Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Leadcore Leader Carp Rigs

I’ve been meaning to sit down and write a blog entry about leadcore and carp fishing for some time now, literally since this blog started in fact. To be honest, I’ve ducked out of doing it far too often so it‘s time I had my say.
Why have I ducked writing about leadcore and leaders?. Quite simply because I can’t stand them!. I don’t think there are many things in carp fishing that present such a danger to our carp but leadcore leaders are right up there at the top of my ‘most dangerous’ list. I don’t believe leadcore is being used safely and I’m not sure it actually can be!, although some ways are safer than others.

Click to watch a video of my leadcore free carp rig

I’m an old school angler and when I learnt to carp fish I learned to follow some simple rules, always find the carp being one, keep quiet and keep your movements to a minimum being another. Simple common sense things that all anglers should strive to do. Another simple rule I learnt fairly quickly was the simple rule of thumb for shock leaders and that is….if you don’t need one, don’t use one!.

The thinking behind the old school leader rule was safety, even back in the late 80’s intelligent carp anglers knew that shock leaders could cause problems in the event of the anglers main line breaking. So where did we go wrong?. Knowing that shock leaders had the potential to cause trouble, how did carp fishing end up down the leadcore leaders route and why do anglers think they are actually safe to use?.

I’ve seen many arguments about leadcore on the fishing forums and not once has a leadcore user actually put up a reasonable argument for using them. The only advantage in using leadcore is that it’s weight keeps the last 2-4ft of your line/rig on the bottom, that’s it, it serves no other purpose than to try and conceal your rig.

So we know the one advantage of leadcore but why is it so dangerous?. In order to understand what makes leadcore so deadly, you have to think ahead in your rig tying and question what you are doing, why you are doing it and what effect your rig might have in the event of your main line breaking?. After all, its when your mainline breaks that the dangers start.

Below is a picture of the instructions inside a gravel / khaki leadcore leader packet. As you can see, the leader is spliced into a loop and the angler is supposed to pass the leadcore through the hooklink swivel then pass the end of the hooklink back through the larger loop. This is then fished with a safety clip or inline lead but both ways of setting up the rig mean that the carp will still be left towing the leadcore round in the event of the main line breaking?. In my view, this is simply not acceptable and the red 'x' marks are the instructions I firmly disagree with!.

Leadcore instructions, not as safe as they appear to be!

Given that leadcore is heavy and usually around 35-45lb in breaking strain, ask yourself if a carp can break free from this setup should it ever get snagged?. What will a carp do when it’s hooked and lost? The simple answer is that it will head for a ‘safe’ area of the lake which will usually be the snaggiest area it can find!. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that a fish in a snaggy area towing round a 3ft length of 35/45lb leadcore is potentially at risk, even if the lead weight is lost from the set up, that 3ft or so of leadcore is still there and if a carp does get tethered the chances are it will die of starvation. As an angler, do you really want to put the carp you fish for at risk like this?.

No angler should ever use leadcore that’s attached direct to the swivel of a rig as per the instructions above!. When your mainline breaks, the carp should be left with nothing more than the hooklink and as responsible anglers, it’s our duty to fish our rigs as safely as we can. With leadcore, the only way this can be achieved to any degree is with the use of a helicopter rig, specifically the old CV safety rigs that were designed for safe shock leader use in the early 1990’s. At least with a CV safety rig the carp has half a chance of getting rid of the lead and the leadcore but if I’m honest, even this rig has the potential to cause problems if its used on a choddy bottom or in weed.

CV Safety rig, not ideal but the safest way there is to use leadcore, just substitute the black tubing for leadcore.

How the cv saftey rig works, the whole rig gets dropped leaving the carp with no leadcore to get tethered on.

As you can see from the pictures above the CV Safety rig can leave your carp with just the hooklink in the event of your main line breaking, providing your lake bottom is firm and clean.

