Zach M. Holding a BIG NJ Carp.

Carp Fishing Basics

Carp fishing is some of the easiest and most entertaining fishing around and anyone can be successful if they follow the carp fishing basics below.  With this being said, Carp fishing is very different from other types of fishing that most people participate in (i.e. Bass and Trout fishing), and in my personal opinion can’t be approached in the same manner; both in terms of mindset and technique. Read on for Carp fishing basics.

Common Carp
16-lb Common Carp I caught using the same carp fishing basics I’ll be explaining in this article.

Carp Fishing Gear

Before heading out for a day of Carp fishing, you need to make sure you have the right gear and tackle for the day. Go ahead and leave your ultralight trout rods at home. For small to medium sized carp, a 7 to 9 foot, medium/heavy action rod and spinning reel with 10lb mono should suffice. I’m just going to stick the basics for this article, so I’m going to explain a very simple rig that I like to use when fishing for small to medium sized Carp; and it may be a rig that you have already used for another style of fishing.

Basic Terminal Tackle For Carp:

  • 8 to 10+ pound monofilament OR 15+ pound braid for your reel
  • 1-ounce egg sinkers
  • Size 6 baitholder or plain shank hooks
  • 20+ pound test fluorocarbon leader
  • Barrel swivels

As with any rig, your first step is deciding which line to use, I prefer to use the heavier braided lines whenever I fish for Carp, but 8-lb or 10-lb monofilament line works perfectly for your average sized Carp as long as you don’t try to horse the fish in too fast.  Now that you know which line to use, we can move onto the rig itself.  You’re going to want to have a 1-ounce egg sinker on your main line, followed by a barrel swivel with safety snap (size 12 or larger) tied onto your main line.  All that’s left now is your leader and your hook.  I usually tie my own leaders with 20-lb fluorocarbon tied to a size 6 bait-holder hook which I make into pre-tied leaders so I can easily switch them out, or if I get broken off I can simply put a new one on (This is where your snap swivel comes into play).  Though to simplify it even more you can even go pick up some pre-tied leaders from Walmart or your local tackle shop instead of making your own.

Basic carp fishing rig
Basic carp fishing rig
Basic carp fishing rig - detail
Basic carp fishing rig – detail of sinker and swivel

Creating Your Carp Fishing Bait

Choosing a bait for Carp is fairly easy seeing as it can be as simple as using a can of corn or garden worms, both of which Carp will readily take.  Though, one simple way to increase your chances of catching more Carp is to increase the appeal of your bait to the fish.  When fishing for Carp, I create a simple, though effective, bait made from foods you can find in your local supermarket.

Carp Bait Shopping List

  • Two or three cans of cream style sweet corn
  • One can of whole kernel sweet corn
  • One or two larger containers of 5-minute quick oats (oatmeal)

Baiting the Hook

Start off by putting enough of the regular sweet corn onto your hook so that the hook is covered, but the tip and barb are still exposed.  For size 6 hooks, usually three or four pieces of corn will do the trick.  Once you’re done with that, you’ll need to combine the creamed corn and quick oats to make your oat pack.  Your first step in this process will be to pour some of your oats into a bucket of some sort; I usually start with half of the container of oats.  After you have your oats in the bucket, you’ll need to pour about a quarter of the can of creamed corn into the bucket as well.  After that, you’ll need to mix them up a bit, and add a bit more creamed corn after that so you’re mixture is just wet enough to stick together when you cast out.  Usually at this point, the question of “how much of the mixture do I put on the hook?”.  I usually do an entire handful, but when you’re first starting out, smaller handfuls are easier to mold around the hook and cast out until you get the hang of it.  Another common question I get asked about this process is “how do the carp get to the hook with that big oat ball around it?”.  This brings me to the point of the oat pack; after about a minute or so in the water, the oats fall apart and fall around the hook.  Now instead of having the big oat pack around your hook, the oats are loose and in a pile around your hook, and when a Carp comes by it sucks up the oats around the hook, and will eventually suck your hook up along with them.  This way the Carp have something extra to draw them in as opposed to only having sweet corn on your hook for bait.

