How To Catch Carp – A Complete Guide

Well, this is an elaborate question. Firstly, because there are a variety of ways to catch carp. Secondly, this is the very question that this website was centered around. However, catching carp isn’t all that difficult. With perseverance and a touch of guidance, anyone can become a competent carp angler.

By far the most effective way of catching carp is with a traditional rod and reel. It’s simple and effective but there are lots of small adjustments you can do to make it slightly better for the specific venue or lake where you’re fishing. Carp basically eat anything from maggots to spam, so you don’t need to be too assiduous when it comes to bait. However, one of the most popular and effective baits across all of Europe is Boilies.

But with the endless amount of methods and techniques shown online, its difficult to figure out where to start. Well, that’s what we’ll be covering in this article, whether you’re brand new to carp fishing or a seasoned angler looking for new tips.

Table Of Contents

Getting A Fishing License

If you’re fishing in the UK, you’ll have to get a fishing license before you are legally allowed to fish for carp or any other freshwater fish. The license is free for those under 16 and costs very little for adults as well. You can sign up for a license in five minutes on the website. Other countries will have their own regulations and requirements you need to meet for course fishing.

Where To Go Carp Fishing

This is actually the most important segment of this article because where you decide to go fishing will affect everything from the required tackle to the style of fishing you’ll need. There are essentially three types of places you can go to catch carp. We have Commercial lakes, Specimen Lakes, and Natural Lakes & Rivers.

If you’re relatively new to carp fishing, we’d strongly recommend that you start off by fishing on commercial lakes. Carp are heavily stocked in commercials and will typically weigh around 2-15lbs. However, the bites will come much more frequently and you’ll get much more experience as it’s quite an active form of fishing. These fisheries will often charge you a small amount for a day ticket but it’s great value as you can catch fish all day long. The starting cost for this form of fishing is relatively low as well, hence why it’s perfect for new anglers. Commercial fisheries are very common and there are literally hundreds of them throughout the UK, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding one that is local to you. Just search for Fisheries Near Me or use the website.

If you decide to fish for larger carp, Specimen lakes are the right choice for you. These lakes are bigger and they stock larger fish. The fish are typically above 15lbs but there are far fewer fish compared to commercial fisheries. The lower amount of stock means that these carp are more difficult to catch and require more time and tackle. This style of fishing is slightly more challenging but more rewarding.

Listed below are some of the best specimen lakes throughout the UK:

FisheryCarp Size
Bluebell lakes, Peterborough10-55lbs
Cherry Lakes, Cirencester20-10lbs
Linear Fisheries, Oxfordshire 20-45lbs
Farlows Lakes, Iver20-40lbs
Yateley Pads Lake, Yately20-45lbs
Horseshoe Lake, Carp Society, Lechlade20-40lbs
Grenville Lake, Cambridgeshire20-60lbs
Berner’s Hall Fishery, Essex20-50lbs
Sandhurst Lake, Berkshire20-45lbs
Elphicks Fisheries, Tonbridge20-50lbs
Thorpe Lea, Surrey 15-40lbs
Wyreside Lakes, Lancaster20-45lbs

Lastly, we have natural lakes and rivers. These lakes or rivers aren’t actively advertised as fishing locations but have no restrictions on them. The fish in these lakes are wild and often incredibly strong. Fishing at wild lakes may often prove fruitless but you could also find a hidden gem. I’d only recommend fishing in unknown locations for competent carp anglers. The tackle required will usually be similar to what is needed for specimen carp fishing.

What Tackle You Need For Commercial Lakes

TackleOur Recommendation
Feeder Fishing Quiver-Tip Rod 1.5-2lb Test CurveDaiwa N’Zon Feeder Rod
Feeder Fishing Reel Loaded with 8lb Monofilament LineMAP Carptek ACS 4000FS
Method Feeder & Method Feeder MouldPreston Large Method Feeder & Mould
Quick Change BeadPreston ICS Quick Change Bead
Banded HooklinksGuru Banded Hooklinks
Groundbait/Micro-pelletsSonubaits Super Crush Groundbait
Rod StandGuru Reaper Front Rest Head

