Carp Fishing with Boilies

Guide to Using Boilies for Carp Fishing

Boilies are one of the most popular carp fishing baits, they are quite an unfamiliar item to most North American anglers. I myself had no idea what a boilie was when I first began targeting carp as an angler. This article is meant to inform beginners on the different characteristics of carp fishing boilies.

Carp Fishing Boilies are one of the most versatile carp fishing baits and are used with great effect all around the world. I always have many different types of boilies on hand during all of my carp fishing sessions. Now you’re probably wondering what exactly is a boilie for carp fishing?

What is a Boilie for Carp Fishing?

Boilies first started out as simple dough balls that were placed on a hook and fished on the bottom for carp. Today’s boilies are far more advanced than simple dough balls, they come in specific sizes, colours, flavours, textures and shapes each very well adapted to any situation carp anglers face.

What Size of Boilie is Best for Carp Fishing?

Boilies come in a large variety of sizes. There are many different tactics carp anglers employ when it comes to boilie size.

Some anglers insist on using the same size boilie as they pre-bait with as the carp are used to feeding safely on them while others must use a bigger bait, so it is more attractive to the fish. I’ve also heard of many carp anglers pre-baiting with up to 3 different sizes of boilies, so the carp are used to feeding freely on a variety of sizes taking the choice of hook bait size out of the equation.

Why is boilie size so important?

It is best to match the size of your boilie to the size of the hook you’re using but other factors to think about are visibility and the size of fish you are targetting.


Especially on large bodies of water, bigger boilies will be seen easier by cruising carp.

Size of the Carp You are Targetting

As listed below you should match the size of the boilie to the size of the fish in the area you’re fishing.

Size of the Hook You’re Using

If you Put a 20 mm boilie on a rig with a size 10 hook, the large bait will impede the effectiveness of your hook set. On the other hand, if you use an 8 mm boilie with a size 4 hook, your rig will most likely be imbalanced and the carp will eject your rig much easier when they spit the bait.

Boilies can range in size from 6 mm all the way up to over 28 mm. The most commonly used boilie size ranges between 14 mm and 20 mm. As a general rule of thumb, the size of the boilie should be matched to the size of fish you are targeting:

  • 10 mm and smaller for fish 10 lbs and smaller.
  • 14 mm – 16 mm for carp in the double-figure range.
  • 20 mm + for carp 20 lbs and greater.

One tactic I use during tournaments is to start out with a smaller-sized boilie. In tournaments where the winner is determined by the total weight of a certain amount of fish, it is very important to catch your limit before you go after the really big ones. I start out with 14 mm boilies, then once my limit is reached I maximize the total weight by targeting bigger carp with 20 mm boilies.

Although big carp can still be caught on smaller-sized boilies, the larger baits help to keep your bait in front of the big fish longer as smaller fish will shy away from them.

What Colour of Boilie is Best for Carp Fishing?

Just as there are many different sizes of boilies, there are even more different colours. If you’re new to boilies and had trouble picking the right size, your choice just became twice as hard now that you need to decide which colour is the best!

As with any subject in carp angling, many anglers can become quite opinionated when it comes to their choice of bait. Articles that are written seem to change yearly as to what the best tactics are. One year high visibility fluoro boilies will be the go-to bait then the next year it will be dull-coloured, washed-out baits. Sometimes it can even seem to change by the season! Some anglers insist on using bright baits during the summer and washed-out baits during the fall. I think a lot of it has to do with marketing.

I only have a few different colours I stick to. The main thing is to find a bait that works for you and the conditions you’re faced with. Once you’re confident in a certain colour boilie, you will catch carp no matter the time of year.

My 3 Favourite Colours of Carp Fishing Boilies (in order) are:

  1. Yellow – Matches the colour of corn which I pre-bait with.
  2. White – Mimics the natural food source of zebra mussels (black and white) in the great lakes.
  3. Pink – Highly visible.
Boilies for Carp Fishing
Carp Fishing Boilie Colour

The main reasoning behind this is that they’re all highly visible. I mainly fish in one of the great lakes in Canada, it is quite a vast area with crystal clear water. I believe the brighter coloured boilies attract more carp as they can be seen at greater distances. Carp are very curious and opportunistic feeders, the more likely they are to find something, the greater the chance is that they will taste it.

