Carp Rigging Tips

Carp rigs have changed immensely during the last few decades. Since the early days of floating crusts and parboiled potatoes, more and more anglers have begun to specialise in catching carp, new specialist venues have appeared on the scene and carp rigs have become an important element in catching carp today. With this increase in popularity comes an increase in the amount of pressure on our waters. The fish become increasingly wary and to carry on catching specimen carp, we must continually come up with more and more ways to outwit them, and carp rigs play an important role.

The key to this is in bait presentation and to achieve this, we must be able to create and tie our carp rigs correctly. This section is dedicated to explaining the many types of carp rigs available today and to show you just how to get them right.

With the right carp rig and the right bait, presented correctly in the right place, you will stand a much greater chance of putting that personal best on the bank. We will continually add to these pages as new advances in the rig scene are discovered, and if you know of a good carp rig that you have tried and caught carp with, then let us know. Tell us how it is tied and why you think it works and we will add it to the site.

Ledgering rigs

So, what are the basic types of rigs? Years ago, the only form of ledgering I knew was the sliding ledger. This basic rig was simply a hook on the end of my main line with bait directly attached to it, with a sliding pear shaped lead or drilled bullet stopped a short distance from the hook by a single split shot. This was occasionally upgraded to a swivel to stop the weight, usually when I wanted to use a lower breaking strain line on the hook length and needed some way of attaching it. The carp would take the bait, swim off with it and pull the line through the weight, thus registering a bite. It was a very basic rig, but it used to catch me fish. The first drawback of this rig was that the split shot would sometimes come off, causing me to hook a lead weight if I was lucky, or it would damage the line to a stage where it would break on hooking a fish. This of course was another good reason to replace the shot with a swivel. This basic sliding ledger rig will of course still catch fish today, and I still use it where a simple technique is sufficient

Carp though became a bit more clever, and on picking up the bait, sensed that something was wrong and let go before registering a single movement back on the bank. Carp could also feel either the line itself as they picked up the hookbait, or the resistance of the line due to monofilaments springy nature. As the carp takes its food straight into the back of its mouth where it is crushed, anglers believed that they could also feel the hook and would eject the bait. And so the hair rig was developed. This involved taking a very thin piece of line and attaching it to the end of the hook. The bait was attached to the hair so that when a carp passed the bait into the back of its mouth the hook was still at the front near the carp's lips. Anglers also started to use a finer trace length of a softer material, such as Dacron, believing that the fish wouldn't feel resistance from the trace. This helped a lot and today many rigs are still tied with these basic principles, using hair rigs and soft trace materials.

Typically the hair rig is used with a "bolt" setup, where a heavy weight is fixed onto the line.  As the fish starts to feel the weight, it panicks and moves off suddenly, thus setting the hook (most of the time).

You can tie your own hair rigs quite easily with a length of 25 - 30 lb. test superbraid (which has the same diameter as 6 - 8 lb. test monofilament), some swivels and super-sharp size 8 to 4 hooks, like the "octopus" style from premium hook-makers like Gamakatsu, VMC, Mustad or Owner, to name a few.  Superbraid is used because it is soft to the touch, and doesn't coil like mono.  Instead of buying a whole spool (it's expensive stuff), you can just purchase a length (20 feet or so) of it from a tackle shop that spools reels

Then it's simply a manner of tying a snell knot to the hook, leaving several inches on the tag end.  The snell knot is perfect for this rig, as the tag end lies parallel to the shank.  The tag is then tied to the shank where the bend starts with a simple overhand knot.  The length of the tag can be varied to the size of the boilie or number of corn you wish to use.  The end of the tag is finished off with a simple overhand loop.  The other end of the leader is then tied to a swivel with a palomar knot (other standard knots have been known to slip with superbraids).

Bait Needle

To thread the corn or a boilie onto this tag end, one uses a bait needle, which you can also make yourself.  Simply take a large sewing or tapestry needle, and with a pair of wire cutters, clip out a section of the eye, leaving a j-shaped hook, as shown below.

For the handle, use a short section of dowel rod about the diameter of a pencil, bore a small hole in the end, and superglue the pointed end of the needle into the hole.  You can even use the needle as the drill bit. 

