In a bid to fool the wariest adversaries in his target water, ELLIOTT GRAY shows how trialling a rig on more prolific venues can help you fine-tune it.
This season I am going to have a bit of a change up of my rig arrangement. I’m fishing my target water for the fourth season. During my time on the lake, the common I am trying to catch has only been caught twice off the bottom. It’s a small, busy lake and has got harder since it flooded in 2012. The fish have become wilier, but all of the stock, bar a couple, still get caught in a season, sometimes multiple times. There is also a big mirror that hasn’t been caught for five years.
Up until now I have been using the same bottom-bait presentation for all of my fishing and it has been hugely successful wherever I have taken it. I have tried it on this lake and caught a lot of the stock on it, but the bigger, rare visitors to the bank are proving elusive.
Solid Bags For Big Carp
Although it’s a tactic that is underused by many, Elliott uses solid bags for much of his margin fishing where he can drop the bait by hand or with a bait spoon.
My bottom-bait rig has a few main attributes. One is its length; eight inches for gravel and nine inches for silt with a long hair. I have had tremendous success with it but I feel that I need a change to try and outwit the remaining big ’uns. The big common’s last couple of captures were from anglers that generally use short rigs, so I took this into consideration. The fish have grown steadily since their last capture too, so it’s not like they are eating less and not getting caught; they must be getting away with it. There is no doubt that my original rig would have worked in time, but to make every chance count I wanted to create a rig with a shorter hook link. The result is of course a short hair because they go hand in hand.
When I want to test a rig’s efficiency I always take it to a venue where I could get a few runs. I used a small club lake close to my home. I was also able to view fish as they fed on a small margin spot close in and watch them deal with the rig.
Elliott adds just a palmful of bait to his solid bag. To reduce the residue around the rig, he licks and sticks the bag to the large 5oz inline lead. The result us mouthful of bait, that means his hook bait is often picked up first time.
One particular session I was fishing with my long hair, long hook link combination and I caught nine fish over the course of an afternoon. I watched every one pick it up and get hooked straightaway. One of the old characters came into the swim. He had an odd-shaped mouth, not damaged but clearly a little deformed. This fish proceeded to suck in the rig and blow it all out multiple times without getting hooked. It was getting away with it because its mouth was different. This is also the case with the big fish I am targeting this.
I had caught these club water carp multiple times, but I wanted to catch this specific fish. I read a feature by highly respected carp angler Jason Hayward and he said that you would be a fool to think that one rig works perfectly everywhere. He summed it up brilliantly, and while the rig that I have used for years is great and has caught me lots of fish, maybe it isn’t going to outwit my target fish this time. I will be changing to the polar opposite to catch this carp. A short hook link and a large lead will be my go-to rig. There is one sacrifice frim using a short hook link, and that is the fact that a short rig won’t be able to travel far back in the mouth and therefore you are possibly sacrificing hook-hold strength in a bid to get a bite. This would be fine in open water but this rig is designed for targeting marginal areas, which inherently have snags. This is where it’s a juggling act to ensure the best hook-hold with the best hooking ability.
“I read a feature by highly respected carp angler Jason Hayward and he said that you would be a fool to think that one rig works perfectly everywhere”
When I was changing to a new rig I wanted to keep the vital parts of my old one that I felt made a difference when a fish picked up the bait. I stuck with the same size 6 wide gape hook that I have always used. This was an obvious choice because it’s my favourite. Line aligned shrink tubing is another vital part of the rig. It helps it turn and makes for quicker hooking capabilities. The setup is largely based on the pop-up rig that I showed you last month with the bottom bait I have always used. I landed 36 fish from 36 bites over the winter so it was a rig I really wanted to replicate. I simply shortened it and stripped back the coating on the rig to create suppleness. By sticking to two favoured rig components I am not straying too far from what I know and I shouldn’t go far wrong.
Because I will be fishing the margins I will be dropping the rig by hand or from a baiting spoon in areas that you couldn’t cast to. This ensures that I don’t get tangles with the supple braid. To further guarantee this I put it in a solid bag. It’s not tied in the traditional way. I like to use a small palmful of bait in the bag for starters to supplement the hook bait. I then seal the bag around a drop-off inline pear lead of 5oz plus, simply licking and sticking the inside of the solid bag to the walls of the lead to make a nice parcel.
With the new rig constructed it was a case of trialling it to see its efficiency at hooking the fish. After finding some in the margins I managed to get the rig in place, complete with the solid bag. I soon had a bite and after some hook-and-hold fishing, I sank the net under a lovely common. At mid-twenties it was a good fish but I was keen to see the hook-hold. Although the hook link was short, it was well hooked and a great start for the new rig.
Mid-Twenty common caught just feet from the bank
I replaced the rig and while we took some shots another fish made off with it. Like the last one, it tried its hardest to hit a small willow tree branch that was hanging in the water, but after a short while, it made the folds of the net. I was made up and on closer inspection, the fish appeared familiar. Lo and behold, staring back at me was the fish that had got away with my rig on several occasions when I was using my trusty bottom-bait rig. Here it was, well hooked on this very rig, the fish with the unique mouth, which further gave positives to it being able to trip up my wary target fish. This was hugely encouraging. Let’s hope this is the turning point for me this season and I can finally land these epic fish that the lake holds.