They're a staple of social-media posts displaying an early morning catch, but retention slings play a huge part in keeping carp safe.
We've rounded up seven of the best carp retainers on the market and Marc Coulson is your expert guide...
WHAT IS A CARP RETAINER?
Not so long ago, the capture of a carp led to anglers frantically trying to sort out their camera, while somehow keeping the carp safe on the unhooking mat or even in a landing net staked out in the margins.
Some, of course, chose to sack their fish, although this is a practice that only the highly experienced should ever consider, in my humble opinion.
These days, however, the process is a far easier one, following the advent of retention slings.
These are, basically, weigh slings with an added element of buoyancy, which can be zipped up to retain fish, in the water, for short periods of time (and I stress, short periods of time).
I had a few ‘escapees’ from the early incarnations of retainer slings, but they are far more secure these days as manufacturers tweaked their designs to cater for initial design flaws.
Another change that took place regarded the shape of the lower section of the modern retainer slings. Many used to be squared off at the base, causing fish to slide from one end to the other when in transit.
However, thankfully, it didn’t take the tackle firms long to put this right and create rounded bases.
A combination of mesh and solid material is usually best, with the ratio between each varying from sling to sling.
Mesh allows for fast draining when lifting the carp from the water, while the better-quality materials will dry far quicker than nylon.
Having handles at each end of the sling makes carrying the carp to and from the mat and water much easier and keeps the fish far more stable.
These must be fully closed when the carp is in the sling itself as they’ll soon work out how to make their escape. Some even feature a clip to lock the twin zips together.
The longer the better as far as I’m concerned. If the margins are shallow then it’s important to stake the sling out in deeper water and maybe even push it out and away from the bank.
Unless you want a wet and smelly car boot, a decent stink bag is a must. All retainer slings come with one, but some are most definitely better than others when it comes to keeping unwanted odours at bay.
CHUB X-TRA PROTECTION OXYGEN FLT SLING
RRP: £64.99 | www.chubfishing.co.uk
How about this for an idea – a retainer that has an integrated oxygenating pump, similar to those you may have in a fish tank at home!
The idea, maybe obviously, is to increase the oxygen levels around the carp while it’s nestled inside.
This may come in particularly handy on hot days or in weedy waters, which may be a little low on oxygen and will undoubtedly aid the carp’s recovery following capture.
There are plenty of other features in this impressive retainer, but this pump is certainly what makes it stand out from the rest.
AQUA PRODUCTS BUOYANT WEIGH SLING
RRP: £44.99 & £54.99 | www.aquaproducts.co.uk
Available in green or a DPM Camo version, Aqua’s lightweight sling is identical to its traditional weigh sling but with the additional floatation tubes, security cord and bank stick fittings.
There are no webbing straps running down this sling, which can potentially be a pressure point when lifting and weighing carp, so kudos to Aqua for that.
The Aquatexx material is the same that is used on Aqua’s bivvies and is both fish-friendly and extremely quick drying.
The mesh base also aids in this fast drying time of an impressive retainer that’s available in standard and XL sizes, complete with Aquatexx stink bag.
FOX CAMO STR FLOATATION WEIGH SLING
RRP: £59.99 | www.foxint.com
Although also available in a standard green, I love this Camo Lite pattern, exclusive to Fox, so this would be my preference of the two.
Twin, full-length floatation tubes maximise buoyancy and there’s plenty of width to the STR once out in the water.
I should add that STR stands for Short-Term Retainer, and Fox quite rightly stresses that this is exactly what these slings should be used for.
Several mesh sections aid drying, as well as drainage once lifting the carp out of the water; a process further aided by twin carry handles at each end.
These also stop excess strain on the carp when being lifted, which can happen when lifting from the middle only, and there’s a small pocket that contains a long retention cord.
NASH KAPTIVE RETAINER SLING
RRP: £49.99 & £59.99 | www.nashtackle.co.uk
Another sling that’s available in two sizes, the larger one being absolutely huge and, so, suited for fishing overseas or for homegrown leviathans!
The standard-sized version, as with most of those in this guide, is comfortably suitable for carp up to 30lb-plus.
The combination of nylon and mesh construction is quick to drain, although nylon does take a little longer to dry after use.
The zips are extremely secure and the full-length floatation tubes feature small reflective tabs for ease of use at night – a nice touch.
There’s ample width once out in the water, so carp have enough room to be comfortably retained for short periods, and each Kaptive Retainer comes with a proper carry bag.
GARDNER RETENTION SLING
RRP: £37.50 | www.gardnertackle.co.uk
The first thing I noticed about this one is the price – around a tenner below some others – yet it’s still got all of the features you’d expect to find.
A mesh panel and perforated base allow for quick drainage, there are full-depth webbing straps and the solid base material will negate the potential for pinch points when lifting fish.
Four individual floats give plenty of buoyancy and each is finished with a reflective patch, while there is also a long retaining cord and pockets for carp-care solutions and the like.
All in all, this is an excellent retainer offering superb value for money.
AVID CARP RETAINER SLING
RRP: £41.99-£47.99 | www.avidcarp.com
The near full mesh design is very different to most in our line-up and makes for extremely fast drainage and drying.
The mesh itself is super-soft and extremely fish friendly. Avid has resisted the temptation to use webbing straps around the mesh too, so a gold star there!
The base is perforated material and the quick-release clips on the main sling allows the cord to be removed in the blink of an eye, which is an extremely welcome feature.
Four slim floats keep it buoyant without adding bulk when rolled away and quality zips maintain security on both the standard and XL versions.
WYCHWOOD FLOATING WEIGH SLING
RRP: £44.99 | www.wychwoodcarp.co.uk
Although the sling itself is impressive enough, I absolutely love the fact that it’s supplied in an oversized stink bag, which can also house a landing net mesh or even a second sling.
I think this is a great idea and something born definitely from the mind of an angler, rather than that of a CAD designer.
At first sight, the webbing straps made me recoil but on closer inspection they do not go all the way around the base, so won’t create that dreaded pinch point.
The full-mesh sides drain quickly while the end sections and top are nylon construction and boast good quality zips.
Four individual floats provide the buoyancy while the 5m cord is housed in a pocket at one end of the sling. In all this is a very good sling but that stink bag is what really appeals to me here.