Best Carp Baits - What is the best bait for carp fishing?

What is the Best Bait for Carp Fishing? (Boilies, Pop Ups, Hemp, Pellets)

What is the Best Bait for Carp Fishing? (Boilies, Pop Ups, Hemp, Pellets) 1

What are the best carp baits available? You can catch carp on almost all edible food products.

However, the most popular carp baits are boilies, pellets, corn and maggots.

There are a few areas in carp fishing where I believe it is well worth spending extra time and money on getting things right. Carp fishing line and hooks are definitely two or those areas and another one is bait.

Too many anglers will spend a fortune on luggage, bit alarms and even clothing but end up skimping on their bait. To me, that makes no sense because your bait is the very first thing that will attract a carp to your swim and, hopefully, hook.

If you’re not using a quality bait that the carp are attracted to, you’re not going to get a bite. Of course, you will still get bites on poor-quality baits because carp are greedy but I wouldn’t mind betting you’ll catch even more fish with higher-quality bait.

The vast array of bait available to carp anglers is a blessing and a curse. It’s great to have so many options to experiment with, particularly as the carp’s preferences can vary from day to day, but the huge choice also makes it very confusing for newer carp anglers.

This article will help to clear the confusion and provide a list of what I believe are the best carp baits to try and some tips on using them effectively.

Best Carp Bait - Boilies

Perhaps the most common carp bait of all, boilies, in their basic form, are hardened balls of dough.

Boiles for Carp
Boilies on a hair rig

Companies that produce boilies on a larger scale will use a basic mix of eggs and flour, together with additional ‘secret’ ingredients that vary from fishmeals and oils to preservative chemicals.

Very easy to pack, carp enjoy these boilies very much as they are easy to digest, whereas anglers like them for releasing pungent flavours and slow breakdown speeds.

Because of the size, and shape, smaller invasive species tend to shy away from them too.

Best Carp Boilies

Another key to the popularity of boilies is they can be easily tailored to suit different fishing styles by varying their buoyancy. Anglers can use them as bottom baits, pop-ups, or wafters.

Bottom baits are perfect for smooth, hard lakebeds. Pop-up boilies, which I’ll cover later in the article, are great for placing near weed and debris when you want to ensure the hook bait sits off the bottom of the lakebed.

A wafter, on the other hand, is a good choice for mixed lakebeds. These are just general guidelines and there is no reason you can’t experiment with the different types of boilies on all kinds of lake beds.

Boilies are also classified depending on how they are stored. You’ll commonly hear them referred to as either “freezer boilies” or “shelf-life boilies”.

Freezer Boilies: 

These boilies are frozen after being rolled and contain no or little amount of preservatives. In addition, they have higher egg content.

These factors, no/little preservative, and higher egg content make these boilies “go off” relatively quickly, and thus they need to be frozen to stay workable for a long time.

However, some anglers do prefer the boilies to go off slightly and for this purpose, they place them out of the freezer for a couple of days before being applied.

Shelf-life Boilies:

These boilies contain preservatives that prevent ingredients from reacting and going off and thus these stay fresh for a long time. They also have relatively less egg content.

These boilies are perfect for longer trips and keeping in the motor. 

On the downside, because of preservatives, some shelflife boilies are not as nutritionally beneficial as freezer boilies.

Choosing a quality boilie that uses the very best ingredients can make all the difference.

There are some very good independent, smaller bait companies (who we don’t want to offend) – but the more popular brands and ones I tend to stick with are Mainline, Nash, Sticky Baits and CC Moore.

Below, I’ve handpicked a few different boilies that I’ve had some success with for you to try out yourself.

Or, if you’re interested in making your own, we’ve some great boilie recipes in our ‘How to Make Boilies’ guide.

Recommended Boilies for Carp

Mainline Cell Boilies

Available in freezer form, Mainline Cell use a selection of the finest ingredients and base mix.

Responsible for catching thousands of carp across the world, Mainline Cell is packed with top quality enhancers and attractors.

