ELLIOTT GRAY looks into the little tweaks in his rigs that make the biggest difference to his catch rates.
If you’re a fan of the chod or hinge rig, then this is a crucial part to constructing it effectively.
I like to form a gentle curve in the hook section, so that it’s just a little off being straight – not too aggressive, just enough to ensure that it will turn the hook towards the bottom lip. By pulling the hook section extremely tight first, working the desired shape into the Mouth Trap material is simple.
A straight, or even worse, a wonky curve section, will hinder the rig’s performance. Some people do really well on an aggressively curved chod, but it’s just something I’ve not used. I have, however, used the Withy Pool rig a lot, with good success.
Once you’ve formed your curve you need to make sure it is following the hook’s shank and the point is level with the hook section, not kicked off to one side, which is an easy mistake to make. With the perfect curve created you will have a rig that spins towards the bottom lip, no matter what angle the fish approaches from, and the hook is poised perfectly in a flash.
The Line Aligner
Shrink tubing is something I have pretty much always used on my rigs and there is no doubt that it can increase the performance. There are several uses for it and it suits many presentations well.
One thing that I learnt off an old mate was how the line aligner trick (where the braid exits the kicker from the hook’s eye early) made the hook turn much faster and consistently. He showed me this many years ago and since then it has more than proved its worth. Something so small that certainly makes a big difference.
I have compared the standard style of attaching shrink tubing and the line aligner, many times and the line aligner wins every single time. The palm test is a great way of outlining how much more reactive it is – try tying two identical rigs, one with and one without, then pull them across your palm and you will see immediately how effective it is.
Put quite simply, this is right up there with the most important things but can also be perceived as a tiny percentage of the bigger picture. The bottom line is simple, though, and I believe that the sharper it is, the better it is.
I don’t care whether it’s fished over gravel, silt, whatever, the hook will always be a sharpened one. There’s definitely an art to it, and a fine line between a well and a badly sharpened hook, but it’s more than worth the aggro of mastering how to do it. You might get through more hooks because you’re dinking them on the gravel and things on the retrieve but you’ll also get through more hooks because you’re catching more carp.
Sharpening kits are readily available these days and there’s no excuse not to have one in the tackle box.
Steaming Your Rigs
One thing I cannot cast out is a curly or kinked rig; it might be alright with some presentations, but not mine.
I rely quite heavily on the fact that my coated braids are steamed straight before casting. This is to ensure they land how I want them to on the bottom. It’s more important with balanced baits and pop-ups, which will sink slowly and could easily leave a curly rig poking up off the bottom.
I am also able to look at my rigs once they’ve been reeled in and determine how they were laying on the bottom. By holding the hook and letting the rest dangle you will see exactly how they’ve been laying by the shape of the hook link.
The combi rig that I use for a large percentage of my pop-up fishing is a prime example of a rig that is affected detrimentally by a coiled or wonky boom section. When you test it in the edge, it doesn’t fall away from the lead correctly and can easily poke up, but give it a steam first and it’s good to go every single time.
Pin It Down
This is something I started doing about four years ago, and again, it’s something small that’s worth its weight in gold.
By adding a small piece of putty to the middle-ish area of my hook links I am able to make sure that not only does the hook rig kick away from the lead nicely but the hook link will be pinned flat to the bottom too, killing two birds with one stone – the rig is presented effectively and it’s also hidden from view.
Although I’m not a massive worrier about super-duper camouflage and stuff, I like to make sure the basics are achieved and that the rig is concealed well. A rig that pokes an inch up off the deck is not ticking the right boxes. When positioning the putty, I mould it just above the halfway point so that the putty is sinking the rig from the swivel end first. This helps force the situation when it comes to getting the rig to kick out how I like it to.
Wide-Gaped Hook Patterns
For me there is no other option, the hook I am using has to have a wide gape to it.
I firmly believe that a hook with a wide gape and short to average length shank stays in better. There’s far less leverage to turn the hook out, and once they go in, I find that they stay firm.
I don’t like losing fish and I don’t like damaging them either, which certain patterns can be a little prone to, simply down to movement during the fight. The wide-gape-style pattern is my clear choice.
Dropping The lead
This is a really important part of any rig; what you’re going to attach it to and will the lead be ejecting?
For weedy situations I will always drop the lead unless I have access to a boat, then I might leave it on, but no boat and lots of weed, then no lead is staying on. Landing fish from the bank is much easier in weedy situations with the lead ejected than when it’s left on. Most of the time the fish will rise up in the water once the lead has detached, and this means they’re up and out the way of the weed and are therefore easier to land.
If you leave the lead on then the fish will probably stay deep and run straight into the sanctuary of the weed. This is the difference between a lost and a landed fish on all too many occasions.
Understanding buoyancy is such an edge when it comes to getting the best from each of your favourite presentations.
I know for sure that none of my rigs work in the same way as far as buoyancy is concerned. Some work better sinking slowly, others faster. Testing them in the margin is definitely the best way to find out, though. I like to swing them into the edge, much like a cast, and then see how they settle, tweaking them until they’re right.
I’ve also been lucky enough to watch my rigs in action many times while fishing, and also through a TV screen on the Underwater DVD shoot; it’s a real eye-opener but I’m happy now that my rigs do exactly what I want them to. Without seeing for yourself exactly how your rigs land after a cast, you can easily get it wrong. It must certainly open the eyes of people using boats for the first time – it did mine!
I couldn’t not mention the old helicopter presentation – I just love it.
There are loads to choose from when it comes to lead systems but I always try and opt for the helicopter rig unless I’m doing some high-impact inline work, with 3½ to 5oz leads, which I’ll do when fishing on gravel at weedy lakes, or for margin fishing. Over the last five years, 80% of my fishing has been with the helicopter.
The great thing about it is its versatility; I can cast it pretty much wherever I like, and whatever range I like. Because of the way the beads are at the bottom, I am able to adjust it; I can change it to suit the situation with ease.
The gap in the beads helps the rig to settle nicely. I can use a chod, hinged or bottom-bait rig and it’s going to do a great job.