What Tackle You Need For Specimen Carp Fishing

TackleOur Recommendation
10ft Carp Fishing Rods 2-3.5lb Test Curve SetDaiwa Black Widow G50
Carp Fishing Reel Set Loaded With 15lb Monofilament LineShimano Baitrunner
Bite AlarmsSonik SKS Bite Alarms
Rod PodSonik Vader X2 Rod Pod
Assortment of LeadsKorda Carp Fishing Leads
Assortment of Carp Fishing HooksKorda Carp Fishing Hooks
Coated Braid HooklinkKorda Coated Braid
Rubber TubingKorda Silicone Tube
Lead ClipKorda Lead Clips
Baiting NeedleKorda Baiting Needle
Bait-StopsKorda Hair Stops
Tail RubberKorda Tail Rubbers
Ring SwivelKorda Ring Swivels

Setting Up Your Rod & Reel

Step 1: Slot your reel into the reel seat of your rod and tighten it down so that the reel is fastened securely in place.

Step 2: Adjust the clutch on your reel so that it has the least resistance. Then carefully pull the line to the outside of the bail arm and onto the runner. When dealing with the fishing line you want to ensure that you don’t wrap it around your hands or fingers.

Step 3: Then start to thread the line through the eyes of the rod until you reach the end. Then tighten up your clutch but refrain from excessively tightening it as this will put too much pressure on the fish and your line.

Carp Fishing Rigs

There are literally hundreds of carp fishing rigs and each of them is suited to slightly different fishing situations. However, if you know a couple of rigs that you can tie really well, you’ll be well equipped to deal with a lot of fishing situations that you may encounter.

For commercial fisheries, we’d recommend using a method feeder rig. It’s simple, effective, and easy to use. It involves using a lead which you can squeeze ground bait around in order to attract fish. This technique is commonly used among match fishermen. Once you’ve got your rod and reel setup, it’s dead easy to tie a method feeder rig:

Step 1: Thread the method feeder onto the end of your mainline. Pull apart your ICS quick change bead and thread the rubber section onto the line with the dome facing upwards. Thread the line through the hole in the plastic section of the quick change bead and secure it using a blood knot before cutting off the tag end of the line.

Step 2: Attach your banded hooklink onto the lipped section of the quick change bead. Then pull the rubber dome down and fasten it on top of the hard plastic section of the quick change bead. After that, secure a dumbbell wafter into the band near the hook.

Step 3: Place the hook into the bottom of the method feeder mould, fill it with ground bait and then press the method feeder into it before pressing the release.

For specimen lakes, there’s a wide variety of rigs that can be used but shown below is a versatile and simple rig that can be used in a large variety of situations

Step 1: Thread a tail rubber onto your mainline followed by your lead clip. Next, thread the mainline through a ring swivel and secure it using a blood knot before pulling it into the lead clip until it clicks into place. Attach a lead of your choice onto the lead clip before pulling the tail rubber onto the lead clip.

Step 2: Take 10-12 inches of coated braid and remove a few inches of the coating from one end, Then tie a small overhand loop-knot into the removed end as this will become your hair rig.

Step 3: Using a baiting needle, thread on a bait of your choice before securing it with a bait-stop. Then thread a hook onto the other side of your hooklink until it nearly touches the bait before securing it in place with a knotless knot.

Step 4: Throw a large overhand knot into the other side of the hooklink. Next, thread the large overhand knot into the ring swivel before pulling the hookbait through the knot to secure and complete the rig.

Best Carp Fishing Baits

You can really take whatever route you want when it comes to baits for carp fishing. Carp aren’t exactly fussy eaters and they’ll basically eat anything they can swallow. However, its important to mention that there are two kinds of baits in carp fishing. Firstly we have our hook baits which as the name suggests, are the baits that are attached to the hook.

