Catching an Indian Carp (Book -1)

Ali H Hussaini
Articles / Catching an Indian Carp (Book -1)
Posted on: 2017-09-23 13:05:44 +0530 (IST)

Catching an Indian Carp (Book -1)





If you happen to travel the length and breadth of India, and are also a fishing enthusiast, you will be amazed to find the diversity in methods adopted by Indian anglers to catch a fish. From the use of “सींग की छड़ी”  (Rod made from horn) , which finds mention in almost 900 year old ancient Sanskrit compendium, titled Abhilashitarthachintamani or Manasollasa, authored by Western Chalukya king Someshvardava (1126-1138AD), to indigenous Bengal Carp Rods and Reels, the list is so long that describing them is almost impossible. You will also be surprised that many aboriginal methods, prevalent amongst Indian anglers are but a crude form of present modern methods adopted by anglers’ world over.Before dwelling deep in the obscure world of Carp fishing, please understand that angling is much more than catching a fish. It is more like blending with your environment. It is a journey to the land of unknown with many secrets and intricacies. When you cast your line out to catch a fish and wait for the bite, feel the gust of fresh air ruffling your hair. Watch the intricate patterns and ripple, the changing wind forms on the surface of water. Look at the egret somberly waiting for a fish and admire its patience. Whisper to ancient giant trees, standing on the bank since ages, and ask them the secrets of unknown and look at the many branches waving and dancing with the ever changing wind and whispering back the secrets and stories of the old and when you understand the forces of nature and blend with them, just glance at your dipping float and execute the strike. I am sure,

Book-1 General


Chapter-1 (Understanding your adversary)

Like all other groups of sportsman, anglers too can be divided in three group’s viz. experts, proficient and novice. If you happen to be an expert, you should skip this article but if you are a novice, struggling to assemble even a basic rig, I assure you that after going through this effort, you will become proficient enough to catch some good fish.

The net is full of information on Carp Fishing but almost all the information is about the European style of fishing and piecing them together and using them to target an Indian Carp is almost impossible. In reality, Indian carp being a generic term, used for many different fish, no single technique can be used to target all these fish.

Basically, three Indian carps are the choice target species amongst Indian Anglers and understanding their habits, habitats and techniques to catch them, very much covers the complete spectrum of Indian carp fishing. Before going further, it will be prudent to understand the identification, bio-diversity and feeding relationship of these three Carps, namely Catla (Catla catla), Rohu (Lobio rohita) and Mirgal (Cirrhinus cirrhosus). Many studies have established that these three major carps of India share similar food but there is a marked difference in the quantitative intake of different organism amongst the adults. The item which dominates the food of one fish is of secondary importance for the other two fish. The primary food for an adult Catla is mainly zooplankton and some phytoplankton. An adult Rohu’s feed consists of phytoplankton & macro vegetation where as an adult Mirgal’s diet is decayed organic matter, sand and mud supplemented by planktons. These aspects are of utmost importance while deciding the bait and tactics to target these fish. Below is a brief description of these fish.



One of the most difficult fish to catch, and the hardest fighting Indian Carp, Catla (Catla catla) is the only member of genus Catla, from the carp family Cyprinidae. This fish is commonly present in rivers, lakes and ponds throughout India. Mainly a surface feeder, this fish feeds on plankton, zooplankton, insects, crustaceans and plant material. Crustaceans forms a major part of the food but the interesting part being the high percent of insects (8.082%) in its food chain, opening up the possibility of targeting this magnificent fish on a fly setup also. As evident by its large protruding lower jaw, it is obvious that this fish feeds by filtering a lot of water through its mouth.  We will discuss later that using fast dissolving bait and a critically balanced open hook is the best setup to target this fish.

Many studies have established that the feeding intensity of this fish remains high during non-spawning and post spawning periods of winter and monsoons but reduces during spawning period of summer. This fish feeds voraciously just after spawning to recover lost weight during the spawning period.

The IGFA world record for this fish is only 15.4 Kg. but catches as high as 36 kg have been reported (From Powai Lake, Maharashtra). There is no authentic record of Catla growing over 38.6 Kg. but unauthentic reports suggest that this fish can grow much bigger than that.

