In this article, I hope to educate others on How to Catch Carp. Carp angling isn’t as popular in Canada as it is in other countries. Whenever I set up for a session I often get approached by people asking what I’m fishing for. Due to the amount of gear carp anglers use I get a lot of questions. “What is that beeping noise?” “Why do you need such a long rod?” “What are you throwing into the water?” etc. etc. After educating other anglers on the size and amount of carp in our waters the question I get asked most is “How do I catch Carp?” or “What gear do I need to start catching carp?”
What Gear is Required to Catch Carp?
The only gear required to catch carp is a rod, reel, 25lb. line, a strong hook, weights, net, bait and a licence. Most anglers already have this basic equipment, I will delve deeper into the topic below on how to set up your gear to catch carp.
- A strong fishing rod and a fair-sized reel. (Salmon rod and reel combo will do fine as most Canadians have this already.)
- 25lb. + Fishing Line. (I prefer Braided Line for Carp.)
- Strong Quality Circle Hooks. (#4 or #6, I use #4’s as Carp aren’t used to being caught here and don’t shy away from hooks that often.)
- 2oz. to 4oz. Weights + rig beads or split shot weights. (Depending on whether you’re fishing a lake or river.)
- Landing Net. (Large enough to hold big fish.)
- Canned Corn. (To use as chum and hook-bait.)
- Valid Fishing Licence for the Province you are Fishing In.
I was able to purchase all this gear for around $150.00 CAD. (Minus the Fishing Licence.) For more information on the tackle side of things be sure to check out our Recommended Carp Fishing Gear Page.
I’ve put together this article to educate new anglers on what gear they absolutely need to catch carp. I’m sure once newcomers use the bare-bones gear guide I provide here they will get hooked and no doubt-ably end up buying all the items that make it much more successful and enjoyable, much like I have.
I will start with the easiest method, the same as I did over 20 years ago, and then add some more content on beginner carp fishing items that aren’t “necessary” but greatly increase your chances of hooking and landing carp.
Scouting for Carp Fishing
It sounds pretty simple but the main key to catching lots of carp is to fish where they are most active. In any body of water, the carp will be in different locations depending on the conditions.
It is easiest to tell at sunrise and sunset when the fish are most active as to where they are. It is also important to find a suitable spot to present your bait. If you’re fishing an area with lots of thick weed it is important to find a bare patch to present your bait so the carp can find it easier.
For more information check out our other article on How to Find Carp Fishing Locations.
Pre-baiting for Carp Fishing
Pre-bait if you can. Most likely you’ve spotted carp in a certain area and have decided to try to catch one. If you can dump some corn in the area each day prior to actually fishing, the carp will become comfortable feeding safely on the bait. It will decrease the amount of time it will take for carp to take your bait when you actually do fish the location. Being very opportunistic feeders, Carp quickly become habituated to feeding in a certain area if there is a food source there day after day.
Curious about what bait to use for carp fishing? We cover Carp Fishing Bait in great detail over a series of different articles but The Best Baits for Carp Fishing is a great start.
Setup for Catching Your First Carp – Hook, Rig, Weights and Bait
Here I will touch on briefly what type of rig will work best for carp. This is a very bare-bones type of bolt rig that can be made up quickly with items you already have in your tackle box. I will cover it in further detail later on in the article with some more advanced tips.
- Start off first by threading an inline weight onto your line.
- Second clip a split shot weight or bead on your line about 8 to 12 inches from the end.
- Third tie a #4 or #6 circle hook onto the end.
- Fourth bait the hook by sliding 2 to 3 kernels of canned sweet corn onto the hook.
Why is it called a “bolt rig?” It is referred to as a bolt rig due to the fact that when a carp picks up the bait and feels the hook it “bolts” thus setting the hook itself and stripping line freely.
Bolt Rig Basics and How to Set the Drag on Your Reel
Why Use a Circle Hook for Carp Fishing?
- Circle or Octopus hooks are best for carp due to their design. The point of the hook is angled and points back towards the eye of the hook. This creates a natural hooking/turning motion when carp try to spit the bait and hook out. Nearly every time a carp tries to spit the hook, it turns and lodges itself perfectly in the side of its mouth.