What Flavour of Boilie is Best for Carp Fishing?

Ok, so you’ve picked your size and colour of boilie, now you have to decide which flavour to use! This is starting to get ridiculous, your choice of boilie just became three times as hard!

As with choosing size and colour, there are a few factors to consider when choosing the flavour of boilie. I use a sort of spectrum to rank the flavours of boilies to help narrow down the choices out there.

On one end of the scale there are the sweet flavoured boilies:

  • Tutti Frutti, Banana, Pineapple, Plum, Strawberry, etc.

In the middle there are a variety of choices mostly more natural flavoured boilies:

  • Krill, Citrus, Corn, Almond, etc.

On the other end of the spectrum are the toe-curling downright stinky boilies:

  • The scent from Hell, Butyric, Fish Meal, Squid, Mussel, etc.

I tend to stay away from the foul-smelling boilies, I spend enough time and money on carp angling as it is, I don’t need the added aggravation when my wife opens one of my boilie pails and gets assaulted by the foul concoction inside.

My 3 Favourite Flavours of Boilies are:

  1. Pineapple.
  2. Tutti Frutti.
  3. Tiger Nut.

I believe that carp see a bait before they taste or smell it. The taste or flavour of a boilie is advantageous as it causes the carp to mouth the bait longer thus increasing the chances of a hook-set.

What Texture of Boilie is Best for Carp Fishing?

Now that size, colour and flavour of boilies have been covered it is time to move on to texture! Who knew carp bait could have so many characteristics, this is why boilies are one of the most versatile of the carp baits.

Boilies can come in one of two main forms, shelf-life boilies or frozen boilies.

What is the difference between shelf-life boilies and frozen or freezer boilies?

Shelf Life Boilie Characteristics

  • Have preservatives to prolong their lifespan.
  • Can be resealed in their bag to be used across multiple sessions.
  • Are harder than frozen boilies.
  • Harder for carp to digest.
  • Should be soaked prior to use for optimum effectiveness.

Frozen Boilie Characteristics

  • Spoil quickly once unthawed so must be used shortly after opening the bag.
  • Softer texture.
  • Dissolve quicker in the water.
  • Have more flavour and taste.
  • Easier for carp to digest.

There used to be much debate as to which type was better for carp angling. With newer bait recipes being developed every day the shelf life boilies have come a long way in recent years. When they first came out they were packed with preservatives and made of unnatural ingredients. Now they are much more natural and perform as well if not better than freezer boilies due to their ease of use.

I use nothing but shelf life boilies as I need to have all my carp fishing gear shipped from online stores. Not having a local shop that stocks frozen boilies makes things too complicated otherwise.

Why is the Shape of a Boilie Important for Carp Fishing?

The shape of boilie for carp fishing can mean the difference between a carp in the net or a blank. When fishing pressure is high in certain waters it can be beneficial to change the shape of your boilies.

Boilies come in two different shapes:

Round Boilies

The majority of boilies come in a round ball shape. As stated above they come in various different sizes but for the most part, are the same shape.

Changing the Shape of a Boilie by Trimming it Down

  • The shape of any boilie can be quickly modified by slicing off the edges. With this method, the boilie can be shaped into a triangle, square, rectangle or any other shape you think will be effective.
  • The main goal is to make it different from other regular used baits.
  • Cutting off the sides also allows for the flavour to dissolve into the water quickly as it removes the hard outer coating from the bait.

Dumbell Shaped Boilies

Much the same as boilies, dumbells are simply the same bait made into a different shape. Smaller and more compact Dumbell baits are often used to easily balance a carp fishing rig.

Change the Shape by Adding More

  • A popular tactic is to add a smaller boilie on top of your hook bait. This is commonly referred to as a snowman rig and is most effective with two different colour boilies. If you go one step further and top your bait with a pop-up boilie it will make it even more effective in certain situations.
  • I always carry imitation pop-up corn in my rig kit. This allows me to rig a piece on my boilie, I have watched carp on my underwater camera go for the different bait first rather than the freebie baits on the bottom time and time again, the fact that it is slightly different than everything else makes it stand out.

When carp become accustomed to being caught on round boilies, a simple change to your hook bait can cause a wary carp to pick it up and test it out.

What is a Pop-Up Boilie for Carp Fishing?

