Cold-Water Zig Rigs
One of the UK’s most prolific carp catchers, Mark Bartlett reveals some of his best tips for catching carp on zig rigs at this time of year.
During the colder months carp on most lakes will spend many hours lying up high in the water. This means that presenting baits on the lakebed in the traditional manner can often be very unproductive and inefficient, as the carp will simply not be where the rigs are placed. With this in mind, zig rigs play a huge part in my angling during the colder months, enabling me to present my hookbait in the zone where the carp are. Zigs at this time of year have accounted for some absolutely crazy hauls for me and my friends over the years, and I am sure if you follow my simple tips you too will experience the power of the zig in cold water.
1. Effective rig
First things first, you need to tie a zig rig that will not only get you a bite but also land the fish. For years we did really well tying up our rigs with a knotless knot and using a bit of foam or a small pop-up, but hookpulls were quite common and often accepted as the downside of zig fishing. However, in recent times the shape of zigs has literally changed. Now, with inventions such as the Fox Zig Aligna, not only has tying a zig become so much easier, hookpulls have almost become extinct! The components I use to construct my zigs are really straightforward. I like a strong, reliable hook with a wide gape and beaked point, Kuro S2 and Arma Point SSBP being the two I favour. The size will vary but as a general rule I like a big hook. I use 15lb Zig + Floater Hooklink along with a Zig Aligna and HD Foam. I also use an XL Anti Tangle Sleeve to ensure my rigs cast out with no problems.
2. The right depth
At this time of year I often fish all three rods on the zigs and set them at three different depths. I then chop and change the depths every hour or two until I get a bite, then the other two rods are changed to the productive depth to give me the best chance of a hit. As a starting point I like to fish one just under the surface, say 1ft below, one about 3ft down and one at mid-depth, and then I start experimenting from there. When it comes to using zigs at this time of year, the depth really is key. Once you have located the depth they are sitting at big catches can be forthcoming.
Targeting carp with zigs can be very similar to targeting trout with flies, in that one day a certain colour will do the bites, yet the next day the fish’s preference will be for a completely different colour. I am not sure why it is like that, but over the years I have found that it pays to carry a nice selection of different coloured hookbaits. The beauty of the Zig Aligna is that I can mix and match the colour of the Aligna and the foam to create two-tone hookbaits, meaning I can experiment massively until I find a colour or combination that works the best on any given day. On lakes that are heavily pressured the fish will often be spooky of the overused colours like black, yellow and red, so thinking outside the box and trying colours like pink, white and brown can often give you an edge.
4. Be prepared
I always carry a number of Zig Discs with me that will be loaded with lots of different rigs already tied and waiting. These are often left at 12-14ft, then I can simply trim them down to the length I need on any given day. The beauty of the Zig Disc is that it enables me to measure my zig very quickly; one complete wrap around the disc is 12 inches, so I can make my rig the perfect length in seconds. By having the zig already tied and waiting I am able to really take advantage when the carp are having it. There’s nothing worse than having your rods out of the water for long periods of time whilst you sit and tie rigs on the bank. Remember: fail to prepare, prepare to fail!
5. Increased resistance
I am always amazed by the number of anglers that want to use the lightest lead they can get away with when zig rig fishing. Personally, I am at the opposite end of the scale and opt for a nice, big, heavy lead. The reasons for this are simple. Firstly, with the long hooklink, the fish has a bit of play when it picks up the Zig Aligna, so I want a large amount of resistance to help drive the hook home into the bottom lip. Secondly I like to fish with my lines nice and tight with all of the stretch taken out, so I need a heavy lead that will not drag out of place as I tighten the line down to it.
6. Tight lines
In tip five I mentioned that I like to use tight lines when zig rig fishing. In fact I like to use tight lines for 90% of the fishing I do. I am a massive believer in it helping me to catch more fish, as it greatly increases my bite indication. I use a bow-string-tight line in conjunction with a Black Label Springer Arm indicator, which puts the line under even more tension, meaning as soon as my lead moves a single millimetre the indictor will move and my alarm will signal. In fact, by taking all of the stretch out the mono with the Springer, the rod will strike for me, because as soon as the lead is dislodged, the stretch in the line will try and pull the lead towards the rod tip and pull the hook down into the bottom lip of the fish.
7. Increased attraction
As good as unflavoured foam is for a hookbait, at this time of year I think you can give yourself a nice little edge by dipping your hookbait in some liquid glug before casting out. There are all manner of glugs you can use and I have a number that work well for me, such as Betalin and Wraysberry Liquid Booster. Quite often the attraction caused by the liquid oozing from the hookbait can be the little extra needed to trigger a dormant winter carp into having a feed.
8. Careful casting
Now this is not a tip that will directly get you more bites, but it is still something that is very important in helping you be successful. I often see anglers casting their zigs straight off of the ground where their hook can get snagged on all manner of objects such as gravel, twigs, etc. This may not only blunt the hook point, but it can mean you end up casting out with a little twig attached to the hook, which stops you being able to hook a fish. I simply place a flat unhooking mat or a bucket lid on the ground behind me and then cast the zig off of this. It’s only a minor detail, but it’s that extra percentage that adds to my confidence, and those little extras can make all the difference, especially when cold-water carping.
9. Long landing net handle
A standard 6ft landing net handle may not always offer you the best solution when trying to land a carp on a zig rig, especially if the zig you are using is a long one of over 10ft. I like to use the Horizon XT landing net, which comes with a 3ft extension handle, making the pole 9ft and making it far easier for me to land a fish on such a long hooklink. This little investment can make all the difference and ensure that every fish hooked is a fish landed!
How to tie a perfect zig rig
- STEP 1: The top quality components Bart uses to create his zig rigs
- STEP 2: Start by threading your chosen colour of Zig Aligna on to the Zig + Floater Hooklink, thin end first
- STEP 3: Tie a Kuro S2 hook to the end of the hooklink using a five-turn grinner knot
- STEP 4: Slide the Zig Aligna up the hooklink and into position over the eye of the hook
- STEP 5: Load your chosen colour of HD Zig Foam into the Zig Aligna Loading Tool
- STEP 6: Place the Loading Tool through the back of the Zig Aligna loop
- STEP 7: The foam will become trapped inside the loop as you push the tool through
- STEP 8: Carefully trim away the excess foam to leave a hookbait that looks like this
- STEP 9: Cut the hooklink to your chosen length, attach an XL Anti Tangle Sleeve and tie a loop in the end to complete the rig