Jamie, what are your main concerns when it comes to the type of rigs that you use?
Wow, this question could take an article in itself. I will try and simplify my thinking.
Different circumstances call for two approaches. The first one is to create a feeding situation where the fish are ‘turned on’ and the rig becomes irrelevant to a degree as the fish will throw caution to the wind and pick it up numerous times until it either hangs itself or all the bait is gone and the fish move off.
Carp often end up in these excited states because of a number of factors such as decent weather conditions, change in pressure (atmospheric and angler) new moons or even dusk and dawn. It also happens when there is competition for food either when a group of fish feed together on a spot or in an overstocked lake for example. These examples happen regularly and in the main that’s when we catch. The carp drop their guard rather than our rigs being good because they are on the whole ineffective (three out of 10 is good in my findings on a suck/blow test!) These rigs work on the fish doing the hard work for you and tightening the rig up to the lead. In any of these scenarios and for general angling,
I like to tick a few basic boxes with my standard rig:
1) It needs to be sitting cleanly on any bottom. (I always cast out with either a Stick or Chain Reactions threaded on).
2) Super sharp hook. (I use a Nash Twister for pretty much all my rigs now, including pop-up ‘D’ rigs, blow back and Chod Rigs.) I use the Jag Stones and a file to keep them flawless and touched up.
3) I want the hookbait lighter than the hook (balanced) when fishing a bottom bait rig so that the hook is always hanging in the optimum position when the bait is sucked up.
4) The hook also needs to turn when tightened so that if the fish picks it up from any angle and the hook could even be backwards (bend/shank first) as it lifts its head to move away the hook will always spin into the bottom lip (or scissors if it shakes it head or moves off sideways.) I use shrink tube for this.
The second approach is not to rely on the fish moving off and trying to hook it on the suck and blow. I use this method when I believe the fish are very wary and not bolting if they feel that they have sucked something alien in (i.e. on a very pressured lake) or when the fish aren’t feeding heavily enough to be caught although they are grazing casually as I believe they do pretty much all day (why don’t we catch more?). I also like this type of rig in the winter when you may not have multiple opportunities to hook a sluggish carp that is merely picking at food.
This type of rig generally involves a stiff section immediately preceding the hook to stop it coming out backwards on the eject. A Hinged Stiff Rig is the most obvious example of this type of rig, although I am using a much-improved version of this called the ‘Bacon Rig’ which I have adapted further along the same principles of the old confidence rigs of the eighties. It is an idea that has been around for a long time but is quite new in this format and as it wasn’t my original idea, it will be kept quiet as in certain situations I believe it is a major edge.
What do you prefer: a pop-up or bottom bait?
This varies but my thinking is as follows: bottom baits are picked up more often but pop-ups are more effective at hooking as the weight under the hook means it is always in the perfect position if the fish moves off or lifts its head. I prefer a pop-up on a bottom that maybe has debris or silt on it but if it is clean I prefer my bottom bait rig with a Stick bag.
So tell us what rigs you use?
My standard rig is a Knotless Knotted Blow Back Rig with a size 7 Twister. I use a coated hooklink stripped back before the hook to aid natural free movement and I adjust the length according to the bottom cleanliness and the baiting situation. My standard pop-up rig mechanics are a version of a Stiff Rig using a ‘D’ rig pop-up again on a Twister with the stiff section coming out of the reverse of a Twister. This is tied to a ring swivel and I use nylon or coated braid boom. I use this type of rig when I am casting extreme ranges as it rarely tangles and also in place of a Chod. Also, I am happy casting it into weed with the hook protected.
What type of spot are you looking: really clean? A bit of debris? A light covering of weed?
If the lake is pressured I will try and avoid the really clean blatant areas, either looking for small clean spots amongst weed (I think rigs are more effective when presented cleanly) or I am happy fishing over light weed or even silt as long as I feel the lead go down to the bottom. I am essentially looking for evidence of a spot being worked or something that sticks out from the rest of it.
Sum up what levels of debris you’re happy to present certain rigs on?
I will fish wherever the fish are.
If I see fish in an area where there isn’t anything obviously clean then I will fish the stiff (soft boom) right in to it. I am happy fishing on a soft bottom if I see fish there. In years gone by I would keep looking for a decent thud down and quite often miss a chance after seeing fish. Now in that same situation I will bang three rods into the area and as long as I feel the bottom I will leave them whatever the bump is like. One of them usually goes when you get that sort of opportunity.
What are your thoughts on hooklink length? Shorter the better or do you favour a longer link; what’s your thinking?
I tailor this to suit the bottom.
I would lengthen it if I were fishing a choddy bottom although I am probably known more for very short hooklinks. I always use a hooklink clip as I use PVA Sticks a lot and so there is a hell of a lot of free movement, even with very short (two- to three-inch) links. I will use a rig this short if I am feeding a tight area or using a carpet feed such as hemp and pellet, as there is little need for a fish to move about much (to tighten the link to hook itself) as they are hoovering close to the bottom.
What about hooklink materials – braid, coated, stiff – what do you favour and which do you think the carp finds harder to deal with?
I love coated hooklinks, especially the original Jellywire. I can see benefits in the rigs I use with using mono for the properties of it lying on the bottom as well as the anti-tangle benefits over braid. I really need a trip to the tackle shop to try a few more and especially the newer, softer fluoros that seem to have come on loads in recent years. (They cost me a lot of fish using them as hooklinks in the early days so I have avoided them like the plague.)
What’s a bigger factor: the rig mechanics not working effectively or the fish not actually taking in the rig correctly because it’s on guard because it can see/feel the end tackle?
Great question! We are going deep now. I am not sure a confidently feeding carp is too bothered about the feel when it is fully involved on the spot. Sight is a factor but as we all use fairly similar size hooks and the hooklink materials are all fairly similar in diameter then I don’t think the sight of the tackle is too important because some people always catch consistently well. I think it is the rig mechanics for sure and more importantly the feeding situation. I also think that a rig that always resets itself or is tamper-proof will improve your catch-rate.
Everyone’s obsessed right now with lightening the hookbait. What are your thoughts on going the other way and making it heavier? Do you see any advantage to doing this?
I have always fished a balanced bait but I have had seasons where I have fished bottom baits all year and had equal results. There are obvious physical advantages in rig mechanics to getting the fish to suck-up heavier and bigger items and you know that a fish is never dropping off if it has sucked in a 20mm out of the bag. I also like the idea of overweighting pop-ups, as again the benefit of a heavyweight dropping the hook into the bottom lip is also there for all to see.
What about double hookbaits?
I have seen many carp caught like this and it definitely works for the reasons in the previous question.
It’s become very ‘trendy’ of late to have a large counter-weight just below the hook to help it flip and pull home. What’s your thoughts on this?
I have been incorporating these kinds of ideas into my fishing for years but first and foremost I avoid crazes! All rigs work for usually similar reasons. The trick is not letting the fish get on to what we are doing and so if everyone is doing something I will be using another method to maybe achieve the same result. Going back to the lighter hookbait and also the snowman/tipping with corn methods of making the bait lighter, it is a presentation that has caught me most of my fish over the last few years but sadly I now have to look for a change as I have observed it to be probably the most common method I see cast out on lakes now.
What are your views on Hair length? Should we revert back to the old school way of super long, super supple Hairs?
I like long Hairs for a way to be different on busy lakes. It is so easy to tie a Knotless Knot that most Hairs are 25lb or 15lb breaking strain at the very least, so not tying the ‘lazy mans’ rig gives you the opportunity to use either a finer Hair or maybe even a stiff hair.