Carp Fishing For Beginners: The Ultimate Guide



carp fishing for beginners guide

Did you know that carp fishing is one of the fastest-growing angling disciplines in the world? If you’re a beginner looking to dive into this hobby, then you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to our carp fishing for beginners guide where we’ll provide you with all the information you need to get started on your journey to catch carp.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything from understanding carp behaviour and obtaining a rod license to essential gear and setting up for success.

Understanding Carp

Different Carp Species

To fully understand the different carp species, you’ll need to understand their unique characteristics and behaviour. There are a number of different carp to target, the most common include Common Carp, Mirror Carp, Leather Carp and Grass Carp. We’ve got a great article on the different types of carp.

Each species has its own distinct physical features such as scale patterns and body shape.

mirror carp from abbey lakes - carp fishing for beginners

How Do Carp Feed?

Carp are omnivorous creatures with a preference for bottom feeding. They often feed on aquatic plants, insects, crustaceans, and your hook bait from time to time!

If you want to catch carp, it is essential to understand how they feed and what they prefer to eat. Knowing this will increase your chances of a successful session and lower your chances of a blank.

Carp feeding behaviour can vary depending on factors such as weather, water temperature, and availability of food sources. Here are three key points to keep in mind when it comes to carp feeding habits:

  • Feeding Patterns: Carp are known for their scavenging behaviour. They can often be found searching the bottom of lakes or rivers for food. They tend to feed more actively during the early morning and late afternoon, although not exclusively. You can still catch them on the bottom during the day but might be harder if it’s hot and sunny.
  • Feeding Preferences: Carp have a diverse diet and will consume a variety of natural baits and man-made baits. These include insects, maggots, worms, snails, boilies, pellets and even plant matter like algae or seeds.
  • Feeding Strategies: To attract carp, try using tactics like pre-baiting an area with small amounts of bait over several days before fishing there. Another strategy is using a spod to create a concentrated feeding area.

You may be wondering why carp fishing has become so popular in the UK. Well, it comes down to a few things.

Firstly, carp fishing techniques have evolved over time, making it easier for beginners to get started and experienced anglers to refine their skills.

Additionally, there is a wide range of carp fishing equipment available, catering to all budgets and preferences.

The introduction of shows like Monster Carp and the YouTube channels of anglers helps get more awareness around carp fishing as a whole, actively getting new people into fishing.

Rod Licence for Carp Fishing

Before you can even cast your rod you need to purchase a fishing rod licence which allows you to legally fish in the UK.

A rod licence is a legal requirement in the UK for anyone aged 13 or over who wishes to coarse fish, this includes carp. It is important to abide by fishing regulations and have the necessary licences before casting your rod.

You can get your rod license directly from, which can be conveniently purchased online. The fees collected from these licences are used to maintain and protect fisheries across the country. We have a guide on Fishing Licences in the UK.

man holding his fishing licence

Getting Started: Essential Carp Fishing Gear

To get started with carp fishing, there are a number of essential pieces of gear that you’ll need.

First and foremost, you’ll need a reliable rod and reel, designed specifically for carp fishing.

The right carp fishing line is also crucial, as it needs to be strong enough to handle the weight and power of these large fish, as well as various snags that could be in the water.

Additionally, you’ll want to consider the different types of rigs and choose one that suits your fishing style.

Lastly, selecting the right bait for carp fishing is key – whether it’s boilies, pellets, or maize, finding what works best in your local waters can greatly increase your chances of success.


There are different types of rods available, including a variety of different lengths and test curves.

To choose the best carp fishing rod for you, consider factors such as the weight and length of the rod, as well as its action and power.

The venue you’ll be fishing should also play a factor in the type of rod you choose. If you’re only going to fish small waters it would make sense to have a shorter rod such as a 9ft or 10ft as you wouldn’t need to cast as far, therefore a 12ft or 13ft rod would be overkill.

