Carp Tackle Buying Guide

Dave Lane carp

Beginner, regular carp angler or pro – here’s your ultimate buying guide.
Image source: Fishtec

Whether you’re a beginner trying to kit yourself out for carp fishing or an experienced angler looking to overhaul your existing gear, the Fishtec team has everything you need.

But with such a huge variety of carp fishing tackle on offer, how do you determine what you need and how much to spend? Here’s the ultimate guide to getting tackled up, from basics and budget gear through to fishing equipment for the lifelong carp addict.

What kind of carp angler are you?

Before we launch into kit, it’s important to know what stage you’re at. If you’re just starting carp fishing, for example, you won’t want to spend too much until you get going. We’ve broken things down into three categories to help you make decisions:

Carp Angler Categories
Beginner
You might be new to the sport, or someone who knows the ropes but can’t get out every week. You could simply be on a tight budget. Whatever the case, you’ll want functional gear that offers excellent value for money.
Regular
You know your stuff and fish fairly often. You wouldn’t class yourself as a die-hard, but you’re keen enough. You might not have cash to burn, but you want decent kit that can handle more than just the basics.
Expert
You live and breathe carp fishing and spend a lot of time on the bank. Your gear has become more specialised over the years. You like kit that’s not only practical, but a joy to use. When you can afford it, you have no hesitation in buying the best.

You won’t necessarily fit neatly into one category – you might fall between two. For example, you could be your first year into to the sport but coming on fast and needing better gear. Or, you could be a carper with bags of experience who needs to watch the purse strings.

Top tip: Carp fishing can get technical at the best of times and some of the kit isn’t cheap. But it’s not a fashion contest and the most important thing is that your gear works for your budget and style of fishing. Many anglers with expensive rods have been out-fished by someone with cheaper kit and better watercraft (or better luck!). If you’re a beginner, start at your own pace. You don’t need the best from the word go, so let your tackle evolve as you learn.

How to choose a carp rod

It’s the most popular impulse buy of all, every angler loves to own rods. But which is the best for your needs? These days, quality carbon blanks have never been better value. The calibre of carp rods available for less than £50 would probably have cost several times that a decade or two ago! Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Carp Rods
Beginner: Daiwa Black Widow G50 Carp rod
Serious rods that still give you plenty of change from £50! These are anything but toy models though. A great range of options too, from 2.75 to 3.5lbs test curve.
Buy now from £39.99
Regular: Nash KMX Carp Rod
For a sleek finish and superior build quality, these rods punch above their weight in the mid-price range. Durable blanks, with a spod rod as part of the set for those who need this option.
Buy now from £69.99
.
Expert: Free Spirit “S” Lite Carp Rods
For ultra light, beautifully sleek rods, this range is a joy to use. A comprehensive selection that really push the standards of design and performance beyond expectations.
Buy now from £159.99
.

Which carp rods will suit you best?

Most rods sound great on paper, but how do you decide the power and length you need? Test curve rating (the amount of strain required to pull the rod tip over by 90 degrees) is one key factor to look into. 2.5 or 2.75lb test curve rods are more forgiving, for example, to play fish at close to mid range. If you’re punching out rigs and very possibly PVA bags at longer range, 3 to 3.5lb test curve rods have greater power.

Length is another consideration. There’s a reason most rods are 12ft; it’s a versatile all-round length for most scenarios. A 13ft may be better still for long casts, say on a tough gravel pit. However, for many anglers who fish smaller waters, the reverse is true and a 10ft rod is great for close quarters and swims with trees and limited casting space.

Finally, how many carp rods do you need? For most beginners, it’s enough to get the hang of using two at first. In fact, on the smaller waters which are ideal for getting the hang of things, a third rod might be overkill. Too much kit makes you less mobile, while an extra lead splashing down and another line through the swim can make it less likely you’ll catch.

Top tip: Rather than just buying the rod(s) you like the look of, think about your local or regular fishing. Although many anglers get hooked on identical rod setups, this isn’t always sensible either. For example, you might want at least one rod in your arsenal that is specifically designed for margin fishing, with a lower test curve and a more forgiving action.

How to choose a carp reel

Ok, so reels are not quite as sexy as the latest rods, but they’re just as important. In fact, as a rule they tend to cost a little more than rods of similar quality. Most reels are measured in numbers, with sizes between 4,000 and 6,000 typical for most carp fishing. Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Carp Reels
Shimano Ultegra CI4 Plus XT-C Reel A Beginner: Korum Rodiac Freespool
Basic but reliable and really smooth, this is a solid starter reel. Excellent value for money for those just starting out or watching the pennies.
Buy now from £34.99
Daiwa Windcast BR 5500 LDA Reel Regular: Daiwa Windcast BR5500
If you intend to fish every weekend, or want slicker long term performance, it’s worth spending a little more. Daiwa reels have top quality gears and parts, and the Windcast is no exception. With a larger “big pit” spool, this model is a good mid range option for those who need to hit longer casts.
Buy now from £79.99
Korum-Rodiac-Reel-A Expert: Shimano Ultegra CI4+
There’s a bloody good reason hardened anglers like Shimano reels. They have the best gears in the world (they also produce gears for top spec bikes). Perhaps this is why they keep going year after year. The Ultegra CI4+ is not just a workhorse – it’s a Rolls Royce. Large spool for long casting, fantastic quality.
Buy now from £219.99

Top tip: standard or “big pit” reel?
Standard model reels are fine for most regular fishing… until you get into long distances and specialised applications like spodding. “Big pit” reels are a bit larger and more cumbersome, but hold more line and are ideal for throwing a heavy lead or spod for miles on venues like large gravel pits. If your typical venues are small to medium day ticket lakes, whether you’re a beginner or regular angler, standard reels should be fine.

