How to Catch Carp Off the Surface - Floater Fishing Tips

Catching a carp off the surface is probably one of the most exciting and satisfying ways you can bank yourself a carp. To actually see the fish physically take your hook bait and tear off with it is an amazing thing to experience.

Particularly in the warmer months, carp love to cruise near or well up on the surface of the water to take advantage of the sun's warm rays. Chances are, they're also looking for a free meal.

This is where your surface fishing comes into play. I can remember being on many non-productive sessions in the summer and noticing carp up on the surface 30 or 40 yards out in front of me.

That's when i reach for my surface fishing set up.

At that time of year I always carry some surface baits just in case, these mainly include some chum mixer dog biscuits like these ones. I catapult a few out to see if the fish are willing to feed and, if they are, out goes my hook bait.

In this article I am going to give you some tips for fishing on surface fishing or "floater fishing" as it's known by carp anglers. Carry on reading to learn how to make the most of this exhilarating fishing style and catch more carp in the process.

How to catch carp from the surface

Surface Fishing Tackle and Tactics

I think the best way to go about this article is to give you my ideas on tackle selection then explain the reasons and tactics behind my choices.

Best Rod and Reel for Surface Fishing

Surface fishing requires finesse and much lighter tackle. When you’re using finer lines and hooklinks with smaller hooks, you want a rod and reel set up to match.

Personally, I don’t think there's any need to break the bank on a rod and reel for a type of fishing your probably only going to be trying during the summer.

I like to use a nice small reel and a soft rod so I have the ability to keep pressure on the carp when I need to without pulling the hook out.

Recommended floater rod: Kodex SX-i Floater Rod

Recommended reel: Fox EOS Reel

fox eos reel

Hooks for Surface Fishing

Secondly, a good choice of hook is essential; you need to look for a hook that's not too big as larger hooks will make the bait behave unnaturally on the water's surface.

In floater fishing, presentation is paramount so I would recommend a hook size of 10 or 12 since this will give you a much better presentation for your bait than a large hook, which may even start to sink below your hook bait.

But choose a quality hook as the hook used is not massive and summertime on a lot of venues means weed. If there is a lot of weed and surface weed you will need to make sure the hook is up to the job when Mr carp makes a bolt for it.

My recommendations are these hooks from Korda, which are designed for surface fishing.

Surface Fishing Hook Baits

Your hook bait choice is obviously an important part of your success (or failure!) in catching carp.

Try to get your hook bait to imitate your free offerings as closely as possible. The tried and tested baits for floater fishing are dog mixers and then a fake dog biscuit placed on the hook. This bait tactic has landed many big carp from the top of the water.

These imitation dog biscuits from Enterprise Tackle are perfect. They even have a foam insert that can be flavoured to entice the fish.

Another good, tried and tested bait is floating pellets, which are also easy to distribute into your swim as freebies. I like these simple floating pellets from Selby baits.

It is always worth remembering that your hook bait and free offerings can be boosted with dips, glugs or oils for added extra attraction. Just remember to be prepared to take plenty with you as the local bird life will have a field day with all your free floaters.

If the mixers and pellets fail then single bright hook baits in the right place on the right day can be devastatingly effective.

bright floating baits

You can view Mainline's Hi-Visual range of bright baits on Amazon here.

Finally, you could go proper old school with your bait and use a lump of bread flake torn from a crusty, un-sliced bread loaf, which was always a favorite back in the day and still works well. Bread is best used at close range to enable free offerings to be introduced easily. Be sure to conceal the hook in the bread so you don't spook the carp.

That's my list of recommended baits for surface fishing but a lot of it will come down to trial and error so don't be afraid to experiment.

Best Line and Hooklinks for Surface Fishing

The right mainline will definitely play a major part in you landing a few fish. Braided mainline is great for surface fishing as it has no stretch so the second you strike, the float moves thus setting the hook.

However, the fish may be able to spot a braided line more easily and some fisheries allow only mono to be used. With that being said, if I'm fishing somewhere that does allow braid, I will opt for it.

When it comes to selecting your hooklink, care needs to be taken as it is going to be in full view of the carp below. For this reason, finer hooklinks are going to do better. Just note, you might have to go with a heavier line if you're fishing in a weedy lake; you'll likely hook more fish with a finer line but that's pointless if you can't land them due to the heavy weed.

This line from korda is specifically for surface fishing so makes for a great choice for your hooklink.

Floats for Carp Surface Fishing

As with all the other equipment so far, you will need the right float for the job. What I mean by this is selecting the float according to the distances you want to fish; different floats will be suited to different casting distances.

You don't want a float that is going to crash into the water and disturb the fish and you need it to be heavy enough to reach the spot you desire to fish.

Korda carp floats

I suggest these Korda floats. They  come in a range of sizes for a variety of fishing situations. Do note that they aren't sold as a set and the sizes have to be bought individually.

Baiting Your Swim for Floater Fishing

You need to ensure you deliver bait accurately, if your bait is sprayed all over the place the fish may move out of your swim.

Usually, I will use one of 2 methods to bait up for my surface fishing: the humble but very effective catapult and a spod when fishing at greater distance.

When supreme accuracy is needed and you want to put some bait out in tighter bunches, PVA bags are an option. You can catapult a bundle of floating baits out to a good distance if you weigh the bag down with a stone or pebble.

Don't Lose Sight of Your Hook Bait

If you are fishing at closer range, you should be using lighter floats, which means you're going to need to strike to hook the fish when it takes your bait. Of course, this means you need to be keeping a super close eye on your hook bait at all times. Missing bites due to a lapse in concentration is frustrating to say the least.

On the other hand, fishing at longer distances will make it nearly impossible to see your hook bait so you have to watch the float instead. The good news is that heavier floats like those used for distance fishing will aid in hooking the fish.

With that being said, you still need to be ready to strike as soon as you see your float move.

Watching baits or floats on the surface of the lake on a bright day is difficult for your eyesight, which is why I always bring some polarised sunglasses with me. They dramatically cut down the surface reflection and glare to make it much easier to see.

Of course, they'll also prevent you straining your eyes. This pair of glasses made by Fortis are reasonably-priced and will do the job just fine.

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