How To Catch Carp: The Best Carp Hookbaits Revealed

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  • Carp fishing is a significant growth area for many tackle and bait companies
  • Learn what the best hookbaits are to use when targeting carp
  • Learn what variables impact the choice of bait

Modern carp fishing is the most popular fishing technique in Europe. Its popularity continues to grow, not just in Europe but also in the United States. More new venues are emerging yearly, and more anglers are taking their first steps in carp fishing.

Even after 40 years of targeting carp, I am still continuously learning. One of the most common questions anglers have is: What is the best hookbait to catch carp?

In this article, I will cover some of the most popular and effective baits available, giving you an edge on your next carp fishing session!

What Is The Best Hookbait For Catching Carp?

Anglers have many options, from natural to artificial baits. Every location is different, and what works on one day may not work the next time, so there is no single answer.

A carp angler needs various baits on hand to interchange when various factors differ each time we visit the bank. Let’s review the six baits you should always take for every session.  

Fishing With Sweetcorn

sweetcorn fishing bait
Buying sweetcorn in a can is a cheap bait for catching carp

If you are new to carp fishing but unsure what bait to use, go for sweet corn! It’s a proven winner for the majority of venues.

Corn comes in various options, from regular canned sweet corn that you can buy in your local supermarket to the speciality flavoured corn available in fishing shops. For a more economical option, buy the frozen packs. There is also the option of buying dried corn used for stock feeding—it is by far the cheapest option, but it takes some time to prepare it for fishing and is usually used only for chumming!

Sweet corn is my number one bait for carp fishing. It’s inexpensive and readily available in every grocery shop, and carp love it! 

Corn contains high levels of sugars that carp love, but it also contains salt and amino acids that make it a perfect choice for carp fishing, not to mention its bright yellow colour, which visually attracts fish from a distance!

You can use it both as a feed and as hookbait; when you purchase it, try several brands and choose the one with the biggest kernels. I usually buy the cheaper canned varieties from the grocery store for feeding and use specialized sweetcorn from fishing shops as a hookbait. Branded fishing corn, such as the Dynamite baits XL corn, has larger kernels and holds firm when attached to a hair rig. Some other brands are boosted with various flavours.

Tip: Always pick the largest and whole round kernels when selecting corn from the can.

It’s perfect for short fishing sessions lasting four to eight hours. Corn has a lot of sugar and amino acids that will spread through the water column, quickly attracting carp and all other fish in the lake! Canned corn also has salt added to the water, which can have a very positive effect on attracting carp. You can read more on using salt as part of your fishing bait and the science of how this can benefit catching fish.

To avoid the smaller fish, it can be used as a combo bait added to a pop-up or boilie. This makes the bait large enough that the smaller fish will avoid taking your offering.

One final benefit of corn is that you can easily add all types of “glugs” and colourings to increase its attraction. For example, some anglers cover the kernels with a strawberry flavour, and adding a flavoured glug is a popular choice. 

Tip: Rather than just normal canned sweetcorn, you can also use the “creamed style.” This is very sticky and adds another twist to using sweetcorn.

Fishing With Artificial Corn

Artificial corn
Carp fishing chod rig baited with artificial (plastic) corn

When talking about corn, every carp angler out there knows the frustration of constant alarm beeping and the insane amount of repeated casts due to corn being eaten by small fish.

To solve this, the fishing industry made artificial corn. It looks like natural corn and smells like real corn, but it is incredibly tough! Small fish will not take it off the hook, and you can enjoy the fishing without worrying if your bait is still on your hook.

It is a perfect choice for commercial waters with a large population of coarse fish. I recommend buying artificial corn from reputable manufacturers such as Enterprise Baits. A cheaper option is TPR fake corn, which is far more efficient than many other poor-quality versions.

Artificial corn is also available in white, green, pink, and red colours. A combination of two colours is another option for putting on your hook.

Tip: Corn is a fantastic bait to use as a combo bait with a boilie. Fixed on a single hair rig.

Fishing With Tiger Nuts

Prepared Tiger Nuts
Prepared tiger nuts – take note of the shiny, sugary
coating on the outer surface

Many carp anglers do not recognize the potential of this incredible bait. The tiger nut is irresistible to carp, and you should use this to your advantage!

Tiger nuts are versatile and can be used directly as a hookbait or an addition to your particle mix (especially when combined with hemp). The starchy, sugary taste makes carp love the flavour of tiger nuts—so much that you can cast one rod with a single tiger nut without even feeding, and there are good chances carp will eat it! Also, it will not be harassed by smaller fish. It is firm enough to endure long periods of fishing without changing baits.

When purchasing tiger nuts, you can either buy them dried or ready-made. I prefer buying tinned tiger nuts as they are ready for fishing straight out of the tin, making them easy to use. On most fishing trips, you do not need to use too many.

However, if you want to use raw tiger nuts, be aware that they can be dangerous for carp if not prepared correctly! You need to soak the tubers for at least 24 hours. Then, boil them for 30 minutes and let them soak for another 24 hours. Now they are ready for your carp fishing session!

Tip: Many fisheries have banned the use of tiger nuts. Please ensure you read the regulations at your fishery before using them.

Please read my in-depth review of why tiger nuts are banned from being used in many fisheries to learn more about this controversial topic.

Fishing With Pellets

6mm Fishing pellets for carp
Large pellets are used for hookbaits or the
smaller 2mm/4mm sizes for feeding

Personally, pellets were the most remarkable discovery in my fishing career. Available in numerous sizes, textures, and tastes, they are a perfect choice for almost any type of fishing—and carp love them!

Pellets are widely available and come in many different sizes and flavours. The most popular size for a hookbait is 6 or 8mm for smaller carp and 10mm for larger fish. If you want to use a larger size than this, then anglers typically use a boilie.  

