what are the best baits for carp fishing

Best Carp Baits (Complete Guide On Carp Fishing Baits That Catch)

Ask a hundred carp anglers and chances are you’ll get a hundred different answers on what’s the best carp baits used in modern-day carp fishing.

But you don’t want opinions…

You want solutions! It just so happens you are in the right place. 

Large carp aren’t the easiest freshwater species to catch and if you’re targeting the biggest fish in the water, you are going to have to make sure your choice of bait is the right one.

I have written this guide with over 30 years of carp fishing experience and have also taken the views of many accomplished carp anglers. This guide will talk you through some of my tried and tested carp baits that are proven to help catch more fish.

The Best Carp Baits

So let’s get straight into this. The following list of baits has been tried and tested by myself and many other successful anglers over the years and are proven to catch carp.

I’ll take you through each one in turn and explain everything you need to know about these fantastic baits:

#1. Boilies

What are Boilies?

Boilies are a circular bait that has been effective for decades and are probably the most popular baits to use when fishing for carp today. You’ll find a whole manner of boilies in different shapes, sizes, colours and flavours.

They can be fished as a bottom bait or off the bottom via a ‘pop-up’ boilie. They come in shelf-life or frozen form and can be quite easily made from scratch in your kitchen.

A selection of different coloured boilies

Why are boilies one of the best carp baits?

Boilies are without doubt the most common bait used amongst modern-day carp fishermen. Their variety and versatility make them a favourite for many.

Here are some of the main reasons why boilies are considered one of the best carp fishing baits available today:

  • They are available in a multitude of different colours and flavours.
  • They come in many sizes to suit different styles of fishing ranging from 8mm to 26mm.
  • They are easily fished on a hair rig and rarely come off
  • They are easy to introduce as loose feed with the use of a decent boilie catapult or at range with the use of a throwing stick.
  • They can be used in a variety of different presentations within many carp fishing rigs fished both on the bottom and popped up.
  • They are available in different shapes for example dumbbells or wafters for a different presentation.
  • They can be doubled up and sliced or cut into different shapes to mix things up a bit.
  • They can be crushed and used as a crumb to mix in a ground bait or spod mix.

Pop Up Boilies

Pop ups are useful when you are trying to steer clear of resting on the bottom. This is particularly useful when fishing in waters with a lot of weed or debris present.

There are certain rigs that work really well with pop ups, particularly those with helicopter rigs style setup. Examples of these are the Chod and Ronnie Rigs. 

Sometimes if you have had no success with fishing on the bottom, a slight change in your presentation to a pop-up boilie is great for foxing a wary carp!

One of the best pop ups I have tried in recent times is the high-impact range from Mainline. The quality ingredients in this boilie alongside the strong aromas are proven in attracting carp and can really make the difference on whether you catch or not.

Best pop-up boilies

Frozen or shelf-life boilies?

The difference between frozen and shelf-life boilies is that frozen baits are fresher and do not contain preservatives. As such they tend to be the choice of some carp anglers with the consensus of the fresher the bait the more appetising it is.

The caveat to using a frozen bait, however, is that firstly you have to defrost them before use and secondly they go off much quicker and will not keep for another session. Shelf-life boilies do still catch fish and will last potentially months if you need them too.

We recommend using frozen boilies if you have the option to but it’s not a necessity as shelf-life boilies will still do the trick.

My favourite flavoured boilies in both frozen and shelf-life are ‘The Krill‘ by Sticky Baits. It’s proven to catch in many angling situations and I have always had tremendous success with catching big carp on it.

Best Carp Boilies

How to make carp fishing boilies

They are really easy to make at home! You make a firm dough, shape it, flavour it, colour it and boil it (hence the name). Consider them dumplings for carp!

Carp Boilies Recipe:

Here’s a really quick and solid base for many carp bait recipes if you want to make your own: –

  • 90g flour
  • 90g semolina flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Two tablespoons of flavouring
  • 2 tablespoons colouring
  • 10ml Betaine

Mix all of your dry ingredients in one bowl and all of your wet ingredients in the other. Gradually incorporate your dry ingredients into the wet. Once you have a boilie dough, pinch it off a bit at a time and roll it into a ball. Once you have a decent pile, boil them in a pan of water for about 2-3 minutes.

