Carp Fishing Setup for Beginners in 2024 (Learn The Essentials)

Carp fishing for beginners is the bridge taking you from codfish and trout to the vast seas of large fish–the species that truly put on a back-breaking fight before they give up. Today, we’ll prepare for this world as you start with the queen of the river, the carp.

Carp Fishing for Beginners

Obtain Your License

Your rod license is your top priority when it comes to carp fishing. Anyone who’s found carp fishing without it can be charged up to 2500 pounds by the government. Thankfully, you can effortlessly get this rod license from the government website, or if the Internet isn’t your thing, you can head to your nearest local post office.

You’ll find that you have three options for this fishing license. One allows you to fish for one day, one allows you to fish for eight days, and one allows you to fish for a year. With the first two types, you can use two rods, but with the third, you can actually add a third one.

Respectively, the licenses cost 6 pounds, 12 pounds, and 30 pounds to the regular carp fishing citizen. Yet, it’s worth noting that there are some exemptions for a few minorities. For instance, disabled individuals get a 10-pound discount on their year-long license whenever they present their Blue Badge, so they end up paying only 20 pounds.

As for children and teenagers, anyone under the age of 13 doesn’t need a license at all, while if an individual falling between 13 and 16 years of age wants to do some carp fishing, they’ll need a junior license, which is free of charge. So, if you’re a beginner carp angler, make sure you don’t skip over this step so that you start on the right foot.

know your carp

Know Your Carp

Carp are intelligent fish, and you’ll undoubtedly recognize that once you’ve been through a few rounds of carp fishing. They have some peculiar behaviours, and there are some seasons and phases of life when it’s almost impossible to catch a carp. That is what we’ll break down to you in this section so that you know what you and your fishing equipment are up against and how to hook bait successfully.

1. Types

The thing about different carp fish species is that they almost all look the same. The differences mostly lie in size; large carp, medium carp, and small carp. Yet, there are also a few phenotypic characteristics caused by minor genetic mutations.

So, how many types of carp are we looking at? Around ten in total, which are the most known. These are the Silver Carp, Grass Carp, Bighead Carp, Crucian Carp, Catla Carp, Mrigal Carp, Black Carp, Mud Carp, Steeplerush Carp, and our most famous carp, the Common Carp (also called the European Carp).

So, as you can see, there’s an extensive array of carp to choose from when you decide to take on a carp fishing adventure.

P.S: They’re native to the U.K.; hence, their fishing is one of the most competitive and famous sports there from border to border. However, they’re an invasive species and have also made their way to the United States.

2. Behaviour

As we’ve previously mentioned, carp is an intelligent species. Carp fish won’t fall for your tricks easily. Additionally, they’re highly sensitive, and they scare easy. So, even if you do use your special carp rod and bite alarm, you can still lose your carp if you act too aggressively.

So, what should you do? You have to cast and retrieve with ease without spooking fish under the bank sticks, and we’ll speak about how you can tackle your fishing equipment to suit your carp fishing needs in detail.

In essence, river carp can also be found in lakes, basins and any other freshwater. Where exactly on these waterfronts? That depends on the time of day and the temperature. As the temperatures go down, you’ll them seeking shade and shelter in hooded, calmer areas that are deeper down.

There are also times that carps jump out of the water. To understand more of this behaviour, see our post here on why do carp jump out of the water.


On the other hand, as the sun starts rising and the temperatures go up, they’re way more active. They go higher up the water column, and they’ll move more. Carp anglers normally know that, and when you’ve been Carp fishing for quite some time in a specific area, you’ll know the timeframe around which carp starts poking its gills.

That way, you’ll be able to whip out your setup during these times and focus on them; otherwise, you’ll be wasting your time.

3. Spawning Times

The reproductive cycle of every fish species determines a lot of things regarding how it lives its life, and carp is no different. The female carp can lay up to 1 million eggs, or ova, at a time, which will wait for the male carp to release its milt, or spermatozoa, to fertilize these eggs.

Occasionally, the parents will unite to protect their eggs and fresh fish; however, that’s not always the case, and the baby fish is mainly left to fend for themselves. So when does all that happen? Generally, in the spring and early summer due to the warm temperatures.

Carps prefer the ambience surrounding to be grassy in low water areas. There, they can spawn quietly; hence, they go two or three feet down the water column. We’ll know later on that both the spring and the summer are the most popular times to fish for carp.

So, how can we fish carp when they’re spawning? That’s a vital question with an easy answer–don’t. A spawning carp is impossible to fish. These fish have only one goal, and they won’t turn to any of your baits or provocations.

But how do you know which carp is/are spawning? You’ll find them moving in groups of three to five fish altogether. Don’t go for them–they won’t catch your bait. So again, don’t waste your time.

