I’ve been on a sorta rig tying adventure for the last few days. What better time to do it than with over a foot of snow outside and temperatures in the teens? It all started a few nights ago when my daughter and I started organizing my fishing tackle in the basement. Somehow she managed to gank enough fishing related bits and bobs from me to fill her very own tackle bag. I love organizing tackle and I’ve come to the conclusion that I probably have too much of it.
Early last year, I got a hold of some coated braid hooklink material that was on sale. For the uninitiated, a hooklink is line that actually connects your hook to your mainline. The benefits of the coated braid quickly became apparent to me and slowly I began adopting more rig bits from overseas. A longshank #6 hook, shrink tubing for a line aligner, tungsten putty. These components now make up what has become my standard rig. There is a lot of emphasis put on rigs in the overseas carp scene. Here in the US, where carp are so prolific they are labeled “invasive”, I find there is less emphasis placed on them. Perhaps that is simply because carp fishing is still coming into its own here and specialized tackle and information is hard to come by. If the hair rig is used here, it’s usually tied from standard braid or mono and usually paired with some non-carp specific hook. Having not spent a lot of time using these types of rigs, I decided I would give mono, fluorocarbon and braid, the types of products I could pick up anywhere, a second look.
How a rig behaves when a carp picks it up has been written about by hundreds of people, often referred to as “rig mechanics”. For the sake of not just regurgitating things I’ve heard or read before, I’m gonna call it “rig flippin”. While we can all wax philosophical about what happens when a fish encounters a rig, the truth is, any conclusions we come up with are just mere approximations of reality. One such approximation is called “the palm test”.
Imagine a carp sucks in a bait and therefore a hook into its mouth. As the fish moves way from the lead, the hook being anchored to it is now being dragged out of its mouth. At this point we are expecting the hook to catch hold in the carp’s mouth. The fish feels this “prick” and bolts away causing the hook to be firmly embedded wherever it’s found purchase. This dragging motion is what the palm test simulates. As you pull your hooklink across your palm, the hook will either catch hold or not. The goal is for the hook to predictably “flip” into position. I’m not saying that this is the be all end all of determining rig efficiency, however, it is a good one. My standard rig is really good about flipping over predictably, at least in the palm test. I have a lot of faith that a fish picking up the rig will indeed be hooked. We’ll use the palm test to validate our mono, braid and fluorocarbon rigs as well.
A Locally Source, Handcrafted Rig
Let’s come up with a plan for our locally sourced rig. To start off, I’m gonna go ahead and use a Gamakatsu G-Carp Specialist R Hooks in a size 6 or 8 since they are available in many stores including Walmart. If you have access to fly hooks, you may find a few patterns that could work there too. The G-Carp hook has in in-turned eye and a wider than normal gape, something that is pretty standard in carp hooks. We’ll also need splitshot, swivels and a baiting needle.
The Braid Rig
Braid is supple, thin and strong, making it the first material I tried. A simple braid based knotless knot will catch you fish. It’s easily attained and you may even already have some sitting in your tackle box. There are some things I don’t like about using standard braid though. For starters, because of its suppleness, braid can be prone to tangles. I’m not saying it absolutely will tangle, but it’s worth taking some precautions to prevent it from happening. Normally I would suggest using an anti-tangle sleeve however, the anti-tangle sleeve is not available locally so let’s forget that exists. Another thing you may try is to fish a short hooklink of say 3-5 inches. I personally am not a fan of fishing that short of a hooklink as it may not work well in weedy waters, but there are other benefits of using a short rig. Remember the idea of the lead aiding in setting the hook as the carp moves away? Having a short rig means that the carp has to move very little before the lead comes into play as opposed to with a longer hooklink which may land crumpled up in a pile that will have to uncoil before the fish feels any resistance. The amount of play you give the fish is something to consider no matter what your rig is made from.
One last thing about braid is that most of the stuff available to us has a tendency to float meaning your hooklink may also float off the bottom in places. Maybe some small splitshots could help pin it down. Anyway, considering all the debris on the bottom of any given pond or lake, it may not matter at all. I think an unpressured carp feeding with real gusto will pick up anything shiny or colorful without a second thought. The braid rig may very well be all you ever need.
