Best Carp Fishing Cradles – And How To Use Them Correctly

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  • Fish care has changed dramatically over the past 30 years.
  • Learn about our recommended 5 Best choices of 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 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 the next step up from an unhooking mat. ALL fishermen must have a mat as part of their fishing tackle. 

Fishing cradles are typically called carp cradles, they are used by anglers to safely and securely handle all large fish whilst they are out of the water. They also make the process of unhooking the fish, taking photographs, weighing, and returning the fish to the water so 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 who are targeting larger fish.

In this article, let’s look at the best 5 on the market today with varying budgets and styles. 

  • NGT Pop-Up Cradle – Our Best Overall Pick
  • Nash MK3 Cradle – Best Professional Pick!
  • Fox Deluxe Carpmaster Cradle – Best Quality Pick!
  • JRC Cocoon Hi-Care Cradle
  • Leeda Rogue Carp Cradle 

NGT Pop-Up Cradle – Our Best Overall Pick!

Features: 

  • 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 up the cradle into a good quality single carrying case means that storage and transport are also much easier.

This NGT pop-up cradle comes with 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 well as part of the package.

It also has pegs to secure the cradle to the ground which prevents 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. 

Pros: 

  • Lightweight
  • Portable and easy to store
  • Comes with a storage pocket
  • Knee cushion
  • Separate Unhooking mat
  • Great starter cradle and good value for the money 

Cons:

  • Lies directly on the floor, with no legs

Nash MK3 Cradle – Best Professional Pick!

Features: 

  • Dimensions: 100cm x 68cmx 36cm
  • Weight: 5.5 kgs
  • Design: Strong Frame with Flexible Legs

Nash is a superb brand in the carp equipment market. The design of this Nash MK3 Cradle is designed by carp anglers for carp anglers. Its solid construction and ergonomic design make it a true carp angler goto cradle. 

This design holds water which is fine since if you place a carp inside the water immediately keeps the fish cool and safe. Once you have completed your fishing you simply 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 is likely to last a very 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 be returned 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 in any location, even non-flat ground.

The Nash MK3 is positively solid and gives amazing consideration not only to the fish but to your back and knees!

Pros:

  • Strong Frame
  • Easy handling of heavy fish 
  • Adjustable and independent legs
  • Can help alleviate back problems
  • Can hold any size of fish

Cons:

  • One of the most costly carp cradles
  • For specimen anglers only

Fox Deluxe Carpmaster Cradle – Best Quality Pick! 

Features:

  • 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 which are made from thick high-density foam. Carp will never get injured inside this well-constructed cradle. 

The Fox deluxe carpmaster cradle comes with 80mm thick cushioning and has an ‘oval’ shape. The external material is Ven-Tec textured which is 100% polyester with the inner padding made from a blend of 55% polyethene, and 45% polyurethane. This cradle is comparatively heavier than most other cradles. 

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 a lot of strong velcro flaps and covers and has no metal exposed that can cause any harm to the fish. 

At one end it has a zip pocket which is useful to keep any accessories such as carp care kit, forceps, etc very close to hand. Another great feature is its pegging points.

The cradle can be lifted by the EVA grab handles and the handles are very strong and stitched with quality. It folds down into a small bag which makes it very portable for transportation. 

Pros:

  • Suburb high-quality thick padding 
  • Handy Zip Pocket
  • Strong Carry handle
  • Foldable into a smaller shape
  • Comes in Extra large and regular sizes

Cons: 

  • Heavy
  • One of the more expensive carp cradles

JRC Cocoon 2G Hi-Care Cradle

Features:

  • 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 a well-designed cradle that has a lot of nice features and 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.

The cradle even has a reflective frame, so you can even 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, this allows an easy 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 this cradle is more expensive it really looks the part. Serious specimen hunters who really care about fish safety will absolutely love this cradle. Once you have this cradle it’s unlikely you will ever need another.

Pros:

  • 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

Cons: 

  • 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 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 a tough job, 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 simply 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 and unhook the fish, and complete all the weighing and photography in a short timeframe.

Once your photos are taken, the fish can be placed back in the cradle to confirm no injuries, lip damage etc and the appropriate fish care kit 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 make sure 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 hunching position. 

Once photos etc 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 is flapping 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 adjustable individual feet will not be stable. Such as the Leeda Rogue.

Personally, I prefer the frame type as once the carp is inside the cradle it is easy to unhook and 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 quite easy 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 back into the water than using a frame style but managing the fish into the cradle, kneeling over the cradle edges and taking photos is easier with the frame style.

Final Thoughts

Large fish need extra care and attention. Cradles are a huge benefit when going through the unhooking, photographs, and fish care process. 

All these cradles I reviewed will keep fish of 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 take a look at other articles on fish care here!