Casting a Bait Ball

Casting this bait out might take a little while to get used to, so don’t get frustrated if you lose your oat pack on your first few attempts!  When casting out an oat pack, you can’t really whip your bait out there like you normally would.  Instead, you have to take it easy and make your casts a little slower and just pitch it out there without whipping your rod too much.  It definitely takes getting used to, but after your first trip or two you should start to get the hang of it. Now that you have your bait all ready to go and in the water, all you need to do is wait for some action!  

Hooking, Playing, and Landing a Carp

Right after you get your lines in the water, I can’t stress enough that you should either have bait-feeder reels, or have your reels in free spool.  The reasoning behind this is that you don’t want the fish to feel any resistance when taking out line while it’s inspecting your bait, and most importantly, you don’t want to lose your rod to the fish!  This leads me into my next point, just because you get a bump on your line, doesn’t mean the fish is on yet.  When your line bumps, it’s usually either the Carp sucking up the oats around your hook, or bumping your line itself.  As soon as the Carp feels the hook, 99 times out of 100 it will go on a strong run and start to peel out line.  Now when this happens, you can’t set the hook like you would on other fish, like a Bass.  Though it is always good to still set the hook, you don’t have to do it as hard as you normally would since Carp have very soft mouths and you don’t want to rip the hook out.  Usually just simply lifting your rod up and taking it out of free spool, or engaging the drag if using a bait-feeder while the fish is on it’s initial run will be more than enough to set the hook in it’s mouth.

Fighting the Fish

While the fish is on it’s initial run, you’re going to just want to keep your rod tip high and pointed away from the fish, just as you would any other large fish.  Once it’s done making it’s first run then you can finally start reeling and fight the fish.  When fighting a Carp, it’s just like fighting any other large fish, but you have to take it easier on them since if you pull too hard you’ll pull the hook out of their soft mouths.  General rule of thumb is; if the fish is running, let him run and tire itself out against your drag, only reel once it’s done with a run, and ALWAYS keep tension on your line otherwise the fish will be able to shake the hook.  By doing this, you minimize the risk of pulling the hook out while also making for a more enjoyable fight!

Carp Fishing
Fish on! Fighting a smaller, 5-lb Carp.

Landing the Fish

Once you get the fish under control and close to shore, he might stay just out of netting distance for a while or go on one final run, so be ready for that.  But once you have the opportunity to net the fish, guide it in head first and get the majority of the fish in the net before trying to scoop it up so the fish doesn’t flop back out of the net and injure itself.  Once the fish is in the net, take the hook out, snap a few pictures, and get it back in the water to fight another day!  If you wish to weigh your fish, the best way to do this is by using a weigh sling, or if you don’t have a weigh sling you can weigh the fish in your net and subtract the weight of your net later on.  This method is much easier on the fish than weighing it on a conventional scale that goes through the gills since Carp are so heavy.

25-lb Common Carp caught using the same method
25-lb Common Carp I caught using the same method explained in this article.

With the information in this article, you have all you need to get out for a fun day of Carp fishing.  I hope everyone found it helpful, and if you have any additional questions feel free to ask!

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10 thoughts on “Carp Fishing Basics”

  1. I catch common carp in a local canal with a medium heavy setup, a Carolina rig containing 50 pound braid main line, down to a barrel swivel, a 12 pound mono leader, and a size #2 octopus style hook. Caught a few in the summer of 2016 with a split-shot rig set up with the same octopus style hook. Carp give a great fight and are barely pressured fish. They were introduced to North America in the early 1800s, and are common to rivers, lakes, ponds, and creeks. I always fish from shore, and like to fish after rain when the water is murky. In these types of conditions they feel safer and come closer to shore and feed in early morning weather along weed edges, and banks. This is just how I catch my carp and they make a strong run. Enjoyable fish!

  2. Savage, You can use any bait or gear you like! This article was written and published with the intent to improve people’s chances of catching carp and landing carp.