Different Types of Rods for Carp Fishing

Test Curve
  • 2.5lb: Light and flexible, best for smaller waters where you’ll be casting a short distance.
  • 2.75lb: Versatile, balances sensitivity and power for various conditions. Allows you to launch small solid PVA bags.
  • 3lb: Popular choice, a suitable all-rounder with moderate casting.
  • 3.25lb: Increased power, ideal for larger solid PVA bags and bigger leads.
  • 3.5lb: Heavy-duty, built for long-distance casting.
Carp Rod Length
  • 9-10ft: Great for smaller waters for precision fishing in tight spaces. Also helps if you have limited car space. (10ft rods are my personal favourite, haven’t looked back since getting my 10ft Daiwa Infinity’s)
  • 12ft: Versatile, suitable for most carp fishing scenarios.
  • 13ft: Long casting for larger bodies of water.

Carp Rod Recommendations

Now you know how to choose a carp rod, let’s jump into some of my carp rod recommendations for different price points.

There are many different brands of carp rods to choose from, Shimano, Daiwa, Fox, Nash, the list goes on. I have a soft spot for Daiwa rods so I may be a little biased towards them! but I can personally vouch for the quality and value for money.

Below I’ve included 3 options for 10ft rods and 12ft rods, with budget options, mid-range options and high-end options.

10ft Carp Rod Recommendations:

Budget Option

daiwa black widow 10ft

Daiwa Black Widow 10ft

Mid-Range Option

shimano tx2 10ft

Shimano Tribal TX2 10ft

High-End Option

daiwa infinity x45 10ft

Daiwa Infinity X45 10ft

12ft Carp Rod Recommendations:

Budget Option

daiwa black widow 12ft

Daiwa Black Widow 12ft

Mid-Range Option

shimano tribal tx2 rods

Shimano Tribal TX4 12ft

High-End Option

korda kaizen platinum 12ft rods

Korda Kaizen Platinum 12ft


When it comes to types of reels for carp fishing, there are several options to choose from, these include Big Pit Reels, Mini Big Pit Reels and Baitrunner Reels.

Big Pit Reels

Big Pit reels are large-sized fishing reels designed for carp fishing and other types of specimen fishing. They typically have a larger spool capacity, allowing them to hold more fishing line, often in the range of 300 to 500 meters or more. The significant advantage of big pit reels is their long casting ability. They enable anglers to cast their bait to a considerable distance, which is particularly useful when fishing in large waters or for reaching distant spots. Additionally, the larger spool helps reduce line memory, improving line lay and casting performance.

Mini Big Pit Reels

Mini Big Pit reels are a smaller version of the regular big pit reels. They offer many of the same features and benefits, such as extended casting distance and reduced line memory, but they have a more compact design and a smaller spool capacity. mini big pit reels are favoured by anglers who want some of the advantages of Big Pit reels but prefer a lighter and more manoeuvrable setup. Additionally, they are more suited to shorter rods as they are more balanced.

Baitrunner Reels

Baitrunner reels, also known as free spool reels, are a specialized type of fishing reel that includes a secondary drag system. The main drag system allows the reel to function like a standard reel, controlling the resistance on the line when fighting a fish. However, the unique feature of Baitrunner reels is the secondary drag, which allows the spool to rotate freely with minimal resistance when the reel is engaged in the “Baitrunner” mode.

Carp Reel Recommendations

Yet again there are many different brands to choose from for your reel. Once again I like a good Daiwa reel but I have recently switched to Shimano Ultegra XTD 5500s as my Daiwa Black Widow 25a’s weren’t cutting it, however, they are still great reels for the price point.

I’ve never personally been a fan of baitrunners, so my recommendations below only include big pit reels and mini big pits.

Budget Option

sonik vader x pro 10000

Sonik Vader X Pro 10000

Mid-Range Option


Shimano Ultegra 5500 XTD

High-End Option


Daiwa Tournament S 5000T

Carp Fishing Line

Your fishing line is a vital component, It’s the crucial link between you and the carp. Ensuring that you have the correct line is very important to handle these powerful fish as well as various snags in the water. With various types available, overall 12lb to 15lb mainline is what you’ll need for everyday fishing.


