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Ultimate Guide To Carp Fishing: Tips and Techniques For Beginners Learning How To Fish For Carp

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How To Catch Carp

Welcome to the ultimate guide to carp fishing.  This fishing guide is for those of you who may be new to carp fishing and want to learn how to get started. It’s also a useful guide for experienced fishermen who may want to branch out from their normal style of fishing and try something new.

On this page, you will find carp fishing tips, techniques as well as a ton of other information that’ll help teach you how to catch carp.

I begin this guide by going over general carp fishing basics. From there I move onto some of the more common carp fishing techniques.  Finally, I dive into some of the more advanced tips and tricks for catching carp.

All About Carp: Our Target Fish

Before we get started on learning the basics of how to fish for carp and diving into tips and techniques, we should spend a brief moment on taking a look at the fish we’re after.

According to Wikipedia, carp is a name we give to a number of species of freshwater fish that are all a part of the Cyprinidae group of fish. These fish are all native to Europe and Asia. Of these, the two most popular carp to fish for are the Common Carp and the Asian Carp.

how to carp fishing tips

Here in the United States, carp fishing is slowly but surely starting to catch on as a legit species of fish to fish for. Anglers in the US are even finding that fly fishing for carp is a worthy challenge and adventure. For years, the common carp has been considered a trash fish due to the it’s invasive nature ever since it was introduced to the United States in 1831. This is in despite of the fact that the carp was originally introduced and distributed throughout the United States as a food fish.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, in Europe and Asia, carp were and still are prized as a sport fish. Carp fishing in these parts of the world is extremely popular among fishermen.

But as I mentioned, carp fishing is finally beginning to gain traction here in the United States, which is what hopefully brought you here to this ultimate guide to carp fishing. Follow this guide to learn how to catch these fish and you’ll be way ahead of the game when carp fishing becomes mainstream.

Carp Fishing For Beginners: The Basics

[thrive_drop_caps color=’dark’ style=’2′]N[/thrive_drop_caps]ow let’s get to the good stuff!  Let’s talk about some of the basics of catching carp. This section is geared towards those of you who are either new to carp fishing or maybe you’ve tried fishing for carp but haven’t been successful.  

This is where we talk about the basic fishing tackle you’ll need, what bait to use, where to go to fish for carp as well as when to go carp fishing.

The Best Way To Fish For Carp

how to catch carp

There are a number of ways you can fish for carp, including fly fishing, believe it or not.  But since we’re sticking with the basics, I’m going to teach you the best way to catch a carp as a beginner to this specific sport. If interested in taking a look at how to fly fish for carp, check out this ultimate guide posted by Field And Stream.

Carp are typically bottom feeders. Carp literally roam around the bottom of the lake, river or pond tearing up the bottom and uprooting vegetation in search of food. According to some kinds of carp will even eat up to 20% of their own body weight in a single day.  So that’s a characteristic of the carp that we want to take advantage of! 

As fishermen, we want to go where the carp are.  And that’s to the bottom.  When I was a kid, the first time I saw a carp caught was in the Salt River near Phoenix, AZ.  That carp was caught with a bread ball on a treble hook which sat on the bottom of the river.  

Knowing that the carp are roaming around on the bottom, we want to rig our fishing gear in a way that will present the bait to the carp that’s hanging out and feeding on the bottom.

The Fishing Gear You’ll Need

As a newbie to carp fishing, it’s important to remember that this is a completely different kind of fishing than you may be used to.  These aren’t trout or small mouth bass.   When you hook into a carp, even a “small” 5 pound carp, you’re literally hooking into a freight train.  So you want to be prepared for this.  

If you try to use your trout rod and reel while carp fishing, chances are you’re going to quickly wish you had larger gear. Although it can be a total blast trying to fight one of these fish on a light rod and reel, even a small carp when hooked can run your ultralight reel empty before you ever had a chance to even fight it.

So here’s the gear I like to use and the kind of fishing tackle you should consider using for carp. Please keep in mind that there are many different carp fishing products you can buy.  But this section of the carp fishing guide is for beginners or those new to the sport of carp fishing. So we’re going to keep it super basic.