The other common names of this fish are Bhakur, Chepti, Boassa and Katla in Hindi, Karaka, Karacatla and Katla in Malayalam, Catla, Katla, Kendai, Theppu Meenu, Kanavi, Yamaneri endai and Karavai in Tamil, Botchee, Botchi, Botcha and Krishnabotcha in Telugu, Katla, Pla Kra Ho in Bengali, : Tambra, Katala, Pla Kra Ho in Marathi, Bawas, Tambra, Thambra in Gujrati, Theil ,Theila, Thaila in Punjabi, Bahkur, Barkur, Bhakur in Oriya




Famed for its acrobatic aerial displays and lightning fast run after hook-up, Rohu is a highly sought after game fish of India. Also a member of Carp Family Cyprinidae, this fish shares the same bio-diversity as Catla but is a column feeder. Juvenile survives mainly on zooplankton but as it grows, it eats more and more phytoplankton. Basically this fish is an herbivorous column feeder, surviving mainly on phytoplankton and submerged vegetation. This fish is most active during day time (diurnal) but can be caught during night also. Being a column feeder, the best way to target this fish is from a few feet under the surface. Unlike Catla, this fish readily pick up dough baits and so is relatively easy to hook. The IGFA world record for Rohu is 12.5 Kg but unauthenticated catches as high as 25 Kg. have been reported (From Nagarjuna Sagar Reservoir, Hyderabad). Reports suggest that these fish can grow up to 200 cm and weigh as much as 40 Kg. Hitherto not a target fish amongst fly anglers world over, this fish, with its fast runs and aerial acrobats, can be an amazing experience on a fly setup.

The other common names of this fish are Rohu or Rui in Hindi, Rohitham in Malayalam, Bocha or Gnadu meenu in Telegu and Ruiee in Bengali.




Pound to pound, one of the best fighting Indian carp, Mirgal is also a choice target amongst Indian Anglers. Though not known for fast or long runs, this fish refuses to come up easily. A common fish throughout the Indian Subcontinent, Mirgal (Cirrhinus cirrhosus or Cirrhinus mirgala) is a ray-finned fish from the genus Cirrhinus. Although a freshwater fish, it can also survive in saline water so don’t be amazed if you catch one from brackish waters. Classified as a very active fish, it thrives in ponds and lakes but spawns in fast flowing streams or rivers.

A bottom feeder, adults feed on decayed organic matter, sand and mud-supplemented by plankton. This fish is known to graze on algae also. Comparatively easy to catch, this fish can also be targeted by fly setup or spinning artificial worms. There are a few reports of this fish attacking small spinners also.

A choice fish for many anglers, while using a light tackle, one can catch a hoard of them while they are on bite. On a light tackle, a 4 kg plus fish can give you a fight of your lifetime.

Chapter-2 (Collecting your tackle)

Now that the part of understanding all three major carps of India is over, it is time that we collect our tackle for catching these Carps. There is endless tackle available in the market and choosing one for your requirement is a nightmare. As the famous adage goes that “there is more tackle in the market to catch anglers than to catch a fish” I will only say that take your time and choose well before buying your tackle. Carp fishing tackle used worldwide are specialized and method specific and not readily available in India. For me, a 7 to 9 feet, medium action rod, paired with a good reel with a smooth drag, which can hold 200 yards of 18~20 lbs monofilament line will suffice for a start. This setup can be used for many applications without any hassles and is forgiving enough to sustain during a rough fight. Carps are notorious for snagging the line around or under structures and to bully them away from such structures will require some muscle in your tackle. It is an established fact that many fish die after a long fight, because the physical exertion depletes the oxygen from the tissues, forcing the muscles of the fish to function anaerobically. The buildup of lactic acid in the tissue of the fish, due to the anaerobic condition, can be fatal for the fish. That is why I do not recommend light tackle while going after Indian Carp.

I am a firm believer of using one rod or at the most two rods, if I am fishing different depths. In case fish are on bite, one rod is more than enough and if they are not, putting more rods will not make them bite.

Other than a good rod and reel one will require line, some hooks, swivels, split shots, different floats, spare lines for rig tying, pop ups, feeders, float stoppers, rings, boilie needles, stoppers, small springs, beads and different lead weights. As all these items are neither readily available, nor practised in India I will try and describe in detail, one by one, their functions and how to make a substitute for items which are not readily available. Once understanding the functioning and construction of these few items, I am sure you will become a master in rig making and will surely catch a lot of fish.