Monofilament line, often referred to as “mono,” is a traditional type of fishing line made from a single strand of nylon or other similar materials. It is widely used in carp fishing and various other fishing disciplines.

Monofilament offers several advantages, including its relatively low cost, flexibility, and forgiving nature. It tends to stretch, which can be advantageous in absorbing sudden shocks from hard-fighting fish like carp.

However, the stretch can also reduce sensitivity and make it harder to detect subtle bites. Monofilament lines are available in various strengths and are a popular choice for carp anglers of all experience levels.

I have the ESP Syncro XT on my reels so I can recommend this, it’s also very reasonably priced, you can check this out on eBay here.

fishing line on spool


If you’re after a line that offers invisibility and increased sensitivity, fluorocarbon is the way to go. It has several advantages over monofilament, including its ability to become almost invisible underwater as well as its low stretch properties.

When choosing the right fluorocarbon for carp fishing, consider the lb strength and diameter that best suits your needs.

Additionally, using a fluorocarbon leader can provide added stealth and durability when fishing with a monofilament or braided mainline.


Braid is a strong and versatile line that offers excellent casting techniques for carp fishing. When comparing braid to monofilament, braid has a thinner diameter and higher strength-to-diameter ratio.

Braid is often used when fishing at extreme distances as it doesn’t stretch, meaning you’ll get every indication on your bobbins and bite alarms. However, check on your venue’s rules as braided mainline tends to be banned on most waters. (doesn’t include your spod reel though)


There are several types you should know about. Each rig is designed for a specific purpose and can greatly impact your success.

Some common types include the hair rig, chod rig, zig rig and spinner rig.

Additionally, understanding different lead systems is crucial. Options like inline leads, helicopter setups, and running leads all have their advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation.

carp rig with boilie

Types of Rigs

To get started with carp fishing, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with different types of rigs. Rig types, rig materials, rig components, rig set up, and rig maintenance all play a crucial role in your success on the water.

Ultimately, if you’re just starting out I would buy pre-tied rigs. This is just my recommendation as it’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about. When you feel confident enough to tie your own, do it then. It also works out a lot cheaper in the long run as it’s usually cheaper to make your own.

Types of Lead Systems

carp fishing leads
Lead Clip

The lead clip is a versatile and widely used lead system in carp fishing. It consists of a plastic clip that securely holds the lead weight and can be easily attached to the mainline.

When a carp picks up the bait and moves off, the tension on the line causes the lead clip to release, allowing the carp to swim freely without feeling the weight of the lead. This setup is particularly effective for fishing in weedy or snaggy waters, as the lead can be quickly discarded if the line becomes entangled.

However, you don’t have to eject the lead every time if you put the lead clip tightly on.

Inline Leads

Inline leads are lead weights that slide directly onto the mainline and sit between the swivel and the hook link. Unlike lead clips, inline leads do not release from the line during fishing.

When a carp takes the bait, the weight of the inline lead aids in setting the hook, increasing hooking efficiency. Inline leads are popular for fishing solid PVA bags as they can be compacted down into the bag.

Helicopter Rigs

The helicopter rig is a tangle-free lead system designed to minimize line twist and facilitate bait presentation. The lead is attached and the of your leader or line with your rig on a ring swivel attached to the line, forming the helicopter setup.

The helicopter rig is well-suited for fishing in soft lakebeds or areas with debris, as it allows the bait to rest above potential obstructions while keeping the lead on the lakebed.

Running Rigs

The running rig is a classic lead system that offers a free-running setup. It involves using a lead weight with a swivel that can move along the mainline. The lead can slide up the line during the cast and, when the fish takes the bait, the line pulls freely through the lead’s swivel.