A pop-up boilie is in most part the exact same as a regular boilie aside from one fact, it floats. They come in the same colours, flavours, shapes and textures as regular bottom bait boilies.

Pop-up boilies are a useful piece of kit as they tend to stand out above other baits laying on the bottom. Since they are positioned closer to incoming or cruising fish, it is more likely that carp will pick them up first.

In a lot of the locations that I fish, there are often large expanses of weed or large boulders strewn about the bottom. If I was to fish with a regular bottom bait, chances are it would land and bury itself in among the weed and rocks. If I simply bait up with a pop-up boilie instead, my bait will float nicely above the bottom substrate.

Due to the buoyancy of pop-up boilies, there is an increased chance of a proper hook set. The weight of the pop-up will float when sucked in or spit out, this greatly increases the angle that your hook will travel at, optimizing the path of the hook point and increasing the chances of it hitting and hooking the edge of the carps mouth.

What is a Wafter for Carp Fishing?

A wafter is kind of like a combination of a regular boilie and a pop-up boilie. They are perfectly balanced to not float but not sink, they are basically neutrally buoyant.

This feature allows them to be presented a lot more naturally in the underwater environment. Instead of sitting still on the bottom or rigidly floating like a pop-up, wafters will do exactly as they’re named, they will waft slowly with the natural movement of the water. Even the slightest waves will cause the bait to float gently back and forth.

The wafting action will grab the attention of passing fish more effectively than a bait sitting still on the bottom. Likewise, if all the other pre-baited baits are resting on the bottom, carp will be more inclined to investigate and pick up a bait that is moving slightly.

Wafters much the same as boilies come in a multitude of flavours, colours, sizes and textures.

What Type of Rig Should You Use when Fishing for Carp with Boilies?

The most commonly used rig for carp fishing with boilies is the hair rig. Before its invention, carp anglers had to thread boilies straight onto their hooks. This often resulted in many broken baits and frustrated fishermen.

The hair rig allows for the boilie to be threaded onto a short piece of line (hair) behind the hook. This method is not only easier than baiting straight on your hook but it also allows for superior hook sets. No longer is the bait on the shank of the hook and the way in which the hook trails behind the bait as it is ingested or expelled is optimized.

Example of a Hair Rig
Check out this other article on How to Tie a Hair Rig

To bait a hair rig with boilies you will need a set of carp fishing baiting needles. This will allow you to punch a small hole through the middle of the boilie and easily pull your line back through.

How Do You Attach a Boilie to Your Hook or Line While Carp Fishing?

As stated above a hair rig is one of the most efficient ways to attach a boilie to your line. There are a few more specialty tools you will need to be able to do this effectively.

Baiting Needle – To pierce the boilie and pull your line back through the middle of it.

Bait Stops – Small plastic beads or specialty extended stops to hold the boilie on your fishing line.

With these tools, you can fish with the same boilie for long periods of time. Even if you are catching a lot of fish the boilie is very durable and has to be crushed before it will come off of the hair rig.

Step by Step Illustrated Guide to Baiting a Hair Rig with Boilies

  1. Push your baiting needle through the boilie as close to the center as possible. This will keep your bait from possibly crumbling around the edges. Very small boilies may break as the needle passes through them.
  2. Once the needle is through the boilie, attach the loop on the end of your hair rig to the hooked end of the baiting needle.
  3. Pull the needle back through the boilie slowly, and ensure the boilie slides all the way up to touch your hook. (Ensuring the boilie is touching your hook will allow more of the loop to be visible to insert the hair stop.
  4. Removed the baiting needle and insert a hair stop into the loop. (Simple bead hair stops usually come in long strands. I used to cut a small section off before inserting it into the loop. A quick tip is to insert two beads into the loop and then cut them off. This will save you fumbling around with the small hair stop and possibly dropping and losing it.)
  5. Pull the boilie firmly back onto the hair stop.
Baiting Hair Rig 00
Baiting Hair Rig 03
Baiting Hair Rig 01
Baiting Hair Rig 04
Baiting Hair Rig 02
Baiting Hair Rig 05
Baiting Hair Rig 06
Baiting Hair Rig 07

Some anglers insist on having the boilie touching the curve of their hook. I prefer to leave a small gap as it allows the hook to turn easier as it enters or exits the fish’s mouth.

