- Fish care has changed dramatically over the past 30 years.
- Check out our recommended five Best options for carp Cradles.
- Learn how to correctly use carp cradles when handling larger fish.
Most fish can be unhooked by hand, but what do you do if the fish is too big and heavy to handle? Larger, double-figure fish need to be taken care of properly.
Unhooking a fish on a padded unhooking mat is only a halfway step – but specimen fish need extra care and attention to prevent the fish from stress and damage.
Fishing cradles are typically called carp cradles and are the next step up from an unhooking mat. They are used by anglers to safely and securely handle all large fish while out of the water. They also make the process of unhooking the fish, taking photographs, weighing, and returning the fish to the water much easier.
Speed is the key; the less time a fish is out of water is of utmost importance. A carp cradle is a must-have investment for all anglers targeting larger fish.
In this article, let’s look at our best 5 picks with varying budgets and styles to suit all types of anglers.
- NGT Pop-Up Cradle – Our Best Overall Pick
- Nash MK3 Cradle – Our Best Professional Pick!
- Fox Deluxe Carpmaster Cradle – Our Best Quality Pick!
- JRC Cocoon Hi-Care Cradle
- Leeda Rogue Carp Cradle
NGT Pop-Up Cradle – Our Best Overall Pick!
- Dimensions: 108 cm x 50 cm x 20 cm
- Weight: 1.65kg
- Design: Rapid Folding
This cradle from NGT is based on a lightweight folding system, which makes it very easy to carry and move around. It folds up after use into a compact carrier.
Whilst it is not for specimen carp hunters, it is a fantastic entry point for youngsters and new carpers who are not targeting 30 lb fish every time they go carping. The ability to fold the cradle into a good quality single-carrying case means that storage and transport are much easier.
This NGT pop-up cradle includes a small knee pad attached to it to help you when you are kneeling down over the cradle. In addition, it’s the only carp cradle that comes with a padded carp unhooking mat as part of the package.
It also has pegs to secure the cradle to the ground, preventing it from sliding around or getting blown away in strong winds.
In summary, the NGT is a two-in-one system – an unhooking mat plus a cradle. Although it isn’t the biggest cradle in the range, it does offer really very good value.
- Portable and easy to store
- It comes with a storage pocket
- Knee cushion
- A separate unhooking mat is included
- Great starter cradle and good value for the money
- Lies directly on the floor and has no support legs
Nash MK3 Cradle – Our Best Professional Pick!
- Dimensions: 100cm x 68cmx 36cm
- Weight: 5.5 kg
- Design: Strong Frame with Flexible Legs
Nash is a superb, trusted brand in the carp equipment market. The Nash MK3 Cradle is a professional-looking option and has been designed by carp anglers for carp anglers. Its quality construction and ergonomic design make it a true carp angler go-to choice.
This design holds water which is fine since if you place a carp inside, and the water immediately keeps the fish cool and safe. Once you have completed your fishing, turn it over to release the water. It will fold in half when not in use and is easy to hose down to clean and dry.
Given its solid construction, it is still not too heavy and will likely last a long time!
The PVC materials used in the sling portion are not as good as some cradles. The two end covers will close over the cradle to prevent the carp from splashing around too much. The end covers also allow the fish to return to the water safely.
However, its legs can be individually adjusted and hold very securely onto the ground, and the cradle doesn’t slip around when on wet or muddy ground. This means it can be placed anywhere on the bank, even on uneven ground.
The Nash MK3 is solid and gives amazing consideration to the fish and your back and knees!
- Strong Frame
- Easy handling of heavy fish
- Adjustable and independent legs
- It can help alleviate back problems due to its ideal height
- It can hold any size of fish
- One of the most costly carp cradles
- For specimen anglers only
Fox Deluxe Carpmaster Cradle – Our Best Quality Pick!
- Dimensions: 125 cm x 65 cm x 28 cm
- Weight: 6.5 kg
- Design: foldable cradle with zips
This cradle is probably the best quality cradle available on the market, with a great design and materials made from thick, high-density foam. Carp will never get injured inside this well-constructed cradle.
The Fox deluxe carpmaster cradle has an impressive 80mm thick cushioning in an ‘oval’ shape. The outer material is Ven-Tec textured, rugged, super waterproof 100% polyester. The inner padding is made from a blend of 55% polyethylene and 45% polyurethane. This cradle is comparatively heavier than most others.
With this quality, you can be assured the carp are safe and secure. It’s easy to unfasten the top covers. The interesting design allows one side to be folded inwards so you can bend over the cradle easily.
The cradle has several strong velcro flaps and covers, ensuring no metal is exposed that can cause any harm to the fish.
At one end, it has a zip pocket which is useful for keeping any accessories, such as carp care kit, forceps, etc., very close to hand. Another great feature is its pegging points.
