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Carp aren’t usually the first fish you think of when you think of sports fishing. They’re bottom feeders and aren’t known for putting up a big fight. But what carp don’t have in strength, they make up for in prevalence and ease to catch. If you’re looking to catch a relatively big fish easily, carp could be your best bet. Since they are bottom feeders (similar to catfish), your best option to catch them is using bait. But what’s the best carp bait?
We’re here to answer that question! In this article, we’ll go over everything there is to know about carp and the best bait to use. We’ll start with what carp are, what tackle is best for carp, and then go over the best bait for carp. By the end of the article, you’ll be ready to catch as much carp as you can handle!
In a hurry? Here’s a quick summary of the best carp bait in order of effectiveness:
- Canned sweet corn.
- Cheap white bread.
- Tiger nuts.
- Berkeley Gulp! Bait.
What are Carp?
Let’s first go over what exactly constitutes a carp. In most cases, you’ll be fishing for what’s known as common carp. Originally from Europe and Asia, the common carp has introduced to rivers and lakes around the world. They are the third most introduced fish species worldwide and have been fished by civilizations dating back to the Romans.
Common carp are grey/brown in color and covered in many visible scales. They usually grow to 10 or 15 lbs but can grow much larger if given the time, space, and food. The largest known caught carp weighed over 100 lbs! Carp can live in most freshwater living conditions, however, they prefer large bodies of slow-moving water. They are also a schooling fish and can handle some salinity in the water they live in.
Author Note: Carp are omnivorous which means they eat both underwater plants and small fish/crustaceans. They are also notorious scavengers and will eat the leftovers that other species won’t touch. This makes them fairly easy to catch with many different types of carp bait.
Best Tackle for Carp
Depending on the size of carp you’re trying to catch we recommend various sizes of tackle. For smaller carp, go with an ultralight reel and a more sensitive rod (like a trout rod) paired with 4 to 6 lb monofilament fishing line.
For larger carp, size up to a medium/large spinning reel and a more robust fishing rod. Since carp are bottom feeders, we prefer using a braided fishing line for its added strength and sensitivity when feeling for a tentative carp bite.. 15 to 30 lb test will do for larger carp fishing.
If you aren’t sure what size carp fishing gear to get, we recommend sizing up. It’s always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.
Top Tip: We recommend using a weighted fishing rig to get your bait down to the carp such as the fish finder rig. Match the size weight and hook of your fishing finder rig to the size of carp you’re looking to catch.
For hooks, use a #2/0 circle hook for small carp and a #7/0 or #6/0 circle hook for large carp. Circle hooks will ensure your carp bait doesn’t slide off easily and fit better inside the carp’s mouth.
Best Bait for Carp
So what’s the best carp bait? We split our favorite bait into two types: natural bait and mixed bait.
Natural Carp Bait
Some of the best bait options for carp can be picked up at your local grocery store! As we mentioned above, carp like to eat many different things (including some common canned foods).
- Canned corn. Yep, carp (especially smaller ones) love canned corn. We like to us the sweeter varieties, but any canned corn will work. Slide several kernels onto your hook and cast your pop up corn rig out to where the carp are hanging out. If you aren’t into wasting extra corn you don’t use, there are also artificial corn baits you can reuse. These work especially well in conjunction with a mixed bait.
- Bread. Another super easy carp bait that works quite well is bread. White bread, whole wheat – it doesn’t matter as long as you can roll it up into a ball and apply it to your hook. We’ve seen a lot of success with cheap white bread as it compacts into a sticky ball easily. The other added bonus of bread is that it floats underwater and will rise off the bottom to attract hungry carp.
- Cherry tomatoes. A less known option for carp bait is cherry tomatoes. These small ripe balls fit perfectly on a circle hook and prove irresistible to hungry carp. Just make sure you attach them firmly and that they don’t slide off. We’ve found that less ripe cherry tomatoes work best for carp.
- Hot dog. Yep, carp enjoy the old summer classic just as much as you do. Cut up the cheapest hot dogs you can find into little discs and apply to your hook just as you did with the tomatoes. Carp go crazy for the salty smell of hot dogs.
- Tiger nuts. One you may not have heard of before, but tiger nuts can work wonders in faster-moving water that other types of carp bait don’t do well in. Tiger nuts are a kind of tuber that is often found in health food stores or your local grocery. Their firm texture allows them to stay on your hook much longer than other carp baits.
Mixed Carp Bait
If you’re looking for stronger scented, more advanced carp bait we recommend going with a mixed bait. Here are our favorites listed in order of efficiency.
- Berkeley Gulp! Corn Bait. Our favorite mixed bait you can buy premade is the Berkeley Gulp! Corn Bait. It has a much stronger scent than normal corn and has proven to attract corn-loving carp even faster. It’s our top choice for pre-mixed carp bait.
- Boilies. Boilies are another popular type of pre-mixed carp bait that’s named after the process used to make them. Flour and cornmeal are mixed with a binder (like eggs) and scents then formed into balls and boiled. European companies have perfected the combinations of each to attract all types of carp.
- Homemade. Want to try your hand at making your own mixed carp bait? You’re in luck! Here are our two favorite carp bait recipes.
Carp Cereal Ball Bait
- 1 cup of corn flakes
- 1.5 cup of flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
Author Note: Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Mix in splashes of warm water until you reach a sticky consistency that will stick on your hook. Put into a Tupperware and cover for later use.
Carp Cheese Ball Bait
- 1 cup of corn flakes
- 2 cups of grated cheese (we like cheddar)
- Flour (as needed)
- 4 tablespoons of honey
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Mix in splashes of warm water until you reach a sticky consistency that will stick on your hook. Put into a Tupperware and cover for later use.
Carp are a great entry-level fish to go for – especially if you’ve got the right kind of bait. Their eat-anything attitude and prevalence in many habitats make them a top choice for casual fishing. Whether you want to pick something easy up from the grocery store or make your own carp bait at home, we hope you found this article on the best carp bait useful. Got your own carp bait recipe that works wonders for catching carp? Share with us in the comments below.