The handle can then be dipped in latex or lacquer to seal the wood.  Now you're ready to bait the hair rig.


Baiting the Hair Rig

For field corn, simply thread the needle through the corn.  A boilie is threaded on exactly the same way.  To make it a "pop-up" rig, sandwich a piece or two of packing foam in between the corn, which will cause the bait to float up from the bottom.  This makes your offering the most visible and accessible, especially in a bed of chum.

Make sure that there is enough foam to float the bait.  Then hook the loop from the end of the hair rig, and slide the bait on.

To lock the bait on, insert a stopper in the loop, and slide the bait back against the stopper.  Almost anything can be used as the stopper - I use a tiny piece of pine needle.  The height of the popped bait can be adjusted by adding a split shot to the leader, or by the length of the leader itself.

The Bolt Rig

To set up the bolt rig, bolt or fix a heavy weight (about a 3 ounce bell sinker) onto the main line.  This can be done by tightly knotting a rubber band ahead of the weight.  I also knot a rubber band behind the weight next to the swivel to keep the sinker from banging on the knot or slipping onto the swivel.  Then trim the ends of the rubber band.

A heavy weight is necessary to set the hook, when a carp "bolts" away from the tension.  I've heard some anglers use a lighter weight (1 - 1.5 ounces) and firm up the hook set themselves after a strike.  This is the fundamental setup, with a multitude of variations used, like different sinker options, hooks, etc.  I'm a "do it yourselfer," and this is the way I figured the rig must be tied, and it's worked for me.


The Line Aligner  

The linge aligner is basically a hair rig with an improvement. Heat Shrink tube has been applied around the shank of the hook. It is left sticking out past the eye of the hook. Instead of the line also passing out of the tubing, it passes out through a small hole made in the inside of the shrink tube. This makes the hook always flip over so that it faces downwards when the carp picks it up. Try dragging it across your finger, you'll see that it hooks you almost every time. Personally I like to use the line aligner as often as I can when I'm using an ordinary hair, but it's up to you. You have to decide which rig you feel most confident in using


The D-Rig  

the drig has a loop at the shank of the hook which has a rig ring on it. The boilie is normally tied on to the rig ring using bait floss or ordinary dental floss, although you can tie a hair to the rig ring and mount the bait on that. D-rigs really need to be made from monofilament so that the ring sticks out instead of collapsing inwards and ruining the effect of the rig. Of course, you could always use Kryston's Snake Bite and strip off all the coating from after the hook to the swivel, this would let you make the rig out of braid without ruining the effect of the rig. To make the ring I tie a knotles knot but instead of tying a loop to make a hair, I leave a long tag end. I tie the knotless-knot as normal and when I've finished I pass the tag end through the eye of the hook (after sliding on a rig ring). Then I get a match and carefully burn the end sticking out through the eye so that it forms a 'bobble' on the end which cannot pass back through the eye. I continue to burn it down until I get a loop of just the right size. One product which helps in the construction of this rig is Solar's D-Riggers. The D-Rig is a pop-up rig and only really works with boyant baits, so you will need something to counter-balance the pop-up (not illustrated).


The Hinge Rig  

The hinge rig is another pop-up rig. Made famous by Terry Hearn, the hinge rig is made from stiff monofilament (my personal favourite material for stiff rigs is ESP Stiff Rig Bristle Filament) A hinge is created by two interlocking loops on either piece of mono. A loop is also used to attach the swivel, but flexi-ring swivels perform the same task as the loop. A good knot for tying on swivels using stiff mono is the two-turn blood knot, it doesn't tend to mess us thick line like grinner and palomar knots can. This rig is normally fished with a boyant bait, so if you use one then remember to add a counter weight. As I have pointed out in the diagram, the counter-balance should be added to the bottom of the loop so that the hook always ends up pointing away from the swivel (as you can see in the diagram). Although you don't have to use a D-rig set up with this rig, I think it helps to let the bait move more freely when using stiff mono.


Snake Bite Rig

Here's a rig which I use quite a lot and you can make with Kryston's Snake Bite. The stiff part of the rig makes sure the rig straightens out as it lands on the bottom and helps to avoid tangles. An inch to two inches of the snake bite before the hook has been stripped off, this lets the bait behave naturally in the water. If I decide to use a pop-up I put the counter-balance on the end of the stiff part just before the point where it is stripped off.


