By Lisa Rowe from Carpoholics:
So if you are just starting out on your carp fishing adventures, here is a little foresight on how to gear up right that will save you a lot of trouble and headaches.
First and most important: If you don’t have the right gear you risk losing not only the fish on your line, but your gear as well. Trust me, I have had friends who didn’t have the right gear lose entire setups right off the bank to a large fish. I cannot stress enough the importance of gearing up right! One of the biggest differences in carp fishing is that you are not actively casting for these fish. You bait up, throw your line out, and wait for something to pick it up and run. It’s that easy.
The European style of carp fishing consists of using 12 foot rods, a rod pod, alarms, swingers, and a variety of rig and line setups depending on the water you are fishing. I will keep it simple and you can experiment on your own.
Rods: Typically we use anywhere from a 3.0 to a 4.0 test curve rating on our 12 foot rods, but we fish in the Chicagoland area. The bigger the fish, the higher the test curve you may want. Make sure you do your homework on how big the fish get in your area before you make your first rod purchase. It is also important to note that different manufacturers test curves vary, so make sure you find a rod that is stiff enough for the waters you are fishing. Have something that doesn’t have enough backbone, and you won’t be able to pitch your bait out as far.
Rod bags are always nice and are a matter of preference. They will help make transporting your rods in and out of your swim easier, and can help protect them as well. We don’t always use our rod bag, but it is nice when we have a bit of a hike to get to a good spot. They come in a variety of styles and capacities.
Reels: One word: Baitrunner. This is a MUST have for carp fishing. Remember the friend who lost a whole setup? He didn’t have a baitrunner reel and a carp took off with his rig and dragged his rod and reel in to the water never to be seen again. I’ve even heard stories about people losing their pods as well. Baitrunner reels are fairly easy to use. They function just as a regular real does, but there is a toggle switch that allows the line to spool off the reel when the line is pulled on. You make your cast, real up some of the slack so the line isn’t too loose, and then set it down on your pod/bank stick.
I personally use the Diawa Opus Plus. It is a good entry level reel for a great price and will last me quite a long time. There is another version called the Diawa Opus which is a little less expensive, but there are two fewer ball bearings and a different handle. I can definitely tell a difference between the two so if you can afford to spring for the upgraded version, do it. ALWAYS make sure your bait runner is on when you put your rod down on your bank stick or pod by tugging a little line off the spool. Sometimes the baitrunner does not engage so it is always good to check.
Fishing Line: You can go one of two ways, mono or braid. Either way you will catch fish, but starting off with mono is a good way to learn how to play your fish. The give in the line helps so you don’t muscle a fish too much. I use 15 pound mono and John uses 40 pound braid. Both work great for our area. If you are in an area where there are usually 30 pound and greater carp, you may want to consider upping your mono strength. Most of the time the rod does the work so don’t worry about using a lighter mono, but I wouldn’t go less than 15 pounds.
Bank Sticks/Pods: You NEVER want to leave your rod laying on the ground (more horror stories on damaged gear!). A bank stick or a rod pod is extremely important, but there are pros and cons to both. Bank sticks are less bulky and easier to carry to a fishing spot, but you have to have a bank where you can stick the base in. This doesn’t work for rocky terrain and man-made shorelines, plus you can only have one rod per bank stick, so if you are fishing more than one rod (John and I usually fish 2-3 rods a piece). If you want to go even further, you can buy another bank stick to rest the butt in to keep your rod tip down more.
A rod pod is a great investment if you fish often and in a variety of places. There are the standard pods with four feet, but there are also tripods and adjustable sky pods that allow you to customize the angle of your rod placement. Again, price point is key when you are starting out. We use Fox Stalker pods (with four legs) and they have been great in about 98% of the locations that we fish and are fairly inexpensive. Rod pods can hold multiple rods depending on the model you get. My personal pod can switch from two or three rods with different attachments. I personally prefer to use the three rod setup and only run two rods on the outermost rod rests. Just gives me more room to work with when picking up the rods.
Swingers/Alarms: Alarms can be used as an indicator of play on the end of your line. There are fairly inexpensive alarms out there. We recently purchased a set from BFS that came with three alarms, a receiver, and in a hard case for less than $150. That is quite a steal! When you set your rod down on the alarm, your line runs through the middle and the alarm picks up and movement that may be occurring and sends out an audible notification.
Swingers and alarms are two ways of being able to tell when a fish is on your bait. Swingers attach under the alarm or bank stick rod holder and extend on a chain or metal line to a weighted end. The weighted end then attaches to your line and helps pull it tight. You will want to reel in all the excess line so the swinger sits in a good position where you can tell if there is any movement on your line. As a fish pulls on this line or hits your feeder it will give you an indication of action. Swingers are a valuable tool in determining if there is drop back in your line as well. If you can’t afford alarms, at least buy some swingers and fish it old school!
Nets: It is extremely important to get the right net when building your carp gear arsenal. A proper net will be small knotless mesh. This is to protect and care for the fish properly while being netted. Nets with larger holes can cause damage to the fish and are not considered proper carp care when used. You can find a variety of mesh nets on any major carp fishing site. John and I use a Gardner net that has an extendable handle. This is excellent for some of the locations we fish with high walls, and works beautifully in a standard lake or river setting as well.
Unhooking Mat/Cradle: Carp can put up quite a fight once on land. It is recommended that you use an unhooking mat to cushion the carp while it is on the ground and prevent any further damage to the fish while out of the water. Cradles are also nice as you can slip a fish in to the cradle with a little bit of water which helps to keep them off the ground and keep that protective slime on. Both cradles and unhooking mats make it easier to handle your fish once out of the water if used properly. Using an unhooking mat is considered proper carp care and is highly recommended. A cradle is also proper carp care but not necessary unless you prefer to have one as well.
Now that you have the basics of the gear you should buy, start researching what you think will work best for you and get geared up! We will touch on terminal tackle and set-up basics in a later article.