Each is supposed to be the next big thing; the wonder rig that never fails! The one thing missing when the talk turn to rigs is bait! Nobody ever seems to realise that there exists a close and important relationship between bait and rig . I have felt for some time that the two are inseparable and that has been the cornerstone of my approach for the past two decades. Perhaps I am something of an old fogey but in this day and age it seems to me that the rig is king and the bait is an also-ran, a situation I consider to be greatly flawed.
For the most part, I tend to keep things simple as far as rigs are concerned, but at the same time, I realise that there is no ‘one rig fits all’ solution to the choice of rig. In fact, while I consider that I have a pretty fair knowledge of modern rigs I refuse to get carried away by the sometimes ridiculous cobbled together nonsense that some folk seem to think is the be all and end all of rig development and technology. For instance, way back in the day a group of like-minded folk got together to see just how outlandish we could be and after tossing ideas back and for the we came up with this…Yes, it was supposed to be a spoof yet some actually took it seriously and we even got questioned as to which materials were the best.
Frankly I see bait as infinitely more important than rig in the great scheme of things, the rig being the final part of the jigsaw that we need to complete before we catch carp on a regular basis. If I find myself blanking it won’t be because I have got a dodgy rig at the business end, it’ll be because I am in the wrong place! Nine times out of ten when you are not getting takes it is more to do with poor location than poor rig, but many anglers make the mistake of blaming their rig above all else, refusing to acknowledge their weaknesses in other areas of their fishing.
A rig is only as good as the bait that is on it and the harder a fish feeds the more likely it is to make a mistake, and the less likely it is that you will need some super rig to fool it. A confident carp is a catchable carp and one that is turned on by the bait will make more mistakes than one that has a ‘take or leave it’ attitude towards it.
If possible try to find a water that allows you to look at your quarry in the wild. Watch them feed and notice how feeding activity differs from one bait to another. Note how they approach a carpet of bait and see how they react to a rig. Being able to watch carp in their natural world is a massive edge as far as I am concerned, as I can make any necessary tweaks to a rig before I go out onto the bigger waters where you need to rely on rig effectiveness to succeed. Back in the early 80s rig development was fairly slow but there were several rigs that I tended to rely on for the majority of carp lakes…until I watched myself getting 'done' on a rig in which I had total faith. I came away scratching my head wondering how the carp in this particular lake could identify and reject a rig that had, until then accounted for several big carp from other venues. Watching them scoff at my rig took me back to the drawing board and after a few tweaks here and there I managed to get under their guard. Here a mid thirty hovers over that bait carpet while other carp feed nearby, hence the ripples. This big girls was about to make a mistake on the hookbait…
…And here she is!
Many carp anglers have been brainwashed into thinking that carp are some kind of mystical, uncatchable beast with the mental powers of Einstein. In fact they have a brain the size of a pea and just like any creature in the natural world they need to feed in order to live. Seeing how carp approach a bait carpet can often astonish the newcomer to carp fishing, who may well have preconceived ideas about their supposedly super-shy, mega-cautious and deeply suspicious quarry. However, once they have witnessed the kind of confident, aggressive and competitive feeding by carp that have really got their heads down they never forget it, and will soon realise that when carp really want a bait they are anything but shy, cautious or suspicious!
This is where having a decent bait enters the picture. It is a real eye opener to see fish feeding on a bait to which they are indifferent and then comparing that activity with carp that are munching on a bait they really want to eat and in which they have full confidence. If the carp want the bait badly enough to be competing for every mouthful they are likely to be less cautious. These fish certainly aren't being cautious.
It is often stated that hard pressured carp are rig shy but it this really the case? I wonder how many anglers who offer this argument are using inferior bait/bait carpets. Might this not account for their poor results? I am sure in my own mind that truly rig shy carp are a figment of anglers’ imagination. Yes, a carp may be able to identify the hookbait from the way it behaves but this doesn’t mean it doesn’t pick it up. From my own observations I have watched carp pick up a hookbait a dozen or more times without showing any sign of suspicion. What does this tell me? Two things: 1) That the carp isn’t shy of the rig/hooklink/lead weight etc. and, 2) That the rig is not working properly. The harder they feed the more they throw caution to the wind. Offer them a bait they truly want and they become easier to catch. This bait carpet comprising boiled barrels, pellets and hempseed is a tried and tested route to success.
To me rigs and bait are inseparable. The best rig is the world will be less effective if you put a duff hookbait on it and by the same token, the best bait in the world will not produce the goods if your rig is rubbish. So where is the happy medium we need to reach to maximize both aspects of the game? I believe it starts with the bait and how it is applied and presented. Once you have the bait sorted out that is when the rig then comes to the fore. When I see the latest super-rig in the magazines I am amazed at the inventiveness of the guy who thought that one up, but I always ask myself, ‘Just how really necessary is that?’ Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if the rig has truly come about out of necessity or is just the result of a long afternoon’s cogitation and invention driven by boredom.