- If a carp swims off with your bait as soon as you lift your rod the circle hook will turn and set itself in the side of the fish’s mouth.
- These hooks are designed very well for the bolt rig and I never used them until I started targetting carp.
For more information on Carp Fishing Hooks check out our in-depth article on How to Choose the Proper Carp Fishing Hook.
How to Set Your Drag for Carp Fishing?
- Once you cast your bait out you have one of two options. Either open the bail on your reel or loosen your drag as light as it will go. This will allow the line to play out freely when a fish takes off with your bait.
- When you notice a fish is on simply pick up your rod, close the bail or tighten the drag then reel in and add pressure. No need to set the hook hard, this can tear the hook from the soft-sided mouth of the carp.
What is a Bait Runner Reel or Bait ‘n Run Reel?
These are specialty reels for carp fishing. They have a two-drag system. One drag for free spooling when a fish takes your bait and a second drag for fighting the fish once it is hooked.
These reels work very well for carp fishing in tandem with bite alarms. This is where Carp Fishing can start getting pricey but if you become serious about the sport, once you catch your first carp, I would recommend a bait runner reel and bite alarm be one of your first purchases.
Carp Care – Large Tangle-Free Net
One item I didn’t have when I first tried to catch a carp was a large landing net. I didn’t have a net big enough so I had to release the carp I caught in the water. Carp shops sell excellent quality nets with special handles that detach from the net for easier fish handling. If you are serious about how to catch carp be sure to check out my article on proper carp care. The safety of the fish should always be the top priority.
If you’re wondering what net you should purchase specifically for carp you can read this in-depth article on Carp Fishing Landing Nets.
More Advanced Carp Specialty Gear on How to Catch Carp
Once I had caught some carp on the beginner gear that I started out with, as listed above, I quickly became a carp fishing addict! I researched and purchased more advanced gear online that greatly increased the amount of fish I hooked and landed. I will list these items below and delve a little deeper into their uses.
Carp Bait – Boilies, Pop-Ups, Pack Bait, Fake Corn and Flavor Additives
As far as bait goes, corn is by far still my favourite pre-baiting bait. After blanketing an area with a couple of cans of sweet corn I introduce a new bait (such as a boilie) as my hook bait. Once the carp find the corn and start feeding they notice the boilie as it is bigger and sometimes a different colour. This can often lead to carp picking up the bait quicker than waiting for them to eat corn until they find your one piece of hook bait in the scattering of particles across the bottom.
I find I have the most success with boilies. If you are brand new to carp angling you might ask, What is a boilie? Boilies are basically small dough balls, they come in a variety of sizes and flavours. My favourite type are pop-up boilies that are buoyant. If your bait is floating slightly above the pile of free bait such as corn on the bottom, carp are more likely to find it quicker. Another way to get your bait up off the bottom without using pop-up boilies is to purchase a pack of buoyant plastic sweetcorn, these come in a variety of sizes and colours. On occasion just changing the colour of plastic sweetcorn has had great improvements on the amount of fish that I have caught.
What is a Pack Bait for Carp Fishing?
A pack bait is a bait that is made up of a lot of particles, big and small. It is usually mixed until it is a paste that can be formed into balls. One of my favourite and cheapest pack baits is made of canned sweet corn, bread crumbs and jello powder. It sticks to leads quite well and attracts a lot of fish.
Once you choose your preferred hook bait it is often a good idea to add some flavour or scent to it. Carp use many different senses to find food, especially in murky water the carp will “smell” and “taste” their way to their meal. You can do this quite easily by pre-soaking your baits in jello, there are also additives that may be purchased from carp shops that aid in this as well. I used to rely only on jello flavouring as it was the cheapest. I was amazed when I tried my first specialty additive. As soon as my bait hit the water I could see the plume of liquid form around my bait. The specialty liquids are also compatible with PVA mesh for baiting, which I covered in greater detail in my article on baiting for carp fishing.
Pre-tied Hair Rigs
A hair rig is used much like the bolt rig illustrated above. The only difference being is that instead of adding bait directly to the hook there is a small loop or “hair” tied off below the hook to add bait too. This increases the chances that the carp are hooked when inhaling your bait of choice. It also allows for the use of boilies which are larger than corn and near impossible to put directly on a hook. One definite improvement to increase the odds of catching carp.
