Beginners Guide To Fishing With Boilies For Carp

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Boilies are one of the most popular and commonly used carp baits one can find. But, when you walk into a tackle shop and see the selection on offer, life can get very confusing.

There are lots of different types of boilies that come in various colours with different flavours, shapes, sizes and more. So how do you know which type is right for you? It’s not very easy. 

In this article, we will run through all basics you need to know about boilies so you can pick the right ones to catch more and bigger carp. 

What Is A Boilie? 

boilies drying on racks
Boilies drying out on racks after mixing and rolling

Boilies are manufactured fishing bait made from a boiled paste. They come packed full of different ingredients, with different shapes, flavours, colours and even textures to make catching carp a little easier. 

A boilie was once just a dough ball that you would put on a hook and throw out into a lake hoping for a carp to eat. However, these days they have come on a bit and are now mass-produced with a ton of different features that make each one more suitable to a specific carp fishing situation than the next. 

What Ingredients Are In Boilies? 

Boilies can be made up of a lot of different ingredients but the basic recipe is a mixture of fishmeals, milk proteins, bird foods, semolina and soya flour, which are mixed with egg white as a binding agent and formed into a paste. 

Other ingredients you might find in boilies depending on the flavour/type might include some of these: 

  • Blood powder purified
  • Chilli powder
  • Maize meal
  • Paprika powder
  • Rennet Casein 90 mesh
  • Spirulina
  • Wheat gluten
  • Whole egg powder
  • WPC80 whey protein concentrate
  • LT-94 fishmeal
  • Pre-digested fishmeal CPSP 90
  • Anise oil
  • Sardine and anchovy meal
  • Squid meal
  • Soya flour
  • Tiger nut flour
  • Blue cheese Powder
  • Milk powder
  • Antarctic krill meal
  • Belachan

As you can see, with so many different ingredients, and we haven’t even covered them all, choosing the right one is important. 

I have a soft spot for fishing with belachan based baits and adding anise oil into my mix. Both are incredibly easy to use and an excellent combination.

How Are Boilies Made? 

Once you have chosen your mixture of ingredients, then now is the time to blend them together into a paste. This paste is then moulded/rolled into shapes, usually round balls, and then boiled to make them hard. 

What Fish Can I Catch With Boilies?

Boilies were invented purely for the carp species. However, due to many boilies being used in lakes and syndicate waters they also can be used to catch catfish. The fishy-based ones work best for catfish.

Other fish species such as tench or bream are mistakenly caught by carp anglers, however, these occasions are rare. Carp anglers will typically use larger ones to prevent these other species from taking their bait.

What Size Boilies Are There? 

Boilies come in a large range of sizes running from 8 mm all the way up to 28 mm, while the size most often used are in the ranges between 14 mm to 20 mm. 

Should I Make My Own Boilies Or Buy Ready Made?

Unless you are using a few kilograms of boilies every week, I would buy the store brand ready-made versions. The time required and the equipment cost are significant to make your own unless you plan to sell them to other anglers.

There are so many types and flavours to choose from that I personally would rather spend more time fishing than preparing and making my own!

What Are The Best Boilie Brands For Carp?

There are a lot of different brands that make boilies and some are better than others but all of them will catch fish. But, as anglers, we each have our favourites based on experiences over the years.

Here are some trusted brands that are well known and extremely popular with anglers. 

  • Dynamite Baits
  • Spotted Fin
  • Shimano Isolate Baits
  • CCMoore
  • Rod Hutchinson
  • Sticky Baits
  • Nash Bait
  • Bait-Tech

My personal favourites are the Sticky Baits Manilla Shelf Life Boilies and the Nash Scopex Squid Stabilised.

Both of these can be used throughout the year and complement each other since Nash squid is a fishy type boilie and the Sticky baits is a blended milk peanut protein, bird foods and a sweeter vanilla extract. This gives me a great option when one is not working on a particular day.

How To Choose The Right Size Boilie?

When picking your boilie size there are quite a few things you need to consider including: 

  • The size of the carp you want to catch 
  • The hook size you are using 
  • How visible is the boilie to the carp 
  • What boilie size do you use for pre-baiting or spodding?

Fish Size vs Boilie Size 

When targeting carp under 10 lbs, use a 10 mm or less. For any carp around 10-20 lbs go for 14-16 mm, and for carp over 20 lbs use a 20 mm or larger. 


When fishing on big lakes, using bigger sizes makes it much easier for the carp to see them as they don’t have very good eyesight. 

Hook Size vs Boilie Size

You don’t want your boilie to be too small compared to the hook or you won’t get a good hook set. But if your hook is too big and boilie too small, the carp will work it out and spit the bait quickly. 

Pre-Bait Boilie Size 

When pre-baiting it’s generally thought that you should pre-bait with the same size boilie that you are fishing with so the carp are comfortable eating the boilie with a hook in it. 

However, for the maximum opportunity for the fish to take your hook bait, choose to loose feed a slightly smaller option, so the carp happily feed on the smaller sizes and notice your larger stand-out bait. 

What Boilie Flavours Should You Choose For Carp Fishing? 