What are the Best Brands of Boilies for Carp Fishing?

There are many manufacturers of boilies for carp fishing. All of the manufactured baits will most likely catch carp. It depends on which angler you talk to as to which will catch the most carp.

Most anglers have a few go-to companies that they trust because they’ve used them the most and caught the most fish with them. It really comes down to what you feel most confident in.

I have been testing a lot of the boilies in the Munch Baits Line. I have had great success with their visual range as well as the Cream Seed.

A lot of money goes into marketing and advertising for big bait companies. Sometimes I think that the baits are designed more to attract the attention of the angler than the fish!

I will list a few of the big boilie manufacturers in no particular order:

  • DT Baits.
  • Munch Baits.
  • Dynamite Baits.
  • Nash Bait.
  • Spotted Fin.
  • Mainline.
  • CCMoore.
  • Shimano Isolate Baits.
  • Sticky Baits.
  • Spotted Fin.
  • Bait-Tech.
  • Rod Hutchinson.

All these companies and many more make quality baits that will definitely put fish in your net.

How Do You Make Homemade Boilies for Carp Fishing?

If you prefer you can even make your own homemade boilies. It is fairly straightforward and simple with a few ingredients from the grocery store. Homemade boilies won’t have the same nutritional value as store-bought bait but can be a cheaper alternative.

The majority of the time I use store-bought boilies as I have limited time to make my own at home. When making boilies at home you can opt for two different methods. Carp fishing manufacturer ingredients or grocery store ingredients.

  • Carp Fishing Manufacturer Ingredients:
    • Some carp anglers I know like to roll their own boilies but make them out of the same materials the big bait companies use. You can buy these ingredients in bulk from carp fishing stores.
    • The main advantage of this is that you can mix and match ingredients to suit the situations you’re faced with. Being able to adjust the flavour and colour of custom-made boilies can be very satisfying to certain anglers.
    • When making your own boilies in bulk at home it can be beneficial to purchase a few bait-making items to speed up the process. To ensure the proper size is made you can buy a boilie rolling table which will ensure all boilies are rolled at once to the same diameter. A second handy piece of equipment is a sausage gun, it pairs perfectly with the boilie rolling table to increase to speed at which you can produce boilies dramatically.
  • Grocery Store Ingredients:
    • With a few simple items purchased at your local grocery store, you can be fishing with boilies within a couple of days, instead of waiting for specialty ingredients to arrive in the mail.
    • The two most crucial ingredients from the grocery store will be flour and eggs. These two ingredients will form the base of the boilie to reach the proper consistency.
    • Other ingredients will be fillers to attain the desired colour, flavour and texture.

I will end with a homemade recipe I use when short on bait and need some boilies within a day or two. At the Canada Carp Cup, my partner and I actually made a few batches of these on the bank as some raccoons had gotten into our bait overnight and depleted our corn and boilie stocks used for pre-baiting.

Homemade Boilie Recipe for Carp Fishing

Grocery Store Ingredients: Flour, Eggs, Shredded Wheat, Strawberry Jello Powder, Creamed Corn and Molasses.

  1. In a pail mix 2 eggs with approximately 1 to 2 cups of flour.
  2. Add in a portion of the can of creamed corn.
  3. Add 2 bricks of Shredded Wheat.
  4. Add 2 Packets of Strawberry Jello Powder.
  5. Mix ingredients together. If it seems too dry add more creamed corn. If it is too wet add more flour. I aim to make it the consistency of play-dough.
  6. Optional – Once the right consistency is reached add in a few glugs of molasses. Continue mixing until a dark pink colour is attained.
  7. I then roll the dough into a long snake-like line. I cut it into pieces which I then roll into balls.
  8. Boil the boilies for approximately 15 – 20 minutes. (This will create sinking bottom baits.) If you would like them to pop up a simple trick is to microwave them for a few seconds. (Be sure not to microwave them too long as they burn quite quickly.)
  9. Allow boilies to air dry then use right away or store in the fridge in either a Ziploc bag or airtight container.

The neat thing about this recipe is that you can add or remove ingredients as desired to make your own custom homemade boilies! A few other ingredients I commonly add are canned sweet corn, molasses and bread crumbs.

If you’re searching for more information on bait, be sure to check out Improved Carp Angling’s Guide to Carp Fishing Bait.

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