What is a hair rig? How is it different to a carp rig?

If you are new to fishing, new to carp fishing, or have never really thought about it, you might wonder what the difference is between a hair rig and a carp rig.

In order to explain, firstly lets clarify what a carp rig is:

It is an organization of tend tackle that has been chosen, designed and engineered with the carp in mind. Ideally, the end tackle or rig will be designed to maximize the chances of hooking a carp, and minimize the chances of losing the fish once hooked. Thought is put into the way the fish might be feeding, and the way that the rig will behave in the water environment. Efficiency is important, as is unobtrusiveness and strength.

A carp rig is classed as the whole set up at the end of the mainline. This will include the lead weight, lead clip and so on.


Hair rig

Here is an example of a typical modern hair rig


What is a hair rig?

A hair rig is a set up that describes the relationship between the fishing hook, and the bait. Before hair rigs were created and popularized by famous carp fishermen such as Lenny Middleton and Kevin Maddocks, carp fishermen put the bait straight on the hook. With a soft bait such as paste, sweetcorn and luncheon meat, most of the hook was buried inside the body of the bait. There was usually a preference for a certain part of the hook point protruding from the bait.

Harder baits were “side hooked”. For example a par boiled potato was put directly on the hook but with as much of the hook clear as possible. Hard baits would make it impossible to achieve a hook hold if the hook was buried inside.

The original hair rig was created so that a hard bait could be attached to a fishing hook, but was still connected. The connection used was usually very light monofilament, in fact as light as possible so that the hook bait could behave more naturally. The original hair rigs allowed the bait to be between 2″ to 4″ away from the hook but still be connected. This meant that a fish could suck in a naturally behaving bait, then the hook would follow.


Why call it a hair rig?

Because the original hair rigs were made from human hairs! I remember reading about fishermen asking their wives to pull out some hairs before a fishing trip. I bet that added insult to injury in a few cases as the avid carp angler went off to leave his family behind for a day, or even a few days. The rationale is that the very fine hair would allow the bait to act naturally amongst the freebie baits. It was really a stealth approach.

Nowadays, people do not use hairs anymore as far as I am aware. Carp fishermen have got creative, from using light monofilament, to fine dacron, dental floss, to an extension of the hook link.

In fact many rigs do not involve a hair at all in a conventional sense. From the use of sliding rig rings, to very short hairs that trap the bait right next to the hook, many modern rigs resemble a side hooked set up more than a hair rig.


Top rig tip

As many of the rigs used today resemble side hooked baits, and other use very short hairs of less than 1″, why not try an old school approach? Back in the 70’s and 80’s fishermen sometimes used hair rigs of up to 6″ away from the hook.

The strategy was for stealth.

This has mostly been forgotten in modern times. If you are ever struggling to get a bite, why not try a longer hair made from light monofilament? This will add a natural look to your hook bait underwater. It might just get you a few extra bites. Just be careful in asking your wife or girlfriend to give you some of their hair…

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