It’s your hooklength that is going to take the strain when a big carp takes your bait.
It’s too late then to change your mind!
Make the wrong choice of rod or reel and it probably won’t be crucial. Make the wrong choice of bait and a hungry carp may still take it as a one-off. But if you make the wrong choice of hooklength, you’re going to lose that big fish. Your line selection is crucial to landing a big carp successfully.
There’s no point in choosing hooks inappropriate to the line you are using. As an extreme example, a size 2 hook with 2lb (0.9kg) line would make no sense. A size 2 hook shows you are expecting a pretty large fish, using a big bait – yet 2lb (0.9kg) line isn’t going to hold up to the strain if there are any snags in the water. The important thing is to balance your hooklength correctly with your chosen hook and style of rig.
What’s my line?
It’s no longer true that a high breaking strain line is automatically thick, inflexible and obvious to even the dullest of carp.
Modern monofilament line has a low diameter and is very supple – a quality to look for in a hooklength since it allows bait to fall naturally. Line is also being improved constantly to ensure improved casting and less resistance when a carp takes your bait. Make sure you store it away from light, and wet it before you knot it, and it should give good service.
Braided line is an alternative to monofilament for your hooklength. This can be 10 or 15 times more supple than its equivalent breaking strain nylon counterpart. Braided line is particularly good for hard-fished waters where carp become extra sensitive in detecting the resistance caused by line as they play with the bait. Marvellous, you might think, but there must be a catch. And there is – braided line is quite a bit thicker than nylon. It is up to you to choose whether you think carp are more spooked by the sight or by the feel of line.
Multistrand is the latest development. It consists of many strands of high strength – micro fibres. Once in the water these strands separate, becoming almost invisible. Kryston Multi-strand is the pioneer in this type of line.
Colour of line There’s some controversy today over the colouring of hooklengths, with some companies claiming black is now the worst possible colour for terminal rigs, since educated carp have learned to avoid it. Green or brown line is the current fashion trend, and if you have the money, Maxima Chameleon supposedly absorbs light rather than reflects it.
A knotty question
The kind of knot you use is quite important in your choice of hooklength line. Different lines are now designed to give maximum strength with certain kinds of knots. For example, Drennan Carp Dacron is designed with a weave that works best with a grinner knot. It makes changing rigs easier if you incorporate a swivel link.
The other problem that will affect the strength of your line is abrasion. As line rubs against rocks or snags it frays, reducing the strength of the line considerably. If your hooklength has rubbed against any sharp surface, or is looking a little old and tired, dispose of it immediately. It could make the difference between a twenty and feeling fed up for a week! Anglers such as Kevin Haddocks replace their entire lines at least twice a season, and their hooklengths after any hard fight. It sounds expensive, but it’s worth it to make sure you land the fish.
The basic leger rig
Since legering is the most popular method of carp fishing, a standard carp leger rig is probably the simplest and most useful one to look at.
Most anglers use a link swivel to connect the main line to the hook-length. Very often it is the same strength line straight through – typically 8lb (3.6kg) line for most waters, 10-12lb (4.5-5.4kg) line for snaggy or weedy waters, and 12-15lb (5.4-6.8kg) line for very heavily snagged waters. A standard hooklength is generally between 30cm (12in) and 45cm (18in)long.
The leger weight (normally an Arlesey bomb or a pear lead) is on a link around 10cm (4in) long. The bomb can be attached straight to the main line, but it’s better on a link because — if the weight sinks in mud -it’s not going to drag the hooklength down with it.
The hair rig
Carp are wily creatures. They might not be quite as intelligent as some anglers make them out to be, but they do learn. When they became suspicious of bait with a hook in it, the hair rig was devised to keep them guessing.
Kevin Haddocks and Lenny Middleton studied the way that carp took boilies in a large aquarium. It was soon obvious that they went for every boilie except the one with the hook and line. Kevin and Lenny decided that the carp were probably taking the boilie back to their pharyngeal teeth, feeling the line on their lips and rejecting the bait.
The two anglers decided to try attaching the bait to a piece of human hair. Sure enough, the hair was so fine that the carp didn’t detect it. Of course human hair isn’t strong enough to hold a carp, so they then attached the short length of human hair to a hook; which was in turn attached to the main line. They found that the carp still took the bait.
Oddly, later research by anglers has shown that, in fact, the hair rig seems to work best because a suspicious carp repeatedly sucks in and blows out food as it investigates it. As it does this, the hook catches the carp’s lips at an angle when a hair rig is used. Today, hair has been replaced by fine nylon line, though anglers like Andy Little use unwaxed dental floss.