Prepare Your Fishing Gear

Prepare Your Carp Fishing Setup

Now that you basically know what you’re up to you when you’re carp fishing, you have to be adequately prepared, starting from your tackle box all the way to your carp rods, boilies, line, and carp reels.

The thing is, you’ll be faced with a lot of choices when it comes to each of these tools; there are so many rigs, hooks, and reels out there. So, in this section, we’ll tell you how you should tackle all of these bits and pieces as a beginner.

1. Carp Bait

Of course, the main attraction has to be the bait. How would you implore the carp to hook bait? Well, we have a few choices. But first, know that carp is an omnivorous fish, so it feeds on molluscs, insects, larvae, zooplankton, and a few other things.

Subsequently, one of the most famous baits for fishing carp has to be maggots. You have to kill the maggots first, and maybe glug them using some oils, then start hooking them to your rigs or spods.

Other highly common baits for carp fishing will have to be boilies and pop-ups, which, thanks to their small size, allow you to use more of them, managing to attract carp from far away as they waft their scents far away. They, too, are easy for all anglers to put on rigs and spod mixes.

Last but certainly not least, we have sweet corn, which is a widely used bait to attract carp. Nevertheless, if the area you’re frequenting is famous for carp fishing, you should expect that the sweetcorn bait trick has been already drained and that the carp won’t fall for it again.

So, perhaps try a different type of boilies, sticking with smaller sizes such as 14 mm boilies.

P.S: You can make your own boilies at home. Yet, we’d recommend store-bought boilies as they’re professionally manufactured.

2. Carp Fishing Rod

Now that you’ve got your boilies or maggot rigs or sweet corn, you need to tackle the matter of carp rods and which one you’re going to use to catch carp. You need to think of a few things when choosing the right carp rod, mainly the rod length and its test curve.

For a beginner, we’d suggest rods that are longer. Nonetheless, keep in mind that these longer rods need considerable skill for you to be able to cast and retrieve smoothly without spooking the carp. Accordingly, you might want to try your hand at that a few times before you hit the water. In general, a 10-12 ft rod would do the trick.

Let’s talk a little bit about the fishing rod test curve. What’s the rod test curve? In simple words, it’s the weight required to have the rod tip stand at a 90° angle with the rod butt. This automatically translates to the stiffness of the rod.

To not have anything go wrong with your rods, we’d suggest a test curve of 2.5 to 3 lbs, which will create a balance between the stiffness and strength of the rods and their flexibility. This will give the rods access to more casting distance, even if you’re a beginner. We’d recommend the following:

Okuma Longitude Surf Graphite Rods

Okuma Longitude Surf Graphite Rods

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KastKing Blackhawk II Telescopic Fishing Rods

KastKing Blackhawk II Telescopic Fishing Rods

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3. Carp Fishing Reel

Next, let’s jump onto your carp reels and what you should be looking for. When you’re fishing, you’d want to use one of two reels, which are the baitrunner reel and the big pit reel. These two are most suited for the breathtaking, literally and figuratively, fights that carp will put up against you.

Yet, no matter which one you decide to go with, you have to double-check the spool of your carp reel. They have to offer excellent line lay, preferably braid-ready, and a lot of space. You can’t be fighting a big carp and be forced to stop because you’re running out of line.

Another thing that you need to keep track of when searching for a carp reel is the drag system and adjustment. You need an easily adjustable drag to help you bring in the carp without breaking your line or having tangles. Here’s how baitrunner reels and big pit reels compare in that area.

Baitrunner Reels

Baitrunners are the next step in your fishing journey; you start using them when you graduate from spinning reels. Subsequently, they’re a bit more complicated; yet, once you get the hang of them, using them becomes second nature to you.

They’re an excellent choice when it comes to carp fishing, thanks to their advanced drag systems, which mostly come with micro increments in terms of adjustment, and humongous spools that mostly have the free-run option.

Our advice is to start with a baitrunner as it’s the basic choice that’ll probably be present in your tackle box. Then, when that becomes way too easy for you, move onto the big pit reel and start learning its ins and outs.

Big Pit Reels

Believe it or not, big pit reels are even larger than bait runners. This means you have an even bigger spool, more ball bearings, bigger gears, and the rest of the package. Add all of that up, and you’ll have greater casting distances and better control over your entire setup.

4. Carp Fishing Rigs

A rig is a final arrangement at the end of your line that holds on to your bait. Your rig will play a huge role in helping you catch carp. Some pretty famous rigs for carp fishing are ready-tied rigs and untied ones.

Primarily, we have the basic carp hair rig. The hair rig consists of a single line for camouflage to snap the carp quickly, and this rig is highly successful in its job.

We also have the running ledger rig, the chod rig, and the adjustable zig rig. Each rig is suitable for certain circumstances and waterfronts; yet, the last two aren’t just great for carp fishing in general, but for winter carp fishing as well, which is one of the most challenging seasons to get your hands on carp.