LINE: A good quality Monofilament line, of 18-20 lbs from any reputed manufacturer is enough to get started. There are a lot of different types available in the market but I prefer a soft, clear or invisible line. Sometimes it is better to use lines which blend with the bottom. For example, a multicolor line is a good bet while fishing a gravel bed but a green line is best for weedy area. The best multipurpose lines are clear, red or invisible. The Monofilament line is prone to aging due to exposure to sun (UV and heat) and should be checked periodically before any fishing trip. There are other disadvantages of this line also, like high memory and twisting but with a bit of care and effort, this is the best and cheapest option. I know many anglers prefer fluorocarbon as a main line, due to its reflective index being closest to that of water thus making it practically invisible and less stretch but due to its high cost I only use it for some of my rig tying purposes.

The best way to check an old line is to tie a single loop knot and jerk it from both sides. An aged line will break on a slight jerk. It is highly recommended to check the line after every fight and in case of any abrasion or line twist, cut out the faulty portion of line.

HOOKS: The main part of any fishing setup, which actually catches the fish for us, is the hook, the most important part of any tackle box. The type and size of hook plays a very important part in designing or tying any rig. Special attention should be applied in understanding the sizes, types and application for all kinds of Carp hooks.

Before discussing further the different types and merits of hooks used in Carp Fishing, let’s understand the basic anatomy of a fishing hook.


 As illustrated below, in the drawing, the sharp end of the hook, which penetrates the fish mouth, is known as the point? The sharpness or cutting ability of the point is very important while selecting any hook. The best way to check the worthiness of any point is to place the point on your thumb nail and try and drag the hook back. In the case the point slides, the hook should either be discarded or the point should be re-sharpened till the point starts sticking on the nail. The projection extending backward from the point is known as the barb. The advantage of the barb is that it secures the fish from un-hooking itself during the fight but at the same time, the barb hinders the penetration of the point and reduces the hookup percentage.

Using a barbless or reduced barb hook is very effective in case the angler is proficient enough to sustain a positive pressure on the fish throughout the fight. The barbless hooks are also fish friendly as the damage caused by them to the fish is minimal.

Basically four kinds of hooks are used for Carp Fishing, Inward Eye, Upturned Eye, straight Eye and Nailer or bent shank hooks. Inward Eye hooks are used with soft monofilament and acts as a line aligner rig. Upturned Eye hooks are best used with stiff rigs as the shank remains in line with the main line. The straight eyed hooks find least application in carp fishing but they too have some advance application. The Nailer, due to its bend is the best hook and finds maximum application with some deadly result. The size of hooks I prefer is in between #8 to#4 but for small carps or while fishing just under the surface, I go as low as #12. In case I want to have one hook in my arsenal for all kind of fishing, I will use #6 Nailer.



Chapter-3 (Knots):

It is essential to know few basic knots before contemplating rig tying so it is time to practice some basic knots. There are numerous types of fishing knots and learning and mastering all of them is not necessary. Some basic knots like knotless knot (hair rig), half blood knot and Palomar knot are sufficient to start. In essence, the three kinds of knots required for any fishing setup are as under.

1. Knots for connecting lines to line.

2. Knots to tie hooks.

3. Knots for connecting lines to swivel etc.

There are few special knots like loop knot or stopper knots and it is of advantage to learn them as well. Below is a link to learn and practice a few good knots...

Learn Few Knots


It is an established fact that the knot reduces the strength of the line and many a good fish are lost due to the inability of an angler to tie a proper knot. It is not ethical fishing to use any hurriedly tied knot and let the fish swim away with a hook and a line dangling from its mouth. It is necessary for every angler to take his time to properly learn, tie and then test his knots, before starting fishing.

Chapter-4 (Philosophy of Ground Baiting)

Ground baiting is an established practice amongst carp anglers world over and if we consider the theories formulated over years of trials, we will notice varied and contradictory conclusions coming out as a result. I don’t deny the merit of every theory but one should take into account the variations in fishing conditions and understand that every water body and fish residing therein have a unique characteristic and so applying a universal practice of ground baiting for every condition is not practical. It is imperative that one should be able to read the water one is fishing before deciding on the type and quantity of ground bait. There is a tendency amongst Indian anglers to use a lot of exotic herbs for making ground bait and chuck out as much of ground bait as possible before starting fishing. Most of the time this technique fails to give desired results.

