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Lateral Rig Thinking

ESP's Tom White talks rigs...

Being asked to write a piece about rigs was a bit daunting for me, as I tend to use what’s required for the job in hand - for that situation, at that specific moment in time. So my rig choice is quite variable, from the feeling of a drop to the nature of a fizz, nothing is set in stone. These are just my own thoughts on rigs which have been gathered together from my own angling (and close friends’ findings) over the last 30 years. My thoughts maybe slightly different to many who have touched on the subject in the past, as without sounding dismissive or arrogant, I’m not particularly interested in the latest wonder rig or a promo campaign pushing a trendy rig to sell certain rig items; I like what works for me and has done over the last 30 years. Another big consideration when tying rigs is to ensure that if my target fish was to be hooked, I’d be able to land it, and how likely it would be for that fish to pick up the hookbait I’m tying onto the rig. It’s always the most elusive ones in the pond, or the uncaught myths, that get me fired up these days and that is where I usually find my brain going into overdrive, trying to work out the most effective approach and rig for that one dream maker of a carp.


A lovely old mirror from winter’s past

A bit of background

To give a slight overview into my angling, I have been carp fishing for the past 30 years and my angling time is very limited, like most family men, which means most weeks I manage just a short 10hr overnighter on the Friday or Saturday night. I have fished mainly in Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire (which is my home county) but, generally not on the known circuit waters, as I tend to target quieter, low stock venues which may not hold many carp let alone any known or named monsters, but they are a very real challenge, both logistically, physically and mentally on limited time which is a huge draw in itself for me. These types of venues usually hold that all-important element of the unknown and generally, due to either the lack of access or the lack of known stock, are very quiet, which I prefer, allowing me to be able to hunt and angle for the carp in a natural environment.

But, with that said, come winter I will generally spend any spare time fishing slightly more accessible waters which will generally have the increased footfall to match the increase in stock levels. Due to fishing large, low stock waters through the spring, summer and autumn, then reverting back to smaller, more pressured (older, pressured carp) lakes at the backend of autumn and winter, I see both ends of the spectrum: the contrast of unpressured, naturally behaved creatures flocking in numbers, nutting out one after another onto the end of a fresh wind and travelling over a mile in minutes to feed in the edge with gusto, to mind-numbingly paranoid and extremely cute, rarely caught, ultra-slow feeding carp that seem to have heightened their instinctive survival senses to a level that we cannot even comprehend. This forces me to adopt varying tactical changes and as a subsequence I am always learning and evolving how I angle.

A big common from a big pit
Keeping a low profile

Seasonal approach: spring

My general choice of rigs and approach is massively dependant on the time of year along with observations of the carp’s movements and their feeding habits. During the months of February and March the carp are starting to feed for slightly longer periods as the days slowly start to drawer out and the water temperatures creep out of the single-figures. This is when they are vulnerable to an accurately positioned; highly-visual single hookbait or light scattering of food, which, as sight feeders during the daylight hours, they cannot resist to investigate, if only for a brief period. So in the late winter/early spring I will opt for highly-visual/attractive pop-ups on Hinges and/or Chods, usually cast to showing fish or onto shallower water where the carp are regularly investigating as the daylight hours increase and the water temperature rises or in the lee of the cold wind if there is a consistent cool breeze blowing where that one- or two-degrees localised surface temperature can make all the difference in where they want to be.

My Hinges and Chods are generally below two-inches in height and comprise of either a size 4 Cryogen Grip Rigger or a size 5 Para-Point to a doubled over section of 20lb Bristle Filament (Multi-Hinge style) to a section of eight- to ten-inches of 20lb coated hooklink or 18lb fluorocarbon.

Early spring blossom

The stiffer boomed size 4 Grip Rigger would be for casting a 3oz+ lead some distance, generally fishing over boilies only or as a single to showing fish or onto a hatch out in the pond. The more subtle Hinge, the size 5 PP, would be tied onto the coated braid boom for fishing on a lead clip (for ease of changing the lead to suit the distance or bottom chod/weed) with a lighter 1-1.5oz lead, or onto softer, siltier ground or low-lying weed with a smaller 12 or 14mm pop-up. The Hinge, when balanced out, will fall to rest on the bottom debris just that bit slower than a free falling free bait that I am feeding at the time, be it a 12 or a 15mm boilie (tested in the margins). But if there’s a big wind blowing a consideration to the undertows effects will be gauged also and more often than not I will massively overweight the pop-up so that it’s nailed to the deck and not flailing around on the bottom, getting caught up in any chod or strands of weed on the spot. This won’t always work but I feel it helps and have seen the effects of big undertows out on the dingy over the spots, which cannot be ignored.

A recent capture on the bottom baits

As far as Hinge Rigs go, the softer boom set-up is much more subtle with the smaller pop-up being held around and inch off the deck and is ideal for using over a few chops or a bit of scattered pellet and seed, usually closer in, on to shallower water where a more unobtrusive presentation maybe needed if the carp are close by.

The reason behind using the size 5 PP is due to using a lighter lead, where the meaty size 4 beaked hook may not penetrate easily enough from just the resistance of a 1oz lead. The PP will be sure to do so though, with its finer gauge and straight needle point which is always helped home by a slack line onto a tight clutch.

