The Best Bait For Carp Fishing

What is the best bait for carp fishing? 21 amazing baits & tips

The best baits for carp fishing are meat, maggots, worm, casters, pellets and boilies. However it depends on the conditions and there are lots of variables that can impact a bait’s effectivness.

Deciding what bait to use for carp fishing can be very daunting. Tackle shops are awash with a variety of baits with all sorts of additives and attractants and it can be very difficult knowing where to start.

We have put together a list of the best bait for carp fishing. Of course, you are never guaranteed to catch, but going to the bank with the best bait and preparation certainly increases your chances. 

We take a look at not only the best baits but the best methods and techniques to use when using these baits.

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Below is a list of the best carp baits and the best methods to use them.

Carp BaitsBest Methods For Catching Carp
Luncheon MeatFloat fishing, pole fishing, free-lining, ledgering
MaggotsFloat fishing, pole fishing, ledgering
CastersFloat fishing, pole fishing, ledgering
PelletsFloat fishing, pole fishing, ledgering
PasteFloat fishing, pole fishing, ledgering
BreadFloat fishing, pole fishing, surface fishing, ledgering
BoiliesLedgering
CheeseFloat fishing, pole fishing, free-lining, ledgering
WormsFloat fishing, pole fishing, free-lining, ledgering
SweetcornFloat fishing, pole fishing,, ledgering
Dog BiscuitsSurface fishing
Tiger NutsLedgering
MarshmallowsSurface fishing
Cat FoodFloat fishing, pole fishing
PrawnsFloat fishing, pole fishing, free-lining, ledgering
MusselsFloat fishing, pole fishing, free-lining, ledgering
Slugs and SnailsFloat fishing, pole fishing, free-lining, ledgering
Artificial BaitsFloat fishing, pole fishing, surface fishing, ledgering
Hemp seedFloat fishing, pole fishing, free lining, ledgering
GroundbaitFloat fishing, pole fishing, free lining, ledgering

The best bait for carp fishing

Luncheon Meat or Spam

I never go fishing without a tin on luncheon meat in my bait bag. Most fish love it, and in particular, so do carp. 

Carp love anything meaty and luncheon meat is just the ticket. Available in almost all supermarkets, luncheon meat is very inexpensive and has a very long shelf life, so ideal for keeping in your bait bag for months or sometimes years.

Luncheon meat is a very versatile bait, as can you fish it with any method and you can add different flavourings and colourings to it and can be fished at different sizes.

If you are specifically targeting carp, it can sometimes be difficult to fend off smaller fish. If you are getting smaller fish pestering you, you can simply use a bigger cube of meat and only the bigger fish will be able to eat it.

To save time at the bankside, you can prepare the luncheon meat in advance and cut the cubes up at home and add any colourings or flavorings you want.

If you are struggling to keep the meat on the hook, cook the meat slightly to harden the edges or leave them in the sun for a short while to toughen up, giving a much tougher surface.

Maggots

You can catch just about any fish on maggots, including carp. Maggots are juicy and wriggly making them an ideal carp bait. 

A big bunch of maggots can be irresistible for carp, and a larger bait can help keep away the smaller fish – though they may still pick at the individual maggots which can be a bit of a nuisance.

Maggots come in many different colours and the colour you choose is purely down to personal choice. Try different colours or a whole mixture and see what works best for you. Although simple red and white are usually the most widely available colours. 

Remember to use appropriate hook sizes, as a double maggot on a size 4 hook is going to look out of place. Similarly, a host of maggots on a size 20 hook will leave hardly any room to hook the carp. Experiment with what works best for you. 

Maggots are a good all year round bait, however, when fishing is tough in the winter, maggots can sometimes be the difference. 

Casters

Similar to maggots, you can catch most fish on casters. Casters are the chrysalis of a maggot. 

We are not sure why, but casters will often find the bigger fish in the lake, (or rather the fish will find the casters). Perhaps it’s because of the crunchy exterior of the caster that the bigger fish like?


Lots of anglers use casters for roach and tench, but carp love them just as much. 

Casters are a fantastic bait for the colder months but come into their own in the spring and summer months.

You can fish casters with almost any method, whether than be float fishing, pole fishing or ledgering.

Adding casters to your groundbait or spod mix is a fantastic way to attract carp.

Pellets

Originally pellets were made to feed fish in fish farms. Pellets are full of all of the necessary goodness a fish needs to grow big and healthy.