You can either use these over the next 3-5 days or freeze them for later use.

Boilie secret tip: – Carp will have seen hundreds of round boilies… Try making different shapes like cubes or little rugby balls for that extra edge!

Because boilies are such a popular bait when carp fishing, there are quite often a lot of frequently asked questions associated with them. Below are some of the more popular questions answered:

Boilie FAQs

What size boilie for size 8 hook?

The most common sized boilie for a size 8 hook is 18mm although sized 15mm and 20mm also suit this sized hook.

What size boilie for a snowman rig?

A snowman rig uses 2 boilies to critically balance the bait. The sizes typically used are 18mm for the bottom bait and 15mm for the pop-up.

What shape boilie for a size 6 hook?

A size 6 hook is on the larger end of the spectrum for carp fishing and as such balances well with a larger bait. A round 20mm boilie or an 18mm wafter suit a size 6 hook perfectly.

What is the best boilie flavour for carp?

There is no boilie flavour that is better than another due to many factors such as seasonality and venue. Proven and popular bait flavours however include robin red, pineapple, white chocolate, fusion and krill.

For more information on carp boilies please check out our full guide here.

#2. Pellets

What are pellets?

Farmed carp will have grown up with pellets as a staple source of food which is why they are a really good carp bait. They are made from ground-up fishmeal, plus a few extras such as fish oils, vitamins and a binding agent like maize or wheat.

Similar to boilies, pellets are available in a number of different shapes, sizes and flavours.

A selection of different sizes and colours of pellets

Sizes and flavours of pellets?

You might think pellets are a bit dull. You’d be wrong. There’s plenty of options. They are quite absorbent, so you can add your own flavourings to spice them up a bit.

Nowadays though, pellets are available to purchase already coloured and flavoured, often matching those of boilies.

Pellets also come in different sizes. From micro pellets all the way through to larger sizes up to 28mm. A 20mm, hair-rigged pellet, fished over a bed of smaller morsels in a PVA bag is a tactic I have had great success with.

Oil content in pellets

Oil content in pellets can be a touchy subject with some fishery owners with some setting a rule that you can only use low oil pellets. The rationale for this is quite often down to maintaining water quality, especially in smaller waters.

As carp are farmed and fed in stocking ponds, different amounts of oil content in the pellets are introduced throughout different growing phases.

Sometimes you can gain an advantage over other anglers if you know what pellets and with what oil content the fish have grown up on. Match this and you could be onto a winner!.

What are the best pellets to use as hook bait for carp?

When considering the answer to this question we are torn between 2 options. Firstly the humble trout pellet is tried and tested, and more often than not, introduced to carp in their early years.

I have caught many a carp over a bed of trout pellets as well as using the larger version, hair rigged in amongst PVA bags full of freebies.

My second choice would be the Robin red pellets from Dynamite baits. The flavour of Robin red has been tried and tested with thousands of anglers and is one of the more popular on the market today.

best carp pellet

#3. Sweetcorn

Sweetcorn is another top carp bait. It can be used straight on the hook or hair rigged if preferred. It can also be popped up if used in conjunction with a buoyant plastic version.

One of the real advantages of sweetcorn is that its natural yellow colour is really bright. This can gain an added advantage if fishing on an overcast day or in winter.


A single purchase of tinned corn should last you all day if you are using it for hook bait. We find that cans work better than the frozen bags of corn. The water inside makes it sweet and juicy!

Sometimes adding a different dynamic to sweetcorn can give you an extra edge that could produce a take, especially on hard fished waters. If you find it isn’t working, consider adding a drop of flavouring.

You can purchase specially flavoured corn, which is always worth having a tin of, as sometimes this can cause a wary fish to drop its guard and might just give you the edge.

Our favourite alternative to the classic is the strawberry version. The red colour and the sweet flavour are great combinations to catch carp with.

