The A to Z Guide on Carp Fishing Bait
A topic that comes up quite often when chatting with other carp anglers, what carp fishing bait should you use? It can be a very opinionated subject and rightly so with the size of the carp fishing bait business and the amount of time, effort and money that goes into marketing.
I think every carp angler has their go-to carp fishing bait that has netted them the most fish. There are a lot of options on the market; this article will go over the types of carp fishing baits available to help beginner carp anglers choose which baits and strategies to use when targeting carp.
If this single article included every detail about carp fishing bait, it would be the size of a book. I will briefly outline below the types of carp fishing bait and their characteristics then I will link each bait to an article that delves deeper into tips and tricks for the use of each specific carp fishing bait, making it easier to navigate the broad subject.
Carp Fishing Bait Characteristics
Carp are omnivorous and will eat a variety of different foods in the wild. Hence why there
What Colour of Carp Fishing Bait to Use?
The colour of the carp fishing bait you use can have a great impact on the outcome of your carp fishing session. Some carp anglers swear by one colour and stick with it no matter the circumstances. Other anglers match the colour to the season or conditions they’re faced with.
You have the option of using a bright fluorescent colour in hopes of attracting fish that are swimming by or you may opt for a dull washed-out colour if you plan to mimic natural food that carp feed on. The options are really endless with the amount and types of carp fishing bait produced these days.
I tend to stick with a bright bait that sticks out and grabs the fish’s attention. A few of my favourite colours are yellow, orange and white. I use yellow the majority of the time as it closely matches the colour of corn which I frequently use for pre-baiting. When pre-baiting, it is best to use something that mimics the food or bait that carp are used to feeding on safely.
On waters with high fishing pressure (most of the stocked lakes in Europe), it can be beneficial to use washed-out or dull-coloured baits. The fish are accustomed to being caught on bright coloured baits and can sometimes shy away from them.
What Flavour of Carp Fishing Bait to Use?
Flavour or taste of carp fishing bait comes in many varieties, if you thought you had trouble picking a colour, well your choice of bait just became twice as hard.
Carp have a very keen sense of taste/smell. They have barbels on either side of their mouth to aid in the detection of food. Even in murky water carp have no trouble zeroing in on their next meal.
Bait flavours for carp can vary from sweet, citrus, spicy, fruity, fishy and nutty to downright hellish to name a few. More and more bait companies are starting to come out with combinations of the best-selling flavours such as pineapple/tutti frutti or pineapple/plum.
Much the same as colour, carp anglers usually have a few go-to flavour varieties in their carp fishing bait of choice. I tend to stick to the sweeter fruity-smelling baits, it is a much calmer situation when my significant other opens a bucket in the garage and is assaulted with a nice fruity aroma rather than a fishy or hellish stench.
My top three go-to flavours are Pineapple, Tutti Frutti and Banana. Although I usually bait with a lot of feed corn and the fish don’t seem to have a preference as they seem to eat it all, they are interested in my hook bait more than the corn, whether it’s from flavour I can’t say for sure.
What Texture of Carp Fishing Bait to Use?
Do carp really prefer a certain texture of carp bait? In my opinion, yes they do. I have watched carp on many occasions, while fishing with my underwater camera, take a bait then spit it out. I think it can have a great impact on your fishing if you’re using a bait that mimics the texture of food that carp eat regularly.
I have heard some anglers state that hemp works very well as a carp bait due to its texture. It is said to crunch and pop much like small snails that carp would feed on naturally. How they would know this for sure I do not know. I doubt they have actually tried to eat a small snail themselves.
I think the texture of a carp bait has the greatest effect by making the fish mouth it for a longer period thus increasing the chance of having your hook catch hold. A carp may be more apt to chew and mouth a soft bait rather than eject a harder bait right away.
What Size of Carp Fishing Bait to Use?
Finally, once you’ve chosen the colour, flavour and texture of carp bait you need to decide what size to use! Choosing the right size depends a lot on the location you’re fishing and the size of fish located there.
When pre-baiting an area it is best to use smaller particles as it will take carp more time to clean it up. Bigger baits that are a higher reward should be reserved for use as hook baits.