There is also an enhancement system, a dedicated dip to boost attraction even further.

Available in sizes 10mm, 15mm and 18mm in either 1kg or 10kg bags.

Other baits in the Mainline Cell range include balanced wafters, response pellets and fluro pop ups.

Nash Instant Action Boilies

Available in a 200g handy pack, 1kg and 2.5kg bags, Nash Instant Action Boilies are boosted with soluble liquid extracts which are rich in aminos for attraction in all water temperatures.

Flavours such as Crab & Krill, Strawberry Crush, Coconut Crème and Candy Nut Crush really make these a good all-round boilie.

Each pack, or bag, also contains a few pop ups to match!

Size wise, Nash have made these available in as a 10mm, 15mm or 20mm to suit many hookbait setups.

Likewise, each flavour is packed with quality ingredients designed to use anywhere, including rivers and natural venues.

Best Carp Bait - Pellets

Pellets are an incredible bait! Many farmed carp would have been fed purely on pellets, so they are very used to it.

Using Carp Pellets
Image: Angling Times

Available in a variety of sizes, and varying degrees of oil content which releases as the pellet breaks down, using pellets in your fishing can be devastating.

Popular types include trout, or halibut, which, due to their high oil content, are both extremely effective in the warmer months.

They can be used in many applications, such as in a spod mix, PVA bag or simply to increase attraction around your hookbait as a loose feed.

Larger pellets can also be used as a hook bait. They will need to be drilled to put on a hair or they can be attached to a hook with a bait band, which has become very popular with match anglers on method feeder rigs.

Furthermore, bait companies will often ‘match’ pellets to the colour and flavour of a particular boilie range for example.

Carp anglers also like to boost pellets by glugging, or dusting them.

Consequently, mixing up pellet sizes and colours can leave carp rummaging around in your patch of bait for hours!

I’ve handpicked some types of pellet commonly used in carp fishing below.

Recommended Pellets for Carp

Mainline Mixed Pellet Tub

First of all, this mixed pellet tub from Mainline contains a complex blend of unique attractors.

Because it contains a good variety, each type of pellet varies in oil content which is released at different times.

Due to either a slow or fast breakdown, you can be sure these maintain attraction signals for longer periods than simply using one type of pellet.

Ideal for PVA bags and spod mixes, this great mix is supplied in a 2kg tub which you can simply refill after use.

Dynamite Baits Robin Red Pellets

From Dynamite Baits, Robin Red is a proven carp attractant that can be used in many applications. Robin Red is a classic that has been around for years and I love the spicy smell of it; it brings back memories of carp fishing as a kid.

Due to them standing out well against other bottom baits, these are pre-drilled making them easy to hair rig, or for tying on to your hook via a band.

Produced by Haiths, they have a high protein and oil content making them very attractive to carp especially in the warm summer months.

Finally, they are supplied in 900g, re-sealable bags.

I will sometimes crush these up and fill a PVA bag to further improve my baiting method around my chosen spot.

Bulk Pellets

In contrast, buying a bulk bag of carp pellets can save you money in the long run.

I’ve chosen a huge 25kg bag from Starmer Baits that are perfect for all freshwater species.

Because these are high in oil, and attractants, they are mixed into 2mm, 5mm and 8mm with for gradual leakage and varying breakdown speeds.

Ideal for all round use, you could simply store this pellet bag in your garage, or shed, and just refill a smaller bucket to take you with each time!

Finally, as we mentioned, this could save you a lot of money over the course of a year.

Best Carp Bait - Hemp

Hempseed is fantastic! The perfect ‘natural bait’, imitating small snails that carp can become occupied with it for hours.

Fishing with hemp for carp

Due to the oily liquid produced when hempseed is soaked, it also contains rich amino acids and natural omega oils.

These are all great for carp!

When you’re looking to snag a bite when things get difficult, a handful of hemp in the right place can trigger a feeding frenzy.

Hemp is available in dry form like this. Hemp requires cooking and soaking (don’t throw away the liquid after!) which can be a grind.