The running rig provides a natural presentation, and the carp can pick up the bait without feeling resistance from the lead. This system is well-suited for cautious or finicky carp and allows for effective bait presentation.

Choosing the Right Bait for Carp Fishing

Hook Bait

carp hook baits

Boilies: Bolies are very popular and versatile for fishing on the bottom. They are made from various ingredients, from fish meals to nutty to fruit-based ones.

Pop Ups: Pop ups are a buoyant version of a boilie, usually made with similar ingredients, just with additional ones to give them their buoyancy. Pop ups tend to come in a variety of flavours and colours as they’re used for a more attractive hook bait and to ultimately stand out from the rest.

Wafters: Wafters are a combination of boilies and pop ups, they are usually a matching flavour to the boilie just with a slight bit of buoyancy.

Natural Baits: Natural baits are carp’s natural food, these include worms, maggots, and tiger nuts. They are great for finicky carp that won’t take a boilie.


Boilies: Boilies are essential and versatile round, boiled baits crafted from a blend of ingredients, offering a wide range of sizes and flavours. Their popularity stems from their effectiveness as both hook bait and freebies in carp fishing.

Carp Pellets: Carp pellets, compressed bait pellets enriched with high nutritional value, serve as excellent attractants for carp when used as hook bait and introduced in substantial quantities as freebies. Their quick breakdown in water and appealing properties make them very attractive for carp, allowing them to grub around for ages.

Particle Mix: Particle mix comprises a delightful blend of soaked and cooked seeds, grains, and pulses, presenting an economical and enticing option for your spod mix.

Bite Alarms & Bobbins

Bite alarms help you detect when a carp is on by emitting a loud sound. These are vital if you’re fishing overnight as they’ll wake you up if you’ve got a bite. It’s like your own personal alarm clock for when you’re fishing, one which you actually want to hear! Popular bite alarm brands include Fox, Delkim, and Nash.

Bobbins are visual indicators that move up and down when a carp takes your bait, giving you an additional indication of if you have a fish on. There are various types of bobbins available in the market. These include hangers and swingers.

Buzz Bars, Bank Sticks and Rod Pods

One key piece of gear is your rod support, what your rods, bite alarms and bobbins are placed on.

Buzz Bars: Buzz bars are used to hold your rod securely in place. They are designed to keep your rods elevated off the ground, preventing them from getting dragged into the lake when you have a run. Buzz bars typically come in a set of two or three, allowing you to set up multiple rods at once.

Bank Sticks: Bank sticks screw into your buzz bars, they are long, sturdy poles that can be inserted into the ground, ensuring that your rods stay in place even when you get a strong bite. Bank sticks are adjustable in height, allowing you to position your rods at the desired angle.

Rod Pod: Rod pods are made from a frame that holds your rods securely. It’s an all-in-one setup that allows you to set up multiple rods. A common choice is the Sonik VaderX Rod Pod, you can check the price on eBay here.

Landing Net

Using a proper landing net is important for safely landing carp. There are many different types and sizes to choose from, but typically you’ll want one that’s 42 inches and intended for specimen carp fishing.

42-inch landing nets are a requirement at most fishing venues, so I would recommend picking up one of this size. Your landing net doesn’t have to break the bank, but picking up a good quality one will last you for ages. I use the Sonik Xtractor 42″ Net.

Unhooking Mat

One of the most important items to have in your fishing gear is an unhooking mat. It provides a safe and padded space for handling and unhooking carp without causing them harm.

There are different types of unhooking mats available, such as foam-filled, inflatable or cradles. Look for one that’s large enough to accommodate the size of carp you are targeting.

carp on unhooking mat

Weighing Sling

The weighing sling is another very important part of your gear, for safely and accurately measuring the weight of your carp, ensuring its well-being during the process. It is designed to cradle the carp securely while you record its weight.