Do Bigger Carp Require Bigger Baits?
No, not all the time. I was recently fishing with a friend that was using a 20mm Pop-up boilie topped with 3 kernels of feed corn. He thought he would catch the biggest fish of the day hands down as I was only using a single 15mm pop-up boilie. Why did I still manage to catch the bigger fish? Luck perhaps, using bigger baits can deter smaller and nuisance fish from taking a bait but it doesn’t mean big fish only eat big baits.
If you’re targeting a location with huge numbers of small fish and just want to target the larger specimen it would be wise to use a bigger bait. Your bait will spend a longer duration on the dinner table in front of the
My go-to bait for pre-baiting is hands down feed corn. It provides me with the most cost-effective price per particle baiting option. As far as hook baits go, I normally stick with a 15mm – 20mm pop-up boilie, sometimes topped with my pre-bait of choice.
Types of Carp Fishing Bait
Below I will touch briefly on the main types of carp fishing bait and their uses.
Particle Baits for Carp Fishing
Particle baits encompass a large number of smaller carp fishing baits. They are commonly used for pre-baiting with methods such as spodding or spombing. The category of particle baits also
Some common examples of carp fishing particles include pellets, boilies, tiger nuts, sweet corn, hemp seed and birdseed to name a few.
If I had one choice of particle bait to use it would be feed corn. Although it takes more time to prepare feed corn for carp angling it is the most readily available and cost-efficient carp particle bait.
Pack Bait for Carp Fishing
Carp fishing pack baits are based on a doughy or sticky material. They work great for fishing in areas that have a lot of current, the densely packed bait sinks to the bottom before dissolving, which results in a nice and neat pile next to your hook bait.
Common pack bait mixes contain bread crumbs, oats, grits, cornmeal or flour as a base. When water is added to them they become quite sticky and are easily packed into balls. The trick is to add just the right amount of water or liquid to your mix to ensure that it becomes sticky. Be careful not to add too much liquid as the bait will become overly runny and not stick together as intended.
Pack baits combined with particles are some of my favourite ways to target carp. One go-to recipe is to add breadcrumbs, strawberry jello powder and sweet corn into a pail. Mix them together while slowly adding water until the desired consistency is met.
Ground Bait for Carp Fishing
Carp fishing ground baits are normally used as a base to pack baits while using method feeders. The majority of ground baits are factory-made and come in a variety of flavours and colours.
They come in the form of a powder, much the same as pack baits you need to add water to ground baits to make them into a paste form. Be sure to add water slowly in small amounts, you can always add more water but you can’t take it out if there is too much.
Live Bait for Carp Fishing
There are two main types of live bait that I’ve heard people use to target carp. Maggots and worms. Both work very well for carp but I tend to stay away from live baits due to other species of fish that inhabit our waters here in Canada.
I used worms to catch my first carp and was very discouraged at first due to the fact that I could see lots of carp yet all I was catching were bullhead and perch. After that first experience, I switched to corn and boilies which helped keep the other fish at bay.
Popular Brands of Carp Fishing Bait
There are many great bait companies out there. If you’re going the route of buying your own pre-made baits this list will give you a good starting point as these are all reputable companies with a proven track record for putting big fish on the bank.
When I use homemade baits it can take days of preparing to get the bait ready to go. Boiling, mixing and soaking all take time. Many anglers just don’t have the time and it is nice to have the option of being able to purchase ready-made premium baits.
DT Bait Developments
DT Bait Developments make some of the highest quality carp baits on the market. Although small they tailor their premium carp baits to the dedicated carp angler. For those that target specimen-sized fish and care about the nutritional value they are feeding the fish, DT Baits is the way to go.
Some of my favourite DT Baits include:
Cold Water Green Beast, N-Blend, Banana and Pineapple. The most difficult part of choosing a single line of bait from DT Baits is that they all smell delicious and work great.
One of the largest bait manufacturers in the UK, pretty much every carp angler has used Mainline Baits products at one point or another in their carp angling journey.
