One of the biggest topics in sea angling is rigs. There just seems to be so many varieties these days; before even getting into the number of possible components! If a month goes by on Facebook without seeing some new device for doing something with a rig that nobody had ever heard of before, then I’d start to think something was amiss.
From urfes to pulleys, droppers to bagnall bars and clip downs to up and overs, the options are now seemingly limited; but, what should determine which rig we opt for on any given day? With very little direction, a few of the hookpoint team have given their views on rigs. By no means will this be a definitive guide to which rig for which sceneario. In fact, what we hope to show is the diversity of approach to fishing that goes someway to justifying the overly complicated market for rig components we now witness. Over to the team…
When it comes to rigs there are only 4 which I use for 95% of my fishing. The pulley, up and over, pulley dropper and running ledger. The decision of what to use comes down to the ground I’m fishing over, sea state, target species and range required.
Most of my fishing over clean to mixed ground is done using pulley droppers and up and overs. I choose them as range is often needed and my target species will nearly always feed on the bottom. The only real reason I would use one over the other is snood length; When looking to use snoods over 4 feet I’ll go for an up and over, under 4 feet I’ll tend to use a dropper. Both these rigs are equally suited to targeting larger fish such as cod, rays and hounds with a single bait, as they are to targeting smaller fish such as plaice sole and bream, either with a single smaller bait or by adding a wishbone at the end of the flowing trace to make them into 2 hook rigs.
With the exception of cod fishing at Chesil, when I find a short pulley can be deadly, especially in rough seas, pulley rigs are only really used for rough ground work, targeting eels, Huss etc. This is done primarily to reduce the amount of tackle lost on the retrieve, as when the bait and lead are retrieved close together they are less likely to snag. They have the added benefits of rarely tangling even in rough seas, whilst still casting ok when using larger baits even in the event of the bait coming unclipped during the cast.
For whatever reason, I do find that I miss more bites, from rays in particular, using pulleys than other rigs and therefore I’m not a massive fan unless conditions dictate. They can however be very effective on their day, and have accounted for at least 90% of my cod catches in recent years and plenty of decent eels.
When range isn’t necessary, I find a running ledger one of the most effective ways to fish and love how directly bites show on the rod. It is a tactic I often use for short range bass work, and targeting eels and rays at ranges under 50 yards from the rocks. It is a method I will often choose when fishing heavy ground due to the simplicity of rigging up quickly and to minimise the amount of tackle lost.
Whatever rig is chosen hooks are chosen to suit the bait used and target species, and rotten bottom set ups can be added if required.
I like to tie all my own rigs. This not only gives me confidence in the line, components and knots but also I can make minor adjustments both on the mark or back at home for different lengths etc that seem to help. Looking at one-bait rigs, I personally break them down into two different categories. The first is where the snood is attached above the weight (single clipped down or pulley) and the second, where the snood is attached below the lead (running ledger and up & overs).
I like to fish rock marks mainly and if it’s a new location or I am losing a lot of tackle, I default my rig to a single swivel attached to the shock leader that the snood runs off and so does the rotten bottom. Just having a short hook snood sometimes helps with the tackle loss. There is also a single clip down that helps with tackle loss as it leaves less of the snood on the seabed to snag up.
My go to rig is always an up & over ranging from 4 to 6 feet. If it is pretty rough and or a strong tidal run I will have one rod with a short pulley set up to see if one out fishes the other.
What I like to do is have all my rigs with detachable hook snoods. This gives me the ability to attach small size 1’s to scratch for the smaller stuff or replace the snood with 175lb wire and a pair of 8/0’s for conger or any other toothy critter that may be around. Apart from two and three hook flappers all my rigs are this style set up.
I am not a fan of pulley rigs because they act like a clip down rig in the water, with their specialty being once you catch a fish the lead is higher up in the water to avoid snags. I’ve had plenty of fish on clip downs where the lead snagging has not been an issue.
I still use pulleys occasionally but the swivel that the rig body pulls through always kinks the line for me. The line still kinks with any variation of the anti kink pulley swivel / beads. The concept of the pulley dropper is of interest to me and I’ve used it to some success over the last couple of years. I like the way the snood if free to move up and down the rig body depending on the amount of lateral tide. So it should always be fairly close to the seabed and I’ve not had many tangles with them.
A recent rig I’ve been using over the last year is the Portsmouth loop rig. When distance is essential this has really been doing the trick for pendulum style cast. It keeps both the baits close to the lead for the swing and doesn’t seem to spiral in the air. When on the seabed it has a long snood and a short one. All single hook ups I’ve had have been on the long snood.
