When it comes to after-catch carp care, the unhooking mat is a top priority. In fact, most fisheries demand it!
With the ever-increasing demand for carp tackle for a growing £600 million per year industry, there is huge competition. Tackle companies are churning out gear like tomorrow.
It can make it difficult for us anglers to find the best products to use.
This whole website is dedicated to doing the research and reviewing to save you time and make sure you get out on the bank with the best possible chance of landing a dream carp.
Keep reading to view unhooking mat reviews and pick for the best carp unhooking mat to buy.
Unhooking Mats Vs. Cradles - Which is Best?
Nowadays, there are more designs of unhooking mat available than the simple flat, padded piece of foam many of us grew up using. As newer technologies have been developed and fish safety taken much more seriously, different styles of unhooking mat have emerged.
You’ll come across 2 main types: unhooking mats and unhooking cradles (there are also cots but I group them in with cradles since the design features are similar).
The question is should you buy a mat or a cradle for carp fishing?
The main advantage of the cradle is the raised sides, which keeps the fish secure inside even it it decides to thrash around.
Cradles also retain more water than a mat so you can keep a fish inside one for slightly longer, which might be handy for photographing them.
The downside to cradles is they tend to cost more and take up a lot more room than a flat unhooking mat.
Your final decision really will come down to personal preference. If you feel you can keep the carp safe on a flat unhooking mat then you might not feel the need to sacrifice the extra cash and storage space required for a cradle.
On the other hand, if you want the added security of the raised sidewalls, a cradle or cot could be worth looking into. If you would prefer a cradle, you can take a look at my suggested ones here: Best Carp Unhooking Cradles.
Best Carp Unhooking Mat - Product reviews
BEST BUDGET UNHOOKING MAT
NGT Fold-Out Beanie Unhooking Mat
Next Generation Tackle (NGT) is becoming an increasingly popular fishing tackle company and it produces a whole range of competitively-priced fishing accessories.
We start off our list with their Fold-out Beanie Mat, which comes at 115 cm x 70cm (45” x 21”) size. I have to say it may not be the best option for carp above 30 lb, but it can hold most of your catches and comes in at a great price for the quality it offers.
Design-wise, it has two central panels that fold out and become easy to carry. Its portability is further enhanced by handles on both sides. In addition, with these handles, you can use this as a weighing sling as well!
When it comes to packing the mat away, it has Velcro straps on the sides that keep the mat folded securely and can also help you to stash your net and scales in the mat without the fear of them falling out.
With regards to the build-quality of the mat, it is water-resistant as you’d expect, durable and has some decent padding for such a cheap mat.
Furthermore, the 10-12 cm additional outer padding helps to keep carp from sliding off. The inner area padding is about 6-7 cm thick and protects the fish from the ground beneath. The beanie padding sculpts to the shape of the fish and that also helps keep them on the mat.
As a whole, I don’t see any major shortcomings in this carp unhooking mat from NGT.
However, if I have to nitpick, I would say it would be just that little bit better if it featured some pegging points to secure it to the ground.
Nonetheless, this is not something you can’t work around and, as long as you lay your mat on flat ground, you’re all good.
Overall, the NGT Fold-Out Beanie Unhooking Mat presents an ideal budget option. It is big enough, secure enough, and durable enough to serve you well and serve you long. We can be critical of a couple of small shortcomings, but nothing stands out to be a deal-breaker.
At the end of the day, with quality like this at its’ low price point, this is an excellent value unhooking mat.
TF Gear Compact bag Mat
Most fisheries now in the UK require you to have an unhooking mat before you start to fish. There is no defined size of the mat they want you to have and any size would do the job. The TF Gear Compact Bag Mat makes our list, not for the size but for the value it brings.
The best thing about this option is that it is a 2-in-1 unhooking mat and storage bag. You can use this to carry things like landing nets, scales and other accessories. Of course, it simply opens out into an unhooking mat.
What makes this mat safe for the carp is its well-padded foam. Since it is made like a bag, its edges act as walls and prevent fish from sliding off. The polyester used is waterproof and makes sure that water is not lost and stays on the surface with your carp.
For even more storage, there is a good-sized pocket on the outside. You can use this pocket to store other carp care products and small accessories. This pocket has a flip-over cover which keeps things secure. I would have loved it to be zipped but its a nice addition.
There has obviously been a lot of thought gone into the design of this mat and they have considered the carrying options as well. The mat features handles for carrying by hand as well as a strap for over-the-shoulder placement.
Overall, the TF Gear Compact Bag Mat provides great value with its unique 2-in-1 style and added features. You can be critical of its relatively small size at 95 x 60 cm, but it remains a very good multi-use mat at a more than reasonable price.
