Sunday, 20 October 2013

Winter Carp Rigs and Tactics

It’s been getting cold over the last few weeks so I thought now would be a good time to take a look at some of the winter carp rigs and presentations I’ll be using this coming winter. I used to be someone who’d stick it out on the hard waters no matter what but with age comes an appreciation of being home with your feet up in the warmth an hour after dark so these days I tend to target runs waters just for the day. It’s worth bearing this in mind because the waters I fish tend to be just as pressured in winter as they are in summer and this has had an impact on my rigs over the last year or two.

New hooklength braid for this winter, ESP Camo Sink Link

I’ve always advocated using the same rigs and baits all year round, I still do use the same type of baits, which is boilies at the moment, but I started fining down my rigs a couple of years ago, specially on waters that are gin clear during the colder months, with this in mind I dropped down my hook size to a size 12 Korda Kurv Hook. Now I know a 12 might sound small but the korda kurves are a big hook and they are roughly a size 8-10 against some other patterns so not that small!. I’ve changed my hooklink material too, I still like my 25lb Silkworm and last winter I was using a Sharpie Marker to dye it green or brown, during the year I discovered ESP Camo Sink Link which is a really nice braid already dyed to match the lake bed. I’ve already seen enough to convince me that scaling down the hook and blending in the braid might give an advantage on pressured waters so I’m more than happy to use esp sink link in gin clear cold water. Apart from the hook and hooklength, my rig is essentially the same, an inline lead with tubing and you can read more about the actual lead arrangement here.

Winter carp rigs and tactics video, click below to watch

Chopped boilie rig, a brilliant little trap for pressured winter carp

I only have a couple of variations when it comes to my rigs, my main two have the same hook and braid, it’s the way I present my rigs and baits which gives me the biggest edge. The first presentation is a chopped boilie rig. I use a short 4-5” hooklength and the bait is a quarter piece of boilie on the hair, this is fished as a bottom bait in a pva bag with a small handful of quarter boilies and a couple of whole ones. The idea is that carp are so used to boilies being round they automatically treat them as dangerous and being wary, the carp have a focus of danger in the two boilies but the chops are regarded as safer and are readily taken first, sometimes the chops are all they'll take!. This little trick has bagged me a lot of pressured winter carp in the past and I’ll be using it again this winter because it always seems to produce the goods. The pva bags I use now are Avid Carp PVA Bags in size 5, one of my mates put me onto these at the beginning of last winter, they are a nice, small castable size, ideal for those little traps and my rigs don’t come in with any residue on them so they do melt well in cold water. One last thing on the chopped boilie rig, beware of the bream!, if they are in your water in numbers you might want to consider something else.

Avid Carp Solid PVA Bags, ideal for presenting chopped boilies in winter

My next winter carp rig is a 10mm scopex popup fished kd style, it’s a tidy little rig and although I’ve only been using scopex baits this year, the 10mm popup has always produced the goods during winter, in fact this little rig has produced all this year for me, the sink link braid is around 8-10” and I have the choice of moulding my Heavy Metal Putty to the hooklink creating a popup or underneath the popup so it acts like a balanced wafter, a very flexible rig you can alter easily without messing around. Speaking of not messing around, I’ve started incorporating Korda Kwik Links into my rigs so I can chop and change quickly, my winter carp sessions are generally no longer than 5 hours and I don’t want to waste 20 minutes or so tying a new rig with cold hands so I’ve started to carry some already made up rigs in a Korda Rig Box and I use the kwik links so I can be fishing again straight away should I decide to ring a change.

A 10mm Scopex Squid pop up on a kd rig, a very flexible winter carp rig

My third winter carp rig is a standard size 6 Kamasan B175, a hook I’ve used for near on 20 years, this was my standard winter carp rig for many years and it still produces the goods today, I use this hook in conjunction with 8-10”of sink link braid but I use bigger hookbaits, in this case it’s a 14mm northern special barrel, again I prefer non round baits on the hook because I’ve witnessed carp get quite paranoid when they come across perfectly round boilies yet they go for chopped baits in a big way. I try to avoid using round baits of 14mm and upwards because of these close up observations.

