Understanding Rig Mechanics Part 2 – Martin Crackoff

Understanding rig mechanics part 2.

Variations on a theme.

Go on… guess who’s bored again…

After reading back through my rig article recently, I realised there were a fair few things I wanted to add. In addition, I wanted to provoke more thought into people’s acceptance of modern rigs. That’s not to say I want everyone to stop using them, but I would like people to actually consider why they are going to use a specific rig through thinking about its physical attributes and what those changes bring to your fishing. As the piece is now set in stone on the Cherry Carp page, I thought that if I wanted to add more, I’d best get typing…

Again, I’ll apologise at the start for my rambling style of writing, stick with it, and I’m sure I’ll make sense at some point, (if you’re lucky) and I’d also like to once again make it quite clear that there are no rights or wrongs in carp fishing, only fishing how you feel gives you the most confidence. There will be some out there that feel my thinking is old and clouded by the golden days of carp fishing, and my thoughts on rigs is wrong, and I fully accept that, I’m getting old and look back at those days with rose tinted glasses, but don’t we all???

Popping my Bottom

I’ll begin with an age old debate about bottom baits or pop ups. I personally like bottom baits, but I carry around a pot of pop ups “just in case”. As with my continued use of the hair rig as my main method, using bottom baits isn’t simply because I think they are the be all and end all of bait, it goes more into the confidence I get from using them. In my mind, if I’m fishing with a couple of kilos of bottom baits and then stick a nice bright pop up over the top, it makes that single bait stand out. I do a lot of fishing on understocked and under-fished waters, so like my use of the hair rig, I like to offer the carp as little to be worried about as I possibly can. To me, the thought of a single bait that stands out in the middle of a bed of bait, gives the carp a reason to be cautious. This I want to cut down on as much as I possibly can. Obviously, there is the other side of the argument, that a bait that stands out, has the best chance of being tested first, which I totally agree with, and makes my argument for doing the opposite rather pointless. Unless I look simply at the fact that most of the carp I’m trying to catch might have come across a bed of bait before, but the only time they will have come across a bait 2 inches off the deck and a different colour, etc. to the others is when it got caught last… Even if it has never been caught, it should have come across beds of bait, as I do this often in random places to try and get the fish used to finding these little platters of food scattered around the lake. As with all wild animals, their first reaction to seeing something it isn’t used to seeing, is caution… and I’ve already explained how that changes things.

So, if that’s the case, why do pop ups catch carp, and why would I bother carrying a pot of them along with me??? That’s simple, as I say above, there is no right way, and no wrong way in carp fishing… as often as not, the best method to catch a carp at any certain time, is the method that caused the carp that’s in your net to be there. Put simply, there is a time and a place for everything, and not being prepared to ring the changes could be very hard on waters where a bite every 18 months makes you top rod.

Different carp in different waters will also have seen different things, to think that a stand-out bait will cause caution in a lake like Farlows would be silly. Stand out baits are a daily thing on waters like that, carp must come across loads of these set ups, so knowing that the carp will have seen, and won’t spook off of a dayglow bait wafting four inches above all the other food, what would I use??? Again, I would go straight onto a hair rigged, bottom bait that matches my feed baits. I know… none of this makes any sense. I’ve just gone through a list of reasons I prefer to use on my hard lakes, then given the chance to fish a water where NONE of those arguments are relevant, I still go back to the bottom bait… No one said I was going to talk sense, and if they did, stop listening to them, they obviously have mental issues.

So when will I use a pop up? Not often would be the simple answer, I know 100% that I can control the actions of a pop up rig far better than I’ll ever control a hair rig, but as I’ve said before, control isn’t always my biggest issue in carp fishing, whilst confidence is. Like control rigs, my use of pop ups is dictated solely on the lake bed I’m fishing over, and at exactly the same time that I’ll change to a control rig, I also change to a pop up. Deep or soft silt, silk weed, light, low weed growth and if I’m deliberately fishing on top of denser weed. These are the times I’ll head to the control rigs and pop ups. There might be an occasion where a control rig and pop up combo might be used out of those circumstances, but they are few and far between, and certainly not the norm. It will usually be that I’ve rushed to the lake and already have a pop up/ control rig on from the previous session, and simply can’t be bothered to change it before sun set, or getting my dinner on (and if you think that sounds lazy, consider that I use quick links as well, so changing the hooklink and rig should only take a minute)