If in doubt start simple! There's no point in going in with the latest all-singing, all-dancing rig that takes half an hour to tie. Start simple and work up. The rig in this photo is about as simple as it gets, a standard Knotless Knot rig using supple nylon for the hooklink. Use dissolving foam to secure the hair to the hook shank prior to casting out. This more or less eliminates tangles and ensures that the rig settles nicely on the lake or river bed.
There are very few what I would call really gifted technical carp anglers writing in the magazines these days. When I need inspiration I don’t turn to the pages of the modern magazines, instead I go back over what has already been written by some of the most consistent carp catchers, many of then European. You may not have heard names such as Leon Hoojendjik, Bruno Medou and Philippe Lagabbe but they are every bit as famous in Europe as the late Rod Hutchinson is in the UK. Look at the outstanding results of my mate Bill Cottam, a guy who places his faith in a simple rig (see photo) and a bait they have to have! Yes, Bill knows a good bait when he sees one. He should do; he was the boss of what was once the largest and most successful bait companies in Europe.
Read Bill’s book 'Behind The Rods' and see for yourself just how meticulously he sets his traps, getting presentation right every time. Bill is without doubt one of the most successful catchers of huge carp in Europe and is respected for his no-nonsense approach to rigs. You won’t find reams of technical jargon-filled pages in his book. Just simple no-nonsense advice on how to maximize rig efficiency by correctly applying a first class bait.
I think too many carp anglers of today have forgotten the debt they owe to the guys who developed what so many now take for granted. Jim Gibbinson’s Line Aligner was a huge step forward in rig development, and Harry Haskell’s original combi rig has brought about a revolution in rig technology with the now widespread use of coated braids being taken almost for granted.
I learned to fish at a very early age but only got into carp fishing in the mid-70s, and it wasn't until the likes of Rod Hutchinson, Jim Gibbinson, Kevin Maddocks and George Sharman put their thought and experiences down on paper that I began to grasp the close relationship between the rig and the bait. I suspect many of you may not have heard the name Fred Wilton…? Well Fred was the man who gave us the theory of Nutritional Recognition, which changed carp fishing for ever. There is a chapter by Fred in George Sharman's book Carp and the Carp Angler, which I commend thoroughly to all of you.
There have really only been a few what I would call truly revolutionary rigs coming through in the past decade or so. I think the Multi Rig is arguably the most innovative, as it allows the angler to change not just the hook but the rig as a whole in just a few seconds and lends itself to many different hook and hooklink permutations. It is a hugely versatile rig that is the go-to rig of many of today's most successful anglers and it is adaptable to suit all types of lake bed. This is the Multi Rig tied using Kryston Synx, a stiff coated braid that is hugely versatile. The pop-up hookbait is attached using a bore ring and balanced with Kryston's Heavy Metal Super Tungsten Putty.
You can see in this photo that I have created a tiny hinge in the coating (think back to Harry Haskell's ideas again. It was Harry who thought up the Hinge Rig). The hinge is created by peeling back and small (or large) amount of coating to reveal the supple inner core of the Synx. Note the positioning of the putty. In this case it is positioned above the hinge but you may like to experiment with this aspect of the rig. Maybe below the hinge would be better…? It all depends on the lake bed and the bait.
This is Kryston's Heavy Metal Super Tungsten Putty. It is the best pop-up putty on the market, bar none and I have been using it since Dave Chilton gave me a sample at a European Carp Expo many moon ago.
Dave is the brains behind the Kryston brand and we all owe him a huge debt of gratitude for bringing such a wealth of rig ideas and products to the fore.
I have written before about experimenting with variations on a specific theme. In this photo you can see two versions of the Ronnie Rig tied on Kryston's Synx coated braid. Same hook, same rig attachment, same hooklink material. However, as you can see the upper rig features a section of shrink tube that has been bent during steaming to present the hook at a more aggressive angle. The lower rig is exactly the same other than the fact that the shrink tube is steamed straight. I would opt for the upper rig is I were fishing over a widespread scattering of boiled baits. I would go for the lower version if I was offering a carpet of mass baits such as groats, hemp seed or Red Band.
Where we would without the original thinkers such as Dave Chilton, Lenny Middleton, Kevin Maddocks, Jim Gibbinson, Mike Kavanagh and Frank Warwick I cannot imagine. Without materials such as braids, fluorocarbons and coated hooklinks to inspire the inventive minds of subsequent carp anglers I doubt if carp fishing would have become as popular as it is today. But at the end of the day success is brought by combining the rig with the bait. Given them a bait they have got to have and carp fishing becomes a whole lot easier.
I rest my case!
Keep safe, sane and healthy!