Today we’re going to look at, to me, one of the most important must-have items that you should take out fishing anywhere you go, if you are a carp angler, specimen, tench fisherman, doesn’t matter about the type of fish, you should have an unhooking mat with you ready to go whenever your line is in the water. They come in different sizes, different forms, different styles and different prices, but the minimum you should have is a standard unhooking mat. It doesn’t matter how basic it is, or what your budget is, you must have one of these.

These are mats that are made of soft foam and an outer fabric that is designed to protect the fish from getting injured while you unhook it. They are commonly used for fishing. There are various sizes and shapes of these mats.

Carp Cradles

One of the most important factors that you should consider when choosing a good fish cradle is its safety. A compact and strong cradle can help protect your prized fish.

Many fisheries that hold large carp, expect anglers to have carp cradles instead of a traditional flat mat with no sides. This is especially the case when it comes to specimen carp fishing. For the most protection for whatever size and type of fish you catch, you can get a cradle system although they are a little more pricey, most cradles have little straps you can use to peg it down to make sure it doesn’t blow away on you if it’s is windy and it can be locked up with the clips so you can use it to carry equipment to and from your swim, as well great little system.

The X2 Unhooking Mat

The X2 unhooking mat is the cheapest of the items listed here, it is quite thin but it’s enough protection to look after your quarry and let’s face it there is not going to be many fish you catch, that would be bigger than this mat so it is adequate if you just want a cheap mat. The great thing about this particular mat is that folds down nice and neat and has two straps to lock it together when not being used. The great thing about unhooking mats is that they double up as a seat if you’re really stuck, many times I’ve not wanted to carry a chair with me when I’m doing a short session, or the swim was a little too tight for a lot of gear, so for very little money you can pick up something very affordable and very effective.

Deluxe Unhooking Mat

Now, coming up a little bit in price we’re now looking at a more deluxe mat, this one is a little heavier duty, this one is in the middle of the range in terms of pricing and it’s a little bit, well, let’s face it, it is a lot bigger and very, very well made. There’s not a lot swimming out there that is going to be bigger than this mat.

Shimano Unhooking Mat

Another really good system is by Shimano. A fully padded unhooking mat that is floatable so you can bring the quarry out into the lake when letting them swim away, which is much safer for the fish. It is also one of those systems that you can really envelop your fish into, so it can’t get out and can’t flip and hurt itself. If the fish is flapping around on the mat you can just close the top, clip the top cover down and keep it controlled, that way the fish can’t harm itself which is an absolute priority. The great thing about this system is that it comes with a handle and it also comes with a large pouch in the front of the cradle, so you can put your rig in it to keep it out of the way, or keep your scales in it so they are always nearby.

It also comes with a pocket on the back so you can put your landing net head and your landing net in there, you can put in bank sticks or rig book or anything like that in there to keep everything tidy.

It’s surprising how much volume this system has, if you are looking to do a quick session with minimal gear, you can use this mat as a bag, if you have your rods made up and throw your tackle box and bait in the mat, lock it up using the straps and you’ve pretty much got everything you need to go fishing. Equally, if you are doing a longer session, just grab your rods, throw your tackle box and bait in the cradle and off you go, all nice and neat, as well as compact.

The foam is also water resistant and rot resistant so will last a long time, but it’s always best to wash the system down and dry it off at the end of a session to keep it fresh.

So ultimately a nice system from Shimano and very good value for money.

Extra Kit You Might Want To Consider

While you are shopping for an unhooking mat, you will also want to look for weighing slings, weighing scales, a t-bar for the scales and it’s always handy to have a couple of spare buckets around… the main thing I always forget it a tea towel or a hand towel to dry my hands of after.

Have A Carp Care Kit

It’s imperative that you follow all of the rules of carp care to make sure the fish comes to no harm whilst on your mat. I’ve always found it easier to have a mate around, or even the guy in the next swim because they can do the running around while you are taking the hook out and taking care of the quarry. Remember to have a carp care kit handy and apply it to any wounds that the fish has, but also apply it to the hook hold

Don’t Fish Without An Unhooking Mat

So many times, I’ve seen videos on youtube of anglers putting fish on to the grass and there are just no exceptions, this should never happen. If you ever find a video that shows this, scroll down to the comments and you’ll probably find a lot of people condemning them for not using an unhooking mat. I’ve actually had to drive all of the way home before because I have forgotten to pick up my unhooking mat, I will not fish without one, I hope you wouldn’t either.



I have made a lot of mistakes during my fishing sessions and don’t want you to make the same mistakes. I’ve learned the hard way over 20 years of fishing most weekends, testing, tweaking, and testing again and now want to help you excel with your carp fishing.

If you need any help, you can reach me at Fishing Again’s Facebook page

Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Shane