Semi Rigs and Going around in circles

In my last piece on rigs, I spoke about the two main rig styles, separation rigs, and control rigs. Whilst I still think that there are only really these two types of rig, there is a type of rig that sits somewhere in-between these two, in that it is based around the separation idea, but thanks to added clutter on the rig, all it does is limit the effectiveness of the separation, but doesn’t quite fit in with the control style either. These I like to think of as the “semi” rigs. As an example, take a simple knotless knot rig. The rig is basically a separation rig and works within those parameters. Now what happens if you put a ring on to the shank of the hook and tie that ring part of the way down the hair? That’s right, a “blow back rig” but the question is, what have you achieved by adding the ring? Simple physics tell us that a shorter length of something is harder to bend than a longer length of the same material, if you doubt that, get a 1 inch thick branch that is ten foot long and bend it, then try the same with a 1 inch thick branch that is 3 inches long… So, you have halved the length of the hair, effectively making it stiffer, and then attached it to the shank of the hook on a moving pivot point (the ring). The hair on both sides of the ring are now stiffer and allow less free movement of the bait before it affects the hook. The ring is attached to the shank of the hook, so given the extra stiffness of the hair, is roughly twice as likely to pull the hook backwards out of the mouth given a normal sucking and blowing action from the carp. Yes, given the correct sized ring, (which is rarely used for the job) the ring has the chance to pass over the knot and act like a standard hair, pulling the hook out eye first, but with this rig you have multiplied the chances of that not happening, for the sake of an additional pointless ring. The rig without ring has a far greater chance of acting as it is supposed to, but we bypass the thought processes to analyse the physical make-up of the rig, usually based on the fact that “So an So from the big tackle company says it works” and yes it does work, go back to my first piece on rigs and I tell you that anything with a hook involved can work.

The same goes for most of the times I see shrink or silicone tubing on a rig, or at least up past the knot of the hook. All it does is limit the separation. A far better method, is to tie a cotton hair somewhere up the hook, even on the bend like the original hair rig was. It is far better at causing the point to drop if that is your intension, and behaves far more naturally. As with a lot of the modern day features of rigs, they aren’t really anything new, just new ways to do exactly what old rigs were doing already, and often to the detriment of the effectiveness of the rig. I honestly feel that a part of the problem, is that just about anyone can come up with a new rig nowadays, and with very little effort, can get it plastered all over social media, and hey presto, another new wonder rig is invented. Go back to the 80’s and 90’s and it was only the real thinkers that were coming up with the really good rigs that got used everywhere.

The hair rig, the D rig, the bent hook rig, the Slip D rig, the hinged stiff rig and the early chod rigs, they were all the originals of the rigs we are trying to recreate now, but now we want to do it with as much clutter around the hook as possible. Now I don’t have any issues with that, but my only question for all the new rigs and those using them, is what do they add to the rigs that are already there? If you are happy with your own answers, feel free to go ahead and catch carp on them, you’ll hear no complaints from me.

Learning about the simple things that make each rig different, isn’t just about being nerdy, it allows you over time to be able to look at a rig and make a realistic assessment about how it will react in a fishing situation, often well before you decide to cast it out. The nuances of certain rigs can be obvious if studied, whilst on other rigs things just don’t make sense, or even if they do, you can see that they don’t actually benefit your fishing from half a dozen other rigs designed to do a similar job. Going back to my first article again, I said about the purpose of control rigs. In its simplest form, it allows you to control the hook, even though you’re 10, 50 or a 100 yards from it. Once you have sorted that control, and you have a rig that presents the hook in exactly the right place and at the right angle to hook the fish each time, will anything added to the rig benefit the rig??? Well no obviously, you’ve already gained control of the rig, what more is there? More consistency? Can you be more consistent when carp vary their feeding styles? About the only thing lacking in many of the old control rigs, was the rigs ability to work effectively when a separation rig would be better. But for all our tinkering and tampering with ideas over the last 40 years, we still haven’t managed to make that one rig that truly flips between the two and works as effectively at one side, as it does with the other way.