I’ve read the comments of pro leadcore users saying leadcore is safe if it’s tied up correctly, others have said their rigs are ok because they use a low breaking strain of hooklink or a barbless hook and that education is better than an outright leadcore ban. Come on guys get real!, barbless hooks have their own mouth damage problems and low breaking strain hooklengths are only really usable in open water fishing situations. Even then, they may still be strong enough to stop a carp from breaking free if it gets tethered.

Leadcore causing carp deaths really came to light in the early to mid 1990’s when the very high profile ‘arnie’ the 40lb common from orchid lake in Oxfordshire was found dead tethered to some reeds, it’s now 2008 and just recently the high profile Chilham Mill in Kent has just joined a growing list of fisheries that have banned leadcore after two of their precious carp were found dead tethered to snags. Clearly education doesn’t work and why would it when the instructions in the packet say its ok to leave your carp trailing a leader when your main line breaks?!. People come and go from carp fishing and education is always ongoing, in the meantime, carp like arnie the orchid common and the Chilham fish will continue to be lost!. Education is really just a lousy excuse for anglers to keep using leadcore in the mistaken belief that what they’re doing safe. Well it’s not and if you’re pro leadcore please think long and hard about using it because it’s simply not necessary in the modern carp world.

So if leadcore isn’t safe to use what do you do?. Well the daft thing is leadcore itself has been redundant in carp fishing for some time now, rig tubing has advanced to the stage where it’s now several times heavier than leadcore so it sinks like a brick and keeps your line on the bottom better than leadcore itself. Sure you have to go to the trouble of threading rig tubing onto your main line but isn‘t that better than risking another Chilham or an Orchid lake scenario?. Rig tubing also comes in a variety of colours too, black, clear and a whole host of different shades of green make it easy to conceal your rig from shy feeding carp.

ESP anchor rig tube, just one of the new types of rig tubing that leaves leadcore redundant in modern carp fishing.

Please ask yourself the old school question next time you go fishing, do you really need to use a leadcore leader?. I think any intelligent reader already knows the answer to that question. You don’t need a leadcore leader, so please don’t use one.
Thanks for reading.

Tight Lines


  1. What difference does the tubing make compared to leadcore?
    Surely if a fish is dragging either tubing or leadcore wouldn't the result be the same?

  2. Not so kcon, when you use leadcore, you attach the leadcore to the swivel with a loop knot then tie your mainline to the other end of the leadcore. With tubing, you thread your mainline through the tubing and tie directly to the swivel thats attached to your hooklength. Both setups look ok, it's what happens if your mainline snaps, with leadcore, the fish is left towing it round because it's fixed to the hooklink swivel with a loop knot. With tubing, because it's threaded onto your mainline, it comes off the same way, does that make sense?.
    I personally wouldn't touch leadcore with a barge pole!, plenty of people will tell you they use it and have never had problems but how would they know?, they use these rigs, loose one then go home thinking nothing of it but it's not the angler that gets the problem, it's the poor carp that picks up that lost rig!, or the poor carp that manages to run into a snag and break the mainline.
    We are in the same big club, I haven't bumped into you yet but when I do I'll introduce myself and try to explain better than I'm doing here! lol.

  3. Thanks for the reply, I've got some leadcore set ups, but I'm not going to use them for the reasons you say. I'll look into the tubing.

  4. For what it's worth I think your doing the right thing mate. I use tubing, I've used it on some of the most pressured carp waters in the country, Linear Fisheries, Yateley Sandhurst, Acton Burnell, Selby 3 Lakes, the basic hair rig with tubing has caught me fish on all these waters and a whole load more, it's safe and it's all you'll ever need.

  5. When attaching shock leaders how many turns app' would you have on the reel of the leader? cheers

  6. hi bruce, I personally don't have many turns of a shock leader on the reel, two or three turns at the most for me. One thing I will say is make sure the leader knot is positioned at the back of the spool when you cast, just to make sure you line doesn't catch on it.


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