Alternatively, it can be bought in tins or pre-cooked in bags and usually requires soaking for 24 hours at least (always read the instructions when buying).

More commonly used in spod mixes, hemp is fairly cheap and many carp have fallen to it.

As with other particles, such as maize and seed, adding extra oil or liquid attractants can really boost hemp by slowly releasing flavours and colourings in the water.

Hemp is certainly a staple food choice in my carp fishing.

REcommended Hemp for Carp

Copdock Mill Dry Hemp Seed

The most cost-effective way of using hemp is to buy it dry and cook it yourself. However, it must be prepared properly and many anglers don’t like the hassle so they choose pre-prepared hemp instead.

If you want to save a bit of money and don’t mind taking the time to prepare the hemp yourself, this hemp seed from Copdock Mill is good quality and value.

When buying pre-cooked hemp, there maybe an additional ingredient such as a mix of hemp and tiger nuts, or hemp with added chilli extract for example.

These can be great wasy of adding even more attraction to the swim and are designed to save you time.

I found this 400g bag of hemp and maize particle mix on Amazon that looks really good value!

This PVA-friendly hemp mix is ready prepared for you in handy 400g bags. The maize particles add extra colour and attraction.

Best Carp Bait - Pop Ups

Best Carp Popups

Pop-ups are another type of boilie but, as the name suggests, are buoyant so will pop up off the bottom of the lake.

There are so many rigs that can be used with a pop-up and they can be fished in an array of situations.

One of the most common is a chod rig, which is designed to fish over weed or when there is a lot of debris on the lakebed.

Standard boilies can often become buried, or even worse – hidden, which is why a pop up can be really effective.

Because there are many colours, sizes and shapes, choosing the right pop up to fish with can be a minefield!

In winter, when the water is really cold and clear, high visibility pop ups stand out more, and as a result, using these can be lethal at attracting carp who may be further way, or are simply not roaming about as much.

Quality can also be important when choosing a pop-up.

Cheaper, or poorly manufactured pop ups, may only last a few hours in the water before sinking.

A quality pop up can last days, which is a good reason to choose wisely from a reputable brand, especially if you intend on fishing pop ups over the course of many hours.

Make sure you test your pop-up rigs in the edge or a bucket before casting ou to make sure they’re working how you want them to.

mainline hi vis pop ups

Overall, pop-ups tick a lot of boxes.

Highly visible, good buoyancy for sitting off the bottom becoming more obvious to carp, and often loaded with attractors to give off food signals.

I often have many colours, with yellow, white and pink being popular.

I have also started to see good results with more neutral colours like brown and darker reds – maybe the carp have wised-up to the super-bright colours now!

I almost always have a ‘glug tub’ of pop-ups which I have soaked in a liquid to boost them even further!

Below are a few of my favourite pop-ups for carp fishing.

REcommended Pop-Ups

CC Moore Northern Specials

Northern Specials have gained somewhat of a mythical status amongst seasoned carp anglers – and for good reason!

Developed over a number of years, CC Moore Northern Specials are very attractive and highly visible.

I prefer the white ones myself, with great success.

Each pot includes a unique booster liquid which you need to add to the tub before fishing, so the pop up can fully absorb it.

I tend to add a small amount over a period of about a month or two to really supercharge them!

A fantastic pop up with no complaints from me at all…

Sticky Baits The Krill Pop-Ups

I have been a big fan of the Sticky Baits Krill range for a while so the pop-up version of these boilies was a natural choice to try.

As I mentioned earlier, I have seen some good results when using a pop-up that matches the flavour and colour of the freebies I’ve been putting in the swim.

I’ve been using the original coloured Krill pop-ups over the top of a bag mix that has also included Sticky baits Krill boilies and their Krill powder. The smell is really pungent.

It is always worth trying other colours as well since sometimes a standout bait does produce the goods. The Krill pop-ups also come in white and pink versions so you can switch it up a bit.

Best Carp Bait - Maggots & Worms

Maggots and worms work really well, and are one of the best natural (and cheap) carp baits available.