BEST UNHOOKING MAT FOR FISH SAFETY
Aqua Products Big Fish Combi Mat
Aqua Products started around 30 years ago with bivvies and now manufacture a whole range of carp gear. However, they remain better known for their top-drawer bivvies and carp care products. Their Big fish Combi Mat is available in a couple of colours, green and camo. I prefer the camo version.
The first thing to mention is the large size of this mat at 120 x 70 cm. This is big enough to comfortably cradle most of the UK’s largest carp.
The importance of a good amount of padding can’t be overemphasized in an unhooking mat. This is what essentially keeps the fish from harming itself before being released. This mat is very well-padded with a 5 cm thickness.
For construction, the Combi Mat utilizes Aqua’s patented Aquatexx material. This material is PVC lined and has a rubber coating, which gives us a material that is soft, quick-drying and durable. The rubber coating, when damp, aids fish health by preventing their mucus from being transferred to the mat to protect their scales. This unique feature is one reason this mat is a top mat for fish safety.
Moving on, I can’t help but appreciate the attention to detail seen in this mat. One example of it is the baffled zip that essentially denotes a protective covering on zipping and that not only protects zip from rust but also is easy on your hands and the fish.
This zip is for the retaining flap so you can keep your catch safely inside the mat while setting up scales (the mat can be used as a weigh sling) or preparing for photographs.
Frankly, I can’t write enough about this out-and-out great unhooking mat. From durable construction to numerous carp-care features, it really is an excellent unhooking mat.
However, all of this comes at a price. The Combi Mat is going to cost you up to 3 times as much as some of the others on this list but if you have the budget for it, you won’t be disappointed.
Nash KNX Beanie Mat
The next entry on our best carp unhooking mat list, the Nash KNX Beanie Mat, is best described as simple and efficient. It doesn’t have some of the bells and whistles, but the features it does have are practical and well-made.
Design-wise, it is a foldaway that folds at the center making it easy to transport and store. There is a handle on each side and you can use it for a bit of extra storage when folded.
The mat itself is around a 2-cm thick foam base with a poly-ball beanie topper.
One of KNX’s biggest advantages is that it comes in at a generous size of 115 cm x 70 cm, enough to keep most carp safe and secure.
The mat’s material is what we see in most of the unhooking mats so nothing out of the ordinary here. It is polyester which is waterproof and durable enough to last you some time.
Personally, I don’t like the amount of padding it has and would have loved a bit more because I do fish on some rocky, uneven banks at times. However, if you have good flat ground, it shouldn’t pose any issues.
On the other hand, the beanie topper is a plus since it’s nice to kneel on and adds a layer of carp protection.
In short, this Nash KNX Beanie Mat covers most bases. The construction is solid as you’d expect of Nash, and it is a nice size.
Unfortunately, it falls a tad short on some fronts (padding) but it does come at a reasonable price so could be ideal if you just want an old-fashioned unhooking mat without a bunch of bells and whistles.
OVERALL BEST CARP UNHOOKING MAT!
Wychwood Beanie Mat
The previous option on the list didn’t have a lot of padding at the base but that is definitely not the case with the Wychwood Beanie Mat.
The team at Wychwood have put their 25 years of producing fishing tackle experience to good use and have manufactured a well-thought-out beanie style unhooking mat.
I have to say this mat is deceptively simple and looks not much different from its competitors. However, it is the quality of each component that sets it apart and, in my opinion, it comes out way ahead of the pack.
To start off, as indicated, it has generous padding of 4 cm, which is close to the Aqua Products mat but at a much cheaper price. The beanie side is also visibly well-padded and acts to prevent fish from flapping off as well as providing somewhere comfortable to kneel.
For me the stand out feature is the quality of the material. It utilizes 600-denier fabric on the beanie and a heavy-duty, easy to clean material for the base.
I had complained earlier in the article about a lack of pegging points but Wychwood have not disappointed me here. Their beanie mat has 4 aluminum peg points, one on each corner. These pegs keep the mat held firmly in place for a little extra peace of mind and stability beneath a fish..
With regards to dimensions, the mat is well-sized at 120 cm x 80 cm and it beats most of its similarly-priced competitors here as well. A mat of this size can hold the vast majority of UK carp.
So in summary, the Wychwood Beanie Mat is a high-quality mat with a premium feel but without the premium price tag. With well-padded base and beanie topper, good size, and easy carrying with shoulder straps, it left me scratching my head for any major shortcoming apart from the lack of a retaining flap.
In my opinion, the overall winner for best carp unhooking mat.
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Last update on 2020-07-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API