Over a period of time, while fishing for these major carps of India, I have realized that there is no single method of ground baiting and it differs for every species of fish and varies with different conditions. It is almost impossible to assess the condition of a water body on a cursory visit and decide the type and amount of ground bait. To overcome the above, I have designed a method which I call Intelligent Ground Baiting and I am sure, once we understand the factors affecting fish feeding, we will all be able to follow this Intelligent Ground Baiting technique.

Before discussing the classification of different types of ground baiting and its merits and de-merits, let’s try and understand factors affecting feeding pattern of these Carps. The most important part of ground baiting is the selection of a SPOT. Just going beside the water and chucking out the ground bait is a waste and should be avoided. I have realized, over the countless hours I have spent beside the water, targeting these wily creatures, that the placement of your hook, within a variance of a few feet can make a difference in the bites!

It is an established fact that Carps are not territorial and roam about in the water body in search of food. Their feeding habits are akin to cows grazing in a pasture. Observing a herd of cow grazing, a cursory observer will never find any pattern but if you take a closer look and observe the herd closely you will have a fair understanding that there are many factors which define the pattern of grazing! Lets us imagine a green pasture with few trees scattered here and there, few mud holes and few barren patches. We will find that the herd avoids the barren patches and of course, they will never graze in the mud holes. On a hot day, you will find them staying near few trees where the grass is best. The above observations can be the yardstick for defining our spot for ground baiting for Indian Carps. If we compare any pasture with the water we intend to fish, the trees are different structures inside water, the gravel bed and plateau are the lush green bed of grass, the mud holes are the dirty muck area and the barren patch of a pasture is the place where no food is present.

There are two kinds of waters where one can target a Carp, still water or flowing water. Ponds, lakes and Dams are still water whereas Rivers, Canals or Nullah are flowing waters.

First of all, we will try and understand the topography of still water. The best place to select as spot for fishing in still water is where the wind is bringing in all the food. Many accomplished anglers give a lot of credence to this factor and choose their spot accordingly. Any streams trickling into such kind of water also bring lot of food along it and thus can be considered a very promising spot. Any gravel bed or plateau are like gold mines and can produce a record Carp. Any structure or break is also a very promising spot.

Like a Golfer, intending to hit his ball out of orbit, the tendency of us anglers to fish as far out as possible is irresistible but it should be avoided. One should cast his bait to such places where there is a probability of a carp feeding or has a history of previous catches. Targeting a carp from fringe or near bank areas can be as productive as anywhere else.

Dragging a weight with a depth measuring float can easily reveal the underwater topography with a bit of practice. If we use braid line, while dragging the weight over different kind of bottom gives us a different feel. The weight will slide without effort on any sandy or soil bed where as there will be resistance if you drag it on a silt bottom. Any gravel bed will produce a definite chattering vibration. Any sudden reduction in depth within a small area indicates a plateau or a bar. Similarly, sudden increase in depth indicates holes. Vegetation beds, overhanging trees or submerged trees are also likely spots to target a record carp.

Fish holding spots can also be identified by observing the fish movement on the surface or by observing the bubbles coming up on the surface while these fish are feeding on the bottom.

(video link to be posted)

For flowing water, the feed is also flowing and so selecting a spot is a bit different than the spot selection in still water. The best place to fish in flowing water is any break where flowing feed is accumulating. Channels or current, carrying food along it are also excellent spots. Like still water, any gravel bottom or structure can also produce some serious fish.

I will emphasize here that local knowledge and spending some time beside the water has no substitute and one should always try and follow this.

Now, as we are familiar with our spot selection let’s try and understand the philosophy of ground baiting. As we have discussed before, every water body and every spot has a different characteristic, ground baiting is not similar everywhere but there are some cardinal rules which should always be followed. Here are some pointers.

· Ground bait should consist of edible items only.

· Any rancid or foul smelling ground bait should never be used.

· Any material which can contaminate the water or harm the fish should never be used.

· Mixing exotic herbs and smelling agents is a good idea but overdoing it will kill your chances of any catch.

