Your Complete Guide to Carp Fishing 

Your only guide to carp fishing. Make the most out of your trip and build your knowledge in the meantime

Carp fishing is the most popular type of fishing in the UK, with an estimated 7.9 million people participating in the UK. This was the most recent study carried out by the environment agency, back in 2015. The figure is said to be much higher now we’re in to 2024. 

When somebody says carp fishing, you automatically assume days sitting lakeside in hope of that one big fish. Carp fishing is also for the day ticket anglers, using their pole and lighter (match fishing) tactics. These fish are often much smaller and a lot more fish are found in smaller bodies of water. With any of these methods of fishing, it’s an exciting, hard fishing fish. 

In this article, we will go through some tactics with what to look for, type of gear you’re looking at using and baits to use. Fishing is different from location to location and like all fishing, some locations require a change of tactics to find what works. 

What Is a Carp 

A carp is a generic term used for a species of fish classed as a Cyprinidae. Let’s not be mistaken, Cyprinidae is not a carp, it’s a type of fish. There’s estimated to be around 3200 species of freshwater fish that sit within the Cyprinidae family. 

The Carp itself is a deep bodied, muscular fish mostly found in lakes and pound around the world. Although there are different types of carp specific to continents, for the sake of this, we will be discussing carp that can be found in Europe. Common types of Carp found in Europe are as follows; 

  • Common Carp 
  • Mirror Carp 
  • Grass Carp 
  • Ghost Carp 
  • Koi Carp 
  • F1 Carp 
  • Crucian Carp 
  • Leather Carp 

There are two species on the list, Crucial Carp and F1 Carp, these are often found in smaller lakes or match lakes. Although not specific to such lakes, it’s difficult to catch with the traditional carp tactics and larger baits. 

 Where To Catch Carp 

Firstly, we will start with locations to look out for and increase your chances to catch more carp. When you approach a lake for the first time, you try to scope out the lake and find ‘features’ of the lake you think might hold carp. We’ll talk a little about what I think you should be looking out for. 

Islands and Margins 

The first thing I do when I get to a lake is half a little walk around and try to find if it has any attractive margins and islands. Islands are natural holding areas for fish, especially if they have some nice overhanging trees. Although it’s tempting to stick your bait out tight to the margin, this brings its own risks with snags you can’t see, and the fish could easily swim around the island if you’re fishing on the end. If you can control the fish, being tight to the island can be productive. I prefer to lay a bed of bait 3–5 meters off the island that gives me some control. 

With the margins, I love overhanging trees and thick green vegetation. They more or less always hold carp. I like the look of margins that you think to yourself ‘I am not getting that out’. If you can select a peg with an island in an attractive margin, you have some options. Just avoid the end pegs unless their known to be good areas. All it takes is the wrong direction of wind and your session could go south very fast. 

Clear Spots and Gravel Bars 

Before you start fishing anywhere. It’s best to get a good idea of the lakebed. You want to avoid blindly casting in as much as possible. You never know what’s on the bottom. Try and find a nice clear bottom. If you cast in to weed, your bait won’t be sitting right, and the carp find it hard to nestle down find your bait. It’s not impossible to catch in the week, it just makes things a little messier. The best way to find a clear bottom is to cast out just a lead and ‘feel’ the lead down. A soft landing indicated weed/silty, whilst a hard landing normally means gravel or clear. I’ll post a video below of how to find clear spots on a lake. 

Think about Gravel bars as a road to the carp. They travel up and down them all day with the disturbance due to fish and wind, bring the natural food to these gravel areas and are a certainty to attract carp. Bait these areas well and be accurate when you find them. Fish these correctly and you’ll bag yourself for fish. Most bailiffs of the lakes know where the gravel bars are and will normally point you in the right direction. 

Lily Pads 

When you approach a carp lake, keep an eye on the lily pads. If you see rising, likelihood carp are around the area. Although I don’t find they spend a lot of time in these areas, it’s worth keeping a trap close by to catch a carp passing through. If surface fishing is allowed, this area often produces carp, with be more confident to take your bait in amongst lily pads. Just be mindful, to hold on if you hook on anywhere near the lily pads. 

Shallow Water 

I find shallow water excellent in the springtime as the water is starting to heat up. Do not rule shallow water out, especially in really deep lakes where water is generally colder. Be prepared to change how you present the bait to match how the carp are feeding. This area is also pretty good first thing in the morning when the sun rises. 

What Rod Do I Need for Carp Fishing 

This is a situation that depends on your preferred type of carp fishing. Generally, a 3TC rod will be adequate for all your carp fishing in the UK if you’re planning to sole visit dedicated carp fishing lakes. I’m not going to give you a list of recommended carp rods, as it’s all down to your budget. I’ve used rods from £50 to £350, and they’ve both caught carp, no issues. The action and weight can fluctuate, but it all depends on what you’re looking for and the budget. The more expensive road isn’t necessarily the right one for you. 

The only thing I would say, I prefer 12ft carp rods over anything smaller as you always have the range at your disposal. I do own smaller rods, which I will use if fishing a small venue or stalking carp. 

