Know Your Carp Baits

Pellets, plastics, popups? Do you find it hard to know which carp baits are the best to use, and how they work?

Man holding mirror carp

Catch a swimming carp
Image source: Wikipedia

Here’s our guide to knowing how and why each of them attract a bite, along with hints and tips from some of our favourite bloggers too.

What a carp needs

Knowing the nutritional needs of carp is one of the keys to finding the right bait. As the lads at Carp Fishing Tactics put it:

“A carp is an intelligent fish and it also has a memory. It knows what’s good and what’s not edible”.

They’re able to “test” the bait as they swim nearer to it and will reject any smell or taste that they recognise as previously having carp tackle attached to it.

They go on to say that carp are particularly attracted to “amino acids emitted by bloodworms, crayfish, and aquatic plants”. Extracts from green-lipped mussels, kelp, liver and molasses all contain this acid, and carp recognise this aroma as having nutritional value.

Types of carp bait

There are five broad categories of carp bait, and each has their own appeal for the carp – and therefore, benefit for the carper; Boilies, Particle, Liquid Additives, Pellets and Plastics.

1. Boilies

The boilie is the number one carp bait and, according to Angling Times, by a considerable margin. There seems to be a bewildering array of different sizes, shapes and flavours on the market, but only two main types – pop-ups and bottom bait. Both have their advantages.

Bottom bait

This is a loose bait you let into the water that will quickly sink to the river or lake bed – a carp’s natural habitat. Bottom bait is easy for the carp to grab with it’s mouth as they are used to foraging for natural grub in this part of the waterway. These types of baits are best suited to clearer waters in which you know nothing will obstruct your hook.

Pop-up bait

Pop-ups are buoyant, and are sometimes brightly coloured and flavoured, which will stop your rig from getting caught in any floating detritus in the water. However, from time to time, carp can get suspicious of something they see floating on the surface of the water and might not always take them.

Pop-up baits are more durable than a bottom bait, as they have to be able to stay buoyant above the lake bed. These tend to be more robust than a ground bait. You can usually keep a supply of these in your fishing kit for years without worrying that they’ll go off, or lose their efficiency over time.

Top of the boilies

There’s a huge choice of boilie for the carper to try. By all means experiment and find what works best for you – but here are a couple of our favourite types:



There’s plenty scope for scopex
Image source: Fishtec

Scopex is a type of flavouring for bottom bait that crops up time and again in discussion among carpers. It’s very distinctive. It’s made with a base of ground tiger nuts, and has an unusual ‘burnt butter’ flavour. forum moderator, Nick, explains that Scopex gets its characteristic aroma from the main base ingredient, N-butyric acid. This is a compound found naturally in rancid butter, as well as in other animal fats and plant oils. Carp are attracted to fatty foods, and as Hammercarp points out at the Carp Angler’s Group forum, one of the benefits of Scopex boilies are that the burnt butter scent will linger in the water for days.

Pineapple pop ups

Jar of fish bait

Top of the pop ups
Image source: Fishtec

One of the most popular pop-ups is the Pineapple juice dumb-bell. It’s fluorescent yellow, and has the flavour of tropical fruit. They’re particularly suited to winter carping. Their intense aroma and flavour will attract carp, even when the fish are a bit slow in the cold water. But they can be used any time of the year.

Dave Lane raves about these in one of his YouTube videos, saying that these are fantastic single baits, especially if you just want one brightly coloured attractor bait in the water.. However, he does add that you don’t need to restrict yourself to using pop-ups that way. Dave’s also had great success using them over a bed of natural food bait.

DIY pop-ups

Do you fancy having a go at making your own pop-up baits? It’s easy! Look no further than Mark Pitcher’s guide at Carpology. Mark writes:

“The process is so simple you can even do it on the bank (if you don’t want to annoy the other half with a messy kitchen)”

He adds that you could try making your own personal mixes like brown fruit baits, yellow or pink fish baits, and unusual flavour combinations.

Mark uses Mainline liquids and pop-up mixes with raw egg. His other great tip is to double up on the amount of bait dye you use. This makes them really bright so they’ll stand out in the water.

2. Particle baits


It’s Alive…
Image source: Fishing Magic

A Particle bait is a catch-all term for any sort of natural or food-based bait, including insects. Some examples include: chickpeas, dog biscuits, groats, hemp seed, maize, maple peas, sweetcorn and tiger nuts. The latter being used as the base of Scopex bottom bait. Kev Hewitt at Carpology says:

“I find that once carp get on the particles they feed more aggressively, instigating other carp to feed which in turn creates competitive feeding”.

