers and they are usually very wary of where, when and what they feed on. This means you need to always be one step ahead and counter all the problems preventing you from catching bigger fish, you want the fish to be feeding comfortably in a location where they feel safe and secure, this will optimize your chances of a bite and hopefully result in you landing a monster.

The best way to get a bite from a bigger carp in any venue (including commercial waters) is too up your baits, increasing the size of your hooks and baits will prevent nuisance fish from messing with your rings. With the basics out of the way, lets dive deeper into how you can catch bigger carp.

When and where 


The fact is if there aren’t any big carp in the lake that you’re fishing, you won’t catch any. Look for a venue that has lots of larger fish and try commit to those longer sessions, preferably overnight at venues that contain big carp. Also, try to get to know the other anglers and people who fish the lake, you can find out what baits are working, the best swims as well as techniques to use. Leaning the in’s and outs of the lake is crucial if you want the best results.

Persistence is another super important factors when fishing a lake, don’t always expect to hit the jackpot when fishing for big carp. The more you fish a lake, the more successful you’ll become, every lake is different so we’d be lying if we said to follow this step by step guide and you’ll catch fish instantly. Trial and error at a venue is the best way to go, keeping determined and motivated to achieve the task at hand will result in you becoming an expert at fishing a particular lake.


The best time to fish for big carp is in the spring/summer, the fish are actively feeding during this period and are always on the move looking for insects, worms and other foods. Our best advice would be to stay sharp and watch the shallows and the surface for signs of fish, all it takes is one small hint to completely change your fishing session.

Whenever we’re fishing a lake in the spring or summer we always walk a couple of laps around the lake, looking for carp in the margins. This is a very effective technique and has landed us lots of big carp, try to look for features around the perimeter of the lake, like sharp ends and turns because this is where they tend to be most concentrated because they circle the perimeter of the lake. This video gives a clear explanation of where to look for carp in the summer:

Our top tips

1)Fish the margins

Throughout the spring and summer, big carp are often circling the perimeter of the lake and they can be directly beneath you. Whenever we arrive at a lake, we take a couple of laps around it to see if there is any activity in the shallows which is our number one piece of advice when trying to hunt down a big carp.

A great way of spotting the carp is wearing polarized sunglasses, They allow you to vividly see the fish and capture moments that we would usually miss with the naked eye.


Features are often hiding some of the lake’s biggest prize carp, look for sharp edges in the perimeter, lily pads and islands. These are some of the best areas to target when trying to catch carp. We’ve, as well as many other anglers have had huge success when fishing them.

You want to target awkward areas in the perimeter because that is where the fish are most concentrated when they are circling the perimeter of the lake or island.

All these places are so great for catching carp because that’s where a lot of their natural food is, like insects and worms and also this is because there is often a lot of bait left behind at these locations by other anglers.


The older and bigger the fish get, the more wise and wary they become. Many carp have had experience with anglers and because of this, they can get spooked very easily so you need to stay as quiet as possible.

This is especially important when stalking, you don’t want to be directly above your rods as the fish will often be able to spot you, the last thing you want is a carp to spot a looming shadow above them and get spooked.

​4)Persist fishing a lake

If you want to be successful at fishing any lake you have to persist at it, learn to fish it and keep trying even if you are unsuccessful on your first couple of sessions.

We found that we were often unsuccessful on our first couple sessions of fishing a lake, however after 2 or 3 sessions of slightly changing tactics we would start to see results, so don’t be surprised if you’re first couple sessions at a lake seem fruitless.

However this doesn’t mean you should switch up your game plan every few hours, stick to baits and rigs you know work and make small changes depending on what is working at your particular venue.

One of the best ways to learn how to fish a lake is to ask other local anglers fishing, they’ll often be able to provide information about the best swims and what baits are working best in this time of year which is information that can completely transform you’re fishing session, so asking around is defiantly worth it.

5)Always be prepared

It’s always good practice to keep a variety of baits and rigs with you whenever your fishing for carp, it’s no good to turn up at a lake and find out that a specific bait is working really well and you don’t have it, so always be prepared and have a large variety of baits with you. This especially important when targeting those monster carp!