In my own mind, carp angling has been forced into thinking that we are progressing with rigs, but that we are in fact disillusioned in that thinking, and in fact, we are still trying to catch up with those that went before us. Those rigs already laid down the basic physics that dictate all modern rig design, and any modern rig you care to choose can be traced, without exception, straight back to those early rigs. When is there going to be a “new hair rig” type breakthrough? I’d love to see it in my lifetime, but feel we as carp anglers have stagnated to a series of tweaks and add-ons rather than any real “out of the box” thinking.

Hooklink materials

Anyway… another thing I touched upon in my last piece, was the use of hooklink materials and the changes they can have to your rig, but I didn’t really go into much detail of why I would use different materials for different situations. Put simply, the hooklink allows the hook and the mainline to be attached, and to give the hook the best chance of being presented correctly. As explained in the other article, the hooklink can also add certain characteristics to a rigs behaviour, so where and why are these relevant? If you look at all the hooklinks we use, they really fall into three categories, supple, semi supple and stiff. What the actual material is made of is pretty irrelevant at the moment, but these three types are the basis for what we use.

Supple hooklinks are usually made up of braids. These come in various guises, and each offers a slightly differing set of characteristics, thick braid, thin braids, floating braids, sinking braids, super supple braids etc. These are all un-coated and when compared to semi supple hooklinks, can easily be separated from them by their stiffness.

Supple braids, I will be happy to fish anywhere. They allow movement and flexibility to the rig and bait. Allowing it to move around as a freebie bait would, or at least as freely as the length of the hooklink dictates. On silty bottoms I would make the hooklink longer and over silk weed or low weed would do the same. In thick weed I would be shortening the hooklink down and fishing in a solid bag, whilst on a hard bottom or gravel, I would happily shorten it right down to as low as two inches if I felt it was needed to aid hooking.

Semi supple hooklinks include both supple mono lines and coated braids, though some coated braids and mono’s are stiff enough to be put in the stiff section. These semi supple hooklinks are what I think of as “in-between” hooklinks. They have some of the characteristics of both the stiff hooklinks, and the supple hooklinks. Like supple hooklinks, I am quite happy to use these pretty much anywhere, and also like the supple hooklinks, I will adjust the hooklink length material in a similar way. The only real differences are that with these, I won’t want to add a stiff section under the hook, and I will change the hooklinks between hard and soft bottoms. With a soft bottom, I will use a coated braid and remove the coating in places to add flexibility to certain places along its length. This is simply to allow the hooklink to lie flat and cover and areas I feel that the hooklink might want to naturally stick up off the bottom. Mono on the other hand will be used anywhere I feel the bottom is solid enough to stop the lead entering the silt and pushing the hooklink up into a loop.

Stiff links… These are funny old things, and I would guess the most often used example used today would be the Fluro hooklinks or stiff mono ones. My preference is the stiff mono, as I simply feel I get a better knot than with fluro. These are solely used on solid lake beds. They are difficult to get to lay flat if there is any lead sinkage into silt, so they remain almost unused in the bag if fishing anything other than a sandy or gravel bottom. If fishing a hinged version, I would let the lake bed dictate the length of the boom, and also the hook section, but if fishing straight through, I personally would only use this in hooklinks under ten inches. To me the main reason I’d want to use it straight through, is to increase the whip and aggression of the hooking potential of the rig, and to do this, shorter hooklinks offer the best chance.

Strength over looks

As you saw in my last article by the really dodgy pictures I put up, I don’t really worry too much about how a rig looks before casting it out, as long as it fits my criteria, I’m happy.

1, Is the hook sharp? 2, Curve under the hook to aid twist and flick if using any stiff section there. 3, If the main hooklink is made of either semi stiff or stiff material, there needs to be a curve in the long boom section to help with rig movement. Lastly 4, Has it got putty or lead core inner to pin the link down… and cast… that’s it. I couldn’t care less if it looks right, or pretty, I know it’ll catch me fish.

I wasted a lot of time worrying about how rigs look, straightening out the boom sections, making sure the hook hung at exactly the right angles, making sure the bait sat in the perfect spot to hold the hook where I thought it needed to be and making every knot look like a masterpiece. Spend 10 years on a crayfish infested, low stock water and see the things you reel in after 12 hours in the water, and you kind of lose interest in making things look good, you’re happy some days that when you reel in that there’s still a hook attached. Even more disheartening, is when you get a bite and look at the mess the carp has just picked up. Believe me, that lets you know all you need to about tidy, well-presented rigs.

