As most anglers will be aware, carp can be caught on a whole myriad of baits and the best bait for carp fishing will always be up for debate. That being said, on some days carp can be incredibly particular about what they will and won’t eat, and it’s because of that there are so many baits available to the modern angler.
Today's carp angling is more focused around baits like boilies and pellets, with carp seeing more of these baits than any other. Packed with protein and goodness, the carp are aware of how good they are and continually eat them. That being said, classic baits like sweetcornand maggots still help anglers catch loads of carp every season, with many top carpers struggling to go fishing without baits like corn in their bags.
Best baits for carp fishing at a glance...
• Best Fishmeal Boilie For Carp Fishing - Sticky Baits The Krill
• Best Natural Paste For Carp Fishing - CCMoore Belachan Block
• Best Flavoured Sweetcorn For Carp Fishing - Sonubaits Banoffee Corn
• Best Prepared Tiger Nuts For Carp Fishing - Nash Sweet Tigers Nuts
Each angler will have their own favourite bait for catching carp, whether that be a special homemade boilie or something off the shelf in their local tackle shop, whatever works for you and gives you confidence is all that matters. Here is a guide to some of the best carp fishing baits available…
If there is one bait synonymous with catching big carp, it’s boilies. These round balls are packed with nutrition and are the perfect shape and size for hungry carp to feast on, at times it’s hard to believe just how many they are willing to eat. Whether you choose a fishmeal-based bait or a nut-based one, if you use a good quality boilie from a proven manufacturer the carp will never be far away.
There aren’t many baits that are as versatile and easy to use as boilies, adding to their popularity as a bait. They can be used straight from the bag, chopped, crumbed, glugged, whatever you feel like doing, and in a shelf-life version they don’t require any specialist knowledge to keep fresh. They come in different sizes too and above all else, they generally stay in the area you’ve baited without breaking down quickly, helping to deter nuisance fish so there is always some bait there for when the carp arrive.
The bait that took Sticky stratospheric, Sticky Baits The Krill is an absolute monster of a
- Packed full of natural attraction.
- Incredibly fishy.
- Quite a soft bait that doesn't always work well with a throwing stick.
You would be hard pushed to find a carp angler that hasn’t heard of or used Mainline Cell boilies.
- Will work all year.
- Same recipe has been successful for 20+ years.
- A light coloured bait that can draw the attention of birdlife.
When it comes to carp fishing, one of the most popular and versatile options available is a pop-up hookbait. Whether they are cast as singles to showing fish or used over a spread of boilies, when equipped in the right circumstances they can be absolutely unbeatable.
In a range of colours, shapes and sizes, there really is an unlimited supply of pop-ups on the market and they are only limited by your imagination. You can use them as they are, trim them down for sight toppers on bottom baits and surface baits, or whittle them down so they sink precisely how you want them to, making your rig as effective as it can be.
Special by name and special by nature, CC Moore Northern Specials NS1+ are a cult classic that
- Smell incredible.
- Available in 8mm for something different.
- Would be nice to see a mixed pot of the larger sizes.
What started as a secret bait soon became available to the masses in the form of Sticky Baits
- Great attraction leakage in cold water.
- Mixed colours in same pot.
- Only come in mixed colours.
Originally developed for meeting the nutritional requirements of fish, pellets were designed to help grow fish quickly in the aquaculture trade. With special palatants and natural feeding triggers, they appeal to every sense of the fish and they instantly recognise pellets as a quality food source and will happily devour them, with some carp preferring them to anything else.
Pellets are one of the most used baits for all types of coarse fishing and one of the most adaptable baits out there. You can buy pellets flavoured in nearly anything you can imagine, from banoffee to spicy sausage, and they come in a range of different colours and sizes, meaning on any particular day there will be an appealing flavour to a carp. As long as they are kept dry, they can be kept indefinitely and by adding specialist oil to them or opting for a high oil pellet, their breakdown time in water can be altered to suit your needs.
You can band them, drill them, soften them, hair-rig them, whatever you feel necessary to achieve the best presentation you can, it’s easy to see why they are favoured amongst all anglers, but loved by carp anglers.
