What Lead Should I Use when Carp Fishing?

Paul Cooper passes on his knowledge of different leads to use when carp fishing and what he believes are the best situations to use them for.

What is the importance of using the right lead and size of lead in certain angling situations? In my opinion, selecting the right lead can mean success or failure when different situations are thrown my way. So… lets have a look at what leads are on the market and why they vary so much!

1. Leading and Marker Leads

Tornament and zipp type leads – both these type of leads are generally used for distance fishing due to the aerodynamic shape, allowing them to be cast to the horizon.

What leads should you use when carp fishing
A selection of distance leads

Dumpy type leads – these come in all shapes and sizes, from pear shaped, round, square, bottle, oblong etc. There are so many but all are designed for medium to short range fishing which accounts for most waters that I visit.

which leads to use for carp fishing and when
Just a few of the many type of dumpy leads

Trilobe lead and gripper leads – specifically designed to fish on bars or slopes or with the trilobe, for silty lakes


In line leads – again these come in all shapes and sizes, some designed to remain on the line after a fish take and others can be set up to drop off in a similar situation.

Preferred leads for a marker rod set up – When approaching a new water one of the most important things that I do is to lead the lake bed. To do this I need a lead of at least 3 ounces. I usually use my marker rod to both lead the lake bed and establish water depths.

For this I use a 3oz dumpy type lead which is dumpy at one end then narrows off towards the swivel. I find that I can cast this lead at a maximum distance that I would comfortably cast my fishing rods. I use this lead to mentally map out the lake bed and to establish depths and of cause for a mark to eventually cast too. This type of lead is great on most waters but does tend to struggle holding bottom on sandy gravel pits where there is no silt or features. For this type of work I would switch to a gripper lead.

Gripper type leads

The gripper lead will hold the bottom better and allows accurate measurements of depths on flat sandy lakebeds. The disadvantage with the gripper lead is that the casting distance can be reduced.

Specifically designed lead for feature finding

2. When to Use Small Leads

There are certain situations were we have to change our tactics to suit a specific angling needs. Here I will out line what leads I use and how I go about getting the best results if I find a shoal of feeding carp in a shallow marginal bay, specifically when to use small leads of less than one ounce.

You would be surprised how often this happens on French lakes, even some of the larger lakes.

In April 2012 I was on a field testing trip for Angling Lines at Blue Lake in Northern France. It was a few days into the session when I came across a large shoal of fish gathering in one corner of the lake. I fired out single boilies with my catapult into the shoal to gather what reaction I would get. I got a perfect reaction with most of the shoal  not moving or spooking and the odd fish dropping down onto my boilies.

Selection of small swivel leads
Selection of small swivel leads

Within the next half an hour I was ready for my first cast into the corner. I used half ounce pear shaped leads and cast 3 rods in or around the out skirts of the carp shoal. More individual boilies were fired out and the carp remained calm and appeared to be dropping down for the occasional feed.

I had an almost immediate reaction with my first run coming after about 10 minutes. I quickly drew the carp away from the shoal and played it in out in open water and then into the net. Out went more individual boilies spread among the shoal,  again with a small lead and hook bait dropped only 40 yards out.

Over the next 24 hours I accounted for 17 carp using this tactic before the shoal moved on. Light leads was the answer, if I had used anything else I would have spooked them from the start and lost the carp.

One of the many carp that caught from Blue Lake using half ounce leads
One of the many carp that caught from Blue Lake using half ounce leads

On another occasion in October of 2011 I was on Boux. I was about 4 days into a session when a shoal of feeding fish moved into a bay to my right. My first reaction again was to fire out individual boilies into and around the shoaled fish to see their reaction.

Once satisfied that the carp were comfortable with the odd splash off a boilie here and there, out went an 1/2 ounce lead with a small PVA bags.

The carp then began to feed heavily as my very digestible Quality Baits HG42 was getting devoured quickly. I began to feed the carp quite heavily and the runs began.

Over a 48 hour period this method accounted for over 20 carp to 51lb. I used around 15 kilo of 18mil HG42, which were fired out either with a throwing stick or catapult, spread over an area the size of a tennis court.

Boux Carp. Half ounce leads did the business.
A Boux carp – half ounce leads did the business

Again if I had used bigger leads I would have spooked them and lost the shoal. Your hooks have to be ultra sharp using this method, as you are not relying on the lead to set the hook home. The takes are usually violent with screaming runs.

This method does not work all the time but I always have a selection of light leads at hand just in case the situation arises.

3. Distance Leads

So when do I need to use distanced leads? It’s self explanatory really, to cast towards my maximum casting capability which for me is anything over casts of 90 yards. I am not the best long distance caster, so I do need some assistance with the correct shaped leads for the job… 

For this work I use the tournament type leads, generally around three to three and a half ounce versions.  I find that I can cast these easily up to around 110 yards which for me is usually adequate.