Northern special wafter barrel on the old faithful kamasan B175, this rig is always good for a winter carp

If I’m not using a solid pva bag I usually nick my hook into a small PVA Mesh bag when casting out so either a couple of whole boilies or chops usually accompany each rig, as well as giving a little extra attraction, the small bag helps prevent tangles which is something you need to watch with braids like silkworm and sink link. I also add a small piece of Foam Nugget to trap the hair and stop it wrapping round the shank of the hook, this is very important as I’ve suffered quite a few hookpulls when the hair itself has looped around the hook shank. It only needs to wrap around once and that’s enough to cause trouble so I use the foam nugget and pva mesh bag every single cast. I do sometimes chance not using a bag if I'm casting at a showing fish quickly but I would never not use a piece of foam nugget, it's just too important.

Well that’s it for my winter carp rigs and the presentations I'll be using in the coming months. The chopped boilie rig is a belter and I'm sure it's saved me many blanks and contributed to many multiple catches on some winter runs waters, I've had that one up my sleeve for a long time!. Judging by the number of anglers on the banks of the waters I frequent in winter, I'm not the only one who opts for easier winter targets. It's good to keep the runs coming when it's cold, it's more enjoyable and you go into spring with a lot more confidence than if you've banged your head against a brick wall on somewhere difficult. Spring is probably the most important month for catching carp, as the temps rise in March and April the carp will switch on in those harder waters and it's best to enter this period confident, for me, a good spring campaign starts with a productive winter one so wrap up, keep warm and keep catching.

Tight Lines


Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Zig Rig

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.

This 22lb+ Common gave me the confidence to stick with the zig rig

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.

Drennan Double Strength Mono, great line for Floaters and Zigs

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.

ESP Big T Hooks, perfect for the zig rig

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).

Make sure the angle of line helps push the bait gently against the hook when the knot is whipped

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.

My Fox Zig Disc Rig Storage System, looking a bit depleted after a week of zig rig fishing!

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!.

Typical low double taken on a recent zig rigging session

Tight Lines.


Sunday, 11 August 2013

Boilies For Carp

This will be my 99th piece for the North West Carp Blog and the first time I’ve ever given an opinion on the boilies I use for my carp fishing. This is mainly because I view boilies as too expensive. In today’s modern carp world it’s not uncommon to see so called top anglers recommending the use of hundreds of kilos of boilies as part of a baiting campaign, there is nothing wrong with this type of fishing, if you can manage to establish a good bait there’s no doubt you will bag up if you put the time, money and effort into this type of fishing. Lets be honest though, even with a heavy discount rate of £6 a kilo for frozen boilies, how many anglers can afford to buy their bait in these kind of quantities?, I know I can’t!. I can’t afford the time and the fuel running too and from a venue to prebait during the week either, so like most carp anglers, I have to pick a boilie and just make the best of it on the day.

Fortunately bait isn’t the be all and end all of catching carp, it’s only a very small part of a bigger picture, a sensible rig makes up the other small part and the other 99% is down to location, if you get that right I think you’ll catch no matter what bait you use. That’s not to say that some baits aren’t better than others. I only ever use boilies that have proven themselves as good catchers of carp, by doing so I can forget about my baits and concentrate my time and effort onto the important things like finding the fish.

So what boilies do I use and why?. Well I generally have a couple of proven ‘attractor’ baits and a proven food bait and I chop and change between them depending on the circumstances, if I’m fishing the same water week after week then I generally go with the food bait and if I’m chopping and changing waters I stick with the ‘attractor’ baits, during the winter virtually all my fishing is done with the latter. The following 3 boilies are the baits I’ve been using recently.

