What is a Carp Fishing Bite Alarm

What is a Carp Fishing Bite Alarm?

When I first heard of a carp fishing bite alarm, I had no idea what it was or how it worked. After gathering the opinions of many different carp anglers and researching the topic for countless hours I was able to confidently choose my first bite alarm knowing what features to look for. If you are new to carp angling and have the same questions I did about bite alarms, I created this article for you. All the information you need, compiled in one location.

What is a Bite Alarm for Carp Fishing?

A Carp Fishing Bite Alarm is a device that is attached to a rod holder, your rod then sits upon the device. The bite alarm will detect any movement or vibration in your line. The alarm will notify you visually via LED Lights and/or Audibly via a Speaker when something is moving your line.

Sonik SKS Alarms 1
Carp Fishing Bite Alarms

For many years I fished for carp without a bite alarm. I simply listened closely to the drag on my reel to start playing out line while watching the tip of my rod. Now that I’ve used a carp fishing bite alarm I don’t know how I survived without one. Not only is it useful for indicating the action that is going on near the end of your line, but it is also quite exciting to hear a screaming bite alarm as a carp bolts off with your bait.

Now that you know exactly what a carp fishing bite alarm is. I will go over in further detail the points below.

How Does a Carp Fishing Bite Alarm Work?

Different models of bite alarms can detect the movement of your line in varying ways. The two most common types are with a magnetic roller wheel or via a piezo vibration sensor.

Magnetic Roller Wheel

Bite alarms with a magnetic roller wheel are activated when your line moves the wheel, this causes magnets on the wheel to pass over a sensor in the alarm thus activating it and alerting the angler via lights and an audible tone.

Piezo Vibration Sensor

Certain alarms use a different device to detect movement called a piezo vibration sensor. It has a small Y-shaped sensor that your line sits upon. When the line moves it causes the Y to activate the sensor as it tilts and sets off the alarm.

The majority of alarms use a Magnetic Roller Wheel. The top-of-the-line Delkim alarms use the Piezo Vibrating Sensor Technology which has a greater range of sensitivity.

How Do You Set Up a Carp Fishing Bite Alarm?

When I first discovered bite alarms I had many questions. One of which was how do you set up a bite alarm to fish for carp? This answer needs to be broken up into two parts. Firstly, additional gear that is required for the bite alarm to work properly and secondly, how to set it all up.

Additional Gear Required to Set Up a Bite Alarm:

Bank Sticks

Can You Catch Carp While Theyre Spawning
Rod on Bank Sticks

Bank Sticks are basically a rod made out of stainless steel or carbon composite material. Pointed on the bottom to stick into the ground. Threaded on the top to accommodate a bite alarm or butt rest. Amazingly all carp fishing gear has the same universal thread no matter what company makes it.

Rod Pod

Compact Pod
Bite Alarms on a Rod Pod

Rod Pods work in the same way bank sticks do but in one solid foldable unit. Better suited for rocky or paved areas. Different rod pods come in different configurations which can accommodate 1 rod, 2 rods or 3 rods depending on which one you choose.

Carp Fishing Reel

Quick Drag Reel 2
Carp Fishing Reels

These reels are explained in further detail in our article on Carp Fishing Reels. A reel with a free spooling option has a second drag mechanism to allow the line to play freely off the reel while in a rod holder. This allows the line to pass freely over the bite alarm thus activating it.

In combination with this setup, it is most effective to use a running rig or semi-fixed rig while targeting carp. This will ensure the carp hooks itself when it picks up your bait and activates the bite alarm as it bolts away. All you need to do is pick up your rod and engage the drag on your reel, just lifting your rod slowly will be enough pressure to set the hook firmly in the side of the fish’s mouth where it is already pricked. This method is briefly outlined in another article on How to Catch Carp.

Setting Up The Bite Alarm:

  1. Find a suitable snag-free location to set up your bank sticks or rod pod.
  2. Screw bite alarms onto the front end of your pod or bank sticks. The rear portion of the pod or bank stick should be equipped with a butt rest to hold the end of your rod in place.
  3. Turn the alarm on, cast out your bait, set the rod onto the bite alarm, engage free spool drag on your reel and enjoy the show!

What Features to Look for When Choosing a Bite Alarm?

The majority of bite alarms on the market today come with some mainstream features. I have noted that each manufacturer usually adds something additional besides the key features listed below to help stand out from the rest of the market.