    Short rods like you mentioned tend to have light or ultralight action, reels, and line associated with them. Even a smaller 5lb carp will pull like a freight train when hooked, most likely spooling your reel before it even tires out. If you do manage to fight the fish and land it, release will most likely not be an option from all the stress and exertion, the carp will go belly up.

    Worms are good carp bait, but note that carp are pretty much scavengers, swimming around, looking for an easy meal and they can easily swim right by your lonely worm not even noticing it’s there. The benefit of using a bait ball is that it dissolves and disperses in the water, increasing your chances of attracting and holding carp around your hooked bait.

    I’ll add that some folks have great success ‘chumming’ with whole kernel sweet corn and casting their bait (corn or worm) into the area they chummed. Of course on any given day fishing can be hit or miss too so don’t give up on any one technique after just one or two outings. I hope this helps, best of luck!

  3. Great article, thanks for posting.

    Carp is the hidden gem of the fishing world in US. We mostly fish Carp and it’s just the best. No other fish fights like it and these things get huge.

    For those that have issues with smaller fish eating corn, use FEED corn. Cook it (look up you tube). It’s much bigger and WAY cheaper! Just watch those little Beatles…..

    We have started getting Carp gear from Europe, but not going all out with rod stands, buzzers and all of the anal things lot of enthusiasts get into. PVC pipe holds the rod fine, $3 fish alarms do the trick. We did invest into rods/reels and a nice Carp net. We use tarp/Rapala scale and tape measure for measurements.

    We started off carp fishing with simple treble hook and can corn. Weight to the bottom > chum and watch them come.

    This year we will try to expand into the world of kayak carping, which should be interesting….to say the least. Figured I would get a nice motor and a spin around the lake reeling in carp….

    🙂

  4. David,
    And I thought I had the weirdest looking set up at Spruce Run !
    Fishing there for the last 25 years. Rod-Pod, European Rod 3.5lbs, bite detectors, swingers, probably I have used all the “gadgets” out there ! I gave up on buying factory made boilies. Doing my own now. Much better results, and way cheaper.
    However, after all done and said, fishing with corn (on a hair type setup) is the most productive of all.
    Problem: the corn tends to be eaten very easily by other fish before the carps get to it.
    Big carp Tackle as every thing one may need to start fishing this way. (by the way, I am not related in any way or form with them.)
    Hope to see all of your guys when the weather gets a little warmer,
    Tight lines

  5. There is a really great way on catching carp and the fastest way by doing it the European style way with these buzzers and indicators and using a bait called boilies which is great here because the carp are not used to seeing these types of bait. I recommend going into a website called bigcarptackle.com where there is everything that you can imagine in order to catch these powerful fish and to be successful each trip especially in Spruce Run Reservoir. Give it a try and start a new style of fishing in the U.S. Just try to find a guy with the most weirdest setup that you are not used to seeing by the road at Spruce Run or Demott Pond and that would be me. Usually I would fish during Sundays. Hope to see you guys on the water.
    P.S. Youtube has everything that you guys can learn from. Best of all subscribe to Brian Wingard on youtube.

  6. Thanks Xavier! I know a few more “European” methods as well to use for Carp, but I find this more convenient seeing as it doesn’t require too much preparation. Also, thanks for the tip on putting the oat pack around the weight, I’ve done it in the past but completely forgot!

  7. Thanks! I have fished for Carp off a kayak before, if you’re using this bait method then you want to make sure you’re anchored up so you’re hook is still in the bait ball. As for winter fishing, it is still possible to catch them but for the most part fishing will be very slow. Though the bite will pick up again around April.

  8. Hi,
    I have been fishing for carp for the past 40 years – at least- and although I now use what is called here in the States , a” European Method” I must say that your article is right to the point.
    I just would like to add the following point that may make it easier the send the oat pack ‘out there”.
    Instead of putting your oat pack around the hook, put it around your sinker with your hook baited with 2-3 kernels of corn inside.
    The oat pack will dissolve in the water the same way, but it might me easier to throw your line further.
    Tight lines !

  9. Great article! I will definitely give it a try this spring. Questions: Have you ever fished for carp from a kayak? Is it practicle to do so? And how is the fishing in the winter . Thanks again.

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