If I could only pick one rig to use from now on, it would be very basic.
It would be a running ledger, with a 10” mono trace with a knotless knot and a 2” hair.
WHAT? Am I stuck in the past? Crazy?
Perhaps a little…
I have watched so many developments over the years as new types of rigs and lead arrangements have become popular…
(And have contributed to amazing results at times.)
I now believe that many of the great catch results were because the new arrangement was different, and threw the carp off for a little while.
We get pitched, and pitch ourselves about the latest carp rig!
When I think back about different trends in carp fishing, I remember that each new development involved sales pitches. Partly from companies marketing the products. The main sales pitches were between different carp anglers – and most of all…
We pitched ourselves. We persuaded ourselves as to why each hair material, hook shape, or hook link material was going to completely revitalize our results.
This phenomenon did not just relate to carp rigs, but to bait, PVA, throwing sticks, spod mixes or anything else that we could get ourselves excited about.
This is part of the fun of carp fishing, the anticipation, the challenge.
We can go hours, days, or even weeks between captures. Heck, we can even go days, weeks or even months between fishing trips depending upon weather, family or work commitments.
So, in between the times when we are actually catching carp, we dream, we imagine. We think of new ideas, tactics and techniques. During the workday we might suddenly get inspiration for a new tactic or rig. It is like the universe is giving us guidance and that it is time for us to be top rod on our local syndicate water.
Then the mental masturbation begins…
We imagine our next carp fishing trip in our minds eye, we imagine the preparation needed, the perfect weather, our favored swim being available…
In our minds eye, the session is going to be perfect, on the way to the lake even all of the traffic lights are turning green at exactly the right time.
We arrive at our swim just before dawn, exactly the right time to catch the early morning feeding time, we notice that all of the other carpers are tucked up in their bivvy’s fast asleep. They have no idea that they are about to get their asses kicked!
As you are setting up, a couple of huge swirls appear in front of you, in exactly the right spot. Near the gap in the weed, or the gravel bar to the side.
You introduce a little bait, carefully as you do not want to spook what is probably the lions share of the lakes carp population… Right in front of you!
Wow, this is going to be the best session ever. You look down at your hands, they are shaking a little. You feel like you used to do when you first started fishing all those years ago. This is going to be GREAT!
Perhaps a quick cup of tea is needed to calm down. After all, you won’t have much time to make a cuppa when you start fishing. It is going to be hectic…
This is what carp fishing is all about. It is the challenge, the adventure, the escape.
You can escape to that happy fishy place at any time, in your imagination. It is in your imagination that new techniques and tactics are born.
The first boilie, or the first hair rig was created just like this, in a carpers daydream, where the carp gods in the sky gave a reward for the carp fisherman’s dedication and loyalty.
Whilst all of the improvements in carp fishing have been made like this, so too have all the failures. How many times did you fish with too much flavoring in your bait? How many times did your rig actually prevent you catching a carp?
Trial and error is important, but so is keeping a grip on the basics. The new flourescent candy floss foam luncheon meat might be worth a try…
But you wouldn’t want to put it on all three rods…
So, because of the challenge, adventure and excitement of carp fishing there is a tendency for 2 things to happen. On any given day at your local carp lake there will be carpers who:
- Are all doing the same thing, all believing that they are on the “going” bait or rig. Perhaps one of the local legends “let something slip” about a successful rig or bait. This legend is probably doing something completely different now.
- Are doing some mad experimentation, experiments that will rarely work.
So, the carp are usually wising up to something that “everyone” is doing. Each of these people believe that they are part of some kind of inner circle or niche group. Of course, this is similar to when you see ALL the kids wearing flares or with their trousers half pulled down. The trend is not new anymore, but the followers think it is, months or years after the real trend setters have moved on.
Or, some really wacky carp tactics are being used, but this is rare in proportion to the mass super/secret trend adoption.
So, when we realize that carp fishing involves multiple adversaries, the plot thickens further.
Who are our adversaries?
- The Carp.
- The other carp anglers.
The first 2 points are obvious, we want to outwit a carp or 2. We also like to catch more carp than the other carp fishermen on the water that we are targeting.
Seeing ourselves as adversaries is part of the key to carp fishing success.
It is the conversations that we have with ourselves, and the decisions that we make that hold the key to our success..
For example, the conversation that we have with ourselves when trying to decide upon a baiting tactic…
So, do I pile the bait in and really get them going?..
… But I do not want to overfeed them if they are not really interested…
… But if I do not put in a decent amount then they won’t feed with enough frenzy to make a mistake with my hook bait…
… What If I put in a ton of bait then all the fish start showing at the other end of the lake…
… What if I don’t put in much and someone at the other end piles the bait in and draws the fish away from me?