· The Ground bait should never be better than your hook bait.

· A slight amount of fat, in form of edible oils like peanut oil, mustard oil or coconut oil is essential.

· Sweetener is also an essential part of any ground bait.

All ground baits are basically mixture of some base edible materials (like boiled rice, Beaten Rice or Poha, Oil Cakes, Bread Crumbs, Cake Crumbs, Wheat Flour, Gram Flour, Soybean Flour, Semi ground nuts and pulses), some sweetener, smelling agents (like cardamom, vanilla essence, and some fat). Mixing some mud from the bank of the water body is also effective in some conditions. The ratio of above decides the kind of ground bait we want to put in the water. I prefer using fast dissolving ground bait in case I want to fish the same day. Fast dissolving smelling ground bait with very few edible items performs wonders when fish are on the bite and competing for food. Slow dissolving, rich in nutrition with a lot of edible items is an ideal ground bait for pre-baiting but it should be tapered over time and then one should use fast dissolving ground bait on the day one intends to fish. For attracting lot of small fish and start a feeding frenzy, creating a column/cloud in the water by throwing small quantities of loose ground bait gives fabulous results. The final ground bait should be a pleasant smelling concoction and should create a lot of cloud and a trail of oil around it when put in the water. One can easily experiment with the solvency and cloud creating ability beforehand by putting a small ball of ground bait in any glass container. While making a ball of ground bait, if you press it loosely, you will find the ball exploding under water due to air trapped inside. If you want to increase the explosion, make some holes in your ground bait ball with a pencil like object and then press the surface gently to close the holes so as to increase the trapped air inside the ball.

While ground baiting an area, special care is to be taken to place maximum ground bait in a localized area. Scattering the ground bait too much reduces the chances of a bite. Big Carps generally feed on the periphery of the ground baited area so placing the hook on the periphery of the ground baited area, towards the drift is ideal.

Wheat flour, boiled rice, and ground Poha (beaten rice) are very good binders and can be used effectively to control the solvency of finished ground bait. Boiled Ragi flour, mixed with few attractants, is also used throughout Southern India to target Mahseer but I have not used it to target Indian Carp. The use of rice husk known as Konda, is also prevalent in many parts of our country and can be used as base material.

The best instant ground bait, for most enjoyable fishing is chopped earthworms mixed with some mud from the bank. This method is very successful for Mirgal and other smaller fish.

It is a misconception amongst many anglers that ground baiting is not possible in flowing waters. The best way to use ground baiting in any flowing water is by using very slow dissolving balls of ground bait or constantly feeding the swim with small quantities of loose bait.

Below is a table describing many items used for ground baiting and can be used for designing a particular mix.

Boiled Rice

Base Material & Binder

Should be rubbed by hand before mixing with other ingredients. 

Scatters on ground and attracts small fish, which in turn disturb the ground bait and create cloud of small particles, attracting big Fish. 

Soaked Poha or Beaten Rice

Base Material

Should be soaked in such a manner that it does not become very soft.

Scatters on ground and attracts small fish, which in turn disturb the ground bait and create cloud of small particles, attracting big Fish. 

Ground Poha


Should be ground as fine powder and mixed with some oil,

A very effective binder which also releases oil trail very slowly.

Oil Cake

Base material/ Clouding Agent and fat substitute.

Should be soaked overnight.

A very effective item to make lot of oily cloud around your ground bait.

Cake Crumbs/ Bread Crumbs

Base material/ Clouding Agent

Should be used in small quantities.

When the ground bait breaks or dissolves, the cake particles rise up and create a column of cloud around the baited area.

Semi Ground Nuts and Pulses

Base Materials

Most of the nuts or pulses have to be soaked overnight.

Scatters on ground and attracts small fish, which in turn disturb the ground bait and create cloud of small particles, attracting big Fish. 

Wheat Flour

Binder and Clouding Agent

Should be mixed with water as semi liquid and then mixed with base material.

A very good binder and also a clouding agent.

Gram/ Soybean  flour

Clouding Agent

Should be mixed with the base by gentle rubbing.

Creates a cloud of small particles as the ground bait breaks. With small fish feeding, the cloud literally hides the hook bait.

Rice Husk or Konda

Base material/ Clouding Agent

Should be soaked for some time with sweetener and smelling agent.