Strawberry Sweetcorn

#4. Pepparami & Luncheon meat

Pepperami and Luncheon meat has been used to catch carp for a number of years now but with the popularity of boilies and pellets growing they are both quite often overlooked as suitable hook baits.

It can be a great bait to use as an alternative to boilies as it’s high in flavour, has a pungent smell and a high oil content. 

Pepparami is easy to use on a hair and doesn’t get destroyed by nuisance fish like some other baits.

Our advice is to always carry a stick with you on a session in case you need to try something different. Carp are attracted to strong flavours. For this reason, get the hot and spicy version (that’s the red one). 

Alternatively, go for the ‘firestick’ (that’s the black one)… Not only is it great for catching carp… But you will also not want to eat too many of them while you are waiting for a bite!

We have caught many a fish on Pepparami when other anglers are blanking with other baits. For us, it’s definitely a worthwhile addition when talking about the best bait for carp.

Pepparami is easy to hair rig

Preparing Luncheon Meat for carp fishing

Luncheon meat is a great bait, and you can often see the fragrant oil and fat bursting in bubbles on the surface as you fish it. The good news is it is readily available and cheap.

The bad news is that it can be a bugger to keep on the hook.

The soft nature of luncheon meat means it can quite easily fly off the hook on the cast or with smaller silverfish attacking it whilst fishing. Due to the high-fat content present in Luncheon meat, it can also be unpredictable in terms of buoyancy.

So to get the best out of Luncheon meat it helps to prep it in advance of fishing.

To prepare Luncheon meat, complete the following steps:

  1. Cut the bait into the desired shapes with either a decent knife or a specialised meat-cutter
  2. Put the cut-up meat into a bowl or bait box
  3. Pour over boiling water so it covers the bait
  4. Leave to soak for 5 minutes
  5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 twice more
  6. Drain and leave to dry naturally.
  7. The Luncheon meat is now ready to use.

What this process basically does is draw out some of the excess fat content from the bait making it sink and hook better.

Check out the following video that demonstrates the preparation mentioned above:

Well prepared Luncheon meat is a fantastic bait for carp that is tried and tested to catch in numerous fishing situations.

And on a side note, if you are also in to hunting for other specimen species, Luncheon meat / spam is also one of the best baits you can use when fishing for barbel.

#5. Maggots & Casters

When traditional carp baits have let you down, go back to the ‘old faithful’ and one that many a carp angler learnt the trade with.

Here’s a secret…

Small baits can catch bigger fish!

You can freeze maggots and casters too, so it’s a great bait to stock up on before a big session.

How to Catch Carp with Maggots

There’s a bit of a fly in the ointment with using maggots when fishing for carp. You need a biggish hook, but you still need the presentation. 

Here’s what we do.

Use quite a few maggots on the hook. A size 10 or 12 should offer enough space without damaging your presentation and is plenty strong enough to hold a carp.

We really enjoy float fishing for carp with maggots, especially when fishing in the margins and it makes a nice change sometimes to sitting behind your bite alarms. Float fishing for carp is also a great option for beginner anglers to start with.

Smaller fish will tend to hassle you, especially in the summer months. Here’s a solution. Use a bigger hook!

A great alternative is to put your maggots (or a few) on a hair rig. Carp suck in and blow out their food and using hair rigs takes advantage of this action. Smaller fish don’t do this, so you can ensure that you’ll only catch the bigger species.

Check out the following video that provides some useful tips when fishing for carp with maggots:

#6. Worms

Do you like ‘free’ bait?

With a shovel and patience, you’ll get a bait box full of one of the finest carp angling baits around.

