Most people put far too much emphasis on rigs, says Kev Hewitt.
With so many rigs out there, it seems many anglers are keen to try and come up with the new all-singing all-dancing carp catching wonder rig with bells on top! Even in the magazines there are very often over-complex rigs which seem more suited to catching the angler rather than the fish. In fact judging by the technical pieces written and the credit we often give to carp’s intelligence, it is a wonder we ever catch a carp at all. Having worked in a tackle shop for the past seven years I get the opportunity to talk to thousands of anglers and the number of people who put their main emphasis on rigs is astounding. The number of times anglers tell me they have blanked so it is time to change rigs absolutely boggles my mind.
In fact I think many anglers coming into our sport are confused and find it very hard to read between the lines and figure out what are the most important aspects to consider when it comes to catching carp. Yes, rigs are an important factor as they are what a carp physically has to come in contact with and the mechanics of the rig have to be able to set the hook into the carp’s mouth. As the age old saying goes, though, you can put the best rig in the world in the wrong place and you will not get a bite, so how important is your rig then? If more emphasis, time and effort were spent concentrating on finding the fish and getting them feeding then, even with the worst rig in the world, you would be in with a better shout of getting a bite.
This all comes down to watercraft, which is a skill that is very hard to teach. Sometimes watercraft relies on instinct and simply being able to read a water. More often than not eagle-eyed observation will tell you all you need to know to paint a picture of what the carp are up to and how to catch them. I am a massive believer that if you can find them and get them feeding in such a way that they are competing for food or feeding with confidence then it is possible to get a bite on almost anything eventually. I mean, the longer and more confidently a carp feeds around the hookbait, the more likely it is to slip up. However, if you get your watercraft right, get on the right spot and get the fish feeding, and combine this with a proven rig then carp with slip up consistently.
It is probably fair to say that my rigs haven’t really changed all that much over the past 15 years. I am not one for playing around and trying to come up with a wonder rig. I believe in using a decent rig and putting all my efforts into getting it into a situation where a carp is going to pick it up with confidence.
I have three rigs that work for me – always have and more than likely always will. Three rigs that present a bait on whatever lakebed lays in front of me. Three rigs that will catch fish so long as I can put them in front of a feeding fish. I am more than happy to share those three rigs with everyone – no secrets, nothing out of this world or different, just three simple rigs that work. They aren’t the only rigs that work and not necessarily the best in the world, but they catch me fish on every venue I have ever fished and they don’t let me down.
Good, reliable, strong rig components mean that nothing is left to chance. No, I do not land every single fish I hook, but I do consider myself to have a pretty good hooking fish to landing fish ratio and I have never lost a carp on any of the three rigs due to a cut-off on the hooklink or a slipped knot, and hook pulls are few and far between, so the rigs are one less thing to worry about. Once the hard part is done and the fish is hooked, it is nice to be able to enjoy the fight and not have to worry about rigs letting me down. I am not preaching that these are the only three rigs that will ever catch you a carp; far from it in fact. There are lots of rigs out there that will catch carp and you have just got to find what works for you so you can fish with confidence. I have got that confidence in my rigs and very rarely use anything else.
I mentioned that my three rigs cover pretty much all eventualities and I guess now is a good time to introduce them and explain when I use each one. I will start with my last choice of rig: the chod rig. I say it is my last choice of rig as I will always try to fish clear spots (whether it be silt, gravel or clay) as opposed to weed. If I am fishing a swim where I cannot find a clear spot then I resort to fishing a chod rig. The mechanics of the chod rig means that once I have carefully plumbed a spot with a marker rod and gauged the depth of the weed, it is simply a case of sliding the beads up the leadcore to account for the depth of the weed so that once the lead penetrates the weed on the cast, the hookbait will always be presented on top of the weed. There is no other rig like the chod for fishing on top of weed. The chod rig can seem quite complex at first and there are many different variations of components, but I always keep it simple with a readymade 1m chod rig leader from ESP, or if the weed is blooming in abundance then a 1.5m leader would be better suited. Again keeping it simple, the size 6 ESP long readymade chod rigs are ever reliable. With the original MK2 Stiff Rigger hooks and Bristle Filament, they are made to perfection and have never let me down. That is my last-resort rig out of the way.
Now, if I do find a clear spot then I have two options. If it is silty, there is light weed, dead leaves or debris around then I will always fish a version of the hinged stiff rig, which I find reliable. Again I keep it simple with a short ESP readymade chod rig at the business end and a semi-stiff 25lb coated braid for the boom section, as opposed to a stiffer Bristle filament. The braid I favour is Strip Teaze Two Tone. This has advantages over other materials in that the semi-stiffness allows the rig to naturally follow the contours of any debris on the bottom. The other main advantage is that it is pretty much indestructible. The knot strength is such that it will never let you down and the abrasion resistance means that cut-offs are a thing of the past.
Perhaps my favoured approach has to be a solid bag. I have written many features about the solid bag over the years and it is fair to say my rigs have never really changed. A short (three- to four-inch), strong, supple braid with a simple knotless-knotted hair means my rig is pretty much as simple as it gets. The solid bag would be my first choice on clear, clay or gravel bottom where the short hooklink and 3½oz inline lead are highly efficient at setting the hook. Some of the big advantages of fishing a solid bag are that the rig is 100% tangle-proof and always presents a mouthful of free offerings around the hookbait.
So, there are my three rigs that cover all occasions and, to further prove the point I have been making, I would like to share a quick experience from a recent session.
I was fishing on Bluebell Swan Lake and struggling to find a clear spot. The best spot I could find had a bit of weed and some clearer patches. I had done the hard work and found the fish and baited this spot, but as the spot was a bit of a mixture I decided to fish one on a chod, one on a hinged stiff and one on a solid bag all on the same spot. I was interested to see which rig would be the most effective should the fish get their heads down. At first light the chod rod was first to go and an hour later a double take resulted in the hinged stiff rig going followed by the solid bag. All three rigs had been snaffled in just over an hour on a tricky day-ticket venue. Further proof that, if you can get on them and get them feeding, then pretty much any decent, reliable, well presented rig will result in a bite.
I guess if I had to sum it up in one sentence, I would say look at the bigger picture and put your efforts into finding fish and getting them feeding, then a well presented rig with reliable components over the top will do the rest of the work for you.