Peter Zohan’s advice is to fish simply if you can. But in some circumstances you might need more complicated rigs to get the most out of your angling – so it’s worth having a few variations up your sleeve just in case.
O ne of the greatest aids to success in modern carp fishing is knowing how to make up and use different rigs. In most carp waters, the standard running link leger method with a hair rig is all you need to catch bottom feeding carp.
However, in more difficult lakes where the fish are caught frequently and have become wary of baits on the bottom, experimenting with more advanced rigs can make all the difference between blanking and catching big fish.
Knowing when to switch
It’s no good using complex rigs and then forgetting all the other skills which help you catch. However modern your rig, it won’t work if you are fishing in areas where the fish are not feeding, or if you are using a bait the fish won’t take.
But how do you know when to switch to a different rig?
If most anglers on your water are catching more than you, if you get a lot of small bite indications which don’t produce proper takes, if you are frequently losing fish because they come off, or if the fish you catch are hooked just outside the mouth -then it’s time to change.
If you get lots of twitches, slacken the line so it lies along the bottom, making sure they’re not line bites. If the twitches continue, try to make sure they’re not caused by small fish (perhaps by trying a smaller bait – small fish often suck at a bait too large for them).
When you’re pretty sure you have a rig problem, you should think about trying a different set up.
Bolt rig For the original type of bolt rig use a fairly large long shank, down eye hook – a size 4 perhaps. Side-hook a boilie, leaving a gap of at least 3mm (/sin) between the boilie and the hook point. If you don’t do this the point will go into the bait when you strike and not into the fish.
Use a hooklength of 8-23cm (3-9in) and attach the 2-3oz (56-85g) lead to the line by a running link. Fish this on a tight line held on the rod by a drag clip. Modern variation This variation of the bolt rig is the semi-fixed breakaway lead method. The lead is fixed as far as the fish is concerned, but if the line breaks the lead comes off with the tube so the fish doesn’t end up dragging a heavy burden around. Bolt hair rig If neither of these methods is successful, try a bolt hair rig. Mount the bait on a hair tied to the bend of the hook instead of on the hook eye. Anti-tangle rig You’re bound to get into tangles sometimes, whether you are using a bolt rig, a bolt hair rig or even a standard hair rig. When trying these methods for the first time it is worth retrieving your tackle quickly a few times after casting, to see if the rig is tangled. If it is, try an anti-tangle rig.
You may suspect that fish are rejecting your baits because the nylon line used for the hooklength in your rigs is too stiff, causing the fish to feel it over their lips. In this case try braided hooklengths or multistrand, which are much softer and can be used with all types of rigs. However, since they are so soft, these hooklengths are prone to tangling and you are likely to require an anti-tangle rig.
Helicopter rig Not all waters have clear bottoms. Some have a few inches of dense blanket weed in which the bait gets buried, making it hard for the fish to find. The helicopter rig – so called because the hooklength and bait revolve round the line during the cast – is especially good for this type of water. It is also a good anti-tangle rig.
A light hair rig type of hook is best for the helicopter rig and a soft multistrand hooklength goes some way towards preventing the bait being ejected by wary fish. The rig tubing helps to prevent tangles caused by the multistrand looping round the main line during the cast.
The hair rig can be tied to the bend or the eye of the hook. Better still, buy a hair rig fixing tube from a tackle shop and push it over the point of the hook. This enables you to have the hair coming from any part of the hook.
If you are fishing in snaggy areas or in heavy weed with a helicopter rig it’s best to use light line on the bomb link. If the lead gets caught in a snag, the line breaks and the lead is lost, but you should be able to save the rest of your tackle and get any fish away from snags without difficulty.
Since advanced rigs are fairly complicated and include several attachments, make sure everything is secure before you cast, and that all the bits are in the right place.
Each time you catch a fish, note carefully where the hook is positioned in the mouth. If the fish is hooked just outside the mouth, you need to lengthen your hooklength by 2.5-5cm (1-2in) so that the hook will go further inside the carp’s mouth.
Altering the length of the hooklength can also help you to get better takes from twitchers – these are often fish which have taken a hair-rigged bait inside their mouths leaving the hook still outside! Try shortening the hair as well.
Very short hairs On hard-fished waters many anglers now use rigs with hairs of only about 12mm (34in) between the edge of the boilie and the hook. They are often best for those wary fish that constantly mouth baits but don’t take them.
This mouthing of baits happens quite a lot on most waters but when you can’t see the fish you tend to forget what’s happening. It’s easy enough to see carp when they’re taking every floater on the water except yours with the hook in it – and it’s very frustrating. But at least you can see them doing it – you know what’s happening and you can try to do something about it.
With legered baits all the action is underwater but it shouldn’t stop you from trying different methods when you’re not catching any fish. If you don’t fancy donning a frogman suit to find out what the problem is at the business end of your line – a few rig adjustments might just do the trick.