Especially in commercial fisheries, pellets are the food that carp grew up eating and in some cases are the only food they ever ate, before being stocked in the lake.

Pellets are very versatile baits. They come in different shapes and sizes. You can buy soft hookable pellets, or pre-drilled pellets allowing you to easily hair rig them and many different flavoured and coloured pellets.

Grind up some pellets and use as the base of your own groundbait, or you could even make your own paste.

With so many options available to you, it can be difficult to decide on the best option. As a beginner to carp fishing, keep things simple. Opt for some pre-drilled pellets for your hook bait and some small pellets as your loose feed. Stick with halibut pellets to start with then try and branch out with other flavours.

Check out our guides on the best pellet waggler rods and reels.

Paste

Paste, or pellet paste, is ground up into a power and once water is added to it, it forms a paste. The paste releases lots of attractants into the water, and the soft chewy paste is irresistible to carp.


For the beginner carp angler, fishing with paste can be a little fiddly to use and can be frustrating if the paste keeps falling off your hook mid-cast or once it hits the water. Practice makes perfect in this instance. 

Paste is best fished under a float or when pole fishing, however, free lining and ledgering are also good methods when fishing with paste.

Bread

A lot of anglers consider bread as an old fashioned bait, however, bread is a very good bait to use to catch carp. Bread is not fished as often as it used to, which is good for you, as it’s not over-fished.

Similar to other baits, bread is very versatile and you can fish bread with multiple methods. Whether you are surface fishing, float fishing, pole fishing, or ledgering – bread is an excellent bait for carp.


You can experiment with different types of bread, whether that be a half-eaten loaf in the cupboard, a baguette, French bread sticks, bagels, or an uncut loaf. 

In the summer, floating some bread on the surface can pick out some of the biggest carp in the lake.

Whilst bread is not as popular as it used to be, it’s still a popular bait for the delicate crucian carp usually fished with a delicate float set up.

As well as using bread as hook bait, liquidised bread is fantastic as the basis of a groundbait. You could use it as it is or mix it with other pre-made groundbait, or simply add other baits such as corn or hemp seed to it, there are lots of things to experiment with.

As a new angler, keep things simple and go with a cheap sliced bread from your local supermarket for float fishing. Tear off small pieces and mold onto your hook. For surface fishing, opt for something with a tough crust to give you that extra bit of strength as wet bread easily falls off the hook.

Why not check out our comprehensive floater rod buyers guide to help you find the best rod for your next floater fishing adventure.

Boilies

Boilies are perhaps the most common carp bait, especially for specimen carp anglers. 

Boilies contain attractants and flavours that carp go crazy for. The added benefit is that often the smaller “nuisance” fish cannot get a boilie in their mouth.

Boiles best bait for carp fishing

Boilies come in many different sizes, usually from around 6mm up to 24mm. You can also get sinking boilies and pop-up boilies. As a beginner to carp fishing, or maybe just a beginner to boilies, it can be very daunting looking at all of the different makes, colours, and flavours.

As a general rule of thumb, in the summer go with a high visibility boilie, a bright pink, orange, or even white for example. In the colder months, go with a more natural-looking colour, as the carp will be used to looking around the bottom for natural baits.

Using a small boilie doesn’t mean that you won’t catch a large fish. Start with an 8mm or 10mm boilie for your hook bait. 

Boilies are almost exclusively used when ledgering and the boilies are hair rigged. In the summer, fish a pop-up and in the winter fish on the bottom.

A pop-up boilie is made to float and is “popped up” from the bottom of the lake with a weight holding the boilie down, giving the impression that it is popped up. You can experiment with the length of the line between the weight and your hook bait – the longer line, the higher up in the water the boilie will be.

You can also crush up some boilies to make a crumb – this is fantastic to use when adding to a groundbait.

Cheese

Just like bread, cheese is seen by many anglers as an old fashioned bait and is often overlooked. However, carp love cheese. Like bread, cheese is easily obtainable from your local supermarket and is cheap to buy.

Carp like smelly things, so cheese is the perfect bait. Try and use the smelliest cheese you can find. Blue cheese can be very effective. 

Cheese is a very versatile bait because you can hook it in many ways, you can simply cut out a cube of cheese, or break the cheese off giving it a more natural look. You can simply push your hook through the cheese (leaving the hook point showing of course) or hair rig it. Depending on the cheese you could squash it, warm it up slightly in your hands and mold it around you hook bait.

You can fish cheese with just about any method, whether you are float fishing, pole fishing, ledgering or free-lining. 