Some of my favourite Mainline Baits include:
Pineapple Boilies, Smart Liquid, Pineapple Active-Ade Syrup and Pineapple Wafters.
When I first started carp angling I had a lot of success with the pineapple range from Mainline Baits and it took me a long time to branch out and try different options.
Definitely one of the major bait companies, dynamite baits is known around the world. They offer a wide variety of baits from dips, flavours, boilies, pop-ups, particles and spod mixes they offer it all.
Some of my favourite Dynamite Baits include:
Fluoro Two-Tone Pop-Ups, the Carptek Range of Boilies, Boilie Chops for Pack Bait Mixes, Frenzied Hempseed and Frenzied Tiger Nuts.
With the vast amount of products that Dynamite Baits offer it can be tricky to narrow down your choice to just one flavour or type.
There are a lot of reputable Carp Fishing Bait manufacturers out there. I’d recommend finding one that has a vast range of different baits to choose from until you narrow down what works best in the waters that you fish.
Best Mainstream Carp Fishing Baits
In this section, I will briefly go over each of the mainstream manufactured carp fishing baits that are available to carp anglers.
Most beginner carp anglers, when first researching what bait to use to catch carp will have one main question. What the heck is a boilie? I know many years ago when I set out to catch my first carp I had no idea what they were or how to use them.
Boilies are the go-to bait for the majority of carp anglers around the world. They started out as simple flavoured dough balls but have evolved into a premium carp fishing bait packed with nutrients and protein to help carp grow to optimum size. Most stocked lakes around the world feed their fish either pellets or boilies to ensure they achieve the maximum amount of growth from their stock that they can.
Boilies are larger than some of the other particle baits used for carp fishing this can be of great advantage to the angler that is experiencing a lot of nuisance fish issues. Baiting up with a larger boilie will ensure you catch more carp and less of the undesirable species.
The most varied of the carp baits on the market, boilies come in a multitude of sizes, colours, types and flavours to please every carp angler. Boilies are great for pre-baiting, chumming or using as hook baits. One of the most versatile baits for targeting carp of all sizes.
To find out more about this great carp bait be sure to read our Guide to Using Boilies as Carp Bait.
Pellets, as carp fishing bait, are much smaller than boilies. They are very popular for pre-baiting areas as they are small and will keep carp feeding in an area for longer periods.
The colour and flavour are much similar to that of boilies. The favoured method for using pellets as carp fishing bait is to add them to a spod mix or fill PVA bags with them.
Hemp Seed is one of the carp fishing baits that one tends to wonder why carp love it so much. It can’t possibly taste that good but carp seem attracted to it time and time again.
It is said that the flavour and oil from hemp seeds is quite easily detected by carp and although it may not taste that great carp tend to keep feeding on it due to its texture. It is said to have the same crunchy texture as some of the natural foods that carp feed on.
There are certain tactics some anglers employ to boost their success while targeting carp with hemp seed. Once boiled and custom flavours, glugs or goos are added it can make for one of the top carp fishing baits.
For more information check out this other post on Preparing and Using Hempseed for Carp Fishing.
Touted as one of the ultimate carp fishing baits. I have heard some anglers swear by tiger nuts. They are slightly larger than corn and pellets yet smaller than boilies. They fill this void in the carp fishing bait world perfectly.
Tiger nuts are a great natural-looking hook bait. They can be crushed up and used as a particle bait, or 2 to 3 can be threaded onto a hair rig and used as a hook bait. The only downside to tiger nuts as carp bait is the preparation time. They must be soaked for up to 24 hours then boiled for 30 – 40 minutes. Using them while they’re dry and full size can cause issues, mainly carp have a hard time digesting them, so they come out as a smaller form of the original nut.
To find out more about tiger nuts check out our Guide to Using Tiger Nuts as it goes over this bait in greater detail.
Wafters as a carp fishing bait are much similar to boilies. They are pretty much identical other than the facts of their size, weight and shape. They are made to match the same colour, flavour and texture as boilies.
The main difference is that they’re made into a dumbbell shape that is perfectly balanced, not entirely floating yet not sinking either. They sort of waft back and forth in the current allowing carp to detect their movement easier and hone in on them quicker than other baits.