Creates a cloud of small particles as the ground bait breaks. With small fish feeding, the cloud literally hides the hook bait.



Should be boiled with water to make semi liquid.

Attracts and holds big fish in the vicinity.



Should be mixed with water to form a semi liquid.

Attracts and holds big fish in the vicinity.

Cardamom or Elaychi

Smelling Agent

Should be ground fine and mixed in the ground bait.

The best attractant I know for Indian Carps.

Vanilla Essence

Smelling Agent

Should be used sparingly.

A good attractant.

Hing or Asafoetida

Smelling Agent

Should be used by frying it in oil.

A good attractant



Should be rubbed with a base material, before hand

Make a trail and attract big carps.

Ground Biscuits

Smelling and Clouding Agent

Should be ground before

A very good Clouding agent. This also rises up and creates a column of cloud.

Milk Powder

Clouding Agent

Should be mixed last in the ground bait

A very good Clouding agent


Some fruit pulps, especially jack fruit, mixed with some base material or mud are also very good ground bait and are successfully used to target Catla.

The above list is not comprehensive and many of you experts may not agree with me but I have caught almost all my Carps using these ingredients. It is of advantage to experiment with different mixes considering the conditions. If the water I am targeting is over fished, I will use a complex mix otherwise a simple mix is more than enough to catch a good carp. Using complicated mixes for places, where there is no pressure of angling, is reducing your chances of any catch.

Lets also bear in mind that these fish are opportunistic feeders and eat anything which is nutritious but keeping the composition of the ground bait as close to their natural feed as possible is the best way to go about it. Use of complex, alien smelling ground bait is only recommended for waters where angling pressure is too much and other anglers are also using different ground bait over a prolonged period of time.

In such kind of water, where angling pressure is too much, using a design mix, different from what other anglers are using is very productive. Carps are known to associate danger with certain smells and are known to avoid them so bringing them to accept some other composition with a different smell, though it takes some time, gives amazing results.

To illustrate my point further, about the merit of simple mix ground bait, let’s examine two varied mixes, a very complex mix used in West Bengal with a relatively simple mix used by many Hyderabad Anglers. Here are these two recipes:-

West-Bengal Mix



200 g


100 g


100 g


100 g


200 g

Til (White)

200 g


200 g

Sukand Kokila

100 g

Kapoor Kachri

100 g



100 g


Saboot Dana

05 g




Preparation : Item numbers one to six are to be roasted lightly by heating some sand in a pan and then roasting the items in it. The Saboot dana is to be heated in an empty pan. All items are to be ground separately. Mix all items together and store in an airtight jar. Now take approximately 1 kg of Til oilcake and mix 5 tablespoon of the above mix with it. Boil 150 grams rice and add the above mix of oil cake and ingredient along with 100 grams Jaleebi and Rasogulla (Indian Sweets). Make small balls and ground bait the area at least one day before you intent to fish. Indeed a very complex mix. Now let’s understand the recipe used by our Hyderabad friends.

Hyderabad Mix

Rice Husk 3 kg


Jaggery 100 g


Rice Flour 250 g


Cardamom 5~8 Pcs. (Ground)


Vegetable Oil 50 g




Mix the Jaggery in half a liter of water. Just before fishing mix the sweetened water with the rice husk and rub it with hand so that it soaks the Jaggery solution and becomes soft. Mix ground Cardamom and add as much Flour as is required to give proper solvency to the ground bait. This is indeed a very simple concoction in comparison to West-Bengal mix.

In spite of vast difference in formulation of these mixes, both the ground baits are time tested and give equally good result. Let’s analyze why?

If we consider the West-Bengal Mix, we will find that the boiled rice is used as a base material and binder, the oil cake is used as a clouding agent and oil supplement, the sweets used are obviously sweetener and oil supplement and the rest of the herbs are used to create a unique smell.

In comparison, the Hyderabad mix is an equally smart one. The base is Rice Husk which is also a very good clouding agent. The oil and sweetener is directly added to the base and rice flour is used as a binder and also a clouding agent. Unlike West-Bengal mix, the unique smell is Cardamom.

Now, neither the unique smell created by the “West-Bengal complex mix” nor the “Hyderabad Simple mix” is natural. Over a prolonged period of time, the fish have started associating these with food and as the other factors are same, both the mixes are working.