My fishing, whilst growing up in the 90’s, was all around rough ground with a lot of tackle loss. Everyone’s rigs consisted of one swivel, some loops in the line, rotten bottom and a single hook. Plenty of fish were caught over the years and I doubt changing the rigs would have made a huge difference. Any type of clip downs were from telephone wire and a paper clip. As everyone is different, you need to have confidence in your gear. Whilst diving I’ve seen around 10 different rigs on the seabed that people are fishing. Most of them I’ve seen have not even released. It may not stop them catching a fish but in my mind, it’s not working. I’ve reeled in plenty of my rigs that haven’t released or have come in ridiculously tangled. This has made me change rig components and lengths. My theory I like to stick to is a longer snood below the lead if the ground and tidal flow allow. The biggest consideration in my books is the right bait, as fresh as can be, in the right place at the right time.
When it comes to rig choice, as I mainly only fish for bass or gilt head, whether it be clean or rough ground I always use the same rig; a simple running ledger. I do, however, vary hook types, sizes, amount of hooks and weak links.
For gilt head where I fish it is rough. I use massive baits either half or whole spider peeler. You might find it odd regarding the hook sizes. If I’m using a whole spider I’ll use a pennel 6/0- 8/0 bottom tsunami hook and 4/0 trabucco hisashi off set eye top hook, these hooks are sharp and stay sharp and ultra strong. If using small crab I’ll remove the top pennel. The rig itself is a leader of 6-8 inch 30lb amnesia clear. The ledger is simply a swivel on the main line with 4-8 inch of 10lb mono to a clip for the weak link and 3-4 oz lead. A bead then the trace.
The same rig applies to bass I target with crab but in this case I only remove the top hook if the ground is ultra rough and there is a greater chance of snagging up.
When I use lugworm or our local verm I’ll use a bottom hook of 4/0 – 6/0 and always a top circle hook. Since using the circle hooks my catches have increased loads which is due to the fish normally spitting the bait back out when feeling the hooks. I’d say 95% of my bass are now coming to the top hook since I made the switch. This rig is ideal for me over here in Guernsey because distance isn’t needed. I cast anywhere between 5-40 metres in water only up to around 8ft deep and often as shallow as 1ft.
I like to keep my rig selection pretty minimal. Instead of carrying lots of different designs and variations, I like to use a handful of basic designs and fine tune them to the fishing situation. For a few years I’ve used the pulley dropper as a starting point for a good proportion of my clean ground fishing in Cornwall, particularly when I have to cast a fair distance. I’ll use this design for anything that feeds on the bottom, from ray and cod to flatfish and gurnards. I keep the body of the rig the same and adapt the hooklength part of the rig to whatever fishing I’m doing. It’s an efficient system and has served me well.
One thing that I do on my pulley droppers that I don’t see many other people doing is use shrink tube to keep the connection between the bent rig clip and swivel rigid. This helps to stop the hooklength tangling around the rig body – something that I’ve had problems with in the past. I make up batches of these clips from time to time, they look a bit like a beefed-up cascade swivel.
For years I’ve made my pulley droppers with an impact shield, although I’m planning to start experimenting with other bait clips. The impact shield is great for protecting the bait in the cast but I’ve always found it necessary to put a crimp on the rig immediately above the shield to stop it sliding up the rig body. This forms a weakness in the rig and this has cost me at least one very good fish. Ideally, what I have in mind will still protect the bait well, improve the strength of the rig and make it quicker to tie.
Aside from the pulley dropper, my most frequently-used clean ground rigs are the running leger, a couple of two hook variations and the classic pulley rig. I’ve also recently started using the running up and over rig for some of my ray fishing. As with the pulley dropper, I use shrink tube to make the swivel and clip at the top of the up and over rigid. This does seem to help stabilise and keep the rig clipped up in flight.
I have always taken a great amount of self satisfaction from tying my own rigs and developing my own adaptations and variations. Some work really well and some don’t really work! In that way my fishing is constantly evolving. I am constantly experimenting and learning.
When I have a specific session planned I prefer to make some rigs up the day/night before. I like to be as prepared as possible because time out fishing should be spent fishing. Not tying rigs. There is always time to make a few changes during the day but to get me fishing in as short a time as possible I always make a few at home.
I like to start with thinking about the fish. And reverse engineer the rig. Take for example a session for conger eels on the boat. I ask myself what type of fish are they and what type of hook is required? Big fish, big mouth, big bait, big hook with a good gape. Teeth? Lots of rasping teeth. So strong tough line. Where are they? How do they feed? On the bottom and in rocks and snags. So a bait and rig presented on the bottom. Snaggy terrain so short hook length.
I also like to keep my rigs as simple as absolutely possible. So as few components as I can. What is the simplest rig I know, that can present a big bait on the bottom, can be made from strong line and works with a short hooklength. Sliding ledger rig. Then chose the knots accordingly.
When you approach it from the other direction, asking what the rig can do rather than what the fish wants, is when it can quickly get very complicated. What do they say about tackle being made to catch the angler and not the fish?