Also, if hair rigs, or any other rig, aren’t your thing, don’t freak out as stores sell ready-tied rigs everywhere. So, you don’t have to struggle with a hair rig or a chod rig; they’re ready tied for you to attach your bait to them effortlessly.

Carp fishing line

5. Carp Fishing Line

As a carp angler, you have a monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided fishing line to choose from when it comes to your line of choice. A braided fishing line is the strongest, and it offers no stretch and no memory, so it’s great when you’re trying to hook a big carp.

However, it’s not as invisible as a fluorocarbon line, which is why many carp anglers prefer to use a fluorocarbon line as it can be almost invisible.

6. Fishing Hooks

When it comes to choosing the right hooks to attach your carp bait on, you have to remember the solid fact that carp are smart. If you have a gigantic hook hitting the surface of the water, carrying a lot of line behind it, and bait, you’ll never see that carp.

So, you need to go up when it comes to your hook size; a six or an eight hook would be a great choice for beginners.

Another thing that you need to keep in mind when it comes to this specific equipment because coated hook links would make a great addition between your hook and bait. They don’t tangle and hold your carp in place.

See our post here to know the proper ways how to hold a carp.

If you want to be a bit more precise, remove a little of the coating nearest to the bait to give it a more natural look.

7. Fish Finders and Bite Alarms

All anglers, beginners and veterans alike, know how vital fishfinders are, and they’ve evolved dramatically in the past ten years or so. They give you a much better view of the waters under you. Subsequently, you’ll be able to cast better, and catching carp will be much easier as you find that the fish will take your bait when you drop it as near as possible to where they’re staying.

Another piece of equipment that adds so much to your carp fishing journey will have to be bite alarms. As the name suggests, bite alarms alert you when there’s a bite on your line.

If you’re casting super far away, or if the sensitivity of your line isn’t the best, your rod bite alarms will do the job for you so that you won’t lose on any opportunities to catch Carp.

See our post here on deeper pro plus review if you’re eyeing an awesome fish finder.

Find the Perfect Landing Net

8. Find the Perfect Landing Net

After you’ve made perfect use of your bite alarms and fishfinders, and you’ve actually caught an impressive corp, maybe even using PVA bags with the proper carp bait, it’s time for this piece of equipment to shine–the landing net.

Finding the perfect landing net is primarily about quality and size. You have to choose a robust net with a strong rod that’ll fully capture your Carp no matter its size and bring it safely to you.

9. Don’t Forget the Unhooking Mat

Naturally, you’re not going to keep your carp in the landing net; you have to remove it from the landing net and put it somewhere safe. What’s that safe place? The unhooking mat. The unhooking mat kind of resembles a cradle with a cover on top of it, and you add a little bit of water to it.

10. Optional: Rod Pod

Beginners tend to like to spread out their work for maximal results, which means using more than one rod altogether, all of them with their own bite alarms, carp bait, and other gear. But how can you make sure that all of them are safely situated how you want them to be?

The answer here will have to be rod pods. A rod pod is the best choice for beginners, this is one of the useful carp fishing tips for beginners as it helps you set up every rod of theirs, with its bite alarm and everything.

11. Optional: Fishing Leads

If you need to do some deep water Carp fishing, you need to make sure that your bait will reach that deep spot, as not all bait can go down the water column. Subsequently, a lot of veteran anglers, and beginners, choose to opt for a lead clip.

Know What Every Season Brings Regarding Carp Fishing

We’ve previously skimmed over the fact that there are some seasons when catching carp is really hard, while others offer maximal access to carp on different waterfronts.

Spring and Summer

Spring and summer typically represent the best times to catch carp. Whip out your rods, reels, lead clips and even your rod pod, and you’ll find that the fish takes your bait easily.

The warm temperatures and abundance of food allow the fish to go up in the water column and swim around actively.

Still, remember that around late spring and early summer comes the spawning season, which makes carp fishing much harder.


Surprisingly, fall too is a great time to do some carp fishing, simply because the fish isn’t spawning, and they know that winter is coming. They need to feed more to prepare for the coldness and the probability of not finding food. So, they move in larger groups.


Second, to the spawning season, winter is the hardest time for carp fishing. Carps mostly find bank sticks to hide under and wait out the freezing cold, so they’re a tough catch at that time.



To wrap up, Carp fishing is challenging in terms of the fights that this finicky fish can put up. Nonetheless, their abundance in freshwater makes the challenge worth it.

This is everything you need to know about carp fishing, and if you have some more tips and tricks that you use, let us know in the comments what you feel carp fishing for beginners should be like. Lastly, don’t forget to check out the Okuma Longitude Surf Graphite Rods and the Okuma Longitude Surf Graphite Rods.

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