Every reader should draw his own conclusions and take into consideration the above comparison before designing his own ground bait mix.

Chapter-5 (Philosophy of Hook Bait)

Perceived to be the most complex part of angling lore amongst Carp Anglers, the hook bait can be managed to extremely simple proportions, once we understand the basic philosophy governing the selection of any hook bait. The quest of us anglers to find the ultimate singular hook bait is futile because every condition and fish species demand different hook bait.

The factors governing the selection of any hook bait are numerous and understanding them can take a bit of time. In general, the factors governing the ground bait can be applied on the selection of hook bait also except that in case of hook bait the presentation is very important. The composition of hook bait is akin to ground bait except it is better in nutrition, more smelling and less solvent. We want smaller fish to attack and break our ground bait but the hook bait should be such that it stays underwater for much longer period of time, protected from small fish feeding on our ground bait. Here also, local knowledge is an added advantage and one should try and obtain as much information about the water one intends to fish. Keeping your hook bait as simple as possible is the best way to go about it. Many of you, specially my brothers from Bengal, may differ with me and insist on using very complex mixes of hook bait but I will suggest that one should start with simple and natural hook baits before experimenting with very complex, often confusing concoctions. As a new angler, it is much better to stick with simple or natural hook baits as it will surely increase your chance of a good catch. Here one should also understand that any hook bait is as good as “the rig” and using particular hook bait with a wrong rig is a sure way to failure. The consistency, composition, buoyancy, solvency and general composition of any hook bait is rig specific and should be used accordingly.

Before going into the merits and demerits of complex hook bait composition and learning specific hook baits, let’s try and understand about some simple hook baits which are most effective but strangely, do not find application with Indian Carp Fishermen.

Earthworm: One of the most easily obtainable and effective bait for almost all Indian Carps. A critically balanced float setup, with a size #12 hook drifting six inches above the bottom, baited with earthworms, is a deadly method and is very effective for Mirgal but if you experiment with different depth, this can catch you all Indian carps. One can also inject the worm with air using a syringe to make it more interesting. Below is the illustration of how to rig an earthworm on your hook.


Algae and Moss: Amazing bait for record fish. The correctly rigged moss effectively hides your hook and does not present any resistance at the time of hook up. Drifting the hook, rigged with Algae or Moss, just below the surface, in a natural way is very effective in both still and flowing water. It was a bit complicated to rig moss on the hook before, but with the advent of bait elastic or rubber thread, making a natural looking, flaring ball of moss around your hook is a very easy job. I have caught my personal best Catla, a whooping 54 lbs, using Moss!! Below is the illustration of how to put Algae on hook.

Bread Punch: Once again, this is very simple and extremely effective bait. As described in the video link, using a syringe one can make these punches very easily. Bread Punch can be best used by drifting on depths or surface but can also be played on bottom. Once submerged in water it bloats and effectively conceals the hook and does not offers any resistance at the time of hook set. The only disadvantage of this bait being that it does not stay on the hook for a long time and we have to replace it often. Below is the illustration on how to make bread punch.

(Video to upload)

Bread Pinch: Extremely simple and the bait of my choice. Taking the white portion of bread and pinching it on the shank of hook is all it needs. This method finds many applications and can be paired with almost all the rigs. Using a small spring attached at the end of hair rig and pinching the bread on it gives best result. Use of Indian bread known as Pao is very effective. This bait stays much longer on the hook and can be played on the bottom, at different depths or on the surface. Below is the illustration on how to make a bread Pinch.

(Video to upload)

The table below shows the characteristic comparison of these simple but effective baits.



Effective under water weight


Fish Range

Hook set Hindrance



Drifting on depths or on Bottom

All Indian Carps but best for Mirgal


Earthworm Injected with air


On Bottom

All Indian Carps but best for Mirgal and Hybrid.




Drifting on depths

All Indian Carps but best for Rohu and Catla.


Bread Punch


Drifting on depths or on surface.

All Indian Carps but best for Rohu and Hybrid.


Bread Pinch


Drifting on depths or on surface.

