Carp Fishing for Beginners - Step by Step Guide

So you’ve decided to take up Carp fishing probably one of the most popular participation sports there is.

You may have had some experience in fishing for smaller silver fish or other species and you've seen the guy on the other side of the lake land his 20 lb. plus Carp and thought "yeah i’d like some of that." I don't blame you!

However, knowing where to start with carp fishing can be very overwhelming; there is a whole world of equipment and tackle available for the Carp angler, which we have covered in other articles across the site.

For this article I will cover the basics of  exactly what gear you need to get you started as a beginner without breaking the bank too much. I'll also go through some basic set-up options to get you on the bank and fishing as soon as possible

Carp fishing for beginners

Step-by-Step Guide to Starting Carp Fishing for Beginners

Getting a Rod Licence

First and foremost you will require a fishing rod licence to fish in lakes and rivers here in the UK or face a potential fine of up to £2500.

The most convenient way to obtain your licence is via the government website:

rod licence

Once you have paid you can fish right away, you don’t have to wait for your licence to physically arrive.

Deciding Where to Fish

Your choice of water can have a huge impact on your ability to catch carp.

There is no benefit in choosing a 50 acre lake as a complete beginner.

I would suggest that a lake of between 3 to 5 acres would be an ideal size; not huge but not so small that you haven't got enough water to find and catch some good-sized carp.

Beginner Carp Fishing Equipment

Suggested Equipment: Rods

There is a massive range of rods to choose from from a wide variety of manufactures, this can seem a bit daunting to a beginner to the sport but it doesn't need to be.

In an effort to keep the guide simple and straightforward, I won't get into all of the spec information but here are few choices of good-quality rods that I feel would suit a beginner perfectly so take your pick:

Daiwa Black Widow G50 around. View on Amazon here​.

TF Gear DL Black Edition. View on Amazon here.

Shimano Tribal TX1. View on Amazon here.

Suggested Equipment: Reels

As with rods there is a huge variety of reel to choose from from baitrunners to big pit reels. From a beginners point of view, I would say a reasonable baitrunner type reel is suitable as a baitrunner is more suited towards the size of lakes I have reccommended for beginner anglers.

Shimano baitrunner reel

A great value baitrunner reel is the Shimano ST, which you view in more detail and purchase here.

Suggested Equipment: Line

Now you’ve got your reel you will need some line to load onto it a good quality line of around 12 lbs. up to around 20 lbs. of breaking strain is essential as this will play a big part in your fishing from casting the line to successfully landing your carp.

This Fox Torque line would be a good choice of line to load your spools with and not too hard on the pocket.

Suggested Equipment: Rigs

If you ever hope to catch anything, you're going to need a solid rig on the end of your line. Rigs are simply methods of applying your bait to the line and presenting it in the water.

The most popular carp rig is the hair rig and this is the one is suggest beginners get accustomed with first.

The hair rig has revolutionised Carp fishing as we know it since the 1970’s when well-known Carp angler, Kevin Maddocks, used human hair tied to the hook then the bait mounted on the hair.

Hair rig picture

The idea of this was so the fish found it hard to determine which was the hook bait and which were the free offerings.

Coated braid hook links are preferred for carp fishing. This is stiff so doesn't tangle and is very safe and strong. You can strip the coating off near the hook to give the bait more natural movement. 

In terms of hooks, a reliable, wide gape eye pattern is a must as it is a versatile hook that can be used with many other rigs, which is useful if you are tying your own rigs (simple rig tying is covered later on).

However, some exceptional ready tied rigs are also available and are more beginner-friendly for obvious reasons but they can be used by anybody whether you're a newcomer or seasoned carper.

Two of my favourite pre-tied hair rigs:

Korda DF rigs

Fox hair rigs

Suggested Equipment: Bait

There are a number of different bait options available but boilies are by far the most popular big carp bait around.

For baiting up the area you wish to fish in, modern shelf life boilies are ideal just make sure you try and stick to a tried and trusted brand. Try a size of either 14mm 15mm or 16mm. 

For your rig, you can use the same boilies or you can go for "pop-up" boilies, which are made to be buoyant in the water in an effort to make the hook-bait more visible and prevent your hook getting caught in a weedy or snaggy lake-bed.