Whilst not the smelliest of cheese, Babybels are useful to carry with you and can always double up as a snack for you too!

I mentioned above that breadcrumb is a great basis of a ground bait. Try adding some soft cheese to it. Soft cheese is a fantastic binding agent for your breadcrumb.

Worms

When it comes to natural baits, look no further than a big juicy worm for your carp fishing adventures. Lots of fish love worms and carp are no exception. 

You can hair rig worms, but I prefer to hook them as I feel it gives better bait presentation and gives me more confidence when hooking them. This is, of course, my personal preference but you should experiment to see what works best for you.

worms best bait for carp fishing

You can use worms for most methods, whether you are float fishing, on the pole, free lining or ledgering.

Particularly in the colder months, natural baits such as work can be more effective than other man-made baits, as carp are swimming around looking for natural foods, so a big juicy worm is exactly what they are looking for.

Think about where fish will usually find worms, at the bottom of the lake and in the margins. Margins can often find the bigger carp so do not overlook them. 

Sweetcorn

Similar to luncheon meat, I always carry a tin of sweetcorn in my bait bag. Corn is easily available from your local supermarket, is inexpensive and has a long shelf life.

Lots of fish, such as roach, tench, bream, and chub love sweetcorn, but so do carp. Initially, you may find that other fish are in the swim and it can take some time for the carp to bully their way through, but they will. In the meantime, enjoy catching other fish. 


If you want to avoid the smaller fish, you can buy tins of big sweetcorn, or artificial sweetcorn pieces which can help.

The bright colour and sweet flavour of sweetcorn is the perfect combination for carp. You can buy sweetcorn in many different colours flavours and sizes from tackle shops or online. 

Sweetcorn is highly visible and gives off a sweet scent, so it’s ideal to use as loose feed or added to your groundbait. You could even liquidise sweetcorn and use that to mix your ground bait or breadcrumb. 

You can use sweetcorn in any method and can hook it either straight on the hook or hair rig it. When hooking sweetcorn, I prefer to hook through the top of the corn as this is the strongest part of the corn – just make sure the point of the hook is visible at the side of the corn.

Dog Biscuits

Floating dog biscuits is my go-to summer bait for carp. When the carp are on the surface bread or dog biscuits are fantastic baits. 

When carp are showing on the surface during the summer months, floating baits are very effective. Dog biscuits such as Pedigree Chum are great for this. 

There are a couple of ways you can hook them – either soak them for around 20-30 minutes to allow them to soften. Alternatively, you could drill a hole in them. Both ways allow you to easily hair rig them. 

The pre-soaked dog biscuits have an extra bit of weight allowing you to cast further, whereas the harder, drilled dog biscuits will stay on the hook longer.

Like other baits you can add different colours and flavours to the dog biscuits if you wanted to, however, I have never found the need to do this as they are generally very effective as they come.

Start by firing a hand full of dog biscuits into the lake with a catapult (or throw them). Repeat the process a few times then slowly reduce the amount of loose feed, creating more competition. Once the carp are feeding confidently then cast out. 

Tiger Nuts

Crunchy and sweet, tiger nuts are a wonderful bait for catching carp. Similar to boilies they are almost always used when ledgering. 

You can buy tiger nuts in bulk and prepare them at home or can buy them pre-prepared and ready for your hook bait. As a beginner, you would be best buying the pre-prepared nuts. 


They come in different sizes, colours, and flavours. They mostly look natural regardless of the colour and flavour so they are good for all year round. 

Tiger nuts are very sweet which makes them a great attractant for carp, so if you are using a spod mix of groundbait, add some to your free offerings. Use a combination of full and crunched up tiger nuts.

Marshmallows

Perhaps a little unconventional, but marshmallows are fantastic for surface fishing. Usually bright pink or white they stand out in the and carp go crazy for them.

Carp love sweet flavours and marshmallows are perfect. 

Whilst you can directly hook them marshmallows, I find it is usually best to hair rig them as this gives a better presentation and they expand when they get wet – so hooking them may hide the hook point, making it harder to hit the fish when striking.

I like to prick the marshmallow with my baiting needle so puncture the outer layer, which allows for the sweet sugar to leak out into the water. 

Before introducing the marshmallows, I like to get the fish feeding confidently on the surface with bread and/or dog biscuits first. Once they are confident and competition is high, then a marshmallow can often bag a bigger carp.