6)Use the right hooks

There is a range of hook options for carp fishing all of which their advantages and disadvantages, when targeting big carp you should use what’s best for where and when fishing.

When fishing with pop-ups, wide-gape hooks are probably best suited for the job. For bottom bait fishing a longer hook shank is preferable as the carp engulf bait on the lake bed. This is very important as you want a good hook-set on a big carp, which has such a big impact, it can mean the difference between you landing a fish or losing it. Take precaution when using hooks, lots of them are chemically sharpened.

7)Wash your baits out

As we mentioned before, the older the carp get the smarter they get as well. This means you have to use crafty tactics to fool them into taking your bait, a very clever and effective way of doing this is by washing your baits out, this means you let your baits soak in water for a few days to get rid of the colour and make them seem as though they’ve been sitting on the lakebed for a while. Although using vibrant pungent hook-baits works very effectively, this technique is good for targeting the more cautious and larger carp in a lake. Its always great to be one step ahead of the fish.

8)Stay focused

The mental game when big carp fishing has a big impact on your success rate. When targeting big carp in these venues you’ll often go many hours without even a hint of a bite. The important thing here is to keep your spirits high and don’t give up. If you’ve gone many hours without any sign of carp it may be worth changing your swim.



It can be hard to choose the correct type of rod for your style of fishing as there are so many rods on the market these days. When trying to fish for big carp you will need a strong rod with a stiff backbone, 3 ¼ lb test curve on a rod is what we recommend however if you want to cast large distances then a 3 ¾ lb test curve rod is preferable.

An awesome and affordable rod for the job is the Fox Warrior S 12′ 3lb 3 piece Carp Rod

This doesn’t mean that you can’t land big carp on weaker rods however they don’t work as well and you may end up putting too much strain on the rod which in worse cases could lead to a snapped rod and an unhappy angler.

When fishing for big carp it’s important to remember that you want to maximise your chances of landing a fish, this usually means setting up three rods with bite alarms enabling you to have rigs out in the lake for maximum periods of time.

Rod stands are a great piece of tackle that will help keep all your rods tangle free and in the correct position, you could argue that they are not actually a must but we think they help make your time at the bank less stressful. Different long range carp rods vary in prices so it’s really up to you on how much you want to spend on a rod. Like with anything you get what you pay for, however, you may be surprised at how good of a rod you can get for a fairly reasonable price.


Having a good quality reel is the next big piece of equipment you will need when carp fishing. We recommend getting a Big-pit reel if your main aim is the big carp. They have big spools allowing you to reel in a lot more line with only one turn, this also means that the line fly’s out when casting so you can reach further distances than if you were using a standard a bait-runner reel for instance.

Bigger reels can get expensive so when purchasing a reel make sure to read the specs of the reel. The main things to look out for is the size of the spool and the features of the reel like eg; the clip. You may have to buy 3 of these reels for the best results when fishing so remember to keep that in mind when looking for the best reel for you.

Similar to rods the reel market is very extensive and it’s easy to be persuaded into buying a reel if you don’t know what you need. We give non-biased reviews of different reels at different price points informing you of the negatives as well of the positives to help you make the correct decision when purchasing. Heres a link to one of our other articles where we go through the best carp reels; best carp fishing reels.


To catch big carp you don’t need complicated rigs, for the majority of the time we use an inline lead with a stiff hook-link and big boilie. Rigs are very important when carp fishing, it’s essential you tie them right which is why we’d recommend sticking with something simple that works.

This video is very simple and straight to the point and it perfectly demonstrates how to tie a basic carp rig

If we’re fishing a weedy lake we’ll use a chod-rig but the majority of the time we’ll be using a classic pear lead or something similar which is easy to tie and effective.

Since you are going to be targeting the bigger carp you’ll often find yourself casting large distances to try to hunt those more elusive fish which we’ll mean you need a lead with enough weight to send your rig those kinds of distances. We tend to use 2 or 2.5-ounce leads but we usually fish medium range distances, if you want to target the 100 yards + a 3.5-ounce lead is preferable.


It’s very important to have a good landing net to ensure that the fish you have hooked does not get injured in any way and it safely contained. For big carp, a 42″+ triangle net is probably your best bet especially because you can pick them up for relatively cheap and they are perfect for the job.


