Getting Started For Carp

By Scott Osmond


   I've been asked many times how to go about catching
carp by many anglers looking to land these great fish.
I usually answer piece-meal due to there being many
different ways for different situations. But, in
general getting started isn't very difficult....
   First off, you need to know that there is
definitely a catchable population of carp in said
water. By catchable, I mean a strong population that
gives an angler a good shot at contacting a carp on
any given day. Many waters have very few fish, and
although these waters generally have BIG carp, they
aren't the best choice for anglers looking to catch
good numbers of fish.
    Obtaining info on a particular water can be quite
easy, a call to the district Fisheries office will
usually have a biologist handy that can give you the
skinny on that particualr water. Many waters are
routinely surveyed, and any numbers of big carp will
certainly be noted! Plus, in most states, Fisheries
have citation programs which include carp and good
waters and info about them will be shared with you.
Plus, local bait shops usually know if any carp reside
in local waters, but accurate info beyond just their
being there is scarce....
   Where to find carp.... This is the most important
aspect of carp fishing. Carp act differently than most
gamefish in habits due to they being omnivorous
wanderers, whereas most predatory gamefish are
ambushers. Big carp seek out comfort zones, though
mostly smaller fish roam in schools.
   Start by having a stroll around the water, looking
for signs of carp. Try doing this on calm days, during
warm periods in spring and fall, and during low light
conditions in summer. Look for "fizz" bubble trails
caused by bottom feeding, and especially look for carp
breaking the surface. Why they do this strange
behavior is anyone's guess, but many times this
activity has betrayed the whereabouts of active
schools of fish....many times saving the day.
  If no signs are seen but you know of heavy
populations in the particular water, seek out likely
feeding areas. In still waters this can be weed edges,
drop-offs, creek inflows, etc; in rivers these areas
include current breaks forming eddy's, steep drops near
points, bays, and creek mouths....anywhere the
relatively lazy carp can avoid exerting valuable
  Next, start preparing your "swim" by pre-baiting
(chumming) the area before the day you fish (if, of
course it is legal to do so where you are). The more
you pre-bait, and the longer you do it the better
"conditioned" the carp will be in searching out food
in your area. Simple mix for mass pre-baiting would be
soaking 50lbs of hard field corn, or maize, in water
for about 2 weeks. Add sugar to this to help it
ferment, and keep the water line over the corn. The
stinkier the better!
  Next, add some "horse feed" that also comes in 50lb
bags from your local Agway. It consists of pinched
oats, molasses pellets, cracked corn, seeds,
etc.....good stuff. Mixing the fermented maize and the
horse feed will give you about 20-25 gallons of chum
for about $15!! Chumming about a couple gallons every
day or as often as you can will condition the carp.
Remember, the longer you chum before you fish, the
better. 2 weeks or more is best.
  Now, for gear. Since in most waters carp are the
largest, and strongest fish present, typical
trout/bass rods can be found wanting. Choose a reel
with a good capacity for 12lb test (about standard),
and with a super smooth drag!!! Shimano Baitrunners
are perfect for carp fishing, but not needed. A good
medium/heavy spinning rod in the 7-8' range is good to
start with, but its got to have enough backbone to
turn a large, angry, strong fish that desperately
wants no part of you!!
  For sinkers (aka leads), there are 2 schools of
thought. First is as little as possible. It is a
widely known fact that carp, especially big carp, are
very tentative and will spook and drop a bait if it
feels just a slight bit of resistance. The second, at
least 2oz of weight, takes advantage of a carp's
"bolting" reflex.....
  When using little or no weight, the water must be
slow or of no current. To take advantage of little
weight, keeping your bail open and striking on a
steady run is what's needed. So keeping your rods on
banksticks and allowing for no resistance on a take is
important. This technique doesn't always work however,
as its a rare day that conditions allow it to be
fished like this effectively.
  When using heavy weights (over 2oz), the mind set is
taking advantage of this bolting reflex. Its also
known, that while a carp is very caution and inspects
the bait cautiously, when it feels resistance it
"bolts". Using over 2 oz of lead sets the hook into
the lip during the bolt, resulting in the carp not
being able to expel the hook and hooking itself. The
best way to keep your rods set on the bank is to
loosen the drag til it takes only a few ounces to pull
(this is where the baitrunner rules), and wait for
"screamers". Using a very sharp hook helps greatly, I
like Gamakatsu Octopus hooks in #4 and #6 (NOT 4/0 or
6/0!!). Rigging for this would include a 10" leader of
30lb Power-pro (much more supple than mono, plus
stronger) with the hook tied directly by a polymer
knot. Tie the other end this way to a good strong
barrel swivel. Put the lead (barrel weights work best)
on the mainline with a rubber or glass (dull colored)
bead between it and the swivel, protecting the knot
from damage by the weight. The most important part is
to pinch on a small BB split shot about 2" above (away
from the swivel) the sinker to stop it from sliding,
creating the necessary resistance to poke the hook
into the lip when the carp bolts.

Example of a simple rig:

Mainline: 10-15lb mono
Leader: 10" 30lb Power-pro
Hook: #4 Gamagatsu Octopus
Barrel swivel, bead, 2-3oz egg sinker, bb split 2" above the lead..

  Now the fun part, bait. Carp eat just about anything
you or I eat, from canned meats, to fruits, to bread,
to oats, etc. There are a lot of dough ball recipe's
passed along, but none work any better than the
"instants", like corn or start with these.
Using canned sweet corn is usually deadly on waters
that haven't been heavily fished for carp, and its soft
enough for the hook to penetrate and hook into the
carps' mouth easily. A great bait on most waters.
Simply thread corn on to FULLY cover the hook,
including the tip. Adding flavors like Jell-O fruity
flavoring, molasses, etc. can help, but isn't really
  Using fermented maize is also a great idea,
especially if you've been conditioning the fish for a
while beforehand. Simply side hook 2 kernels (close to
the base of the kernel) so they rest side by side on
the bend of the hook, keeping the point out. You may
find it tough at first to hook the maize without
splitting it, but you'll get the hang soon.
  OK, so now you have the equipment ready, found and
prepared your swim, and have the bait ready...what
now? Well, get out and fish!! But, a few things to
help out during the trip would be:
 1. Chum small amounts often during your trip. Try
chumming close to your hook bait.
 2. Try getting out when the carp are most active.
During sustained warm spells in spring, during stormy
and very early and late day periods in summer, etc.
Night fishing, especially in summer and winter (open
water) seems to be very productive.
 3. Try to appeal to a carps' desperate need to be
comfortable. Look and fish creek mouths during high,
muddy early spring conditions, deep water during heat
of summer, near man-made structure, etc. Warm water
outflows are magnets in colder months. Think like a
 4. Treat your catch with respect. Keeping the fish on
soft ground, not holding them by the gills, and
keeping the fish low when handling it will lessen the
strain on the fish before release. Good ways to
respect the fish after its lengthy and courageous
battle with you. Be sure to get good pics....Please
release all carp.
 5 Check out the Carp Anglers Group, a national
organization on sportfishing for these fine fish.
Website is , or
contact Dave Moore (CAG prez) at:
  PO box 1502
  Bartlesville, OK

  CAG is a non-profit club which includes a 30 or so
page magazine filled with tips on carpfishing, from
basic to very advanced, plus info on local members and
fish-ins.....all for only $20 year. VERY worth it.....


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