Here are the general steps to follow to safely weigh your carp:

  1. Wet the sling before placing the carp inside to protect its slime coat.
  2. Choose a safe, soft area near the water’s edge for weighing.
  3. Ensure the fins of the carp are flat against its body to avoid damage.
  4. Keep the carp low during transfer to avoid accidental drops.
  5. Avoid lifting the carp too high to minimize stress.
  6. Use a stable hanging point if using a tripod or bar for weighing.
  7. Read the scale carefully and record the weight.
  8. Return the carp to the water immediately after weighing.

Carp Care Kit

A Carp Care Kit is a must in your fishing tackle. It’s a specialized set of products designed to help anglers take good care of carp caught during fishing. Carp are sensitive and valuable fish, and proper care is essential to ensure their well-being and safe release back into the water after capture.

They are used to treat any wounds or damage the carp may have after being caught. Such as damaged scales or hook holes.

The main product you need is something called propolis, which is a substance made by bees and can be used to seal and protect wounds on the fish. It forms a protective barrier that assists in the healing process and prevents further damage. Korda does a great Carp Care Kit which has everything you need to properly care for carp.

Getting Setup: Carp Fishing for Beginners

Now that you’ve got your gear ready, it’s time to get set up for your session on the bank. In this section, we’ll take you through the essential steps to get fully set up for a successful and enjoyable session. From selecting the right location to understanding the behaviour of these elusive creatures, we’ve got you covered.

Spooling Your Reels

The first thing you’ll need to do is load your reels with your chosen line. There are many different methods to this but it’s a pretty straightforward process to do. We have a great guide on how to spool a carp reel.

What Rig to Use

When you’re ready to hit the bank with your newly spooled reels, it’s time to decide on the perfect rig for your fishing session. There are various rig types that you can choose from, each with its own advantages and purposes.

As I mentioned earlier, I would recommend using a ready tied rig as they’re great for beginner carp anglers, a simple hair rig would do. If you want to try some other rigs such as for pop ups, you could get some ready-made spinner rigs which are great.

Finding the Carp

Finding carp is essential in Carp Fishing for success and should be the most important thing to master. There’s no point setting up wherever because there might not be any fish in the area. You want to actively find the fish to the best of your ability.

Follow the Wind

Wind can be a great indicator of carp location as they tend to follow it. When you arrive down the lake or wherever you’re fishing, your first place to look would be on the back of the wind (the direction it’s blowing)

Carp tend to drift with the wind as they like to follow the natural food that’s being blown along with the wind.

Lilly Pads and Reed Beds

Carp often seek shelter and hide among lily pads and reed beds. They also offer great food and oxygen sources for the fish, so targeting these areas can increase your chances of success.

lilly pads

Spot the Signs of Carp

Keep an eye out for signs like jumping carp, crashing and rolling as these could be signs of carp in the area. It’s usually a sign of feeding fish as they do this to clean out their gills after a feed.

Baiting Up

Baiting up is a crucial aspect of carp fishing, and using various techniques to introduce bait can significantly impact your chances of success.

Catapulting: Catapulting is a widely used and straightforward method for introducing free offerings to the water. This technique involves using a catapult to launch small amounts of bait, such as boilies, pellets, or particles, to a specific area. It’s ideal for short to medium distances and is perfect when targeting single or multiple spots accurately.

Spodding: Spodding is an excellent choice when you need to introduce a larger quantity of bait to a specific area quickly. It involves using a spod, a bait-dispensing device, to cast bait accurately to longer distances. Spods are designed to carry various bait types, including particles, ground bait, and boilies. The bait spreads upon impact with the water, creating a cloud of attraction that draws carp to your fishing spot.

Throwing Stick for Boilies: When targeting carp with boilies, a throwing stick is a popular tool for precise and controlled baiting. This slender, elongated tool is designed to project boilies at moderate distances, usually in a tight group. Throwing sticks provide better accuracy than catapulting for boilies.

Throwing Using Your Arm: For anglers who prefer a more traditional approach, baiting up by hand is a simple and effective method.