The Mono Rig
Monofilament was the second material I tied up. It is a stiff material unlike braid and this stiffness increases with the breaking strain. The first rig I tied up was with 15lb mono, but I soon realized I was not a fan of how stiff the hair on the hair rig was. A stiff, thick hair will be a challenge to mount small baits like sweetcorn on. The stiff hair also seemed to cause the hook to sit propped up, something which just didn’t seem right. To combat the overall stiffness, I switched over to a 12lb mono. I use a mono-blend in 12lb as mainline and having hauled up a number of 20s last year, I am pretty certain 12lbs is enough in most situations. While the lighter mono was more supple than the heavy stuff, the stiffness of the hair still bugged me. I fixed this by tying up a 10lb braid hair rig complete with knotless knot then tying another knotless knot over that it. After cutting off the excess, I was left with a supple hair (braid) and a stiffer hooklink. A few runs across the palm seemed to indicate that this mono based rig had hooking potential. I believe the section of mono that exits the eye extends the hook shank much like a line aligner would. Additionally, the stiffness causes the bait to push away from the lead aiding in reducing tangles and forcing the hooklink to straighten itself out, reducing the amount of rope the fish has to play with before hooking itself. Maybe one downside of the stiff material is that the really heavy stuff, like 20lb+ will definitely not lay flat on the bottom especially over twigs and other debris. It may end up propped up in weird angles. On the flip side, that heavier stuff gives you the chance to experiment with some alternate bait mountings, for example rigs that require a “D” section. The same buoyancy issues that braid has exists with mono and again whether or not the carp care is homework for another day.
The Fluorocarbon Rig
Fluorocarbon has some interesting properties, hooklink wise. It is slightly stiffer than mono, more abrasion resistant, nearly invisible in the water and it sinks. Really, what more can you ask for? You can actually find “special” carp specific fluorocarbon hooklink materials on the carp market. I’m not really sure what the difference between the stuff we can get here and the stuff you can special order is, but I don’t imagine it is much. I found a spool of 17lb fluoro in the basement and I went to work. The stiff hair was replaced with the braid trick again but the angle that the stiff material exited the eye was pretty severe. A quick run across the palm showed that it was affecting the hook turning. This could be shaped into position with the aid of some shrink tubing, but I’ve yet to find that at Dick’s Sporting goods. I decided I would employ another trick I learned a few years ago, one that you may already be familiar with even though you may not realize it. It’s pretty common to have to join braid to a fluorocarbon leader in fishing and we can apply this same technique to create what is called a “Combi Rig”. Simply tie a braided line hair rig and leave yourself a long tag end. Then take a length of fluorocarbon and use an Albright knot to connect it to your braid. You can make the supple braid section as long or short as you want, I like it to be as short as I can get it. What you end up with is a stiff “boom” section with just a short, supple end. This is actually part of the benefit of using a coated braid, just imagine the braid part of your rig is the uncoated part of your hooklink. I really like this set up and some of my earliest fish came on a rig like this. If you find that the fluorocarbon is coiling up and generally not behaving itself, try boiling some water in a tea kettle and pass the rig through the steam. Obviously you don’t wanna leave it in the steam cause it will melt, just a few quick passes to help it straighten out.
I wanted to try one more idea. How could I prevent the stiff fluoro from closing the gape of the hook without tying up the Combi rig? An angler name Pete Castle had in interesting take on a hair rig using Palomar Knot. He would use the short tag end of the Palomar knot as the hair positioned along the shank using some silicon tubing. Now that is all well and dandy, but I can’t use silicon cause again that would require a special order. The Palomar was interesting though and after tying one of the G-Carp hooks to it, I realized that the hook’s gape was not getting closed up and it was indeed flipping really well. I attached the braided hair with a whipping knot so that I could move it around to find the best position for it. It ended up on the bend of the hook near the point much like on my standard rig. Positioning the bait here uses the weight of the bait to help the hook turn. It’s a bit of a Frankenstein rig, but I think I will give it a shot at some point this season.
Braid, Mono and Fluorocarbon, are these the official hooklink materials of the “American Rig”? All three of them will catch you fish. While the wild, weedy carp waters we fish may not require as much finesse as the waters we read about in British carp magazines, I think we can all benefit from a predictably flipping hook. It’s worth taking the time to understand why your rigs work and how they perform. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.