One of the best methods is to use a larger pellet as a hookbait in conjunction with a combination of pellets in a PVA bag!

Tip: As a general rule of thumb, pellets are optimal to use at sizes 25% of the width of a fish mouth.

Micro pellets, which are 1 or 2 mm in diameter, are most often used for feeding. They slowly melt in water and release a cloud of smell that carp find irresistible.

There are many pellets on the market, with halibut pellets being the most popular. When choosing a pellet, you need to know that this is man-made bait; its quality can vary greatly! Corn is corn, but one pellet can be totally different from another in terms of nutrition. I advise purchasing only pellets from proven manufacturers, as fishing with cheaper options may be the difference between catching or not!

Tip: In many fisheries (day tickets or a carp fishing syndicate), pellets must be purchased from the lake’s shop to ensure quality pellets with the correct nutrition are fed to the fish. 

If you want to learn more about fishing with pellets, check out my in-depth guide on pellet fishing. It includes all you need to know about Coppens and Skrettings, as well as tips and tactics for using them!

Fishing With Bread

It might sound old-school, but I love fishing for carp with bread. It is cheap, easily accessible, and creates a somewhat satisfying experience!

It does not comply with modern carp fishing tactics, as it is impossible to fish it with most of today’s rigs. But a loaf of bread, a lake with carp, and a light float setup can produce a lot of fun!

Bread is perfect for carp cruising and feeding on the surface. Known as a floating crust, throw out some free offerings of bread to bring the carp to the surface. The carp will soon start reacting and taking the bread. Cast your baited hook into the same area, watch until a fish takes the bait, and strike!

This is best done with a free lining method (using no weights or float attached to your line); you will catch a carp quickly!

Carp on surface
Using floating bread, especially in the summer months,
can be a very productive bait option

Fishing With Boilies

Finally – the bait that changed carp fishing forever!

Let’s get straight to it – boilies are by far the best carp bait out there! Highly selective, available in infinite variations, and adapted for every imaginable situation. They have become the very essence of modern carp fishing.

Boilies have a unique characteristic: they are made almost exclusively for carp fishing and have an insane success percentage when targeting carp. Even in a lake filled with other fish!

Due to their size and hardness, smaller fish like bream will have difficulty eating them. Using 12, 15, and 18 mm boilies as a hookbait, you can cast out a bait that cannot be eaten by anything other than large carp!

Available in various diameters and immense taste variations, there is a boilie for every situation imaginable. There are even boilies specially made for colder water fishing! (like the famous mulberry plum) You can also purchase cheaper boilies made for feeding and specially prepared ones used only as bait.

Boilies are famous for their success as carp bait. They are relatively easy to produce at home, but most anglers will purchase their specific choices in pre-made packs. 

Boilies are made from a boiled paste, often based on fishmeal or bird food, but with many other variations. The dough is shaped into round boilies and then boiled until it acquires the needed hardness. The final product is soft enough to be drilled and baited on a hair rig but hard enough to endure all kinds of underwater nibbles while waiting for a specimen carp!

Tip: Bird food-based boilies are better suited to colder months, and fishmeal ones work better in warmer periods.

Boilies can be a buoyant option or a bottom type. Buoyant boilies are called pop-ups and are essential in making balanced baits or raising the bait from the bottom.

When selecting a boilie, you will find two distinct types: frozen and shelf-life. Both have their good uses, but frozen boilies prove better on many occasions as they are far fresher.

Frozen boilies are softer and more accessible for the carp to digest, and they are usually of higher quality due to their freshness. However, shelf-life boilies will definitely catch carp under the right conditions, and they are not to be forgotten about. 

Tip: Shelf-life boilies are often referred to as readymade boilies; they are easier to store and keep longer.

The only downside of using a boilie is when fishing on wild water. Wild carp have no idea what a boilie is and will rarely go for it on the first encounter. When fishing on wild waters, it takes some time to adapt the carp to the new food offering—but once they understand boilies are food, the fishing will kick off!

Boilies have a vast underlying story. In the 1970s, paste-based baits were used extensively but never lasted long in the water before dissolving from the hook. To resolve this, the father of boilies, Fred Wilton, began to add eggs and boil the paste to create a “ball” with a hard shell. Milk protein and fishmeal boilies are the most common options; even today, there are no better alternatives out there that can be compared with boilies!

If you would like to learn more about carp fishing with boilies, please check out my guide on boilie fishing. Which includes the basics of making your own boilies, including tips and tactics on how to use them!

What Main Factors Impact Catching Carp?

Multiple factors in play can affect your carp catch rate.

  • Weather – Pressure, temperature, wind direction, sunny or overcast
  • Time of the year and day – Colder months are notoriously more difficult
  • Location and choice of swim – Understand the best places to go and which swims are more prolific
  • Competitiveness of the fishery – A heavily fished lake makes it harder to catch carp, and where large amounts of bait have already been introduced.
  • And of course…….Your choice of bait!

There are dozens of additional factors that I couldn’t start to add here, but experience and knowledge are key to improving the quantity and size of the carp you catch. Trying different ideas will increase your confidence and ability to get more bites and fish!

Catching carp during specific seasons plays a large part in your success rate. Additionally, specimen carp are challenging to locate, and using more unconventional practical theories, such as the water pH level readings, can make the difference between catching a 30 lb specimen or one over 40 lbs!

Final Thoughts

With many options available, choosing which bait to use is an individual choice. A selection of baits is critical, as many factors change what works and what doesn’t!

A simple yet proven approach often catches fish when everything else fails. Always remember that what worked yesterday may not work today—and that is why so many anglers love carp fishing so much!

If you want more information on fishing bait, please check out my entire collection of other bait articles, including natural baits and lures.

Denis Savretic