Few methods of carp fishing are more exciting than surface fishing. Seeing the fish subtly break the surface and suck in your bait like a vacuum cleaner is a good way to get the ticker going. In this article, we will take a look at how to surface fish for carp.

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  • What is Surface Fishing

    This may be painfully obvious, but surface fishing is as you might guess, fishing on the surface of the water instead of beneath it. Most fish will feed on the surface and even though carp are primarily bottom feeders they are not an exception.

    At times the surface bite for any species of fish can be amazing, but in most cases several factors have to come into play to make it as such, although you can catch fish on the surface at most times from spring to autumn.

    Carp will feed on the surface fairly regularly, whether it be on plant matter, insects, seeds, nuts, or any other type of food that carp consider a snack.

    As we all know carp are very opportunistic feeders, this is the main reason for their common surface feeding habits, and also the reason why you should take advantage of surface fishing.

    Best Weather For Surface Fishing

    Typically when surface fishing, clear and sunny days are hard to be with very little to no wind. But calm overcast days can also be very productive for surface fishing as well at times.

    One particularly important weather consideration for surface fishing is the barometric pressure. You are most likely going to have more success on high pressure days. Atmospheric pressure of over 1000 millibars or 29.8 inches of mercury pressure, is a good baseline for a potentially great day of surface fishing.

    The bright side of surface fishing these high pressure spells is that the weather is typically pretty nice, warm clear summer days with little wind and fresh air are pretty hard to beat.

    If you’re interested in how other weather affects your fishing then take a read at out post on how weather affects your carp fishing.

    Surface Fishing Tactics

    I breakdown my surface fishing into two main categories, close in precision fishing that is essentially like margin fishing and mostly done by sight, and longer distance fishing from the banks, at surfacing and feeding carp, or around some type of mid lake structure.

    Fishing close to the Banks

    How to surface fish for carp - carp swimming on surface beside weeds

    The close to the banks style of fishing is essentially margin fishing, and if you haven’t read it yet we have a great post on margin fishing on this blog. This type of fishing involves stealthily stalking margin areas close to the banks.

    This is incredibly exciting and allow you to even pick out individual fish to catch, even allowing you to avoid smaller fish and target a specific large fish at times.

    You will also easily be able to see the fish come up and grab your offering. This style of fishing is pretty simple, and further down in this segment we will discuss the gear that works for us in this tactic.

    It’s very important to approach any potential fishing spot close to the banks as quietly and stealthily as possible, do not stamp your feet or make fast and large movements or you will spook the fish.

    One great aspect to fishing in this method is you can travel very light, 6 foot rods are great for this application, and the only thing else you really need is a hook on your line, and maybe a waist pouch with a few slices of bread or other bait, a few handfuls of free bait and a landing net.

    Mid Lake Fishing

    How to Surface fish for carp - group of carp swimming on surface

    Shallow bars with vegetation, islands, or even just shallow lakes in general with mid lake vegetation are the reasons we surface fish farther from the banks as well.

    Typically with this style of fishing, throwing out some free bait may be beneficial to aid in getting the carp competing with each other and actively feeding. Typically, it’s recommended to let the fish get settled and start feeding on your freebies undisturbed, allowing them to get comfortable before casting your surface bait.

    When casting your surface bait to feeding carp in farther out, it’s important to cast past them and slowing reel your bait to the edge of the area where the carp are feeding to keep the disturbance to an absolute minimum, momentum will do the rest of the work and your bait will appear to be a natural part of the free offerings in front of them.

    Surface Fishing Rigs

    Surface fishing rigs are very simple when compared to the more complex rigs used for other styles of carp fishing.

    Just a hook

    You read that right. When fishing close to the banks in the margin fishing style you will find that your best rigging option will likely be just a hook with some bread or other bait on it.

    I prefer a size 6 hook and bread or other bait attached to it. The bread bomb by Nash is also a great tool when fishing with only the hook as i will allow you to hold more bread and help keep it from coming off the hook. Keeping the bread on with this holder is great when you need to do multiple pitches frequently to cruising carp close to the bank.

    Take a look at the video below which explains the bread bomb.

    YouTube video

    Longer Distance Rigging

    Longer distance casting is pretty simple as well. Though to cast long distances with just a hook your going to need a little help. I recommend the Nash bolt machine for this application.

    The Nash bolt machine will allow you to cast accurately at longer distances while keeping your rig down to just a hook.

    Another thing to consider when fishing farther out from the bank is that unless you have hawk like eyesight you probably wont see when a carp has successfully slurped up your bait. With the bolt machine you can see when your bait has been picked up as the float will be skimming across the surface of the water, and on top of that they are self-hooking, so by the time you grab your rod or notice the float skimming, the carp is probably already hooked.

    Line Considerations

    Another important factor for you to consider is line choice. Obviously we want to use monofilament lines, but even more importantly we want to use floating lines.

    Floating lines will help prevent the line sinking and creating a large bow in the line under the water, it will also aid in keeping your hook and bait floating more freely.

    Its also beneficial as far as allowing slack in your lines and helps give the bait a more natural floating appearance.

    Surface Fishing Baits

    Since we are fishing on the surface we are going to want to use floating baits, or a combination of bait with a small piece of foam or something it aid in floating.


    Bread is by far the cheapest and one of the most prominent carp fishing bait to use in surface fishing, it works and always will, carp love bread.

    Simply tear a small piece of bread from a store bought loaf, and put it on your hook, you can even form it into balls to look like boilies if you want, or simply leave it on the fluffy side which carp really tend to like.

    This is also the bait where the Nash bait bread bombs really shine, in particular for long distance casting where bread has a habit of flying off of your hook mid-cast often.

    Dog Biscuits

    Dog biscuits like bread are also incredibly effective and can be bought in many stores. They like bread will always catch carp and can even be used as free bait in place of boilies, allowing for cost efficiency and carp catching power all in one.

    Pop-up Boilies

    Pop-up boilies are also incredibly effective and as we know come in a wide variety of flavours and colours, allowing you to switch it up at will during a fishing session to see what works best.

    Free Baiting

    When you do decide that you need to give the carp some free offerings to get some feeding action and competition among the carp, there’s some tactics that will really help out in this regard.

    An issue that many carp anglers recognize is that when baiting with surface bait, if you were to use floating pellets and only floating pellets, once the carp start to feed on these free offerings they will key in on just the pellets, and completely ignore your larger offering floating among them.
    To get around this preference issue its a great idea to mix up your free offerings, with the floating pellets add in some dog biscuits, boilies, and other different sized offerings to get the fish comfortable and not just tuning in to one specific size and shape.

    That’s All

    Carp anglers who become proficient at surface fishing and when do so will catch far more carp throughout the season than those who overlook it.

    It is definitely a time and place style of fishing and will not work every single time you hit the water. When you recognize when you should employ surface fishing on the water, you will undoubtedly boost your catch rates.

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