Carp fishing with maggots

For movement alone, maggots can be devastating in the winter months when bites are hard to come by.

Hooking your maggots is a bit of a skill, so we’ve chosen this article from the Angling Times which teaches you how to effectively hook them, without them falling off and wriggling away!

When it is cold, I like to include a nugget of corn which gives my hook bait extra visibility that maggots, or worms, don’t provide.

Furthermore, maggots packed into a PVA bag can work wonders around an alternate hookbait, such as a pop up or boilie.

When fishing at long range in the winter, I pretty much always go down the maggot PVA bag route!

Carp enjoy maggots and worms. Because they are a natural bait, it is one they will be used to.

If you haven’t used maggots in your fishing – give it a go and see the results for yourself!

Best Carp Bait - Tiger Nuts

Carp fishing with tiger nuts

I fish a lot of farm lakes where there are plenty of overhanging trees, making tiger nuts one of my favourite baits!

Easy to hook, I absolutely love Tigers!

They contain plenty of starch and fibre, are very oily, and contain sugar – a winning combination that carp enjoy this bait immensely.

Many anglers will revert to tigers as a last resort, but why should that be the case?

In my opinion, two or three tigers in the right area, such as the margins, or close to overhanging branches, can produce big carp at any time of day.

I cheat and buy them ready prepared, but you can save yourself money by buying them raw and boiling them.

You should then leave them to soak over the course of a few days.

If you’re familiar with using tiger nuts, have you tried crushing them up?

The benefit of this is that the oils release quicker and carp spend longer grubbing around patches you’ve set down.

I employ this method in clear water, usually marginal areas where I can climb a tree and spend a bit of time watching carp feed, and gaining confidence on them.

A superb bait, you should give tiger nuts a try if you haven’t already.

You may be surprised at the results these fantastic natural baits yield!

REcommended Pre-Prepared Tiger Nuts

Best Carp Bait - Sweetcorn

Next up is another classic carp bait – sweetcorn!

What is the Best Bait for Carp Fishing? (Boilies, Pop Ups, Hemp, Pellets) 6

These golden yellow grains are irresistible to carp and can be used in a variety of ways.

Directly on the hook, on a hair rig, flavoured or coloured and even added to groundbaits and spod mixes.

Because of the versatility of corn, carp anglers use it regularly.

Similarly, it works all year round and offers a great visual presence underwater.

…and it’s cheap!

How do you get the best out of corn?

This depends on your intentions of using it really!

It can tear easily, and also fall off your hook if directly used as a hookbait.

A common method is to double, or even triple your corn to avoid smaller species taking it!

Consequently, due to the bright colours and sweet aroma sweetcorn produces, it works really well when carp have turned off.

I have quite often opted for a double sweetcorn rig in these tough conditions which has saved a blank many times!

In circumstances where a lot of corn has been thrown into a lake, you should use it sparingly to start with and analyse whether carp are eating it.

Finally, a personal tip of mine is to save the juices form a sweetcorn tin.

Keep it for a spod mix or soaking other hookbaits because it can add a decent amount to attraction to these baits!

REcommended Sweetcorn for Carp Fishing

One of the beauties of sweetcorn is that you can simply use the stuff on the shelves of every supermarket and it works just fine.

However, you can buy corn from the various fishing bait manufacturers that have added flavours and come in different colours, which can be a good way to stand out from the crowd.

I will sometimes use the flavoured corn but I’m not sold on how much difference it makes so I tend to stick with the cheaper supermarket offerings.

However, one type of corn I do like from the fishing bait market is Dynamite’s XL sweetcorn simply because the kernels are all nice and big. Not a huge deal but I do like to pick larger pieces out for hook baits and the kernels in these tins are ideal.

Unlike supermarket sweetcorn, the majority of the corn in these tins are useable on the hook, which just makes life easier.

What Do you Have Down as the best carp bait?

Leave a comment below and let me know what your favoured carp bait is! I might have to add it to the list.

Until next time – be lucky!

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Last update on 2023-12-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API