Boilies come in a huge range of flavours and therefore you will have to pick a flavour when you’re in the tackle shop. 

The flavour of a boilie entices a carp through scent and if it tastes good to carp, they will hold the bait for longer in their mouth so you have a better chance of hooking the fish. 

Now, there are far too many flavours to run through here so I am going to categorize them into fruity flavours, natural flavours, and fishy flavours. 

Fruity Flavours 

Fruit flavours include things like strawberry, banana, pineapple, and similar flavours. These boilies have a sweet pungent flavour that attracts carp and are the most popular ones around. 

Natural Flavours 

The naturally flavoured boilies are more citrus, almond, and corn flavoured which makes them less punchy when it comes to the scent but less suspect too. Carp are clever and a weird scent can put them off as much as attract them. 

Fishy Flavors 

The fishy flavour boilies such as mussel, squid, and fish meal smell quite awful and aren’t pleasant to carry around with your tackle. But, the smell does attract fish and can be very effective. 

How To Choose The Right Flavour? 

Choosing the right flavour boilies is all about experimentation across the flavours and the lakes you are fishing on. I would suggest picking one of each of the categories and starting there. 

Remember, what works for some anglers may not work for you. Secondly, each water you fish on may favour one type over another…………..and lastly, even if it worked the last time you went fishing, it may not work the next time. 

This is why it is called fishing, and not catching!

What Colour Boilies Should You Use And Does It Matter? 

pink fluoro boilies
Pink fluoro boilies work well in coloured and murky water

So you have chosen the flavour and the size and now you have to pick a colour and yes, it does matter. 

Carp can see red, green, blue and ultraviolet light and therefore see a broader spectrum of colours than we humans do. They are also curious creatures so you want your boilies to attract them but not put them off at the same time.  

All carp fishermen have their preferred colours and what works depends on where you are fishing. Crystal clear waters make things easier to see so a natural colour option like white or brown might be better than fluoro pink. 

That being said, fluoro pink might be the colour you need when fishing in a muddy lake that looks more like a milky cup of tea than anything. 

Light is another factor to consider, as on dark days carp will find it harder to see than on bright sunny days, and therefore using a bright-coloured option on a dark day is a good idea. 

You should also match the colour of your pre-bait to the colour of your boilies so the carp don’t get suspicious when they see a new colour compared to what they have been feeding on. 

One final consideration is matching the colour of your boilies to the colour of the natural food the carp eat. For example, if they are gorging on worms then maybe a red or dull pink is best. 

Overall it’s wise to have a range of colours from natural to high-vis alternatives so that you can chop and change based on the conditions and experiment with what works best. 

How To Pick The Right Shape Boilie For Carp Fishing

Probably the most important consideration when choosing boilies is picking the right shape and luckily you only have two to choose from: dumbbells and balls. 

Most come as balls but luckily they also come as dumbbells as carp being caught on round boilies regularly will end up refusing to eat them. This is when choosing to use a differently shaped option like a dumbbell can be very effective. 

You can also shape them yourself using a knife and add more than one to your rig so you can fool carp wary of certain shaped boilies too. If you add a smaller boilie on top of a larger boilie this rig is known as a “snowman”.

Which Boilies Should I Use, Fresh Or Frozen Boilies?

There are debates on this question for many years and the truth is that there are not many differences between the two as far as the fish are concerned.

Fresh boilies are sometimes referred to as shelf-life boilies and frozen ones are often called freezer boilies. So what is the difference between a freezer type and a shelf life type? Well if truth be told, there isn’t actually a great deal of difference. 

What Are Shelf Life Fresh Boilies?

Live System shelf-life bait is produced by using a little less egg in the mixture, to make the shelf-life boilie last longer, a food-grade preservative is added instead.

The shelf-life ones will last several months if kept in an airtight bag or jar.

What Are Frozen Boilies

Frozen boilies must be stored in the freezer to ensure they do not go “off”. The lack of preservatives in the active ingredients during the reaction process means after every fishing session you need to return them to the freezer.

The frozen option will turn within 3 or 4 days if not kept in the freezer.

What Are Pop-Up Boilies? 

Just to add some more confusion to choosing boilies you can also buy pop-ups and these are simply boilies that float. 

The advantage of using pop-ups is that they float off the bottom and are therefore the first boilie a new carp feeding in the area is going to see. This also allows you to fish in weedy areas of places with snags as it keeps them a few inches off the bottom and much easier for a carp to see and eat. 

When a carp decides to hoover in your pop-up boilie, its floatation will also increase your chance of a hook-up as the buoyancy will help the hook go into its mouth. 

You can find pop-up options in all the same shapes, sizes, colours, and flavours as regular ones, so follow the advice above to pick the right ones. 

Boiling Out 

Thanks very much for reading my article. I hope you found it useful and now understand the world of boilies. It’s all about finding out what ones work best for you and where you fish. 

Lastly, always fish boilies in conjunction with fishing pellets for maximum attraction. Pellets being smaller will attract fish to your bait and won’t overfeed them as quickly as larger boilies.

Steve Fitzjohn