Critically Balanced Rig

This is a rig I have used quite a lot in the past. When critically balancing your bait, the aim is to get it as light as possible so that is is only just being held down by the weight of the hook. The theory is that if a carp decides to taste your bait, it is sucked straight into the carp's mouth before any other bait, and hopefully the hook will then become caught in the carp's mouth. This is to try and trick the carp that are not necessarily attempting to eat the bait, but are just tasting it or sucking in your free offerings. Start with a piece of rig foam that is a bit too big and makes the bait float, then cut off small pieces until it only just sinks in the water. You don't have to use boilies, I have fished it with Pepperami which you'll find is very boyant and requires little foam. Fishing this rig over a bed of freebies, particles or with 'the method' can be effective because the carp might inadvertently suck in your bait whilst foraging for the particles.


The Snowman Rig

This rig is a variation of the ciritically balanced rig. You get two boilies, one which floats in water and one which sinks. By putting the sinking bait onto the hair below a floating bait, you should find that the pop-up sits at the top with the sinker holding it down. It is possible to achieve a situation whereby the net boyancy of both baits and the hook leaves the setup 'critically balanced' (see above). This can be achieved by changing the size ratio of the boilies, pushing short lengths of lead wire into the bottom bait to decrease boyancy (I think you can buy wire intended for this in tackle shops), or adding foam above the pop-up to increase boyancy. I like to use boilies of the same sort for this but I suppose there's no reason why different flavoured boilies couldn't be used in combination.


The Helicopter rig.

 The Helicopter rig was originally used for sea fishing and later adapted for carp fishing because of its anti-tangle properties.The rig was named the helicopter rig after its helicopter blade like motion in flight.The baited hook-link rotates about the main-line axis by the use of the loose fitting hook-link swivel, usually on anti-tangle tubing or lead-core. The Helicopter rig is probably the most commonly used rig when trying to achieve extreme distances because of its anti-tangle properties and itís aerodynamic set-up. The Helicopter rig is best used with a two or three bait ĎStringerí, a ĎStringerí is usually free offerings of your hook-bait that are threaded onto dissolvable P.V.A. string and tied to your hook

The Silt rig

The Silt rig is basically a Helicopter rig in itís make up, the only difference being that the rubber bead is slid up the anti-tangle tubing or lead-core to the depth of the silt that you are fishing in. In doing this the hook-link isnít pulled into the silt burying the hook-bait. To find out the depth of the silt you use a Marker-Float set-up with a length of white wool tied to the lead with the other end tied to the swivel which runs on the shock-leader/main-line. The link between the Marker-Float lead and the running swivel that is on the shock-leader/main-line must still be of a suitable breaking strain material with the wool accompanying it, not instead of it. Once set-up cast out to the silt and leave for ten minutes or so then reel in, the depth of the silt will be stained into the wool.


The Helicopter/Silt rig does solve many problems, but not without having itís own inherent ones. Firstly when playing a hooked fish you do not have a direct pull on the fish, in other words the strain of the fish is being taken on the rubber bead or sleeve of the lead and the anti-tangle tubing or lead-core, not the direct tension of the main-line. Secondly the Helicopter/Silt rig is not particularly weed friendly, as it is prone to snagging. Once the lead is snagged the hook-link can slide up the anti-tangle tubing or lead-core making the problem worse, hence the need for a more direct pull and/or a safety-lead set-up. Finally, for fish safety, make sure that the rubber bead, which acts as a depth stop, can slide easily along the anti-tangle tubing or lead-core. In the event of your main-line snapping the hook-link must be able to slide up the anti-tangle tubing or lead-core pushing the rubber bead/depth stop with it as it slides off to free the fish from the lead


Carp have a similar sensory system to humans in that they are able to hear, touch, taste and smell items around them. This has great importance when deciding which rig to use and how its components may put the carp on its guard as it considers the hookbait. The senses of a carp are hearing Ė taste - smell Ė sight and touch. 

