Caring for your catch is so vitally important. Gone are the days of unhooking a fish on your lap, or (shudder) a wet towel. Valuable specimens are exactly that, and need to be treated as such.
Carp cradles are the new improved version of traditional unhooking mats. They are designed to safely and securely hold the fish whilst they are unhooked. They also make the process of returning the fish to the water so much easier. If you want to be kind to your carp (and you should) then a carp cradle is a worthy investment.
We are going to have a look at several different styles, types and options that will appeal to all budgets. After that we will address some of the most common questions we are asked. Read on to see which fishing cradle is the best, and holds the most promise for you.
- 0.1 Jumbo Folding Carp Fishing Cradle by NGT
- 0.2 Leeda Rogue Carp Cradle
- 0.3 Banshee Carp Fishing Giant Cradle by TF Gear
- 0.4 Nash CARP CRADLE MKIII
- 0.5 Hardcore Packaway Large Unhooking Mat by TF Gear
- 0.6 Sonik SK-TEK Framed Cradle
- 0.7 JRC Cocoon 2G Hi Care Carp Cradle
- 0.8 Fox Deluxe Carpmaster XL Mat
- 1 Some common questions and answers.
- 2 Summary
Size: 88 x 55 x 21cm
- Folding system
- Fully waterproof
Best for novices
See it for yourself: The NGT Pop-up Cradle
Info: The beauty of folding system cradles is that you can often use them to stow and carry gear down to the swim. The cradle comes with an extra padded mat for greater protection. The ability to fold the cradle means that storage and transport is easy. The cradle is fully waterproof so you can give it a rinse. It isn’t the biggest offering, but for the price point it offers really decent value. For your novice angler this would be a good starting point.
70 x 50 x 16cm
- Frame design
- 3 leg design
- Velcro cover
Best for casual anglers
See it for yourself: The Leeda Rogue Carp Cradle
Info: The three legs on this cradle are designed to give enhanced stability. The cradle is a frame design meaning that the weight of the fish is suspended between the outer frame. The frame itself is not padded, which we would have liked to see, but for a cheap option this fits the bill. The size is more suited to casual use than genuine specimen hunters. This carp cradle will do the job for casual anglers.
126 x 71 x 33cm
- Frame design
- Holds up to 50lbs
- Deep capacity
Best for intermediate anglers
See it for yourself: The Banshee Carp Fishing Giant Cradle by TF Gear
Info: We are getting into the big league stuff now. If catching bigger carp is your thing then this cradle should accommodate your needs. The cradle is deep and capable of holding up to 50lbs. It has mesh in the corners to aid in drainage. A nice feature is the top retention cover, if you have to look away for a minute the carp stays zipped up, safe and sound. The lack of frame padding is compensated for by the depth of the cradle. If you are a regular who occasionally might hook the occasional monster then this cradle will suit.
89 x 61 x 35cm
- Frame design
- Smaller footprint
- Two leg design
Best lightweight model
See it for yourself: The Nash CARP CRADLE MKIII
Info: Nash were one of the original pioneers of the carp cradle concept. The materials used in the sling section are not quite as luxurious as some of our other offerings, being simple PVC. The good things it offers are rigid stability and it folds to half its size when not in use. Nash have gone the opposite way to their competitors and have made their design retain water, whilst this is good for the fish, it can be a bit of a pain to clean and dry. The technology in this cradle is not the most advanced but it is light, simple and effective. If it’s features you are looking for, you may want to look elsewhere.
105 x 51 x 20cm
- Folding system
- Compact storage
- Stinkbag included
OUR TOP RATED: Best budget folding system
See it for yourself: The TF Gear Hardcore Packaway Large Unhooking Mat
Info: This cradle system is nice middle ground size-wise. We really like the peg eyes situated at the ends, ideal for making sure your cradle stays put. The ease of storage is another great feature, for a mat this large it folds down to a really small size. Another nice touch is that it comes with its own stinkbag so your car boot stays nice and fresh on the drive home. You get quite a lot of cradle for your money. This cradle would ideally suit someone who is looking to advance their skill and move on to catching bigger fish.
120cm x D 64cm x H 35-43cm
Black and Green
- Frame design
- Massive Capacity
- Padded frame bars
OUR TOP RATED: Best budget frame design
See it for yourself: The Sonik SK-TEK Framed Cradle
Info: It’s great that this cradle has adjustable feet. Regardless of the terrain it will stay nice and secure. The cradle is also kind to the angler, soft kneeling pads protect your knees so you can really concentrate on unhooking. A good feature is the padded frame section that ensures complete safety for slippery carp. If you want to go a little above average budget and invest in some pro features then this could be a step in the right direction.
