Little And Large
James Turner extols the virtues of small long-shank hooks and big leads.
It seems that hook patterns regularly drift in and out of favour as rig fashion changes. Longshank hooks are definitely not in vogue at the moment; largely, I’d guess, because the currently fashionable rigs don’t use them. I’ve also heard anglers say they’re prone to hook pulls, which is a theory I don’t subscribe to. In fact, if you don’t use longshank hooks then I think you’re missing a trick. I, for one, would be lost without a little packet of size 10s in my armoury.
I once read a quote that stuck fast in my mind, highlighting that most of the great carp rigs over the years have all had a stiff section by the hook end to exaggerate the shank. The hinged stifflink, the chod rig, the Withy Pool rig, the swimmer rig, the bent hook rig... the list goes on. Longshank hooks, by their very design, already have an extended shank and so their use is one of the simplest ways to take advantage of this trend in successful rig mechanics. With just a little bit of shrink tubing over the eye I’ve found them to be fantastic for bottom-bait fishing.
The longshank rig I use now is the one I’ve used for years. The fact it’s lasted this long is testament to just how highly I rate it; in fact, I reckon I’ve been using this rig, in one form or another, since I started carp fishing.
Back then it was just a simple knotless knot to a longshank hook, with a small section of silicone tubing on the shank. The hooklink was made of mono (Maxima to be precise) and this negated the need for any shrink tubing, as the line coming out of the eye created the aggressive angle that I was looking for. I used this rig up until my first year on Tolpits where it accounted for my first bite on there. Due to the in-the-edge nature of the fishing on Tolpits I could watch fish pick up the rig. Well, watch as they picked it up and then ejected it. I’ve seen carp eject all manner of rigs over the years – they’re frightfully adept at it – so I wasn’t too disheartened. Still, the rig needed tweaking.
The first change was to use a coated braid with the coating removed just above the hook to allow the hook to flip better. This was combined with a short length of shrink tubing placed over the eye and steamed at an angle so that I could retain the aggressive angle between the shank and the hooklink.
The final change came a few seasons ago when I switched from using a small section of silicone tubing at the bottom of the shank to trap the hair on the bend to using a small ring in a blow-back fashion. Since then I’ve tweaked the rig countless times, but always ended up back at this setup.
The hook I use is the Korda Longshank X, crucially in a size 10. I could speak for ages about these little hooks. The amount of faith I have in them is unsurpassed. They have served me well on big pits, small pits, at long range, under the rod tips, for small carp, for monster carp, at home and abroad. I’ve flirted with the same hooks in bigger sizes, but the size 10 has stood its ground and performed at an equal, if not higher, level.
A size 10 will seem small to a lot of you, particularly if I tell you that I used them on the likes of Wraysbury 1, targeting big carp in demanding situations. However, the hook is bigger than an average size 10, and the long shank and straight point are exceptionally effective. The hook holds with them have been nothing short of fantastic and rarely do they result in a hook pull. The small hook buries right round the bend, which makes the hook holds solid. This is, I’m sure, largely why I have had so few hook pulls over the years. (Perhaps a larger hook doesn’t bury into the carp’s mouth so well, due to the bigger size and thicker gauge wire, and therefore will lead to more hook pulls...) The secure hold also means that the size 10s do not tear the mouth. The hooks simply remain in place.
Before I tie a hook or consider casting it out, I always check the point visually, then on my nail and finally on the palm of my hand. This is so important. If there are any doubts whatsoever about the point’s sharpness, then I discard the hook. After all, the next bite could be the fish I’ve been after for months.
I’ve found the rig to be effective between three and 12 inches long, although for the majority of my fishing I use it at six to eight inches. To help tie this rig consistently, I picked up a neat trick off a good friend. By carefully marking up the back of my old rig board with a series of scratches, I can now measure out a specific length of braid every time to construct the rig. There’s another mark to ensure I strip the correct amount of coating each time and another to ensure my hair is the right length. This makes rig tying exact and means that each rig is identical.
The rig is fished with a short hair and generally with a bottom bait. If fishing with particles, I use the same rig, but with a slightly longer hair and the bait balanced with a sliver of cork.
I do like to use this rig with a heavy lead, anywhere from 3½-8oz. Obviously, the really big leads are only used when the rig is being lowered from a boat or off the rod tip on to a marginal spot. The big lead/small hook combination has raised a few eyebrows, but it definitely works for me. I’m convinced that it makes ejecting hooks extremely difficult.
Tying James’s Longshank rig
- STEP 1: You’ll need some size 10 Longshanks, 15lb N-Trap Soft, 1.2mm Shrink Tube and some micro Rig Rings
- STEP 2: Strip back six inches of the coating
- STEP 3: Form a hair loop, attach the hookbait and a Rig Ring 10mm above the bait, then whip the hook into place using a knotless knot
- STEP 4: Slide 10mm of shrink tube over the eye
- STEP 5: Use a steaming kettle to shrink the tubing down at an angle
- STEP 6: Attach a small piece of putty to the middle of the hooklink, pick your rig length, and it’s ready to go