All Indian Carps but best for Rohu, Catla and Hybrid



Going through the above, one can easily understand that these hook baits are much better than using conventional Indian Dough bait as dough baits only find application in bottom fishing and as the hook is covered with the bait, the chances of hook-up are less unless or otherwise the angler executes a timely strike. Lot of experiments are also possible by adding different additives in form of oils or powders with these hook baits to create different flavours and smell trails, especially with the bread punch and pinch. The crust of the bread is also good bait but as I have not mastered its use, I will refrain from commenting on it.

I don’t deny the merits of complex hook baits but considering that all hook baits are rig specific, it will be essential to first understand all kinds of rigs used for Carp fishing. Only after understanding the dynamics of the simple to the most complex rigs, we will be able to decide upon hook bait. It will be prudent on our part that we leave the methods and fish specific bait till we cover in detail the function, methodology and dynamics of rig tying.

Chapter-6 (Philosophy of Rig tying)

It will be of interest to pause here and imagine for a moment the factors and dynamics involved in hooking a fish. The easiest way to explain it is that when a fish takes the bait in its mouth, the angler executes the strike and the hook penetrates the flesh and takes hold and thus the fish is hooked. The above may seem like a rational explanation but there is a major flaw in this assumption. As the fish is under water and not visible to the angler, how will one know that the fish has taken the baited hook in its mouth and execute a strike? It is only when the fish takes the bait inside its mouth and moves that the moment is transferred on a float or felt by hand or rod tip, only then the angler is able to understand that the fish has taken the bait inside its mouth. How many a times the fish pick up the baited hook and spit it out, the angler, intently watching his float, will not know that a fish has taken the bait! Carps, specially the big ones are very shy and immediately spit out the baited hook, as soon as they feel the line on their lip. Using the conventional method of fishing, where the angler is totally dependent on float to detect that the fish has taken the baited hook in its mouth reduces our chances of any decent catch considerably. The idea is to design a method, where once the fish takes the bait in its mouth, it is not able to spit it out and the hook finds sufficient hold inside mouth of the fish. When the fish moves and transfers the movement on the float giving sufficient indication to the angler to execute a timely strike it will be a much better way to increase the chance of a hook up. An impossible feat, considering we cover our hook with dough baits! Many accomplished anglers of yore have understood the problem and devised a method where the dough bait was put on the hook in such a way that the point of the hook was left open. Better methods which covered the complete hook were devised but were still not very effective as it was still easy for the fish to spit out the baited hook with ease.

In 1970’s, two gentlemen from England Mr. Len Middleton and Mr. Kevin Maddocks discover the revolutionary rig which is now commonly referred to as hair rig. Hitherto, the bait was put on hook only but these gentlemen decided to delink the hook and bait so as to keep the hook bare. The idea of keeping the bait attached to the hook, in such a manner, that when the fish picks up the bait, the bare hook, attached behind it will also go inside the mouth of the fish and take sufficient hold so that the fish is not able to spit it out.

Almost all the modern carp rigs are a modified version of this ingenious idea. As the bait precedes the hook inside the mouth of the fish, and the fish tries to spit it out, the bare hook turns and hooks the fish sufficiently that it is not able to spit it out and thus moves with the hook. This gives the angler a clear indication through his float and he executes the strike for a complete hook set. Below is an illustration of various ways a hair rig can be used.

Now as we have understood sufficiently the dynamics of hooking a fish lets expand the subject of striking to set a hook. The striking part is co-related to the movement of the fish with the hook inside its mouth. The above fact can be exploited to device many methods where the angler can dispense with the striking part. Now imagine a setup where we attach some weight before the hook. As the fish will move with the hook, the weight will exert a jerk on the hook and the fish will be hooked without any strike! All bolt rigs function on the same principle. Many depth rigs paired with a high density, sufficiently buoyant floats are also a self hooking method where as the fish moves down with the hook, the buoyancy of the float hooks the fish without any strike!

The feeder rig is a modified version of a bolt rig where the weight is replaced by a ball of Ground bait, mould around a coil of spring or any other contraption. The presence of ground bait, adjacent to the hook is an added advantage and increases the success of a catch many fold.

Understanding these three concepts i.e.; striking, bolt rig and feeder rig will be our basic criterion for designing any rig. Paired with the knowledge of these three concepts and the concept of bait presentation, which is also extremely important for any rig design, I am sure we will have sufficient weapons in our arsenal to outwit the best and wariest of all Indian Carps.