Main lines for carp fishing
The best kit in the world is no good if you use a poor quality fishing line. Indeed, even if you buy the cheapest carp fishing rod and reel going, we’d advise you to spend decent money on your line. Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Main lines
Daiwa Sensor Beginner: Daiwa Sensor
Looking for a great value line that will fill up at least three reel spools for under a tenner? This is it. For the money, it’s solid stuff – the 12lb or 15lb options are tough enough for most of your carp fishing needs.
Buy now from £8.99
Maxima Chameleon Regular: Maxima Chameleon
Maxima line has been trusted by anglers for generations, owing to its consistency and quality. It’s not the most ultra fine, but boy is it tough and reliable. A single 200m pack should fill one reel spool.
Buy now from £8.99
Korda Kontour Fluorocarbon Expert: Korda Kontour Fluorocarbon
Experienced carpers are now increasingly experimenting with fluorocarbon main lines. Not only are such lines less visible to fish, they also sink and hug the bottom better. However, they take some getting used to and don’t come cheap, so invest with care.
Buy now from £19.99

Choosing hook links and hooks
Now we’re really getting to the nitty gritty. Like main lines, even if you’re a total beginner, there’s no way on earth you should count pennies here because bad hooks and poor rigs cost fish.

The world of hooks and rig materials is too big and complex for a simple summary here. Experienced anglers will seldom want to fish with anything tied by someone else. However, for beginner and regular anglers, ready tied carp rigs can save time and get you going in no time at all. Take our advice, and keep it simple to start with. There are a hundred and one clever setups, but a basic hair rig will still catch. Here is Fishtec’s top pick:

Hooks and hook links
Korda Ready Tied DF Carp Rigs Timed poor angler: Korda Ready Tied DF Carp Rigs
If you want to save time and hassle, these are straightforward and efficient. An aggressive hook angle makes it  likely your next pick up will result in a reel-screaming bite. You might not have the experience of Danny Fairbrass yet, but this is the next best thing to pinching his favourite all-round rig, just as he ties it.
Buy now from £1.99

Which rod pods and bank sticks?
Now that you’re tooled up with rods, reels, and rigs, you’ll need somewhere to rest your gear, primed for a bite. But where should you start? Do you need a rod pod to go carp fishing, or are bank sticks fine?

The answer to this probably depends on where you fish. Rod pods are rock solid in the wind and ideal on hard surfaces where you can’t insert a bank stick. That said, if you’re able to get single sticks into the ground and point your rods at your rig and bait, this is often preferable to a pod. You can space your rods out a little more this way – and get better bite indication too. Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Rod pods
TF Gear Banshee Rod Pod Beginner: TF Gear Banshee Rod Pod
Although this is a sturdy, dependable bit of kit, it’s also one of the cheapest rod pods for carp fishing you’ll find. We’ve sold hundreds of these and they’re a popular best-seller.
Buy now for £29.99
TF Gear Cross Pod Regular: TF Gear Cross Pod
This light, but strong and sturdy pod is a versatile choice that can be adjusted really quickly and easily from a standard pod to two sets of posts. It even comes with a free carry bag worth £14.99.
Buy now from £39.99
JRC Contact Rod Pod Expert: JRC Contact SQR Rod Pod
Rock solid and with adjustable height and frame length, this is a tough but refined pod. With a detachable frame, you can also use this as a “goal post” set up (i.e. without the connecting horizontal pars) for further versatility.
Buy now from £59.99

Prefer bank sticks to a pod? If your local venues have soft banks where you can push in rod rests, you might find them a better option. Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Bank sticks
Cygnet Bank Sticks Beginner/Regular: Cygnet 20/20 Banksticks and Buzz Bars
With the small “Sniper” bankstick starting at just over a fiver, this range is durable and high spec, but not too pricey. That said, they will stand up to regular use and abuse too.
Buy now from £5.50
Korda Singlez Bank Sticks Expert: Korda Singlez Bank Sticks and Buzz Bars
For the serious carper, these components are not only stylish, but optimum quality. Stainless steel and super tough, they should last as long as you do!
Buy now from £12.50

How to choose the right bite alarm
Just like rods, reels and hardware, you get what you pay for with bite alarms. An occasional weekend away is very different to night after night of use from rain to frost to baking hot sun. Unsurprisingly, models with tough components tend to cost more. Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Bite alarms
Leeda Bite Alarm Beginner: Leeda Rogue Wireless Bite Alarm
Cheap but fully functional, a pair of these will get you off the mark for under £30.
Buy now at £13.99
Nash Siren Regular: Nash Siren S5R
For regular, no nonsense use, these alarms come with good sensitivity and bomb-proof construction.
Buy now at £49.99
Delkim TXI Plus Expert: Delkim TXI Plus
For the best performance of all, these Delkims have awesome features. Using no moving parts, these actually use vibration to indicate bites – and even have an anti-theft alarm!
Buy now at £122.50

Top tip: Bite alarm etiquette and proper use
Why do you need a bite alarm? Well, these devices were originally developed by the great Dick Walker for night fishing, when the angler couldn’t see the bites. They’re also handy on long sessions though, because obviously staring at bobbins for hours isn’t a lot of fun.