The EVA grab handles are strong, well-stitched, and easily lift the cradle. Lastly, it folds down into a small bag, making it very portable for transportation.
- Suburb high-quality thick padding
- Handy Zip Pocket
- Strong Carry handle
- Foldable into a smaller shape
- It comes in extra large and regular sizes
- One of the more expensive carp cradles
JRC Cocoon 2G Hi-Care Cradle
- Dimensions: 114cm x 60cm x 26cm
- Weight: 997 grams
- Design: Telescopic Legs with a portable design
The JRC Cocoon 2G Hi Care carp cradle is well-designed and has many nice features with an extremely good look. Just a look at the full-size cover, made from perforated rubber mesh that fits over the complete unit, is a very professional touch.
The cradle has a two-leg, four feet design and a very rigid frame connecting the legs to the frame of the cradle. The frame is fully padded all around. It also has a reflective frame so you can see it more clearly in the dark. This makes it a good option for using when night fishing!
It’s a good height for kneeling under, allowing an easy fish transition in and out of the cradle. The fish are well clear of the ground and help to keep the fish safe from harm.
The stable frame collapses for an easy pack down, and a relatively small space is needed for storage. The mattress has a hinge mechanism to create a flat fold, allowing the cradle to take up very little space when packed away.
It has an adjustable leg system for stability on uneven ground and has holes in the base for fast water drainage. It even comes supplied with an anti-stink bag.
Whilst the cocoon is more expensive, it really looks the part. Serious specimen hunters who care about fish safety love this cradle. Once you have this option, you will unlikely buy another.
- Fully padded model for optimum protection of the fish
- Very stable frame with adjustable foot system for stability on uneven ground
- Foldable two-legged system for compact transport
- A perforated base for quick evacuation of water
- Reflective edge for easy identification in the dark
- Supplied with a waterproof bag
- Again, in the higher price range
- Mainly for the specimen angler
Tip: All good carp fisheries across the country require an angler to have a carp cradle (or, at a minimum, an unhooking mat)
Leeda Rogue Carp Cradle
I have a specific single product review on the affordable Leeda Rogue carp cradle. Please check out this link for a detailed review of this cradle and my personal ratings.
How To Use Carp Fishing Cradles?
Handling heavy fish can be tough, especially if you are on your own. The time taken to take the fish from the landing net and to put it in the cradle should be quick. However, many anglers are not ready.
Prior to taking the fish from the water, everything should be at hand near the cradle – forceps, water bucket, weigh sling, scales, carp care kit, camera, etc. This makes the process fast to bring the carp to the cradle, unhook the fish, and complete all the weighing and photography quickly.
Once your photos are taken, the fish can be placed back in the cradle to confirm no injuries or lip damage, and the appropriate fish care kit can be applied in the cradle.
When placing the fish in the cradle, use two arms and “like a baby,” ease it into the wet cradle with the stomach away from you.
Tip: Always ensure your hands are wet before handling the fish, and douse the fish with water from a bucket.
When lifting the fish for photographs, the fish should be held close to the pectoral fin and the other hand to the underside of the butt-centric fin. When raising the fish above the cradle, keep it low and prop your elbows on your knees in a hunched position.
Once photos are done, place the fish back in the cradle and release it back into the water.
This entire process should take no longer than 5 minutes, with a little more time to check the fish for cuts or flesh marks.
Tip: If any fish flaps about inside the cradle, place a sling net over its eyes to calm it down.
Buying A Frame Style Carp Cradle?
The frame styles are more common, especially for serious specimen anglers.
Frame-style carp cradles are better with level and flat ground. Any cradle without individually adjustable feet will not be stable. Such as the Leeda Rogue.
I prefer the frame type because once the carp is placed inside, it is easy to unhook, inspect, and apply care treatment.
The other benefit is that they tend to be lighter and easier to fold away and carry. Applying pegs to the cradle to prevent it from getting moved in the wind is sometimes necessary.
Buying a Folding Carp Cradle?
The folding style tends to be more used by the novice or average angler. They are generally a little cheaper to buy.
One excellent function of the folding style is that some versions can double up like a carp unhooking mat. The latest folding styles are bulkier once folded down and slightly heavier but still manageable to carry.
Good thick padding all around the cradle is a must. The bottom must be strong and have extra padding since the cradle sits on the ground directly.
Fish are easier to return into the water using a folding type; however, managing the fish into the cradle, kneeling over the cradle edges, and taking photos is easier with the frame style.
Large fish need extra care and attention. Cradles greatly benefit the fish and the angler during the unhooking, photographs, and fish care process.
All these recommended options I reviewed will keep fish of any species, not just carp, up to 40 lbs safe and protected. I hope this article was useful and helped in making the choice of cradle to buy an easier one.
If you enjoyed reading this article, please check out my section of articles relating to fish care, which covers the correct handling of fish, catch and release methods, and many more.
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