Here are some boilies from 3 of the biggest and most trusted bait brands around:

Mainline Cell Freezer Boilies

Sticky Baits, The Krill Boilies

CC Moore Live System Boilies

Suggested Equipment: Bite Alarms

Bite alarms are what you'll be using to know whether or not a fish has taken your bait so, if you want to maximise your catch-rate, a good set of alarms is paramount.

If you plan on night-fishing, you can buy wireless alarms with receivers to transmit a signal to your bivvy too so you don't miss any bites while you sleep.

Here are my suggested bite alarms for a beginner carp angler:

Fox Micron MR+

Delkim EV Plus

Finally, for tighter budgets, the Nash Siren S5

Not every bite will tear off into the horizon so you'll also need a set of bobbins to use with alarms to register drop backs, which is when the fish takes the bait and swims towards you. The line slackens when a fish swims towards you and the bobbins essentially pull down on the line as it slackens in order to set your alarms off. Here's what a drop back looks like:

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Suggested Equipment: Rod Support

Ths isn't fly fishing or spinning so you won't be holding your rod while you await a bite; you will need something sturdy to put your rods on whilst you wait for a carp to take your bait.

You can choose either a rod pod, a goal post set up or single bank sticks but to start we would suggest a rod pod since they are sturdy and simple to set up. Any one of the 3 rod pods listed below will do the trick nicely and will stand up to use for a good while. Simply pick one depending on your budget and what you like the look of:

TF Gear Banshee Rod Pod

NGT Deluxe Cross Pod

Fox Stalker Plus

Suggested Equipment: Landing Nets

Once you have hooked your quarry and have brought it under control after a classic, epic carp fight, you will need a good landing net to get him out of the water in a safe manor.

A net of at least 42” long with a good strong handle is desirable and will comfortably land carp to 40 lbs. This net from Cyprinus is made from carbon fibre so is strong and it features a flotation aid to make it easier to use in the water.

Suggested Equipment: Shelter/Bivvy

More commonly known as a bivvy. If decided to fish for 24 hours or more then you will certainly benefit from having a good bivvy to sleep in.

There is a huge variety to choose from in either one or two man versions. Many are also available with an added extra of an overwrap layer for more extreme weather conditions.

On this one, don’t be afraid to spend money on a decent bivvy if you can afford to even as a beginner. A good quality bivvy from a reputable manufacturer will last you for years.


As a recommendation, this Cyprinus bivvy would be a good choice and while it isn't cheap, it is also very well valued for the quality you'll be getting.

Suggested Equipment: Bedchairs and Sleeping Bags

If you are fishing through the night, a bedchair is going to be key for being comfortable and getting some sleep between bites (fingers crossed!).

As with the bivvy, a decent bed chair should last you for a number of years so spending slightly more may prove to be worthwhile. In order of cost from lowest to highest, here are my 3 bedchair suggestions:

JRC Contact Lite Bedchair

TF Gear Chill Out Giant Bedchair

Fox R1 Camo Bedchair

To keep you warm during the night, a sleeping bag is a perfect choice and there are a number of bags available. Sleeping bags used for carp fishing come in 2,3.4 and 5 season the higher the number, the better the bag will usually be for the colder months. Here's another list of 3 suggestions for you to pick from:

Trakker Sleeping Bag

TF Gear Chill Out Sleeping Bag

Nash Indulgence Sleeping Bag

Suggested Equipment: Unhooking Mat

Fish welfare should always remain a priority. In Carp fishing big carp can run into thousands of pounds and fishery owners are also keen to keep their fish well and healthy.

For this reason, you should do what you can to look after the fish once its on the bank, which is where the unhooking mat come into play.

They are available in a standard mat, cradle or a cot style. To be honest, each will all do an equally good job so it is generally down to deciding upon your budget and which type you feel will be easiest for you to use. Below are my suggestions for each different type.

Unhooking mat: Jack Kirkham Day Session

Unhooking cradle: NGT Carp Cradle

Unhooking cot: Avid Carp Cot

Suggested Equipment: Jackets

Out of all the gear listed so far, the clothing is of least importance when it comes to actually catching carp. However, it is always best to dress appropriately for any sport and carp fishing is no different.

If, like us here at Carp Base, you are planning on being an all year round carper, getting the right clothing is going to be key.

I highly recommend either the Kevin Nash or Trakker range of clothing. To begin with, buying a high-quality jacket will go a long way to keeping you warm on the bank.

For some extra versatlity, I prefer to wear a base layer like this Trakker one underneath a light waterproof jacket such as this one also from Trakker. The base layer can always be removed as the weather warms up.

