The first time I ever caught a carp with the zig rig was way back in the late 80’s, back then the zig rig had a different name, it was simply known as anchored surface crust. The rig consisted of a hooklength the same depth as the swim with a running lead and a piece of floating crust for bait. The rig was a fairly common sight when carp where on top in the summer months and I remember breaking my pb and catching very my first double with a 10lb 4oz mirror the first time I ever used the rig, I was shaking with excitement as those big rubbery lips engulfed my floating bread and I’ll never forget the bedlam that followed as the carp took off, I’ve always been a surface fishing fan ever since that special day!. Fast forward nearly 25 years and during that time the old anchored surface crust has been re-invented as the zig rig, you can buy floats to help you adjust the depth of your rig, special zig bug baits and sprays to use on them and storage containers to keep your rigs in. With offerings and videos from the likes of kevin nash and fox international zig rig fishing certainly seems to have taken off this year.
I must admit I caught well with the anchored surface crust many years ago but I never could get on with the modern day version of the rig, I used it several times over the years and it never did produce a carp for me until a few seasons ago when I paid my first visit to Yateley Sandhurst. That first trip to sandy I tried the rig again and managed to catch a 19+ mirror and a 22+ common on the rig. Since then my fortunes with the zig rig have improved no end, just this last week gone I’ve banked around 15 carp using this rig so I thought it was time I took a look at how my use of the rig has developed and share a few tips on its use.
I’ll start with the mono I use for my hooklength, the best I’ve used so far is Drennan Double Strength Mono, this is the mono I use for floater hooklengths and I consider zig rig fishing to be an extension or another type of floater fishing as you’re generally fishing baits at different depths near the surface. I’ve also got some Korda Kruiser Control mono and this is pretty good too, it’s thicker than double strength and a little stronger so I tend to use it near snags but for open water fishing the double strength is my preferred mono.
The hook I use for my zig rig is a size 10 ESP Big-T Raptor Hook, this hook is small, sharp and lightweight but incredibly strong, it lends itself perfectly to zig rig fishing and I wouldn’t consider using anything else whilst these hooks are available.
The rig itself is easy to tie up, it took me ages to work out that the bait needed to be really tight to the hook, touching the bend in fact. When starting to tie the rig I take a length of mono and tie an overhand knot in one end to form the loop for the hair. When this is done, if you hold the mono up and look at the loop it’s sitting at an angle to the line itself and you need to use this angle when whipping the hooklength. Next I put my bait on which is usually a small piece of Yellow Rig Foam, next is the hook and I simply use a knotless knot. Before I whip the hair to the shank of the hook I position the line so the angle in the mono I mentioned previously is now pushing the bait against the bend of the hook, this is critical and I’ve found that if the bait isn’t touching the bend missed runs can happen. I whip the mono as far down the hook shank as I can to make sure the bait stays nice and tight to the bend of the hook, once this is done it’s just a case of threading the line back through the eye to complete the knotless knot and this is the hook end of the rig finished. (See pic below).
In its simplest form the zig rig is almost complete, all you need to do is tie a Swivel to your mono at the right length for the depth you want to fish your bait at and you’re done. Before I do this, I thread a Silicone Rig Sleeve onto the line first followed by the swivel itself. The silicone rig sleeve isn’t completely necessary and I’ve caught without it but occasionally a carp will suck at the bait from slightly above and if it’s anchored straight to the lead you can sometimes miss getting a run, the silicone sleeve just gives a little bit of give in the setup and it can help with hookups.
I use the above hooklength with a running lead and I’d advise the smallest lead weight you can get away with, zig rig hooklengths by their nature are long and the lead weight tends to fly about a lot when playing a carp so the lighter it is the better, for most of my fishing I use a 1oz running lead and I’ll only go heavier if I need the extra range. Now the rig is complete what about fishing the rig itself?. Well, all you can do is experiment to find the right depth the carp will take your bait at. I mentioned earlier that I see the zig rig as an extension of my floater fishing and my favourite depth at which to fish my hookbait is between 6 and 12 inches under the surface. When it comes to surface feeding carp, this depth literally puts your hookbait right in front of their nose and this is something you need to do to get runs on the zig rig.
To help me in my quest to get the right depth quickly I have a couple of extra bits of tackle, the first is a Fox Zig Disc, this is a storage system for your zig rig hooklengths, the zig disc takes 15 made up rigs so you can just unwind one and tie it on whenever you feel like a change of depth, I work from the top of the disc down with the first hooklength being 18 inches (1.5ft) the rest go 2ft, 2.5ft, 3ft, 3.5ft, 4ft and so on until the disc is full which is 8.5ft. This range of lengths will suit most peoples waters from top to bottom and in the event that my water is any deeper than 8.5ft I then switch to the adjustable zig rig and I carry both Fox Zig Rig Floats and Nash Zig Rig Floats. The floats are great over deep water and with the right set up I can fish hookbaits up to the surface in any depth of water up to around 80 yards out.
I think the adjustable zig floats are highly specialised and they are best avoided if possible, using the zig disc storage system provides decent flexibility when it comes to changing depths and it keeps your zig rig nice and simple and easy to cast, quite often the floats will tangle on the cast and you have to start messing around adding stringers and altering your casting style by lobbing them high to make sure they don’t tangle, it’s best to keep things simple and just use a straight lead if you can.
As I view my zig rig fishing as an extension of my floater fishing I generally like to feed my swim whilst I’m fishing, I usually move onto fish and try and get them feeding on mixers before I introduce my rig, if you can achieve this I think you have a better chance of catching and perhaps a greater possibility of a multiple capture. Once the rig is in and the carp are feeding on the mixers I simply keep the bait going in until one of the carp takes the yellow foam that’s in their face rather than the mixers, and they will take the yellow foam, carp are very curious creatures and in my experience of using the zig rig so far, they won’t be able to resist seeing what it is!.
I’ve included a bit of film of one of my recent sessions, its half an hour long but it shows how confident the carp can get, during the footage the gulls come and my reaction to them swiping my mixers is to step up the feeding until they are full, once they are they’ll leave you alone as you will see if you watch it. I see so many anglers stop feeding until the birds have gone but you’re on a hiding to nothing if you do this, it doesn’t matter if it’s a gull, ducks, swans, whatever, if you’ve taken enough chum mixers with you, you can and should feed them off. I usually take one of those big 4 kilo bags of tesco’s own brand mixers and believe me you can feed off an army of birds and still have plenty left for a full days fishing and more, in fact a 4 kilo bag usually does me for two sessions and that includes feeding any birds off!. The footage is just over half an hour long and its worth watching on full screen as the carp come pretty close to complete preoccupation at times, during that session I caught 5 carp and they put away 2 kilos mixers that day!, there is also a run on the rig at the end of the film.
So that’s my take on the zig rig for carp fishing, I generally use it during the summer months as an extension to my floater fishing and this method is now a permanent string to my fishing bow, the more I’ve used it, the more confidence I’ve gained in it and my Fox Zig Disc is a standard part of my tackle these days. Next time you’re sat behind your rods melting in your bivvy and catching nowt, you might want to consider this style of fishing rather than sit there and blank!.