How to Cast a Carp Rod

Casting a carp rod requires a bit of technique and practice, but with the right approach, you can become proficient at it. Here’s a great YouTube video on how to cast a carp rod:

We’ve covered the essential gear you’ll need to get started with carp fishing. However, when it comes to selecting your carp gear, the plethora of options available can be overwhelming, making it challenging to make the right decision.

To ease this process and assist you in making the best choice, I have handpicked a selection of my recommended carp fishing gear for beginners, taking into account my personal reviews as well as others.

Although the gear we recommend may not be the cheapest on the market, it offers excellent value for money, which is of utmost importance when purchasing your carp setup. I’ve learnt over the years that if you buy cheap you usually buy twice.

Rods – Daiwa Black Widow 10ft

daiwa black widow rods

The ultimate price to performance in the Daiwa range, offering well-balanced HMC+ carbon fibre blanks for exceptional casting performance and various models tailored for different fishing scenarios.

Reels – Sonik Insurgent 6000

sonik insurgent 6000

Sleek mini-big pit with superb balance, smooth clutch, and impressive features for small to medium carp waters, yet powerful enough for big fish; featuring a matt black finish, wooden handle grip, and Quick-Torque front drag.

Line – Daiwa Sensor Clear

daiwa sensor clear

The unrivalled UK’s number one monofilament line, acclaimed with multiple awards, boasting two British record carp catches, and beloved by anglers of all disciplines, renowned for its exceptional reliability, rugged performance, amazing durability, suppleness, consistent diameter, and superb knotting capabilities

Rigs – Korda Ready Tied Carp Rigs

korda ready tied rigs

Fast-sinking Dark Matter braid and ultra-reliable Wide Gape hooks, complete with a shrink tube kicker for excellent hook holds, making them the perfect all-around choice for bottom baits or wafters.

Tacklebox – Korda Tackle Safe

korda tackle safe

A compact end-tackle storage system in a hard clamshell-style case, magnetically secured, with flip-top lidded compartments for secure storage of various terminal tackle items, complementing RigSafe and ChodSafe products.

Bite Alarms – Fox Mini Micron

fox mini micron alarms

A reworked classic with new features like volume, tone, and sensitivity control, D-Tec Sensing System, High Vis LED’s, and power out socket, offering crisp sound and protection during savage bites. Pair it with a bobbin, hanger, or Swinger® for optimal bite indication.

Bobbins- ESP Barrel Bobbin Kit

esp barrel bobbin

The highly versatile Barrel Bobbin kits offer excellent bite indication in most carp fishing situations. With seven colour options, interchangeable ball clips, grip clips, stainless ball chains, and an add-on weight, they provide a refreshing departure from standard bobbins.

Rod Pod – Sonik Vader X Rod Pod

sonik vader x rod pod

The VADERX rod pods are compact, stable, and quick to set up. They come with a fold-out padded case, making them easy to carry along with your alarms and backrests. With adjustable length and height and a sleek matte black finish, they are perfect for any fishing situation.

Landing Net – Sonik Xtractor Recon 42″

sonik xtractor recon net

The XTRACTOR RECON landing net is a compact 42” size net, designed to complement shorter retractable butt carp rods with its telescopic net arms and handle, ensuring reliability and easy fish handling.

Landing Mat – Korda Basix Carp Cradle

korda basix carp cradle

The BASIX Carp Cradle offers maximum protection for your catch with its 50mm padded foam and waterproof fish-friendly outer layer, while its foldable design allows for easy storage and carrying, and the carry handles can be used to peg it down for added security in the swim.


Carp fishing can initially seem complex, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Embracing the learning process is essential, but it shouldn’t hinder you from enjoying your time. When everything aligns, carp fishing becomes immensely rewarding and exhilarating, making it one of the most thrilling forms of angling.

Although there’s a plethora of information about carp fishing, we’ve covered the essentials you’ll likely need for your first few sessions. As you embark on your angling journey, remember that practice makes perfect!

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