Often referred to as zig rigs, zig bugs or just plain zigs, this is a type of carp fishing bait that is completely different than all others. It is not a natural bait, zigs are made out of small pieces of foam so they float. As most carp fishing baits are fished on the bottom or close to it, zigs are used to target carp that are found higher up in the water column.
At certain times of the year when there are major changes in water temperature and a lot of turnover, food particles and hatching insects can be a buffet for carp. Under these conditions, it is ideal to target them with zigs in the locations where they are most active.
Zigs can vary from a simple piece of coloured foam on a hook to pre-tied flies that mimic the natural food source in the water at the time.
Fake plastic corn is another of the mainstream baits. Although I listed it last, it is always in my kit where ever and whenever I go fishing. It is a very versatile bait and can be used in many situations.
The main ways I utilize imitation corn in my carp fishing tactics are:
- As a hook bait while fly fishing for carp. I enjoy sight fishing for carp that are cruising the shallows during the summer. My go-to fly fishing bait for carp is a single grain of floating imitation corn on a hook. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a carp slowly glide towards your well-placed cast and hearing that suction noise as it snatches your bait off of the surface.
- Added on top of a boilie on a hair rig. In certain situations where carp are having a hard time finding my bait if I’m using a boilie that sits on the bottom, I will quickly top the boilie with some floating imitation corn. This will pop the sinking hook bait up off the bottom ever so slightly and increase the chances of carp noticing it first.
- In certain areas I find I catch a lot of nuisance fish such as gobies and perch while targeting carp with canned sweet corn. A tactic I employ to deter the smaller fish is to add a piece of imitation plastic corn to the end of my hair rig. This will deter smaller fish as they are unable to steal the plastic hook bait.
For more information on this topic be sure to check out this article on Why Every Carp Angler Should Use Imitation Corn as a Carp Bait.
Carp Fishing Bait Additives, Flavours, Oils, Goos, Glugs, etc.
All carp fishing bait is made to be fished without any added flavours or colours, but it can never hurt to add that little boost that can attract more carp and cause them to take your bait. With some of these additives being quite expensive it is best to save them to add only to your hook baits and not in large quantities to pack bait or particle mixes.
- Korda Kiana Goo – One of my favourite hook bait boosters. After soaking pop-ups in this liquid for an extended duration it will change the colour of the bait and add a different flavour to it as well. As the goo seeps out of your bait it will emit a trail of scent for carp to follow. It is quite visual and you can tell as soon as your hook bait hits the water by the plume of attractant that this stuff is effective.
- Dynamite Baits Evolution Oils – Much the same as
Korda Kianagoo, these oils will add that extra boost to your hook baits.
- Munch Baits Cream Seed Liquid Food – A denser mix that will adhere to your bait instead of soaking into it. This mix is made to cling to your bait and slowly release attractants into the water column over a longer period of time.
One of the main bonuses to using additives and goos is that the majority of them are PVA friendly. So if you’re planning on using PVA mesh or bags as one of your baiting tactics it is imperative that you use a PVA-friendly additive. Even baits such as sweetcorn which normally break down PVA can be used once soaked in a PVA-friendly liquid.
The list is endless for the
Homemade Carp Fishing Baits
If you’re unable to get a hold of premium store-bought carp baits, as is sometimes the issue here in North America, luckily there are many readily available options that can be found in your local grocery store.
I mainly use homemade baits to save on money. The odd time I will special order some boilies or pellets to add to my spod mixes, but for the main part, I use the baits listed below.
My #1 choice for carp bait. Readily available, cheap and carp love it! In my early years of carp fishing, I started using canned sweet corn as bait. You can pick it up at your local grocery store and use it straight away with no preparation. It can be used in spod mixes, as a particle bait for pre-baiting or even as
A few years ago I switched from canned sweet corn over to feed corn. There is a little more prep work involved when using feed corn but it is much cheaper in the long run. I buy feed corn in 10 kg bags from my local feed store, prepare it at home and pre-bait with it quite frequently.