On my time on that water, I cast out some wonderfully made rigs, most came back looking like they had gone through a shredder. Coated braid came back with extra sections of coating missing, sometimes hanging on by a tether and sticking out at strange angles. Stiff links came back with corners folded into them, looking like some weird fluro accordion. Supple braid came back with extra new knots in it or with the strands all separated like a multi stand hooklink. It was demoralising to say the least, but these rigs sometimes came back with these new additions, and a carp attached. So I stopped worrying about it. Subsequent sessions on other waters showed me that getting everything looking right, really didn’t bother the carp at all, and that’s where I am today on that subject.

The extra 1%

OK, I’ve done two articles on rigs and have done my best to explain as much about how they work as I can be bothered, but this is the important part. I don’t care if you’ve skim read the rest, whether you’ve agreed with a single word I’ve written or all of it, I don’t care if I came across as an egotistical knob, or whether it has made sense, or if it has just come across as a collection of gobbledegook, this is the part that matters and should stick with you above everything else I’ve written.

If you caught some carp on a rig, chances are, it will catch again. If you caught well on a rig in one lake, chances are, it will catch again in another. THERE ARE NO WONDER RIGS! Every rig you’ll ever use has flaws, accept that and move on. It’s great to know what those flaws are, so you can better understand the rig and when to use it, or more importantly, when to stop using it. BUT knowing those flaws or not the absolute most important thing to know, is that it catches carp. KEEP THAT THOUGHT AT THE FOREFRONT OF YOUR THINKING.

Now you’ve got that fixed in your head, realise how much better you can get that rig to perform. Not by adding bits on, not by changing it around or anything physical, but just by having confidence in it. My time on a 200 acre lake that was infested with crays, but only had about 30 carp in it, was spent using the standard hair rig. That isn’t because it’s the best rig in the world, it’s because it was simple, effective and I had confidence in it. If I had fished that water with a rig I wasn’t sure of, my confidence would have crashed, and even with full confidence in what you’re doing, confidence still needs a boost every so often. Especially after waiting 18 months for a bite and losing the carp in weed, and then waiting another 18 months for the next bite, it’s hard on confidence. Without the confidence in rig and bait, it would have been very easy to start just going through the motions. But even on easier waters I see this happening. Anglers losing confidence in rigs (or bait) makes them either start chopping and changing, flicking from one idea to the next, or they just plain lose confidence and start going through the motions.

So, you want that extra 1% that a rig can offer you? Then you need to be confident in that rig. Go catch pasties on the rig, tweak it until it can’t be tweaked anymore and keep catching on it. Learn all you can about what adjustment does what, how it behaves etc. This consistent catching will do one thing, that you didn’t expect, it will hone your skills as an angler and make you more confident. A confident angler works harder to catch fish, he finds the right swim and the perfect spot to put his wonder rig, full in the belief that if there is a carp feeding, that rig will nail it. He fine tunes everything there is about the rig, and gets the cast bang on, because he’s confident. The un-confident angler may well turn up and through luck, fish the same swim, his cast might not be perfect, but he’s already expecting a blank anyway, so it’s close enough. He hasn’t caught well on the rig, so hasn’t really given much thought into how to get the best out of it, his mate is catching on tiny pop ups, so he sticks one of those on… he hasn’t bothered to check to see if the bait is buoyant enough to hold the right up correctly, he hasn’t experimented to find out if different bait sizes affect the rig in different ways, but it should be ok… and so it goes on.

Confidence does strange things to the human mind, and more importantly, it affects the way we do things. Let that confidence be the thing you lean on through hard times, and it’ll serve you well, let the confidence slip, and you’ll spend the next six months questioning everything you ever thought you knew about carp fishing.

So, read away at the rig books or online forums and FB pages, but don’t let anything said make you lose confidence in your rigs. Let the replies guide you to understanding and others preferences, allow them to advise tweaks and when or how to make adjustments, but make sure the thing you do is USE that info to HELP you, never allow it to seem like a dig, as even someone poking fun at your rig is doing so because he has an opinion, take that opinion on board, USE it to your advantage and GAIN what you need from it, then chuck whatever is left in the bin. The more you get from them, the more you learn, the more you learn, the more you understand, the more you understand, the more confident you will be. USE IT, grow in confidence and get the full potential from your rigs.

Well, that’s enough of that rubbish, go catch some lumps.


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