Margin Carp Fishing: Best Tips, Rigs, And Baits

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Margin fishing can be one of the most exhilarating ways of fishing. Hooking into a fish in these shallow areas, close to the bank can really make your heart thump.

There are many rigs, methods, and baits that are possible to use, I’ll go through these in detail to give you more insights on how to catch more fish in the marginal areas.  

In this article, I will cover: 

  • What Are The Margins In Fishing?
  • How to Search For Fish In The Margins?
  • What Fish Are In The Margins?
  • How To Fish In The Margins?
  • Best Rigs to Use in the Margins? 
  • Best Baits to Use in the Margins? 
  • Tips to Be Successful in the Margins
  • Final Thoughts 

What Are The Margins In Fishing?

Margin fishing – Look for lilypads, reeds, and overhanging trees for the best spots

The margins are the shallow parts around the sides of a lake or river. These areas are prime fishing areas and are very often ignored by anglers. Many fish such as carp and barbel, love to visit these margin areas for cover and protection but also for the free food offerings that drop or fall into the marginal areas. 

How to Search For Fish In the Margins

Look for carp using polarized fishing glasses

The margins are a bit more complicated than you would think. With some trial and error, you’ll find yourself landing quite a few fish without doing an excessive amount of work. Margin areas are shallow, sometimes only 6 inches to 3 feet deep, even right at the edge.

Start by Sight Fishing 

When you first get to a body of water, the first thing you should do is fish with your eyes. Take a long walk around the lake and search the body of water as much as possible and see what you can find.

Approaching the chosen fishing spot is critical. Having a pair of good fishing sunglasses makes seeing the fish so much easier. Surface glare will shield your view from the shallow margin area and may cause you to miss the perfect opportunity to sight some bigger fish. 

Stalking In The Margins

The margins have plenty of reeds, bushes, and overhanging trees, these areas are prime margin areas. Look for bubbles or cloudy areas where the fish have disturbed the bottom. Also, look for fish that you see rolling, then you know that you should start your fishing there. 

Carp often feed in the margins as the water begins to warm. Stay quiet and stalk out the fish, hiding behind any vegetation or bushes will prevent the carp from spotting you. Whilst you are stalking fish, and identifying any sort of movement in those margins – keep quiet and out of sight as best as you can! 

Fresh Vegetation is Great 

If you see smaller reeds popping out of the margins, you have a good chance of landing fish. 

Carp often find themselves feeding in this fresh vegetation. It leads to bait and the plant life is especially appealing to these fish. Carp will eat upwards of 20 percent of their body weight in a day and much of that food is fresh vegetation. You’ll see the reeds and plants moving as the fish traverse through them and look for food. 

Hard Bottom is Good 

If you’re able to wade into the water, look to see where the bottom is a bit harder. Hard grounds make for better presentation and easy feeding for the fish.

The margins have a lot of loose twigs, leaves, and other debris. In amongst these areas, you can find some clearer hard locations where the fish will have been feeding and continuously keeping it cleaned.

You probably aren’t the first person that’s fished in the area you’re fishing, so you could find bait that has recently fallen into the water! This bait is an easy target for fish! Try to mimic it with your own bait. 

What Fish Are In The Margins

Carp will go to find food in the very shallow margins

Most anglers will fish for all types of carp in the margin areas. However, on many lakes, almost all fish will head for the margins several times during the day and even at night. Barbel, tench, and catfish also love to spend time by the water’s edge, they not only get natural cover but also find plenty of food in these margin areas.

Many anglers at the end of their fishing day will throw any excess baits in the water at the edges – fish know they can get plenty of free offerings without having to search very long.

How to Fish In the Margins

Get Ready to Fight 

If you happen to trick a fish into taking your bait in the margins, you have to be ready for a good fight. 

The first instinct of a hooked carp in shallow water is to head for deeper water. They’re going to go hard and fast, so you need to have that drag pinned down fairly tightly. Be ready to keep that fish close and bring it into the net as fast as you can. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Use your Hands

Now, you’re not going to be fishing with your hands, but since you’re fishing so close to the bank, you can use your hands to help place your bait in exactly the area you want to! 

Whether you’re fishing with a float or a split shot rig, you can place the rig wherever you would like in the margins. Do your best to not disrupt too much of the environment, but placing your rig by hand can be a great strategic move as an angler! 

Feel Free to Chum 

When you’re fishing for carp, chumming is an accepted strategy. You want to wake up their appetites and get them used to feeding on the bait you’re going to be using. Pellets, boilies, corn, and bread are all great carp baits, so feel free to use them to get yourself in a great position to land some of these fish. 

It’s all about angles

Since carp have phenomenal eyesight, you want to be as inconspicuous as you possibly can. However, you don’t want your bait and line to be too obvious for these fish. As a result, you can stand in the water to give yourself a better angle at these fish. 

