Pop-up rig principles and practice

A pop-up rig is quite simply any leger rig where a buoyant hookbait floats somewhere off the bottom. It’s a curious set-up that should, in theory, be less effective than the standard presentation, where a non-buoyant bait is presented on a hair rig fished on the bottom.

Development of pop-ups

Carp fishing grew in popularity in the 1980s and it became apparent that, due to increasing angling pressure, more sophisticated methods were needed to fool carp into making a mistake.

The original idea was to combat either silt or bottom weed, the buoyant hookbait being adjusted to fish anything from 5-60cm (2in-2ft) off the bottom, depending on the nature of the lake bed. However, it soon became clear that carp would pick up suspended baits fished on hard-packed gravel beds – a totally unnatural presentation. It probably worked because it aroused the carps’ curiosity.

When using braided or multi-stranded hook link materials, follow the manufacturer’s advice on knots closely. These materials do not behave in the same way as monofilament line.

Pop-up rig principles and practiceRitchie McDonald uses a washing-up bow to put the finishing touches to his rig. By adding or subtracting weight, you should be able to balance your rig so that the bait has virtually neutral buoyancy. But err on the buoyant rather than the sinking side.

1. The original rig simply had a hair coming off the bend of the hook.

Typically this would be made of nylon or cotton. A swan shot anchors the buoyant bait to the bottom. The hook link is attached to a swivel.

2. The first refinement was to take the hair off the eye rather than the bend. A short length of silicone rubber or ‘Rig-Shrink’ holds the bait close to the shank. Smaller shot are used to hold the bait in position.

3. The Loony Extension Rig relies for its effectiveness on a short length of stiff plastic tubing which is used to extend the hook shank. The hair can then be mounted level with the eye of the hook. The rig is critically balanced using tunqsten putty.

4. A further development was to fish the hook link on the bottom. The rig is critically balanced using little droplets of Magma liquid tungsten. The merest suck from a carp sends the bait flying into the fish’s mouth.

Boatcasting for topeBoatcasting for tope calls or long, heavy leaders like these. They act as rubbing traces and help beat hard-fighting fish close to the boat. fishing a rocky markWhen fishing a rocky mark, like this angler is doing, an extra long leader if strong line is handy to lift fish up from the water.

It is now possible to buy special casting leaders that start thick and then taper down to the same diameter as your main line. The first 6m (20ft) of supple tournament mono is 65lb (30kg), giving knotless strength for maximum casting power and security. This tapers down gradually over the next 4.5m (15ft) to 15lb (6.8kg).

This means that the leader is joined to a main line of a similar diameter. Either a normal blood or a double Uni knot is best for this join. The reduction in knot size makes the line pass more smoothly through the rod rings, with no distance-reducing snatch or drag. They can add yards to your casting. Always allow a reasonable margin of error with the strength of your leader – it is better to use one that’s too heavy rather than one that’s too light.

Remember to check that your leader and knot are in good condition. This is particularly important in abrasive conditions.

Pop-up rigMake sure your leader is strong enough to cope with whatever sinker you are using. With big fish or a strong swell, use a longer leader than normal. tournament knot1. Mick’s tournament knot

This is a good strong knot that is quite easy to tie, even with cold hands. Tie a simple half hitch in the leader line. Thread the main line through it without tightening. Put at least three turns of main line over the leader and another three back. Moisten the loose ends and slowly tighten them.

tucked Uni knot

2. Mick’s tucked Uni knot

This is a very strong knot that slides easily through the rod rings. Tie a half hitch in the leader. Take the main line through it without tightening. Double the main line up on itself and put at least four turns through the loop. Put the end through the half hitch, moisten and tighten up.


The original pop-up bait was just a boilie which was then microwaved or baked and arranged on an off-the-bend hair rig . A heavy swan shot anchored the bait. The theory behind this rig’s effectiveness was that when a fish took the bait, the anchor shot fell to the lower part of its mouth, making the whole mouthful harder to eject. At the same time the heavy shot was enough to panic the fish into a run. A very crude rig was used by some of the pioneers of French carp fishing – particularly at Lake Cassien. Here, three or four brightly coloured buoyant boilies were fished on a hair coming off the eye of the hook. The hook was attached to a short hook link of 15lb (6.8kg) b.s. line and anchored by a 3oz (85g) lead. The first refinement of the original rig was to shorten the hook link and alter the hair, so that instead of coming off the bend, the hair was trapped against the shank by a piece of silicone tubing. The swan shot was replaced with sufficient shot to hold the hook link just on the bottom. The hookbait then wafts about enticingly whenever a carp passes nearby.

Even the refined rig was still crude and unsophisticated and it didn’t take carp long to grow wary of it. Thinking anglers soon realised that even the light weight of the anchor shot could become a definite source of suspicion. Consequently it was replace with tungsten based pop-up putty as I became more widely available. Smaller hookbaits were used and more supple hooklink materials were developed.

The arrival of these rigs with their critically balanced hookbaits were the nex obstacle to the carp’s intelligence and these rigs enjoyed a long and successful catching life (tank shot 2).

Nevertheless, they were still far from the ultimate in suspended hookbait presentation. The bait was rigged to sit either above or parallel to the bend of the hook — not the ideal arrangement.

Anglers from the Savay Loony Rota (The carp anglers’ syndicate) developed the first hair set-up that mounted the bait below the hook itself. The Looney Extension Rig relies on extending the hook shank with a thin piece of stiff plastic tubing. The buoyant boiled bait is mounted level with the eye of the hook and the whole arrangement is critically balanced so that it barely takes any effort on the part of the carp to suck in the bait.

The perfect rig? Perhaps — this is certainly the most recent. With this rig you fish buoyant baits close to the bottom with neither tungsten putty nor shot. The rig use the revolutionary Kryston Magma Liqui tungsten for its effectiveness and consists of a small semi-buoyant hookbait, a light but strong hook and a 25-35mm (1-114 in) hair.

The hook itself lies almost on the lake bed, while the hookbait supports the weigh of the hook. The bait is critically balanced by placing little splashes of Magma at regular intervals along the Silkworm hook link The link itself acts as the counter balance (tank shot 4) – making for an extreme! sensitive and deadly rig.