What makes carp fishing so appealing to many anglers is its simplicity. Given this species' broad distribution and tolerance for the most urban environments, it might be the most widely available sportfish in North America.
A bit of tackle and some basic baits are all you need to get started, yet for those who take it more seriously, there's a lifetime of learning and refinement. Wherever you are on the carp fishing spectrum, I offer a few insights to enhance your enjoyment and success.
From Sticks to Pods
A good set of bank sticks is a key piece of equipment for a carp angler. Gone are the days of finding and whittling a V-notched stick; telescopic bank sticks are much more efficient, at minor expense. They not only keep your rod and reel out of the dirt, but their threaded end is universally sized to accept a wide range of accessories, including rod rests, beepers, and bite indicators.
They have other uses, which can include staking down a keepnet, anchoring your cooler bag against a stiff wind, or chasing a determined raccoon out of your bait bucket. A bank stick should be sturdy, telescopic, and long enough for various situations. Generally, longer is better. The 18-inch, heavy-duty bank stick by Wychwood is a fine option, and has a drill-shaped tip to bore into hard ground.
Rod pods are handy when fishing from a rocky shoreline or pier. Most have individually adjustable legs and vertical rod supports that accommodate virtually any terrain. Most companies offer several models at a range of prices. Anglers typically start with simple ones for one or two rods and advance to larger, more sturdy models. A few fine options include the Bank Fishing System EZ Pod, also known as the Power Wheel Pod, ideal for beginners; the Fox Eclipse Pod, a mid-range option; and the Solar Carbon World Wide Pod at the high end.
Rod Rests and Beepers
Rod rests that thread onto bank sticks and rod pods come in many configurations. A wide front rest often has a deep V to allow the line to run through smoothly. The back rest should grip the rod butt firmly to prevent it from being pulled out when a fish runs with a bait. The Monster Carp back rest holds tightly to the butt of most carp rods without damaging the blank. The Gardner Flexible Rubber or G-Force Head, a front rest, also is made of soft material to protect the rod blank.
A popular option for the front rest is a battery operated beeper, which goes off and flashes whenever the line moves. Beepers range from economical single units like Bank Fishing Systems GSP Alarms to advanced ones like the LXR Arms by Fox, which have remote receivers carried by the angler when away from the rods or napping. Most offer volume and pitch controls and lights of various colors.
In most cases when using an electronic beeper you also need a bite indicator to hold the line tight to the sensor. They generally hang off the front rod rest and clip onto the line between beeper reel. Adding weight to the line prevents wind or waves from moving it and causing a false alarm. The weight pulls the line through the beeper if a fish pulls the bait toward you. Without it, the beeper might not detect this take, which carp anglers call a "back drop."
Two types of bite indicator are the bobbin style, such as the Gardner Tackle Margin Master, and the swinger style such as the Delkim Nitelight. Most offer have an adjustable clip and weights to accommodate lines of various thicknesses, as well as current and wind conditions.
Rigs and Terminal Tackle
Ultra-sharp hooks are particularly important when fishing a bolt rig, named for the species' tendency to bolt away when startled. The hook sets as the fish bolts. Carp hooks are sturdy to hold big fish that often make long runs and tangle in vegetation.
You can buy pre-packged hair rigs, but it's easy to tie them. Most rigs are of heavy braid or stiffened hook-link material that makes it difficult for carp to eject a bait once it's sucked it in for a taste.
Carp weights come in either eyed forms, which can be clipped onto a rig using break-away clips, or flattened egg-sinkers. Most are painted to match the bottom. Thin, hollow tubing is often fitted over a short section of the mainline to reduce tangling on the cast. Baiting needles, tiny drills, and line threaders are tools of the trade, helping to bait up and make rigs.
Chums and Baits
Boilies are popular baits designed to fish on a hair rig, in which a bait is threaded onto a small strand of line trailing off the back of the hook. When a carp inhales the bait, the exposed hook goes along and hooks the fish as it moves off or tries to eject the offering. Boilies last well and resist being nibbled apart by small fish. Carp recognize them as tasty food, especially when baits are chummed into the fishing area.
Key considerations in boilie selection are size, flavor and color, and flotation. For starters, a 12-mm yellow boilie is hard to beat. One popular approach is to chum sinking boilies in the swim, then fish a floater an inch or so off bottom to stand out.
Hair rigs enable you to mix and match baits or stack baits on top of each other. Some anglers add a floating piece of plastic corn to the rig to add color and buoyancy.
Packaged groundbait mixtures are designed to release scent and food particles to attract fish. Add water and mold the pasty mix around a wire frame that affixes to the line. Form the paste into balls and lob them into the area to draw fish. For a fine array of carp tackle, check anglersinternational.com and click on the carp's tail.
Some anglers regard carp fishing as a laid back affair. Experts, however, describe it aptly as a game of strategy. Through baiting, rig refinement, and use of ingenious gadgets, you strive to outsmart an instinctively wary and adaptable adversary. If you haven't tried it yet, you're missing some exciting fishing.
*Lonnie King, Ottawa, Ontario, is a fishery biologist and contributor to In-Fisherman publications. Tackle For Carp Fishing