Once you’re in the water, you aren’t going to want to be moving around. Stay still, place your bait and get ready to set the hook. This tactic can be especially useful if you want to get right under an overhanging tree that you are unable to cast to or reach whilst fishing from the bank.

Best Rigs to Use in the Margins

Method feeder fishing just a few feet away from the bank near reeds can produce great carp catches

You want as little disturbance as possible with your rig, but you want it to be extremely sensitive, so you can detect even the smallest nibble. Use a 6 to 10 pound test for your leader and size 10 to 12 hooks to keep the fish pinned. 

The best carp rigs to use in the margins are the simple rigs. Don’t overcomplicate your margin carp rigs, below are a few of the  

Free Lining 

If you’re up for the challenge, you can free line in the margins. Since you don’t have to make a long cast, you can drop your line into the water with a strong hook and some corn and wait to see what happens. You’ll find that this rig is extremely sensitive and you have a great time trying to land the fish once it takes your bait.

Freelining dog biscuits and bread in this situation is a great way to catch carp, these floating baits can really entice the fish to bite and this method is an extremely fun way to catch carp. 

Float Fishing

If you need a more finesse rig and aren’t overly comfortable with freelining, using a float can give you a good chance at landing carp in the margins. You can throw a rig with an 8 to 10 pound test leader amongst feeding fish and they won’t go off and feed somewhere else.

Stay patient when you’re using a float and do your best to not throw it directly on top of the fish, it’s best to cast past the area you want to fish in and slowly draw the float back towards you, this way you can get right in amongst the fish. 

A simple waggler setup is perfect with the bait pinned to the bottom.

Use A Method Feeder

This is one of my favorite methods to use in the margins. A loaded method feeder with groundbait or margin mix filled with corn, maggots, and pellets works really well. It’s easy to underhand cast right on the spot that you want to fish.

However, try to give yourself a decent length of line from the bait to your rod tip. If not you run the risk of losing the fish or a line break, typically 12 to 15ft of line from the rod tip should be sufficient.

Check out my article on how to catch carp using a method feeder here!

Margin Pole Fishing

If the above methods don’t give you that adrenaline you were expecting, then using a margin pole surely will!

Pole fishing down the edge can really be challenging if you hook into a carp of over 10lbs. Having no reel makes the elastic that we choose extremely important to be able to move the fish away from underwater structures such as trees and large reeds. 

I strongly suggest that you look at buying a dedicated margin pole such as the Preston Monster Edge Margin Pole. At 8.5m or 10m long, these poles are built for the margins and for catching big margin carp!

Best Baits to Use in the Margins


All regular carp baits will work in the margins. My personal favorite is with pellets of 8 to 10mm. Used with a method feeder or a float rig, pellets are one of the most favored baits you can use.


Sweetcorn is always an easy bait to use. One or two kernels will stand out amongst all the other groundbait and loose feed. Again, just like pellets, they can be used on margin float setups or the method feeder


Everyone uses bread for fishing, and I take a loaf with me every time I go fishing. It’s an inexpensive and very adaptable option. Freelined bread crust on the surface in the margins is another popular option.


Finally, we come to the most common bait every angler uses for all types of fishing. A bunch of maggots wriggling around in these shallow margin areas will always catch fish. The beauty of maggots is that you can use them in various rigs to catch margin carp.

Don’t Overfeed  

Even when you’re ground baiting or chumming, don’t get too eager and think that all that bait is going to guarantee they eat yours. You want them to want more and be eager to eat whatever you throw their way. 

Carp aren’t afraid to live by the motto that “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” Keep your hook point exposed and you will hook up to more fish. Also, bait presentation needs to be good, make the bait on your hook look as natural as possible. Otherwise, the fish are likely to get spooked, instead of enticing them to eat it.

In summary, feed enough to entice them into the target area, but not overdo it. As many anglers say, feeding little but often is better than too much at one time. 

Tips to Be Successful in the Margins 

Stalking around the lake can take time to locate the best fishing spots – Always stay hidden

If you’re new to margin fishing, start by fishing an area with fresh vegetation. Throw some chum in the water right next to where your baited hook is positioned.

Stay out of the way and let the fish do their thing with feeding. They’ll eventually come to you and eat yours. 

You have to stay hidden! If a fish sees a shadow or looming figure over the water, they’re going to be extremely hesitant to feed. Be careful during your approach and while you’re fishing. Try not to splash in the water and do your best to keep your shadow on the bank. 

If you don’t get any bites or interest in your bait after 15 minutes, then move on to another spot. You can always come back to the first spot later.

Try different rig options, don’t use the same over and over again if you are not getting any interested fish.

Final Thoughts

Remember, fish will patrol the margins every day, it’s part of their natural route around the water to find food easily. Always keep as quiet as possible and you will be successful in these typically underfished areas.

I hope you enjoyed this article, you can read more on Carp Fishing In The USA and what are the best carp baits for fishing here!