How to use Worms as a carp fishing bait

Worms wriggle a lot when hooked, which is great for attracting greedy carp. They also release a pungent smell which is akin to a dinner bell for a hungry carp. There are a few ways to rig them…

Worm Kebab

Use a hair and place sections of cut-up worms horizontally along it. It takes a while, but they leak all of those wormy juices into the water, creating a natural scent trail that can attract carp to the area.

worms carp bait
An example of a worm kebab

Sea-Fishing Style

This is an often-overlooked method that is really popular if you are casting a long way and don’t want to blast worms over the swim. Thread the worm lengthways up your hook and over the eye.

threaded worm used as a carp bait
An example of a threaded worm used on a carp hook

Loose feeding with Chopped Worms

If you’ve dug some worms that aren’t the best, don’t waste them. They are great for chopping into bits and loose feeding. You could even mash them in with your particle baits to create something really attractive.

In summary, worms are a versatile, natural bait that carp love, so it’s well worth giving them a try.

#7. Tiger Nuts

Tiger nuts are well known to be a very popular bait in the carp fishing world and are arguably the most productive particles to catch carp with.

However, the subject of Tiger nuts can be a contentious one as poorly prepared Tiger nuts can be fatal to fish.

For this reason, many fisheries have banned their use.

If they are allowed, it is imperative to ensure they are prepared properly or better still buy some ready prepped.

best carp particle bait

Preparing Tiger Nuts

Tiger nuts are naturally really hard and so need to be prepared before fishing. You simply need to soak them for about 24 hours in water and then give them a gentle simmer for half an hour in their own juices.

Check out the following video that shows how to prepare Tiger nuts from their natural state…

Once ready, you can either hair rig them using a baiting needle or fish them directly onto the hook. Our experiences have found that they are best employed on a hair rig.

Either way, tiger nuts, are a fantastic carp bait that will undoubtedly catch you carp from just about any venue.

#8. Chum Mixer/Dog Biscuits

9 out of 10 carp prefer them!…

Chum mixer is a great, classic carp bait predominantly used when surface fishing for carp.

There isn’t much weight for casting, so your best bet, if the fish are feeding on the top at a distance is to use a controller float. 

Surface fishing can be a tricky tactic to master so if you are using chum mixer it’s important you use a suitable line for fishing on top alongside the correct size of carp hook to be in with a chance.

We also find that loose feeding plenty of chum in the swim to get them confident in feeding before you introduce your hook bait can give you a higher rate of success. 

#9. Artificial Bait

Sometimes the best bait for carp isn’t one that is packed full of ingredients. Synthetic baits are becoming more and more popular amongst carp anglers since the introduction of plastic corn a few years ago.

Both artificial sweetcorn and maggots can be super effective. They last indefinitely on the hook and are even reusable!

Artificial baits come into their own when used on a zig rig, a sort of popup rig that uses artificial foam to lift the hook bait off the bottom.

Because they weigh less, they tend to float better.

Artificial baits are also effective when used alongside the natural version as it creates a critically balanced effect that has great anti-eject properties.

Don’t be put off by the small nature of artificial baits as many anglers (including myself) have caught many large carp on small bits of plastic!

The following box of plastic baits can be a useful addition to your best bait arsenal to give you plenty of options to mix things up a bit if required…

Best Carp Bait

What is the best bait for spring carp?

Spring is a time when the water temperature is starting to rise and the carp are starting to feed more.

However, unless we have a freak April with summer-like temperatures, the water temperature will still be cold enough to keep the carp from starting a feeding frenzy.

For this reason, we recommend staying cautious with the amount of loose feed you are introducing, keeping it to just a few handfuls of particle mix and freebies.

Fishmeal flavoured bottom-bait boilies or pellets can do well in spring as can particles such as tiger nuts or corn.

What is the best bait for carp in summer?

Carp feed well in summer, and the water is alive with fish roaming around actively looking for food.

Summer is the month when a large quantity of bait can work well. Big beds of mixed particles, pellets and boilies are quite often the order of the day.

Using a hook bait that compliments the feed can work really well. For example, a bed of mixed particles and sweetcorn could mean that corn as a hook bait will be productive for you.

Another good option is to use a pop ups over a large bed of bait as it allows it to slightly stand out from the rest of the offerings. Again, think about matching the colour and flavour to your freebies as this makes everything look risk-free to wary carp. For example, Carp love hemp, and so if you have spodded a load out, darker hook baits would look much more natural on the lake bed.