With that said, here’s the tackle I recommend for starting out:

  • 15 pound fishing line (I prefer braided line)
  • .5oz to 1oz egg sinkers
  • Size 6 bait holder or plain shank hooks.
  • 20 pound (or more) fluorocarbon leader line
  • Size 12 snap swivels

Fishing Line For Carp

When it comes to choosing a fishing line to use for carp, I prefer to use at least 15 pound braided fishing line for carp fishing. Carp fight hard and can be quite heavy, so I like to have peace of mind that my line is going to hold through the fight.  But I’ve used lighter line and have done just fine. You might just need to fight the fish a little more carefully.

At the end of the braided fishing line, I like to use a minimum of 20 pound fluorocarbon leader line.

I’ll explain in more detail later in this carp fishing guide exactly what to do with all of this tackle and how to set up a basic carp fishing rig.

Best Bait To Use For Carp

One of the best things about carp fishing and choosing which bait to use, is the fact that carp are scavengers.  They roam around the bottom of the lake, pond or River all day in search of food.  And they eat a lot of it!

Knowing that carp are scavengers and will eat just about anything, you could literally use just about anything as carp bait.  When I was a kid, I even heard rumor that someone caught a carp using a cigarette butt.  Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but I like to think it is.  

Some of the more common kinds of carp bait, and the kind we’re going to use as new carp fishermen are:

  • sweet corn
  • balls of worms
  • Boilies
  • Bait balls made from quick oats and creamed corn
  • Other kinds of dough ball mixtures.

In the carp fishing techniques section of this fishing guide, I’ll explain how to use these different types of baits to catch carp, and even explain how to make your own special bait ball mixtures.

Where To Go Carp Fishing

Carp can be found in just about any body of water.  They’re found in lakes, ponds, rivers and creeks. In the US, they’ve become so prolific and have made their way into so many areas, that they’re considered to be pests to many people.

In rivers and creeks, look for deep holes or log jams or drift wood piles. These are a few places carp like to hold up in.  I also like to look for areas of slower moving water.

In lakes and ponds, look for areas that are somewhat shallower as well as free from snags and heavy vegetation.  You want to have some vegetation, as this provides a sense of safety for the fish. But too much vegetation, and you’ll either be fighting constant snags, or fighting a fish covered in vegetation.

When To Go Carp Fishing

You may be wondering if there is a specific carp fishing season. In my opinion, the best time to go carp fishing is in the spring.  It’s during this time that the carp are coming out of the winter when food sources have been low, and they are beginning to spawn.  

Fact is, you can fish for carp any season of the year.  However, some seasons of the year will prove to be more difficult to locate and hook carp than others. The most difficult time to fish for carp, in my opinion is during the winter.

In addition to the spring, summertime can also be a productive time of year to catch carp. However, when fishing for carp during the summer, you may want to consider learning how to fish for them on the surface. Carp can still be found in the deep holes we fish for them in the spring, but during the summer, they can also be found lounging around on the surface, especially in the morning.

Where To Find Carp

I mentioned how to locate carp briefly in the previous section, Where To Go Carp Fishing.  In order to know how to locate carp, we first need a place to start. Will you be fishing a lake or pond? Or a river or creek?

To recap, rivers and creeks, you want to look in deep holes or log jams where water is pooled up, deep and slow.  In lakes and ponds, check out the shallower water where there’s some vegetation but not too much.

Best Carp Fishing Rigs

Now for the rig setup. Like I mentioned, there are many different carp fishing rigs you can try.  But for this guide, we’re sticking with a simple, basic fishing rig that has been proven to work for catching carp.

I’ve experimented with several different kinds of basic carp fishing rigs, but have settled on this one. It’s a very simple rig to setup and works!

To make the rig, you’ll need these items:

  • .5 to 1 ounce egg sinker
  • Size 4 to 6 baitholder hook or plain shank hook. I’ve also used a size 4 Octopus hook
  • Leader line (20 pound or more fluorocarbon)
  • Snap swivel size 12 or larger

How To Make A Simple Carp Fishing Rig

  1. Thread the lead egg sinker onto the main line
  2. Tie the barrel swivel onto the end of the main line. This will preven the sinker from coming off the line.
  3. Tie the leader to the bait holder hook (or buy pre-tied snelled hooks)
  4. Attach the leader and hook to the snap swivel

Note: The reason I like to use a snap swivel is so you can easily and quickly change out the leader and hook.  It’s always good to have a number of these leader lines and hooks pre tied and ready to go.