I have had many carp during the spring months casting both of these set-ups at shows or onto hatches and also casting up close to reedbeds and snags as the sun tracks along its midday to afternoon route, illuminating the marginal cover, drawing the carp from the safety and comfort of their previously cold and dark wintery home.

Summer and autumn tricks

As the year progresses, and once the carp have spawned, they can often have a really good feed-up and harvest the eggs they have shed and/or the naturals that have accumulated whilst they have been distracted by getting to know each other that bit better. Spring tactics will still catch fish at this time and I have fished with Hinges throughout the year catching consistently. But, here I would like to detail a rig that have served me well both during the height of summer and autumn on some tricky pits in the recent past, when the Hinges and Chods where that bit too blatant and I had to find other ways of getting a hook into them whilst they were feeding hard on the deck and in the silt but not slipping up often enough.

As the year progresses and we get into July, August and September, the natural food is at its height and with most places having done the majority of the bites once already, it can start to become tricky finding ways to put a hook in them. When the weed gets up and the spots become smaller, usually the carp become extra aware of our angling and tend to just nick a few baits here and there, picking food items up cautiously and often leaving the spot if anything sends out the wrong signals. A kinked-up Stiff Rig or a plugged lead with the leader sticking out of the bottom is just not the one on these little dinner plates around the edges of the weed; everything has to be spot-on.

Poised and ready

I’ve found that once the fish are feeding hard on the bottom they can ignore anything that is obviously above the lakebed in these tight spots where the bottom is clean and things can be clearly inspected. Due to the nature of these spots (being an obvious clearing in the weed with a clean bottom) anything looking to unlike the free offerings may arouse suspicion and can be regarded as a foreign object which must be avoided. A pop-up, no matter how close to the deck, will most likely be avoided in these situations, or at least left to stand alone only eventually being taken as a single when no other comparisons can be made. This can also happen when fishing into soft, silty areas, where the natural food and the free bait is below the substrate boundary, out of plain view, buried into the silt. The carp simply ignores or disregards any suspended items that are above the boundary line between the food-infested silt and the water above as its head is pushed into the soft, silty mud and the carp is feeding without using vision as its primary feeding aid.

When I get into these scenarios I have two rigs that have served me well. The first is a very straight forward bottom bait rig, but with a few little tweaks it can become extremely hard for them to deal with and for me rarely fails when other rigs just aren’t proficient enough for the job in hand. This rig consists of a hand sharpened size 5 Gripper, tied blow-back style with a mini rig ring with longish 15-20mm (ring to bait) Hair to a nine- to ten-inch section of (usually) Black Semi-Stiff Tungsten Loaded with a large loop for connection to a quick link. A 25mm section of shrink tube then forms the Line-Aligner onto a 5-10mm break in the coating which then runs along fully coated up to the loop knot connection. A key addition to this rig is a large 5-10mm piece of putty that sits 50mm up from the end of the shrink tube; this greatly increases the rotation (flip) of the hook into its prone position once the hookbait is taken into the mouth from its stationary position on bottom of the lake. The heavy tungsten putty acts as an anchor and immediately rotates the hook’s point downwards to the bottom lip due to the angle and length of the tubing acting as an extension of the hook’s shank.

Coated hookbaits and himalayan rock salt. Bite time!

To be most effective, this rig should to be used with a heavy bottom bait that extends the Hair and causes the (hook-to-bait) separation required in opening the rig out and increasing the downward motion of the hook’s point on ingestion. A note to add also, is that I nearly always tip one of my hard bottom baits with a buoyant slighter: a slither of a lighter coloured pop-up. The positives are numerous. Firstly, the piece of pop-up acts as a visual sighter, just to add that very slight differential between food items which makes it seen much earlier than other baits in close proximity. Its buoyancy also helps to ‘lay’ the rig down slower than it would without it and ensures that the rig, when used with a piece of foam and a tiny stick, nearly always falls into the same shape, as opposed to falling fast through the water and into a random circular mess.

But, for me, the most important attribute of that all-important topper is that once inside the carp’s mouth, the sighter is always facing the top, or back, of the mouth and the bottom where the Hair is connected to the hook is the heaviest point. It all helps in straightening the Hair and rig out and cocking the hook into a prone position for pricking the bottom lip.

With reference to the tiny PVA Stick, this would be made up of PVA mesh which is then filled with some of the Himalayan Rock Salt from my AminoMarine Hard hookbait pot, which leaves a potent but invisible natural food signal around that hard hookbait until it is disturbed. 20 grains or so, just enough to counter the buoyancy of a nugget of PVA foam to allow a controlled descent and lay down of the rig into position.

Tie one up and have a play around with it using the palm test and next time you’re getting done or suspect they are getting away with, give it a go. It very quickly changed my angling for the better.

For now, that’s it; the word count is up. Have a fruitful autumn and be lucky.


How to put together Tom's bottom bait presentation

1. Remove four-inches of the outer-coating, tie a Hair loop in the end and then mount your chosen hookbait.

2. Tie on a Mini Rig Ring 15-20mm from the top of the bait and then pass a size 5 Gripper hook through the ring and the pass the hooklink material through the eye of the hook.

3. Now secure using a four or five turn Knotless Knot.

4. Take a 25mm length of shrink tubing, thread it on Line-Aligner style and shrink down over steam.

5. Take a large lump of putty and mount it 50mm up the hooklink from the top of the shrink tubing. To help the putty grip, nip on a small split shot first.

6. And there you have it: the completely rig.