115 x 70 x 42cm
- Frame design
- 2 leg folding system
- Reflective rim
OUR TOP RATED: Best premium frame design
See it for yourself: JRC Cocoon 2G Hi Care Carp Cradle
Info: A little extra goes a long way. This cradle is packed with decent features. Substantial and grippy feet prevent movement. This cradle has a two leg design, but the rigid frame means stability is not compromised. The frame is padded all over, and it comes with a stinkbag. One really great feature is the inclusion of a reflective frame, so you are never going to miss it, even in the dark. We love the extras. Whilst this cradle is a little more expensive it is certainly worth it. For professional performance you’ll probably not need to upgrade if you make this a one time purchase. Good for serious specimen hunters.
138cm x 73cm x H28cm
- Folding system
- Soft lining and Super thick padding
- Compact and easy to transport
OUR TOP RATED: Best premium Folding system.
See it for yourself: The Fox Deluxe Carpmaster XL Mat
Info: When you call something ‘deluxe’ you had better be sure it’s good. Fortunately this unhooking mat is pure luxury. The carp will want to stay, get tucked in and have a snooze. Everything about this mat oozes quality. The mat is constructed entirely out of high density, super-safe foam. It is lined with a soft touch, fish friendly lining. It has nice touches like pegging points, and pockets for little extras like your scales, disgorgers and fish antiseptic. The rubber mesh base means your cradle is easy to clean and keep fresh. A premium price tag means premium quality. Whilst at the upper end of the budget, this is a truly a ‘get what you pay for’ cradle. It will hold pretty much anything you catch. For our money this is one for the true enthusiasts.
Some common questions and answers.
What is a carp cradle?
Carp cradles generally take one of two forms. There is a frame style design, where the carp’s weight is held between the frame rim, similar in principle to a hammock. And there is the folding design, this is basically like a big padded bed for the carp to lie on.
Why do I need a carp cradle?
If you think that normally, in its natural environment, a carp’s weight is suspended and supported in the water from all sides. The benefits of removing direct pressure on single point on the carp’s body are obvious. This is especially true for heavier fish. You will tend to find when using a carp cradle that the fish are calmer and easier to unhook. Happy fish, happy angler. Job done!
What do I need to think about with a frame style carp cradle?
Frame style carp cradles generally tend to be much lighter. On the one hand this is good as it makes them easy to store and carry. The downside is that they can be blown over unless weighed down. Another area that needs to be considered is the terrain around your usual venue. Frame style carp cradles tend to work very well on flat, even ground. If they don’t have adjustable legs and feet they can be unstable. Generally the frame style fishing cradle is a tried and trusted method. When the carp is in the cradle it’s own weight causes it to rest firmly in the middle of the cradle, keeping it stationary for unhooking and treatment.
What do I need to think about with a folding carp cradle?
Folding carp cradles are versatile in many ways. With modern designs they fold down and are also easy to carry. The fish is protected by thick padding on the floor of the cradle and is prevented from escaping onto the bank by padded, high sided walls. Terrain can also be an issue, but generally they are slightly more versatile than the framed version. One huge benefit of a folding carp cradle is that they make it easy to return the fish to the water simply by lifting and lowering it wholesale into the water.
What features do I need in a carp cradle?
We’ll get straight to the point before we talk about things that are ‘nice’ to have. The best carp cradle is one that keeps the fish secure, safe and stress free. Right, now that’s out of the way lets consider a few areas:
- What size of carp cradle? If you are going to be actively fishing for specimen carp, then you shouldn’t be caught short when you actually land one. A bigger cradle will hold bigger and smaller fish alike. If you have too small a cradle then you risk stressing or damaging your catch.
- Where is my carp cradle going to be used? If you regularly fish on steep banks or uneven ground then you will most likely need either a folding style or at least adjustable feet and legs if you opt for a carp cradle with a frame. Not all frame models have the functionality.
- How much padding do I need on my carp cradle? If you are in the market for big fish you’ll appreciate that they can be heavy, cumbersome and sometimes strong. It only takes one moment of carelessness to injure a heavy carp. The more padding on your carp cradle, the better.
- Which carp cradle is most stable? If you don’t mind fishing in all conditions, you probably want a fish cradle that is very secure. Folding designs of carp cradles often have anchor holes or pegging points where you can secure them to the ground.
- Which carp cradle is easiest to clean? When the fish are in contact with your cradle there will be a certain amount of ‘residue’ left behind. If you can rinse and drain the cradle on the bank it can make life easier. Some cradles come with stinkbags, you can stow them ‘drip free’ and give them a proper wash at home.
That’s all we can tell you for now about carp cradles. Remember, the aim of the best carp cradle is to keep the fish safe and well. By treating your catch with as much care as you can, you are protecting the future of your sport, and more importantly the future of the fish. Hopefully our guide has given you some good ideas to consider on your journey.