A rich, high oil pellet, these Dynamite Marine Halibut Pellets are great for attracting fish to an
- Very rich pellet.
- Don't breakdown quickly.
- Not the best to use in colder water.
The Mainline Spod and PVA Pellet Mix is a unique blend of different sizes of pellet with varying
- Great for larger carp.
- Nice mix of pellets with different breakdown times, ideal for PVA bags.
- Some high oil pellets included, so check fishery rules first.
One of the original baits for catching carp is the humble sweetcorn. Coined the ‘yellow peril’ by some, this bait has an unbelievable appeal to carp, with wary fish that have never seen bait before happily picking up every grain you can throw in. Nobody is really sure why sweetcorn is so effective, whether it’s the colour, the texture or the natural sweetness but one thing is for certain, not taking some with you on a fishing trip will be to your demise.
Whilst it’s not quite as versatile as some other baits due to its soft texture, it is great for adding to spod mixes or for applying to margin spots. It just seems to be able to trigger a response when nothing else will, with many anglers having memories of catching their first carp on a float with a piece of sweetcorn. You can buy flavoured and coloured corn now, which all work great, with the tinned stuff generally considered superior to the frozen bagged versions. As long as its kept in the tin, unopened the corn can sit in your bag until you need it, so there is no excuse to not have a couple in there for when the fishing is tough.
Specially selected kernels for fishing, Dynamite Baits XL Sweetcorn has the largest pieces of corn
- Large kernels.
- Canned with all natural juices.
- The tins are quite small if you want to apply loads of bait.
If you're looking for something different with your corn then the Sonubaits Banoffee Corn is
- Smells amazing.
- Uniform in size.
- Very sweet, can be appealing to other coarse fish.
If there is one bait that the renowned big carp anglers would have to choose above anything else, the answer would probably be a tiger nut. This sweet, crunchy nut just proves irresistible to carp time and time again, with some big carp never getting caught on any other bait. This bait does put a lot of anglers off, as they are worried about not preparing it right or being unsure how to apply it correctly, but it can be very simple to use.
If you are unsure about the preparation, just buy a ready-made tin or jar, this not only takes the hassle away but many are cooked in the jar to retain all the natural juices and sugars, which just elevates the bait into something really special. Many modern needles will push straight through a nut, but a quick drill will make them easy to hair rig. They can be crushed, chopped or fed whole but the emphasis with tigers is less is more, you don’t need to feed loads of tiger nuts to get a bite, 10 to 30 nuts is generally ample to get carp interested and feeding.
The Nash Sweet Tiger Nuts are a fantastic choice to use, especially if you're unsure about
- Very attractive to carp.
- Cooked in the jar to keep all the natural sugars and liquid.
- They will go bad so must be frozen once opened.
If the carp become wary of normal tigers and you need a change of hookbait, the Dynamite Frenzied
- Black in colour to offer something different.
- Cooked in the jar to retain all the natural goodness.
- Has to be frozen once opened.
A staple in most carp angler's spod mix is hemp, it has a remarkable ability to keep carp feeding in an area, with many anglers believing it resembles a water snail that the fish naturally feed on. Whether that is the case or not, carp really enjoy eating this little black seed and it is generally a must in your mix if you want to attract fish to the area. Hemp is super oily, which adds to the attractiveness and when fish are eating it, it can cause the water to flatten off or “slick up”, which is a great indicator that the fish are feeding on your bait and a bite could be imminent.
Hemp is generally left natural but one flavour many anglers seem to do well with is to cook it with chilli, the spice and oil from the hemp just seems to add a little something extra for the carp and it works really well. However, the original basic version is just as effective on the right day. Although you would struggle to present this on your rig, not including it in the mix can be to your detriment and it’s the basis to many a famous carp angler's mix.
Dynamite Frenzied Hempseed is widely recognised as some of the best hemp available for angling. It
- Cooked in the jar, retaining all the natural oil.
- Chilli and garlic flavours available.
- Not PVA friendly.
The Nash Small Seed Mix is fantastic if you want to introduce a mix of seeds and particles into
- A mix of different particle baits.
- Cooked in jar with natural oils and added rock salt.
- Can go off quite quickly, freeze to reuse on a next session.