Nashbait Scopex Squid Red, A classic carp catcher!

Nashbait Scopex Squid
Actually it’s scopex squid red version I'm using. This is my food boilie, nashbait scopex squid has been a proven catcher of carp for many years now and I’ve witnessed this boilie dominate venues in the past, such has been the success of scopex squid I felt I really should be using it myself. I have a complete lack of freezer space at home and scopex squid is available in ready made form so it’s ideal for me. You might be surprised at me using the ready made boilies rather than frozen baits but nash scopex squid ready mades are the same as nash scopex squid frozen baits, the only difference is that they are air dried for longer and vacuum packed. Take a look at this video from Gary Bayes at nashbait, he explains about the baits and how readymade and frozen baits are actually the same (it kicks in at about 4 minutes after he explains about coloured boiles). For me personally this is a bonus, it means I can buy in bigger quanities without fear of my baits going off. I have to pay a bit more for the bait but with no freezer space available it’s a cost I’m willing to take on.

CCMoores Northern Specials
Gareth Fareham’s ‘Northern Specials’ from ccmoores are the first of my attractor baits, I carry the northern specials in a couple of different sizes and colours and in both pop ups and slow sinkers so I have something for every occaision. My results using ccmoores northern specials suggest they are truly exceptional carp baits and I must admit, I only started using them after witnessing some remarkable catches made by a handful of my mates who have really done the business with them over the last couple of years, so they have the great track record for catching carp that I look for in a boilie. The NS1’s have been very consistent for me so far and I’ve no doubt having a couple of tubs of these boilies in my rucksack is a good thing, when it comes down to it, I’d rather have them in my bag than be without them!.

CCMoores Northern Specials or 'NS1's', I wouldn't want to be without a tub of these!

Frank Warwick Fruit Special Pop Ups
My second attractor bait is Frank Warwicks fruit specials also known as ‘fruit smoothies’. I carry these in pop up and slow sinkers too. I first started using these baits when Frank launched his bait company a few years ago, his bait roller Paul Hatton put me onto them and I must admit he put me onto a real winner with these. I just used them as single hookbaits during my last few seasons of winter fishing and I could do no wrong with them, that first tub of pop ups brought me in the region of 50 winter doubles, quite a remarkable catch rate considering I never used a single freebie!.

Frank Warwick Fruit Special Pop Ups, carp love them and so do I!

A recent low 20 on a Frank Warwick Fruit Special Pop Up

So there we have it, these are the 3 boilies I carry with me today, I’m sure other baits will come and go and there will always be something that gets re-cycled every year, this is the nature of carp fishing and we’ve all been guilty of jumping on the latest band wagon when it comes to bait and boilies in particular. These 3 boilies have proven themselves time and again, so much so that any thoughts of my bait not being up to scratch have been completely eliminated, I’d take these 3 baits anywhere, anytime, which is great because it leaves me free to focus more of my energies on finding the carp in the first place. If I put any one of these boilies in the right place I just know it will go, if you can say that about your baits then you’re well on the way to catching, if you can’t, then give one of these boilies a try, I only use them myself because the carp like them so much!.

Tight Lines


Sunday, 21 July 2013

Adjustable Zig Rig Success

Following on from the zig rig success of my last trip, I was back to the little Shropshire pool the following Saturday and once again I was alone. When I got home the previous week I was straight onto the internet to buy a couple of adjustable zig rig kits, I had a trawl through ebay and bought both the Small Nash Zig Float and a Fox Mini Halo Zig Float Kit to go with the couple of bigger Fox Zig Kits that I already own. The gear arrived on Tuesday so I was kitted out in plenty of time for the weekend without any need to go out of my way to a specialist tackle shop. I figured the smaller versions would offer a little more finesse on what is only a small pool afterall.