a)  Hearing Ė although carp do not have ears as humans have, they can hear much more acutely than we can. The carp "hears" by detecting sound waves passing through the water. These sound waves are converted into messages in the carpís brain and are translated into noise. The carpís hearing is particularly sensitive and the tiny bones in their ears called ossicles can detect and amplify the smallest of sound waves passing through water. So although the splash of a rig entering the water may well attract the carp, the carp may identify this with danger eventually and treat the area with suspicion. 
b)  Taste/Smell - these two senses are to be grouped together as they make up the carpís olfactory sense. Carp can taste and smell items in the water and can do this in a number of ways. Nostrils near the eyes of the carp allow water to enter and the highly sensitive olfactory system can then pick up any substances which have been dissolved into that water. The carp will then identify this as a viable food source or not. When a carp takes in a potential food item into the mouth the lining of the mouth which contains chemically sensitive cells will send a message to the carpís brain as to whether that food item is a viable food source. If this is so, the carp may then will continue to feed until satisfied. However, if the carp decides that the item is not a food item it will reject the item taken in and may bolt from the area. Although carp will take in many items as potential food items, they have the ability to reject them! 
c)  Sight - carp have the ability to see through the eyes situated on either side of the head. Unlike humans who have a straight line of vision, carp see out of the water sideways and upwards at an angle of around 49í through each eye. Anything outside of this angle out of the water will be invisible to the carp. In water the carpís vision will be extremely limited in certain cases and extremely effective in other cases. If the water is deep, clouded, murky, full of suspended silt particles, the carpís vision will be negligible. Clearly this is even less when light is at a minimum. However, in shallow, clear water with bright sun the carpís ability to see items will improve. Be aware of this when using crude or obvious end tackles and presentations in such circumstances! 

d) Touch - the tactile sense of touch in a carp is utilised in two ways. In the standard form of direct touch where a carp comes across and brushes/takes in a presentation it can feel that it has done so. Nerve fibres in the carpís skin send messages to its brain and if the carp does not identify the item touched as a viable food item it will reject it and may spook from the area. Secondly, the carp has an ability to sense touch through its lateral line. The lateral line on a carp which runs from its head to its tail is comprised of fine fluid filled tubes which open to the outside by tiny pores. Similar to hairs they can detect very slight movements in the water which assist them when locating potential food sources or detecting items to avoid. Carp can also "touch" potential food items with their barbules which are located either side of the mouth. Once a carp has located a food item it can use the barbules to touch the food source. It may well not be able to see the item with its eyes but it can assess it with its barbules just as well, if not better. The carp may well decide to take the food item in or may decide to reject it if that food item is attached to a carp rig! 

So what does all that tell us when all we are trying to do is to decide which rig to use? Simple! No matter how attractive your food item may be, to enter the carpís mouth and to hopefully hook the carp it must pass the sensory test. Crude end tackles and presentations may be visually unacceptable and when touched may be rejected immediately. Carp are not stupid and will use their own senses for survival and survival means avoiding the obvious and dangerous. 

Having seen how the carpís senses greatly influence how it feeds we shall now look at how the carp takes in food items. No matter what rig you use, in order to hook and land a carp by fair means the hook has to enter the carpís mouth. Yes, occasionally an item will enter the carpís mouth accidentally but most enter the mouth when the carp takes in an item to assess its value as a food item. Having "sensed" a potential food item, the carp will seek to evaluate it via direct contact inside the mouth. To draw in that item of food the carp usually takes it in as it would take in water to convert the oxygen contained within it. The mouthís opened, the gill covers close and water is drawn into the mouth. Anything contained in the water which is drawn into the mouth will enter that area likewise. The mouth is closed, the floor of the mouth is raised and the gill covers are opened. Excess water is driven out and the carp uses its tongue to hold in food items if they are evaluated in a positive way. 

