General Info About Paylake Carp Tournaments

Carp History and Carp Tournaments

(Looking for info on fishing/bait/supplies/recipes? keep scrolling down!)

Are Common Carp native to North America?

No.  In the mid 1800's, European immigrants were surprised to learn their common food source from the last 2,000 years was not in the Americas.  (4,000 years of history for Asia, but this is not to be confused with the 'invasive' Asian carp AKA flying carp either, a different type of fish.)

Entrepreneurs imported the common carp, and by 1876, California had thriving carp farms. Because of the waves of population growth, native species began to decline. As a result due to the fish's hardiness and size capability, the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries began an intensive effort of carp cultivation in 1877.  By 1883, many waters now had carp populations.

By the turn of the century (1900), the fish started to get a bad reputation.  Puzzled immigrants claimed the fish did not taste as good as they did in Europe.  They also blamed the fish for the declining native fish populations.  What they failed to realize was the human role in the pollution and declining populations. In reality, they were fortunate they still had any fish at all in the polluted waters.  The poor tasting fish were a direct result of the garbage laden waters filled with industrial waste that the fish got their nutrients from.  (Fact: In the early 1990s, for example, biologists exposed control groups of carp to 1600 chemicals commonly present in United States waters; only 135 of the pollutants killed all the fish.)

In reality, carp are a fantastic resource and a movement towards regulated commercial fishing and community efforts to cleaner waters will improve conditions for all fish life.

(The above information is from the National Park Service website at: the American Carp Society has a far more in-depth history at:  )

Types of Carp include species such as: Bighead Carp, Silver Carp, Grass Carp, and Black Carp.

They look very different from a yellow common carp.

If not the yellow common carp, then what are the invasive Asian carp?  Many Asian carps are considered to be invasive fish. They feed rapaciously on plankton, invertebrates, and detritus and thus often upset aquatic food webs in areas where they are introduced.  These species include: bighead carp, black carp, and silver carp (AKA Flying carp).  They came to North American during the 1960s and ’70s to control the growth of noxious aquatic plants, snails, and other pest organisms in ponds, fish farms, and small lakes.  Grass carp is also considered an Asian carp, but the sale of Triploid Grass Carp is a regulated sterile fish.   One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between the other carps and the innocent common carp is the difference in the dorsal fin.

Paylakes and Tournaments:

The information below is a shortened version from this website with more details:

Paylake fishing originated in North Carolina. It is where a person pays to fish a stocked lake. Generally, these are small and privately owned. A load of fish to these lakes range from 2,000-20,000 lbs.


Beginning in the 1800’s, farmers would make extra money letting others fish their ponds. By the 1950’s a competitive element began as the tournament style formed. (There are over 75 in North Carolina now. Other popular states are Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana, and Pennsylvania.)
Early baits were worms, whole kernel corn, and bread balls. It then evolved to doughbaits which were a mixture of flour and meals to form a ball around a hook with added extracts and spices found in a common kitchen like strawberry and vanilla extract.


Each fisherman chooses their spot based on a draw. A boundary area is set that they will fish from for the tournament. A skilled fisherman will work to recognize what the fish are currently biting and also strive to protect the advantage that information gives him as he works to out-fish the other competitors. This can change for each tournament as fish will tire of one favorite in exchange for a new favorite.

Winning Paylake Tournaments:

Prizes are typically awarded for biggest fish in a certain time period as well as overall largest for the tournament period. Other prizes can vary and can include places for combined weights.


  • Rods - usually 7-8 feet, medium-heavy to heavy. Gives better control when catching a fish.
  • Reels - most common are bait casters (advanced) and open face (better for beginners).  It is all about preference.
  • Line - 12lb - 20lb breaking strain. High visibility lines do not bother carp and can aid the fishermen in recognizing a bite and reeling the fish in.
  • Rigs - typically on a barrel swivel with 2 leaders (optional), 2-5” in length. Adjusting to a barrel swivel with only one hook is beneficial for your hands when trying to unhook a wildly thrashing carp. Anyone who has been "hooked" knows it is not fun and will often use 1  hook afterwards.
  • Sinkers - Egg or No-roll in 1/8 to 1 oz weight. The benefit of the flat version is the fluttering as it falls/sinks which helps to expose the hook quicker.
  • Rod Stands - simple with a foot peg at the bottom to push into the ground. The top has a cupped area to prevent the rod from being pulled into the lake.
  • Alarms/indicators - some are LED with a sound element, others are a bobber style that dangles with no sound.
  • Landing Nets - Ed Cumings and Ranger nets are more popular. Designed for Salmon and Catfish, the 8 foot pole can assist with taller banks and heavy carp.
  • Carp Caddy / Carrier / Tote - typically a plastic cylinder designed to carry a fish head first. (Backwards/tail first can result in broken spines/backs which don’t heal) padding protects the fish and dunking the cylinder in water before inserting the fish into the cylinder also prevents burns to the fish in the summer heat.  It is common to see 1600 series electric scooters with an adapter on the back to carry the carp to the weigh station. Because the roads around the paylakes are usually gravel, a thick foam padding in the tote is especially important to protect the fish.

Making Bait:

Binders include: instant grits, soybean meal, panko, ground white bread, all purpose flour, cooked cracked corn, instant oats, break crumbs, powdered molasses, cake mixes, cookie mixes, chicken laying mash, trout chow, wheat bran, hulled millet, and ground cereals.

Wetters function as the glue and include: creamed corn, lake water, soda, fruit juices, pudding, baby food, karo syrup, molasses, maple syrup, alcoholic beverages, ketchup, eggs, vinegar, chocolate/strawberry syrup, agave nectar, Cottage cheese, milk, snow cone syrups, apple sauce, flavorings/boosters, liquid deer attractants.


Here are some simple recipes:


  • 1 box (36 oz) Instant grits
  • 1 lb quick grits
  • 1 bottle, light corn syrup
  • 2-3 oz flavoring - your choice


  • Millet Kit (available for purchase at lake)
  • 1 bottle, light corn syrup
  • 2-3 oz flavoring - your choice


  • 4 lb soybean meal
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 8 oz flavoring, your choice.

Be sure to visit and scroll to bottom for ‘recipe’ ideas.