This is an optional piece of tackle but can make getting the fish from the lake onto the bank much easier with less risk of hurting the fish. This is especially useful when bringing in big carp as the weight may rip or damage the net if not lifted correctly.

To learn more about handling the carp out the water, check out our article – Carp fishing safety

A little tip when bringing the fish on to the bank is making sure that the fins of the fish are pressed against its body if they are bent backward the other way they could in fact snap and cause permanent damage to the fish. Having a sling makes the process of checking the fins easier.

Unhooking mat:

An unhooking mat is essential when fishing for big carp as if the carp are put directly onto mud or grass the risks of them obtaining an injury are much higher than if they were put safely on an unhooking mat. It also allows you to take pictures with the fish knowing that if it flaps and falls from your hands it will be safe.

We defiantly recommend that your purchase an unhooking mat, in some fisheries failure to put the carp on an unhooking mat could lead to a ban or fine from the fishery so it’s best not to take any chances.


Another essential is a chair, it’s advisable that you purchase a good quality bed chair or regular chair for your carp fishing. It will keep you comfortable on the bank and give you somewhere to relax which is more important than you might think. For more information on how to stay comfortable on the bank check out one of our other articles; how to stay warm when carp fishing

Bite alarms:

A bite alarm is an important piece of equipment, it is critical that you remain responsive and sharp, many anglers prefer the new Delkim EV plus but they are quite pricey, they are fantastic pieces of equipment and if you have the budget we’d strongly that you use one.



When you’re just targeting big fish you want to be using a bigger bait, if you’re using small baits like corn and pellets, you likely find yourself coming into regular contact with nuisance fish. This doesn’t mean you have to use giant 20mm gobstopper boilies, but you should definitely bump up the size of your hook baits, especially if you’re fishing a lake with lots of nuisance fish. We tend to go with 15mm boilies or pop-ups when targeting big carp.

Hair Rigs:

The bigger, older carp are also smarter, they most likely will have had experience with anglers and are often wary of hook baits. If you’re not already using hair rigs, we highly recommend that you do, from our experience we’ve seen a massive increase in hook-up rates when using a hair rig and it gets bigger carp nibbling at your hook-bait. This is because with hair rigs the fish can feel the bait in its mouth before swallowing and it won’t be able to feel the hook, however, if your using a regular hooking style the fish will be able to feel the hook and it will get spooked.


Groundbaits are one of our favorite ways to “chum up” a swim and they work very well when fishing for big carp. The trick with ground baits is to use a selection of baits with different breakdown rates, also make sure to incorporate larger chunks of bait into your groundbait as well otherwise nuisance fish get to it pretty fast. When adding the bait to your swim we’d recommend to bait up little and often, you can always add more bait to the swim but you can’t take it out. You don’t want to overwhelm the fish with too much bait otherwise you’ll decrease the chance of the fish actually finding your hook bait.

Here is one of our favorite recipes for groundbait which has worked really well for us:


  1. Mixed bird seed
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Chickpeas
  4. Jelly crystals
  5. Hot water                                                  

Step 1) Add you Mixed bird seeds into a large mixing bowl

Step 2) Add boiling water into the bowl and allow the seeds to soak up all the water

Step 3) Empty the soaked seeds (with the water) into a pot

Step 4) Add tinned sweetcorn and tinned chickpeas into the pot and mix thoroughly

Step 5) Cook the mix, bring it to a boil and cook for 15-20 minutes

Step 6) once you have finished cooking, drain most of the water and empty back into a mixing bowl for it to cool down

Step 7) Add jelly crystals to the mixture and combine thoroughly, then leave the mixture to soak overnight, then it is ready to use


Dip flavorings for baits have worked so well for us over the last couple years and we’ve managed to land a ton of fish using this technique. The flavorings are pungent and make the fish go crazy, the scent of the hook-bait becomes irresistible and too good to miss. Adding chili to your hook bait also works amazingly well, we sometimes add some turmeric to maggots which have given us crazy amounts of success when fishing for carp.

So there you have it, our take on how to catch those bigger carp, if you found this article useful then feel free to check out some of our others

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