How To Bait Your Hook

The Corn

To bait your hook, take a few pieces of the sweet corn and put them on the fish hook.  Use enough kernels of corn that the hook is completely covered, minus the tip of the hook. This is usually around 4 or 5 kernels. You want to make sure just a little bit of the hook tip is exposed so it can easily be set into the carps mouth.

The Bait Ball

Now mix together the oats and creamed corn to make an “oat pack”.  I learned this particular method from Zach Merchant at Round Valley Fishing who makes carp fishing look like a breeze. Mix together enough creamed corn and oats so the mixture is just wet enough to stick together when formed into a ball. Remember, you’ll be casting this out a ways, and you don’t want the mixture so dry it falls off during the cast.

You have two options at this point. You can form an oat/corn mixture ball around the corn on your hook, or you can simply form a ball of oats and corn around your weight.  

Purpose Of The Oat And Corn Mixture

Why would we form a ball of the oat mixture around the weight on our carp rig? First let me explain what the purpose of the oat mixture is and what we want it to do in the water.

Whether the oat ball is on the hook or on the weight, it serves the same purpose.  When the carp fishing rig is sitting on the bottom of the lake, the oat ball will slowly begin to fall apart. This is exactly what we want to happen. As the bait ball falls apart, the oats and corn will fall down into a pile around the hook. When a carp swims by scavenging for food, it’ll sense the oats and corn and begin to suck them up into its mouth.  As he does so, the carp will also suck up your corn covered hook into it’s mouth.

In essence, using the oat and corn ball is kind of a small scale method of chumming. The more food you have down there to attract the carp, the better chance it’ll have of finding your baited hook.

How To Cast While Carp Fishing

As you can see, your setup for carp fishing is quite a bit different than anything else you might have used before.  For example, have you ever packed a clump of oats and corn around your lead sinker?  Probably not.

carp fishing for beginners

Now you can imagine, that casting a packed bait ball as far as you can might be somewhat difficult. And you’re right. It definitely takes some time to get used to. When I first tried fishing carp with a bait ball like that, I almost gave up because it kept falling apart on me during the cast.

The trick is to gently cast your rig and bait ball out into the water without “whipping” it like you would casting a lure.  For this type of fishing, you’re more or less gently lobbing your line out over the water as opposed to doing a normal cast like you would trout or bass fishing.

Too much force and the bait ball will fly apart and come off the hook or sinker.  Too little, and well, you’ve got to make sure you get some distance behind it.

It’ll take some practice and some getting used to.  Just don’t give up.  Take plenty of bait with you knowing that you’re going to need it.

Once you’ve successfully cast your line, let it sink to the bottom.  Tighten your line and secure your fishing rod.  Finally, it’s very important to either completely loosen your drag, or allow the line to completely run free.

Doing this will help improve your odds of hooking into a carp because if the carp feels any sense of resistance in the line, chances are it’ll spit out the hook before ever having a chance to set it.

Setting The Hook And Landing The Carp

Carp fishing is very different than what you might be used to. This includes when to set the hook. Unlike trout or bass fishing, with carp, you must wait to set the hook. Then…wait some more.

One of the biggest mistakes that fishermen who are new to carp fishing make is setting the hook way too early.  So how do you set the hook when carp fishing?

The key is to ignore the small bumps or pulls that you see on the line. If you’re new to carp fishing, waiting and ignoring these “bites” on the line can be very difficult to do.  When you see these small bumps, it’s a carp eating the oats and corn that’s fallen down around your hook.  The carp is literally bumping up against your line. Be patient. He’ll find your corn covered hook.

Once the carp has completely taken the bait and hook into its mouth, that’s when you set the hook.  You’ll know that the carp has taken the bait because carp almost always take off when they feel the hook in their mouth.  As they make their initial run, it’ll start to take line off your reel. Now is when you increase your drag and set the hook!

Your rod will double over and now the fight is on!

Note: Please know that the mouth of the carp is soft. Setting the hook too firmly will result in ripping it out of it’s mouth.  This is not good for you, or the carp. Often times, just increasing your drag and lifting the rod tip up will be enough tension to properly set the hook.

How To Fight A Carp

how to fight a carp

Carp really like to make runs throughout the fight. Whenever the fish decides to make a run, let it run.  Letting the fish make is run will do two things.  

First, it’ll tire the fish out.  With your drag set to the right tension, the carp will have to fight against the drag.  Even though it takes line off your reel, the fish is going to tire itself out.