When it is hot and the carp are lingering near the surface, the only way to tempt them is to put some 'floaters' out. Floaters is a term coined for a floating bait with many anglers using dog biscuits, floating pellets or specially made floaters designed by bait companies.
All have their uses, with the specially designed floaters having success where fish have been caught on normal biscuits a lot in the past. In terms of usage, it couldn’t be more simple, they can be glued to the hook, hair rigged, soaked or banded on.
Just keep feeding a few baits into the area consistently to keep the fish interested and feeding. Once their confidence is up, just make a cast and hopefully you will be into a fish before long.
Sticky Baits The Krill Floaters are the answer when you need a bit more attraction with your
- Very attractive coating.
- Float really well and can be used as hookbaits.
- The birds like them too.
The Sounbaits Floater Pack includes everything you need for a successful day of surface fishing in
- Convenient pack to go floater fishing.
- Very attractive pellets.
- The tub is a little small if the fish are feeding well.
Paste baits used to be all the rage in seasons gone and in the match fishing scene where paste accounts for huge nets of carp, yet it has fallen out of favour in specimen carp angling.
Paste can be made from anything you like and flavoured how you want, but a real edge is to use the base mix from the boilies you are feeding, this contains all the raw attractors in their purest and most attractive form. When boilies are cooked some of the ingredients lose some of their attractors due to the heat and the skin a boilie has can lock in some of the remaining attraction for a while when submerged. Paste baits are super soluble so they release everything into the water column really quickly, which is easy to sense by the carp.
Paste is great when wrapped around a boilie or used on its own, it’s really worth trying it out to see the response it can get you when it seems there are no fish in your swim.
If you're looking for a unique edge in you carp angling, trying some of the CC Moore Belachan
- Super soluble.
- Highly attractive to all fish species.
- It is a paste, so it will breakdown quicker than other baits.
Dynamite Baits Tuff Pastes are based on some of the most recognisable and successful boilie
- Some of the most recognisable flavours in the carp world.
- Firm texture makes it more versatile.
- Pots are a bit on the small side.
Whilst not technically a bait, it’s hard to ignore the effectiveness of simple foam used for carp when fishing a zig rig. This method accounts for vast numbers of carp and in simple terms it involves popping a bait up so it sits up in the water column where the fish are happily swimming. Remember, carp spend a lot of their time off the bottom.
It is not known if the carp think the foam is an insect, a bait or if they just take it out of interest because it is suspended at the height they are swimming, but the effectiveness cannot be dismissed. You can flavour the foam to add extra appeal or spod sloppy mixes over them to draw fish in, but it seems a standard foam still excels when everything else fails. Colours that seem to be the most successful are blacks, yellows and reds, but on its day the most bizarre and outrageous colours can work too, so it’s always worth ringing the changes.
If you're new to zig fishing or just want a simple setup then the Korda Ready Tied Zigs are an
- Easy to use, ready tied zigs.
- Lots of options available.
- Not as versatile as making your own.
The Liquid Zig Aligner Cap is a really innovative product that can help enhance your zig fishing,
- Innovative design to enhance zig fishing.
- Allows you to flavour the zig effectively.
- The cap is one size so it isn't as versatile as just foam.
When the going gets tough, the water cools or the fish have seen every processed bait imaginable over the season, using a natural bait can turn a lifeless lake into one that looks incredibly easy. A natural bait refers to anything unprocessed like maggots, worms and casters and whilst many think these are baits for catching small fish like roach, it couldn't be further from the truth, as carp absolutely adore them.
As all fish like them it can mean you need to put quite a lot of bait into the swim to make sure there is something left for the carp to feed on, this won't apply if there are no nuisance fish in your lake though. Sometimes just adding a small PVA bag full of maggots or casters can be the difference between blanking and having a red letter session. Worms have also proved devastating on a lot of pressured day ticket lakes in recent years, with anglers who don't have them in their armoury blanking compared to anglers hauling using them.
You will find it impossible to find an angler who hasn't heard about or used maggots in their
- Natural option.
- Irresistible to carp.
- Do require a bit of looking after.
Worms have been used in angling since its conception, easily obtained from the ground, with most
- Very attractive to carp.