Hirisi S3 Feature 1
Bite Alarm Set and Reciever

Sound / Tone

The sound or tone of a bite alarm can vary between different models. The majority of bite alarms have different settings on which tone or sound you want the alarm to use. Basic models have a few options while higher-end models can have up to 7 different tones. Different sounds or tones are helpful to determine which rod has the activity on it in situations where you have more than 1 rod. In some locations where you are only allowed to fish with 1 rod but in situations where you’re fishing with more than one angler, it is handy to have different sounding alarms.


The volume control is vital in situations where you’re fishing in close proximity to others or when you’re far away from your rod. You can turn it down low so it doesn’t disturb fellow anglers. I usually turn mine up to max volume if I’m quickly scouting or baiting so I can hear them at a distance. Volume adjustments usually vary between 1 and 6.


Most alarms come standard with a sensitivity adjustment. Sensitivity is very important on windy days or in locations where there is a lot of current. In these situations, you can lower the sensitivity to reduce false indications and save the sanity of anyone nearby. There is nothing more irritating than a nearby angler’s alarm bleeping all night long due to wind movement. In alarms with wheels and magnets when you lower the sensitivity it increases the number of times the magnet needs to pass over the sensor in order to activate the alarm.

LED Light Indicators

Most good bite alarms have two different light indicators. My current alarms (Prologic SMX) have a blue LED for when the line is played out and a white LED for when the line drops back. This is crucial for determining what is going on in the water while you have the sound off. The majority of alarms use bright LED lights for energy efficiency.


With some anglers, it won’t matter what type of batteries their alarms take or how easy it is to access them. To me, this is a make-or-break feature. I love alarms that take 9V, triple AAA or double AA batteries that are easy to access as I always have spares in my tackle bag.

Hirisi S3 Alarms 2
Hirisi S3 Bite Alarms with 9V Batteries

Some of the newer alarms these days come with rechargeable batteries. These are ok if you have a backup power bank to recharge them when they’re low. Most alarms also come with a low battery notification beep, there would be nothing worse than having a fish on your line for a long time and not knowing about it.

Best Bite Alarms for Budget, Mid-Range and Advanced Anglers

It can be difficult to narrow down which set of Bite Alarms is perfect for you. There are so many out on the market today. I’ve been lucky enough to have my hands on quite a few different sets to review. Below are three great options to look at. They range from budget to high-end so you can get an idea of what you want to buy.

Best Beginner Budget Bite Alarms

Hirisi S3 Feature

Hirisi S3 Bite Alarm Review

Best Mid-Range Bite Alarms

ND N1 Alarms Set

New Direction N1 Bite Alarm Review

Best Advanced Bite Alarms

ECU Reciever and Alarm

Edwards Custom Upgrades Bite Alarm Review

For even more information be sure to Check out our Recommended Bite Alarms for Carp Fishing.

Why Use a Bite Alarm for Carp Fishing?

For me, nothing is more exciting than the screaming run of a bite alarm. Aside from the blood-pumping adrenaline rush, there are also more practical benefits to using a bite alarm while carp fishing.

Carp Fishing at Night

The bite alarm will wake you during overnight sessions. This is extremely helpful for tournament fishing when you are on the bank for many days and nights at a time. Even during harsh weather, you will know exactly when you have a bite and have to get up out of bed.

Bite Indication and Fish Activity

Any fish activity around your hook and bait will be communicated through the bite alarm. Single beeps can mean fish are testing your bait or just bumping into your line. Drop back beeps caused when your line goes slack and activates another sound and light on the alarm can also mean that a fish has picked up your bait and is swimming towards you.

Quickly Identify Which Rod has a Bite

Bite alarms will notify you which exact rod has the fish on it. This can be done by either the light colour or the tone of the alarm. When I was fishing with a partner during the Canada Carp Cup we knew exactly who had the fish on by the tone of the alarm.

Relaxing and Enjoying the Outdoors

While using proper bite detection devices there is no need to watch your line or rod constantly. This allows you to relax and enjoy the scenery, this is one of the main reasons I love carp angling so much. It’s also easier to enjoy the social aspect of carp angling while fishing with others while not having to watch your rod 100% of the time.

Listed below are some of the most common questions and answers in regards to carp fishing bite alarms.

Should My Bite Alarms Be the Same or Different Colours?