Cat Food

Cat food chunks are perfect baits for carp. Smelly, oily, slimy and everything else we humans dislike, carp love. If you can put up with the smell of cat food, then it’s a fantastic bait for catching carp.


Cat food can be very delicate and soft, so not ideal if you are fishing far out. Fishing in the margins where you do not need to cast, or fishing the pole is generally the best method when using cat food.

Tins of cat food are very inexpensive and can be purchased at all supermarkets, local shops, and even petrol stations so they are a very easily accessible bait. 

Prawns

Prawns are often used by anglers fishing for perch in the winter month. However, carp love them all year round. 

I like to use cooked king prawn pieces. Carp love crunchy baits, so cooking your prawns give them a crunchy exterior. I prefer to use pieces rather than a whole prawn as this allows the fishy goodness from the prawn to leak out into the water to attract the carp.

I tend to have the most success with prawns when fishing in the margin, however, you can fish with prawns with almost any method. 

Mussels

Similar to prawns, muscles are a fantastic fishy bait for carp. Muscles are very salty which is perfect for carp.

Cooked mussels can either be hooked or hair rigged and can be fished with any method. I have found them to be most effective when fishing in the margins late on an evening and they tend to attract the bigger carp. Though they are still effective when fished all day long and at any distance.

Slugs and Snails

Similar to worms, slugs and snails are natural baits that carp love. If you fish near reeds and lily pads, you will often hear carp sucking the slugs and snails off of the reeds. 

Carp feed off slugs and snails all year round, so they make the ideal bait.

Under the float or free-lining, a slug or snail in the margin is a very effective method. You can hook them directly or hair rig them, however, I have the most success when hooking them directly – experiment and see which works best for you.

Anglers tend to stay away from slugs and snails, so they can give you that extra edge over other anglers on the lake. 

Artificial Imitation Baits

You can buy an imitation of just about every carp bait. Whether that be a maggot or a dog biscuit. Perhaps the most successful and widely used artificial carp bait is artificial sweetcorn. These come in many different colours and sizes and some float and some sink. The floating artificial sweetcorn is usually used in combination with boilies.

Hemp Seed

Whilst hemp seed can be used as a hook bait, it is usually used as bait to draw in, and keep fish in your swim.

Creating a bed of hemp in your swim will keep carp interested for a long time. When using hemp, you are best fishing on the bottom, as that is where the bed of hemp will settle. 

Hemp works particularly well when combining it with sweetcorn. You can add hemp seed to ground bait, or use it as it comes. There are lots of different additives and flavours that can be added to hemp seed, but a standard tin of hemp seed from your local tackle shop will do the job perfectly well.

Groundbait

Groundbait is not used as hook bait, but is used to attract and keep fish in your swim. Whether or not you use simple breadcrumbs or a specially mixed groundbait, most work well. 

When purchasing groundbait, the labels will generally give you an indication of the bait they work well with and which fish they are designed to target. Rather than picking a groundbait, then picking your bait of choice. Pick your bait of choice and choose a groundbait that compliments it. 

However, in the beginning, do not waste too much time choosing the ideal groundbait, as most will do the job regardless of what they say on the packet. 

You can mix anything you want with your groundbait, maggots, casters, hemp, corn, worms, meat, pellets are all fantastic additives to groundbait. 

If you are using hemp seed and ground bait, use some of the water from the hemp tin to mix with the groundbait. 

Getting the right consistency when mixing groundbait can be difficult. Check out Tommy Pickering’s guide in the Angling Times on mixing groundbait correctly.

In Summary

So there you have a list of the best bait for carp fishing. This should stand you in good stead when you next go carp fishing.

Carp fishing takes practice and just having the right kind of bait does not always mean you will catch. Fishing takes practice and carp are very clever at avoiding hook baits, so always make sure your bait is presented in the best possible way.

Also think about mixing up your bait, for example, use maggot and caster, or caster or sweetcorn. Lots of anglers like to add a piece of sweetcorn to their bait as the bright yellow corn stands out in the murky water.

Experiment with all methods and baits and find what works best for you. Not all fisheries are the same and some baits will work better than others on different lakes.

For example, on commercial fisheries, baits like pellets are extremely successful as the carp have grown up eating only pellets. Whereas, in natural lakes and ponds, natural baits such as maggots, casters, worms may work better.

Look at your surroundings and think about what the carp will generally eat if there was no angler there with free offerings. They would generally eat worms, slugs, flies, insects, and anything that grows on the overhanging bushes.