As the swim warms in the summer months, the carp move up in the water. As a result, you can expect to see plenty of action on top and in the margins.

Surface fishing is a really exciting tactic and so dog biscuits are always part of our ammunition when carp fishing in summer.

best carp baits for the summer
The exhilarating view of carp feeding on surface baits

What is the best carp bait for the autumn?

Autumn can be a really productive season for catching carp.

This is because the water temperature is generally still warm and also fish’s natural instincts detect that winter is on its way.

This instinct can provoke a feeding response in carp as they aim to put on some weight ready for the colder months.

I find that fishmeal-flavoured bottom boilies or pop ups, as well as pellets, work well in autumn.

Robin red flavoured baits are great to catch carp in the autumn.

What is the best bait to catch carp in winter?

When fishing for carp in winter, you’ll find everything slows down as the water temperature drops considerably. As a result, you are going to want something full of flavour and nice and bright.

Boilies are a good bet, but if you are finding it slow going, we’d advise going smaller in terms of size. A 15mm boilie is a good size to use in winter.

Anything with plenty of flavour will give you an advantage in winter as the bait has to work hard to get the carp to expend the energy to move. Something with a good scent is going to succeed over anything boring.

I have found that a great winter bait is Nash Citruz white boilies they offer a finely balanced, bright, presentation that can often produce results in cold weather.

best winter boilies

Live Baits could also be the answer…

The fact that live baits move can gain a real advantage in winter. Maggots and worms wriggling on the bottom quite often provoke carp to feed. Ensure you use a few on the hook in an attempt to avoid nuisance fish.

What are the best bait flavours for carp?

I know that this is a very cliché answer, but it really does depend. It depends on the venue, the weather, the season, the sized fish, the list goes on and on.

As a general rule of thumb, fishmeal flavours such as Robin Red works well with most carp as strong, sweet, flavours are a preference in winter.

What is the best bait colour to catch carp?

Colour isn’t the be-all and end-all when choosing the best carp bait. We find that using a bait colour that suits your circumstances can quite often work the best.

For example, if you are fishing over a particle bed with sweetcorn being the main ingredient, then a yellow bait may work best.

If fishing a single hook bait in winter then a highly visible white bait could be the answer.

We have equally found that red or brown baits, high in flavour, can also produce fantastic results.

The Best Baits for Loose Feed When Carp Fishing

Loose feed is used to attract carp into your swim, and more importantly, keep them there. Both of these will catch you more carp.

Get a carp grazing with its head down on something tasty, and there’s a higher chance it will suck in your hook bait as part of the package. I often combine a general scattering of my chosen loose feed, alongside a PVA bag full surrounding my hook bait. PVA bags are a great way of accurately placing loose feed with your complimenting hook bait.

Here is a list of great baits that I and many anglers have used as loose feed and in PVA bags to help catch huge carp.

  • Trout pellets
  • Halibut pellets
  • Flavoured carp pellets
  • Hemp
  • Tiger nuts
  • Sweetcorn
  • Maize
  • Chopped boilies
  • Luncheon meat
  • Mixed particles

All the baits on the above list can be found at most decent online bait companies or your local tackle shop.

Final Thoughts

When talking about the best bait for carp, there is no doubt a lot to discuss and debate. There’s no magic, however, in choosing the best carp bait for your fishing. Remember, fish haven’t read the rule book. (or this guide) Even on the best days, you’ll find that the ‘old favourites’ can let you down. 

Try not to throw all your eggs in one basket and plan your next fishing trip with a variety of options open to you.

Having a selection of pop ups or the option to fish a large 20mm pellet in amongst a PVA bag are two simple options that could just be the difference between you catching or not, especially if the water is experiencing the effects of angling pressure.

The best bait for carp isn’t always the obvious choice. Think outside the box, try something new and even if you don’t catch, you can enjoy a Pepperami or two!

Thanks for reading.

Tight Lines!

All of the fishing tackle featured in this article can be found at one of the following online shops…

Total Fishing Tackle