Bening and avid carp fisherman and part time carp fishing guide, I get to test a fair bit of carp fishing gear, tackle, bait and techniques every season while carp fishing. Most of my testing is done either alone, or when fishing family, as I'm under less pressure to yield results than when I'm guiding paying customers. Still, when given tests prove successful on the first try, I incorporate them into my arsenal again, and they typically keep producing under similar conditions.
Here is a quick run through of some new carp fishing gear, tackle and bait that I tested over my 2014 season:
Shimano Beastmaster carp rod
Picked up this rod over the winter as it was on liquidation, saved over $100. It is marketed as a distance casting rod, and with a 3.25 lbs test curve, it is significantly stiffer than the other 2.75 lb test curve rods I typically use. The Beastmaster rod was my go to rod pretty much all season long, and I ended up landing most of my carp on it. It is far superior to my other rods in build, and the extra strength really let's me control and tame a big carp faster and easier than my softer rods. Interestingly enough, it doesn't cast that much further than my my 2.75 test curve Daiwa Black Widow rods, given the same reel/line combo. I had imagined that I would easily gain at least 100-150 feet in casting distance, but I'm lucky if I get an extra 50-60 feet. As such, I picked up a larger capacity reel, which really ends up helping achieve that extra distance when I need it.
Okuma Avenger ABF 90 baitrunner reel
I've been using Okuma Avenger reels for a few seasons now. In addition to being the best value for price possible, they are smooth and reliable, and built to withstand the punishment dished out by big fish, as well as careless kids dropping them in the rocks every now and then. Though most of the Avenger reels I have are the ABF 50 model, I picked up the ABF 90 to pair it up with my Beastmaster carp rod in order to be able to achieve longer distance casting when required. The ABF 90 Okuma reel is a lot bulkier and heavier than the ABF 50 model, and my younger ones have a tougher time cranking it when trying to retrieve line at high speed. As expected, the reel performs the tasks I expect it to, and comes with a handy extra spool/ I keep one spool loaded with braid for distance fishing, the other one with a 40 foot shock leader made from 80 lbs monofilament line, to avoid line cuts when fishing in areas with lot's a shallow shoals covered in sharp rocks.
Sufix 80 lbs mono line shock leaders
I keep a few spare spools with shock leaders for fishing in condition where I get too many line cuts with braided line. After trying 50 lbs test from a few different companies, I was still getting cut off on the nestier shoals in my swims, so I went heavier with 80 lb test. Most stores around here don't carry line that heavy, as it is typically used in saltwater when chasing big game fish. Sufix was the one brand I did find locally, so I picked up a spool early on in the season. Takes a bit of getting used to when tying knots, and handling loose line, not to mention casting. But like everything else, you learn to deal with it, and overall, it did a heck of a job standing up to the worst possible condition I could put it through. Dozen of small nicks in every leader attest to all the possible line cuts that were saved, and the heavy line held up all season long despite being scraped and chaffed.
Carp Zoom landing net
Most commercially available landing nets made of nylon are very rough on fish, and carp are no exception. More often than not, a nylon knotted net will remove many of the scales. As such, most carpers use nets that are made of knotless mesh, typically with a large basket, and extendable pole. My old Behr Octaplus was destroyed by some big carp during it's first few uses, so I opted to go with a more traditional carp net, namely one that requires some assembly before each use instead of a poorly designed folding net. At $90 , the Carp Zoom landing net is about in mid range price. Very compact when stored, and generally does the trick. Key is to remove the extendable arms from the pole once a fish is landed, to avoid stressing or breaking the spreader that holds it in place. It's big enough to scoop up the largest of carp. The only down side is that it can come apart when trying to net a fish vertically, happened to me on a couple occasions, so I don't recommend using one to land fish off a pier or cliff.
Fox Arma Point SSC hooks
I'm somewhat addicted to using curve shank type hooks for my hair rigs. Something about them that keeps my hookup ratio and landing percentage higher than others. Found a closeout deal on them last winter, so I bought whatever the vendor had left in stock. After tying them a couple times, I've switched to using them exclusively. They are far stronger than the ESP curve shanx I was using, which didn't hold up well at all to rocks, and I'd even need to throw them out after catching a couple fish, as they are not sharpenable once burred. The Fox Arma Point hooks can take a lot more abuse, and I've often been able to restore the point using a diamond honed sharpener.
Bait / Boilies
Having the right bait is the primary ingredient to successful carp fishing, and will often be the difference between having a good outing, or getting skunked. My base mix has proven itself to work over the past few seasons, and my boilies still outproduce all other brands I test it against. This season, I tested a new flavour, namly licorice spice. Best of all, the first test was about as tough as can be: Virgin water that had never seen any of my boilies in Dallas, in middle of the winter, with water temps in the upper 40's or low 50's. With no prebaiting whatsoever, I landed a couple carp on my first try:
I also modified my garlic pepper boilie recipe to suit cold water. The modifications worked like a charm, I landed carp with some melting slush still on the surface in April. Strangely enough, the garlic boilies remained as the top producer for me until mid July, when the chocolate/cinnamon flavored boilies finally started outdoing them.
I also started testing new sizes. Best new size was the 20 mm boilies. I stopped producing 12 mm boilies altogether, and the 24 mm didn't produce any fish on the few occasions that I tried them.
Finally, I made my first popup boilies. They cam in very handy in some of my spots, and my wife landed her 2 biggest carp on my popup boilies.
Has some success on cheesquake hooktreats from Feedlab, produced locally by a friend of mine, as well as my first carp on a tiger nut when all else failed.
Atomic Black Kat and Gardner Slinga catapults
Precision chumming is essential to fishing for carp. Depending on the range you are fishing, different tools are available to achieve precision chumming. For short to mid range, catapults are by far my best tool. I can fire out bait with extreme accuracy. I tested both the Atomic Black Kat and Gardner Slinga boilie catapults this season. Both have about the longest ranges that I've tried to date, and both are fairly accurate. On the down side, both are designed with elastic band that didn't hold up to my abuse, but I did manage to fix them fairly quickly when they snapped.
Nash Cybershot throwing stick:
Another new baiting tools I tried was the Nash Cybershot throwing stick. Significantly lighter than most throwing sticks, but less versatile, as it requires the use of perfectly round boilies, and they have to be in the 16mm to 22 mm range to function properly. The Nash Cybershot has an amazing range, I was able to fire boilies out to over 500+ feet with ease. However, I wasn't able to get much accuracy, especially in the wind. It take quite a bit of practice, and lots of boilies to get the swing of this baiting tool. As I rarely fish at those extreme distances, I ended up selling it at the end of the season.
While I used quite a bit of PVA string from both Korda and ESP, I finally found some reasonably priced PVA string from a manufacturer in the UK. Costing only 1/3 of the price of the big name brands, I was extremely surprised to see that it was significantly stronger when comparing 6 ply from all 3 brands. I did notice that the 9 ply has some trouble breaking down completely when testing in a glass of water, but I don't use it much. PVA string is my go to choice for baiting accurately at long distance range, especially when the water is very cold and minimal baiting is required.
I hope this carp fishing gear review proves helpful to you, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me.