(Note in the diagram below that split shot weights have been replaced with rig putty, another piece of kit that can be purchased at carp specialty stores.) Rig Putty is much lighter yet still pins the rig to the bottom well. It is also easier to apply than split shots and doesn’t damage or crimp the line at all.
If you plan on upgrading to boilies and hair rigs you will need to invest in a baiting needle, these are quite cheap and can save a lot of time when baiting your rig. When I first started using boilies I tried using a small sewing needle…it took me forever to thread the line through the small hole it made in the bait. I even tried using a small drill bit to make a bigger hole but ended up splitting more boilies than using.
What is a Baiting Needle for Carp Fishing?
Baiting needles have a small hook on the end to pull the line through your chosen bait. Not only are they used for boilies but they can thread on any sort of bait you choose.
- Ensure the needle goes through the center of the bait as close as possible to prevent the bait from breaking.
- Thread boilie or chosen bait onto the needle.
- Hook the end of the baiting needle onto the loop on the end of your hair rig.
- Thread boilie onto the “hair” until it is just touching the curve in your hook.
- Insert boilie stop into the end of the loop sticking out from your bait.
- Pull bait back onto bait stop.
Pre-tied hair rigs are also made from a thicker type of braided line and sometimes come with a stiff hard plastic coating. This helps keep the hook from coming back and entangling with your weight or mainline during casting. Be sure to strip the coating off the line about 1 – 2 inches in front of your hook, this aids with bait presentation when using floating baits. If you’re interested in trying your own rigs be sure to read this other article on How To Tie a Hair Rig for Carp Fishing.
Now I purchase all the materials and tie my own hair rigs but if you’re first starting out in carp angling it is much easier and more reliable to buy pre-tied hair rigs. You can find quality Baiting Needles on our Recommended Baiting Gear Page.
Method and Feeder Leads
When I fish for carp I often use a method or feeder lead. What are method leads? They are inline weights designed to grip and hold pack bait. Even if your cast doesn’t hit your pre-baited area directly the pack bait on your method lead will still ensure there are particles dispersed around your hook bait.
In rivers and other areas with a lot of current, it can be quite difficult to bait a certain spot. The strong current sweeps lighter particles farther downstream. I use a method lead with a sticky pack bait to ensure it hits the bottom where my hook bait is located until it disperses.
Bank Sticks and Rod Pods
What are Bank Sticks for Carp Fishing?
Bank sticks are metal poles that have a point on one end and a female thread on top. They come in various sizes and are for holding your rod while carp fishing. The female thread is there to accommodate butt rests, buzz bars and bite alarms. A buzz bar is an attachment that splits the one threaded pole into two via a bar and two more threaded points so that one bank stick can hold 2 bite alarms or butt rests.
For more information check out this other article that explains Why Every Angler Should Use Banksticks.
What is a Rod Pod for Carp Fishing?
A rod pod serves basically the same function as bank sticks and buzz bars. Rod pods are one unit that folds up for transportation. One definite advantage of the rod pod is that it can be set up on hard surfaces such as rock, asphalt and concrete. Bank sticks can only be set up on soft surfaces such as soil, sand or clay. Rod pods usually come built to support and hold three rods for carp fishing. Here in Canada were only allowed to use one rod at a time for fishing from shore. The pod can still be used to hold 2 additional rods, most carp anglers have one rod actively fishing, a second rod rigged up and ready as a backup and the third rod for spodding and marking.
For more information check out our Beginners Guide to Carp Fishing Rod Pods.
Bite Alarms for Carp Fishing
What is a Bite Alarm for Carp Fishing?
A bite alarm is an electronic piece of equipment that is attached to a bank stick or a rod pod that your rod and line rest in. They are most effective when used in conjunction with a bait runner or bait ‘n run reel. When a fish bumps your line or takes your bait the line is pulled over the wheel or other mechanisms on the bite alarm causing it to sound and notify you that a fish is on or near your hook.
If you’ve ever spotted a large carp swimming just below the water surface I’m sure you will want to research and look for information in an article such as the one above to figure out how to catch carp!
I hope this article was helpful in your journey to catch carp. I’m sure once you do hook one of these large and powerful fish you will be hooked on carp fishing just like I was many years ago.