Other versions of carp fishing are matching style. You’ll likely need a quiver tip rod, or better known as a feeder rod. Again, the same rules apply here as carp rods. With carp fishing, I prefer to use a heavier feeder tip like a 2/3oz. The casting weight limit for feeder rods can drastically change, although anything that can cast a 40g feeder out will be fine. I would also pay attention to the maximum line strength. Anything 6lb and up should be good for carp, if you can stretch to 8lb then even better. 

What Rigs Are Good for Carp Fishing 

When we talk about rigs, there are hundreds to choose from. I could be here all-day listing rig after rig. I want to give you four hassle-free carp rigs I recommend using that will be able to get you around most places in most situations. There are other adaptions to these rigs, but I’ll keep them as simple as possible and also attach a video explaining it in a little more detail.

The Ronnie Rig 

This is my go-to pop-up ring. You can fish this on any surface with minor alterations to the hook link. I found a 12mm-15mm pop up the best for carp fishing over a bed of crushed boilies and pellets. Its diverse nature and adaptiveness make this a popular rig and will be for years to come. If you’re new to carp fishing, give this a try with a premade rig? Get used to when to use it without the risk of not being able to tie the rig yet. I’ll attach a video below from ‘Fishing with Carl’ who offers some fantastic fishing tutorials. 

The D Rig 

The D rig is known as the ultimate self-hooking, anti-rejection rig for carp fishing. If the fish blows the bait out, it travels down the ‘D’ on the rig, and therefore, turning the hook much quicker returning to its prime position. I would say this is the most used rig in carp fishing today due to the reduced chance of lost fish. The bait is also beautifully balanced and can accommodate any size bait. I’ve known this rig to be used with pop-ups as well as bottom baits. Like all the rings, I’ve attached a video by Mainline Baits briefly explaining how to set one up. You can also buy the premade versions if you’d prefer the hassle-free life.

The Chod Rig 

I don’t use the Chod rig as much as I probably should, but there’s a time when there’s no other choice. Some lakebeds have no clean areas or are very difficult to locate. This is why the Chod rig comes into its own. This rig can be used when it’s very hard to present bait. Weedy, silty or thick with leaves. It’s always best to fish this will slightly slack lines, as the bait will be suspended much higher in the water column and will ruin the presentation of the rig. Using pop-up bait is recommended. Buying these premade is another option for easier use at the bank. 

I’ve attached a short video by ‘Fishing with Carl’ explaining how to build these rigs if you’re interested in that route

The Surface Rig 

I love the surface rig; I love any way to catch carp on the surface in the late spring and summer evenings. It’s the biggest buzz in fishing you’ll have. When I was much younger, free lining some bread done the trick, but as fishing involves, so do the rigs. The surface fishing controller float comes in to its own. You’re no longer limited to the casting distance of a small chunk of bread, but you can easily cast 40m + with one of these set up correctly. This really is a game changer if you need some extra distance. Like always, I’ve attached a video from Fishing with Carl explaining how to build these rigs. It’s the easiest rig to set up

What Rig Works for Match Style Carp Fishing 

With most match style lakes, they’re full of carp. Banded pellets were well as well as small wafters. I think there’s only one real winner here for feeder fishing for carp. 

The Method Feeder 

Any version of method feeder can work well with pellet. I love the inline method feeder as I think the design of it cannot be beaten. I think the traditional design of the bait sitting on the feeder generates bites ‘by accident’. By that, the fish just go for the bait in the feeder rather than the hook bait. I tested once putting my hook in the feeder with no bait on and had a bite. This wasn’t a fluke as I managed this a handful of times in a session. I would prefer a slightly smaller bait around 4-6mm on a band so it sits nicely in the feeder otherwise it has a tendency to fall to the side of the feeder. This can work but produces much better results with ‘active’ ground bait and larger hook baits. 

I’ve posted another video from Fishing With Carl to show you how to set up a method feeder

Other Important Information to Consider When Fishing for Carp. 

On top of all the information above, there’s some useful information to consider that can probably be used for all forms of fishing. 

Don’t Forget to Bait Your Swim 

I don’t necessarily mean pre bait your swim days or weeks before your arrival but more so don’t forget to put plenty of bait out. You can either use a spod or a bait boat. Spod is better suited for more open water whilst a bait boat is for those harder to reach areas. Speak to the local anglers and find out what pre bait works and is most cost effective for you. You can’t go wrong with maze and pellet. 

Back Leads Are A must 

I use back leads for all fishing over about 30m. A back lead slots on to the line when it’s cast and runs down the line essentially sinking the line. The line will then be sat on the bottom rather than going to mid depth through the water. This prevents fish and other lines running through the lines 


This is a complete run through of my guide to carp fishing. There are so many variables to fishing and it takes years of dedication to really build up the knowledge and confidence to go out and execute your style of fishing. I hope I can provide some form of understanding and I look forward to hearing and seeing your catch reports. If you want other guides to uk freshwater Fish , check them out.