Second, you don’t want to rip the hook out of the carps soft mouth. Once the fish stops his run, then you can continue reeling him in and continue the fight.  

Carp fight hard. But the process of fighting a carp is a lot like fighting any other fish.  The only difference would be to take it a little easier on the carp because of their soft mouths.

Tips For Successfully Releasing The Carp

remove hook from carp fishing tip

Over the years I’ve become a huge proponent of catch and release. That’s not to say that I don’t bring home a fish every once in a while. Because I most definitely do. I think I’ve just arrived at a place where I enjoy the sport and the fight more than anything else.  

With that said, I have no issues with fishermen to who choose to keep. But in case you’re interested in catch and release, here are a few tips you can use to make sure you give the carp you catch a good chance at living to fight another day.

  1. Try to use a net when landing the carp. If possible, net the fish head first. Get as much of the carp into the net before lifting it out of the water. Not only will this help protect the fish once on land, but you’ll need a net for some of the other tips.
  2. Remove the hook from the fish’s mouth and return it to the water.
  3. Try not to grab the carp by the gills. Doing so could damage them and severely injure the fish.
  4. If you want to weigh the fish, do so by hooking onto the net with your scale while the fish is still in it.  Then subtract the weight of the net from the total.  Thanks to Zach Merchant at RoundValleyFishing for that tip.
  5. Return the fish to the water as soon as possible. Minimizing the time the fish is exposed to air will help reduce the amount of stress the fish goes through and increase its odds of survival.

Other Carp Fishing Techniques

What I’ve explained above is a basic method of how to catch carp. There are many different ways to fish for carp, but I believe this is one of the most simple and effective ways to get into carp fishing.

In this section, I want to briefly describe some of the other methods of fishing for carp that can also be productive.


First of all, what are boilies? Boilies are boiled paste fishing baits that are round and somewhat hard. They usually are made out of a combination of fishmeal, milk proteins, bird food, semolina and soya flour.  The boilie ingredients are all mixed together with eggs, which are used as a binding agent, and boiled to form a hardish round bait, which will last for a long time in the water.

What Rig To Use With Boilies

Since boilies are hard, we don’t attach them directly to the hook.  Instead, we use a rig set up that’s called a Hair Rig.  A hair rig allows the bait to be attached to the line with the actual hook lying right next to it.  When the carp sucks in the boilie, it suck in the hook as well.   

Surface Fishing For Carp

We’ve talked almost exclusively about fishing for carp on the bottom of the lake or river. But carp can also be caught by fishing on the surface.

If you want to attempt surface fishing for carp, then be ready to move around. It’s necessary to be on the move to locate the carp.

Once you think you’ve located them, you’ll want to use a similar set up as the hair rig, except you’ll want to use bait that floats. And of course eliminate the lead sinker.

Throw out a handful of chum or feed out to where the carp are.  This will get them to start feeding. You want to cast your line so your bait and hook are floating in the middle of the feed that you threw out there.  

And just like bottom fishing for carp, they’ll eventually suck in your bait.  Once they’ve got it in their mouth, set the hook!

Additional Resources

Korda – Excellent source of carp fishing videos– huge resource for carp fishing tips and techniques

Wikipedia Page On Carp

Carp Fishing Tactics– Great source of carp fishing tips

The Statesman Journal – On The Trail Of Carp


That brings us to the end of the basic carp fishing guide. You’ve been given all the information you need to get out there and start catching carp. I hope you’ve found the information helpful and has given you everything you need to get started.  

Like I mentioned earlier, there are a ton of different methods of fishing for carp. There are also a ton of different bells and whistles you can buy to help improve your carp fishing experience.  You don’t need these things to get started. A hook, a weight and some line will get you into the carp.

Related Posts:

1. The Best Rod and Reel Combo For Carp Fishing

2. Best Fishing Net For Carp

3. Best Polarized Sunglasses For Carp Fishing

4. The Best Hooks To Use For Carp Fishing

5. The 5 Best Baits For Carp Fishing

how to fish for carp

Written by Don

When I'm not bass fishing or looking for steelhead in my home state of Oregon I can be found working on house projects dreaming of my next fishing adventure.

I started this website to share just some of the things I've learned along my fishing journey, and the many things I'm still learning. Enjoy!

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