They’re not always necessary, so don’t let technology prevent you from trying other methods like float fishing, stalking and using buoyant baits. They can also make an unwanted racket, so do keep the volume down when other anglers are around.

Bed chairs – budget to best
Take it from us, if you intend to night fish regularly, you’re going to need something to sleep on. That old camp bed or inflatable mattress won’t do! Thankfully, bed chairs start at less than £100 these days. Get as comfy as you can afford; your back will thank you! Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Bed chairs
TF Gear 3 leg bed chair Beginner: TF Gear Chill Out 3 Leg Bedchair
This is about as affordable as it gets for a really functional, comfy bedchair. At under 20lbs in weight, it’s not drastically heavy to carry either.
Buy now at £69.99
Trakker wide flat bed Regular: Trakker RLX Wide Flat-6 Bed
Need a bit more space? Anglers who are a bit bigger will appreciate some extra width and comfort. This tough model fits the bill and will keep going for many seasons.
Buy now at £129.99
Nash Indulgence SS Bed Expert: Nash Indulgence SS 5 Season Beds
Featuring top spec materials, sturdy design and an integrated outdoor duvet, this is just about as good as it gets. The only drawback? You might prefer it to your bed at home!
Buy now at £399.99

Carp landing nets – what to look for
Obviously you’re going to need a good-sized net for your fishing. It pays to be generous too, because a big fish might fit in a small net, but the reverse isn’t true! Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Carp landing nets
TF Gear Banshee Landing Net Beginner/Regular: TF Gear Banshee Landing Net
A serious sized 42” net, complete with handle, this is a reliable set up for under £30 that would suit beginners or regulars alike. Hard to beat in terms of value.
Buy now at £29.99
DL Specialist Carp Net Expert: DL Specialist Carp Net
With a sturdy 6ft handle, quality build and ample space for the biggest carp, Dave Lane’s own brand net is a great option for the experienced carper.
Buy now at £49.99

How to choose an unhooking mat
With virtually every carp fishery in the UK insisting on a decent unhooking mat, you need one of these before you start fishing. A good one will last years, protecting every fish you catch from danger. Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Unhooking mats
TF Gear Unhooking Mat Beginner: TF Gear Unhooking Mat
Need a good-sized, well padded option that won’t break the bank? This is one of the best carp unhooking mats for under £20 you could hope for.
Buy now at £16.99
Leeda Rogue Carp Unhooking Mat Regular: Leeda Rogue Carp Unhooking Cradle
With padded sides, this safely cradles a large fish while you unhook it. Also a good idea for those with bad backs who may not like stooping right to the ground to handle fish. And it’s good for photography – kneel behind the cradle and support the fish just inches from a safe landing.
Buy now at £39.99
TF Gear Hardcore Universal Barrow Mat Expert: TF Gear Hardcore Universal Barrow Mat
Designed by Dave Lane, this option is not only the ultimate in carp safety, but doubles up as a handy way to store and carry some of your kit to and from the bank.
Buy now at £79.99

Carp fishing bivvies
If you’re a day session angler, a brolly might be enough to shelter you from the elements. But for most carpers, night fishing is a must and you’ll need a decent home from home to tackle cool conditions and the elements. Here are Fishtec’s top picks:

Bivvies
TF Gear Scout 2 Man Bivvy Beginner: TF Gear Scout 2 Man Bivvy
This spacious set up is as practical as it gets on a budget. A carp bivvy for under £100, that will see you through several seasons of use.
Buy now at £99.99
Trakker Cayman Bivvy Regular: Trakker Cayman Bivvy
For a bivvy at less than £200, Trakker’s Cayman is ideal. A breeze to set up and sturdy enough for the roughest weather.
Buy now at £179.99
Nash Double Top MK 4 Bivvy Expert: Nash Double top Mk 4 Bivvy
This bestseller from Nash is a cracking bivvy for just about anything the British climate throws at you. Among a wealth of high spec materials and features, the extended “hood” of this design makes it easy to go about your fishing and keep an eye on rods in heavy rain.
Buy now at £359.99

Other essential carp gear checklist
Anglers invariably spend the most money on rods, reels and kit that is used to play and land fish. But there are other items that are just as important. From delivering bait, to storing tackle and keeping dry, here are some of the essential items most carpers won’t leave home without:

TOP TIP: Save yourself hassle on your carping trips by getting organised. Why not compose your own list of kit that you need every session? A checklist avoids stress and makes it less likely you’ll turn up without a crucial item!