Clearly this sounds a very long winded process but in reality itís very quick indeed as anyone who has watched carp feeding will know. Because the carp has the ability to draw in and blow out items contained in the water this is called "sucking and blowing" and this is a common way of feeding found on many waters. Carp can suck in a large amount of water (obviously dependent on the size of the carp and its ability to generate a vacuum inside its mouth) and items up to eight inches away can be drawn in with that water. When the carp "blows out", items can be displaced over twelve inches, again dependent upon the size of the fish and density of the items in question. As well as sucking and blowing, carp also have the ability to pick items up in their lips. By extending their lips and using a very slight sucking movement, the food item is gently taken in. In effect this is a moderated/careful form of sucking and blowing and is not a completely dissimilar feeding style. The mouth of the carp is purely and simply a hole which allows food items to be taken in. Once inside the mouth, if not rejected, the teeth (identical to humanís teeth but a little smaller) located in the throat and known as pharyngeal teeth will grind the food item against the roof of the mouth in order to break it down before passing it into the digestive system. Carp do not have a stomach as we do and food in the digestive system is broken down by gastric juices known as enzymes. Food, once broken down, is absorbed and used in the carpís body for survival. 

Always remember that when you use a carp rig the hook has to enter the carpís mouth to hook it. Seek to make the hookbait as attractive as possible so that the carp wants to feed on it, make the rig one which allows the food item to be taken in rather than detected before entry and ensure that once in the carpís mouth if the carp seeks to reject it it is difficult to do so. That process of finding a rig which will satisfy all those criteria is known as choosing the right rig. 

Unfortunately itís not possible to say with absolute certainty how a carp will feed on any given water and which rig to choose. The carpís feeding behaviour will be affected by many criteria and these are as follows:- 

  1. The personal characteristics of the carp Ė this would be its mouth shape, mouth size, body shape and so on. Carp are similar to human beings in that they have their own individual characteristics. Not all carp feed in ideal feeding conditions and not all carp stop feeding in poor feeding conditions. At times they may well be predictable but not in a way that anyone can predict with certainty how to outwit them.
  2. Angler pressure Ė when carp have been caught time and time again on a particular type of rig or bait or even in a particular place in the lake, they may change their normal feeding habits to avoid being hooked. For the purposes of this book it explains why certain rigs seem to "blow" when numbers of carp have been caught on one particular form of presentation. Carp seek to avoid this and may feed in such a way that the rig is not as effective as it used to be. You would then have to vary your rig to outwit the carp. Not only does angler pressure over many years come into play, it also has an effect when many anglers are fishing one water at the same time. An abundance of free offerings may well fill the carp up before they even encounter the hookbait. Numbers of lines across the lake may well spook or panic the carp, so making positive feeding unlikely. Recasting time and time again could panic the carp as they start to associate leads crashing through the water as a danger signal and so on.
  3. Confidence in the food item Ė we will cover this in more detail in the chapter on hookbaits but itís vital that you recognise that confidence or otherwise in the hookbait is of paramount importance. If the carp is confident in that food item it may well take it in positively which can only increase the likelihood of hooking the carp. However, if the carp is wary or unsure of the food item, it may approach its feeding in a cautious manner no matter what rig the hookbait is presented on.
  4. Time of year Ė whilst carp do feed all year round they do not feed with the same voracity all year round. If the carp are feeding strongly in the summer months they may take in food items confidently, but in winter in less than ideal conditions feeding may be sporadic and cautious. Whilst you should always use the best rig possible, once feeding conditions are less than ideal it is an idea to ring the changes to try to outwit the cautious and wary feeders.
  5. Barometric pressure Ė this has a great effect on the feeding of carp and the consequent effectiveness or otherwise of your rig. During high pressure weather, which is known as anti-cyclones (red hot still days, clear and colder nights) usually the carp will not feed as strongly no matter which rig you use to present your hookbait. With low pressure which is known as depressions (overcast skies, mild south-westerly winds, rain etc.) the carpís feeding should increase due to increased oxygen levels, water turbulence and lower light levels. In such conditions a good rig should produce and if you are not receiving action you should look critically at your rig choice. 

If the carp are confident in your bait, there is little angler pressure, feeding conditions are good, carp are in your swim and you are not getting takes, you will need to look very carefully at the rig you are using. 

If the carp have not built up confidence in the bait, if feeding conditions are less than ideal, if angler pressure is extreme and you are not sure about where to locate the carp, donít automatically think your rig is to blame! 

A rig will only catch carp if:

a) it is where the carp are prepared to feed 
b) itís there at the time they are prepared to feed 
c) it has a hookbait on it that the carp are willing to take in.