If we apply this kind of thing to rigs, swim choice and so on…
It is no wonder that some carpers set up in the swim closest to the car park, use tutti frutti boilies with 50 freebies around each hook bait, then sit back and fall asleep!
In fact there are times when we can definitely try too hard, we can second guess our tactics then chop and change. We have all been there, where if we spoke our thoughts out loud, someone would call a doctor because they would think that we were off our rockers…
So, what can be the solution to these kinds of situations? So do we experiment with increasingly zany rigs, baits and tactics? Do we follow everyone else?
No, we go back to basics. We use things that have worked very well in the past, things that are very likely to still work today. Especially if everyone else is in sheep mode or mad scientist mode…
Sweetcorn in the margins is always likely to work, as is a tasty bed of maggots…
The same goes for your rig. If you use something tried and tested but possibly forgotten, you can’t really go wrong. Just as clothing trends are circular and old clothes come back into fashion, so do successful carp fishing tactics.
So, back to my original statement, If I could only choose on carp rig from now on…
Lets break down my reasoning and go into some details on the configuration of my trusty old rig…
My choice of hair length is 2” because it is a nice compromise.
The very short hairs are almost like the bait is “side hooked”. Side hooking was what came before the hair rig was invented. The reason for having a hair is to leave the hook fully exposed, but also to allow a bit of movement for the bait.
On today’s pressured waters, the long hairs of 3” or more are worth experimenting with occasionally, but if I had to only use one rig, a 2” hair is my “go to” choice.
A medium shanked straight hook. Long shank hooks are heavier and are more likely to be detected by the carp.
Remember that a carp is able to separate twigs and stones and eject them while feeding? Keep the hook as small and tidy as possible, while making sure that they are strong enough.
I would choose a medium shank over a short shank hook because I get better hook holds. A medium shanked hook is a nice compromise.
The knotless knot is great because it leaves the hook tidy, without extra bulk of tubing or metal rings and so on. It is a great way of having the hair following the back of the hook, and the hook link projecting slightly forward from the eye.
Again, while all kinds of set ups have their day, If I could only choose on knot and arrangement for the hook area it would be the knotless knot.
It is strong, secure, unobtrusive, and allows the hair and the hooklink to come away at optimal angles based on historic results.
Nylon mono hook link:
Now this choice might surprise some people, especially those who like a supple hook link that the fish is less likely to feel. Whilst it is easy to pitch ourselves on the benefits of a supple hooklink, the suppleness also makes it easier to eject a bait.
We have all seen the underwater videos of hook baits being ejected all day long. This is why a stiff rig can work well, it can be harder to eject once the carp has taken it into its mouth.
When everyone used mono, the supple hooklink was devastating at times. So too were stiff rigs. Nowadays when supple or stiff are the norm, the advantage is lost.
I would fancy my chances by being the only one using mono hooklinks. The mono is supple enough to allow the hookbait to move semi freely, but still has some stiffness and spring so that it might just take hold. Plus if you pick the right color choice it can look invisible, or like a strand of weed.
On any given day or situation, the stiff or the supple hooklink might be the best choice, but if I could only choose one, it would be the standard mono…
Any swivel that is strong enough…
Grinner knots either side of the swivel…
Any kind of soft bead that protects the knot, and allows the mainline to run freely…
And a running ledger rig:
When bolt rigs were first used, they worked really well. The idea was that the carp would move away then feel a prick from the hookpoint, then bolt away.
I remember in the 80’s when people raved on about “screaming runs” because of their bolt rigs. I used to scratch my head because I used to get plenty of “screaming runs” on my running ledger of even my free lined rig. Nowadays the carp do not necessarily bolt if they feel a hook. They are more likely to suck and blow to remove the hook, just as they would with a sharp stone or twig that they might suck in whilst feeding.
Perhaps we applied too much human projection to what a carp might do or think when feeling a hook point. Would they freak out and try to escape? Or simply try to remove the offending obstruction as they would a twig?
When you use a bolt rig and get a “screaming run” was it the bolt rig? Or would the run be just as “screaming” with a normal running ledger rig?
I prefer the added bite indication from a running rig, if the carp are feeding well then your run will be just as “screaming”, If the fish are feeding cautiously then a bolt rig is unlikely to create a run anyway.
Again, if bolt rigs are the most popular, and used by most people, give me a running ledger rig please.
Luckily I do not have to pick just one rig for carp fishing…
Fortunately, there is no reason why I have to only pick one rig. I think that there are tens of carp rigs that are highly effective in different situations.
If we also add the choices of materials, rig bits and lengths, there are hundreds of carp rigs to choose from.
This is part of the fun of carp fishing. It is on those days when we get everything right that we achieve great results, and we are truly happy to be alive.