  • The colour of your bite alarms really just depends on personal preference.
  • In locations where you can fish up to three rods or more, it is beneficial to have different colours to help differentiate which rod or alarm is seeing activity, especially at night.

What Does it Mean When My Alarm Beeps Once or Briefly?

This could mean many things. I have noticed many different things that cause my alarm to beep once while filming underwater with my camera and using a bite alarm at the same time.

  • Most often it is a fish bumping into your line.
  • There could be carp testing your bait and then spitting it back out.
  • It could also indicate that smaller species such as perch or bluegill are toying with your bait.
  • The wind or underwater current could be moving your line.

Bite Alarm Etiquette for Newbies

When you’re brand new to carp angling you may not realize that some things that you do can annoy the heck out of fellow anglers. Listed below are just a few things to avoid when you’re new to using carp fishing bite alarms.

  • Try not to turn your alarms on until your rig is set. If people are nearby they may get annoyed with the constant beeping as you set up your rods. (Guilty of this one myself!)
  • Only turn your alarms up as loud as is required for you to hear them. I know it may seem cool to have a carp tear off with your rig at full volume but not everyone wants to hear that racket.
  • Don’t be afraid to use a receiver with a vibrate option while fishing at night. Quite a bit of my fishing is done in campgrounds and I’ve noted it doesn’t take security very long to show up if other campers are disturbed during an action-packed evening of carp angling.

Are Bite Alarms Weatherproof?

I had this specific question before I purchased my first set of alarms. Most manufacturers will list 100% waterproof as a feature on their product descriptions. It usually comes standard on all models of alarms as they’re meant to be used in all sorts of carpy weather.

  • Yes, they are meant to be used in any condition mother nature will throw at you while angling. Most alarms have a stiff plastic outer shell or waterproof rubberized coating to keep the wet out.

Although Alarms are built to be weatherproof they aren’t waterproof, if your alarms mistakenly go for a swim there is a good chance they will be ruined.

What are Snag Ears for Bite Alarms?

  • In my opinion, snag ears are one of the most important additional accessories for a bite alarm. They are attached to the thread of your bank stick or rod pod before your alarm is installed. The protrude higher than your bite alarm and hold your rod firmly in place in the event of a side take. I have heard many stories of fish that have taken off so powerfully that the angler lost their rod and reel as it popped off the alarm sideways. I have even experienced this myself.
  • Some models such as the Prologic SMX Bite Alarm that I’ve used come with retractable snag ears. The two bars the led lights are installed on actually twist and extend an extra few inches. I have never had a fish pull my rod out of the bite alarm while using them. Brilliant feature and piece of kit.
  • While fishing the St. Lawrence River I would highly recommend having snag ears, the fish are so lean from living and growing in the big river that they’re some of the strongest fish that I’ve fought.

Bobbins, Hangers and Swingers – What Are They and How do They Work?

The purpose of a bobbin, hanger or swinger is to hold tension on your line. This makes it easier for the alarm to detect dropbacks when a fish bumps your line or swims back towards you with your bait.

  • Bobbins are simply weighted clips that are attached to your bank stick via a chain.
  • Hangers or swingers have a solid bar that attaches a clip to your bank sticks.
  • The advantage of hangers over bobbins is that they are less prone to false reading in high winds.

For more information on the two be sure to read these detailed articles on Bobbins and Swingers.

Do I Need to Use a Receiver When Using Bite Alarms?

  • Receivers come in handy on overnight sessions or when you’re away from your rods briefly while scouting or baiting
  • I upgraded my alarms with a receiver due to the fact that I was having trouble hearing my alarms from a bivvy in heavy rain or strong winds.

Do I Need a Case or Protectors for My Bite Alarms?

Some special sets of bite alarms come with display cases that will hold up to 4 alarms and a receiver. Additional cases can be purchased for each alarm to protect them when they’re not in use.

  • Cases do come in handy if you travel and haul your gear around often. I simply use the small cardboard case and foam that my alarms came in. The main advantage of being in a hard case is to prevent the power button from being turned on. You can go through a lot of batteries as most of the power buttons protrude from the unit making them prone to being activated inside a tackle bag.

What Size Thread is on a Bite Alarm and is it Compatible With Bank Sticks or Rod Pods?

The thread used on carp fishing bite alarms is ⅜ “ BSF which stands for British Standard Fine. Bite alarms are male threaded and rod pods and bank sticks are female threaded. This is a common thread used for all carp fishing gear.

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