Renowned caster and carp angler Frank Warwick looks at carp rod test-curves and the pros and cons when it comes to making your choice!

I suspect newcomers to carp fishing find choosing which test curve of carp rod to suit their fishing requirements something of a minefield. I can understand this as it can also be confusing for even more experienced anglers, as very rarely does one test curve of rod suit all disciplines of the sport.

Put simply, test curve is the weight required to bring the tip of the rod to a 90-degree angle to the butt while the butt is held horizontally. It’s quite an old standard rating test and really does not take into account the varying actions of rods which can differ greatly.

I thought it might be better to explain test curves and actions of rods in basic terms to help anglers understand and make a better choice on which rod to choose to suit their needs.



This is perfect for close to medium range fishing, for small water fishing, margin fishing and a decent choice for river fishing for carp and indeed barbel. Another very popular aspect of carp fishing is surface floater fishing and a 3lb test curve of rod would be ideal for that.

One of the great pleasures in carp fishing is enjoying the fight from the fish, often of more modest size. Generally a softer 3lb test curve rod will be far more gentle and forgiving during the fight and will prevent hook pulls, almost like a bungy effect, especially when using lighter lines and smaller hooks.

With modern rod materials a 3lb test curve rod will cast surprisingly far, with leads up to 3.5oz or even 4oz if required. But where it will limit you is when you want to use a fully loaded method feeder (which can weigh up to 10oz or more) or when using bigger PVA bag. It will also have its limits when you want to use heavier leads to achieve greater distances, typically when fishing bigger venues where range is often required. In this instance you will soon find a 3lb test curve rod leaves you undergunned as it gets overloaded and maxed out.

There are times when I find that a 3lb test curve rod is too soft. One example being hit-and-hold situations and snag fishing, where you can lose control of a very powerful carp when the rod does not have enough backbone to stop the fish powering into the snags. It’s a trade-off really, as in many ways you need a rod that’s forgiving to avoid hooks pulling out but with enough back-bone to also stop a carp in its tracks in a hit-and-hold battle situation.


I suppose you could describe the 3.25lb test curve rod as a good all-rounder. It’s a compromise between the 3lb softer playing rod and the 3.5lb stiffer, long range rod. A bit of a “jack of all trades” option, but in many ways the perfect choice for the angler wanting to fish several waters in many different situations.

It’s a rod that will both be forgiving to play carp on, yet have enough back-bone to achieve very respectable casting distances and also handle bigger leads and PVA bags etc.

It’s a good choice for the angler who might not want to have to chop and change from a 3lb test curve rods to a 3.5 test curve each time a change of venue size is encountered.



For many carp anglers the 3.5lb rod will be the automatic first choice of carp rod and with good reason, it ticks many boxes and it will be the first choice for long range casting work, particularly a 13ft option. It will handle leads to 5oz, heavy PVA bags, loaded method feeders and it will extract carp from heavy weed easier than a softer rod.

It will also have the power required to stop a powerful fish in hit-and-hold situations, but it will have some slight disadvantages also.

It will certainly be less forgiving when playing fish, particularly when the fish is close in and it will also be more prone to hook pulls with this extra power. It will also feel clumsy for surface fishing and less refined on small intimate venues, where margin fishing is going to be practiced. However, for many carp anglers, simply put, they opt for a 3.5lb rod as a first choice, working on the theory it’s better to be over gunned than under gunned!

Faced with suddenly finding carp out of casting range when using a lower test curve rod that’s not quite up to the ranges required, can be super frustrating. So the fact the heavier test curve rod is not as refined for playing carp close in, is a small price to pay in a trade-off.

Tight lines

Frank Warwick

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