Trout Pellets for Carp Fishing: What’s It All About?

by | Advanced, Carp |

As with any other branch of angling, in carp angling there are particular items of tackle and bait that get discussed more than others. Often this is because there are conflicting opinions that surround such items on how, if it all, they should be used. I’m sure that simply talking on this conjures images of certain pieces of tackle or bait in your mind. For me curved long shank hooks and nuts spring to mind, as items that get discussed more than they perhaps should.

Only the other day I saw a thread on a popular carp forum that was discussing the use of trout pellets for targeting carp. The thread had only been live for a couple of hours but I think I saw more comments and responses in this two hour window than I had on most threads anywhere. Pellets do get brought up online but it’s typically only in the context of the author using them to load up a PVA bag. I see very little on the actual pellets themselves.

Occasionally I’ll see the odd line or two in an article that questions whether carp anglers should be using these other kinds of pellets that are designed for salmon, trout, essentially other species of fish that are not carp. My issue with this line of thinking is that you could say that for any bait except maggots and worms, part of me questions whether these kinds of concerns are based on commercial reasons rather than substantiated safety concerns on behalf of the carp.

Are bags of pellets so effective because they provide just the right amount of bait to attract carp?

In addition, there are some fears around their use due to high oil levels that such pellets can contain and many match-type carp fisheries do not permit them because of this. When it comes to normal use on a real carp water and not an overstocked hole in the ground, it would require every angler present to use a ridiculous quantity over a long period of time in order for it to have an adverse effect. The reality of the situation is that pellets only form a part of the carp’s diet on most waters. They’re completely safe to use and further than that, they’re an excellent bait when used well.

Where it all started

I couldn’t tell you who the first angler was to try trout pellets when targeting carp, but I first came across them back in 1995. During this time I was regularly travelling down to a specimen lake close to Liverpool, it was the Geoff, the owner here who let me in on the secret of how powerful these simple pellets could be. Back then I was hungry to learn as much as possible, I’d overload my Mk III Astra with gear and shoot over, arriving at first light on the Friday morning excited for the weekend ahead.

I just knew there had to be something else to it

I was usually set up and fishing by the time Geoff would show up after lunch. Whilst I was there twiddling my thumbs waiting for a bite, he would bait up, get the rods out and usually land three or four fish before dusk. This is what you would probably expect, he knew the water far better than I did, but I just knew there had to be something else to it.

Don’t get me wrong, I was having some success. The odd fish here and there, usually at the times you would expect the fish to be most active, but this was far behind the rate Geoff and a couple of other anglers were producing. Another thing that got me thinking at the time, was the way Geoff would spend five minutes immediately after baiting up studying his swim, removing any of the escaped freebies and returning them to his bucket. As if this wasn’t interesting enough, his supplies were always well and truly hidden when anyone else was around. I would always think to myself on my drive home ‘just what is he using?’ and would vow to pluck up the courage and ask on my next session, something I never managed to do!

One of the down sides of using pellets is that everything likes them!

This continued for a full season, I think he must have felt sorry for me as it wasn’t until the following Spring when Geoff let me in on his secret, something that completely changed my angling. Until this point I had been an angler that landed his fair share but nothing more. Now I was getting multiple hits of stunning looking specimen lake carp on almost every session. It didn’t matter which swim I was on either.

It will make location secondary

Wherever I went I would get bites, this left me with an impression that I still hold today, which is that if you find a bait that the carp really and truly want, it will make location secondary. This opinion is seldom held by many anglers, with location often viewed as the most important factor in angling, end of. Anyone who’s ever experienced a bait as I’m describing will know that this is not always the case.

Half a dozen handfuls of pellets would legitimately stop the carp in their tracks, regardless of location, time, whatever. This was the opposite to my carefully positioned beds of particle, which only picked up the occasional fish during optimal feeding times. As carp anglers, we experience epiphanies at different times when things just seem to click, for me this is one of the most vivid and profound examples that I can recall.

Fishmeal boilies all look pretty similar, yet we all know there can be a huge difference in the quality and type of ingredients used in each

Buying guide

Something that has always surprised me is the way that some anglers will fret for literally hours over which boilie they’re using but then go into their local tackle shop, pull the first bag of trout pellets they find off the shelf and buy it. To many carp anglers, trout pellets are all the same, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. It is true that they’re all designed for use with trout, salmon, just not carp, but that doesn’t mean they are not going to be effective. It would be fair to say that any troutie will catch fish, I’m not disputing that. What I am saying is there are certain pellets that are more suited to carp fishing, based on their ingredients and how they break down when out in the water.

A common misconception that I see many anglers wrestling with is around the oil content, with some anglers believing that pellets only work because of their high oil content. There is actually a large variance in price between the cheapest pellets and the most expensive, 90% of the pellets that operate at the cheaper end of the market are those with the very highest oil content.

A couple of years back I tested a salmon pellet with an oil content of more than 30%. I hadn’t seen such a high level and was interested to see how effect they would be when targeting carp. Turns out that they didn’t work at all and after about three sessions with them I called it a day. The quality of the fishmeal and other ingredients contained with the pellets are typically more influential in its ability to attract carp than high levels of oils.

Effective pellets don’t have to have a high oil content

One of the most popular general purpose pellets on the market is the halibut variety. Similarly, it was once considered by anglers to be successful only because of its high oil content. This may be true with the large 22mm hookers, but the smaller sizes contain no more oil than a typical trout pellet. Take a look at their ingredient profile next time you get the chance, you’ll loads of extra bits and pieces that most trouties lack, thus making them more attractive to carp.


In my years by the water I’ve been able to experiment, play with and test trouties/halibuts in many different ways, and the method that time after time comes out on top is the trusty PVA bag. This probably explains why it’s so well documented and it’s usually the only time pellets get a real mention. I’m not going to do the same here, but what I do want to touch on is why this is the case.

It’s something to think about next time your out there.

On well-stocked venues I’ve consistently found pellets to be at their best when used cautiously. Even on lakes where chances come regularly, it’s usually better to fish over a scattering of pellets than fill it in with the spod, as you would with hemp for example. I wonder if this is the reason why bags are so effective. It’s not strictly a result of the method itself, more the fact your’re offering the fish a devastating bait in just the right amount. I could be totally wrong, but it’s something to think about next time your out there.

When it comes to price, a premium trout or halibut pellet will generally come with a premium price and certainly more than those other types of ‘extruded’ pellets that seem to be everywhere at the moment. With that said, because you actually need to use less of them, over time it probably won’t make much difference to your costs.

A lovely common caught on pellets