As soon as I walked onto the lake I knew straight away I’d turned up with the right kit for the job, there were fish cruising round everywhere with their backs out of the water, after a couple of minutes of watching them I was already mentally adding up how many I was going to catch this week, they looked complete suckers for chum mixers!. I got myself settled down and started feeding mixers to the carp, they went bonkers for them!, literally within minutes of starting I had a group of fish confidently mopping up everything I was putting in. I couldn’t get my rod set up quick enough and I kept the mixers going in as I set up a Controller Float ready to take one off the top. I didn’t cast in straight away, I kept the mixers going in so I could build their confidence even further, I’d set up my Camera to film a carp taking off the surface and this was a huge mistake, with the film running I poked my head up to look at the view finder with the fish taking mixers not two rod lengths from me. What a schoolboy error that was!, within 10 minutes I turned a can’t fail situation into a swim empty of carp. I couldn’t believe what unfolded in front of my eyes, as soon as they got wind of me being there they were off!.

Carp taking confidently off the top and I blew it!.

Having snatched defeat from the jaws of victory I had a quick brew from my flask and looked around, being a small water I knew the carp couldn’t have gone far and I found them again a little further up the bank and a bit further out, they were still cruising round only now the carp were firmly in zig rig territory so I set two up, one with the small nash zig float and the other with the fox mini halo zig kit, I used Drennan Double Strength Mono on both rigs and baits were both small squares of Yellow Rig Foam on a size 10 ESP Big-T Raptor hook.

An adjustable zig rig hooked carp comes to the waiting net, notice the small Nash Zig Float at the top of the pic.

I got both baits in the water without upsetting the carp any further so I adjusted both rigs so my hookbaits were 6 inches under the surface, this put my yellow foam at eye level for the carp and judging by the way the fish had gone for the mixers earlier and the way they’d investigate anything and everything that was floating on the surface, I thought I’d got it just right, all I needed to do was wait for a carp to find one of them and a chance would come. It was half an hour later when a carp bow waved on one of my baits, for that split second you never quite know if a carp has taken the bait or if it’s spooked off but a warbling Delkim and a ticking Baitrunner soon told me I was in. No need to strike hard, I just tightened down to the fish which had already hooked itself. I played the carp on a light clutch, there were no snags and you never quite know what hookhold you’re going to get with a zig rig so I took it easy, the fish fought well in the deep water in front of me but eventually it succumbed to the steady pressure and slipped into the waiting Landing Net.

I must say I was pleased to get that fish having made such a mess of things earlier. As it turned out the fish was well hooked inside the mouth and I was never going to lose it, once unhooked I quickly Weighed the fish at 13lb 6oz, another pristine looking common and a fair reward for a day’s fishing on this lake.

13lb 6oz Common caught on an adjustable zig rig.

After returning my fish all I had to do was recast the zig rig and adjust so my bait was just under the surface again, I did this in one cast but I was casting into a swim that was empty of carp!. After the disturbance of a fish being landed they disappeared completely. I fished on into the evening and eventually they showed again but they were back in what I term a ‘safe area’ at the other end of the lake. Perhaps on another day the carp might hang around but my limited experience of these fish so far suggests that any kind of disturbance sees them disappear and I can’t help but feel lucky to have caught one given the howling mistake I’d made earlier in the day.

I’ve been looking at youtube video blogs recently and as you now know I was filming this trip so I could use the footage for a video blog. This is the first time I’ve ever filmed anything and I wanted something a little different to the usual run of the mill youtube anglers who waffle a load of crap to the camera but provide very little in the way of help or education in their films. I’ve played back my first recordings many times and I still can’t believe I managed to empty a swim of carp just because I gave my presence away adjusting a Camera but this is clearly what happened. When something you do costs you a fish you have to ask if it’s worth doing?, I still intend to put together some footage but it’s going to be a long time coming because I’ll be concentrating on the fishing and not the camera next time!.

Adjustable zig rig success from this article, click to watch.

Tight Lines.


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