By Dan Johnson
Revered among European anglers, carp are coming on strong in North America. And why not? What's not to like about the chance to catch mind-numbing numbers of 6- to 10-pound fish, plus a legitimate shot at trophies tipping the scale at 20, 30, even 50 pounds or more?
Plus, there's the challenge. Small fish in stained waters can be easy marks. But most carp are harder to come by, especially for budding carp fans. Big fish can be especially wary, thanks to their longevity and amazing senses of hearing, taste, vision, and feel. Fortunately, there's no shortage of choices in carp baits for effectively targeting carp of all proportions.
Carp eat a variety of foods. They favor insects, aquatic worms, crustaceans, and mollusks, but also consume algae and other plant matter. Due to this diverse diet, a variety of carp baits trip their triggers, from natural offerings to homemade doughbaits and mass-produced softbaits, dips, boilies, and such. Surface-feeding carp even hit small bits of dog biscuits.
To guide your carp quest, we've lined up a stellar array of easy-to-fish natural and commercial options that are perfect for most situations you'll encounter this season. Check out these best carp baits!
Berkley Gulp! Alive! Floating Corn
- Berkley scientists wrote the book on creating fish-attracting baits for bass, walleyes, trout, and panfish — and their Gulp! Alive! Floating Corn shines for carp. The buoyant, biodegradable bait resembles real corn, and disperses scent 400 times faster than other baits of its kind. Designed to be fished on a #10 or smaller egg hook, the corn is available in 2.3-ounce jars, in fluorescent red, white, and yellow colors.
CC Moore Glugged Odyssey XXX Boilie Hookbaits
- Blending the legendary Odyssey XXX boilie with concentrated dip, this bait works wonders on hair rigs or hooks alike. Stoked with the company's Fish and Green Lipped Mussel boilie mix, plus extra feeding stimulants, it's rolled into a 10 X 14 mm chunk and packaged in powerful dip for constant super-charging.
Grass carp, also known as white amurs, favor veggies for dinner and can play hard to catch on traditional carp baits. In-Fisherman friend Ken Perry, a fisheries program coordinator with the Missouri Department of Conservation, offers a simple yet deadly grass carp bait — the humble cherry tomato. Perry recommends spooling a long and limber rod with light monofilament mainline, and then tying the tag end direct to a light-wire #1 hook. He casts the tomato into a shallow area pre-sweetened with two or three cups of fermented cracked corn, then leaves the reel in free-spool so the line flows unfettered when a carp takes the bait.
Docâ€™s Carp Getter Bait
- Sweet-smelling dough designed for balling on a treble hook, Doc's Carp Getter is easy to fish and, most importantly, tempting to carp. Available in 12-ounce tubs, in anise or vanilla flavors.
Magic Bait Premo Carp Bait
- Loaded with attractants, this doughy paste concoction is a hit on hair and pop-up rigs. We also appreciate how quickly it milks away carp-friendly scents and flavors in any water temperature. Available in vanilla, pepper-corn, mulberry, and strawberry blends.
Fine natural baits, 'crawlers shine in still and flowing waters alike. I've caught plenty of carp on simple slipsinker and split-shot rigs in rivers and lakes, sometimes injecting a shot of air into the bait with a worm blower to raise it off a soft or weed-covered bottom. While whole 'crawlers are killers, there are times when chunks are better, such as when dealing with finicky fish in clear water.
Consistently ranked among the top carp baits, sweet corn is inexpensive, easy to store, transport, and fish — and extremely effective. Corn is versatile, too. You can fish it in various ways, including hair, three-way, and slipsinker rigs. Hooking methods hinge on the rig, but one of the easiest and deadliest approaches is simply threading kernels onto a small circle hook.
Tandem Baits Impact Boilies
fishuas.com (Tandem Boilies)
- Brewed with a blend of natural ingredients, flavors, and extracts, these 12 mm boilies excel in a variety of water temperatures. Popular on the European carp scene, they're easy to fish and routinely produce carp of trophy proportions. Tandem also makes a variety of other cutting-edge carp baits, gels, attractors, and more.
Uncle Josh Carp Bait
- Made from genuine Iowa sweet corn and corn syrup, this dough-style bait dissolves slowly and stays on the hook well. Available in 4- and 10-ounce tubs in five flavors including golden honey, orange vanilla and red strawberry.
Wacker Baits Sweet Corn Pips
- Made from ultra-sweet shoepeg corn, these durable pips cling to hook and hair rigs on hard casts, and resist the most determined efforts of panfish and other bait thieves. Plucked from the cob, not cut, they're available in a variety of flavors, including ever-deadly hemp and tiger nut.