However, we also have a lot of feed baits or ground baits in carp fishing. These baits are used to draw fish into your swim and keep them feeding there. They are effectively attractants so fish will enter the area near your hook bait, thus making it more likely for them to take your hook bait. Below we’ve listed some of our favourite and most effective feed-baits and hook-baits:


  • Boilies
  • Pop-ups
  • Wafters
  • Maggots
  • Tiger Nuts
  • Lobworms
  • Bread
  • Sweetcorn
  • Spam
  • Zigs


  • Ground-bait
  • Hemp
  • Grounded Boilies
  • Sweetcorn
  • Pellets
  • Boilies

How To Locate Carp

I think one of the biggest mistakes new anglers make when carp fishing is that they rush when choosing their swim. Instead of simply picking the swim that is nearest to the car park, take a little time getting to understand the structure and layout of the lake. If there are five anglers fishing in a row, what makes you think you’ll have more success being the sixth? This sounds a little excessive, but choosing the right swim is crucial. Some areas of a lake will simply be scarcely occupied by carp, while others will a hot spot.

We found that one of the best ways to locate carp is by walking around the lake a few times and trying to spot any telltale signs. Something obvious is a splash or visibly seeing the fish just under the water, however, sometimes the hints will be much more subtle. Try to look for bubbles or movement near lily pads and sunken trees. Carp often hide in the margins of lakes, especially during the summer, so they are always worth checking before you start fishing. To make spotting the fish easier, we’d also recommend that you use a pair of polarized sunglasses, these essentially make everything darker and make the fish much more visible to the naked eye.

How To Improve Bite Frequency

If you’re struggling to get bites when carp fishing, there are a handful of tricks you can use to turn things around. One of the first pieces of advice I’d give is to check if your rig placement is adequate. If you’ve cast into deep weeds and don’t have the appropriate rig, it will be nigh-on impossible to get a bite. An easy way to tell if you’ve cast into weed is by reeling your rig back in. If there is weed attached to or around your rig, then its advisable to either your rig location or the rig itself to something like a chod-rig that can deal with heavy amounts of weed.

Baiting up your swim can also have profound effects if you haven’t done so already. This simply means depositing bait in the area of water where you’ll be fishing. This means that there will be more bait to attract fish into your swim and therefore it increases the likelihood of your hookbait getting taken. Pre-baiting is an incredibly effective way of doing this as you deposit the bait before you actually start fishing which means that the swim will be red hot with fish by the time you drop in your rig.

You can also try using different baits, sometimes the carp are just fancying something different! We’ve found that tiger nuts can be a real game changer when the fish aren’t responding to the usual baits.

Lastly, you can sometimes trick the carp in commercial fisheries. In carp fishing, you’re traditionally told to stay as quiet as possible in order to not spook the fish. However, in commercial fisheries, the carp are caught very regularly and are often fed by the owners of the fishery. This means you can use a subtle tap of the rod to create vibrations in the water which they’ll associate with being fed.

When Is The Best Time To Go Carp Fishing

Honestly, the best time to go carp fishing is in the summer. During the warmer months, the fish are feeding much more aggressively and you’ll get a lot more bites. While we have advocated for winter carp fishing in the past, we recognize that it does come with its own set of challenges. Frankly, the fish won’t be nearly as active during the winter so the vast majority of novice anglers will struggle. However, its still possible, and fishing in the winter does have a different appeal. But for someone who is new to carp fishing, we’d recommend waiting until March or April when things start to get warmer before going carp fishing.

How To Handle & Unhook Carp

Handling carp is rather simple. Carp don’t have any visible or accessible teeth so they don’t pose a danger like some predatory fish, for instance, Pike or Zander. Simply lift the fish out of the water and place it on an unhooking mat. The unhooking mat is necessary as it will prevent the fish from hurting itself if it thrashes around. If the carp is lively and continues to thrash, gently place your hand over it’s eyes and it should calm down right away.

Once the fish is secure, you can work on removing the hook. Start off by locating the hook, then gently use your fingers to apply pressure to the eye of the hook whilst rotating it out. This should mean the hook smoothly slides out, take your time, it can be slightly tricky when the hook is lodged at an awkward angle. Don’t yank and tear, it could increase the risk of infection.

To hold the fish, slide your hands underneath its stomach and rotate it upwards. Allow the pectoral fins to slide between your fingers and then gently lift the fish up. Make sure to also have your unhooking mat underneath you in case you drop the fish.

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