Tuesday, 30 May 2017 11:29
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The Pop Aligner

Elliott Gray reveals a rig on which he has landed 100 per cent of the carp he has hooked on it – perfect if you want to land big carp from challenging waters.

As autumn turned to winter, and with a game plan for the lake I was going to be fishing, I began to look at something new with regard to a pop-up rig.

I was going to be fishing over bait, but small items and therefore the rig would need to be a lot different to my usual chod, hinge or Withy Pool rigs. I love both of these presentations but they absolutely would not do the job required. 

I was going to be using small PVA bags and small hook baits and therefore needed a pop-up presentation a little different to my usual. The rig had to be subtle and the pop-up section very short in order to be used over the top of the bits and pieces I would be fishing over and avoid foul-hookers, which is definitely an issue when spodding bait over the top of pop-ups, particularly if the baits are small.

One day after work I sat in my front room and began playing around with what I had in the tackle box. I had recently acquired some 15lb semi-stiff N-Trap from work and this was to be the hook link, with the slight extra rigidity in comparison to the N-Trap Soft that I normally use. I hoped this might help a little to ensure that the bag didn’t land too close to the lead. Just in case the rig was to land in a little heap because of the bag, I would position a small piece of putty around about the middle of the hook link, which is something I do with all my rigs these days. 

PIC 01 acf 16 june elliott gray
You will need plenty of shrink tubing for this rig

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A no4 shot balances the rig nicely on the lake bed

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Elliot made the changes from his favourite choddy pattern to the size 6 Wide Gape

Hook choice was simple, and rather than the big size 4 Choddys I normally use in conjunction with pop-ups, I decided on a size 6 Wide Gape. These are the only two hook patterns I ever really use and they very rarely let me down. 

With the hook in my hand, I soon decided that all I’d need to do in order to get the height I was after would be to add a small section of shrink tube, that would serve two purposes – give me added height, and turn the hook.

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The rig is ideal for using low-lying pop-ups over bait. Elliott loves using his home-made hook baits

I whipped the rig up, popped one of the small pop-ups onto the hair and then plopped it in the kitchen sink for a little gander. It looked lovely, neat and tidy, and once the putty I used to anchor the putty was replaced with a split shot (which I owned none of at the time but a trip to the tackle shop soon sorted that) the whole thing looked at felt like it was going to work nicely. 

It was nothing new, and in reality, it’s a very simple presentation, but it was very different to any pop-up rig I’d ever used in the past, being much shorter and delicate looking. 

I lifted the rig out of the sink and then dragged it across the palm of my hand to see how well it turned, which is something I have always done when testing for a decent rig. After a few drags, I noticed that it was far from consistent, only turning properly around 60 per cent of the time. 

I knew the answer straightaway, and rather than using the shrink tubing in the standard way I opted for the line aligner, which I use for my bottom bait fishing. This is something that I know makes a huge difference and I should’ve known better than to try any other way. 

So that was that; I’d come up with a rig I liked and was performing well in the kitchen, but how would it do when put to the test?

Unlike my usual rigs, this one wasn’t going to be big-fish selective, and with winter the season in which I’d be using it that didn’t bother me at all – the more you catch during the winter the better, big or small. As always, the important thing for me was not how many bites I had while using it, but how many of them I landed.

The first venue I used it at was a right smash ’em up-type place and between me and a mate, we had a good crack that afternoon, doing something we rarely find ourselves doing – catching loads of carp in just a few hours.  

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A club lake 38lb common caught on Elliott's ultra-reliable pop aligner

More importantly, of the 10 small fish I hooked, I landed them all. Due to the nature of the lake, I was using hooks far inferior to my usual, and I think used three different rigs all day. As always, I had sharpened the hooks right down to a razor sharp and extremely thin point, and normally, once you’ve hooked one, the hook is an absolute write-off. In this case though, I was bending the points back into shape, attempting to re-sharpen them, all sorts of things in order to almost force a lost fish, but sure enough, and despite the absolutely horrific hook points, I dropped none.

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Shrink tubing neatens up the overhand loop on the other end

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Putty is used to sink the hook link down out of the way of the fish

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The line alignermakes the rig turn a lot quicker in the fish's mouth.


From there I went to a different venue, around a week or so later, and this lake was much harder and extremely weedy, so would put the rig to its test not only with bigger fish but in weedy conditions too. 

Just like before, I landed all that I hooked, spodding bait out and pinging the rig, in conjunction with a PVA bag over the top. The great thing about the shrink tube was that it always retained its original shape after the cast with a bag attached, which is extremely important.

With a few fish from different venues soon under my belt, and Christmas out of the way, I headed back down to my main water for the beginning of my winter campaign. The venue is a tough one at the very best of times so the winter was set to be a challenging one at best, and I needed to be using a rig I had faith in, and by this time I was happy to use the ‘new’ rig on there. 

We were blessed with some fantastic weather around that time and over the next few weeks, I managed to get among a few fish. It’s safe to say that this all ended once the weather turned cold and the lake flooded, but with a handful of fish, including the second biggest fish in the lake under my belt, I was more than happy. What’s more, every single fish I had caught up to this point was absolutely nailed, and I still hadn’t lost any. 

I always pay a lot of attention not only to how many fish I land, but exactly where they are hooked, and for me it’s all about that bottom lip, right in the hard bit. If you’re hooking them there, then they’ll rarely fall off. 

After a while, I noticed that once the water had penetrated the pop-up, the hook section had the tendency to lean over slightly, but this didn’t bother me one bit. In fact it just meant that the rig would sit more discreetly, so if you try it out and this happens, you don’t need to worry. I’ve caught plenty with a fresh pop-up on, and plenty with baits full of water, it matters not. 

I have been using pop-ups between 10 and 14mm, namely the Earls Pearls, which are right saucy little things that only a select few are able to get their hands on.

It’s still kind of early days as far as the lead systems that I have used it with, but every fish I have caught has been while using a helicopter rig. I’m sure it’ll make almost no difference but I thought I should quickly mention that, as sometimes the smallest things can make all the difference. 

As I write this, since December I’ve had 34 bites on the rig and landed every single one of them. These fish have come from a multitude of venues and fishing situations and incorporate all sizes of fish. I’m sure I’ll lose one in the end but until that day comes, my fingers are firmly crossed in the hope that day is a long time from now! 

Oh, and one last thing. I saw a Myles Gibson article last month in ACF and he seemed to be using a very similar presentation, which I have now learnt that he has used for many years. I know Myles well, and if he uses it – then add that to my tally of fish landed without a loss – you know you’re onto a winner with this little beauty.


PIC 10 acf june 16 elliott gray
When you hook fish like this you need the utmost confidence in your rig.

Last modified on Tuesday, 30 May 2017 13:13

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