- Can often get you a bite when nothing else will.
- Everything loves to eat them, so nuisance fish can be a problem.
- Cheap, readily available bait.
- Very versatile and the fish love it.
- It won't stay on the hook as well as other baits.
What to look for in a carp fishing bait
As mentioned, carp can be caught on a whole host of baits and tactics, the best bait for carp fishing will change depending on season, pressure and venue. There are some venues that never see a particular bait and that can be a green light to many anglers to try something completely different, giving the carp something they arent used to. Sometimes this can fail and the fish just don't recognise it as a food source but other times the results can be astonishing, as the fish have no caution and readily eat as much bait as you can apply.
It's always worth reading catch reports to see if the fish favour a particular type of bait or flavour on your chosen venue, there is very often a pattern to what the fish want to eat, you'll find some venues respond well to a fishmeal boilie whereas on others a nutty boilie is far more effective. It is important to note that as long as you use a good quality boilie the fish will happily pick them up in most circumstances and it's more about your confidence in a bait. That applies to any bait, make sure its good quality from a reputable manufacturer and you're halfway there. If you try and save money by applying cheap bait it wont serve you anywhere near as well in the long run.
Particle baits are often ignored in favour of boilies but this will be to your detriment, as long as the nuisance fish aren't prevalent in large numbers, particle baits like corn, tigers and hemp can be super effective at getting carp to feed and keeping them feeding in your swim. When the weather cools, anglers often turn to natural baits like maggots and casters to keep the bites coming, as even in the coldest conditions, these baits just seem to trip carp up year after year.
Freezer bait: A bait that has to be frozen in order to preserve it.
Shelf-life: A bait that has small amounts of preservatives added so that it can be kept fresh without freezing.
Amino acids: Amino acids are molecules that combine to form proteins. Amino acids and proteins are the building blocks of life. When proteins are digested or broken down, amino acids are the result.
Fishmeal: Fishmeal is dried and ground fish, usually marine fish such as herring or sardines.
Palatants: Ingredient systems that are specially designed to improve food consumption by appealing to the taste or smell of an animal.
Water soluble: The ability of something to dissolve into water, the better the solubility, the more easily it dissolves and spreads through the water column.
Base mix: A dry mix of ingredients that will generally contain some binders along with fishmeals, nut meals and various other ingredients that are manufacturer specific.
Pop-up: A fishing bait that is designed to catch carp and manufactured to float.
Particles: Small feed items such as nuts, seeds and pulses designed to introduce as feed to get carp to eat.
Spod mix: A term referred to by carp anglers to describe a mix of baits that will be introduced into the lake via a spod/Spomb.
Spod/Spomb: A rocket shaped item that is filled with bait and cast into the lake, it serves as an accurate way of intruding bait onto a spot.
Frequently asked questions on carp fishing baits
What is the best carp bait?
Unfortunately, due to the diverse nature of a carp's diet and the pressure we put them under as anglers, there is no wonder bait for carp and you must keep trying different things to remain successful. As the seasons change, so does the carp's preference for certain baits, with more natural baits like maggots tending to be best in winter and boilies and pellets far better in the warmer months.
How do you apply boilies into a swim?
Boilies are a very versatile bait that carp adore, they probably account for more captures than all the other baits combined. You can use a throwing stick or a catapult if you want to spread the bait about a bit, or for more accuracy you can use a Spomb to get them onto a spot. If the water is cold or you want to try something different, you can crumb boilies up into a powder and feed that into the swim, it is far more attractive to carp and it will keep them in the swim feeding far longer than whole baits will.
What should I put in a PVA bag mix?
When fishing PVA bags you have to be cautious about what you put in them, as they are prone to melting if the bait isn't PVA safe, so anything dry is the best choice. The number one bait anglers use in their bag mixes are pellets, they are dry, can be compacted down really well and are really attractive to carp. Use smaller pellets (below 6mm) as these will bind together better and allow you to get a more compact bag that will aid casting.
Author Aidan Bordiuk is an enthusiastic angler who enjoys all fishing disciplines from match fishing to beach casting. He is currently occupying the position of Commercial Content Writer at Angling Times.