I don’t only use corn; I usually add some flavour to it. My two main flavour choices are molasses or strawberry jello. I soak the corn and then boil it, after cooking, I add the molasses or strawberry jello powder and mix it in. I let it sit for a while longer before using it; this allows for the boiled corn to soak up the flavour.
For more information on corn check out this Complete Guide to Using Corn as Carp Bait.
My second choice of homemade carp bait. Bread is loved by almost all fish. I’m not sure if it is the scent, texture or colour. I remember even from a young age that the easiest way to catch minnows was by baiting a minnow trap with bread.
I’ve noticed on my underwater camera that if I bait with only corn, mostly just carp will come in to inspect the bait. If I add some bread or bread crumbs to the mix all different species of fish come to investigate. There’s just something about it that fish love.
Bread is another very versatile bait. It can be used in pieces on a hook to float fish for carp, it can be fished as a ball as a bottom bait or it can be blended up into bread crumbs and be used as a pack bait or particle bait.
My go-to pack baits and particle baits are almost always based on corn and bread. These two ingredients alone have caught me more carp than any other bait on the market.
Quick Tip: I used to always just toss or compost the leftover crusts from loaves of bread. Now I blend them up in a food processor and freeze them in a coffee tin. The only downside to this is that in wintertime my freezer is full of coffee tins with breadcrumbs awaiting spring!
For more detailed information check out this Guide to Using Bread as Carp Bait.
Another readily available bait that can be purchased at the local grocery store. Oats are another one of my
I rarely fish oats by themselves. I only use them in addition to my other baits. I find the particles are too small to be fished alone and fish have a hard time finding them, especially in silty and weedy areas.
Potatoes are another bait you can use in a pinch when short on other items. Potatoes are versatile in the fact that they can be cut and shaped into different forms.
I neat trick I use is to carve them into the shape of zebra mussels. The locations where I target carp are just littered with zebra mussels and carp are used to feeding on them safely, I watched carp completely ignore corn that I’ve baited with while feeding voraciously on zebra mussels. After carving them into roughly the same shape, I soak them in molasses for about 10 minutes, once underwater they resemble the natural food of carp.
Chick Peas, Peas, Peanuts, Pineapple, Brown Beans, etc.
It is amazing the variety of carp baits we have at the local grocery store which most anglers overlook. Pretty much any vegetable and even fruit can be carved up and used as a particle bait for carp. Carp are very inquisitive and will taste almost any interesting object they come across. Some foods work better than others but if you’re desperate to go fishing just take a look in your pantry and I’m sure you’ll be all set with some of the items in there.
Flavouring Homemade Baits
Although you can use homemade particle bait as they are and be successful it never hurts to spice them up a little with certain flavouring. Adding different flavours can also change the colour which can also make the baits more appealing to carp or at least make them easier to detect.
There are many different flavours you can use to boost your baits, from pineapple juice, orange juice, jello powder and molasses. There are lots of store-bought options available to anglers. It may take some testing and tweaking but when you find the right mix it can be very rewarding.
Now you may be wondering do carp like homemade baits or pre-made store-bought baits better? Any session can come down to luck and many anglers always have go-to baits that they believe catch the most fish. Over the years I’ve used a lot of bait for carp and have caught fish on many different things I never thought would work. It is very interesting and rewarding for me to watch my tactics and ideas play out on my underwater camera. I enjoy watching the fish almost more than actually catching them.
My personal best carp was caught on a homemade boilie made out of corn, bread crumb, flour, egg, strawberry jello and molasses. It was a drab pinky brown colour with a weird combination of tastes. Would a store-bought bait have caught this same fish? Was my bait just in the right location at the right time? Most likely yes but it gives me a little more satisfaction knowing that I was able to land this fish on something I made at home. You just never know what bait will work best until you see it in action.
Thank you for reading, be sure to check back often for new and improved articles and resources. I am constantly testing new baits and methods on my underwater camera to see how carp react to certain baits.
If you’re searching for more information on bait, be sure to check out Improved Carp Angling’s Guide to Carp Fishing Bait.