Suggested Equipment: Footwear

Equally as important as a good jacket is a proper pair of boots to wear on the bank. Looking after your feet and keeping them warm and comfortable will make your entire experience much more enjoyable.

Investing in a comfortable, yet robust pair of boots will ensure you are able to do just this and there are many to choose from. Provided they offer reasonable water resistance and have an insulated lining, you can't go to far wrong.

TF Gear boots

For a good value for money pair of boots, I like TF Gear's Extreme Green boots, which are 100% waterproof and feature a breathable, thermal lining. Here they are on Amazon.

Suggested Equipment: Cooking

If you are planning on fishing for 24 hours or even longer then you're going to need to eat properly. Unfortunately, your mum, dad or other half is probably not going to be there to feed you either, which means meal times are down to you.

One great piece of kit that has been developed in recent years is the RidgeMonkey sandwich toaster. Although it says "sandwich toaster", this little gem can be used to cook practically anything that a pot or pan would cook but is much easier to carry around.

So you have something to cook in now you need something to cook on. For this, gas stoves are probably the most popular, reasonably priced and compact option. This simple stove is absolutely perfect for the job.

Alongside your breakfast, lunch or dinner you're probably going to want a brew so a kettle also needs to be on the list. Kettles are without doubt one of the most used items nearly all carp anglers own. You need to find something small and compact enough to take with you so one like this Trakker kettle is great.

Guide to Getting Set up and Ready to Fish

By this point, you should have all of the necessary gear and you're ready to get out there and land some carp. In this section, I'll take you through a kind of "quick start" guide to help you set up and get your hook in the water.

1. Load your reel with line

As mentioned earlier, a line with a breaking strain of between 12 and 20 lbs. is ideal. The video below demonstrates how to load your line on to your reel effectively.

2. Tie your rig

Of course, you can use a pre-tied rig like I suggested in the equipment section. If you aren't planning to tie your own hair rig, you can skip this section. However, tying your own does give you more options and is more cost effective than always purchasing pre-tied rigs.

If you want to learn how to tie a simple hair rig, this article from explains it in a simple and straightforward manner.

3. Attaching your rig to the line

To attach your rig to your main line, you'll be using a swivel. If you're unsure of how to tie the swivel to your line, click here to view a YouTube video that outlines the steps.

4. Setting up a lead clip system

Using a lead clip system helps with casting and prevents tangles Here's how to set it up:

At this point, you should be set up to fish. All you need to do now is attach your chosen boilie to your hair rig and you are ready to get fishing.

Carp Fishing: How to Cast

The main piece of advice I can give to a beginner is to not be concerned with trying to cast to the horizon. Short range casts and even fishing a few yards is capable of catching just as many fish as casting 100+ yards.

Proper casting stance and technique are important to learn:

There you have it! you're finally in the water and fishing for carp. All you need to do now is sit your rod on your rod pod, make sure your bite alarms are set and wait for them start making some noise.

Carp Fishing: Baiting the Swim

With your hook bait in place, now is a good time to start putting some extra bait into your swim. The carp may need a little enticement to feed and be attracted to your hook.

You can do this by offering some freebies around the area where you placed your hook bait. If you are fishing at the kind of shorter distance recommended earlier, you may be able to throw some bait out there by hand. If your hook bait isn't within throwing distance, using a catapult is a great option. Here is a good catapult from Korda that isn't too expensive.

7 thoughts on “Carp Fishing for Beginners – Step by Step Guide”

  1. Very interesting article,only just returned to fishing after many years. I’m fishing on feeder rod at the moment and I’ve just purchased a two piece Carp rod,hoping to get into Carp fishing.

    • Hi Michael. That’s good to hear, I’m glad you found the article of interest.

      I wish you all the best for your carp fishing journey. Good luck!

      Lee @ Carp Base

  2. Very informative. It would be good to show how to tighten line, position rods and set bobbins. I picked up some great pointers here.

    • I’m glad you found it useful, Richard.

      I agree there are still some areas for more to be added. I just wasn’t too sure how far to go but setting up rods and bite indicators makes sense.

      Thanks for the suggestion!
      Lee @ Carp Base

  3. Would love to find out about the line clip, so you can cast to the same spot, unsure though how it works if you catch a carp though, surely it will snap your line, sorry I’m being dense I think


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