When carp feed on particles, they start to hoover up everything on the bottom, and filter the silt through their gills. This clouds the water and encourages other carp to feed, and also makes it more difficult for them to suss where your rigs are.

Penn at Tetraplegic Living has some good ideas for particle baits you can rustle up yourself, including simple kitchen standbys like plain white bread. He says:

“Take a piece of bread about the size of a 50p piece, fold it around the hook and then squeeze very tightly around the knot”

Penn tells us it’s best not to squeeze all of the bread too tightly, and to make sure you leave some nice flaky bits that will come off in the water.

Northern Carp Angler recommends mixing different particle baits:

“I like the analogy of the buffet, if there’s only pork pies there and you happen not to like pork pies you’re going to go hungry. If there’s also pizza, sandwich, crisps and buns you’re much more likely to like something and have a munch”

It’s the same for fish. Offer them variety, and they’ll feed. Penn takes this idea and suggests using either maggots or worms and ‘cocktailing’ them with sweetcorn clusters.

3. Liquid additives

Bottles of goo

Goo for your life
Image source: Fishtec

Liquid baits come into their own as we roll into Autumn and Winter and fish become less active in the cooler water. This is when carpers need the most help to get a bite.

Liquids fall into two categories, artificial and natural:

Artificial: These are chemical liquids that have been developed to mimic the taste and aroma of real foodstuffs. They’re often brightly coloured to make them even more attractive to carp as they lace the water.

Natural: Anything taken from real life foodstuffs that either fish or humans would recognise, so for instance, liver extract, molasses or bloodworm. If it has amino acids or natural sugar in it, carp will be drawn to it.

Artificial liquids like Korda Goo form an aroma cloud in the water, which provides some extra added attraction for the carp to bite at. They also make a great addition to bind stick mixes, added into ground bait for soaking pellets, and for glugging hook-baits. They come in a vast array of flavours ranging from tropical fruits like pineapple through to sweeter, stickier tastes like caramel and coconut.

By far one of the most popular natural liquid attractants for carp is molasses, according to Matt Sparkes at Angler’s Mail. It’s high in amino acids, sucrose and has no chemical additives. Best of all, it’s relatively cheap at just under £10 for a gallon and can be bought from most pet food retailers.

Matt offers a great tip for a homemade mix, using liquid molasses:

“I like to add [molasses] to a dry mix of dog cereal, adding warm water the next day. This results in a fantastic mix that’ll cling to any feeder with ease and it won’t break away on even the meatiest of casts”.

He adds that you don’t need to be too specific with measurements. Fish will be attracted to the sugary taste and aroma, and aren’t bothered about weights and measures.

4. Pellets

Close up of fish pellets

Pellet them with these little delicacies
Image source: Fishtec

Pellet baits are compressed ground bait or fish meal that break down fairly quickly in the water. High in nutrients and essential proteins, they are great carp attractors. For Carpology, Gary Bayes says that you can use pellets for pre-baiting very successfully and it’s a “wicked way of getting the fish into an area without the hassle from diving birds”. The pellet turns to mush, and the birds don’t get anything and lose interest. But the fish will keep coming back for days.

He suggests that if you’re going to pre-bait, match your pellet to your boilie in terms of its flavour and aroma, for maximum effect.

5. Plastics

Plastic fishing bait

Plastic fantastic fishing
Image source: Fishing Magic

Are artificial baits worth using? Carp Tackle Review suggest that every angler should carry fake bait in their kit. They can be used alone or with other liquids and flavourings, such as Korda Goo. The notion of an artificial bait is to persuade the carp to take anything that looks like it might be a real bait, without them inspecting it too closely.

According to Total Fishing the most popular form of artificial bait is corn, particularly for carp. It works well during the daytime, as it’s a highly visible shade of yellow, which looks very attractive to fish in the water. Add artificial corn to a bed of pellets with some real corn in the mix, and you’ll find that the different textures and tastes will attract carp. You can also use artificial baits on their own, without any other feeds.

It’s important to mention that not all angling venues will permit the use of artificial baits, so always check their rules and regulations before you go ahead.

What different types of bait do you use to catch your carp? We’d love to hear your hints, tips and opinions, so head on over to our Facebook page.