I know that a lot of anglers would pooh pooh this distance, but I catch fish and that is all that matters to me. I can present a bed of bait at this distance with a medium sized spomb, and also make an accurate cast as long as the weather does not become too inclement. If I am fishing slightly shorter than this I will use a throwing stick with 18 mil boilies and give a bigger spread of bait.

What leads should you use when carp fishing
A selection of distance leads

An example of my using these type of leads was on a recent trip to Nautica where I was casting around 100 yards into open water. There were no features to cast too so it was a case of making my own, by creating a tight feeding area. The lake bed was firm with a fine covering of silt which was perfect for using this type of lead. It was important to get my casts as accurate as possible and I find that I can hit the spot every time with the distance leads. I kept the same area fed all week and took 29 carp from this spot with accurate baiting and fishing.

One of my many carp caught on distance leads at Nautica
One of my many carp caught on distance leads

Brocard Small was another lake where I put this type of lead through its paces, with a 103 yard cast onto medium soft silt, not the perfect lead but I needed to cast around 15 yards off the far margins. No doubt the lead and boilie were buried in the silt after the cast, but 18 carp found the boilie so once again a good result.

I know that some anglers would concern themselves if they thought their bait was submerged under the silt, but having the hook bait under the silt does not bother me too much, as long as I have some free offerings in the near vicinity, the carp will find a slightly buried bait.

Again caught at over 100 yards from Brocard Small
Again caught at over 100 yards from Brocard Small

This also helped to keep my hook bait out of sight of the crayfish that at the time were very active. Sometimes due to the nature of the lake and the distance that I want to fish, I have to sacrifice the perfect set up, for second best. I just get on with it and it usually works out OK.

4. The Trilobe and Cone Lead

In this final section I will outline some of the more unusual leads I use, ones that are designed for a specific purpose and very effective…

Cone shaped leads – I first saw these leads being used at Grenville Lake by Dennis, a very experienced and confident angler that followed the fish around this 72 acre lake.

On finding a shoal of carp he used his cone shaped PVA bags along with his self made coned leads to get his hook bait and a small food package to the possible feeding fish. The distance that he could cast was unbelievable and would get his bait onto  roving fish at 120 yards.

The distance PVA bags are supplied by thefishingbag.com, and you now can get the coned leads from the same source. This lead fits perfectly in the base of the distance bag, and when filled correctly it can be cast to extreme distances.

On seeing this technique in action, I put it into practice and has a result have caught numerous carp on this method. I use these leads solely with the distance bag and they really do work. Where a normal bag falls short of a distance cast, these are bang on.

I put a video together on how to use these leads with the distance bag here – The distance bag

Cone shaped leads

The trilobe lead – Believe it or not the trilobe has to be my favourite type of lead. I have fished areas of a lake that no-one else will fish due to thick heavy silt.

Generally these areas are the ones that hold the bigger residents and are also full of natural food such as bloodworm, which obviously hold and attract carp, but not the angler. These leads are perfect for this situation.

Trilobe leads are shaped so that they sit on top of the silt instead of penetrating it, and also they rise to the surface on the retrieve making them ideal for silty or weedy waters. Also the shape is aero dynamic and does cast well making the lead very versatile.

The version that I use are again in three to three and a half once sizes.

My favourite lead, the trilobe
My favourite lead, the trilobe

I was a member of the famous Mangrove syndicate a few years ago, and from my experiences there I learnt a lot about silt fishing. One particular swim, known as West End, had horrendously thick silt for around 100 yards out into the lake.

I used to use trilobe leads when fishing this particular swim and more often than not caught well, with some of the lakes bigger specimens gracing my net. The swim was neglected because of the silt problem, but I found a way round it and benefited as a result of this.

On a couple of recent Angling Lines trips I have used them with some success. Castle lakes for one and the other at Brie. Both lakes had clay lined lake beds with a covering of silt. Distance leads would have plugged into the silt so it was important to use  a lead that would enter the water and sit on top of the silt.

These leads sat perfect and also cast the expected 100 yards distance with ease . With their accuracy on casting and allowing the perfect presentation, I am sure that it was these leads that helped me to put extra carp on the bank in some difficult conditions.

Castle lake carp,. The lead I used was the trilobe.
A Castle lake carp, the lead I used was the trilobe

The trilobe lead always has a place in my fishing bag and is probably one of the ones that I use the most, all year round.

I have covered some of my favourite leads that I use for carp fishing, but there are hundreds of different sizes and types on the market. I have not even touched on the in-line leads, and I have purposely left these out of my blogs, so that perhaps someone else can write about their experiences with them. I tend not to use them too much, but they do have a place.

Paul Cooper


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

twenty seven ÷ 3 =