Tackle & Techniques – Asian carp

Tackle & Techniques – Asian carp

Apr 29, 2015

A surefire bait & tackle formula for Asian carp!

By Mike Pehanich

Silver and bighead carp have puzzled fisheries managers, biologists and anglers since their headline-grabbing arrival in America’s heartland. Try these bait and tackle tips to dial in on these mysterious – and abundant – visitors from the East!

In this age of growing ecological awareness, an angler might be excused for having mixed feelings about exotic fish species that slip into and propagate in one’s home waters.

In Japan, largemouth bass have generated an avid bass fishing subculture while the Japanese government legislates to eradicate the species.

Bighead carp grow fast and provide good sport.

Asian carp grow fast and provide good sport.

In the United States, silver and bighead carp – collectively referred to as “Asian carp” – have caused alarm and elevated heart rates with their high-flying group antics in and around major river systems in America’s heartland including the waters of the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Illinois rivers. While natural resources officials attempt to block its spread, bow hunters have thrilled to a new adrenaline-rush sport.

Yet few and far between have been the efforts of the rod-and-reel crowd to tap the sport potential of these fast-growing fish.


Asian carp are plankton eaters principally – at least in their early to young adult growth stages. This fact has translated into a sense of angling resignation, a belief that these big-eyed, slick-sided invaders simply cannot be caught.

Not true!

Approaching watercraft often spook Asian carp, causing dramatic leaps from multiple fish.

Approaching watercraft often spook Asian carp, causing dramatic leaps from multiple fish.

“Because of its size and rarity, the bighead carp is one of the most respected freshwater trophy fish in Asian countries,” explains Munenori Kajiwara, international angler and owner of Japan Import Tackle (www.japanimporttackle.com). “They are very large, fast and strong fighting fish that average from 10 to 20 pounds in weight and often more.”

The Asian carp have a tendency to travel in large schools, a fact that is well documented in photo and film. Both species tend to spook in the presence of motor boats, often leaping high into the air and landing on the decks of watercraft or even the laps of boaters and anglers!

Bait befitting the species

Asian carp grow fast, and, as their dimensions expand, so do their menus, making them vulnerable to a narrow but imitable range of bait options.

“Both silver carp and bighead tend to school up and suspend from the middle of the water column to just below the surface,” explains Kajiwara. “The best way to approach them is with a bobber with adjustable depth setting.”

Asian Carp Marukyu baits daylight

The Asian carp’s preference for plankton calls for a style of bait that looks and acts like plankton.

“The best manmade material is mushed potato,” says Kajiwara. “But regular mushed potato is too fluffy. It won’t hold to the hook. That’s why Marukyu developed its Mushed Potato Tokoyou.”

Marukyu Mushed Potato Tokuyou combines a binding agent with its potato ingredient. The formulation enables the bait to adhere to the hook.

For stronger and longer-lasting hook hold, Marukyu offers gluten bait options, such as Akamushiren, Gluten 5 and Imo Gluten.

Mobile Asian carp schools are apt to move in an out of the casting reach of the bank fisherman. In bank fishing parlance, the proscribed area is called the angler’s “swim.” Common practice in Japan is to mix an attractant into the mushed potato bait.

“An attractant like Marukyu Aragui is ideal,” says Kajiwara. “If a school is far off or you are just having difficulty drawing fish to your swim, mix the attractant into the Mushed Potato Tokuyou.”

Tackle tamers

Don’t let the videos of wild high-flying fish gymnastics fool you. The bite of Asian carp is subtle – the kind of light bite you might suspect of a much smaller plankton eater.

Light, sensitive bobbers suspended in the water column work best.

Light, sensitive bobbers with baits suspended in the water column work best.

“The bite can be very light,” notes Kajiwara. “The angler must pay close attention to the slightest movement of the bobber, or he will miss his opportunity for hook-up”

Choose your terminal tackle accordingly, beginning with a light, thin profile bobber with a 20-inch length of dropper, 3/8 – ½ ounce weight, and a #2 Octopus style hook. (See photo)

The fight of Asian carp is hard and dramatic but short-lived.

“Expect a bullet-train run,” says Kajiwara. “Asian carp are 100-meter sprinters not marathon runners. Loosen your drag and let the fish run and take line as it wishes. He’ll wear himself out pretty quickly.”

The tackle of common carp specialists is well-suited to Asian carp angling as well, but most fishermen can make due with the gear they have. Long rods help tire the fish. Large, high-capacity spinning reels spooled with 20-pound monofilament line serve best.

And make sure you have a strong net large enough to handle these fish!

By the way, Asian carp are fine eating. As plankton eaters, their meat is clean and delicate. “Most Chinese restaurants serve carp as a fancy meal!” adds Kajiwara.

Silver carp can be caught on the same tackle and baits as their cousin, the bighead carp.

Silver carp can be caught on the same tackle and baits as their cousin, the bighead carp.

Recommended Tackle for Silver and Bighead Carp

  • A long spinning rod – up to 12 feet in length
  • A 5000 series spinning reel with a good drag
  • Enough 20-pound test monofilament line to fill your spool
  • #1-4 Octopus hook
  • A large net

Rain haters

According to Kajiwara, Asian carp hate rain. A good crop soaker might make the local farmers happy but put bighead or silvers off the bite for up to three days.

“They like warm temperatures, too,” adds Kajiwara. “Calm winds and warm temperatures are what you want. Under the right conditions, you can draw the fish in and catch 20 fish easily, from spring to fall!”

Note: Japan Import Tackle is planning to host an Asian carp fishing event in Illinois this summer. Check the Japan Import Tackle (www.japanimporttackle.com) website for updates on the event as well as for additional tips on Marukyu and Chapel Bait ground and hook baits, and Rig Marole terminal tackle.

Marukyu ground baits and specialty carp tackle are available at Lee’s Global Tackle (phone: 847/593-6424) and Wacker Bait & Tackle (phone: (708) 450-0305).








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